Kara stood at the edge of the parking lot of Lake Wenatchee, clad in her normal shorts and tank top, her unopened sketchpad still shoved under her arm.
"Well, I think Ive found the areas hot spot," she murmured. Vacationers crowded into nearly every available space as multicolored tents dotted the shoreline and the lake itself was practically littered with boats. She could still sketch it, she supposed, but she was far too distracted now by all the clutter.
She let out a heavy sigh, thinking she should have asked Louise more about the lake last night and saved herself a trip out this morning. She went back to her Land Cruiser and sat with the door open, the map spread out across the steering wheel. Doesnt have to be a lake, she thought. There were just so many small ones tucked into the mountains that she hated to miss any opportunity to capture one in the perfect light.
Without thinking, she reached for her cigarettes. She could always swing by the store and see if Ginny could recommend any. Maybe shed be willing to show her around, too. She looked up and met her amused expression in the mirror.
"No playing with the locals, Kara."
She folded the map and headed back, stopping only once when she found a tiny dirt road leading off into the forest. The road stopped abruptly at a small clearing and an interesting creek flowed rapidly around boulders before disappearing into the trees. She watched it for a moment, wondering if the clearing was enough to capture the morning sunrise. It wasnt too far. Maybe she would check it out one morning. She pulled out her notepad and scribbled down directions then turned the SUV around.
As she approached town, she slowed when she neared the general store, pleasantly surprised to see Ginny walking along the road. She stopped and lifted a hand in greeting and Ginny walked over without hesitation.
"Hi. How was the lake?" Ginny asked. She leaned through the open window and Kara met her green eyes briefly before looking away.
"Crowded. Where're you headed?" she asked.
"To the park for lunch."
"Just down the dirt road there," she said, pointing. "Have you eaten?"
"Want to join me?" Ginny asked. "You can have my apple," she offered.
Kara tapped the stirring wheel with her thumbs and her mouth twitched in a slight smile. Why not?
"Okay. Hop in."
Ginny led the way to her usual picnic table and Kara followed, her eyes watching Ginnys graceful strides and she remembered those same legs, peeking from beneath her robe last night. Now, they were covered in faded blue jeans. When Ginny turned, Kara quickly veiled her eyes and looked away.
"This is a National Forest picnic area, but everyone in town just refers to it as The Park," Ginny said and slid onto the bench.
"It's quiet here," Kara said. She looked around, finding only a few tables occupied, most with families, urging the kids to eat before returning to the playground.
"Yes. Usually." Ginny unwrapped her sandwich and tossed her apple to Kara. "Sorry, but that's all I have."
"It's fine. I usually forget to eat lunch, anyway." Kara rubbed the apple on her shirt, shining it, then took a large bite, feeling the juice slide down her chin.
Ginny bit into her own sandwich, then looked up and watched as Kara licked the apple juice from her lips. Ginny felt nearly mesmerized by the sight of Karas tongue as it wet her lips and she stopped chewing and watched.
"What?" Kara asked, sensing Ginny's gaze on her.
"Hmmm?" Ginny raised her eyes to Kara's blue ones and frowned, then bit into her sandwich again.
Karas mouth moved into a slow grin, then she brushed it away. No playing with the locals, she reminded herself again. But there was something about the green-eyed woman that intrigued her.
"So, what are you doing here, really?" Kara asked, hoping it was a safe question.
Ginny smiled. Should she give the practiced speech she told everyone or should she tell this stranger the truth? She shrugged, opting for her speech.
"When my grandfather died, I thought Nana would need someone to take care of her, so I used my inheritance from my mother and bought the store and moved." She shrugged again and tucked her hair behind her ears. "I moved here in October."
Kara leaned her elbows on the table and met Ginny's eyes with a smile. "You've got that well rehearsed, don't you?"
Ginny smiled too. "Is it that obvious?"
Kara nodded. "And Phil?"
"Oh, I'm such a coward when it comes to him. He's really a sweet man, only he wanted to get married and I kept putting him off." She let out a heavy sigh and looked up at the trees. "He was getting restless, demanding."
"Wouldn't take no for an answer?" Kara asked.
"I mean, he wanted three kids, a house in the suburbs, the whole nine yards. I just wasn't ready," Ginny said. Then, almost to herself, "I wasnt sure."
"Maybe you just don't love him," Kara said, reading her thoughts.
Ginny hadn't been able to tell herself that. After four years, surely she loved him. But something was missing and she felt like she would be settling if she just went ahead and married him.
"Maybe I just don't love him enough," she allowed. "Maybe I've read too many romance books." She leaned forward and said softly, "I mean, I want that passion, that burning desire for someone that makes you crazy when you're not with them and crazier still when you are. You know what I mean?"
"You're a romantic," Kara stated.
"Maybe so. Maybe there's no such thing as that kind of love." Ginny met her eyes for a moment. "Have you ever had that?"
Kara looked past her, into the trees. "No. Never," she said quietly. She had thought, once, that she had found it, but she had given up searching for it when Marsha left her one winter. She had been so involved in her painting that it was two days before she even knew she was gone. She pushed her thoughts back into her memory and forced a smile. "But I'm not really expecting it anymore."
Ginny hadn't missed the pain that had flashed across Kara's face briefly, before she had hidden it, but she wouldnt pry. They were only strangers. You don't bare your soul to strangers.
"So, what did you do in Seattle?" Kara asked, looking for a safer subject.
"I was in marketing. I designed ads. That's where I met Phil," she said. "We worked for the same firm."
"So you quit your job and moved up here to take care of Louise?" Kara grinned. "And Phil had no idea you were running away?"
"Oh, he had an idea, all right." Ginny laughed. "He said he would give me six months to come running back, then he was coming to get me."
"And it's been eight and he'll be coming this summer." She sat up straight and tried to mimic his tone. "Ginny, you're not making sense. We love each other, it's only natural that we get married."
"Have you ever tired the direct approach? Leave me alone, I'll call you if I want you?"
Ginny laughed. "No. The truth is, I don't want to hurt him. Hes done nothing wrong."
"Maybe you're hanging on to him, just in case," Kara said.
"Just in case what?" Ginny asked sharply.
"In case nothing better comes along. At least you'll still have him," she said.
Ginny shook her head. "No. I would hate to think that's what I'm doing." She wondered if indeed Kara wasn't right though.
Their eyes met across the table for an instant and Kara saw a spark of anger in the younger womans eyes, daring her to say more.
Kara looked away but offered a smile. "I've upset you. I'm sorry."
"No. Maybe you've hit on the truth and I don't like it." Ginny stood and tossed her bag into the trash. "Maybe I am simply hanging on to him for that reason. It would suck, but it may be true."
"Well, it's none of my business, anyway," Kara said and stood and tossed a perfect strike into the trash can, her apple disappearing into the bin.
They rode back in silence and when Ginny got out, she walked around to the driver's door and leaned in.
"I'm not angry with you, Kara. I just haven't had a chance to talk to anyone about this before. My friends, they all think Phil is a wonderful man and that I'm insane not to marry him. Nana wants great-grandchildren and for me not to be an old maid," she said lightly. "I guess maybe you made me see things differently. And the truth sometimes hurts," she said quietly, her eyes again locking on blue.
Kara shrugged. "Again, Im sorry. None of my business." She lifted a hand as Ginny stepped back. "Thanks for lunch. I'll see you around," she said.
Ginny nodded and watched as Kara drove off. Through the back window, she saw her light a cigarette and she thought again that she had never met a woman quite like her before. Strong, independent, alone and seemingly happy. But she remembered the pain that had been on her face earlier, briefly, before Kara had hidden it. She wondered who had caused this woman pain?
Kara savored her cigarette, her third of the day, as she drove slowly to her cabin. She should work, she thought, but she felt restless. She took a beer, one of only six she had brought with her, and walked into the woods to the property line. The old fence was in need of repair and she crawled through it easily into the forest beyond. She walked aimlessly, letting her mind drift. She had not thought of Marsha in a very long time, she realized. Kara had barely turned thirty-two when Marsha left. Her work was just catching on and her paintings were in demand and she had been very busy. Too busy to notice that she was neglecting Marsha and everything else in her life. They had met when she was twenty-six; Kara, a spoiled rich kid pretending to be an artist and Marsha, fresh out of college, trying to land a corporate job that would take her out of her parents shabby home in Tacoma. Marsha had been impressed with Kara's cottage on Bainbridge Island and even more impressed when she found out that Kara's parents had given it to her as a gift. Kara had gotten Marsha a job with her father's company and they had settled into their life with ease. And it had been fun, especially at the beginning. Kara had no worries. She sold a few paintings here and there and accepted her parents monthly allowance without guilt. But the more successful she got, the more it consumed her, this need to make a name for herself, to be a successful working artist. It had taken its toll on their relationship. Her endless travel during the summers, the endless hours of painting during the winters had been their undoing.
And Marsha had simply disappeared from her life one day. When Kara realized what had happened, it had been too late to salvage things. Marsha had met someone else and Kara had let her go. There had been no one since. Oh, plenty of women had shared her bed, but none had gotten into her heart. Not that many had even tried.
After Nana had gone to bed, Ginny sorted through the old issues of Northwest Magazine. When she found the one she wanted, she took her cup of hot tea and settled on the sofa to read. The picture of Kara Morgan stared back at her and Ginny scanned her face, finally settling on her blue eyes, wondering at her sudden curiosity for this woman. She pulled her eyes away and began reading, glancing back to Kara's picture occasionally. Her eyes followed her index finger as she read, but the article was very impersonal, shedding little light into the woman herself. It wasn't until the final paragraph that Ginny stumbled over the words.
When asked if it bothered her that she is still sometimes referred to as the lesbian artist, Ms. Morgan replied with ease. "I've never made my personal life a secret," she said. "I just don't feel its pertinent to my work. My sexual preference does not influence the way I paint and I dont necessarily like being labeled that way."
A lesbian. Ginny stared at her picture again, her eyes dropping for a split second to the lips that curved in a smile. She closed the magazine quickly and sat still. Of course she had known. That was why she really went back to read the article. She didnt like to just assume these things.
Renee. The name was so familiar, yet it had been years.
She let out a heavy sigh, finally letting in memories that she had thought were well buried. She had been so young and Renee had been much too dynamic for her to resist.
But she had, she reminded herself. She leaned back, closing her eyes, remembering.
Renee Hampton. Her first boss. Her first crush on a woman.
But it was just a crush, she reminded herself. Renee had been ten years older and so beautiful. Ginny remembered the day Renee had looked up and caught her staring. Ginny had tried to look away, but Renees eyes had held her. They had been working late and Ginny had been more than happy to stay the extra few hours, if it meant spending time with Renee. But when Renee had insisted on treating Ginny to dinner, their relationship had moved beyond the workplace and soon Ginny found herself looking forward to weekends when Renee would drag her to all sorts of activities that she would never venture on alone.
Even now, Ginny could remember clearly the night it happened. Renee had been so excited about the whale-watching excursion that Ginny hadnt the heart to disappoint her, but boats made her extremely nervous. And nauseous. They had barely left Puget Sound when Ginnys breakfast left her. Renee had spent the entire trip by her side and that night, after Ginny had apologized profusely, Renee had wrapped her in long arms and Ginny found herself on the receiving end of a very intimate hug. Warning bells had gone off immediately and by the time that Renees lips had sought Ginnys, she had been able to pull away.
"Im sorry. I thought you wanted this."
"No, Im not . . . I dont . . . no."
"Then . . . what is all this about?"
"I just . . . I thought we were friends."
Ginny lifted one corner of her mouth and smiled. She had been so naive. She hadnt had a clue that Renee was a lesbian. Whatever attraction there had been for Ginny, it was just friendship. There had been nothing more. There never could have been. But regardless, their relationship stopped there. Two months later, Ginny had found another job and she had not seen Renee since.
And now Kara.
She sipped her tea, one hand absently thumbing through the magazine, stopping when Karas picture stared back at her.
Ginny sat very still, mesmerized by the picture. Kara Morgan was an attractive woman but the flawless picture was breathtaking. Her hair was a little longer in the picture, Ginny noted. And diamond earrings sparkled in each ear. The few times she had seen her, Kara had not worn jewelry. Finally, with a sigh, she closed the magazine.
"Well, it doesn't matter," she said quietly. She liked Kara. She wasn't going to avoid her, she decided, just because she was a lesbian. Kara would be leaving after the summer anyway.
Although the next morning, when Kara walked in and strode purposefully towards the espresso machine, Ginny wasn't quite able to meet her eyes. She was being ridiculous, she knew, but something told her she should avoid those blue, blue eyes. They would be nothing but trouble.
"Good morning, Kara."
"Did you have a taste for Seattle coffee this morning?"
"Mocha," she said and turned amused eyes to Ginny. "Hello."
"Hi," Ginny murmured, feeling embarrassed and hating herself for it. She shouldn't have read the article, she realized. If Kara had wanted her to know, she would have told her. It wasnt any of her business, anyway. And did it really matter, she asked herself for the hundredth time.
Kara fished out a couple of crumpled bills from her pocket and handed them to Ginny. When their fingers touched, Ginny pulled back quickly, as if burned, and met the questioning eyes across from her, but she didnt allow those blue eyes to capture hers for long.
Karas eyebrows drew together in a frown, wondering what in the world was going on. Then it hit her. Ginny had either re-read the article or had remembered it from earlier. Ginny looked nearly frightened to be in the same room with her. Kara had thought of inviting Ginny to dinner but now she knew she would never ask. She had seen that look from straight women before. Fear.
Ginny had half a mind to lay the change on the counter, but then she saw the challenge in Kara's eyes and she dropped it onto her outstretched palm, her fingers raking its surface.
Kara moved with her back to Louise and whispered, "Don't look so scared. Its not contagious, you know."
Ginny blushed and looked away. "I'm sorry," she murmured. What else could she say? "Its just . . .."
Kara shrugged and left with a curt goodbye to Louise.
Why was it that some straight women found it so hard to be friends? Did they think that being alone with a lesbian would tarnish them? That they were in danger of being converted? Kara pulled out her cigarettes angrily and shoved one between her lips. Women! Sometimes they were a royal pain in the ass.
When she reached the cabin, she sat in the truck and sipped her coffee, her anger subsiding. She didn't really want to make friends with Ginny, anyway. She would get much more work done being alone. With that, she picked up her sketchpad and went inside, intending to add more color to the meadow she had sketched that morning. She pushed thoughts of Ginny Harrison aside and began working. She was surprised to notice the sun setting later and she glanced at her watch. She had not only worked through lunch, she was missing dinner as well.
When three days came and went and there had been no sign of Kara, Ginny knew that she had to apologize. It had been unforgivable, the way she had acted. So she found Karas blue eyes disturbing? It meant absolutely nothing. Kara had not made even the slightest innuendo. She wasn't an unenlightened prude, she told herself. She could accept people for what they were and if Kara still wanted to be friends with her, she would make a peace offering.
"I'm going to drive over to the Dobson place," Ginny said.
"Kara hasn't been around, has she. I suppose she's working," Nana said absently.
"Don't wait dinner on me. I'll just heat it up when I get back."
"Okay, dear. I'm glad you've made a friend. Have fun." Nana turned back to the chicken she was frying, dismissing Ginny with a wave of her hand.
Ginny parked her car next to Kara's Toyota and walked nervously to the door. She had not thought of what she was going to say and she was afraid that Kara wouldn't accept her apology. She knocked several times and waited, her feet kicking at the rocks absently.
"Hey, I'm back here."
She turned, startled. Kara stood at the side of the cabin, a cigarette dangling from her fingers. She disappeared again behind the cabin and Ginny followed. She found Kara leaning against the railing, holding a beer bottle lightly in her hand. When she turned blue eyes her way, Ginny could still see a hint of anger there.
"I . . . I came to apologize," Ginny said.
"Really? Why?" Kara turned to her and held her eyes but Ginny didn't flinch.
"For the way I acted the other day," she finally said.
"And how did you act?"
Ginny looked away and sighed heavily. "God, you're not going to make this easy, are you?"
"Should I?" Kara asked sharply.
"I'm sorry. When I read the article again and found out . . .."
"That I was a lesbian?"
"Yes. I . . . it just surprised me, I guess. I didn't mean to treat you so badly," she said sincerely. "Your . . . personal life . . . it doesnt matter one way or the other."
Kara nodded. "So, youre not afraid of me?"
"Yes. You seemed to be almost terrified to be in the same room with me."
"No." Ginny relaxed and leaned her elbows on the railing. "No, I'm not afraid of you, Kara. I'd like us to be friends," she said. "If you want that," she added.
Kara chuckled and went inside to get Ginny a beer, clearly surprised that she had made the effort to come here.
"Do you want to ask me anything?" Kara said when she returned.
"What do you mean?"
"Straight women are usually curious." She slumped down into one of the chairs and waited for Ginny to follow.
Ginny glanced at the woman who looked so relaxed suddenly, her shorts sliding up as she crossed one leg over the other. Ginny pulled her eyes from the long, tan legs stretched out before her and tipped the beer bottle to her lips. She wasn't exactly curious, she told herself. Well, maybe a little.
"How long have you been this way?" she finally asked.
Kara laughed and tossed her cigarette down and stepped on it with her hiking boot. "All my life, I guess. Or do you mean, how long have I known I was a lesbian?"
Ginny smiled. "Yes, that's what I mean."
"In high school, I suppose, although it wasn't until college that I finally acted on my feelings."
"And are you involved with someone now?" Ginny asked.
Kara laughed again. "No. Not in awhile. I've been working and I'm told I can't do both," she said, unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice.
Ginny noticed her stinging tone, but she didn't comment on it. She waited for Kara to continue, but Kara clearly didn't want to share any more information.
"Have you had dinner?" Kara asked suddenly.
"I had intended on asking you over the other morning, but . . . well, I didn't want to make you uncomfortable."
"I'm really sorry. That was stupid of me," Ginny said. "Im not usually so rude."
"I've got plenty," Kara continued, as if she hadnt spoken.
Ginny nodded. "Okay. Dinner would be nice."
Ginny sat at the table as Kara lit a candle and placed it between them. She looked up into the amused eyes standing over her, but said nothing. So, Kara was playing games, was she?
"So, what have you decided to do about Phil?" Kara asked as she handed Ginny a plate of pasta.
"I haven't really decided to do anything," she said.
"I suppose," Ginny smiled. "I'm hoping it will just go away."
"Well, from what I remember about men, it won't."
Ginny looked up, surprised.
"What? Do you think that I've never slept with a man?" Kara asked.
"I don't know. Have you?"
"Of course." She leaned forward and grinned. "I was terrified the first time I thought I might be gay. I made an offer to the quarterback and he didn't turn me down," she said and laughed.
"And, I felt nothing, other than pain," she said and laughed again. "But, the first time and all." She shrugged. "But, anyway, I dated in college, too, but I just could never make a connection with any of them. Then I met Andrea. Six foot two and a star on the basketball team and I finally found out what I had been missing all those years. That's when I knew for sure."
"What about your family?"
"Oh, they went through denial for a couple of years, tried to get me to see a therapist and I refused. But, being the only child of a very prominent family, they couldn't very well disown me. And they haven't." Kara twisted pasta around her fork and felt Ginny watching her. "What about you? Any siblings?"
"No. I was an only child, too. Only my mother never knew it," she said with difficulty.
Kara raised her eyebrows.
"Becky is four years older than I am. She hung the moon."
"Or so your mother thought?"
Ginny smiled. "The apple of my mother's eye, yes. Fortunately, my father thought the same about me. We each had all the attention that we could stand." Her eyes clouded over and Kara waited for her to continue. "Dad died when I was twelve," she said softly.
"And I was left alone, with a mother who didn't know I existed and a sister who never let me forget it."
"Louise and your grandfather?"
"Yes. My father's parents; they were great. I spent every summer out here for as long as I could remember. After Dad died, I came here as soon as school was out for the summer and didn't return until it started back again." Ginny nodded when Kara offered more wine and she watched as her fingers gripped the bottle, her nails cut neat and short.
"College, that I paid for myself. A job and then Phil," she finished. "Very exciting."
Ginny shrugged. "I saw her at my mother's funeral. Before that, I hadn't seen her in years."
"So your childhood rivalry continued when you were adults?"
"Oh, God, yes. Believe me, she was as surprised as I was to find that I was even mentioned in the will," she said bitterly. "My dad's doing," she explained.
"And I thought being an only child was tough," Kara said gently. "I'm sorry."
Ginny looked up and smiled, knowing her eyes were sparkling with tears. "You're a very good cook," she said, changing the subject with ease. "I can't find my way around a kitchen, I'm afraid."
Kara took the hint and let the conversation drift to less personal things. Ginny helped with the dishes, despite Kara's plea not to and left shortly afterwards, but not before giving Kara a quick hug and another apology. She supposed Ginny was lonely after all. Maybe she just missed Phil. Or maybe she was just tired of Louises company.
Kara took her last cigarette out to the porch and smoked in the darkness, her mind wandering back to Ginny with such ease that it startled her. Perhaps Ginny had been wise to be afraid of her, she mused. Kara had found her eyes moving to Ginny time and again during the evening and she inhaled deeply on her cigarette, refusing to acknowledge the attraction that was growing each time she saw her.
"She's straight," she told the darkness.
Ginny undressed quietly, not wanting to wake Nana. She had been astonished when she glanced at her watch on the way home. They had spent hours talking, as if they were old friends. Comfortable friends. Or merely familiar strangers. Perhaps it was true; easier to share thoughts and secrets with a virtual stranger than your closest friend. Whatever the reason, she had enjoyed their time together and she had found Kara to be a captive audience.
Kara couldn't work and she set her brushes aside, acutely aware that she had again been thinking of Ginny and the quick brush of their bodies when Ginny had hugged her so unexpectedly. It had been three days since she had seen her but her image was still fresh in her mind. The way she tucked stands of blond hair behind her ears when she was nervous, the way her green eyes had flashed when she spoke of her sister, the way the corners of her mouth lifted when she smiled, the way her lips parted.
"God," Kara groaned and she shoved out the back door and onto the porch, taking in deep breaths of cool air. "What are you doing?" she asked herself. "Shes straight. Forget about it." She went back in for a cigarette and was startled when the phone rang. She wasn't even aware that it worked.
"I had hoped the Dobson's hadn't stopped their service. Listen, I was going to the park for lunch. I thought you might like to join me," she said uncertainly. She had wanted to see her again and she had been disappointed when Kara hadn't come to the store.
"What time is it?"
"Twelve-thirty. You haven't eaten, have you?"
Kara smiled. "No. I'll meet you at the store in a few minutes."
She made a quick cheese sandwich and took the remaining two beers from the refrigerator and left without thinking about her apparent haste. Ginny was waiting on the porch and walked out to meet Kara's truck even before she stopped.
"Hello." Their eyes met for an instant, then Ginny climbed in and slammed the door and Kara pulled away without another word.
"I wasn't interrupting your work, I hope," Ginny said when they had settled at the picnic table and opened their beer.
"No. Actually, I was taking a break anyway."
"I got the impression that you work right through meals," Ginny said.
"Because you didn't even know what time it was."
Kara laughed. "I forget sometimes," she admitted.
"Do you forget a lot of things when you're working?" Ginny asked.
"Well, you mentioned the other night that you're not involved with anyone, that you couldn't do both," Ginny said.
"Oh. That," Kara said and waved the words away.
"Why won't you tell me? I told you about Phil," Ginny urged. She wanted to know more about her, about her private life. She didnt pause to wonder why.
"It's a long story," she said and smiled. "And boring," she added.
"I'll be the judge of that," Ginny said and motioned for her to continue.
"I was a struggling artist when I met Marsha." She smiled. "Only I didn't know I was struggling. My folks made sure my bank account was never empty," she said quietly.
Ginny raised her eyebrows but said nothing.
"My parents had given me a cottage on Bainbridge Island and she moved in with me and went to work for my father's company . . .."
"Wait, wait," Ginny interrupted. "Your parents gave you a cottage? On Bainbridge Island?"
Kara nodded sheepishly.
"A view of the Sound?" she asked.
Kara shrugged and smiled.
"Are they disgustingly rich or what?"
"Pretty much, yes."
"Okay, I'm sorry. Go on. You moved in together," Ginny said. "And?"
"And she went to work each day and I painted whenever the mood struck. I sold a few pieces now and then and we were happy enough, I guess."
"How old were you?"
"I was twenty-six when we met," she said. "Anyway, there was this gallery, down on Long Beach that wanted to show my work. Tourists started snatching it up and I had to work longer to keep up and the next thing I knew I had agreed to a showing at a gallery in Seattle and it just went on and on."
"Must have been tough," Ginny said sarcastically.
"It was, really. I wasn't prepared for it. I didn't know how to pace myself. I would get involved in my work and a month would pass without me ever leaving the house. Needless to say, our relationship went down the tubes," she finished.
"How long ago?"
"Nearly three years."
"And are you sorry? I mean, sacrificing your relationship for your success?" Ginny asked.
"I don't think that's a fair question," Kara said seriously. "I wasn't intentionally sacrificing the relationship. It just happened. One day I realized that she was gone. That she had been gone and I hadn't even missed her," she said quietly. "I stopped for awhile. Painting, I mean."
"What did you do?" Ginny asked softly. "Did you find her?"
Kara shook her head. "She had already met someone else."
"Oh. Im sorry."
"Anyway, I went to San Francisco for awhile, but it wasn't Seattle, so I came back home. Picked up a brush and . . ." she raised her hands again. "Here I am."
"And the mural?"
"Lord, that was a mistake. I was sorry I had been commissioned for that one. I like to work alone, most artists do. Not have tourists and town officials hanging over my shoulder with each stroke of the brush, making suggestions, asking why I did this, why didn't I do that. I couldn't wait to finish. Needless to say, it's not one of my best, but it's proudly displayed in downtown Yakima, Washington," she said and grinned. "And I haven't been back since."
"Well, if I'm ever in Yakima . . .."
"Yes, be sure to go by and pay your respects," Kara said and laughed.
Ginny grinned, too. "I enjoy your company," she said.
Kara arched an eyebrow. "And that's bad?"
"No. I didn't mean it like that. I just enjoy talking with you."
"Well, from what Louise said, you don't have much to choose from around here."
"You're being difficult," Ginny said with a smile. "Just say thank you."
Kara leaned forward, resting her chin on her palms. "Well, not to frighten you, but I enjoy your company as well."
Their eyes met for an instant and Ginny felt a blush creep onto her face. "Thank you."
They were silent for a moment, both finishing their sandwiches and tossing bread to the chipmunks that came begging.
"Nana says you sketch in the early morning," Ginny said.
"Not always. Sunset, too. The evening is my favorite time of day," she said quietly. "All of the colors come together at that one precise moment and it's as if they're suspended in time, just for the barest of seconds and I'm never quick enough to get it just right, though I try time and again," she said.
"What?" Ginny asked, mesmerized by her soft voice.
Kara smiled. "I paint mornings, evenings, never daylight. It's too sharp, there is no color, only brightness," she explained.
Ginny nodded, as if she understood perfectly.
"And the moon," she added.
"That's right. There's a full moon in all your paintings," Ginny said, remembering the article.
"I love the moon. I could stare at it for hours, I think," Kara said softly. "It's like it's watching you. Everything you do, the moon sees."
Ginny stared at her, feeling hypnotized by her words as those blue eyes pulled her in.
"I'm going out this evening. Would you like to tag along and see what I mean?" Kara asked, surprising herself. She normally hated having someone watch her work.
"I wouldn't be bothering you?"
"No. As long as you don't offer suggestions."
Ginny smiled. "I'd like that," she said.
"So would I," Kara said as their eyes met. "I'll come for you at seven."
Nana was envious that Ginny was going to watch Kara work. She had only spied her that first morning. Kara had never again been on the trail by the lake.
"What about dinner?" Nana asked.
"I'll get something when we come back," Ginny said. She was drying her hair and it was nearly seven already. She hated to make Kara wait.
But Kara was seated patiently in the living room, listening to Nana and she raised her eyes to Ginny and smiled.
"Sorry," Ginny said. "Bad habit, but I'm working on it."
"No problem. We've got time," Kara said. Her eyes followed Ginny as she bent to kiss Louise on the cheek and they flickered over her jeans before resting again on her face.
Ginny felt Kara's eyes on her and she was acutely aware of the sensations rippling through her body. She wouldn't meet her eyes as they walked to the door.
"Have fun, you two," Nana called.
"Where are we going?" Ginny asked.
Kara backed out of the driveway, her arm resting along the back of Ginnys seat and she peered out the rear window.
Ginny felt Kara's fingers graze her shoulder as she turned back around and Ginny felt goosebumps on her neck from their touch. It frightened her.
"There's a small lake on Battle Canyon Creek," Kara said.
"How did you find that? It's a well-kept secret among the locals," Ginny chided.
"You've been there?"
"I used to fish there with my grandfather," Ginny said. "I haven't been there in years."
Kara shrugged and turned down a Forest Service road. "It wasn't hard to find, but the road's bumpy as hell," she said.
The sun was falling below the trees when they parked, but Ginny suspected that the colors weren't yet right, because Kara didn't seem to be hurrying. She gathered her sketchpad and colored chalk and led the way along a path. There were only two other cars there and Ginny recognized them as locals.
"There's a break in the trees just as the sun sets," Kara explained. "The lake is a perfect reflection."
They walked up the trail, but instead of heading to the water, Kara went into the trees and stopped at a rise with the water below them.
"I don't mean to ignore you," Kara apologized as she flipped open her sketchpad.
"Go ahead. I'll just watch," Ginny said. She sat down in the grass a few feet from Kara and pulled her knees up to her chin. Kara sat cross-legged on the ground, faded jeans covering the tanned legs Ginny was used to seeing. She watched as Kara's fingers found the color she wanted and before Ginny's eyes, the lake appeared on the paper. As the sun crept lower, Ginny became aware of the changing colors. The few clouds in the sky reflected the orange of the sun and she watched as Kara added that, too. Ginny took her eyes away from the woman next to her and forced herself to look at the water as it changed from a brilliant blue to a shimmering orange.
Kara added color, too and soon her lake was as orange as the sky as the sun hung, suspended just over the horizon for a split second and Ginny held her breath as it silently slipped from view. Kara's hand stilled and Ginny looked up to find Kara watching her.
"Well?" Karas quiet voice broke the silence.
"It was beautiful," Ginny said softly. "Can I see?" she asked.
Kara hesitated, then handed over her sketch and she watched Ginny's face break out in smile.
"You've captured it exactly. It's as if the sun is still there, hanging on to the day," she said quietly. "You've put your moon in, I see," she said.
Kara clinched her jaw and met Ginnys intense green eyes as they searched her own. She could almost see the currents that passed between them, feel the electricity in her veins as green eyes locked on blue. Ginny finally lowered her gaze, her eyes closing heavily as she sighed.
Ginny felt her pulse throbbing in her neck and she acknowledged the growing attraction she had for this woman. She could feel it. She took a deep breath, trying to push it away. They sat quietly, legs crossed before them and watched the color drain from the sky. Ginny became uncomfortably aware of the intimate setting as dusk settled over the forest. She should get up, she should suggest they go back, back to the safety of Nanas company.
But she didnt.
"Kara?" Ginny asked, as she leaned back on her elbows.
"What's it like?"
"What?" Kara asked, turning to her.
"Kissing a woman?" she asked before she could stop herself.
Kara tried to read her eyes, but the approaching darkness prevented it. "Why do you want to know?"
"I was just . . . wondering, I guess. Kissing is nice, you know, but some men, well, they just forget about it, I think."
Ginny shook her head. Phil wasnt much for kissing. She sighed again. Why in the world had she started this conversation?
"Never mind," she murmured.
Kara smiled. So, Ginny was curious. That surprised her.
"From what I remember, men were much more interested in bigger and better things. Never wanted to take the time for kissing. Thats the great thing about women," Kara said. "Most women like to kiss. And of course, a woman knows."
"Knows what?" Ginny asked hesitantly.
Kara turned to Ginny. "A woman knows what you want and how it makes you feel," she said quietly.
Ginny swallowed, the sound echoing in the quiet forest and she felt herself drawn to this woman sitting so close to her. Like a magnet, she thought, as she struggled to pull her eyes away from Karas. She felt as helpless as a moth drawn to fire. She was far too aware of her and was thankful for the darkness, as images of Kara's lips on hers flashed through her mind, making her stomach flutter. They stared at each other for countless seconds, then Kara moved away and gathered up her work.
"Come on. We better get you back," she said.
Ginny accepted Kara's outstretched hand and their fingers entwined as Kara pulled her to her feet. Kara didn't immediately release her hand and Ginny didn't pull away. Not until she felt the fire burning between them did she finally drop Karas hand.
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