"Kara! Open up, please," Ginny yelled through the door. She walked around to the porch, but the door was locked, the inside dark. Where could she be? She leaned her back against the wall, tucking her hair behind her ears nervously. Where is she? She had been calling all morning, but she had just assumed that Kara was just not answering. Finally, she could stand it no more and she left Nana at the store with a mumbled excuse.
"Kara!" she yelled. Damn it all!
She waited nearly thirty minutes, pacing back and forth, before giving up and driving home. Nana was in the kitchen but she didn't come out. Nana wasn't speaking to her today. Because of Phil. Ginny had tried to explain, after Phil had left, but Nana would have none of it. She just didn't understand how she could let a good man go.
She walked to the phone and punched out the Dobson's number, counting ten rings before she hung up. Where was she? Was she all right?
They ate their dinner in silence until Ginny couldn't stand it another second.
"Nana, how long are you going to be this way?"
"What way?" she asked.
"I'm not in the mood, Nana. I've had a very bad day," she said wearily. "Why won't you talk to me?"
"It's your own fault you've had a bad day, sending that poor man away like that," she said.
"Would you have me marry him, knowing that I don't love him?"
"But he loves you," Nana insisted, as if that was enough.
"But what about me? Don't I count?"
"You're nearly thirty," Nana said.
"Twenty-eight," she corrected. "And so what?" She leaned forward. "I don't need a man, Nana," she said.
"Oh, pooh. Everyone needs a man."
"For what?" Ginny challenged. "I've got a job. I can support myself."
"Babies," Nana countered.
"I don't think I want babies," Ginny said.
"Ginny! Of course you do. I want to be a great-grandmother," she said.
"You already are."
"As if I've ever seen Becky's kids."
Ginny shrugged, certainly not wanting to bring her sister into the conversation. She didn't want to completely ruin her day.
"Ginny, what's been wrong? If I didn't know better, I'd say you changed when you met Kara, but that would hardly be fair to her."
"Nana," Ginny said seriously. "I can't tell you what's wrong. You would never understand."
Nana opened her mouth to speak, but Ginny held up her hands. "Enough. Let's call a truce."
When Nana took her book into the living room, Ginny sat nervously in the kitchen, her hand reaching for the phone. She was actually startled to hear a voice on the other end.
"What?" Kara asked briskly.
"Where have you been?" Ginny demanded.
"Out where? I've been calling you all day, I came by. Kara, are you okay?" Ginny asked quietly.
"No. But don't worry about it. I'll get over it."
"I'm coming over," Ginny said.
"No. I don't want to see you," Kara said.
"Tough! I want to see you," Ginny replied. "I need to see you."
"Ginny, don't do this to me. Let's just leave it alone."
"We've got to talk," Ginny insisted quietly.
"I don't want to talk."
"I'm coming over."
"I won't answer the door," Kara warned.
"The hell you won't!"
Ginny hung up on Kara's expletive and walked to her room, quickly exchanging sweatpants for jeans.
"Who was that on the phone?" Nana called hopefully. "Phil?"
"Kara." Ginny walked back out, keys dangling in her hands. "I'm going over there for a minute," she said.
"This late? Whatever for?" Nana asked, puzzled.
"I need to talk. I won't be long."
Ginny found Kara on the back porch, smoking. She walked to her chair and squatted down beside her.
"Your fifth?" she asked lightly.
"I haven't stopped at five since the day I met you," Kara said.
Ginny took the cigarette from her fingers and stubbed it out, her eyebrows raised at the sight of the overflowing ashtray. "Well, we'll have to work on that, won't we."
"Why are you here?" Kara asked.
"Why do you think?" Ginny took Kara's hand between her own and rubbed it lightly. "I never meant for you to get hurt. I just wanted to see you, to be with you, regardless that Phil was there, too." Her voice lowered. "It was you I wanted to be with."
"But you slept with him." Kara finally raised wounded eyes to Ginny. "Didn't you?"
"Yes. I did. And it was a very . . . big mistake," she said softly. "He wasn't you. He couldn't make me feel the way that you do, Kara. But I had to know," she whispered. "I had to know if what I feel with you is real or if I was just running from him." Ginny reached out and touched Kara's face, her hand pushing lightly against her clinched jaw. "Please understand, Kara."
"I do. I know this is new for you, this thing between us. But, when Louise dropped the bombshell . . . the scent of you was still fresh on my fingers," she whispered.
"I'm so sorry. I had no idea that was coming." Ginny lowered her eyes, then brought them back to Kara when she felt tears forming there. "The night before, he tried to touch me again, I asked him to stop, but . . . he wouldn't. He . . .." She let her tears fall as she remembered how she'd laid there as he took her. She should have stopped him. She should have fought him. But she didn't. She just laid there while he took her.
"Ginny?" Kara whispered, her eyes too brimming with tears.
"I was crying and he didn't understand. But I couldn't tell him. Not then. I slept on the couch. I think maybe he felt that he was losing me so he used Nana against me. He knows how much she wants us to get married."
"He raped you?" Kara asked, her voice thick with emotion.
"It wasn't exactly rape, Kara. But it wasn't consensual." Ginny reached out a hand and gently caressed Kara's face, feeling the dampness of tears there. "I'm so sorry. I'll understand if you don't want anything more to do with me."
Kara squeezed her eyes shut, wishing she didn't feel so strongly about her. Wishing she hadn't fallen in love with her. And wishing she didn't hurt so.
"Ginny, I came up here, not looking for anything but to sketch and paint. But when I met you, when I got to know you . . . I . . .." She let her thought go unfinished. How could she tell this woman, this woman she'd known only two months, that she'd fallen in love with her? "I don't want to just walk away from this. But you, this is so new for you, so different. I don't expect you to just abandon the life that you know and assume that this is what you want. There's so much out there for you. So many opportunities."
"So many other women, you mean?"
When Kara didn't answer, Ginny stood and tugged on Kara's hand.
"Let's go inside. I want to lay with you . . . and I want to hold you," she said softly. "We'll talk later," she promised.
They undressed slowly, touching each other only with their eyes, and Kara lifted the covers, pulling Ginny into her arms. They held each other, arms stroking soothingly, calmly.
"What did you tell him?" Kara finally asked, her words spoken softly, slowly.
"I told him that I wasn't in love with him and that I would never marry him," Ginny said.
"Nana doesn't understand. She's still angry with me for sending him away," she said as her hand rubbed slow circles on Kara's waist. "I wanted to tell her about you but I just couldn't."
"No. I don't blame you for that. She would hate me."
"Yes. I think she would," she admitted. Nana would blame Kara for Phil leaving. She would never understand how Ginny could find her magic with another woman.
"Ginny . . .." Kara ran her fingers through Ginny's soft hair, brushing it back from her face. "Tell me what you want from me," she whispered.
"I'm not sure," Ginny admitted. "Like you said, this is new for me. I know that no one has ever made me feel this way, made me want like this. I know that, Kara. When I'm with you, like this, nothing else matters."
Kara moved her hands over Ginny's breasts, feeling the nipples harden at her touch.
Ginny smiled and closed her eyes at the now familiar touch. How was it that in such a short time, she could know, without a doubt, that this touch was what she'd craved all her life? The soft, gentle touch of this woman? The only time she'd ever felt complete in her entire life was when this woman touched her, made love to her. She moved, rolling onto her side and fitting her body next to Kara's, breasts on breasts, stomach, hips and thighs molding together. Finally, mouths met, gently, quietly, then with more hunger.
Kara wondered if it was enough, this fire that burned between them. And for how long? Kara wondered when Ginny would tire of her lovemaking, when would she go looking for someone else, someone else she could compare this to. Kara had had many lovers over the years, but none had stirred her soul quite the way that Ginny had.
But what about Ginny? There was a whole new world of opportunity out there for her. Maybe not here, but certainly in Seattle, where the lesbian community was thriving. She could meet any number of women, make new friends, begin relationships.
That's what really bothered her. She had fallen in love with this woman, she wanted to be with her; she wanted a relationship with her. And that scared her more than she wanted to admit. She'd had only one in her life. Marsha. And she thought, at the time that it ended, that she would never again share her life so completely with anyone. But here she was, wanting Ginny that way. Wanting to wake up with her each morning, wanting to share in her life, be a part of it. Be a big part.
Ginny probably had not even looked past the sex to think about what her future would hold. She was young. She had plenty of time to play the field, to sample the water, to experiment. And she would meet someone with her same interests, someone who she could think about building a future with and then maybe she would choose to tell Louise, who might join in her happiness eventually.
"What are you thinking?" Ginny whispered as Kara's mouth stilled.
Kara looked into her eyes, searching for answers, but finding only desire, desire for her. Her expression softened and she drew Ginny close, touching her lips again.
"Just thinking," she murmured against her lips.
Ginny smiled. "Don't think so much, then." She pushed Kara back boldly, fitting her body on top of hers. "Let me make love to you. You still want that, don't you?"
Doesn't she know? Can't she see how it is with me? Kara clasped her face between her hands. "I want that very much."
She closed her eyes as Ginny's lips moved softly across her face, covering each eye in turn, nipping gently at her neck, whispering into her ear and Kara lost herself completely under those softly demanding lips.
She felt Ginny's soft hair spray out across her breasts and she put her hands there, her fingers combing it away from Ginny's face.
Ginny's mouth covered her breast and Kara was conscious of how very slowly Ginny was loving her tonight. There was no urgency in her touch, only the sweet certainty that she knew how to touch Kara and she knew what Kara wanted. Oh, and she did. Kara's body responded to her gentle touches, moving against her hands, pressing into her hips.
Ginny's mouth came back to hers, tracing Kara's lips with her tongue, boldly sucking her lower lip into her mouth. Kara moaned, taking Ginny's tongue inside, sucking her in deeper.
"I can't get enough of you," Ginny whispered against her mouth. "I can't get close enough." She pressed her body to Kara's, their breasts smashed together, hips joined.
Kara's hands molded Ginny to her, caressing her rounded hips, squeezing her softness. "Come inside me," Kara urged.
Ginny's hand moved between their joined bodies and her breath stilled when she touched her. So wet. Her fingers pushed through, letting Kara surround them with her warmth. She moved deeper into her, pulling out, then back in again, harder this time, moving her hips against her hand, against Kara.
"Yes, like that," Kara whispered.
Ginny's body shuddered as her hips rocked against Kara, her fingers moving deep inside her, touching her core. She had never felt such intimacy, such a joining of souls before. Their breath mingled and joined, as their bodies did and Ginny covered Kara's mouth, taking her release into her mouth as Kara cried out, holding Ginny's fingers deep inside her.
Kara's hands trembled as she touched Ginny's face, wiping the perspiration from her brow. She was so certain of her love for this woman that she nearly cried, knowing that she could not have her. Not yet.
"Kara," Ginny whispered, words of love crowding her brain, but she couldn't find the courage to speak any of them, to utter them out loud. She was still afraid. She was afraid that Kara would not want to hear them. She was afraid that all Kara wanted between them was this, this wonderful lovemaking that they shared.
Their eyes met as they both struggled with their feelings. Kara shielded hers, afraid Ginny would see too much.
"Let me love you," Kara whispered.
Kara kissed her tenderly, lightly brushing her lips. "Lay back," she urged and Ginny moved over, her head touching the pillow, waiting for Kara's mouth to return to hers.
Kara's kiss turned passionate; hot and demanding when Ginny took her tongue inside. Her knee pressed between Ginny's leg and she knelt between her parted legs, her mouth going to her breasts; her nipples hard and erect and she took one into her mouth, sucking the tip inside, drawing Ginny into her.
She wanted to wait. She wanted to go slow, to love Ginny with the same tenderness that Ginny had shown her. But she lost her resolve when her hand touched Ginny, when her fingers brushed her. She wanted her mouth there, always.
She slid between Ginny's legs, her hands pushing her thighs apart and Kara lowered her mouth to her, sighing contentedly when her tongue moved through her wetness. Ginny surged up to meet her and Kara buried her face in her, her cheeks coated with her wetness. She felt Ginny's legs wrap around her shoulders and she took her into her mouth, sucking hard, pushing against her with a desire so strong it shook her to her very core.
"God, Kara," Ginny murmured, stroking her head, pushing her face closer against her. "Yes..."
Ginny's hips moved against Kara's face, her thighs opening wider, wanting Kara inside her. Oh Lord, but what this woman did to her. If their lovemaking lasted a lifetime, she would never tire of this. She knew no one could ever make her feel this way.
Kara's tongue moved over her, then deep inside her. She listened to Ginny's sharp breathing, felt her hands clutch her face, felt her pleasure. When Ginny's hips arched and stilled, Kara was not nearly ready for this to end. She brought her fingers to Ginny, joining her mouth and Ginny cried out her name, pressing Kara hard against her and her spasms shook Kara like never before. She took her into her mouth and felt her throb against her tongue, then let herself be pulled from her, to be enfolded in soft arms.
"Dear God, but you drive me crazy when you do that," Ginny said into her ear.
Yes. It nearly drove her crazy to have her mouth there, to feel Ginny pulse against her tongue. But what if? What if there were any number of women out there who could give Ginny as much pleasure? Kara had never thought of herself as an exceptional lover before. But with Ginny, she was different. She wanted to please her. She didn't care about herself. She wanted Ginny to find the fulfillment that she had never had before.
"What's wrong?" Ginny asked gently. "Your eyes . . . you look sad."
Kara buried her head in Ginny's neck, smelling the light perfume she had sprayed that morning. "Nothing," she murmured.
Ginny lifted Kara's head and searched her eyes, trying to read them. What was it? Was it Phil? Was it something else? Was she not satisfied with Ginny? Did she need more?
"Kara, what do you feel when I make love to you?"
"What do you mean?" Kara asked.
"I mean . . . is it good enough? Do I satisfy you?" she asked softly.
Kara smiled and drew Ginny to her lips. "You are a beautiful lover. The best. Haven't I told you that?"
Had she told Marsha that, too? Did she tell all her lovers that? Was Ginny just one more in a line of many? She was consumed with jealousy at the thought of other women loving Kara, touching her the way that Ginny did. Had they fallen in love with her, too? Ginny kissed her possessively, knowing she was trying to make Kara forget all her other lovers, all those that had come before her. Could she chase them from her mind?
"What?" Kara asked.
"I haven't had nearly enough," Ginny said and she pushed Kara back, taking her breast, trying to possess her.
"You haven't?" Kara asked with a chuckle.
"Not nearly," Ginny murmured against her breast before she moved lower, needing to love Kara with her mouth, needing to show her how much she needed her.
It was nearly dawn when she got home, exhausted. They had not slept. She hadn't wanted to. When Kara had finally fallen asleep, Ginny left her, brushing her cheek lightly with her lips, whispering words of love to her sleeping form.
She had not been able to tell her, of course. She had been afraid of Kara's response. Kara, who had had many lovers, had probably heard the words many times before. What would her reaction be? Would she be amused?
Ginny showered, hearing Nana in the kitchen and she thought of Nana's reaction, should she guess that Ginny had fallen in love with a woman. She would be devastated. Nana could never understand.
"When did you finally get home?" Nana asked as she handed a cup of coffee from the espresso machine.
"Must have been. You look tired," she said, watching her.
Ginny nodded, sipping from her coffee.
"Phil called," she said.
Ginny let out her breath slowly, wondering what in the world he could have to say. "And?"
"Ginny, I just don't understand you. The man is heartbroken," Nana said.
"Nana, please," Ginny said, shaking her head.
"Maybe you were hasty, Ginny. Maybe you need to think about this," she said.
"I've thought about it for the last nine months, Nana."
"But what will you do? Living out here with me," she said, motioning to the windows. "I won't be around for ever. Then what? What will you have? No husband, no babies," she said.
Ginny thought Nana was near tears and she went to her and hugged her. "Nana, please don't worry about me. I know you just want me to be happy. But, right now, this is what I want."
Nana let out a great sigh. "I don't understand women today," she said. "Kara, for instance. Thirty-four and alone. Why must you be so independent? There's nothing wrong with having a man to take care of you," she said.
"I'm not going to get married just to have someone take care of me, Nana. I can do that myself," she said gently.
"I'm worst than a mother, aren't I?"
Ginny smiled. "I wouldn't know," she said.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean . . .."
"Nana, I've always felt closer to you than to her. You know that."
Nana touched her cheek and smiled. "I'm sorry, child. I'll leave you alone about Phil. You know what's best," she said.
Kara packed her few things, shoving them blindly into her bag. She didn't have much. Most of her clothes were still at the cottage. She had already loaded her paintings, packing them carefully in the back of the Land Cruiser.
Going to see Ginny was going to be the hardest thing she had ever done. But she must, she told herself. She couldn't stay here for the next few months and continue this affair with Ginny as if they had a future together. She had to give Ginny some time. Some time to discover herself. Some time to adjust to her new life and to figure out what she wanted from it. To figure out if this was what she wanted.
But she was hurting. She couldn't deny that. She had fallen so deeply in love with Ginny that she felt as if she were cutting out her own heart by leaving. But better now, then two months down the road, when Ginny came to her senses and realized that Kara wasn't the only woman out there.
And maybe later, after they had both had some time, Ginny might decide that Kara could make her happy in the long run. She might want to have a future with Kara. Kara closed her eyes, envisioning living out here with Ginny, waking up with her every morning, building a life together. Then she slowly shook her head. Did she really believe that would happen?
Ginny was only twenty-eight. She would meet someone younger, someone with her own interests, someone to make her forget about Kara and her summer of discovery.
Leave now and save face, she thought, shoving her clothes hastily into her bag. In a few hours, she would be safely back at the cottage, away from Ginny. She would have time to mend, time to heal her broken heart. Marsha's leaving couldn't even compare to the pain she was feeling now, she knew. Marsha, who she had spent six years with, had left her so quietly that Kara hadn't even known she was gone.
But Ginny, she thought. Ginny would rip her heart out without even knowing it.
Ginny looked up as the bell jingled, like she always did. She smiled, surprised to see Kara at the store. But her smile faded when she saw the sadness in Kara's blue eyes. She went to her, unmindful of Nana watching.
"What is it?" she asked, stopping a mere foot in front of her.
"I'm . . . leaving," Kara said. "For awhile."
"Hello, Kara," Nana said, walking up to them.
Kara pulled her eyes away from Ginny and forced a smile to her face. "Hello, Louise. I came to say goodbye," she said.
"I'm going to Seattle. I don't know how long I'll be gone," she said. "So I wanted to stop by."
"Well, we'll still be here when you get back," Nana said lightly, ignorant to the tension between the two women.
Kara turned back to Ginny, her heart splitting in two at the look in her green eyes. "Can we talk?"
Ginny nodded numbly. "I'll be right back," she said to Nana.
Ginny followed Kara outside, her eyes taking in her packed truck. "Kara?" She turned frightened eyes to her. "What are you doing?"
"Ginny, I've got to get back," she said quietly. "I've got . . . some business to take care of," she said.
Ginny studied her eyes. "You're running away," she said, knowing it was true.
"Why? Tell me."
"Ginny." Kara reached out a hand to Ginny, then dropped it to her side.
"Why are you leaving me?" Ginny whispered. "Was it that bad for you?"
"Ginny, don't," Kara said. She placed her hands on Ginny's shoulders and made her look at her. "This thing between us . . . you need some time. I need to give you time."
"I'm in love with you," Ginny blurted out.
"Please don't say that," Kara groaned. She dropped her hands, her heart beating painfully in her chest. "You don't know what's out there," she said. "This is all new for you. Don't assume you love me, just because I'm the one that made you realize your alternatives."
Ginny stared at her, hearing her words, knowing what Kara was doing. "You're afraid," Ginny said. "You're afraid of what I feel for you."
It was Kara's turn to stare. "Don't settle for me," she said gently.
"Oh, I see," Ginny said. "I need to sleep around first. See what's out there? See if I just imagined all this?"
Kara nodded weakly.
"Get a little more experience?" Ginny laughed. "Do I need to practice?"
"Ginny, you know that's not what I mean," Kara said.
"Isn't it? I could tell last night, I guess. You were so far away," she whispered.
"Ginny, no. That's not it. Surely you know . . .."
"I'm a beautiful lover. Yeah, right," she said bitterly.
"Ginny . . .."
"Why didn't you tell me before? Why did you make me think that is was good for you, too?"
"Ginny, listen to me," Kara said, gripping her shoulders again. Oh, God, this isn't what she wanted Ginny to think. This wasn't how she envisioned their parting. "I care about you. I . . . care about you very much," she said again. "I don't want you to hurt me," she whispered, her voice cracking with emotion.
"Hurt you?" Ginny asked, amazed. "How could I hurt you?"
"I just want you to be sure," Kara said. "Before we go too far."
"So you're going to leave me? That's how you want me to be sure?"
"I have to. For me as much as for you," she said.
"It won't change anything," Ginny said. "I know how I feel." She looked up into Kara's eyes. "I'm in love with you. Don't leave me," she whispered and she felt tears gather in her eyes. "Please?"
Kara swallowed hard, hating herself for what she was doing. "Take care of yourself," Kara said and she touched Ginny's face gently.
"Do you love me, too, Kara?" Ginny asked softly. "Is that why you're running away?"
Kara's jaw clinched from the ache in her heart and she pulled her eyes from Ginny's. She walked to her truck and slammed the door and sped away.
Kara opened the windows to the breeze, surprisingly happy to be back at the cottage. She took a cigarette and walked to the water, her eyes feasting on the blue expanse of Puget Sound, sail boats competing with the much larger vessels of the sea.
She strolled the shore, watching sea gulls flying over, trying to clear her head. She had made the right decision, she knew. And it felt good to be back home, around her familiar surroundings. Away from Ginny. Maybe she would be able to work here. For the last week, she had not been able to pick up a brush. Her heart and mind had been elsewhere.
She breathed deeply, savoring the smell of the sea and she closed her eyes, letting the wind soothe her, the sound of the water relax her. And it did. For the last two hours, she had thought of little else, other than the words Ginny had spoken to her. "I'm in love with you." Kara shut her mind to Ginny's whispered words. She didn't want to remember the pain in Ginny's eyes when Kara had left her.
She turned her back to the wind and cupped her cigarette, lighting it with practiced ease. She had forgotten about her daily count and had bought an entire carton when she had stopped at the grocery store on her way home. Bad habits die hard, she thought as she climbed the hill back to her cottage.
She was actually able to work, and for the first time in her life, the brush flew over the canvas without the accompanying sketch to guide her. She painted from memory. She painted from the heart.
The giant tree loomed over the forest, beckoning the visitor into the woods for a closer look. The sun was gone, leaving only a faint glow in the sky, but the moon was out, shining ghostly upon the forest. Kara brought the trees to life in the moonlight. And the giant monster in the middle held the secret. Upon its old, crusty bark, she painted the shadows of two lovers, embracing. Two lovers locked in each other's arms.
She worked day and night, stopping only occasionally to nap and when she remembered, to eat.
It was to be hers to keep. She would not share it with anyone. It was much too personal for that. But, oh, it pained her to remember the need Ginny had for her that night. So much need that Ginny had not cared that Phil was coming along the path, looking for them. She had not cared that he might catch them. "Don't stop," she had pleaded with Kara. And Kara couldn't. She, too, ignored the sound of Phil's voice. She only wanted to give what Ginny had needed.
She dropped her arms to her sides, exhausted. She stared at the shadow figures, remembering. And she cried.
It was Sunday, nearly noon, but Ginny couldn't bring herself to get out of bed. For the last two weeks, she had put on a brave front, appearing cheerful in front of Nana, eating meals with a vigor she did not feel and participating in meaningless conversations when her mind was elsewhere. Elsewhere! She laughed. Her mind wasn't elsewhere. It was on Kara. It had been since the moment she had walked out of her life. Each day, she went to the store, waiting for the phone to ring. Each time the bell jingled, she looked up, hoping to find Kara standing in the doorway. Finally, yesterday, she had given up. Kara wasn't coming back. Kara didn't want her in her life. Kara didn't need her.
And so she had stayed in bed. Hiding. She could not put on a brave front any longer. She had told Nana she wasn't feeling well, which, of course, was the truth and Nana had brought her soup to eat, which still stood on the nightstand beside her. She couldn't force down another meal. She was certain that she would never eat again.
She rolled over, wishing for the pain in her heart to go away. Never in her life had she felt so alone. The pain of her childhood could not even compare. She loved Kara. Of that, at least, she was certain. But why had Kara run? What was she afraid of? Was Ginny's need of her too much? Had she felt smothered? Ginny's first thought was her inexperience in bed, but she knew that wasn't the reason. Their lovemaking had been too passionate, to intense for her to have imagined it. Kara had enjoyed it as much as Ginny had. There was another reason for her leaving.
The knock on her door cut short her thoughts and she called for Nana to come in.
"How are you feeling?"
"Better," Ginny lied.
"Good. I was worried about you. You're never sick," Nana said.
Ginny turned away, her eyes looking out the window, seeing nothing. She was on the verge of tears and she didn't want Nana to see. She would never be able to explain tears. She had never cried in front of Nana.
"You didn't eat your soup, Ginny," Nana said.
"I didn't think I could keep it down," she said. "But I'm better now."
"Let me heat it for you," Nana said with relief.
"Okay. I'll get up now, I think," she said.
Nana smiled and left her and Ginny made herself rise, tossing off the protective covers. Staying in bed, hiding, would not solve anything.
Later that week, as Ginny choked down another meal, she knew what she had to do. She had to find Kara. She had to know the reason she left. She could deal with the truth. But not knowing was slowly driving her crazy.
"Nana, things will slow down in a few weeks, once the season winds down. If I left for a couple of days, would you and Jessica be okay?"
"Of course, Ginny. Where are you going?"
"To Seattle," she said.
Nana's face broke into a smile. "I knew it. Your forced cheerfulness these last few weeks couldn't fool me." She beamed at Ginny. "You're going to Phil, aren't you?"
Phil. Always Phil, Ginny thought. "I'm just going to Seattle," Ginny said tiredly. "Not necessarily to see Phil."
"Oh, I know you've been miserable since he left," Nana continued. "Of course we can handle the store. You stay gone as long as you need. Oh, Ginny, I'm so glad you're going . . .."
Ginny left her protest unspoken as Nana rambled on and on about Phil. She simply stopped listening. She was more concerned about how she was going to find Kara in a city the size of Seattle.
"Oh, Kara, it's gorgeous. They're all fabulous." She smiled at her. "As always," she added. Stephanie sorted through the paintings, her eyes drawn again to the giant tree and Kara instantly regretted her decision to sell it. It was too personal. She didn't want a stranger peering at it, imagining who the lovers were, imagining it was themselves in that embrace.
But it had become too painful for even Kara to look at.
"I'll have them displayed within the week," Stephanie said. "This one is intriguing," she said, her hands touching Kara's painting. "It's different from what you normally do." She looked up and smiled. "I may want to keep this one. Just display it for awhile." She stared at Kara. "By the way, what are you doing back in town?"
"Recuperating," Kara said easily.
"Oh?" Stephanie asked with interest.
"I was out in the woods for a month or so," she said. "I've only been back five weeks." Five weeks and two days, her mind counted, since she'd seen Ginny.
"You're getting too old for that. Time for you to settle," she said.
Kara smiled, taking one last look at the giant tree, at the shadows on its bark. She wanted to settle. She wanted to settle in a little town called Chiwaukum, with a green-eyed blond who had stolen her heart and soul.
"I've got to go," she said quietly.
"I'll be in touch," Stephanie called after her.
Kara drove to the nearest liquor store, bypassing her usual wine for a bottle of scotch. Once home, she poured a generous amount and walked to the shore, cigarette hanging comfortably between her fingers and she ignored the light mist falling.
For the past five weeks, she had been making this trip to the water, looking for answers. She had wanted to call her, but she hadn't dared. She didn't want to bother her. She didn't want to stir up memories. And it was better this way, she told herself. Each day it got easier.
She laughed bitterly. Who was she kidding? Certainly not herself. Each day was harder than the one before. Each day Ginny's memory came to her more clearly. Each night, Ginny's touch was heavier on her body.
Maybe she should go out. Maybe she should call up an old friend and have dinner or something. Or something. The thought of being with someone else simply nauseated her. She wanted no one else. She wanted only Ginny.
Ginny took the ferry to Bainbridge Island, wondering frantically where she would start looking. The phone book had proved useless. Kara was not listed among the 'Morgans' and the operator had firmly told her it was an unlisted number. No amount of begging by Ginny had budged him.
She was looking for a needle in a haystack, she realized as she drove down the highway, turning off on each side road that looked like it would take her to the water. She hadn't realized how many small towns dotted the island and Kara could live in any one of them. It was a fruitless trip, she knew, but she kept driving and searching. She had to find her.
When darkness came, she turned around, heading back to the ferry and Seattle. She would have dinner, she thought, and maybe call up one of her old friends. They could sit around and talk about her miserable love life! She could just image the look on their faces should she confess that she had fallen in love with a woman.
She could always walk to Capitol Hill, the unofficial gay neighborhood of Seattle. Maybe stroll down Broadway for an hour or so and have dinner at one of the restaurants there. In spite of her mood, that sounded much more appealing than room service and another night alone.
She parked two blocks away, the foot traffic heavy on a Saturday night and she blended in with the crowd. She found herself staring at the two women walking in front of her, holding hands. They were young, early twenties, she thought, but still, they looked so comfortable with each other. She immediately thought of Kara and pictured them walking arm and arm like this. She tore her eyes away and looked at other faces, strangers in the crowd. She walked into the indoor mall, pushing through the milling shoppers. Coffee. Real Seattle coffee. She stood in line at the coffee bar, dying for a real latte after months of relying on her portable espresso machine.
She took her coffee and stopped at the newspaper stand, the local gay paper catching her eye. She bought one, taking it to a table with her.
It was all there. Bars, diners, bookstores and any other gay-oriented activity she could possibly want. To say she was surprised was an understatement. She just had no idea how large the gay community was in Seattle. She knew now that she had purposefully ignored that part of city before.
She flipped through the pages, looking for women's bars. Perhaps Kara was right. Maybe she did need to explore her newfound sexuality. Maybe she was rushing things with Kara.
Of course she wasn't, though. She knew how she felt about Kara. But it wouldn't hurt to look, she told herself. Kara obviously didn't want her. With that, she went back to her hotel to change and to mentally prepare herself for a night out on the town.
Kara stood staring at the empty canvas, brush in hand, when the knocking on her door disrupted her thoughts. Who? No one knew she was back.
Marsha. Kara's breath caught at the sight of her. She hadn't seen her in over a year. She was as beautiful as ever
"My God, look at you," Marsha said and raised up on tiptoe to kiss her lips.
Kara smiled, surprised at how glad she was to see her. "What in the world are you doing here?"
"Can't I visit an old friend?" Marsha asked.
Kara shut the door and followed Marsha inside, smelling the perfume that she remembered from long ago.
"When Stephanie told me you were back, I said, no, it can't be. It's still summer. You should be out camping or something, looking for your colors," she said, with just a hint of bitterness in her voice.
"I came back early," Kara said.
"You never did that for me."
Their eyes met and Kara smiled. "Did you come here to fight?"
Marsha pulled out a cigarette and waited for Kara to light it. "No. I came to visit," she said.
Kara poured them each a glass of scotch and shoved a cigarette between her own lips. "Let's go outside," she said.
"I miss it here," Marsha said, when they settled on the deck.
"Where's Robin?" Kara asked, surprised that she felt no anger.
"Things didn't work out," Marsha said.
Marsha waved her apology aside. "It's ironic, really. She said I worked too much, that I was never around."
Kara laughed. "How long ago?"
"Oh, it's been several months now." Marsha pulled on her cigarette, letting the smoke out slowly. "What about you?"
"What about me?"
"Anyone in your life?"
Kara laughed again. "You know me. All work and no play."
Marsha leaned forward, her index finger reaching out to touch Kara's hand. "Want to play now?" she asked wickedly.
Kara met her eyes, knowing that beneath her teasing tones, she was very serious.
"I've missed being with you," Marsha continued.
Kara smiled, thinking that if she had come a few months ago, she might have been tempted. But she let Marsha kiss her. Her mouth parted and she actually hoped that she could still feel something for her. But she didn't. She pulled away, not looking at her and she brought her cigarette to her lips.
Marsha leaned back and watched her. "So, who is she?" she asked.
Marsha laughed. "I saw your paintings."
"And you forget. I watched you paint for six years. I've never seen that much passion in one painting before."
Kara swallowed the last of her drink, but said nothing.
"Are you in love with her? The woman in your painting?"
"My, but you are perceptive," Kara said lightly.
Marsha took her hand again. "Look at you. You're all tense." She squeezed her arm. "Why don't you tell me about it?"
"You don't want to hear it, I'm sure," Kara said.
Marsha shrugged. "What are friends for?"
Kara smiled at her, liking her more now than she had in years. Kara held up her empty glass. "I'll need another for this story," she said.
"I'll get it," Marsha said and came back with the bottle and their cigarettes. "Now, do tell."
"Just like that?"
"Yes. You've fallen in love. I want to know all about her," Marsha said.
Kara laughed. "She's straight."
"Kara! Have you lost your mind?"
"Maybe I should rephrase that. She was straight when I met her."
"Why, you devil," Marsha teased. "Now I'm really interested."
"I'm in over my head, Marsha," Kara said, taking out her cigarettes and lighting one.
Marsha laughed. "This is so interesting. Kara Morgan in over her head!" Marsha grinned. "Tell me how it started."
"She owns a little grocery store in Chiwaukum, in the Wenatchee Mountains," Kara said. "I rented a cabin there for the summer."
"She owns a grocery store? How old is she?"
"Twenty-eight," Kara said.
"A child," Marsha said and grinned. "I love it. Go on," she said.
Kara shrugged. "We became friends. She told me about Phil, this guy in Seattle who wanted to marry her and I told her about women," Kara said.
"And we became more than friends," Kara said quietly, remembering. "And then Phil shows up, wanting to take her back to Seattle and that's a whole different story," Kara said. "Anyway, she sent him away."
"Wait, wait," Marsha said. "I want to hear the part about Phil. I love it when men don't get their way."
"I must have been insane," Kara said. "They invited me on a cookout, Louise and all," she said.
"Grandmother," Kara said. "Anyway, I shouldn't have gone. I mean, Phil was there, I knew they had probably slept together and I was crazy with jealousy. But I went. Ginny and I took a walk around sunset, to the Big Tree," she said.
"Yes. We're standing there, up against this tree . . .."
"Yes. And Phil comes looking for us, but we don't stop. We couldn't. That's when I knew for certain that I loved her."
"Jesus. Did he catch you?"
"No. But when we got back, Louise announced that Phil and Ginny are getting married."
"I know," she said. "I'm crazy."
"But she sent him away?"
"Yes. And I left."
"Just like that?"
"She said that she loved me," Kara said.
"And you ran for your life?"
Kara shrugged. "She's not straight, Marsha. She only thought she was."
"Oh, Kara. Do I know you or what?"
"You're just protecting yourself, aren't you? In case she finds out there are other fish in the sea?"
Kara laughed. "Very good," she said, inhaling deeply on her cigarette.
"Kara, you can be so stubborn sometimes. Don't you know what a good catch you are?"
Kara laughed again. "You didn't think so."
"I was selfish. I wanted more of you than you could give me."
Marsha shook her head. "So? When are you going back?"
"I don't know that I am."
"She just ended a five-year relationship with a man. A man who thought they were going to get married. And now she's discovered that . . .."
"Yes. There was a woman once, before Phil, that she was involved with. Well, not sexually, but they were headed that way and she ran from it. Now that she's accepted who she is, she's got her whole life in front of her."
"And you're scared she won't choose you?"
"Something like that," Kara murmured.
"So you leave before she has a chance to tell you."
"Something like that," she said again.
"You haven't told her, have you?"
"That you're in love with her."
Kara shook her head. "No. And I doubt that I will."
Marsha smiled and touched her glass to Kara's. "Here's to foolish women in love," she said lightly. "Foolish being the key word, Kara."
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org