Author’s Note: Thank you to all of you who have been taking time to offer feedback about the story so far. I have enjoyed meeting you through The Message! This story will eventually contain a "loving" relationship between two women. The characters, town and storyline are all products of my imagination.
As soon as Casey walked back into the house, her mother met her with a concerned look.
"Casey, honey, are you okay? You look like you’ve been crying."
"I’ll be fine, Mom. I promise. Just letting some things go and that isn’t always easy, you know."
"I know it isn’t, honey. Just remember your father and I are here for you. If we can help, we will," she said as she moved to stroke a comforting hand up and down Casey’s arm. As the two women stood close together, a vibration sounded from the counter behind them. Casey turned to find that it was her phone.
"It’s done that a couple times while you’ve been gone, but I didn’t think it would be right for me to answer the calls."
"Thanks, Mom. If you don’t mind I think I’ll listen to these messages and try to find out what’s going on.
"Of course I don’t mind. I’ll be in the family room if you need me for anything."
Once her mother had left the room, Casey sat down at the table and began to retrieve the messages. There were three.
"Casey, this is Jennifer Gibson. I’m sorry to bother you, but I really need to speak with you. Could you please give me a call?"
Wonder what’s happened with her since this morning?
"Casey sat up a little straighter as the second message began to play. "Casey, I am so sorry to bother you, but I really need to talk to you. Something has happened here and I need to talk it over with you. Please call me. It’s Jennifer."
Oh my God, something bad must have happened for her to have called me twice.
If possible her concern grew even stronger as she listened to the third message.
"Casey, it’s Jennifer again. I know you must be busy, but I really need to talk to you. Will you please call me or come by when you get this message? I’ll be home."
This time without thinking, Casey scrolled to find Jennifer’s home phone number. She had already programmed it into her phone for easy access.
I knew this was going to happen, that she would need me. But I never dreamed it would happen this quickly.
As Casey listened to the phone ring, she wondered what could be going on with Jennifer. Please let her and her kids be okay.
Casey breathed a sigh of relief when she heard Jennifer’s voice.
"Hello, Jennifer. It’s Casey."
"Oh God, Casey, thanks for calling me back. I’ve been going crazy here trying to decide what to do."
"Jennifer, I’m sorry it took me awhile to get back to you. Can you tell me what’s going on?"
"It might be easier if I showed you. Is there any possibility you could come back by or I could meet you?"
"Actually, I’m at my parents’ house and won’t be back in Wilmington until tomorrow. I could stop by your house as soon as I get back into town."
"Oh … okay. That will be fine. I’m sorry I interrupted your visit with your parents."
Casey could hear the disappointment in Jennifer’s voice. "Jennifer, if this can’t wait, I’ll leave now and see you in a couple hours."
"No, no, Casey, really I’m okay. I’m probably just over-reacting."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes… yes. Of course I am. I’ll see you tomorrow."
"You could just tell me what’s happened. Maybe talking it through will help."
"No, Casey that’s okay. I’m fine really. It can wait. Now go back to your family. I’m terribly sorry I interrupted your visit."
After they ended the call, Casey couldn’t get the sound of Jennifer’s voice out of her head. I wonder what’s happened. What does she need to show me? Maybe I should just head on back. But surely it can wait until tomorrow.
Later that afternoon, Casey was sitting with her parents in the family room. They had been chatting and catching up on things, watching a little television.
But Brenda noticed several times that Casey seemed distracted. Finally when she had asked her daughter yet another question that went unanswered she decided to pry.
"Okay, Casey. Tell me what’s bothering you. There’s obviously something on your mind."
"It’s nothing. Just something from work."
"Come on, Casey. Don’t give me that. I can read you like a book and I know it has to be more than work."
"Mom, I really shouldn’t tell you because it does have something to do with work."
"And just who do you think I’m going to be blabbing to about it?"
"I didn’t mean it that way and you know it."
"I know that, honey. But you seem really upset and I would like to help. Did it have something to do with the calls from earlier?"
"Yes. It does."
Before Casey knew what happened she found herself telling her mother the whole story as her father listened from his recliner across the room.
Jennifer paced the floor in her home office. Time and time again she picked up the envelope and pulled out its contents. Each time she grew more sick to her stomach. More worried. As the day wore on she had worked herself into a quite a state.
Not wanting Courtney and Brandon to pick up on her mood, she had made arrangements for them to spend the night away from home, telling them she needed time to herself to think.
They agreed and seemed somewhat relieved to be spending the night and most of the next day with friends. But now that she had the house to herself she couldn’t settle down. Her mind was racing and she was growing more and more distraught with every passing moment.
She picked up the phone a dozen times thinking she would call Casey and tell her she couldn’t wait until the next day.
I need you now, dammit. I need you now. Jennifer stopped pacing and threw herself face down on the couch. She allowed her misery to spill out in heart-shattering sobs. Exhausted by the events of the day and the crying, she fell asleep with her arms pillowing her head.
Tessa had watched the delivery boy drop off the envelope to Jennifer from the cover of trees a few hundred yards from the house. With her high-powered binoculars she could track Jennifer’s movements throughout the house.
"It’s a good thing this house has so many windows. Makes it easy for me to know where you are, baby."
She smiled in satisfaction when she saw Courtney carry the envelope to her mother.
"Come on. Open it now. I want to see your face."
But the envelope lay untouched while Jennifer worked in the kitchen. The longer she had to wait the more upset Tessa became. Finally, after what seemed like hours but in reality was less than an hour, Jennifer picked up the envelope as she sat down at the kitchen table in front of a full-length window, which gave Tessa an excellent view.
"That’s it open it, baby. Let me see your face."
She watched in anticipation as Jennifer pulled the contents from the envelope, her heart beginning to race. She saw the horror on the other woman’s face as the pages slipped through her fingers and fell onto the table. She laughed in satisfaction when Jennifer’s hands flew to cover her face as she burst into tears.
"That’s it. You’re beginning to understand. Aren’t you, baby? You’re mine and no one else is allowed to lay a hand on what is mine!"
Tessa continued to watch as Jennifer placed phone call after phone call. She released a triumphant "yes" as she saw Courtney and Brandon leave with friends.
"Now that’s good. You’re home all alone and that’s just the way I want you."
She had to change positions when Jennifer moved into another room but was soon able to locate her. Tessa watched as her quarry paced back and forth in front of the window.
"Oh, you are agitated aren’t you, my darling? But soon, very soon this will all be over and you will be mine."
When she saw Jennifer collapse on the couch, Tessa knew it was time to prepare her love’s second surprise of the day. While Jennifer slept, Tessa let herself in through the back of the house and moved slowly along the hallway and from room to room until she reached Jennifer’s side.
Pulling a single red rose from inside her jacket she kissed its blooms and then placed it beside the sleeping woman along with a note that she had prepared in advance.
She stood back to admire her handiwork and had to swallow the laughter that wanted to surface.
Jennifer slept on her stomach. Her arms pillowing her head with her face turned toward the room. A strand of blonde hair was draped over her face and Tessa could not resist the urge to smooth it back into place.
She gently and with great care, stretched forth a hand and moved the hair to uncover the face of her love. Just as she completed the task, Jennifer began to stir in her sleep. She mumbled some words that didn’t make sense to Tessa, except for one sentence.
"Casey, I need you," Jennifer mumbled in her sleep.
When the words registered, it was like a slap in the face to Tessa. She pulled back and quickly left the room and the house. Once she had returned safely to her lookout, she allowed her fury to surface and vented her anger.
"You are mine and the sooner you realize that the better it will be for everyone! You are not available to anyone else! Do you hear me? No one, but me. No one. I tell you!"
Tessa continued her vigil throughout the day and early evening, waiting for Jennifer to awaken and find her gift of love. A gift that would show just how vulnerable she was to Tessa’s will. "I can have you anytime I want you and there’s nothing you can do about it!"
Finally, her wait was rewarded and as she watched Jennifer’s reaction, she laughed the maniacal laugh of a disturbed person.
"Casey, it sounds like Jennifer is more than just part of this investigation to you, that you have feelings for her."
"Mom, that’s crazy. I’ve only seen the woman twice. I certainly don’t have feelings for her."
"But ,Casey, sometimes it only takes a moment to know that you will spend the rest of your life with someone. After all that’s the way it was for me with your father. One look into those eyes of his and I was a goner."
Casey’s father had remained silent while she shared her story and her concern for the newspaper publisher but at his wife’s words, he released a chuckle.
"That’s right, honey. Your mother took one look at me and I was hooked. She’s refused ever since to let me off that hook. Told me I loved her and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Who was I to argue?"
"Now, Emerson Jarnigan, you stop that right now. You know good and well that’s a bunch of horse malarkey!"
Father and daughter shared an amused look at her response. Casey was used to her father taunting his wife about relentlessly pursuing him until he married her. But she had always understood it was all in good fun. Her parents had a deep and abiding love that seemed to only come once in a lifetime, which was part of her problem. She thought she and Kristen had that kind of love and she had already used up her one time.
"Honey, regardless of whether you have personal feelings for this woman or not, it sounds like she needs your help," Brenda told her daughter.
"Ever since I listened to the first message she left for me, I’ve been drawn to her, connected to her in a way I can’t really explain."
"Maybe you’re just meant to be the one who helps her out of this mess. She sounds like she’s a good, hardworking person who made one bad decision. That shouldn’t be allowed to ruin her life."
"I agree with your mother, Casey. Don’t worry so much about the personal connection you seem to have with this woman. She needs your help and you won’t be happy with yourself if you don’t do all you can to help her."
No sooner had he spoken than Casey’s phone began to vibrate on the coffee table in front of her. She picked up the phone and concern immediately showed on her face as she read the caller ID. Her parents waited silently as she took the call.
"Hello, this is Casey Jarnigan."
"Casey, thank God," were the only words Jennifer could say before she burst into tears.
"Jennifer, I need you to calm down and talk to me. Can you do that? Please? You’re worrying me. Everything is going to be okay. Now, please, try to collect yourself so you can tell me what’s wrong. I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong."
Casey continued to console the woman on the phone, speaking gently and encouraging her to calm down enough to tell her what was wrong. All the while she exchanged concerned looks with her parents. Finally, she began to understand part of what Jennifer was saying.
"She’s been in my house while I was sleeping. She’s been here Casey. Right beside of me."
"Who’s been there, Jennifer? What do you mean?"
"Tessa’s been here. I’m scared, Casey. I don’t know why but I’m terrified."
"You’re telling me someone came into your home while you were sleeping?"
"And you’re sure it was Tessa?"
"I know it was because she left a note."
"Damn, that woman is crazy. Jennifer are you alone?"
"Yes, the kids went to stay with friends. I told them I needed time to myself to think."
"I’ll leave here soon and I’ll be there as quickly as I can and we’ll figure this out. Okay? And in the meantime call the police."
"No, that’s okay, Casey. I’m probably just over-reacting. I feel better now that we’ve talked I’ll be fine, really. And I don’t want to involve the police in this. It would just make it worse."
Casey could tell the other woman was struggling to maintain her composure. "You don’t need to be alone and really I’ll be glad to drive back this evening."
Brenda placed a hand on Casey’s arm to get her attention. "Give me just a second, Jennifer. I’ll be right back."
"Casey, why don’t you tell her to come here? It’ll do her good to get out of the city and away from things for the night. We’ve got plenty of room for one more."
"I don’t know, Mom. I really don’t know her all that well and this may not be the appropriate thing to do," Casey said as she covered the phone to keep Jennifer from hearing the discussion.
"Nonsense. This will be an excellent way for you to help her and get to know her. Now, go on ask her to come here. Go on. Do it."
"Jennifer, my mother has just suggested that I invite you here to our family farm. Why don’t you throw a few things in a bag and come on out? There’s lots of room and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the change of scenery."
"I don’t know, Casey. That’s very kind of your mother, but I really don’t want to impose."
"I’m sure it will not be an imposition. Mom wouldn’t have offered if she didn’t mean it. You’ll be very welcome here, I promise."
Not wanting to stay in her house a moment longer by herself, Jennifer accepted the invitation.
"If you’re sure then I would love to get away from here for the night."
"We’re sure. Let me give you directions. It’s easy to find. Oh, and Jennifer?"
"Bring whatever it is you need to show me with you. Maybe we can put our heads together and figure out a solution to this mess."
"It is a mess, isn’t it? And I’m sure I should apologize for drawing you into it, but I feel so much better knowing you’re going to help me. Thank you, Casey."
"Don’t thank me yet. Now let me give you the directions and we’ll see you in a couple hours."
Brenda and Emerson noted the tone of caring and compassion their daughter used as she talked to Jennifer. Emerson winked at his wife as if to say he agreed that it was the right thing to do.
"Okay, mom and dad, we’re all set. Jennifer will be here in a couple hours. I certainly hope I can come up with something to help her."
"I’m sure you will, honey. I’m sure you will," Brenda gave her daughter a reassuring pat on the knee.
Jennifer quickly tossed a few things in a bag and left Wilmington taking I-40 west. The miles flew by as she made the drive and her composure had returned. Casey’s directions were excellent and she drove straight to the Jarnigan family farm.
As she pulled into the driveway, she looked at the rambling farmhouse so different from where she grew up. But as she stepped outside her car and breathed in the fresh country air, she immediately felt at peace—at home.
Reaching into the backseat she took out her bag and started toward the front porch of the house. She knocked on the door and stood waiting. Uncertain about her decision to join Casey. Maybe I shouldn’t have come. She’s going to think I’m crazy.
The moment the door opened, green eyes locked with the warm brown eyes of the taller woman. Without a moment’s hesitation, Jennifer dropped her bags and walked straight into Casey’s arms. She locked her arms around Casey’s waist and rested her head on her chest. Casey’s arms came around her engulfing her in a warm, safe embrace.
I feel so safe here. It’s like this is where I belong.
Be sure to let me know what you think so far. I appreciate your feedback. Please send comments to email@example.com.
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