This story primarily features stories involving women. If it is illegal in the state, province, or country in which you live; or if you are under the age of 18, please find something else to read.
Language - Violence - Hurt/Comfort:
- There are elements of strong language, violence, physical and/or mental, as well as emotional hurt and discomfort in this story.The events portrayed in this story are fictional and any resemblance to actual events and/or people is purely coincidental.
Carolyn Black’s natural adversity to taking on anything that she might possibly fail in was no doubt the reason for her calm persona. All her life she had excelled in everything and that gave her the ability to cushion herself from the inevitable substandard subject - to date, she had never failed at any matter that she focused on.
The one area of life that she had steered her ship away from were relationships and particularly those that involved any type of up close and personal interactions. Richard had been the only person she had allowed into her world with any familiarity, and even then, it wasn’t that familiar. He had tired, but she guarded her emotions too well for him to have any kind of understanding into the workings of her mind. They did however have a good solid friendship, and she would, if pushed, call him her best friend. When it came down to it, he was probably her only true friend.
Now she found herself uncharacteristically and inexplicably nervous at the anticipation of Jennifer Finch’s imminent arrival at her apartment. She never expected to see the woman again after their return, yet within four days of their original meeting they were back together. On their journey back to Railston, they had discussed the book Waterfalls, Rainbows and Secrets and Carolyn was surprised to find it in her mailbox the next day. It took her only two hours to read and make a swift judgement call on the contents and when she had finished she left a message on Jennifer’s answering machine. “Hello Jennifer. I have finished the book and wanted you to know that I have formed an opinion. When you get a chance give me a call and we can discuss my findings.”
In less than twenty-four hours after her call, she waited apprehensively for the woman’s knock on her door. As the minutes ticked by, she pondered the fact that other than Richard she had never invited anyone to her apartment. And, I haven’t a clue as to why that is. Her eyes opened wide when she realized that she had been so engrossed in Jennifer’s visit that she had forgotten Richard! He’ll be here in just over an hour to take me to dinner. She reached for the phone and quickly dialled his mobile number. Damn no answer. I hope that he won’t mind if we go out later than planned. With an arrogance that she took in their friendship, she thought, no he won’t mind at all.
The sound of the doorbell had Carolyn schooling her features and wiping her sweaty palms on her t-shirt before answering the door. She smiled warmly at Jennifer and said, “Hi come on in. Would you like a cup of coffee or are you topped to the brim after a heavy day?” Its strange how life throws certain people together she thought as the woman entered the apartment. Her gaze rested upon Jennifer who was dressed in a plain navy blue skirt suit, giving her the appearance of being a banker rather than a cartoonist. Of course, I haven’t the foggiest notion what a cartoonist dresses like in the first place.
After their initial meeting, Jennifer expected that everything in the woman’s apartment would be plush and ultra modern. After she discreetly glanced around she was pleasantly surprised to find that it was…quite shabby or at least well-lived in. “Hello,” she said smiling as she turned back towards Carolyn. “Thank you. You must have read my mind. I haven’t had much of anything today…the deadline was more important.”
“Have a seat I’ll be right back.” Carolyn felt a wave of emotion wash over her and couldn’t recall ever reacting that way before. Strange…in a peculiarly good way I feel happy. In her small kitchen, she pressed the button to reheat the coffee that had been on most of the afternoon. I wish I thought to make a new pot.Oh well this will taste just as good. A couple of minutes later, she smiled as she placed a cup full of hot liquid on the cluttered coffee table. “Here you go. Sorry about the mess, guess I’m not a clean freak.”
Jennifer’s mouth watered at the sight of the cup of coffee as she picked it up and drank thirstily. She regretted the action immediately. The coffee was bad…worse than bad it was absolutely awful. She clamped her lips tight to prevent the liquid from spraying all over the furniture. It tastes like river sludge, gross! She managed to swallow the dark liquid with a disguised grimace before replacing the mug on the paper-strewn table. “I’m not exactly a clean freak myself.” Jennifer answered. My mouth tastes like an old sock howwill I ever get rid of the flavour. If she serves this kind of coffee, I wonder what her meals are like. She cringed at the thought. I hope I never find out.
Carolyn tried to read the various expressions that crossed her guest’s face as she drank the coffee. “Is the coffee okay?” she asked.
Jennifer lied. “Yes.”
“Good.” Carolyn then sat down next to Jennifer and dragged the book from under a pile of what looked like mathematical equations. “Okay to business. As I mentioned, I’ve read the book…twice in fact. Once as I do with all works, with a totally open mind and the second with your views and what you know to date about the subject matter.”
“What’s the verdict?” Jennifer asked with apprehension. “Do you think just like everyone else that my granddad, and for that matter me, are mad and living in a fantasy world?”
When Carolyn heard the hurt, injured tone of Jennifer’s voice she gave her a faint smile. “At first I wondered…” She heard the unhappy sigh from Jennifer and grinned. “No let me finish please. At first, when I saw the book in the bookshop I thought the author had merely written a piece of fiction as a way of relaxation from the academic works he was used to writing. I had only read a little before you retrieved the volume but it was enough to spark my interest. I felt there was the possibility that it wasn’t fiction and that there could be truth in the content.”
Jennifer wasn’t sure what she was hearing. Have I finally found someone who actually thinks I’m not a nut case, or is she playing with words? “And?”
“Patience Jennifer, patience…all good stories must have their day.”
“Don’t you think that after twenty years this story has had more than its fair share of my days?”
Carolyn chuckled and threw Jennifer an amused glance. “Okay, point taken.” She smiled and added, “Don’t forget I’m the dry academic and we do labour our theories.”
Jennifer heard what she hoped was going to be good news in the doctor’s voice and began to relax. “Well, I might have thought that once but now…” her voice drifted off as she returned a warm smile. It was then that she realised she felt an emotion she had never experienced - an affinity with the woman. It is a nice warm and interestingly safe feeling.
“Shall I continue?” Noting the nod from the woman she carried on. “When you told me your grandfather’s story and your own findings over the years I must confess to being sceptical. Who wouldn’t? It is a rather ridiculous story you know. I read the book and found myself drawn to the accuracy of some of the historic details. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never yet met an academic who could spin a wonderful wistful story such as this unless they really had experienced it. What I’m trying to say Jennifer, is that I think it’s true and now you need to prove it.”
Jennifer was jubilant. Finally, someone believes me! She considered Carolyn ’s academic stature in the community and found the enormous burden she had carried for so many years lift. Elation transmitted through Jennifer’s body in such an unexpected way that she leaned in and hugged the doctor warmly. “Thank you, thank you for believing me,” she gushed.
Carolyn would have been happier if Jennifer hadn’t invaded personal space, but she accepted Jennifer’s need to express her emotions. This feels nice, trickled in from the back of mind. She quickly disentangled herself from the hug and smiled. “Hey no problem, I think that’s why we academics are put on the planet. We make sense of the chaotic happenings of human nature.”
In her joy, Jennifer almost picked up the dreaded coffee to toast the wonderful news, but recalled its bitter taste. “Only problem I have now…well I’ve always had. How do I prove it?”
Carolyn turned a puzzled eye to the woman who had gone, in a matter of seconds, from elation to despondency. “I don’t understand?”
“You might believe me, but how can I convince my family,” she said with the same hurt filled voice of earlier. “I hardly think the book will swing it in my favour do you?”
“Oh ye of little faith,” Carolyn said quietly. “It won’t be that difficult. We have all the information necessary…” Just then, the ringing of the doorbell interrupted Carolyn’s flow. “We’ll continue this in a moment. That must be a friend of mine who is taking me out to dinner.” She shot Jennifer a bright smile. “Be right back.”
Jennifer felt her heart racing. The doctor indicated that they had all the information. But, where?What am I missing? The sound of Carolyn’s voice dragged her out of her thoughts.
“Jennifer, this is a good friend of mine Richard Svorski.” She smiled fondly at the man. “He badgers me to have dinner with him when he’s in town. Richard, this is Jennifer Finch. We met last weekend at a party to honour her father who is a good friend of my parents. She’s a cartoonist at the Press and has her own feature,” she said breathlessly. Why am I acting like this? It is totally out of character. She regained her composure. “I’ll fetch you a coffee, be right back,” she said in a clipped manner much as she would recite facts from an encyclopaedia.
Jennifer smiled indulgently at the change in the woman’s demeanour before she grimaced at the mention of the word coffee. No. Say no, you don’t want coffee.
“Not a good brew today I see.” Richard let out a slight laugh. “That means she’s been preoccupied with something,” he said knowingly. He extended his hand. “Hi, it’s nice to make your acquaintance. You must have made a good impression when you met Carolyn. I’m pretty sure she’s never allowed anyone other than me in the apartment before.”
Jennifer took the hand of the man standing over her. He was a tall, well muscled and very handsome. Jennifer speculated - he’s either married, totally in love with Carolyn, or gay. He’s so handsome that I’m sure no self respecting woman, if she had the chance, would let him out of her clutches. She smiled realising how sexist her thoughts were. Oh well I’m not perfect besides, it’s true. “The coffee leaves something to be desired I’d say.” She rolled her tongue around still finding remnants of the bitter taste. “Carolyn is helping me on a theory I have. I’m sorry if I’ve interfered with your plans.” She stood up. “I’ll go and catch up with her another time…”
“You’re not going anywhere Jennifer,” Carolyn said as she breezed back into the room and handed Richard a cup of coffee. “Please take your seat. Richard is going to be the wonderful friend that will do the gentlemanly thing and order take-out for us all. Anyway, I know he’ll be interested in our discussion.” She sat down next to Jennifer and Richard took the easy chair opposite them. “He might look the athletic type and he is, but he does possess a brain and his input from the male perspective might prove valuable.” Carolyn again heard herself rambling. Where is this coming from?
“Okay sounds like a plan to me, but I’m choosing the take-out,” Richard amiably announced. He started to take a sip of coffee then noticed Jennifer’s eyes widen and opted to place the cup on the table. “So what’s the discussion about?”
+ + +
“Not a chance I won’t let you go on such a foolhardy trip!”
Carolyn glared at the man. Richard’s reaction to her conclusions and his lukewarm expression was completely out of line. Who does he think he is my husband! “ Richard when did you become my keeper?”
Richard stood up and pulled a hand through his hair. Nothing has changed she is still far too complex for me to pin down. Just when I think, I know her she goes me one better and I’m back to square one. In this case, he felt justified in voicing his negative comments. Apparently, she has forgotten that she was sick and is still recuperating. “I’m not your keeper Carolyn…I’m your friend and a good one at that. Have you forgotten just how sick you were not too long ago? It was only last week that you told me you had not fully recovered so how can you even contemplate a trip like this…its madness.”
Carolyn continued to stare angrily at him, but saw his genuine concern for her well-being. I never asked for his concern. In fact, I find it to be rather disconcerting, but he is right - I was sick and I’m still recovering. “Want to come along and make sure I don’t do anything stupid?”
Jennifer struggling to come to terms with the doctor’s conclusion was oblivious to the conversation between the room’s other two occupants. Her thoughts were far too chaotic as her mind whirled trying to take in Carolyn’s deductions. Is this a dream?Have I fallen to asleep only to wake and find it is all a blurry mystery again? I should pinch myself and see if it is a dream or if I am at last on the brink of the truth. Her fingers found the flesh on her forearm. Ouch!
The room was silent as Richard stared at his friend. What the hell, it seems like my only available option to keep her from doing anything foolish is to go with her. He ran a hand across his face. It’s not really how I wanted to spend my time off but… “Will you accept my guidance if I make the trip?”
Carolyn stood up, approached her friend and placed a warm hand on his shoulder. “Sure… as much as I usually do.” She kissed his cheek and smiled widely before focusing her gaze on the bemused woman. Jennifer appears to be in a world of her own. “Hey, how about the three of us ditch the plans for takeout and go to my favourite restaurant to celebrate? We can plan the trip…we haven’t much time?”
Jennifer shook her head and focused on Carolyn’s words. Her eyes glazed in the comprehension that not only did someone believe in the story but they were also prepared to join her in an expedition. Awesome. “Sure, make it my treat.”
“You’re on, let’s get out of here.” Carolyn grabbed her overcoat and placed it over her shoulders, barely covering her skimpy T-shirt and tattered jeans.
Richard smiled indulgently. Why is it that the most brilliant never quite get their heads around dress protocol? He looked over at Jennifer who was dressed for anything except a glitzy party. Her plain, yet functional clothing stated that she had a good understanding of dress sense. Perhaps if they remain friends for long enough Carolyn can get a few pointers.
For her part, Jennifer stood up and watched Carolyn expecting her to change into something more suitable for dining out. When she dragged the ratty overcoat on she had to blink twice. She’s going out like that!
“Ophelia’s, here we come,” Richard announced happily as they left the apartment a few moments later.
+ + +
Carolyn pulled one of the napkins from the holder on the table and withdrew a pencil from the pocket of her jeans. As Jennifer watched her new friend she smiled, my god what’s she going to do now?
“I’m going to put down what we need for our journey, any objections?” Carolyn began scribbling intent on her task rather than any answer to her question.
Richard lifted a hand, “I have a question?”
Jennifer grinned. He looks like a student.
Carolyn, with a look of irritation on her face, frowned. “Put your hand down Richard you look like an idiot. What’s your question?”
Jennifer smirked and Carolyn caught the look. “Why not share the joke with the rest of us Jennifer? It’s got to be better than what Richard is going to ask.”
He knew her well and although he wasn’t offended he protested by grabbing at his heart. “I take exception to that remark Caro!” He feigned a hurt look. “Just because we all can’t be in your league doesn’t mean that we don’t have valid questions.” He had seen the faltering in Jennifer’s expression. By that look I guess she isn’t in Carolyn’s intellectual league either.
“For god’s sake Richard, just ask the question.” Carolyn, making no eye contact, continued to write on the napkin.
“How long is this little adventure of ours going to take? I only have a week free, maybe ten days.”
Carolyn paused as she considered the question then turned to Jennifer. “What about you Jennifer?”
Startled by the question, Jennifer sat silently while she collected her thoughts. I have as long as it takes. “Hmm well how long is a piece of string?” DUMB, dumb, dumb…what a dumb thing to say. She looked sheepishly at Carolyn. I bet she thinks I’m a moron.
Carolyn frowned at the remark. What an odd thing for her to say. I’ll put it down to nerves, yep nerves. Her gaze caught Jennifer’s awkward expression. She sure looks cute though when she’s unsure about something. When Carolyn felt the smile creep onto her face she swallowed hard. Crap I’m smiling! This has to stop. “I have to be back at the university in fifteen days time, therefore I guess we have ten days tops from start to finish.” She tapped the pencil on the table. “We’ll have to find it early in our travels won’t we.”
The words had Jennifer feeling the buoyancy that kept taking her on highs and lows – she had just hit another high. Just like that, no doubts. Wow, I wish I’d met Carolyn years ago. “Sounds good to me.”
Richard shook his head. How can either of them consider this hair brained idea? Both of them are scatterbrains if they seriously think this will work. “Ok, I’ll take ten days.” He noticed Carolyn once again jotting down notes. “Now what is it you’re writing there Carolyn?” he asked with a note of exasperation.
“Provisions, tent, equipment that kind of thing…” She lifted her head and eyed both of her companions. “Who’s good at what in the outdoors?”
Jennifer was the first to speak. “I can do the cooking.” She flinched slightly remembering the woman’s coffee. No way do I want Carolyn doing that duty! We’d probably have burnt toast for our morning meal.
“I can make sure we have the right provisions, pitch the tents and set up the camp.” Richard offered.
“Good and I will be the keeper of the maps, radios and be our navigator.”
As the meal progressed they discussed other aspects of the upcoming adventure. Jennifer was simply amazed how easily the plan fell into place. Less than a week ago, I cried tears of frustration. Now I’m embarking on an expedition, life sure is crazy.
Richard gallantly refused to accept Jennifer’s offer, stood up to go pay the bill, and heard Jennifer quietly ask, “Do you really think we will find what I’m looking for?” He smiled warmly knowing what Carolyn would answer. She’ll say yes.
“I thought I’d made myself perfectly clear?” Carolyn reproached Jennifer for her doubts.
“I guess you have but I’d still like to know the answer to the question.” Jennifer sighed heavily.
Carolyn did something unusual. She reached out and placed her hand on top of Jennifer’s smaller one. “I’ll tell you a secret Jennifer I never go into anything if I don’t think I’ll succeed.”
Jennifer nodded her head, finding comfort not in the words but in the gentle warm pressure of the hand on hers. “Shall I take that as a yes then?”
“Categorically,” Carolyn returned the smile. The feelings of touching Jennifer’s hand were foreign to her causing the neglected places inside her that she never knew existed to scream out for more. I have to find an answer to the problem of what’s going on inside me. Hell I’m sure it can’t be any more complex then the excitement of the journey we’re going on…right?
Once Richard returned to the table they agreed on an unalterable date for their adventure to begin.
+ + +
Stacy Randal watched her boss work on her new feature with quick and sure strokes seemingly accomplished with incredible ease. The Jennifer excelled in her careful attention to every detail which some in the field lacked. Anyone in the industry would attest to that fact that Jennifer Finch was the best of her generation. The young intern felt privileged and grateful to be under the woman’s tutelage.
Her thought drifted to the actual cartoon itself and the misleading title. Missy Molly the lead character took on the persona of a warrior named Cassandra the Mighty who fought against terror and injustice in King Arthur’s time. She smiled as she recalled the warrior’s sidekick a woman called Kellie the Gentle who she thought bore a strong resemblance to the cartoonist. Jennifer received a mountain of positive fan mail about this new cartoon female icon.
“Are you finished with the project Stace?” a quiet voice asked without turning in her direction.
Chuckling at being caught watching, Stacey shrugged. “Yes, it didn’t take long once I followed your… tips.”
Looking up from her work with her glasses sitting precariously on the bridge of her nose, Jennifer mused thoughtfully. “Hmm, tips hey? I call it constructive observations. How did it work out?”
“Great, Jerry thought... well, he thought it was great.”
“I take it Jerry made one of his idiotic observations. Care to share his wisdom?”
“He asked if I’d been copying you.” Stacey tilted her head to one side and lifted a shoulder. It really doesn’t matter to me what he says. If he thinks I’m a copycat of Jennifer I’ll take it as a compliment.
“Jerry needs new glasses. You have a marvellous talent Stace.” Jennifer shook her head. “I wonder sometimes why I work here when he says such jerk off comments. I suspect you’ll be heading for new pastures soon and that will be his loss.”
Stacey smiled. “Actually I was hoping that maybe I could work here.”
Stacey self-consciously blushed. How can I answer without making it clear that she is the reason? I know I don’t stand a chance but I love her. All that matters is to be close to her…is that asking too much, “I like it here. I think I can learn a great deal.”
“Hmm, I hope you do stay Stacey, you’ll be a great asset.”
Stacey felt the happiness brimming along with a new feeling of desire. Not wanting to take the chance that Jennifer would see her face and guess what she was thinking she turned abruptly and cannoned directly into Jerry, the operations director. “I…I…I’m sorry,” she said as she rushed out of the office.
Jerry Alcester laughed in a loud pitch that had Jennifer look up in veiled aversion at the man. “ Jerry I’m working!”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re always working Jenn. You need to get a life.”
Annoyed, she thought he is so stupid before speaking. “I have a life. Besides, you wouldn’t want it any other way or your precious paper wouldn’t have its resident cartoonist summoning up stuff on short notice. What is it you want today Jerry?
Jerry was smaller in stature than the petite woman who was staring at him with a questioning expression. He pulled at the stubble on his face. Trying for a beard that never worked out was a part of Jerry’s charm or lack of it depending on ones point of view. He cleared his throat then spoke, “The leave you asked for, hmm do you really need it?”
What a paradox that is. A few seconds ago, he was saying I needed a life, now he is trying to steal the few days I’ve requested. Never mind that it is my first request since I joined the paper. Jennifer mentally shook her head. Here we go again it’s the same old crap…he wants something. Well I’m not going to give in today. “Yes! Is there a problem?” Jennifer’s thoughts immersed themselves in her future options. In just a few days time I’ll be out of here leaving all this behind for new pastures and he’s not going to stop me.
“Jenn I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important, but Garry needs to be in Detroit next week and … you know what’s happening with him and his wife.”
“Sorry, but not this time. I haven’t asked for a day off since I began working here, I need that time slot so you’ll have to find someone else.” She said the words without hesitation. My quest is my life’s work and I’m sure he wouldn’t understand - no one has until now. She thought of Carolyn and smiled. No way am I going to change the plans we’ve made. In two days time I’m going on the adventure of a lifetime. Most people would say a folly but for her it was a true adventure. My grandfather’s and mine. No way am I giving up the chance.
“Tell me you don’t mean that Jenn. I’ve already told Garry he can take the time. You can take the week after and I’ll credit you with only take half the vacation time. What do you say?”
“No! I have plans, unchangeable plans and I don’t want to change them end of story. Ask Ray to cover, he’s Garry’s good buddy.”
Jerry placed a hand to his jaw and grimaced at the sandpaper feeling. “Ray’s busy, something about family matters.”
Jennifer held up her hand. “Pull the other one Jerry that’s bullshit. Ray doesn’t do an extra shift that’s the bottom line and that’s not my problem.”
“This won’t go down well Jenn. That kid you have as an assistant is real good we can replace you, did you think of that?”
Jennifer gave the diminutive man a calm, cold look. Yeah they can, maybe that’s what it’s all about…let them replace I don’t care. If the book is true, there’s no way I’ll come back to this, no way at all! “Stace is a good replacement she’d fill my boots well. Anything else you want. I have a deadline.”
“What’s so important about this vacation? You’ve never bothered before.” Jerry didn’t want to push his luck for Jennifer was a great asset to the paper but he didn’t want her to know it.
“I’ve booked a trip away with friends. I can’t change my plans. If you insist I’ll resign.” Jennifer never thought she would have uttered those words, but right now it was her dream and that was the most important consideration.
Jerry tried not to let the woman see his shock at her offer to resign. I can’t afford to have her quit…what will it look like to the owners. Finally Jerry puffed out, “Sure no problem. I’ll tell Ray he has to work extra time.”
Jennifer’s eyes widened in amazement as the man left her office. Jerry is actually going to ask Ray to take on more time. Wow, great fly on the wall conversation, pity I don’t care enough to be there. Nope I’ll be half way, if not all the way up a mountain, besides a waterfall waiting, for a rainbow…shit yes. She laughed. How can anyone call that anything but fantasy! She leaned back in her chair and laced her hands behind her head. “It won’t be long now,” she said as a glorious smile crossed her face.
To be continued...