For complete disclaimers see part 1.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com. If you have suggestions or corrections, please don’t bother as that’s what my publisher’s editor is for.
Julie unraveled the hose, screwing on the gun at the end, and turning on the water. Her patio furniture had been moved to the grass- still winter-yellow- the plastic covering littered with winter debris. She aimed the nozzle and squeezed the trigger, a powerful jet of water spraying over the furniture, Bonnie and Clyde hightailing it when they felt the mist halfway across the small yard.
March was quickly coming to a close, the temperatures rising and the last of the snows nearly melted away. Typically Julie loved the snow, not much for summer heat, but this year she relished the thought of the oncoming warmth. She was ready for the cold to go away, her memories and fears melting with the bright sun. It seemed to be working because over the past couple weeks, she’d felt better than ever. She felt more safe and content than she had since the whole thing began. Perhaps she was finally healing, finally finding the balance in her life that she needed to get through this and become whole again. Well, as whole as she possibly could.
Finished with the patio furniture, she turned the hose onto the patio itself, spraying off any dead leaves that had gotten caught under the snow, any of the dirt that had been washed up with it. She also found a few Bonnie and Clyde-sized poops that hadn’t been picked up before the storms hit. Releasing the handle and dropping the hose, she grabbed the pooper scooper and began to collect them, a surge of anger rushing through her at the fact that she had missed an entire season. She had missed fall entirely, and was angry and resentful of that fact. She hadn’t been able to enjoy the first fire of the season, hadn’t been able to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters in the neighborhood. She’s missed a good majority of the football season, not able to decorate her house for the holidays, in her own home.
Julie still couldn’t fight the urge to take at least two showers a day, only while standing in that stall, soap rubbing over her skin, did she feel clean. The moment she stepped out onto the mat, she felt like immediate grime attached itself to her skin, but mostly to her soul. Would that ever be clean again?
Finished with the backyard, Julie wandered inside, hearing the distant hum of the washing machine, accompanied by the intermittent thump of the heavy curtains inside. The living room looked almost naked with only blinds on the windows. She was getting bored staying at home, so three days ago had started all out spring cleaning, and revamping of her home. The gallon cans of paint she’d picked up from the hardware store still sat just inside the door to the garage, new paint trays and brushes next to them.
Julie hurried up the stairs to her bedroom, noting the empty space. She had taken the bed apart when she woke up, moving the pieces to one of the spare bedrooms before heading outside to clean off the patio furniture and patio.
She walked into her bathroom, taking the CD player/radio out that she used to listen to while getting ready for school in the mornings, she set it up in the corner of the modest-sized room, hitting PLAY. The Doors’ Riders On the Storm began to play, the rain and storm effects beginning the song. Roll of blue painter’s tape in hand, she began to tape off the windows and wood trim.
It was easy to get lost in the music and her task, head bobbing when she wasn’t singing along. Typically she wasn’t one for the music of the late 60s, early 70s, the music a little before her time and generation, but there had always been something about The Doors and Janis Joplin that had reached inside and touched her in a way that very few other bands could. Maybe it was just the tragedy of their short lives, or maybe it was just kick-ass music. Either way, she allowed herself to enjoy her solitude, rolling on about a four foot wide section of new paint before stepping back, roller in hand. She cocked her head to the side in contemplation, chewing on her lower lip. The color, a deep mocha, was darker wet, she knew, but she tried to imagine what color it would dry to, and was it the color she hoped for. The woodwork would be white to contrast the brown. The room was large enough to accommodate such a rich color.
It felt wonderful to make so many changes in her house. It almost felt like they were the physical manifestation of the changes within her own soul- shedding the old, and bringing to light a new, fresh layer.
“’You know that it would be untrue, you know that I would be a liar, if I was to say to you, girl we couldn’t get much higher,’” Remmy continued humming the chorus of The Doors’ great, Light My Fire, fingers tapping along the sides of her jean-clad legs. She was enjoying the warm day, perfect weather for jeans and a t-shirt, though a light jacket would be needed later as temperature’s cooled.
Roaming several of the neighborhoods of Woodland- reasons twofold: reacquaint herself with the town, and find where Julie lived- Remmy noted the older houses, some in need of desperate repair, others beautiful representations of an era lost. She was using what she’d started calling her J-dar to try and tap into the blonde woman. She’d been back in town for two weeks, getting settled back in her job and back into her apartment. She was so grateful that Joan had kept her things, stored safely in her garage. Remmy hadn’t realized just what kind of friends she’d made here the last time. She’d even reconnected with Roman, though he told her that she was never allowed to drive his car again.
Remmy smiled, feeling happy and carefree. She stopped at the street corner she came to, closing her eyes as she looped her arm around the stop sign planted in the grassy corner of the meeting of adjacent sidewalks. She sent out her feelings, allowing them to ride the air, in search of something. It was far more difficult now to pick up on Julie, which was good in so many ways. That meant her emotions were low and she was calm.
As Remmy stood on the corner, she suddenly had a quick vision of a splash of brown color…
‘Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name? Hello, I love you, let me jump in your game…’
The music was tinny, almost as though coming from an old transistor radio. Remmy turned toward her right, concentrating on the lyrics. The music began to come into more focus. She headed down that sidewalk, suddenly the smell of fresh paint invading her senses. The volume of the music increased, now coming in stereo surround sound, almost like a soundtrack to her trek down the street.
‘She’s walking down the street, blind to every eye she meets. Do you think you’ll be the guy, to make the Queen of the Angels sigh?’
Remmy’s heart began to pound.
Julie walked over to the small player, cranking the volume as she danced back over to her paint tray, singing along with Jim Morrison. She grabbed the paint can, tilting until more rich color poured into the plastic tray. Running her roller several times back and forth through the thick color, she returned to the third of four walls that were getting the mocha treatment.
She couldn’t keep her hips still as the music filled the space, head bobbing in time with the beat. She grinned widely as Love Her Madly began.
‘Don’t you love her madly? Don’t you need her badly? Don’t you love her ways, tell me what you say…’
Remmy knew she must seem like she was crazy, head bobbing in time with the music in her head, hand tapping against her leg. She looked at the houses on either side of the quiet street. Nice, well maintained, the yards starting to come around from the harsh winter. She chuckled as she passed one that had a smattering off garden gnomes placed strategically, hiding behind trees, peeking out from underneath bushes. Quite amusing.
She stopped, breath catching in her throat. She saw a small, but nice two story, the paneling a light blue, windows and doors trimmed in a darker shade of the same color. The yard looked as though in the glory of summer, it was meticulous and well-loved. What caught her eye, though, was a white Miata, parked in the driveway.
Julie stood back, admiring her handiwork. Her shoulders already hurt, and she’d barely begun her little transformation in her house. It didn’t matter- it was all worth it.
Suddenly, unbidden, a huge smile spread across her face, her breath catching. Her hand went to her paint-splattered shirt, over her upper chest, trying to catch her breath. A feeling of absolute exhilaration filled her, and she felt the need to cry she was so happy.
“Jesus, what’s wrong with me?” she chuckled, feeling ridiculous. Dimly, she thought she heard the sound of the doorbell, but then realized it was simply the music. Shaking the stupid grin off her face, she walked back over to the pain tray, rolling the paint roller to recoat it, then started on the fourth wall. She glanced over her shoulder to the first wall, still tacky, but was beginning to dry. She realized she was going to need a second coat. “Damn,” she muttered, turning back to her task. “Should’ve primed it first.”
Remmy stood on the front porch, hands shoved into the front pockets of her jeans, rocking nervously on her heels. No answer to her ring, she took a step back on the small front porch, nearly falling off backwards. She looked up at the house, knowing in her gut that Julie was just on the other side of those walls.
Chewing on her lower lip, she tried to decide what to do, looking around her, making she no one was watching her. She felt shy and somewhat embarrassed, just showing up like this. Her head continued to bob to the music in her head until suddenly it stopped.
Julie stopped, listening again. That had to have been the doorbell. Setting the roller in the paint tray, she hurried over to the CD player, hitting the stop button. The sudden silence was nearly deafening. She grabbed an old towel that she’d tossed in the center of the room for this very purpose, trying her best to wipe away the excess paint on her hands. The last thing she wanted was to have a trail of mocha throughout the whole house.
Feeling really stupid now, Remmy decided it best just to leave well enough alone. She stepped off the porch and down the few stairs that led to the path that would take her to the sidewalk once more. She missed the music in her head- at least it gave her something to listen to while she walked.
Hands going back to her pockets, she headed out.
Julie nearly tripped over Bonnie in her haste to get to the door. She felt an urgency that she couldn’t explain as she fumbled with the locks, finally pulling the door open. There was no one there. For a split second, fear fingered its way down her spine, but then it stopped, frozen mid-stride when she saw someone on the sidewalk, headed away from her house.
Pushing the screen door open, and hurrying down the stairs, Julie called out. “Hey!”
Remmy stopped, startled by the voice. She stopped, turning to see Julie standing just beyond her porch, looking right at her. Her stomach lurched, breath caught as a wall of nerves crashed over her head.
Julie’s heart was beating wildly as she watched the figure turn around, breath catching at the realization. “My god,” she breathed, taking a step forward before stopping, unsure.
Taking a deep breath, Remmy began to walk back toward the house, noting the couple steps toward her Julie made before stopping. She could see such confusion in the green eyes, and wondered if perhaps this had been a mistake. Did Julie know who she was? If she did, would it bring back memories that she didn’t want? Her questions were null and void when Julie jetted across the final space between them, stopping right in front of Remmy.
Julie’s heart was racing almost painfully in her chest, unable to take her eyes off Remmy’s face, her gratitude making her green eyes far too shiny. Remmy looked unsure, as though she were about to bolt at any moment. Not wanting to chance it, Julie hurried over to her, stopping, looking deeply into the calmest, kindest blue eyes she’d ever seen. She knew, without a doubt, this was her dream savior. This is who brought her peace and calm, and who got her through the most harrowing experience of her life. This was the woman who’d saved her life.
With a small cry, Julie wrapped her arms around Remmy’s neck, feeling the embrace returned, strong and warm as they pressed together. Remmy’s eyes closed, her soul seeming to mend as she held Julie. She’d never felt so complete.
Julie wanted so badly to say the words that she’d been wanting to for months, but her mind wouldn’t work, nothing would come out. She seemed to be running purely on instinct as she held Remmy desperately to her, unable to move or to think or to speak. They just… were.
After long minutes, Remmy felt the slight body against hers begin to tremble, and then felt wetness against her neck. Slowly, she pulled away, just enough to look into Julie’s tear-streaked face. Lifting a hand, she wiped away some of the tears with her thumb.
“It’s okay,” she whispered, understanding filling her.
Julie smiled, looking away, feeling really stupid. “I’m sorry,” she said after a moment, trying to get herself under control. Never had she been so completely controlled by pure emotion before. She felt out of herself, like only her soul existed. She felt raw.
“Don’t apologize unless you’ve done something bad.” Remmy brought two fingers under Julie’s chin, bringing brilliant green eyes back to look into her own. She smiled gently. “And you haven’t.”
Julie smiled then, big and bright, and filled with gratitude. She hugged Remmy again, feeling as the taller woman gently rocked her, calming her merely with her presence. She could feel a strength radiate from Remmy like a warmth from within, which called out to her, letting her know it was alright to lean against it, touch it and allow it to warm her from the inside out.
Nearly thirty minutes later, Julie pulled away from Remmy, noticing that she’d gotten paint on the brunette’s t-shirt. “I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed, meeting amused blue eyes.
“See? Now you can apologize.”
Julie burst into laughter, feeling more free and light than she had… ever. Sobering, she took in Remmy’s amused grin, which slowly slid from a beautiful face when Remmy saw the seriousness return to Julie’s eyes. “Thank you, Remmy. I’ve been wanting to tell you that for a long, long time. You saved me.”
Remmy understood the multiple meanings behind Julie’s words, and simply nodded. “You’re welcome.” She grinned as she studied the woman before her. “I’m going to guess either you’re painting or have been playing in a vat of chocolate.”
Confused, Julie brought her hand up to her face. She looked away shyly when she felt the dried paint on her face. “Painting,” she admitted quietly. Clearing her throat, she stepped back. “Would you like to come in? Have a cup of coffee or lemonade, something?” She hated herself for the almost desperate tone of her voice, but she felt she couldn’t let this woman walk away, not yet. She needed to understand so much of what happened, and how.
Remmy swallowed, suddenly nervous again. She glanced over at the house, then back at the expectant blonde. She nodded.
Remmy looked around as she was led through the front door. Immediately she was nearly attacked by two of the cutest dogs she’d ever seen. She remembered them fondly from the pictures Matt had shown her. “Which one is Bonnie, and which one is Clyde?” she asked, missing the shocked expression Julie’s face, as she bent down and began to attempt to pet the squirming Yorkies.
“The lighter colored one is Bonnie, then of course the one who resembles Chewbacca with a haircut, is Clyde.”
“They’re adorable,” Remmy laughed, trying to dodge doggie kisses, the two trying to outdo the other in getting the most licks in. Finally she was able to get to her feet, both dogs still clawing at her ankles and shins to get her attention. Carefully she stepped over them, following Julie to the kitchen.
The house seemed to match everything she’d heard about Julie- comfortable, well-kept and well-loved. The kitchen was no different with its simple furniture, yet loving decorated. She sat at the spotless round oak table, watching as Julie moved easily around the largish kitchen.
“Is coffee okay?” Julie asked, holding up a bag of specialty coffee. At Remmy’s nod, she began to fill the maker. “I’m sorry you had to see things in such a mess. I decided to start spring cleaning, then went on and got the crazy idea to repaint.”
“So I saw,” Remmy chuckled, not minding about her t-shirt in the least. Hell, it added character to the green color of the shirt, and a memory.
Julie smiled somewhat sheepish, but said nothing as she grabbed the container of cream from the fridge, and a canister of sugar, setting them on the table, with two spoons and mugs. “Are you hungry?”
Remmy shook her head, her big lunch with Roman still very fresh in her mind. “Thank you, though. Please,” she said, noting Julie’s nervous fidgeting as she leaned against the counter. “Sit down. I won’t bite.”
Julie pushed away from the counter, doing as asked, and sitting across from Remmy. She didn’t know why she was so nervous, but she was. She felt as though Remmy could simply look inside her soul and read all, and it made her nervous, though not afraid. In fact, Remmy seemed to take any and all fear away, which was amazing to her. She smiled inwardly- if Remmy could bottle that, she’d be a millionaire. “When did you come back into town?” she asked at length.
“A couple weeks ago.” She grabbed the sugar dispenser and began to play with it, her own nerves shining through. “I wanted to come see you, but was too afraid, I guess.”
“Afraid?” Julie was shocked. Looking into the warm, calm depths of the ocean of Remmy’s eyes, she’d never guess anything made her afraid.
“Yes. I didn’t want to bring back memories to you that you didn’t want. That maybe you’d managed to forget, or at least deal with.”
“Remmy,” Julie said, voice soft, “I’ll never forget. But, yes, I have learned ways to deal. I hope.” Remmy matched her small smile. “I’m so glad you came. I’ve been wanting to thank you for what you did. And not just for me. I know Pam and Cameron have been itching to talk to you, too. Especially Pam. She spent two years of her life in that hell.”
Remmy nodded, attention returning to the sugar dispenser, watching as the sunlight from the French doors gleamed off the chrome top. Even it had been wiped clean, no fingerprints or left over sugar granules. “I’m glad everyone got out okay.” Sad eyes met Julie’s gaze. “I’m so sorry I didn’t get there in time to save Roxie.” Remmy turned away.
Julie was shocked by the haunted look in Remmy’s eyes. She moved to the chair next to the brunette, placing a warm hand on her back. “Hey,” she said softly. Suddenly it hit her just how much of herself Remmy had lost. The captives weren’t the only ones who had suffered. She turned her chair so she was facing Remmy, then slowly pulled the younger woman towards her, Remmy at first resisting, but then she fell against Julie, allowing herself to be held.
Remmy tried to pull away, mortified that her emotions were getting the best of her, but Julie held her tight. To make things even worse, she felt tears sting her eyes. No, no, no! As soft words were whispered to her, Julie’s soothing arms around her, Remmy felt like it was okay to let it all go. She cried, not even trying to stop the tears anymore. She cried for Roxie, she cried for Pam, and she cried for Julie. She knew of the horrors they’d lived through, as she’d lived through them right alongside them. Hell, she even cried for herself a little. She allowed herself to soak in the comfort Julie offered, comfort like nothing she’d ever known. She felt it tug at her heart, at her soul, at the very core of who she was. She’d never experienced anything like it, not even in Monica’s arms.
After long moments, Julie felt the tears slow then stop altogether, but still she held Remmy, rocking her gently. She could feel just how much Remmy needed to be comforted, and wondered what it had been like for her. What had she experienced? Grace and Joan had both told her about Remmy’s visions, but what all did that entail? Was it like watching a horror movie unfold? Somehow she felt it was more than that. She could sense Remmy’s deep pain and reaction, and realized she recognized herself in the taller woman. She saw her own fears and pain reflected back at her through the brunette’s eyes. She knew deep in her heart that Remmy had given more than just her time to save her. She felt as though she’d given her very soul.
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