THE WRITTEN WORD
by Mickey Minner
Melissa Dyne untangled herself from the sheets and threw them off her naked body before swinging her legs over the side of the mattress to sit up.
“What are you doing?”
She looked over her shoulder at the other woman in the bed. “Leaving.”
The woman reached out for her, trailing a finger along her thigh. “Already?”
“I told you,” Melissa stood up and out of the woman’s reach, “don’t expect more than I’m willing to give.”
The woman sat up, shoved the pillows against the headboard and scooted back to lean on them, the sheets draping haphazardly across her waist leaving her breasts exposed. She made no effort to cover herself as she watched Melissa. “I didn’t think the night would end so soon. What’s your hurry?”
Melissa ignored the question as she dressed, pulling on a pair of khaki slacks and bright red polo shirt. She slipped her feet into her shoes not bothering to put on her socks.
“Come on,” the woman glanced at the clock on the night stand, “what can another hour hurt?”
“Go home to your husband. I’m sure he’s missed you by now.”
“And what about you? Or doesn’t your ring mean anything?”
Melissa looked at her left hand and the gold wedding band. What do you mean? “That’s none of your business,” she snapped at the woman. Running her fingers through her hair to put some order into the tangled tresses, she walked to the table in the corner of the room.
“Can I see you again?”
She plucked her wallet off the table and walked to the door. “No.”
Though her room faced the back of the motel, all the parking was located in the front. Julie decided to leave her car where it was and carry her suitcase to her room.
She placed her bag on the ground beside her then looked at the remaining items in the trunk. Deciding it was better to leave them locked in the car, she slammed the trunk shut. Circling the sedan, Julie made sure each of the four doors was secure before she returned to her suitcase. Having packed for a short visit, she had no problem carrying the large but mostly empty bag across the gravel lot to the building where her room was located.
The motel was a separated from the store by several feet. It was a single story with rooms lining both the front and back sides. Painted, like the store, in a light blue with bright yellow trim around the windows and doors, the building looked well cared for. Julie counted six rooms facing the highway and assumed that an equal number were to be found on the back.
As she walked between the two buildings, the gravel gave way to grass and she spied the creek that Shirley had mentioned. A steady flow cascaded along a stone littered channel, the water tumbling over and around the obstacles. The temperature, which had been rising since she arrived in town, dropped significantly in the shadows cast by protective branches of several large cottonwood trees where the sounds of squirrels chattering and birds chirping could be heard. On the opposite side of the creek, the gently sloping ground rose sharply up an embankment covered in large boulders scattered among the trees. A faint path climbed to the top of the embankment and disappeared over the top.
“Very nice,” Julie said as she turned away from the tranquil scene to find her room. The doors were numbered in large white numerals and she saw that her room was the first at the near end. As she reached to insert the key into the lock, the door at the far end of rooms opened. She turned her head to see a woman step outside and move immediately across the grassy yard to the creek. Using conveniently placed stepping stones the woman hopped across the creek and disappeared up and over the embankment. Out for a morning walk, I guess. Julie turned the key and pushed open her door. Maybe I’ll check out that trail later, she thought as she carried her bag into the room and placed it on the bed.
She looked around the room. The door was located in one corner at the front and a large window beside it provided a nice view of the creek and trees. In the opposite corner was a small kitchenette which consisted of compact refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker and sink. The head of a single queen-size bed was pushed against the center of the side wall between a pair of nightstands, one holding a lamp and the other a telephone and alarm clock. Along the wall opposite the foot the bed, jutting out into the middle of the room, was a dresser of drawers with a television resting on top. At the far end of the room, a small table and single chair occupied one corner and a small open closet occupied the other. Between the two was a door leading into the bathroom. The carpet and furnishings looked worn but the room was neat and clean.
“Well, it’s not very fancy,” Julie muttered as she sat next to her suitcase. She noticed a pamphlet on the nightstand and reached for it, skimming through the pages of a guide to the town’s attractions and services. The last page displayed a map of the area and she took a few minutes to study it before flipping back through the guide’s pages until she found the one she sought. Her finger trailed down the list of businesses, stopping on an entry. She glanced at the clock on the nightstand. “Just enough time for a shower and change of clothes,” she said tossing the guide aside.
Dressed in a pair of light brown shorts and tan t-shirt that highlighted her deeply tanned skin, Dillon Carson walked barefoot along the lake shore. Her dark auburn hair was cropped short in an attempt to keep the natural curls from being too unruly and her head was covered with a well worn, and well loved, straw Panama hat.
As she did every morning, she kept her eyes focused on the sandy ground looking for anything unusual that might have washed ashore during the night. She had discovered that small pieces of driftwood twisted into unusual shapes by the forces of nature didn’t stay very long on the shelves of her curio shop and she didn’t want to miss any possible sources of revenue.
Something caught her eye and she bent down to pull a red and white ball out of the sand. “Looks like someone will be looking for a new bopper,” she said as she brushed the plastic float free of sand. She removed her sunglasses to examine the piece of fishing gear for any damage. “Good condition. Seems this morning hasn’t been a complete loss,” she said slipping it into her pocket.
Replacing her sunglasses, Dillon looked out across the lake surface, undisturbed by any early morning fishermen the water was smooth as glass. “Maybe we could take the boat out later,” she thought out loud. “Then again…” A deep sigh escaped her lips before she continued her walk.
“Babe, are you here?” Melissa called as she walked through the deserted house. “Dammit,” she muttered entering the vacant bedroom. She walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower before returning to the bedroom to strip off her clothes.
Dillon poured water into the tank of the coffee maker. Then opened the cupboard door above the sink and pulled out the box of filters and removed one. Placing it into the basket, she added coffee and snapped the basket into brewing position. Switching on the unit, she waited for the first drops to fall into the waiting glass carafe. Satisfied, she set about getting the shop ready for day.
The Beachcomber Curio Shop was situated on the corner where the highway into town dead-ended into Shoreline Road, directly across the street from the fishing pier and adjoining boat docks. No one traveled through Lake Como without passing the shop and most ended up spending at least a few minutes looking at the merchandise on display. Inside, tall display cases lined three walls while shorter cases were arranged in a square in the middle of the room. In the center of the square was the register and small desk where Dillon kept the shop’s records and performed her shop owner duties. The layout provided her a view of any customers what they were doing, this was especially useful when the shop was full of tourists and their young children. When she had no customers, the wall of windows at the front of the shop provided her an unobstructed view of the lake, pier and dock activities.
Dillon smiled when the aroma of freshly brewed coffee reached her nose but before she retreated to the back to pour herself a cup she made sure the door was unlocked and the sign in the window was flipped to show the Beachcomber was open for business.
She was stirring a spoonful of sugar into a cup of the rich smelling coffee when she heard the door open. “Good morning,” Dillon greeted the woman who entered the shop.
Julie smiled in response. “Good morning.”
Dillon took a sip of coffee as she watched the woman move about the display cases. “You’re an early riser. I don’t usually get many customers this time of the morning.” She took another sip then carried the cup to her desk.
“I guess I’m used to getting up early. Hard to break the habit when I don’t have anywhere to be. This is pretty,” Julie pointed at a small canoe created from blown glass.
Dillon nodded in agreement. “Staying in town?” She had learned that most people liked to talk and the more they talked the more likely they were to buy something.
“Yes. Just for a day or two.”
“You picked a good time.”
“So I’ve been told. I’m staying at the motel. Conrad told me all about what happens when tourist season starts.”
Dillon chuckled. “It’s not as bad as he lets on. I think he tells those stories so no one will think Lake Como is a good place to put down roots.”
“But he and Shirley live here year ‘round. Do you?”
“Then it must be a pretty nice place.”
“It can be.”
Julie heard a hint of sadness enter Dillon’s tone and turned to see her staring out at the lake. She returned to her browsing leaving the pre-occupied shopkeeper to her thoughts.
Melissa locked the door to the house before walking back to Lake Como’s business district. Her long blonde hair was neatly combed and pulled back into a ponytail. After showering, she had changed into a fresh pair of navy jeans and pale blue polo shirt. A pair of hiking boots and baseball cap completed her ensemble.
Even though she tried to stretch it longer, the walk took less than half an hour and she found herself approaching the curio shop before she was really ready to face the woman inside.
Dillon looked up from the catalog she was perusing when the door opened. Her eyes clouded as she watched Melissa enter and walk past her without much more than a nod of acknowledgment.
Melissa removed a cup from the cupboard and filled it with coffee. Then, steeling herself, walked to where Dillon waited.
When Melissa sat on the corner of her desk, Dillon asked, “Did you eat?”
“Not yet. Thought we might go over to the café.”
“I have a customer.” Dillon kept her voice low. She tried to keep it level but she knew she wasn’t being successful and her emotions were leaking through.
“I’m sorry about last night. I… ah….”
“Don’t. Please, don’t.”
Dillon reached up, cupping her cheek. “You look tired.”
Melissa wrapped her hand around Dillon’s and brought it to her mouth, tenderly kissing it. She looked into her wife’s eyes and saw what she always saw, a sad combination of love and pain.
Julie discretely watched the exchange. It had taken a few minutes but she finally realized why the woman sitting on the desk looked familiar. It was the same woman she had seen leaving the motel earlier that morning. As quietly as she could, she moved toward the door but she was unable to leave unnoticed.
“Sorry,” Melissa said when the door closed behind Julie. “Hope I didn’t spoil a sale.”
“I don’t think so. She didn’t seem too interested in the merchandise.” Dillon stood up. Wrapping her arms around her wife, she passionately kissed her.
Melissa returned the kiss. Spreading her legs, she pulled her close. The embrace lasted several minutes before she gently pushed her away. “Breakfast?”
Dillon laid her head on Melissa’s shoulder. “Okay.”
Julie stood on the lake shore. She appeared to be taking in the sights of the docks and the boats tied to their sides. But behind her dark glasses, her eyes had never left the curio shop and the two women inside. When they exited the shop and walked toward the nearby café, she continued to watch them.
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