Disclaimers, or lack of them: See Part 1
My thanks as always to my beta reader, Barbara Davies. Her work can be found on her page, Barbara Davies.
The voice was little more than a whimper, and Jo looked to her left at the sleeping blonde slumped in the passenger seat of her car.
"Sshhh." She reached across and took Rocky's hand, which was resting on the large road atlas of Great Britain held precariously on her lap. "It's okay. You're safe here," she whispered.
She held Rocky's hand as the young woman calmed and then, realising she had slipped back into a more peaceful sleep, tried to pull her hand away.
The blonde was having none of it, however, and Jo decided that she could manage for a while one-handed.
They had decided to drive to Cornwall the easy way. Straight along the M4 to Bristol, then down to Cornwall on the M5. It was monotonous and not terribly scenic, but Jo didn't want to make the journey any longer by getting lost. Rocky had offered to navigate, and pulled the map out soon after leaving London. She was asleep within an hour however, and, though Jo missed her chatter, she was happy to let her sleep.
Jo had managed to talk Edna into looking after her house while they were away. They'd had a wonderful two days over Christmas, but the only way the old woman would stay longer was if she thought she was doing Jo a favour by watching the house. In truth, the house had an adequate alarm system, but they both so much wanted Edna to have some time without having to worry about where she would sleep or where the next meal was coming from.
Jo glanced down at her sleeping companion. She frowned at the obvious exhaustion Rocky was feeling, due partly to the newfound aspect of their relationship, and partly to the dreams that woke her frequently during the night.
Jo sighed deeply, holding on to the limp hand a little tighter. She'd promised the blonde that she would help her through her nightmares, but was she herself contributing to them? The dreams had intensified since their relationship became physical, and Jo wondered if the intimacy had awakened memories that Rocky had taken years to bury. She also worried that the blonde would decide staying with her wasn't worth the pain of the once buried feelings.
She glanced up at one of the huge signs. 'The West' was all it said.
And what would Cornwall hold for them both?
Rocky had been quiet as they packed some belongings into the boot of the Merc. Edna looked on, casting worried glances at Rocky as she belted herself into the passenger seat. She leaned in as the girl lowered the window.
"You have plenty of food in the fridge," said Rocky, feeling the car dip as Jo got behind the steering wheel.
"Don't worry about me," the old woman said quietly.
Rocky reached for the thin hand resting on the lowered window. "I'm a little scared."
"I know you are. But you have some powerful help only an arm's length away. Remember that."
The blonde head nodded. "I know."
Edna leaned into the car, giving Rocky a peck on the cheek, then she took a couple of steps back. "Now go on, you two. Call me to let me know you got there safely."
Jo leaned across Rocky, smiling up at Edna. "We will. You go back in the warm."
The old woman rolled her eyes, and turned back into the house, shutting the door against the cold wind.
Suddenly, Jo felt as if someone had walked over her grave. She looked to her left at the sleeping woman, and then to her right at a car overtaking hers. It was a black Shogun; in the passenger seat a young blonde woman was talking animatedly to the driver, also a woman. The taller driver was laughing at whatever it was the blonde was saying.
She travelled behind the four-wheel drive vehicle for a short while, watching the two interact. Then the near side indicators flashed, and the car peeled away along the exit ramp. She glanced at the sign; it was the exit for Bath.
Jo carried on along the main motorway. She glanced to her left at the Shogun, which was slowing, just as the driver looked at her. The dark-haired driver nodded once at her, and then the car was out of sight.
Suddenly Rocky jumped beside her, and the atlas fell from her lap. "Ugghhh," was all she managed as she sat up and looked groggily around her.
"Hi, welcome back." Jo chuckled at the confused look on the blonde's face.
"Where are we?" she asked, reaching down to retrieve the map from the floor, but not relinquishing Jo's hand. She looked out of the window, trying to spot a signpost.
"Just gone past the exit for Bath. I think we get off at 20."
"Okay." Rocky's voice was very small and she looked down at the map, her finger plotting a route for them once they got off the motorway. "We could go all along the north coast road."
"That sounds nice."
Rocky nodded, her finger finding the village of Tintagel. "It is, it's beautiful. Of course, this time of year you won't be able to see much, not like on a clear summer day."
"You miss it don't you?" asked Jo.
Rocky nodded, not looking up from the map.
"Hey," said Jo, taking her hand again. "Everything's going to be fine."
Rocky nodded again, and turned slightly in her seat so that she could face Jo.
Jo glanced at her, noticing her eyes drooping closed again. "Tired?"
"A little." Rocky dropped the map on the floor, and used both hands to grasp Jo's.
"Go back to sleep for a while then. I'll wake you if I need directions." When she heard no answer she looked down to find the blonde already asleep, still holding on to her hand with both of hers.
So it was some time later, that the monotonous motorway changed to roads with hedgerows either side. And it was this view that Rocky woke to. She looked around, and then up to Jo, who was chuckling at her.
"I don't know how you slept so long scrunched up like that."
Rocky twisted around so she was sitting straight in the seat, rolling her stiff shoulders. "Painfully," was all she said, and spotted a sign for Minehead.
"I got off the motorway at Bridgwater."
Rocky was scrubbing her face and scratching her head frantically.
"Let's stop for a while, stretch our legs," said Jo, and spied a layby up ahead with a refreshments trailer in it.
Rocky just about leapt out of the car as it ground to a halt, walking briskly towards the trailer. She was reading the small menu on the blackboard next to the serving hatch. She felt a warm presence at her back, and leaned back into Jo's taller frame.
"You hungry?" the low voice enquired, Jo's warm breath hot in the blonde's ear. Two hands came to rest on Rocky's hips, and the blonde could feel the heat from them even through the denim of her jeans.
Rocky couldn't hide the shiver that ran through her body, and cast helpless eyes at the large woman who had appeared at the hatch to take their order.
"A hot dog and a cup of tea, please," Rocky squeaked. She heard a chuckle behind her and felt Jo's body shift, causing her to stumble back a couple of steps before she felt strong hands on her shoulders holding her in place.
"Me too," she heard Jo say.
"Onion?" asked the woman, as she cut through two rolls in preparation.
Jo leaned forward again, the blonde in front of her apparently struck dumb. "Onion?" she breathed into Rocky's ear.
The blonde head shook, and Jo looked up at the woman. "One with, one without, please."
"Tea for you?" the woman asked, wondering exactly what was going on in front of her.
"Please," Jo said. "We'll just be over there." She nodded at a break in the hedgerow, which gave a view across the fields. She guided Rocky across, her hands still on the smaller woman's shoulders.
Rocky allowed herself to be guided to the gap in the high hedge, oblivious to the fine drizzle that was falling. "God, Jo," she whispered as they went behind the trailer.
"Mmm?" Jo snaked her arms around Rocky's waist pulling her closer.
"You make me feel...."
"What?" she rested her chin on the blonde's shoulder.
Words failed her. "So much, I feel so much."
"Is that good?"
"Oh yeah." She covered the hands circling her waist with her own and leaned back, enjoying the moment.
"Hot dogs!!" The woman bellowed, startling both of them, and they disentangled themselves from each other and made their way back to collect their food.
So it was another two hours until they arrived at the windswept and very damp village of Tintagel, known most famously for the ruined castle built on an outcrop of the dramatic North Cornish coastland. Over the years erosion had eaten away at the rock and a bridge had to be built to enable visitors to visit the ruins. It was reached by a precarious path down the cliff face, which was difficult under normal circumstances and would be impossible in the weather conditions that Rocky and Jo encountered.
But it was the legend of King Arthur that drew sightseers to brave the windswept path. Geoffrey of Monmouth first wrote of Tintagel as the birthplace of King Arthur, and from there the legend grew, the small village prospering from the steady stream of visitors that wanted a brief taste of mythical history.
And it was here that Rocky grew up.
The snow they had left behind in the east had turned to rain in the west, and the wind blew in off the coast making it feel almost as cold as London.
Jo pulled their cases out of the boot of the Merc, looking up at the pleasant little hotel she had booked them into. Rocky had walked away to look at the view from the cliff edge, which ran parallel to the hotel's drive.
An elderly man came out of the hotel, pulling an overcoat on as he came. "Miss Sutherland?" he asked.
Jo hadn't used her full title when booking.
"Good..." she looked at her watch, "... afternoon," she said, putting the bags on the ground and slamming the boot closed. She reached out a hand, which the man took, shaking it vigorously.
"Good for ducks maybe." He bent and picked up the bags. "I'll take these in, and we'll be sure to put the kettle on. I expect you could both do with a hot drink."
Jo smiled at the man. "Thanks, we'll be in in a minute."
Jo walked up behind Rocky, who was shivering in the cold wind, which held rain and probably spray from the sea far below.
This time she didn't touch Rocky, just let her have this moment of contemplation.
"I always loved the sea when it was like this." She looked down at the rocks below, watching as they disappeared beneath the waves before the sea receded to gather itself again and repeat the process.
Jo stood alongside the blonde, and Rocky took her hand. "You can just see the tip of the outcrop that the castle ruins stand on from here." She pointed along the coast to her left, pulling Jo around slightly so that she could follow her directions.
"I see it," said Jo, squeezing the small hand in her own. "Come on, let's go inside."
Rocky nodded, and allowed herself to be pulled along into the hotel.
The elderly man who had met Jo was taking their luggage up the small flight of stairs. It was a small hotel, of about 12 rooms, and they appeared to be the only guests.
The hotel register was pushed towards Jo as she approached the reception desk. "Good afternoon, Miss Sutherland. Was your trip uneventful?" The woman was rather splendid, with a mass of pearls about her neck.
"Yes it was, thank you. With the Christmas holiday being over the weekend, I think a lot of people are still on holiday." She signed the register and handed a credit card to the woman, who processed it and took a key down from some small shelves behind the desk. "I've put you in number three, which is a double room." She looked across at Rocky who was leafing through the tourist leaflets. "We have twin rooms if you'd prefer."
Jo produced her most engaging smile. "I'm sure the double will be fine. We'll be staying two nights at least. Would there be a problem if we wanted to stay longer?"
"Not at all. As you can see, we are not overbooked." The woman looked at the entry in the register, and handed Jo the key. "My husband has taken your cases up." She gestured towards the stairs. "Top of the stairs, first door on the left."
Jo and Rocky ascended the stairs, but turned when the woman called out to them. "Will you be requiring lunch?"
"That would be nice, thank you," said Jo, and ushered the blonde up the rest of the stairs.
They showered and changed, and ate a light lunch in the small sun lounge, which had views over the rocky cliffs.
"Where would you like to go first?" Jo asked a thoughtful Rocky.
"I'd just like to go into the village. It'll be pretty quiet this time of year." She pushed away the plate, which had held her sandwiches. "And then I need to go to the church."
Jo watched her carefully.
Rocky sighed deeply. "I need to see it... where they are now."
"Okay. We'll drive down there as soon as we've finished here."
Rocky glanced around the sun lounge. "It's very quiet here."
Jo nodded, pushing her chair away from the table and standing. "It would be; we're the only guests."
Jo nodded, giving the blonde a wink before turning away and leaving the sun lounge.
"Jo, what have you done?" asked a bemused blonde, following hard on the heels of her friend.
The small church just within the boundary of the village stood strong against the wind and rain that assaulted it with persistent intensity. Jo left the engine running as both women looked at the forbidding high wall that surrounded it and the small graveyard.
Without a word, Jo reached across and took Rocky's hand. "You up to this?"
"Probably not, but I've thought about it a lot since I met you." She looked from their linked hands up into concerned blue eyes. "You gave me the strength to remember them. And now I need to go and say good bye."
"You want me to come?"
Rocky shook her head, and eased her hand out of Jo's. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and stepped out into the storm. Before she closed the door she ducked down looking back into the car. "Just give me a few minutes."
"Okay," Jo said quietly.
Jo watched her through the rain-slicked windscreen, switching on the wipers for a couple of passes so she could see her lover more clearly. She has positioned the Merc so that she could see through a part of the wall that had collapsed.
Rocky pulled up the collar of the waterproof jacket that Jo had bought her, but her head and legs were still becoming quickly drenched with the freezing rain.
She vaguely knew where her grandparents had been buried and knew her parents would be close by. Stumbling slightly she came across the white headstone. It said simply:- 'Michael and Annabelle Kersey'.
Rocky's legs suddenly felt weak, and she staggered backwards. Behind her she heard the Merc's door slam and she turned to see Jo striding towards her around the other headstones in the churchyard.
She shook her head at the advancing woman. "Not yet."
Reluctantly Jo nodded and walked slowly back to the car.
Rocky turned back to the gravestone. She ignored the rain seeping down the back of her collar, and stood, arms held limply at her side.
"I should have come before, I'm sorry." Her voice was small, broken. "So much has happened, and I couldn't get back.... I didn't want to forget you, but it hurt so much to remember, and I was so alone.... I had friends, good friends.... But they couldn't fill the place you left in my heart." She pushed wet hair out of her eyes. "But now I've met someone who is giving me the strength to remember you.... I think you'd like her.... And I don't think you'd hate me for loving her.... I hope you can hear me now... I want you to know how happy I am.... I know you're together... I know you love me... I love you.... Always."
Jo watched the hunched figure of her lover, and when she saw the slumped shoulders heaving as sobs racked the small body she could stand it no longer. Slipping in the mud and wet grass between ancient graves she made her way as quickly as possible to the distraught blonde, taking the unresisting body into her arms.
The taller woman looked down at the gravestone. "Michael and Annabelle," she said quietly. "Your name was a mixture of both of theirs."
She felt the blonde head nod against her chest.
"Come on, let's get out of the rain. We can come back here again, any time you want."
Rocky allowed herself to be led out of the churchyard. Across the street was a small café, and Jo steered them towards that.
A small bell rang as they entered the café, and a woman appeared behind the counter.
"Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed. "What a filthy day. Sit down. I'll get Katy to take your order."
"Thankyou," said Jo, settling Rocky at a table. "You wouldn't happen to have a towel we could use, would you?"
"Of course, let me get one from upstairs." She disappeared for a moment and then returned with a large, fluffy, blue towel.
"Thanks." Jo took it from her and started to dry Rocky's hair. "Look at me," said Jo.
Rocky looked at her with slightly dazed eyes.
"You okay?" the dark haired woman asked.
Rocky merely nodded, not trusting her voice.
Jo smiled at her and carried on gently drying the soaked, blonde hair. "Look at you," she gently scolded. "Let's get the jacket off." She leaned forward, pulling down the zip on the front of the jacket, and then eased it back off the blonde's shoulders.
"Shelley?" asked the voice behind them.
Jo looked up to see a young woman standing behind her lover. Rocky turned herself, shrugging her way out of the wet jacket.
"Kate," was all Rocky could manage, and she stood, taking a step forward, hugging the girl fiercely.
Jo tried to look away, to give what were obviously old friends a moment, but she couldn't take her eyes off the anguished look on the face of the girl holding on to her lover.
When she'd finally composed herself, Kate reluctantly let go of the blonde. "They said you were dead."
Rocky wiped a hand across her face. "Who said?" Rocky sat heavily on the chair, feeling a gentle hand on her arm as she did so.
Kate looked at a loss standing there in front of the two seated women, shaking slightly. She ran a hand through short brown hair, and looked back at the woman behind the counter. "Can I have a moment?"
The woman nodded, and she sat with her friend. Kate nodded at Jo, who smiled back, then her gaze found her old schoolfriend again. "It was a couple of months after the accident. A man came here looking for you. Said you'd disappeared." She looked down at the floor. "Then a few months later, he came back and said he had to clear out your house, that you were presumed dead."
Rocky covered her face with her hands, then reached across and took one of Jo's hands.
Kate looked at Jo. "I'm sorry...."
"No, my fault." She reached across with her free hand, offering it to the girl. "Hi, I'm Jo."
"Kate," said the still tearful girl. "We grew up together."
Rocky looked up at her friend. "It's really good to see you, Katy."
"Where did you go?" she asked.
"It's a long story. I can't tell it right now."
Kate nodded. "That's okay, Shelley. It's just good to know you're okay." She stood. "I'll just go and get you some drinks, then maybe we can talk."
Rocky nodded, and watched her friend disappear behind the counter.
An hour or so later, Jo and Rocky walked towards the Merc, still parked beside the wall. Their clothes and hair were still damp, and they wanted nothing more than to get back to their hotel and test out the large bath they'd seen in the bathroom of their suite.
"So you went to school with Kate?" Jo asked as she unlocked the car with the remote on her keyring.
"Yeah, we were really close." Rocky slid into the passenger seat. "I didn't think about people like that. I should have got word to her." She looked across at Jo, who was inserting the key into the ignition. "Did you notice how quiet she got after she first saw me?"
Jo started the car, and waited for the de-misters to work on the windscreen. "Yeah, I think it was all a little too much for her to take in."
"I wouldn't blame her for hating me." Rocky pulled her seatbelt on, and sat forlornly with her head bowed.
"Now why would she do that?" Jo asked, becoming a little annoyed with her morose lover. She looked across at the dejected figure. "Hey," she reached out and took one of the cold hands that were clutched together in the blonde's lap.
"I was thoughtless," Rocky said quietly. "Didn't think of anyone but myself."
Jo squeezed the hand she held. "You had to do what you did to save yourself." She shook the hand. "Hey, look at me."
Reluctantly, Rocky looked up, and moist green eyes locked with Jo's. Jo pulled in to the side of the road, and turned in her seat to face the blonde.
"You survived, Rocky. And now you have all the time in the world to go back and find some of the life you left behind." She raised their joined hands to her lips, kissing the knuckles of her lover. "And I for one am very very grateful you survived." She leaned across, her lips finding the blonde's. And in that moment managed to show just how grateful.
There was only one pay phone in the small village, and the young man that stepped into it managed to take his eyes off the Merc long enough to take out a small piece of paper from his wallet. He keyed the numbers on that paper and waited while he heard the dial tone change to a ringing tone.
"Hello? It's Paul Langley.... You asked me to let you know if Michelle Kersey ever showed her face here again.... Yes, I'm looking at her right now.... No she's with a tall woman, never seen her before.... Don't know.... They're in a Merc - nice one, silver, soft top....Yeah. X1 JHS.... You'll send the money? Ok, bye."
He slid out of the phone box as the Merc, which had only gone a few yards since he saw the women get into it, drove away again and disappeared into the rainy gloom.
It was getting dark as they arrived back at the clifftop hotel.
"So you're telling me that they opened up just for us?" asked Rocky as she leaned in, testing the temperature of the water filling the bath.
"Yeah. All the hotels that were open over Christmas were fully booked. They didn't take too much persuading."
Rocky sat on the edge of the bath. "How much did it cost?"
"Does it matter?"
Rocky nodded. "I don't want you spending all your money on me."
Jo leaned her hands on the shoulders of the smaller woman. "I have lots of money."
"Not the point," Rocky said, but she was rapidly losing her resolve to be angry with Jo as she felt her lover begin to unbutton the still-damp shirt she wore.
"There won't be any room service, but I've ordered us an Indian meal which will be delivered in on hour or so. Mrs. Maple is going to bring it up."
"The woman at reception."
"And the old man who helped with our luggage?"
The shirt was removed and thrown onto the bathroom floor. Then Rocky was gently eased to her feet, and Jo knelt, undoing the laces of the black leather boots she wore. "I can do that," the blonde protested.
Twinkling blue eyes looked up at her through ebony hair. "I know," she said on a smile.
"So you talked them into opening?" Rocky asked, as Jo eased off her shoes and then turned her attention to the button-down fly of her jeans.
"Yep," she said, undoing the top button. "They said they'd do it." The second button popped open. "But they could only provide light meals." Another one gave under expert fingers. "And no room service." She stood as the jeans fell to pool around Rocky's feet.
She bent to kiss the lips of the half-naked woman in front of her. "I love you," she said as she pulled back.
"And I love you." Rocky decided to return the compliment, and turned her attention to the zip of Jo's fly.
The bath had taken longer than they thought, and Mrs. Maple had called them twice on the phone to tell them their meal had arrived and was in the microwave heating for the second time.
The old man tried valiantly to avert his eyes from the long legs that emerged from the bottom of a long teeshirt when Jo opened the door to allow him to bring the meal into their room.
"Mrs. Maple and I will be in the lounge if you need anything, dear," he said as he set the plates down on the small table.
"Thankyou," said Jo, giving a smirk to her lover, who was more decently covered than she was.
"You should put more clothes on," scolded Rocky when the old man left, shutting the door gently behind him.
"Why? If you've got it, flaunt it. That's what I say."
Rocky looked at the limbs in question. "You've just got.... so much of it."
The meal was, as most Indian meals are, hot and spicy, and they had to call down a couple of times for more orange juice and Coke. But every time it was the elderly man who made the long trek up to room number three. Then it would take a few moments from an unrepentant Jo to usher him out of the door again. This time he took the dirty plates and cutlery with him.
"You know what it does to him," said Rocky as the door closed. "You should have put something else on this time."
"Why? I'm comfortable."
"You know why."
Jo chuckled and eased into the warm, comfortable bed, watching Rocky as she turned on the TV and then joined her in the cosy nest.
"This is nice," Jo said as she wound an arm around the blonde, who sank easily into the embrace.
Rocky nodded but remained silent.
"So why do I feel like there's something wrong?" Jo asked, turning her head slightly and kissing soft blonde hair.
"I'm still waiting to wake up." She looked up at her friend, her heart missing a beat when she looked into eyes as blue as the summer sky. "It's like a dream." She lay her head on Jo's chest. "You're like a dream."
Jo lay there, the blonde resting comfortably in her arms, enjoying the moment and the comfortable silence that surrounded them. It almost made her jump when Rocky spoke again.
"I'm scared of losing you." The blonde's voice was very small, very pained.
"You won't, I promise."
In the snowy midlands a man picked up the phone, dialled a number and waited for it to connect. "John?.... Yes. I need you to run a check on a car for me.... Silver Mercedes convertible. Registration number X1 JHS. As soon as you can..... Let me know."
He replaced the phone in its cradle and sat back. "Happy happy day," he whispered to himself.
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