Beneath The Brambles, Chapter 19
By the time Harley came back to pick her up, Emily had answers to some of her questions.
She knew that she liked who she was, here, today, much better than who she used to be back in L.A.
She knew if she acted the way she acted here back in L.A., shed get eaten alive.
She realized that all the people she socialized with at home, outside of her sister either used her for her celebrity, sex or their own ego.
She realized she used all of them the same way. That wounded her. What she still hadnt quite gotten a handle on was the why of her feelings for Harley. The obvious was discarded instantly. Her beauty, her intelligence and her charm were things shed found before in others. Well, maybe not her beauty. That still couldnt account for the reason she felt so safe, so at ease with her.
Safe? What is that about? Since when do I need to feel protected by someone else? Always, well not always, but since she was fifteen and her parents died she took great pride in caring for herself, even in caring for her sister. After her aunt and uncle adopted them she put all of her energy into studying and trying to be too strong to need anyone again the way she had her parents. To be so suddenly orphaned from her best friends had left a huge hole and she felt totally adrift for a few months. When she finally made the connection that being dependant on someone else for your emotional well being put you in danger of that feeling, she resolved to be completely independent and self-sufficient. She wasnt foolish enough to lose her belief in love and relationships, but she knew as well as she knew her own name, that she would never succumb to that sappy ideal of believing that anyone else was responsible for her own happiness. She was responsible for that. Which is the reason she couldnt quite get why the feeling of being safe when Harley was near, was so very comforting. Resolving to let it go for a while, she reflected then on what she wanted to do about the woman. Her only answer fairly screamed at her. Make her mine and hold on. That would have to be enough for now.
Harley felt she was worse off than she was before she sat to think. She tried to think of the writer rationally and objectively, but she couldnt and that never happened before. She was always able to call up her own inner jury, as she thought of it, and to lay forth in calm and clear words the case for or against and accept the obvious verdict. With Emily it just didnt happen. She kept getting these little tugs at her heart and her breath kept catching as she remembered how she looked or what she said at one time or another. As she tried to determine her best course of action, knowing that the woman was bound to leave her in the end, she kept feeling her heartbeat pick up and found her throat filled with misery. She tried to see herself leaving Bramble to be with her and before she could stop it her eyes filled with liquid and her chest ached.
By the end of her time on the ledge, she felt like shed been wrestling with the devil. She was emotionally drained and her body actually ached from all the time she held her muscles so rigid.
Maybe, just this once, nothing is the best thing to do. Just let it run its course and live with the outcome. Get back to your job and get to the bottom of it. That way, the end of this whole issue with Emily will come sooner and that has to be better. The more Im with her the less I want to let her go and shes probably going to go, so just deal with it at the time and stop suffering in advance. She took a couple of deep cleansing breaths and tightened and relaxed her muscles all over before making her way back to the car.
She buckled the seat belt and backed out for a U-turn before her rebellious emotions hit her like a tidal wave and she thought only, She cant go. She belongs here. She belongs with me!
"Thats seems like a whole lot of money for this old place. Are you sure this is okay?" the elderly woman furrowed her forehead and shook it slightly. No doubt the offer was attractive and she could sure use the money, but it just seemed wrong somehow. She didnt want to feel she was taking advantage of anyone. "You know the plumbing here has been going bad recently and I think I need the cesspool drained and then theres the fencing out back. Im sure I dont know how that whole stretch of fence came down but its gonna cost a bit to have it put right. Then theres the electricity. Lately its been just going out on me and I never know when Ill "
"Dont you worry, Mrs. Pechter, my buyer is aware of all of that. The offer still stands. You just think of yourself now Dear, and what you would do with all that money." There was a short pause and then the old woman heard a noise in the background. "I have to go now, but Ill be sure to call you later today or tomorrow morning and well get this all settled. As I said before, please dont worry Mrs. Pechter, my buyer is happy and you should be too. Bye bye now."
Polly Pechter returned the handset to the cradle of the phone and stared out her kitchen window to the front of the house shed lived in for forty-seven years. Two hundred fifty thousand dollars is a LOT of money. Delvin and I only paid eighteen thousand for the house and the eight acres it rested on when we bought it in 1952. That, along with what is left of Delvins pension as well as my own and my social security would mean Id never be a burden to Livie and Daniel. Now, with Edna gone and the Jacobys moved, its so lonely. The money could solve all that. I could move to Jacksonville and not have to worry about needing help from Livie and Daniel. Lord knows with two little ones to care for, they cant afford to be taking care of an old woman too, and maybe if Im smart Ill have a little to leave them when I go. Cant be too far down the road. Suddenly she heard her Mothers voice clear and sharp in her head. "Pollyanna Vivien! This is nothing less than highway robbery. How can you think of swindling someone like that? You know this place isnt worth that kind of money. Its just unchristian to consider taking it. Is that what the Lord would want to see you do?"
Polly was torn and with Ednas death last May, she had no one to discuss this with. She and Edna had been best friends for forty years and with her gone and her nearest neighbors, the Jacobys, moved to Merced last month, she felt alone and abandoned. Of course she knew everyone in town, after all she was the Post Master for Bramble for over twenty years till she retired twelve years ago, but since then shed been happy to keep pretty much to herself and tend to her garden and her orchard and spend time with Edna three or four times a week, at least until Edna passed on last May. Now she knew how it felt to feel truly alone. Delvins death seven years ago wasnt unexpected. The cancer held him for close to four years before he passed and she was glad for him to be in heaven and out of pain. She knew he was waiting for her there when it was her time. Only now she worried if hed be glad to see her if she took the deal shed been offered.
She blew a breath of air out and decided to pray on it and sleep on it and hope she got her answer in the morning. Then, she got up and started supper feeling a little better that she was going to put the matter in the hands of the Lord.
"What are you doing here? I thought you understood my instructions not to deviate from your normal routine."
"I understood. Its only one day early and I wanted some company." The tall shapely redhead slid sensuously down in the imitation leather chair and made a point of crossing her legs at the knee. The short brown skirt slid up her thighs revealing several more inches of toned flesh as she rested her arms on the armrest and watched the eyes behind the desk look at her legs. To add a bit more visual interest she allowed one spiked-heel alligator pump from her top most foot to slip off to the floor. She pointed her toes and watched as the eyes across from her followed her calf and thigh muscles as they flexed.
"What happened to your toy?" The tone of voice was uninterested and casual but the eyes never left her legs.
"I broke it."
She leaned forward and crossed her arms over her knee lifting her chin and inhaling hard to allow the eyes a new view. The soft brown cashmere stretched across what wasnt exposed of her breasts. The deep scoop of the neckline revealed just a hint of chocolate lace edging the demi-cups that spilled over with tan full flesh.
"Ah." The voice remained casual as the eyes lifted to the sweater and what was exposed above it, but only for a second. Then they darkened as they lifted to the face. "We can let this little discrepancy go just this once, then."
The redhead smiled and took a breath to speak but was cut off when the other voice continued.
"However," the voice hardened even as it quieted to a near whisper, "we need to discuss the amount of discretion you have in altering our understanding, and we need to clarify just who is in charge here." The eyes deepened again and the room got suddenly colder. "Well begin now."
The drive back to the Nest was fairly quiet. Since returning to her house to pick up the writer their only conversation was a simple exchange of banal pleasantries.
"Do you feel better now?"
"Yes, thank you."
"Did you have enough time?"
"Yes. Did you?"
"Oh yeah. Would you like something to drink before we go or would you like to just head out?"
"Either way is fine with me. Whatever you want to do."
It didnt really matter who asked or answered the questions. They were simply courteous conversation. Nothing more personal than a sales clerk talking to a customer-and it all seemed very stilted and wrong.
Try as she might, Harley couldnt think of anything to say to break the oppressive silence. Every thought she had of anything to say came out sounding way too personal and concerned, and that would never do. She made the decision to simply put her mind on the case and try to keep everything between them as superficial and remote as possible. It was the only way she could see to protect herself from the misery she knew would come when the small woman resumed her former life.
Emily was aware that the silence was becoming almost a palpable thing between them and it made her very uncomfortable. Always before the silences between them had either, tinges of sexual tension or felt tranquil. This one was not and she had no clue how to break it. She still felt the frission of that fear she realized was the most obvious of her feelings where the Sheriff was concerned and she was at a complete loss as to what to do about it. It was bound up in layers, like a quilt. Fear of risking her emotional stability if she gave into her feelings. Fear of failing if she attempted to change her life and wasnt good enough or strong enough or genuine enough to fit in here. Fear that her feelings for Harley ran deeper and stronger than the Sheriffs did for her. Since she didnt know how to fight the feeling and she didnt know if she was strong enough to fix it, she floundered. Wanting the dream was all well and good, but how do you catch it? She only knew what she wrote about and she made that up.
Arriving at the Nest and pulling into the parking lot prompted Harley to speak.
"I umh, I have some business to take care of, so Ill just drop you off." She pointed to a blue van and said, "Rory, the night prep cook is in so Mom will be free to leave anytime." She deliberately avoided looking at the writer while she spoke and tried hard to keep her voice casual and businesslike. What she really needed to do was get away from the temptation the woman was for a while. The whole situation was hard for her. Reticence was not a normal state of being and she found it hard to keep herself at arms length like this. She found she had to keep biting her tongue to keep from saying what was on her mind and as a result, her discomfort increased exponentially.
The realization that Harley was leaving her behind struck her. Suddenly that fear quilt gained another layer when she realized the woman wouldnt be with her. All the other fears seemed to fade away leaving her with the most poignant one staring her in the face. Forgetting every other reasonable, rational thought and concentrating only on stopping her, Emily blurted out "What about tonight? What about Rita? How do I get to Stephanies and uhm, when she caves and tells me she gave the alarm combination to someone, what do I do then? Do you want to talk to her or should I just, uhm, pretend it was unimportant, or what?" She realized then her words were spoken way too fast and that the obvious sound of fear was threaded though them and worried that Harley would remark on it.
Ye gods! If nothing else proves Im in trouble that just did. What was I thinking? Obviously not about the case Im on. I have got to pull my self together and stop fretting about this. She could have been killed this morning alone in that house and I need to make sure that doesnt happen. Thinking of where the writer had to go she realized what a dangerous situation she was putting her in.
"Okay, this is what well do. You give me a call on my cell phone as soon as you finish eating and Ill drop you off at Stephanies no later than ten till six. Ill park the car on the street behind you and be standing by in the back. If you see anything out of the ordinary or feel anything isnt right, call out or get out the back door or flip the lights on and off and Ill be there in a second." She paused and thought for moment. "I dont think Ill need to talk to Rita right away. I do need to know who she gave the numbers to and when she did it. Come out to the deck as soon as youre sure shes gone and well go from there. " She turned slightly to the other woman. "I dont like having you go into that house alone. Im pretty sure what happened this morning wont happen again, but I want you to instantly open the blinds in the living room and stay there until Rita shows up before you go into the bedroom. I want to be able to see you at all times. When she gets there, open the curtains to the bedroom deck and try and stay in front of it."
Emily nodded and calmed a bit when she realized Harley would be there for her. Would be there with her. Underneath her other emotions she felt the Sheriff drawing back, seemingly, drawing away from her and she was only relatively reassured by her offer to be with her tonight, even if she would be outside. She nodded again and turned to try to open her door with her left hand when, once again Harley reached across her to open it for her. The whiff of that unidentifiable scent the woman used and the smell of outdoors that permeated her hair and clothes caused her to inhale deeply. She made a little more noise than she wanted to and received a what is it kind of look from the Sheriff as she sat back up again. Not ready to talk about it and a little embarrassed by her own lack of control, she made her out of the car as quickly as her limited movement would allow. Walking toward the back entrance to the Ravens Nest she turned her head briefly over her shoulder and smiled, waving slightly with her left hand as she left.
The sweat had begun to dry on her steaming skin and the chafing from the leather straps around her wrists was sore. She hated playing the submissive but realized in this instance she had no choice. True, she had overstepped her restrictions by showing up early, but she knew that wasnt the real reason for the punishment. She was paying for her subordinates mistakes. Shit may flow downstream, but the one in charge really paid the price for her wannabe soldiers mistakes. She was angry too at the way her body betrayed her. It rankled her that shed gotten so excited so aroused. In the power game they played only one could be in charge and she was determined once again that she would. They both wanted the same things in this game with the Ravensdowns, but for her it was personal vindication and she was determined to make her victim pay, no matter what it took in the short term, It would be worth it to pull this off. She took in a deep breath and decided to forget about her treatment this afternoon. Rubbing her hands over the bite mark on her breast and willing the sting from the lash marks on her back and buttocks to quiet. It didnt really matter. Not if she was the one holding all the cards in the end. She was sure that would be the case.
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