Kelly gripped her laptop firmly and held onto Cierra's arm. This was the first jump she'd made since she returned with the bus. To say she was nervous was an understatement. Kelly had also seen the soldier who had tried to stop them. She knew those in charge wouldn't stop just because of some articles made it public.
But now the entire world knew. What would stop foreign powers or terrorists from trying to get hold of her? They could easily use Cierra to strip Mother Earth or even use it as a stepping stone to invade other countries. What if they wanted Cierra to transport bombs? If they thought it dangerous before, it was nothing compared to now. But did Cierra stay where it was safe? No.
They jumped to the alley and immediately looked around. They spotted an old van about a hundred feet away and saw Jim step out of it. He waved and walked to the side sliding door and opened it, revealing a large cardboard box full of baby items. He slid it out onto the ground while they walked towards him.
He greeted them and grinned, pleased to see them again. "Here's the baby stuff. I hope I got everything. I don't know anything about babies myself and I don't know what half this stuff is for. I just asked the saleslady to help me,' he babbled.
"Anything you got will be a big help," Cierra reassured him. She handed him a large bundle of items, mostly jewelry and other small trinkets that could easily be carried and sold.
"Who's that?" Kelly suddenly asked in panic. She spotted a man at the far end of the alley.
Jim held up his hands and tried to calm them down. "He's a buddy of mine, keeping watch. Another guy is watching that end," he indicated, pointing at the opposite side of the long alley. "We didn't want any surprises and were trying our best to keep you safe."
Robbie relaxed and returned her revolver to her holster.
Jim cleared his throat. "Um, speaking of surprises, I had a visitor. He wanted to meet with all of you if you were willing. He said to give you this so you'd know he was for real." Jim handed over a photo, a Polaroid that had begun yellowing with age.
Cierra looked at it and saw a family scene at Christmas, a teenage boy and his mom, sitting on a sofa and drinking from mugs. The two people had been unaware of the photo being taken until the flash had startled them. Boy and mother had a close bond, even in the faded snapshot. The woman was without any doubt, Sharon.
"She has a son? She never mentioned him," Cierra said.
"I don't know the story between them. He just wants to see her. He brought his family too. By the looks of his old Bronco he intends to join you if you allow it," he mentioned, not wanting them to be surprised.
"Oh shit," Robbie muttered. "When it rains it pours."
"Where is he?" Cierra asked.
"About a block away, waiting for me to call him," Jim said quietly.
"Then call him. I want to see his face before I make any decisions."
Jim took out his cell phone and hit send twice, automatically redialing to the man's number. "The Shaman is here and wants to see you. Yeah, see you in a bit. Bye."
"He'll be here in a minute," the bearded man said as he flipped his cell phone closed. A few seconds later the sound of a large engine could be heard. The women watched as the sun-faded blue Bronco eased past the watching man and up the alley. As it neared the waiting group they could see a family consisting of parents and three children, two who were older teenage boys; the youngest was a girl about thirteen.
The man was obviously an older version of the boy in the picture, his face the same except for deeper lines and graying hair.
He got out of the vehicle and stepped towards them.
"Hi, my name is Carl Hollingsworth, Sharon's son. I got her letter about a month after you all left the farm. I guess she made arrangements to have it sent," he shrugged and continued.
"I want you to know I love my mom. We had a few fights over the years but nothing major. I had no idea that she was involved with your group until I got the letter. I knew she was hurting when Rose died but I didn't think she'd up and leave like this. I guess the pain was too much. I want to go with you. I know it's a lot to ask but I don't want our family separated like this. We miss her."
Cierra saw he was sincere but what of the teenagers? Did they want to join up with a colony without modern gadgets or friends? She had to ask.
"What about your kids? Do they agree to this?"
"They're my kids, they go where I go," he commented. Cierra took it to mean he never asked their opinion. She approached the tall vehicle and indicated she wanted the windows rolled down.
The conversation wasn't the best. She knew the kids were resigned but not exactly happy with the arrangement. Cierra thought it over, wanting everyone to have an option.
"I'll tell you what. I'll take you to the colony for a long visit. After our fall trading event with the other Clans we'll discuss whether or not you wish to make the move a permanent one. If your family wants to return then they can. I won't keep anyone unwillingly at the colony. Is that understood?" she asked Carl. She noticed the kids looked more relaxed, knowing they had an option of leaving come autumn. Even the wife let out a breath of relief. She probably had agreed only to make her husband happy.
Carl agreed and Cierra turned to say good-bye to Jim, thanking him once more. She gave him a hug and helped drag the box towards the Bronco. "Ready?" she asked everyone. Cierra had one hand on the box while her companions jumped onto the four-wheel drive. Satisfied everyone was ready she rested her elbow over the open window and took hold of her talisman.
The three women slid off the vehicle while the family inside of it adjusted to the fact that they just moved between worlds. The women fetched their horses and filled the carts with the items from the box. At least most of the stuff was still in the original shopping bags and would stay put. Cierra just tied the tops so nothing could spill out.
J.P. pointed in the general direction of the colony and told Carl to head for it. They would follow on the horses. When they arrived at the colony the sound of a motor brought everyone out. They hadn't expected it and came out to look.
Sharon was wiping her hands on a towel hanging around her waist when she spotted the old bronco with Wisconsin plates. Shock went through her as she looked into the vehicle and saw her son looking back at her. He stopped the truck and hopped out, eager to give her a hug.
The older woman held on tightly to the son that she thought never to see again.
He finally pulled away far enough to look down at her. "Hi Mom," he grinned, "What's for breakfast?"
After the excitement wore off the family reunion took place quietly at one table while everyone else helped unload the carts and the vehicle. They glanced at the large family tent the Hollingsworths had brought but shook their heads. The parents should have their own tent as well as the daughter. She was old enough to be given privacy from her brothers. They set up the family tent as well as two larger tents from storage for the teenagers.
Camp cots were brought out of storage for the teens and Brenda and her girlfriend quickly cut down some saplings to make a large bed for the parents. They stuffed sweet grass between two rag rugs for padding and quickly basted them together. It would rest on top of the hemp that had been woven on the frame to support them. The women had it all organized within an hour, accustomed to working as teams to get things accomplished.
When Carl and his family left the communal building they were stunned to see everything set up and ready for them. All they needed to do was unpack their personal belongings and they were done.
Robbie decided to give them a personal tour. She especially wanted the guys to know the rules so no one would get angry. She placed an arm around each of the boys and saw them blush. She might be in a relationship with a woman but that didn't make her any less attractive to the young men.
She explained the rules of the bathhouse and that the men could only bathe just before dark. Robbie mentioned in low tones that if they were caught ‘accidentally' walking in on women it would be taken badly. She also pointed out that the barracks was for women only. If the men wished to speak with someone inside they had to send a woman in to fetch her.
She then pointed out the individual buildings and told them about meal times and the rules of the library. There were actually few rules but they had to learn them. She also casually mentioned that everyone worked together for the community, hoping to get the point across. She didn't want to put Sharon in the position of telling her family to pull their own weight or go home.
"Any questions?" Robbie asked.
"Yeah, where are the Indians? I thought a bunch of them came here too," Luke asked. He was the oldest.
Robby laughed. "They have their own communities, none of them close by. You won't see them unless you go with us to the fall trading event. If you decide to stay they might let you go along so you can meet girls there."
The young man looked confused until he remembered that the women in the village were lesbians. If he wanted to hook up with a girl he'd have to meet one of the Indian chicks.
"By the way, we don't use the terms like white and Indian here. We go by Clan names. We're the Napa Clan. If you stay and get married then live here she'll be Napa Clan too. Or in turn if you live with her relatives then you'd be considered one of her Clan, such as the Whitefeather Clan. Understand? There isn't any differences in people here other than gender and Clan affiliations."
"Sort of like saying you're a New Yorker or a Texan, just saying Clans now?" Marcus asked.
"Okay, no problem. We're cool with it."
Sharon left her kitchen and came outside to see to her family. She was within several yards of them when Marcus asked a silly question.
"Is that woman preggers?"
"The word is pregnant young man. Gail, you obviously forgot to explain the birds and the bees to your son."
Gail laughed. "No, I just didn't think to explain why lesbians have kids too. He forgot all about his own grandmother's life."
Sharon sighed. She had married as a young woman because it was expected of her in the 1950's. It wasn't so easy to explore your sexuality back then. Homosexuals were something decent people didn't discuss in polite company. Then her husband died in Korea. By then she knew the truth and had already decided to leave him. She grieved over his death since he was a good man but moved on, living quietly with her son until she met Rose.
They kept their relationship a secret for many years, even from Carl until he was an adult himself, married with a baby on the way. Oh they had fought then. He hadn't accepted it at first then he finally realized that his mother was happy as she was and wouldn't change. It was up to him to adjust or lose her. After that they got along and the grandchildren addressed Rose as ‘Aunt Rose'. She was part of the family, not really explained, just there. Of course the kids nowadays knew about gays and usually took it in stride.
"I didn't think my question was that stupid. There aren't any men here," Marcus mumbled.
"We made arrangements with the other Clans," Robbie explained simply. The young man shrugged and headed for his tent.
Sharon put her arm around her granddaughter. "You've been pretty quiet Kim."
The girl shrugged. Everything had happened too fast and she wasn't sure how to deal with it. "Don't worry about it Hon, it'll all work out. Why don't you unpack and then take a nap until lunchtime? I bet you were up really early this morning," the older woman suggested. The girl nodded and entered her tent.
She found a simple hide closet to hang her clothes and some wicker baskets on the bottom where she could put her other items. There was a small flat-topped chest there also and a candlestick with matches. On her cot was a comforter made of bright colored cotton and a set of sheets. Kim made the bed up and began unpacking her clothes.
She had a few small items too. She brought her favorite books, her diary, photos, and her art supplies. Dad had told her to forget bringing anything electronic like her CD player. She placed her personal items in the chest and returned the candlestick to the top of it. Now that what little she owned was put away she decided that a nap sounded like a good idea. Kim kicked off her shoes and snuggling into the fresh smelling bedding.
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