The Colonel noted the lack of defensive barriers of the village and saw that for what it was-- the peaceful attitude of the citizens.
Hallie, on the other hand, saw the lack of modern amenities such as sidewalks and stores. There were some paving stones laid down in front of the building and a path leading to another building uphill from them but that was it. The gardens were not of flowers and were mostly empty since it was late autumn.
Inside the smell of food and the excited din of everyone getting their meals and chatting at tables nearly overwhelmed the visitors.
“I never realized how many people lived here,” Hallie whispered.
“This isn’t everyone. Remember, over 500 Native Americans were brought here as well. They live elsewhere I understand.”
Jenny brought them sets of eating utensils and told them to stand in line with her if they were hungry. The young woman acted as tour guide to the two women and answered many of their questions after they introduced themselves.
Hallie spotted a very pregnant woman who had to be due soon. It reminded her that Cierra was also pregnant and very taken. The lawyer was glad she hadn’t embarrassed herself by suggesting that they get back together.
“I don’t see many men here. Are they the donors for the women who want to have children?”
“None of these men are except for Kota. The women usually choose one of the men from the other Clans during visits.”
“Who is Kota?”
“Oh, um, the shaman from the Whitefeather Clan. He fathered Cierra’s child. He’s not in here at the moment since he’s avoiding JP.”
“Trouble in paradise?” Hallie asked.
“Kota was teaching Cierra how to jump without her grandmother’s necklace. Cierra disappeared and never came back. JP was ready to tear Kota limb from limb and the shaman decided it was better to avoid her. Could you tell me what happened to her?”
Hallie spoke up since she knew more than the officer did. “She leaped to a highway and was hit by a car. The driver managed to just clip her rather than hit her directly and she was knocked into a drainage ditch. Her leg was badly broken and it required surgery to repair it. Other than that she was just banged up and scratched.”
Jenny glanced at the attractive officer. “I’m curious, why you came along, Mary. I understand Hallie since I know she and Cierra were an item once but how about you?”
Mary smiled. “I was assigned as head of security for Queen Cierra while she was on U.S. soil. I’m here now because I was curious. After the Embassy is built I may ask for assignment here. This is a lovely area.”
“Embassy?” Jenny looked confused.
Hallie told Jenny about Cierra’s dealings with the Vice President and the results of the meeting.
“Holy Cow!” Jenny whistled loudly and once she had everyone’s attention she asked the other council members to join her. The others returned to their conversations as the members joined Jenny and the visitors. The Colonel noted that the elderly cook from the kitchen also joined them.
Jenny asked Hallie to repeat what she had told her. Then the stunned women asked questions of their own. The two visitors answered as best they could while they ate. Mary hid a grin once she realized what they were doing, making plans while they ate.
“I wish I had a copy of this agreement,” Cyd muttered. Hallie remembered that she had made copies and put them in her briefcase. She opened the heavy case and pulled out a handful and passed them around the table. The women spent time reading them and nodded.
“Looks okay to me,” Laura told the others. She turned to the Colonel. “When can we expect the construction crew to arrive? I hope they realize that it gets colder here in winter than on the Old World.”
“I’m not sure when they’ll begin to tell you the truth. Everything happened so fast.”
The women chuckled, remembering how it was in the beginning for the colony.
Robbie volunteered to show the women around after they finished eating and to help them with their luggage. She had seen the squirming Jenny had done and knew she needed to breast feed Rissy.
Robbie stood up and both visitors realized how tall the blonde was. Their looks made Robbie grin and wink. “I’m Cierra’s bodyguard,” she informed them. They believed her.
Robbie grabbed Hallie’s luggage and led them to the long house across the stream. She took them to the visitor’s section and put the baggage down. “There are six bunks so take your choice. The bedding is here,” she told them, patting the top of the trunk, “and I’ll show you the bathing area and toilets.”
She pointed out the small closet-like water houses then led them to the back area where the tubs and showers were, telling them the rules of using them. “Women are assigned between 6-12, either morning or after dinner. Men are given 12-6. As women, you are free to join the colonists at the public bath up on the hill, keeping in mind that 6-10 is for the children to bathe in the evenings.
“Breakfast is served until mid morning and lunch is at high noon for two hours. Dinner is served at dusk or around 6 PM depending on the time of year. They usually clang a bell twice at mealtime. Any questions?”
“No ma’am,” the Colonel replied, feeling like she had just joined up and was in boot camp. Robbie chuckled. “Sorry, I tend to rapid fire information and run. Don’t worry about things here. We’re pretty laid back and lazy once cool weather hits. We really have very little to do other than hobbies, reading, and chatting during winter. Well, unless you have a partner then you have one other thing to occupy your time,” she winked.
“I bet most of the women here are partnered,” Mary commented.
“Nope, only about half of them. There’s very little ‘dating’ here. People either hit it off right away with someone or are single. You won’t find much hunting here because no one wants a player label,” she warned the two visitors.
They nodded and Robbie told them that they could visit anyone they wanted in the community. Anyone who was accepting visitors left the door in the unlocked position or had their divider curtains open in the lodges.
With that, the tall blonde left them to unpack and returned to her spouse.
· * * * *
Cierra only dozed since she wasn’t sleepy but kept her arms around her sleeping mate and her lips against her hair. She would run her palm over JP’s bare back once in a while if the woman so much as twitched, wanting to reassure her while she slept. JP would settle down at once after sleepily rubbing her cheek against Cierra’s breast.
Near dusk, JP finally began stirring and stretched, feeling much better. She shifted and sought Cierra’s sweet lips and they spent quite a long time just kissing and touching. Lovemaking would come later and the women sighed contentedly before getting up and dressing for dinner.
Everyone in the dining room smiled when the happy couple walked into the building and many of them began applauding. Cierra heard her name a lot as people welcomed her home.
They got their meals and joined Jenny and Cyd at their table.
Cyd was happy to see the dark circles under JP’s eyes had faded a bit, showing that she had slept. JP gave her a nod and a weak smile, letting her know she was sorry for striking her the last time they spoke. Cyd nodded back and smiled, letting her know she was forgiven. It was a butch thing and their mates grinned at one another secretly at the exchange.
They chatted lightly as they ate but looked up when the quality of the din changed slightly. The Colonel and Hallie had walked into the dining hall together. Cierra waved her hand and caught their attention. Once they got close enough to hear each other without shouting the Shaman invited them to join them at their table. The women nodded and joined them after filling their plates.
Cierra introduced JP to the other women. JP looked at Hallie intently and feeling a little grungy in comparison. The two of them couldn’t be more different if they tried.
Hallie was a professional woman without a doubt. Manicured nails, salon quality hairstyle, and expensive clothing. She was a high maintenance fem that probably knew all the trendy places to go and all the right people.
In the meantime, there she sat with work worn hands and clothing that had seen better days. JP felt her insecurities trying to rear their ugly heads but Cierra chose that moment to squeeze her hand. JP looked into her mate’s eyes and saw the love shining from them. The thin woman felt the tensions leave her and she returned the smile, her doubts gone.
The lawyer saw the connection between the two of them and knew Cierra had found what she had been looking for. Hallie admitted to herself that she had driven Cierra away by taking her for granted.
The Monday after Cierra had packed her things and left had been when it all hit the lawyer. She had returned home from work to a silent townhouse and no one to greet her. There was no one cooking in the kitchen or the sound of the stereo. The impact of that moment had her thinking for a long time.
She still worked hard because it was all she had left to fill the lonely hours. Even when she knew her time for gaining a partnership was near; she didn’t feel the joy in it, as she would have earlier. With no one to celebrate her accomplishments with her…well, it was an empty victory at best.
Hallie thrust her hand forward and greeted JP, the clear winner between them. “It’s a pleasure to meet you JP,” she said sincerely.
Laura got Cierra’s attention and changed the flow of conversation at the table. “I understand we’ll have a U.S. Embassy here soon. How in the world did you manage that?”
The Shaman grinned and pointed to Hallie. “Blame her. All I did was ask for a room with a view,” she teased.
For the next hour Hallie had to explain everything in detail, including what responsibilities each had diplomatically.
Kelly had to chuckle and looked at Cierra. “You always hated being called ‘Queen’ but now you’ll have to hear it more often. Hmm, I wonder if we can get some hotshot fashion designer to make you something regal to wear when you judge over criminals. You need something…glamorous but dignified.”
“Judge?” Hallie injected. “Did I miss something?”
The women began explaining Cierra’s role in their society. Once they covered the basics Hallie shook her head. She remembered a very different woman who even hated to swat flies. Now she was judging and condemning criminals?
Mary listened silently and watched the women’s faces. She was good at what she did and it helped her get promoted along the way. The ability to read between the lines and understand the undercurrents below the surface.
Queen Cierra was a gentle-hearted woman who had been forged by circumstances beyond her control and found avenues of strength she didn’t know about. Sometimes the discovery of yourself left you changed and one didn’t see it until facing a mirror from your past.
Cierra was holding that mirror now as Hallie spent time with them. Had she changed so much in two years? She didn’t feel any different but hearing it on the lips of her friends and in the eyes of Hallie, she knew she must have changed. She looked at Hallie and remembered a time when she practically worshiped the ambitious and energetic lawyer. Now all she felt for her was a sense of familiarity and nothing more. Yes, she had changed at least a little.
· * * * *
Mary Webb was putting her dinnerware up on one of the shelves when the woman near her spun around and bumped into her. She instinctively placed her hand on the woman’s lower back and held her steady. The idea in the back of her mind was to prevent the woman from falling but in fact pressed the woman’s hips intimately up against her own. The young woman in turn reached up and grasped both of her upper arms to keep her balance.
Their eyes met. Mary didn’t know her but she was looking down into the sweetest face she had seen in ages. The slightly built woman in her arms reminded her of those paintings of pixies or fairies with her curly short hair, huge green eyes, and cupid-bow lips. All she needed was a set of gossamer wings to complete the picture.
The Colonel didn’t release the woman but kept staring down at her. The tiny woman lowered her eyes and blushed. Appreciation for the woman’s appeal turned passionate as Mary’s body responded to the bashful look. What the Officer wanted to do at that moment was kiss the lovely woman senseless and drag her off to her bunk.
The woman in her arms looked to her right and then pushed Mary away from her. Mary saw the tiny woman rush to a very pregnant woman’s side. Oh crud. She was partnered. She was probably now trying to explain how the scene her girlfriend had witnessed was actually innocent on her own part.
Mary didn’t want Sara to be on the outs with her partner and walked over to them. She was honorable and wouldn’t just walk away and leave her in a lurch.
She held out her hand to the pregnant woman. “Hello, I’m Colonel Mary Webb. I’m sorry if I made your partner uncomfortable. We bumped into each other accidentally and I was so busy noticing how cute she was that I forgot to let go. I really am sorry. I didn’t mean to offend anyone.”
The pregnant woman nearly saluted at the woman’s rank but shoved down the urge.
“Second Lieutenant Ann Hatch. At least I was until I went AWOL. I hope you aren’t here to drag me off to Leavenworth.”
Mary knew the woman’s story or at least one version of it. She had suspected that Ann’s part in helping Cierra escape from military custody had better reasons behind it than reported. She had looked at the woman’s records and saw nothing but outstanding reports from every CO the woman served under. Officers like that just didn’t turn psycho for no reason.
“No, I’m not here to drag you back. Although a bit of advice. Once the Embassy is built, don’t step one foot into it or you’ll be arrested. I must admit curiosity as to why you did it. I think your CO’s report was biased.”
“I did it because it was being done for all the wrong reasons. Once I realized it I felt little remorse for helping her,” she said simply. Mary nodded and accepted it.
She changed the subject. “When are you due?”
Ann placed her hand on her protruding stomach. “In a few weeks or so. Since the doctors here think its twins perhaps a bit earlier.”
The Colonel did some quick calculating and figured Ann fell in love and decided to get pregnant all within four months. Mary also realized she was keeping the woman from sitting down and indicated a bench. Ann sat with a tired sigh. Sara sat down next to her and placed her arm around Ann’s strong shoulders. She and Mary’s eyes met and Sara looked away guiltily.
Mary wanted to ask lots of questions but felt they were much too personal for a stranger to ask. Instead, she kept the conversation polite for a short time then excused her self from the couple. As she walked away Ann turned to Sara.
“Wow, talk about sparks. You two had chemistry enough for a dozen people. Why didn’t you tell her we were just friends?”
“I thought we promised to not ignore possible relationships, Sara.”
“What good would it do? She’s only here for a few days then leaving. I don’t want to go back to the Old World.”
Ann stared at Sara intensely. She knew that was an excuse but didn’t push it for now.
Continued in Part 11
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