W. R. Haley
Disclaimer: This is an original work of fiction. All characters belong to the author. Any similarities to any one living or dead is purely coincidental. This fiction contains scenes of love between two women.
Feedback: Is welcomed and appreciated. Any constructive criticism will be embraced. I can be contacted at Ghstwrtr8@aol.com Please enjoy!
"You're going to love Harbour House, Ms Flanagan," gushed the real estate agent as she and her passenger drove along the tree-lined road. The passenger kept her eyes on the passing scenery.
"I certainly hope so. I've been looking for some time now," Autumn Flanagan replied.
She was enjoying watching the swift passage of trees as they drove down the relatively empty road. The rural central portion of the state had enraptured Autumn. She had been raised on the tourist beaches of South Florida and it was a different atmosphere.
"The house sits on ten acres, it has a barn with two horse stalls, and a spring fed lake that sits between the house and the neighbor's property to the east. There's a small boathouse and dock on the lake. It's a steal, Ms. Flanagan," the agent said as she maneuvered the car.
"Which reminds me, Mrs. Daniels, why is the price so low?" asked Autumn, turning her gray eyes on the older woman. The agent became very interested in the road.
"The house has been empty for a very long time, Ms. Flanagan and it needs some work," Mrs. Daniels answered her eyes firmly ahead. "Oh here we are!" she sang cheerfully, swinging onto a gravel driveway.
Autumn leaned forward slightly, her eyes eagerly searching for the house. She took in the two stone lions at the entrance of the driveway. A sagging split rail fence circled the front.
When the house came into view, Autumn sat back; a feeling of calm stole over
her. The long rambling ranch style home sat quietly on a wide expanse of lush,
overgrown green lawn. A porch wrapped itself around the house. Windows invited
her to look deep into the house as it sat almost expectantly, waiting to be
occupied. To the west, on the left and set a bit back from the house she saw
the barn, the wood weather beaten and dull. It was definitely in need of a
coat of paint. Autumn sat in the car after it had stopped her eyes drinking
in the sight. The porch sagged just slightly. The steps looked as if they should
be replaced. One fake window shutter was hanging loose. The house also could
use a few coats of paint. It was silent as Autumn finally got out of the agent's
car. In the distance she could hear a bird call.
"It's beautiful," she stated simply, surprised that she meant it; her eyes lovingly traced the lines of the house.
Autumn felt strangely comfortable, almost as if she had come home. She took a deep breath and looked around the yard. Surprisingly it was well kept. The wind sighed in the trees; a feeling of excitement creased the air. Following the chattering agent, Autumn stepped onto the porch. Unbridled joy and triumph coursed through her.
"Welcome home," the breeze seemed to say to her as it blew through the trees, lifting her dark hair. With a slight frown, Autumn Flanagan looked around the silent yard. An hour later the two women were once more standing outside the house.
"Can I ask you again why the price is so low?" Autumn asked, her piercing gray eyes pinning the real estate agent. Mrs. Daniels leaned against the sagging porch rail; her hand ran along the wood, trying to stall for time.
"There have been some silly rumors," she began, a nervous laugh escaped. "It's believed the house is haunted," she finished. Autumn's eyes lit up with wry amusement and disbelief.
"Really?" Autumn asked dryly.
"Silly, isn't it?" tittered the agent.
"Yes, very much so. Let's go back to your office. I think I'd like to make an offer," Autumn's face lit up with a smile that rivaled the sun for brightness.
With a dimmer smile of her own the agent followed the black haired woman back to her Ford Escort. As they drove away, Autumn turned for another look. The house had a sudden aura of sadness about it, tinged with just a hint of expectation.
* * *
A week after buying the house Autumn let herself into her condo. With a sigh she put her briefcase down in the foyer and her keys in the dish on the small table near the door. Shutting the front door behind her she leafed through her mail as she walked into her living room. There was nothing exciting in the mail, just a few bills, someone telling her she may have already won a million dollars, a post card from her parents. They were in Paris. Autumn smiled as she looked at the picture of the Eiffel Tower at night. Her mother's cramped handwriting covered the postcard. She was still smiling as she reached the kitchen. Autumn flipped on the light and went to the answering machine on the counter. Pressing the play button she went to the refrigerator to scrounge for something to eat.
"Autumn, your surprise going away party is on Friday, so don't make any plans after work," came the voice of Sarah, a friend from the office. "I know you hate the thought, but we are going to miss you and since none us foresee getting out to the middle of nowhere this may be the last time we see you! So stop making that face and get over it," Sarah teased and Autumn chuckled shaking her head.
Autumn pulled out a chicken breast that she had defrosted yesterday and decided to make a grilled chicken salad. Leaving it on the counter she went to her room to change.
Absently she maneuvered around the packing boxes. She would be leaving for her new home in five days. Autumn couldn't wait. She was leaving her job of seven years and starting out on her own. Autumn Flanagan had worked in the District Attorney's office since graduating law school, seven years ago. The raven haired woman had been full of a burning desire to see justice done and the bad guy put in jail. But after seven years of being an over worked ADA, making deals and seeing the fine line of justice disappearing Autumn was burned out.
When the phone call from her uncle had come telling her he wanted to retire and he wanted her to take over his rural practice in a small farming community in Central Florida, she had not thought long before giving him her answer. She had seen too many horrific things in the past seven years, seen the things men and women did to each other, some things in the name of justice. Disillusioned with the legal process she loved, the decision to leave had been surprisingly easy. Now instead of prosecuting dirtbag drug dealers or sweet pedophiles she would be drawing wills and going over real estate deals, she would handle the odd divorce and maybe on a bad day a criminal case or two. Autumn knew she was burnt out and hoped the slow pace of Mason, Florida would be just what the doctor ordered.
Autumn had grown up in southern Palm Beach County but knew that there was little that she would miss about it. It was getting much more crowded and having dealt with the seedier side she knew how crime ridden it was.
* * *
I can't believe you are really leaving. Are you sure you won't change mind?" Autumn's boss Greg Reynolds asked.
He was sitting next to her at the large raucous table. The group of lawyers had commandeered two tables, pushing them together. As the going away party had gone on, the group had been steadily getting more drunk and rowdy. Autumn who had been sipping the same Amaretto Sour watched in wry amusement. She would miss these people, but not enough to stay.
Most people thought Autumn was standoffish, arrogant, cold, but in truth she was almost painfully shy and wrapped herself in a cocoon of arrogance and silence. She had few friends, not because she wasn't likable, it was because not only had she been too busy working on her career but also she was too shy to put herself forward.
"No, Greg," Autumn chuckled, "I won't be changing my mind."
There was almost real regret in her husky voice. She would miss Greg the most. They had worked close for years and had come to enjoy each other's company outside the office as well. Greg shook his head, his graying hair falling into his warm eyes. At forty-five his hair had just started to gray, much to the athletic man's dismay.
"Oh well, it was worth a shot," he said, draining his glass of its contents of Jack and Coke. He motioned for another before turning to look at the woman next to him. "I'm going to miss you Autumn. It won't be the same without you." His deep voice was sincere.
"I'll miss you too Greg. But it's not like we won't ever see each other again," she chided him, bumping his shoulder with her own. "I will just be four hours away and Mason is not far from a highway!" she laughed. "I'll visit, you'll visit. My parents still live here; you won't get rid of me that easy."
"I know, but it just won't be the same. When do you take over for your uncle?"
"Tuesday," she answered sipping from her glass, grimacing slightly as the sour drink hit her tongue. "My uncle said he would spend the rest of the week with me before he heads out."
"He's your mother's brother?" Greg asked, gratefully sipping his fresh drink.
"Yeah, Uncle Reggie, he is quite a character," Autumn laughed.
"So, what's he going to do?"
"He bought a motor home!" Autumn shook her head, tossing a lock of her raven hair behind her shoulder. "He says he's going to drive around the country." Autumn still had trouble believing it.
"Good for him! Maybe I'll do that. Chuck it all and head out on the road."
"Greg, you're going to die on the job," the woman next to him said, her eyes warm as she studied him.
"Yeah, you're probably right. My ex-wife said the same, and of course, Linda was never wrong," his voice was rueful as he drained his glass again. "Well, Autumn, it's past my bedtime and I still have a mountain of paperwork to go over, now that I'm down one ADA."
"You take care of yourself Greg," she rose easily with him. Greg was 6'2" and Autumn was a few inches shorter. His eyes warmed as he looked at his protégé. She was a stunningly beautiful woman yet she never seemed to notice the looks she received. He studied her as if memorizing her features.
Her black hair hung just below her shoulders, all one length. Her high cheekbones set off the planes of her face. An aristocratic nose the nostrils slightly flared, sat over full lips that were made to be kissed, they twitched as if to smile. Her jaw was firm, the lines seemingly etched. The most arresting feature though was her eyes. They were almond shaped and fringed by dark lashes. The color could go from smoky gray to ice blue in a heartbeat. They stood out drawing attention to her face. Greg's eyes drifted down over her lean frame, taking in the long and finely muscled legs. With a smirk he shook his head; the office would be a dimmer place without her in it. It was not just her beauty but also her mere presence. You could feel her come into a room, even if you didn't see her. Her eyes would take in everything and process it immediately. Greg had never met a more intelligent person and he regretted that she was throwing away her career. He had spent many hours trying to get her to change her mind.
"I will Autumn. You too. Ya know I'll have a job for you if you ever decide to come back," his lips twitched into a smile, his eyes hopeful. Autumn laughed and hugged him, wrapping her arms around his broad shoulders.
"Thanks Greg, I won't forget that," she whispered in his ear. He hugged her close for a moment before stepping back.
"You call me when you get set okay?"
The two friends looked at each other, each not wanting to say goodbye, dragging the moment out. Finally Greg sighed, hugged her again and walked away. Autumn watched him, go her eyes sad. It wasn't much later before she made the rest of her good-byes.
* * *
"So it's true," the brunette said on Saturday looking around Autumn's living room.
It was full of boxes, stacked against the walls. The furniture was pushed together; pictures were leaning against the wall. The movers would be coming early Monday morning to pick up her things. She would be leaving then, following them to her new home.
"Yes Joanne, it's true," Autumn sighed. She had hoped she would have been the one to tell her ex-lover that she was leaving.
"Donna told me that you were moving but I didn't believe her," Joanne moved deeper into the room, her brown eyes scanning the room, almost still in disbelief. "I can't believe it. When were you going to tell me?"
"I don't know, soon I guess," Autumn answered, shrugging her shoulders, avoiding Joanne's eyes.
The woman could always tell when Autumn was being less than truthful. They had lived together for almost five years before breaking up a year ago. For Autumn it had been a relief when it was finally over. She had fallen out of love with Joanne almost from the moment the woman had moved in with her, but Autumn gamely tried to make it work. Finally the jealousy and the fights over her long hours had proven to be too much for both of them and Joanne had left.
"You weren't going to tell me where you?" Joanne accused her voice harsh. Autumn recognized the tone immediately.
"Joanne," Autumn began softly, not wanting to fight with the woman.
"Damn it Autumn, all that time I asked you to quit, to take a job at your father's firm or even open your own, you kept giving me that speech about righting wrongs and keeping the bad guys off the streets. So what's changed?"
"I've changed Joanne. I'm tired. I just can't do it anymore. What was once black and white has too many shades of gray."
"It's about Brett Lawson, isn't it?" Joanne suddenly asked, her eyes narrowing.
Autumn turned away hiding the sudden pain in her eyes. Brett Lawson was her one big mistake. He was the defendant in a rape case she was prosecuting. She had lost the case and Brett Lawson had been freed, able to commit even more horrendous crimes on unsuspecting women. That case had quickly been followed by one that she had eventually won, sending an innocent man to death row before his conviction had been overturned. Something had broken in her then. Autumn didn't believe in justice any more. She didn't believe that the bad guys went to jail and the good guys didn't.
"No," she answered quickly moving away from Joanne.
"Why don't I believe you Autumn?" Joanne asked her voice softening.
"I don't know Jo," Autumn sighed facing her ex-lover. Her eyes looked over the woman appreciatively. Joanne was a beautiful woman, tall with long wavy brown hair and big brown eyes that Autumn had once melted into.
"Donna tells me they are giving you a party tonight," Joanne said changing the subject.
"Yes, they are, at Kay's," Autumn told her naming a small woman's bar that she and her softball buddies frequented.
"You going alone?"
"I had planned on that." Autumn answered, not sure what Joanne was getting at.
"Want some company? For old times sake?" Joanne asked her eyes sad as she looked into Autumn's eyes. Autumn was silent for a moment before smiling, revealing even white teeth.
"Sure why not."
* * *
Autumn stood in the middle of her living looking around; trying to make sure she had not forgotten anything. She sighed as her eyes fell over the familiar room. She would miss her condo. Autumn had bought it right after being hired at the DA's office. She and Joanne had lived here together. Autumn had laughed in these rooms. She had also cried in these rooms. Getting a clean start was just what she wanted. With a fond smile she left the condo, heading toward her new start.
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