Disclaimer: This short tale springs from my own imagination and the characters are mine. There's nothing very graphic, but, if you have a problem with two women loving each other, you might want to read something else.
"What? Another one of those idiotic e - mails? Are people nuts? Like I've got nothing better to do," Julie Miller mumbled, looking at one of her new e - mail messages, while blowing a strand of hair away from her forehead. Her cheeks were flushed and her green eyes shone with irritation. "What is it this time?"
Julie clicked on the message's subject, which read: 'perfect match' and her eyes flew over the screen.
"You've got to be kidding me," she groaned. "Why the hell does anybody wants to know all this sh...?"
"Morning, Miss Miller," a deep voice sounded behind her and Julie quickly turned around.
"Good Morning, Mister Burroughs," she answered, sending the older man a smile. "You're early today."
Frederick Burroughs nodded and adjusted the knot of his tie.
"My granddaughter is stopping by this morning to visit her poor old granddad so he can show her around."
Julie's eyes went wide when she looked up at the elderly man and she almost had to bite her tongue to prevent herself from asking nosy questions. If there were any changes within the organizational structure of the business, she would hear about it sooner or later. Wouldn't she?
Frederick Burroughs had six children and, in Julie's eyes, countless grandchildren. She was wondering which granddaughter would get the grand tour. She had never really noticed any of them showing any interest in the catering business their grandfather had started many years ago. Unless...
Julie's thoughts were interrupted by the slamming of a door, immediately followed by a loud "Sorry!"
"There she is," Frederick Burroughs smiled, turning around just in time to see his granddaughter enter the office.
"Abigail, right on time," he greeted the young woman, who stepped closer and gave her grandfather a quick hug.
"I'm learning, grandpa," the brunette laughed. "I was actually able to get out of bed this morning. Who knows, there might be hope for me after all, huh?"
"Maybe you're growing up," Frederick Burroughs smiled, wrapping an arm around Abigail's shoulder and turning them both, so they were facing Julie.
"Abby, have you and Julie met?"
Julie looked up to a pair of smiling hazel eyes and her response died on her lips. She had wanted to say she had met all of the Burroughs grandchildren, but one look at the face of the young woman who was standing in front of her all of a sudden made her doubt that.
"Um...I...I'm not sure," she mumbled with a frown, automatically extending her hand to grab the one that was stretched out to her in greeting.
"We've met," Abigail Burroughs nodded with a smile. "About four years ago, when I'd just started at The Culinary Institute of America. Hi, Julie."
"Hi, A...Abigail," Julie stammered, feeling her hand disappear into a warm, strong grip. "I...I'm afraid I can't really remember..."
Abigail Burroughs laughed and slowly let go of Julie's hand. Her eyes were twinkling when she looked at the other woman.
"I looked a little...different then," the brunette explained.
"A little?" her Grandfather snorted, playfully pulling a strand of hair. "Your hair was dyed pitch - black, your eyeshadow was black, your lipstick purple and you were wearing army boots and..."
"Yeah, yeah, that's enough, Grandpa," Abigail laughed. "You're scaring poor Julie here."
"Oh, Julie's not easily scared," Frederick Burroughs chuckled. "She's pretty tough."
"I think we've all had a wild - streak, at one point in our lives," Julie smiled. "But yes, now I realize we did meet," she continued, remembering the young woman who had come in with her mother, chewing gum and looking completely out of place in the huge kitchen with the shiny stainless steel stoves, fridges and ovens. Julie had just started her job at 'Food 'n Such' and every day had been a challenge. The visit had been at the end of the day, while she had been busy trying to meet a delivery deadline. She had not been able to pay much attention to Frederick's daughter and granddaughter.
"Well, Abigail has finished all her training and will be joining the company, starting...," Frederick turned to the brunette and shot her an inquisitive look. "When are you planning to start, sweetie?"
"Today?" Abigail answered with a smile. "If that's alright with you."
"Absolutely," Frederick Burroughs answered with a delighted laugh. "Come on, Abby, I'll show you around. I'm sure a few things have changed since the last time you were here. The rest of the staff will come in soon as well. I'm sure they'll all be delighted to have a real pastry chef on board."
With his arm still wrapped around her shoulders, Frederick Burroughs steered his granddaughter toward the enormous kitchen area. But not before the brunette sent Julie a smile and a wink.
As soon as the pair had left the office, Julie sank back down in her chair and let out a shuddering breath.
"Well, that was unexpected," she sighed, trying to make sense of what had just happened. "I guess we finally have a qualified pastry chef, but it would have been nice if somebody would have told me, so I could have prepared. I'm sure there are a lot of things she needs that we don't have."
In her mind, Julie started a list of things they would probably need, before turning back to her computer and abandoned e - mail.
"Linda, you're the best sister in the world, but you really should stop sending me these useless 'who are you and what is your perfect match' emails," Julie mumbled, clicking the circle that would indicate her age group. "Let's see, since it's Monday morning and I do feel like crap I'll just check...between sixty and eighty - five, I'm a ...red - head...click... and have no education...click... and my hobbies are...let's see...bungee - jumping...click....ornithology...click and NASCAR - racing...click...and last, but not least, my favorite Holiday would be...Halloween...click." With a chuckle Julie hit 'send' and the frowned when the screen brought up another message; 'Your questionnaire will be processed and an e - mail with your perfect match will be send to you within the next twenty - four hours'.
"Yeah, right," Julie snorted, logging out of her e - mail account. "It will be interesting to see what they'll come up with. It would be the first time I hear anything back."
"Do you always talk to yourself?" an amused voice sounded, starting Julie, who quickly turned in her chair, only to look up into a pair of sparkling hazel eyes.
"Do you always sneak up on people?" she quipped, annoyed with the faint blush she could feel covering her cheeks.
"Touche," Abigail laughed, stepping closer and leaning her hip against the heavy oak desk. "I can't believe this piece of antiquity is still here," she spoke, tapping the polished wood. "It's quite hideous."
"It's old and your grandfather loves it," Julie defended the desk.
"Tell me you never ran into one of its corners, cursing it because it's so bulky and heavy?" Abigail smiled.
Julie wanted to deny that was true, but the sparkle in Abigail's eyes was contagious and she chuckled.
"Numerous times," she admitted. "Big, fat, painful bruises."
"Exactly," Abigail laughed. From her vantage point at the corner of the desk, she looked down on the blond crown of Julie's hair and smiled when the other woman looked up at her, allowing her an unobstructed view of green eyes that were dotted with tiny flecks of golden - brown.
"It's really nice to meet you again, Julie, and I'm really looking forward to working here, with you and the rest of the staff," Abigail said with so much sincerity, Julie felt a warmth spread through her body.
"Thank you, Abigail. I..."
"Abby," Abigail interrupted, staring at Julie with one raised eyebrow.
"Abby," the blonde repeated with a nod. "So, Abby, since you've taken up residence on my desk, could you help me make a list of all the things you think you'll need?"
"I'd be happy too."
"So, have you checked your e - mail lately?" Linda Byrd asked, casting her sister an inquisitive look over the rim of her glass.
"If you want to know if I did anything with any of your silly forwards, then the answer is 'no'. Lately, I delete them. It's a waste of memory to leave them on the computer."
"You're no fun," Linda responded with a mock - pout, kicking her sister's shoe underneath the table.
"Better watch it, Mrs. Byrd," Julie growled. "Just because you're happily married doesn't mean the rest of the world all of a sudden needs to find the perfect match."
"No, not the rest of the world, just you," Linda replied. "Come on, sis, you never go out on a date or anything. You're a hermit. You need to meet some people, have some fun."
"I'm pretty content with my life."
"Content is not good enough," Linda sighed. "You can't go from Halloween to Halloween in the hope you'll meet your secret ghost again."
"It wasn't a ghost. It was a Knight," Julie mumbled. "And I'm not living from Halloween to Halloween either. Those...encounters... were nice, but I'm not reading anything in it. I don't even know if it was the same Knight."
"Come on, Julie, who are you fooling here?" Linda snorted. "Three years in a row?"
Julie send her sister an annoyed look and took a sip of her iced tea. Sometimes it sucked to have a psychologist as a sister. She always found ways to analyze her.
"Don't you think she would have wanted to exchange names or phone numbers if she had been interested?" Julie muttered. "She was just looking for a night of distraction. She's probably in a committed relationship and is allowed to let her hair down once a year."
"Or maybe she's only in town once a year."
"Keep dreaming, Linda," Julie smiled.
"Maybe she's only...horny...once a year?" Linda tried, laughing when Julie sent her an annoyed look.
"Not because you didn't want it to," Linda guessed, because her sister had never really told her anything specific about the Halloween meetings with the strange Knight.
"Alright, I see I'm starting to piss you off, so I promise I'll shut up, on one condition."
"Which is?" Julie asked, rolling her eyes.
"Check your e - mail."
"I hate to tell you this, but there's no cyberspace in Camelot."
"Check your e - mail," Linda insisted, mentally pumping a fist when her younger sister let out a deep sigh and flipped open the laptop on the coffee table. Two minutes later, she was looking at the inbox of her account, casting her sister an accusing look.
"How did you know about this?"
"About that 'perfect match' e - mail. They answered me."
"Open it," Linda encouraged, moving to the edge of her seat.
"What I should do is delete it," Julie frowned.
"Don't you dare," Linda reacted, slapping Julie's knee. "Open it and read it to me."
With a sigh, Julie clicked on the email and, just seconds later, she was staring at the results of her 'test'.
"After analyzing the information you have provided us with, we compared it with the profiles in our data base and your perfect match would be: Knight1031. To read the profile of your match, click the following URL..." Julie's voice wavered when her finger moved over the touch pad. She was shocked by the contents of the e - mail, but at the same time she was incredibly intrigued. Her finger tapped the pad and the profile of Knight1031 popped up.
"Come on, Julie, I'm dying here," Linda urged, waiting for her sister to continue reading.
Julie swallowed hard and moistened her lips before continuing.
"Knight1031, female, mid - twenties, higher education, fields of interests are reading, music, travel, wining and dining the woman of my dreams..." Julie swallowed again, aware of her heart that was threatening to beat its way out of her chest. "Favorite Holiday is Halloween." Leaning back into her chair, Julie sent her sister a look that was a mixture of irritation, sadness and wonder.
"This definitely is creepy," she almost whispered.
"Why?" Linda asked, turning the laptop so she could read the information on the screen herself. "It sounds pretty good to me."
"Really? When I filled out I'm between sixty and eighty years old and love to bungee jump?"
"You didn't?" Linda laughed.
"I sure did and now look at this," Julie answered, pointing at her laptop. "What interesting female in her mid - twenties would be romantically attracted to my fake profile?"
"There's one matching point, though, between you and your Knight," Linda said, not trying to hide her amusement.
"I know," Julie sighed. "Halloween."
"Are you going to do it?" Linda asked.
"Click on the link so you can e - mail her. It might be interesting."
"I don't know, Lin. Like I said, it all seems pretty creepy to me. I'll have to think about it."
"Well, don't think too long, it will be October before you know it."
The sun was mercilessly beating down on the already overheated and parched earth. It had been hot and dry for weeks and the forecast showed relief was not in sight. The heat wave and drought were a fact.
Julie Miller steered the small company van into the parking spot that was closest to the door, which made it easier to load and unload deliveries. With a sigh of relief she jumped out of the van, immediately feeling the heat penetrate every inch of her skin. She quickly opened the door to step inside the air - conditioned building. The crew had already cleaned up and left, leaving the kitchen mostly quiet, except for the faraway corner, where Abigail Burroughs was working on the last details of a huge wedding cake. She was humming along with the radio and did not look up when Julie quietly approached her. The blonde had been around the pastry chef long enough to know she was good at what she did, but in Julie's eyes, the cake Abigail was working on now, was a true masterpiece.
"You like it?" Abigail asked, without turning around.
Julie almost jumped at the sound of her voice and, in reaction, she pressed her hand against her chest, immediately feeling the pounding of her heart.
"How do you do that?" she breathed. "Do you have eyes in the back of your head?"
"Not really," Abigail smiled, casting a look over her shoulder. When she had caught Julie's gaze she pointed at the stainless steel refrigerator in the corner.
"Reflections," she whispered with a wink.
"Duh," Julie replied, feeling incredibly stupid.
"So, what do you think?" Abigail asked.
"It's...It's absolutely beautiful," Julie smiled, stepping closer so she could get a better look at the details on the cake. Carefully crafted flowers, leaves and tiny birds lined the three - layer cake that looked absolutely perfect. The main color was white, but the soft pink flowers, moss - green leaves and pale blue birds gave it a dimension that was almost surreal.
"It looks so...simple and yet incredibly classy. It's a very romantic cake," Julie admired. "You're a true artist, Abby."
"Thank you," Abigail replied with a nod of her head. "I hope the bride and groom appreciate it as well. He's a Biology teacher and loves birds. She has a flower shop. It's obvious they both love nature so, when you look at the first layer of the cake, the string of birds and flowers start off separately, on the second layer they meet and continue side - by - side to finally entwine on top. The leaves symbolize their shared passion for nature," the pastry chef explained.
"I'm sure they'll love it. It's a pity to cut it up," Julie sighed. "Have you taken a picture of it?"
"Not yet," Abigail shook her head. "It's not entirely done."
"You're a perfectionist," Julie remarked, shaking her head. "It looks perfect to me."
"Well, my clients pay a lot of money for a cake like this. I owe them to give it my best."
"You are, believe me," Julie smiled. "But, it's your cake, so, make it as perfect as you need to. Is there anything I can help you with?"
"As a matter of fact." Abigail stuck her finger in one of the bowls on the counter top and held it up in front of Julie's face.
Julie's eyes went wide when she looked at the offered finger that was coated in a thick, creamy substance. When her gaze was caught by a warm hazel one, she swallowed hard, trying to ignore her feelings of insecurity. She had worked with Abigail for a few months now and she liked the young pastry chef. She knew the brunette probably just wanted to share a new recipe with her, but in the back of her mind she could clearly hear the warning bells go off.
"Come on, Jules. You don't have rabies, do you?" Abigail teased, using the nickname she had bestowed on the blonde.
"I don't know, I might," Julie mumbled, before leaning forward and closing her lips around Abigail's index finger. Involuntarily, her eyes closed and she let out a soft moan. Resisting the temptation to swirl her tongue around the finger, Julie slowly withdrew and opened her eyes.
"What was that?" she asked, licking her lips. "That was incredible."
"Not too sweet?" Abigail asked in a slightly husky voice.
""No, just perfect," Julie answered enthusiastic. "What is it?"
"A little bit of this, a little bit of that and a lot of nothing," Abigail laughed, pleased with Julie's reaction.
"You're not going to tell me, are you?"
"Not yet," Abigail shook her head. "Not until it's..."
"Perfect," Julie interrupted with a chuckle. "I should have known."
Abigail cast down her eyes and turned back around to work on her cake, but not before Julie had seen the blush coloring her cheeks.
"I'm sorry, Abby, I didn't mean to embarrass you. I was just teasing. I think your striving for perfection is..." Cute? Did I just think that? "It's...something to be respected, I think." Just slap yourself , Julie, you deserve it. That was so lame.
"It's one of my areas for improvement," Abigail mumbled. "I try to be less of a perfectionist, I really do."
Stepping closer to the other woman, Julie put her hand on Abigail's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze.
"I'm sorry," she spoke in a soft voice. "I really didn't mean to make you feel bad."
"I know," Abigail sighed. "I just...," the pastry chef bit her bottom lip and half - turned so she could cast a look at the blonde, whose expression was a mixture of sadness and regret. Immediately, her own feelings of embarrassment disappeared and she turned completely to face the other woman.
"Now you feel bad," she concluded. "Julie, I..."
"No, Abby," Julie interrupted. "We're playing tag. Let's change the subject, alright?"
"Good idea," Abigail nodded with a smile. "Besides, I'm tired. I'll call it a day and finish this thing tomorrow. Would you mind helping me wheel it into the cooler?"
"I'd be happy to," Julie smiled.
A few hours later, after she had taken a cool shower, Julie was curled up in her favorite chair, staring at her laptop on the coffee table. Her green eyes were pensive, while she remembered her last conversation with her sister.
"Have you finally made up your mind?"
"About e - mailing your Knight."
"It's not my Knight and, no, I haven't."
"Julie, it's been months."
"She'll lose interest."
"There was no interest, Linda. It's all in your mind. This whole situation is just...strange. Either someone is pulling my leg or something supernatural is at work here. I said it before and I'll say it again; it's creepy."
"But also exciting. Don't you want to find out more? Come on, Julie, where's your sense of adventure?"
"Yes, Julie, where is your sense of adventure?" the blonde sighed. "How eager are you to make a fool of yourself? Aren't you curious? Just a little, maybe?"
With a groan, Julie rubbed her face, tempted to give into temptation and click on the link in one of her e - mails that had been haunting her since the Spring.
"Alright," she decided, leaning forward and grabbing her laptop. "I'll do it. Just to get some peace of mind and to get my sister off my back."
Trying not to think about what she was doing, in fear she would change her mind, Julie connected to the internet and logged into her e - mail account. She pulled up the email she had received a few months before and stared at the blinking cursor that was hovering above the blue - colored ' Knight1031'.
"Come on, Jules, you can do it," she encouraged herself, unaware of the use of her new nickname. After taking a deep breath, Julie clicked on the link, which opened a window for a new message and she started typing.
Sorry about the late response. I had to think about this whole thing for a very long time and I finally decided to give it a go, probably just to satisfy my curiosity. I hope you don't mind.
BTW, I'm not between 60 and 85 years old. I hope that's not a disappointment.
Without reading the short message, Julie hit 'send', only then realizing she had been holding her breath.