"Well, Linda can be proud of me," she said with a nervous chuckle, wondering if she would ever get an answer. "Let's surf the Internet for a while," she mumbled. "See if there's anything new to read, somewhere."
Less than five minutes later, her computer chimed and, with a frown, Julie noticed the small envelope in the right hand corner.
"Probably Linda," she mumbled, opening her inbox. But as soon as her eyes scanned the page, her heart skipped a beat and with slightly trembling fingers she clicked on the message.
I had a feeling you were a little younger than that. But even if you had been between 60 and 85, I still would have wanted to meet you, because someone of that age who still bungee jumps, must be quite a character.
And no, I don't mind the late response.
How shall I call you? Your contact name is: 'InsanityCalls'. I do have a feeling that's not what your Momma called you.
In spite of everything, Julie chuckled. Knight1031 seemed to have a sense of humor, which she greatly appreciated. It made the whole situation less awkward.
Call me Guinevere. How about you? Knight?
Anticipating she would have a few minutes before the response would arrive, Julie poured herself some iced tea, before settling back into her chair. As soon as she sat down, the message icon blinked. More than a little intrigued she opened the message and let her eyes fly across the screen.
Guinevere? That's very pretty, I like it. And no, you're right, I don't want to be called 'Knight'. How about Joan?
"Joan of Arc," Julie mumbled. "I have a feeling she knows her history."
When her eyes fell on the next sentence, she chuckled.
Do you really bungee - jump?
No, I don't, but at the time it sounded good. Which brings me to the reason I waited such a long time before emailing you. I filled out a bunch of nonsense and sent it off. How did I end up with your profile? It makes no sense. Unless you're doing to me what I did to that 'find your perfect match' email.
Does that mean you don't like Halloween? I'm hurt.
No, that was the only true thing. And you're dodging the question.
Yes, I am. I don't want to make you mad at me.
Why would I be mad at you?
Because, to be honest, the e - mail was...fake. It was my twisted way to try and get into contact with you.
"I knew it," Julie muttered, taking a sip of her tea. "And I almost fell for it, too. Almost."
"How did you do it?" she mumbled, typing the words and sending them off. She did not have to wait long for the answer.
Let's just say I know this person who is pretty good with computers and software. Are you mad?
"No, I'm not mad," Julie typed. "I'm...confused."
Because I'm having an e - mail conversation with a stranger. How strange is that?
Pretty strange, when you think about it, was the answer. But then, are friendships and relationships not made up out of people, who, at one time, were strangers?
"And a philosopher as well," Julie smiled.
That was a question Julie really wanted an answer to. The conversation with 'Joan' was intriguing and she was eager to find out why she had gone through so much trouble to contact her.
I suck at meeting new people and doing the small talk thing. I guess part of me is pretty shy. The first time I saw you, you smiled and I was captivated. You have a beautiful smile. I could not help wanting you to smile at me like that, but I didn't know how to approach you.
That sounds very sweet, but, how do I know you're not a stalker?
You don't, really. I guess you'd have to take a chance, if you'd want to. If you don't, I'd understand. But then I might need to court you the old - fashioned way.
"Court me?" Julie repeated with a smile. "Oh, careful here, Jules, she sounds like a smooth talker."
Are you sure you're shy?
Very much so. You didn't see me blush when I sent that e - mail!
Julie laughed when she read the response, feeling strangely at ease with the conversation.
So, what happens now? This is all very new to me.
We could go out on a date, but I'd like to wait with that, was the response that surprised Julie.
Because I really would like to get to know you better, that is, if you'd like that too...
After receiving the last message, Julie leaned back in her chair and stared into the distance. Would she like to get to know Knight1031 also known as 'Joan' better? She had to admit she was intrigued. Who was this woman who had patiently waited for months until she would finally respond to her posted profile? Could she be the Knight she had met three Halloween parties in a row? And why was she so interested in her, Julie Miller? And was she, Julie, interested in the other woman as well?
All of a sudden, an image of sparkling hazel eyes filled her memory and to her surprise and horror, Julie felt her heart skip a beat.
"What the..?" she muttered, remembering how Abigail had invited her to lick her secret concoction off her finger. The memory made her blush and Julie pensively rubbed her flushed cheeks.
"This can't be true," she whispered with a groan, suddenly realizing her body's reaction to Abigail's close presence was a dead giveaway to an attraction she had not been aware of before. "I'm screwed!"
Still here, Julie answered. Give me a minute.
"What do I do now?" Julie sighed, knowing there was nobody to give her an answer to that question. It would be her decision and hers alone. So, if, in the end, the choice she would make would backfire, there would be no - one else to blame.
"It's not like any of this is going to work out anyway, ever," Julie mumbled, when she started to type. The vague feeling of guilt was conveniently pushed back into a place where it would be easier to ignore it.
Abigail Burroughs rubbed her cheek on her shoulder, trying to relieve a persistent itch that had presented itself just after she had started shaping figurines out of fondant. She was tired and a little cranky. It was still early in the morning and she was alone in the company's bakery. She did not expect the rest of the crew to come in any time soon. They had all worked hard the last few days, getting ready to cater numerous Halloween events. Orders for special pastry and cakes had trickled in since the Summer and every now and then Abigail wondered if she would be able to get all the work done. She had hired two students from the Culinary Institute to help her through the Holiday season but, even though it was great to have them around, the brunt of the workload still fell on her shoulders.
Casting a look at the clock, Abigail saw it was only five thirty. She had not been able to sleep and had left her house just a little after four to go to work.
"I must be nuts," she mumbled, adding a little bit more food - coloring to the fondant she was kneading. It immediately turned a darker shade of orange and Abigail nodded in approval. This was the right color for the Jack'O 'Lanterns that would be decorating the cake, together with the black cats and the haunted house as the centerpiece. The cake had been a lot of work, but it was worth it, because it started to look exactly as she wanted it to.
Abigail was so engrossed in her work, she did not hear the door open, nor the soft footsteps on the tile floor and when, all of a sudden, a soft voice called out her name, she dropped the orange colored fondant on the worktable and whirled around, while her heart was pounding in her chest.
"Abby," Julie Miller spoke, grabbing the pastry chef's arm and giving it a gentle squeeze. "Are you alright?"
"Julie," she breathed, gasping for air. "You just scared the life out of me. I didn't hear you come in."
"I'm sorry," the blonde replied, rubbing Abigail's shoulder in a silent gesture of comfort and support. "I didn't mean to do that."
"It's alright. Must be the Halloween jitters, huh?" Abigail smiled, casting a curious look at the woman in front of her. "What are you doing here so early?"
"I couldn't sleep and thought I'd come in and see if I can give you a hand with anything. I knew you'd be here, Miss Insomnia."
"Hey, watch whom you're calling 'Insomnia', Miss Early Bird," Abigail laughed, shaking an orange finger at her. "But, to be honest, I'm glad you did. I could use some extra help. This is the second last cake I need to do and I'm telling you, Jules, getting it done in time will be a challenge."
"You can do it," the blonde said with confidence. "What do you want me to do?"
"Make me some coffee?" Abigail asked, blinking innocently and looking at Julie with something that closely resembled a pout.
"Already brewing," Julie answered with a chuckle, aware of Abigail's need for caffeine in the morning. "I'm surprised I don't see a Starbucks cup," she continued, letting her eyes roam over the worktable and counter tops.
"I dumped it in the trash two minutes before you came in," Abigail whispered, making Julie laugh. Her hazel eyes were sparkling and a familiar warmth settled in the pit of Julie's stomach. It was a feeling she had been aware of more and more over the last few months and even though it was exciting, it was also highly disturbing.
Julie's thoughts returned to the hours and hours she had spent on - line, talking to Knight1031. After their first e - mail sessions they had quickly progressed to using Yahoo instant messaging, which was more efficient and a lot quicker. They had 'talked' about almost everything, but, by unspoken consent, they had never brought up work, where 'Joan' had first laid eyes on Julie or where she had found her e - mail address. Deep down inside Julie still wanted to know the answers to those questions, but she also realized that knowledge could easily break the spell of mystery and intrigue. And she was not ready to do that; not yet. First she had a Halloween party to go to.
Julie became aware of a hand that was waving in front of her eyes and, with a little difficulty, she redirected her thoughts and focused on the woman in front of her, who looked at her with concerned eyes.
"Are you alright?" Abigail asked.
"I'm fine," Julie smiled, mentally slapping herself for getting distracted like that. "I guess I need some coffee as well. I'll go get us a cup."
"I've got a better plan," Abigail decided, walking to the sink to wash her hands. "Have you had breakfast yet?"
"Umm, no," Julie answered truthfully. She sometimes skipped her breakfast and, on numerous occasions, Abigail had explained to her how important it was to eat something before going to work. "I was...I brought some instant oatmeal and..."
"Oatmeal?" Abigail replied with a chuckle. "How about I whip us up something a little heartier than that. It's gonna be a long day, Jules. How about some eggs?"
Before Julie could answer, her stomach betrayed her by rumbling and, with an embarrassed grin, she looked at the pastry chef.
"You're the cake wizard. Are you sure you know how to crack an egg?" she teased.
Abigail did not answer, but, while shaking her head, she gently pushed Julie aside and walked over to one of the huge refrigerators.
"This is one of the many perks for working in a Catering business," she spoke, casting a look over her shoulder. "There's always fresh food in the fridge. So, Miss Jules, what would you like?"
"What are my choices?" Julie smiled, stepping closer and trying to peek over Abigail's shoulder.
"Your choices, my dear, are limitless. There is cheese, meat, veggies, cream, fruit..."
"I got it, I got it," Julie laughed. "How about some veggies?"
"Sounds good to me," Abigail nodded, reaching inside the refrigerator to collect the items she would need, piling them high on her arms. When she turned around, she bumped into Julie, who quickly saved the eggs by grabbing Abigail's arms, preventing the eggs from sliding off the pile onto the floor.
"Don't move," she mumbled, pushing the carton back with her upper arm, so she would be able to grab the eggs with her other hand.
"I'm not going anywhere," Abigail said in a serious voice, but, when Julie looked up, she noticed the sparkle in the other woman's eyes.
"You're having way too much fun with this," the blonde accused. "Who do you think you are? Rachael Ray?"
"She doesn't bake," Abigail immediately quipped.
"But she's better at juggling stacks of ingredients," Julie replied with a laugh. "You're something else, Abigail Burroughs."
"I am?" was the innocent question.
All of a sudden, Julie became aware of their close proximity and immediately her heart rate increased by leaps and bounds. If it had not been for the stack of ingredients Abigail was holding, she would have been in the circle of the other woman's arms. When the blonde looked up, she noticed the hazel eyes had turned a shade darker while they looked at her with a mixture of embarrassment, affection and amusement. The warmth they radiated pinned her in place and it was impossible for Julie to move. The world around her disappeared, until there was nothing left but the pull of the eyes that had her transfixed. Conflicting emotions and thoughts ran through her system with the speed of light, with one questions that constantly repeated itself and became louder with every heartbeat: What about 'Joan'?
Very slowly, realization set in and Julie remembered Abigail had asked her a question.
"Yes, you are," she whispered, fighting the urge to reach out and touch the other woman's lips, to find out if they were really as soft as they seemed. "You are really something else."
"Good or bad?" Abigail asked in a serious voice.
"Good," Julie immediately answered softly. "Very good."
"I'm glad to hear that," Abigail confessed, not aware of the cold items that were pressing against her chest. The look in Julie's green eyes warmed her through and through and the only thing that prevented her from pulling the other woman into her arms were the groceries she was holding. But Julie's next move was as surprising as it was exhilarating. Without speaking a word, the blonde pulled the cold items out of Abigail's arms and set them on the kitchen counter. When she turned back to face the pastry chef, there was a look of quiet determination in her eyes.
"Abby?" she spoke in a slightly husky voice.
"Yes, Julie?" Abigail responded, trembling inside when a pair of hands slid up her arms, penetrating the fabric of her sleeves and leaving a warm trail in their wake.
"If you stay right where you are and don't move, I'm going to kiss you. So, if you don't want that to happen, I...," Julie's words were cut short by a pair of lips that were indeed as soft as they seemed. For a split second, the blonde was thrown back in time to that one moment, a year ago, when the nameless Knight at the Halloween party had briefly kissed her. But when Abigail pulled her into her arms and deepened the kiss, all memories fled her conscious thoughts. Letting out a soft moan, Julie slid her arms around Abigail's neck and surrendered to the tidal wave of emotions that threatened to sweep her off her feet. But Abigail's arms held her in a strong grip, centering her into their own, private universe, while warm, moist lips slid across her mouth and the tip of a tongue gently requested entrance.
"Oh, God," Julie moaned, feeling her knees buckle when a sensual wave crashed over her, almost making her entire body go limp. In the back of her mind, a little voice was screaming at her to take it slowly, to step back and think about what she was doing. It brought the blonde slowly, but surely, back out of her sensual haze. But when the little voice brought up Knight1031, Julie jerked, reluctantly pulled away from Abigail's lips and taking in a deep breath.
"Julie," Abigail whispered, burying her face against Julie's neck and softly kissing the warm skin. "Julie, please, don't say you regret this."
"I don't," Julie answered, closing her eyes and swallowing hard when a pair of persistent lips nibbled the skin of her throat. "I don't regret it..."
"But?" Abigail asked, slowly pulling away, still holding the blonde in the circle of her arms.
Reaching out, Julie cupped Abigail's cheeks and pressed a soft kiss on her lips, while her fingers caressed flushed skin.
"I'm confused," Julie admitted, her eyes warm when they held the pastry chef's. "This was very unexpected."
"It was," Abigail nodded. "But it was something I've been wanting to do for a long time now."
"You have?" Julie's voice rose an octave and she leaned back to be able to get a better look at Abigail's face. "How long?"
Julie suppressed a smile when she noticed the blush on the other woman's face and she gave the arms that were still holding her an encouraging squeeze.
"Pretty long," Abigail confessed reluctantly, seemingly searching for the right words. "Basically, ever since I met you."
"Really?" Julie responded in surprise.
"Really," Abigail nodded with a smile. "And I'm sorry you're confused."
"That's alright," Julie sighed, wondering how in the world she would tell her on - line friend what she just had done. It was not like they had committed to each other, but still, there had been a growing intimacy between them and it hurt Julie to end that. Because she would not deceive Knight1031, or 'Joan' as she wanted to be called on - line. Julie wanted to be honest with her friend, because anything else would feel like cheating. She also wanted to be honest with Abigail, because, whatever was growing between the two of them, she did not want to jeopardize that. Kissing the pastry chef had suddenly opened her eyes to the possibility that there was a mutual attraction between them.
"Julie, are you sure you're fine? Maybe we...," Abigail started, but she paused when an index finger was gently pressed against her lips.
"It's okay, it really is," Julie spoke. "It's...it's something I'll have to take care of, but it has nothing to do with...with us."
Abigail's eyes were serious when she looked at the blonde and again she tried to speak, but Julie silenced her with a kiss.
"Today will be crazy, Abby," Julie continued. "I know we've got to talk, but it will have to be later, if that's okay with you."
Abigail cast a look at the work table and sighed. Julie was right, she knew. It would be an incredibly busy and long day. Whenever they would have time to sit down and talk, she wanted to be able to focus all her time and energy on Julie and she did not want to be interrupted by anything.
"I guess you're right," Abigail sighed. "But...I'm afraid there'll be no time to talk before the party and..."
"Then we'll talk after," Julie nodded, tucking a strand of hair behind Abigail's ear. "But talk we will."
"Alright," Abigail nodded with a smile. "I guess it's back to business now, huh?"
"I'm afraid so," Julie agreed. "After this...," she whispered, leaning forward and capturing Abigail's lips in a soft, slow kiss.
Julie and Abigail did not get a chance to talk at all during the day. The pastry Chef was completely engrossed in finalizing two special order Halloween cakes, while Julie was busy with coordinating the many deliveries that had to be made. Thanks to the fact it was Tuesday, most Halloween parties would not start until late afternoon or early evening, giving the staff of Food 'n Such a little bit more time. But not much. In the end, Julie herself had to leave the office and use her own car to deliver orders, neatly packed in huge, white coolers that hardly fit on the backseat of her car.
"My goodness, what a day," she mumbled when she got back into her car after delivering the last order. "Crap, it's almost five - thirty already. I'll never have enough time to shower, get changed and see if Joan's on - line. I guess she'll have to wait till after the party. This sucks," she ended her monologue with a sigh.
All day long, Julie had been assaulted by conflicting emotions. The thought of Abigail evoked a mixture of warmth and giddiness. But at the same time, a sense of sadness dampened her mood every time Joan or Knight 1031 crossed her mind and as soon as she entered her apartment, she logged on to the internet. To her disappointment, there was no sign of Joan, so Julie decided to take a quick shower and get ready for the party, before checking again.
Just like the previous years, Julie dressed like a Medieval Lady in a long blue and silver colored dress. She hurriedly applied a touch of make - up, knowing she was already running a little late.
"It's ridiculous, really," she mumbled, while switching off the bathroom light. "We work full - steam all day and then we're expected to attend the party in the evening. I'm too tired to have fun."
Oh, come on, Julie, a little voice in the back of her head said. You just want Abigail all for yourself, so you can talk and snuggle and kiss and...
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I heard you," Julie sighed, shaking her head. "And you're right. I just want to relax and be with her."
Checking her computer, Julie typed in a quick message for Joan and logged off the internet. She really had to go.
When she entered Frederick Burroughs' front door, Julie noticed the party already was in full swing. It was a company tradition to have Holiday parties at the Burroughs' Residence and Julie usually loved to attend, appreciating the time and effort the Burroughs' family put into organizing the get - together for their staff, family and friends.
Looking around, Julie immediately tried to find Abigail, which was impossible in what seemed like a sea of people. She had to walk around and mingle to find the pastry chef. Ten minutes later, Julie had only been able to scout a small portion of the room, because everybody seemed to want to talk to her.
"You look absolutely stunning, dear," a warm voice said and Julie quickly looked up.
"Mister Burroughs?" she asked hesitantly.
"The one and only," he laughed. "What do you think, do I make a convincing pirate?"
"You sure do," Julie smiled. "The only thing missing is a talking parrot."
"I did have a rubber one," Frederick Burroughs confessed. "But it kept slipping off my shoulder, so I left it with the punch."
"It probably won't stay there," Julie chuckled, knowing from experience that left behind accessories usually ended up in the weirdest places.
"I know. I'm looking forward to see what will happen with it. By the way, have you seen my granddaughter?"
That question made Julie's heart skip a beat and she shook her head.
"No, sir, I haven't. But I'll keep an eye out for her."
"Good, good," Frederick Burroughs nodded. "I haven't seen her yet. I only know she's supposed to look like a Knight or something. Well, I'll see you later, dear. Have fun."
"Thank you, Mister Burroughs," Julie managed to answer, swallowing hard to get rid of the dryness in her mouth.
A Knight? She's looking like a Knight? Julie! How blind have you been?
Julie walked away from the crowd, heading toward a side door that led to the back yard. It was cold outside, but she needed some fresh air, so she could think.
"It was her all the time," she whispered to herself, feeling the cold wind envelope her like a chilled blanket. "It must have been. Why did she do that? Why didn't she just come up to me and, I don't know, ask me out or something? How long has this been going on? Has she been stalking me?"
"No, I'd never do that," a soft voice suddenly sounded behind her and immediately Julie whirled around, standing face - to - face with a stunning Knight. Abigail looked like she had stepped out of a meeting with King Arthur and his Knights. Even the sword that was strapped to her left side looked real. She had flipped open the visor, so Julie could see her face, but as soon as she noticed the other woman's distress, she took the helmet off completely.
"Abby, I need to know. Are you Knight 1031, also known as 'Joan'?"
The pastry chef took a deep breath, looked Julie straight into her eyes and nodded.
"Yes, that's me. I wanted to tell you this morning, but...I didn't have the time and..."
"Why, Abby? Why did you keep it a secret?"
Abigail sighed and raked her fingers through her dark hair. Her hazel eyes looked troubled when they locked with Julie's blue ones.
"I wanted you to get to know me, outside of work. I was afraid that, since I'm the Boss' Granddaughter, you'd keep your distance and I didn't want that. I wanted a fair chance. Besides, I thought that, if you'd remember me from that one time we'd met before, you'd think I was...strange, or something."
The insecurity on Abigail's face was clearly visible and Julie could not help herself, she had to reach out a hand and touch the pastry chef's cheek, gently caressing the cool skin with the tips of her fingers.
"Honey, you sure think a lot," she softly scoffed.
"I know, I'm sorry," Abigail mumbled. "I didn't mean...I really wanted you to know, but somehow it seemed easier to wait until Halloween."
"How did you get my e - mail address?" Julie wondered.
"It's in your file, at work," Abigail answered.
"Duh," Julie replied, mentally slapping herself. "So, have you really liked me from the first time you saw me?"
"Absolutely," Abigail answered with a smile that lit up her entire face. She grabbed Julie's hand and brought it to her lips, gently kissing its palm. "I fell for you immediately. And I've craved this ever since," she ended in a whisper, leaning in so she could capture Julie's lips.
The blonde let out a soft moan and slid her arms around Abigail's neck, pressing herself closer. They kissed slowly, taking their time in exploring each other thoroughly. In spite if the cold wind, their skin quickly heated and, when Julie finally pulled back to catch some much needed breath, her skin was flushed and her body was tingling.
"I'm not done yet," Abigail said in a low growl that made Julie's spine tingle. The dark haired woman pulled the blonde closer and immediately found her lips again. This time the contact was more passionate, quickly growing in intensity and when the pastry chef ran the tip of her tongue across the blonde's soft lips, she was immediately allowed entrance.
A low moan escaped from the back of Abigail's throat and for a brief moment she was afraid her legs would give out and they would both end up on the cold, damp grass. Only when they finally had to come up for air, the intensity of the kiss eased off, although their lips were still touching.
"You make me feel things I haven't felt like in...like ever," Julie managed to say when a few deep breaths had restored the oxygen level in her blood.
"I've never felt like this before either," Abigail whispered, letting her lips explore the soft skin behind Julie's ear. "But somehow I knew it would be like this. From the first time I saw you."
"So, it was you last year," the blonde moaned, running her fingers through Abigail's hair and wishing the pastry chef was wearing an outfit that would be more accessible.
"Last year? When?" Abigail mumbled, moaning when Julie's lips found a sensitive spot in the hollow of her throat.
"Last year's Halloween," Julie explained in between soft kisses.
"I wasn't here then," Abigail answered, pulling back a little so she could look at the other woman. "What happened?"
"You mean, it wasn't you?" Julie asked in confusion.
"I don't know what you're talking about, sweetie. I wasn't here."
"Oh, boy," Julie mumbled, pressing her forehead against Abigail's chest, immediately feeling herself being enveloped by a pair of warm arms, which made her smile in response.
"Alright, I need to tell you this," the blonde started after a moment of silence. "The last few years, there has been this...Knight, here, at your Granddad's Halloween party. I never saw a face, but somehow I knew it was a woman. We sometimes danced, but she never spoke much. She was always very....chivalrous though, and every year, it was as if she was only here to see me. Last year, just before I left to go home, she kissed me and..."
"She did?" Abigail asked with raised eyebrows. "Was it like...?"
"It was just one kiss, a modest one," Julie explained, smiling at the memory. "But, to make a long story short, when you popped up on my laptop screen, calling yourself Knight 1031, I thought...I..."
"You thought the mysterious Knight was me," Abigail nodded in understanding. "I'm sorry, Julie. I wish it would have been me though, but like I said, I wasn't here. This is the first Holiday season I've been home for years."
"How many years?"
"Remember when we first met, when I was all dressed in black? Six months after we met, I left for the Culinary Institute and, all those years after, I was doing apprenticeships."
Julie frowned, trying to make sense of all the thoughts that were tumbling through her head.
"Then, where does the Knight - theme come from?" she asked curiously.
Abigail smiled and gave the blonde a quick kiss on the nose, before answering her question.
"My ancestors are from Scotland and even though they've been in this country for generations, some stories have survived. One time, my Great - aunt told me a story about one of our ancestors, Isabel McDunney, who had fallen in love with one of her father's Knights, Berthold Burroughs. Unfortunately, Berthold had to leave on a crusade and they knew they would not see each other for a very long time. To keep him safe and to make sure he'd return, Isabel wrote down both their names on a piece of bark from a willow tree, tied two ribbons around it and, after saying a prayer, buried it underneath the tree. It's said angels looked after both of them and Berthold Burroughs made it back home. They married and lived a long and happy life."
"That's a beautiful story," Julie smiled, when Abigail paused. "But how...?"
"After I saw you for the first time, I fell for you, hard," Abigail interrupted, pressing her finger against Julie's lips. "I'd already decided I wanted to become a pastry chef and work in my Grandfather's business. But I also knew I would not see you for a long time. We didn't even know each other and for all I knew, you'd meet somebody else and I wouldn't have a chance. So, before I left, I wrote our names on the inside of a piece of willow bark, tied two ribbons around it, said a prayer and buried it underneath the tree. The one right over there," Abigail said, pointing at a lone tree near the huge pond in the front of the house.
"You did?" Julie responded in wonder, blinking against the unexpected tears in her eyes. "What did you pray for?"
"For someone to keep you safe and to keep you for me," Abigail confessed in a hoarse voice. "I guess someone listened."
"I guess they did," Julie nodded with a smile, burying her face against Abigail's chest, sighing in happiness. "Is there anything we need to do to express our gratitude?"
"My great aunt never told me," Abigail chuckled. "But I'm sure we can come up with something."
"How about a kiss underneath the willow tree?"
Abigail looked into Julie's eyes and saw how serious the other woman was. She smiled and nodded, it sounded appropriate.
"Let's do that," she answered, grabbing Julie's hand and leading her towards the old willow tree. As soon as they were standing underneath the leaf - less branches, Abigail pulled Julie into her arms and kissed her thoroughly, aware of the tingling feeling that quickly spread through her entire body. Without talking about it, they both knew the kiss underneath the tree symbolized the end of a blessing and the beginning of a new one.
"That was nice," Julie whispered, wishing she could stay in Abigail's arms forever.
"It was," Abigail agreed, stroking Julie's cheek with the back of her hand. "I need to dig into our family records and find out more about Isabel and Berthold."
"I think that's a great idea," Julie smiled, pressing her lips against Abigail's for a short, sweet kiss.
"But first, we need to go back inside, you're freezing," the pastry chef remarked with a concerned voice. "I don't want you to be sick."
Hand - in - hand, they walked back toward the house where the Halloween party was in full swing. Julie felt like she was walking on clouds. Her hand was securely wrapped around Abigail's, her heart was singing with joy and her lips were still tingling from the last kiss they shared, underneath the tree.
"I'll always have a special place in my heart for that willow," Abigail sighed, putting her hand on the doorknob to open the door.
"I will, too," Julie replied, lovingly squeezing the hand she was holding.
In unison, they turned around to cast a last look at the lone tree, its branches outlined against the evening sky. They both sucked in a breath when they noticed the tall figure of a Knight underneath the tree. For a long moment he seemed to be looking straight at them, before he raised his sword in a silent salute. Then, the image slowly disappeared into the darkness.
"Julie?" Abigail whispered.
"I saw it, too," the blonde whispered back. She turned and looked at the woman who was standing next to her, with an arm wrapped around her waist. "I think your ancestor just gave us his blessing."
"And I think I know who kissed you last year," Abigail smiled.
"Isabel," they spoke simultaneously.
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