Rekindling An Old Flame

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I woke up recently with this story in my head. Apologies for the length of it. Unlike my other fiction it contains no supernatural elements to it, though it is set in my urban fantasy world, so maybe the characters here have managed to miss all the strange stuff. I guess my attempt at a lesbian romance story, though I imagine the subject material is a familiar trope in this type of fiction…

Rekindling An Old Flame

I got out of my car and surveyed the land before me. It was all overgrown with weeds and the remainder of crops that long since gone to seed. The land was going to need a lot of clearing. Even the old homestead was dilapidated and the barn was practically in ruins. There was a lot of work that had to be done, and it looked like I was going to be the one that would have to do it. I can’t believe my parents had let my grandparents farm get this way.

The city had broken me. After my parents had been killed in a freak car accident I decided to return to my old hometown and reestablish my roots here. In the Will my parents had left both their house in town and my grandparents farm to be administered by both my brother and myself, which frankly had quite surprised me. I was surprised I was in their Will at all. I thought they had disowned me due to my “lifestyle choices”. Both my brother and me decided to split them: I would get the farm and he would get the house in town, not that he lived around here anymore. He thought he got the better deal, but it was the farm I really wanted, even though it would need a lot of work. I thought he would get everything. He was their golden boy after all. He had left town and become a successful lawyer in the city, married a pretty girl, and did all the right things according to their values, while I was the screw up who failed at everything I tried. I went to college, and I became a teacher after that, and then tried being a writer and failed spectacularly at both these things. Everything I tried, all it did was confirm in my parent’s eyes that I was an absolute failure. Yes amazing lawyer Stephen and his screw-up sister Cindy; what a couple of siblings we were.

As I looked at the overgrown farm before me, a car coming down the road started to slow down. It was old lime-green station wagon that I recognised belonged to old Mrs Philips. She stuck her head out the car window. It had been a while since I had seen her and saw that she now had short grey hair.

“Is that you Cindy?” she asked in surprise. I smiled and nodded my head.

“Yes it is.” I confirmed walking over to her car with my arms wrapped around my body.

“Well how are you? You’re looking good. Are you back here now?” she asked in an excited tone of voice.

“Yes I’m looking at fixing up the old farm.” I told her. She shook her head.

“It’s about time! It’s a shame the state it’s got into.”

“Yes. It will need a lot of work.” I agreed.

“I was surprised I didn’t see you at the funeral.” she said  as she blatantly looked at me for an explanation of why I wasn’t there.

“Yeh I wasn’t able to get there. But Steve was there and told me all about it.” I said to her. She nodded, though was looking at me like she couldn’t understand why I couldn’t make it to my own parent’s funeral.

“Yes it was good to see him and his wife Jennifer. Did you ever get married?” she asked. I smiled again and shook my head.

“No I could never find the right person.” I replied with my stock answer to that particular question.

“Not the marrying type I guess.” she responded rather accurately while looking at me up and down.

“I guess.”

“Have you seen Jess? You two were as thick as thieves when you were younger.”

“Not yet.” I responded.

“Well I guess I’ll be seeing ya! Take care Cindy!” she said.

“You too Mrs Philips!” I called back to her as her station wagon drove off.

I sighed. What would I do about Jess? We grew up together and she was the first girl I ever kissed. She was in fact my first girlfriend. I wanted to see her again, but was also really terrified. We had big plans when we were together, but then I went off to College in Lawrence, and she stayed behind and worked on her parent’s farm. Gradually over the years we lost touch, and I truly regretted that. I didn’t know whether she was still dating other girls, or if she was in a serious relationship. I really had no idea. I dated a few other women in Lawrence, mostly a succession of blonds like Jess. I guess I was still trying to date her through other people who looked similar, or so my therapist had suggested.

I grabbed what gardening equipment I had brought with me, tied up my long brown hair, and started hacking away at things on the farm. Over the next couple of weeks I spent most of each day clearing away the overgrown weeds. They were pretty exhausting days. Each night I went back to town to the family house feeling completely done. Steve had said it would be okay to use the family house while I was fixing things at the farm. It also meant he didn’t have to worry about the house being vacant, so it suited him as well. Every morning when I went back to the farm it seemed to look no different. I had spent hours trying to clear the land, and it seemed to be having little effect. I wondered if I had made the right decision to come back here. Maybe I should have stayed in the city.

One night I was relaxing after a particularly long day in the fields when there was a knock at the door. I answered it and my mouth dropped open, for there was Jess standing there. I hadn’t seen her in almost fifteen years and she looked no different. Her hair was still long and blond, she was wearing jeans, and wore a plaid shirt over a white tank top. Her hands were behind her back as if she was hiding something.

“Well golly if it isn’t Miss Cynthia Steadman.” She said in a voice straight out of Gone With The Wind. I laughed.

“Jess!” I exclaimed.

“I brought you a little welcome home gift.” she said as she produced a bottle of Jack Daniels from behind her back. I laughed again. Jack Daniels was the first thing we had ever got drunk on. Jess had stolen it from her father’s stash and we got drunk and ended up making out in the living room just as Jess’s mother walked through the front door and saw everything. Luckily her parents were more open minded than mine were. They tolerated us being together, though her father didn’t like Jess stealing his whiskey.

“Well come on in!” I said fully opening the door. She walked in sizing me up and then I followed her into the living room. She sat down and produced some cigarettes. Even though I no longer smoked I took one and sat down beside her. She produced a lighter and lit both cigarettes. I sat back in the couch and breathed out the smoke.

“You’re looking very tired, but wonderfully tanned.” She said as she got up and went into the kitchen. She came back with two glasses and began pouring whiskey into them.

“I’ve been having some very long days at the farm.” I told her as she handed me a glass.

“Well cheers!” she said as we clinked our glasses together and both knocked them back in one gulp. She poured some more into our glasses.

“It’s good to see you again.” I said to her. She looked at me quizzically with raised eyebrows.

“Well here’s the thing. A few weeks ago I heard you were back in town, and I half expected to hear you knocking on my door. But nothing happened. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.” She said to me as she took a drag on her cigarette.

“I’m sorry.” I said. “I wanted to, but I was scared.”

“Scared? Of what?” she asked.

“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to see me.” I answered. She looked at me very seriously and nodded.

“Of course I wanted to see you. I’ve wanted to see you for fifteen fucking years! I even went to your parent’s funeral hoping you would be there, but you weren’t.” She said in an aggrieved tone.

“They cut me out of their life. I didn’t feel like they would have wanted me there.” I explained to her.

“Did you know in the last few years both your parents started talking to me again?”

“Really?” I asked. I hadn’t expected that.

“Yeh they always wanted to know if I had heard from you. I guess we all felt rather cut off from you. We should have formed a club.” She told me. “Maybe they realised I could have been their daughter in law.” I put my head into my hands when she said this. My feelings regarding my parents were still pretty raw.

“I didn’t know.” I explained.

“Yeh that’s pretty obvious.” she responded as she filled our glasses again. “Is there any music around here?” She began searching through various CD’s stashed around the room.

“I brought some music with me.” I said.

“Yeh I’m pretty sure it will all be dyke music huh? What have you got? Melissa Etheridge? K.D. Lang?”

“I’ve got some Indigo Girls.” I offered, and she looked at me with her head nodding as if I had just confirmed her suspicions.

“I thought as much. No I want some real music!” she said as she put a CD on and some music came blaring out of the speakers.

“What is that? Is that The Eagles?” I asked incredulously.

“Yup.” She confirmed as she sat back down on the couch and put her feet on the table while trying to blow smoke rings.

“So what have you been doing since I last saw you?”

“Still working on my parent’s farm. Though I help manage it now. Also trying to uphold my position as Town Dyke.” Jess replied.

“I guess I relinquished that title after I moved away.” I said. Jess laughed for the first time.

“Yes.” she said nodding. “So you got a girlfriend now?”

“No. Over the years I’ve dated a few, but I never really connected with anyone. Well not like I did with you.” I replied truthfully.

“I know how you feel.” she said blowing more smoke out of her mouth and looking away.

“So what do you do around here for fun?” I asked her.

“Not a lot. Mostly I go to the bar on the outskirts of town and drink beers and play pool. Some guys try to come onto me, but I make it pretty obvious I play for the other team. Everyone around here knows anyhow.”

“And you haven’t been lynched yet?” I asked her. Jess laughed again.

“This town may look much the same from when we were teenagers, but it has changed. People here are lot more open-minded than you would expect.” She told me. “What about you?”

“Well I pretty much failed at everything I put my hand to in the city, so I’ve moved back here.” I replied. “I’ve seen some pretty weird stuff there.”

“Yeh I went to the city once. I got off the bus and a guy with purple hair walked past me and then a lady who was dressed the same as her dog. That place was just too weird for me. I had to get right back on that bus!” She said. We both laughed. I lit another cigarette.

“It feels strange being back here.”

“How so?” Jess asked.

“It seems so quiet and empty with my parent’s gone. I don’t feel like I really know anyone here anymore.” I answered. Jess nodded her head in thought at my words, looking slightly hurt.

“You should come with me to the bar sometime. There’s several people there you would know. Everyone wonders what happened to you. When you didn’t come back for the funeral that caused a lot of talk.”

“Really?” I asked her. I didn’t think anyone ever talked about me. I was pretty much ignored by everyone when I lived here. People really only knew me because I was always with Jess. She was quite willful and had a lot of attitude. Due to this she was always quite popular at high school.

“Yes. So once you finish getting the farm ready, I guess you’ll be selling it?”

“No I’m planning to live there. I want to settle down here.” I told her. Jess looked really surprised.

“Really? Is Cindy coming down from Mount Olympus to live with us mere mortals?” She asked sarcastically. “You’re wanting to settle down here?!”

“I’m afraid so. I’m finished with the city.” I told her quite seriously. Jess took hold of my hand. Her’s felt so warm and familiar.

“It will be good to have you back for good.” she said to me, her blue eyes looking into mine. I nodded. She moved towards me and to my complete surprise we began hugging. The next moment we were suddenly kissing one another like we had never stopped. Jess tasted of whiskey and cigarettes, but I  probably tasted exactly the same.

“I’ve missed you.” I whispered to her. She looked at me with tears starting to fall.

“Why did you never come back? I waited for you.” Jess whispered back reproachfully.

“I’m sorry.” I said as I started to choke up with tears. “I thought you would come to the city with me. I always hoped you would turn up.” I held onto her starting to sob.

“My parents needed me here. I thought you would come back after college and we would live together. But you never did. You stopped answering my letters. I thought you were gone forever.” She was beginning to cry as well.

“I didn’t want to come back here because of my parents. I had to get away from them. I had to get away from this town.” I told her.

“You wanted to get away from this town? But I was here! Your parents really missed you too. You cut everyone off. And we were all left wondering why!” She said almost angrily while tears streaked down her face.

“I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to come back as a failure.” I admitted.

“It didn’t matter what you came back as. So long as you were here.” She answered back.

We sat there looking at each other. Both of us were in tears. In our silence all I could hear was “Peaceful Easy Feeling” playing on the stereo and Jess sniffing.

“I’m sorry. I know I did wrong. I know I’ve let you down. Can you ever forgive me?” I asked her desperately, fearing the response. She sat there as if she was deep in thought looking down at the floor.

“You’ll stay here from now on won’t you?” She asked me in a tearful voice as she looked up at me. Our eyes met again.  I nodded and we hugged again, this time more tightly  than before, as if we never wanted to ever let go again. We kissed each other, though this time it was with long deep kisses. Eventually we collapsed on the couch holding on to each other as we fell asleep.

The next morning I awoke  and we were still in each other’s arms. Jess was drooling onto a cushion in her sleep and I had a nasty hangover. I planned to spend another full day at the farm again today, but I didn’t think I could face it. I gently moved so I didn’t disturb her and slowly reclaimed my arms. I padded to the kitchen and began to heat up some water for coffee. The living room smelt of cigarette smoke and booze. I poured a coffee and opened the front door and looked down the quiet street. A moment later Jess appeared and, taking the coffee cup from out of my hands, went and sat down on one of the front steps and lit a cigarette.

“So you going to the farm today?” Jess asked.

“No. I don’t think I’m up to it at the moment.” I replied. She gave an understanding nod.

“I’ve been thinking. I looked at your farm a few weeks ago. It’s in a pretty terrible state of disrepair at the moment. It’s an impossible task for just one woman in my opinion. I’ve got some free time at the moment. I can help you get it ready. I mean you’re going to have to rebuild the barn, and the homestead will need some serious repairs, so you’re going to need at least one other person to help you.” She said looking up at me and smiling. I warmly smiled back at her and then went to grab another cup of coffee.

Coming back had turned out to be a good idea.

 

Joanne Fisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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