Jess got out of the tractor. Due to an excessive amount of rain the south field had turned into a swamp. Her tractor was mired, the tires caked with mud. She sighed. Already she had tried for several hours to get the tractor moving again, but to no avail. Cindy had gone to Faerie to meet the Elven Queen. She had been gone a couple of days now. Jess hated it when Cindy wasn’t here. The farm never felt right without her. Jess decided to walk back to the homestead and figure out what to do over some coffee.
Word count: 99
This was written with the prompt mud on the tires provided by the Carrot Ranch September 19 Story Challenge.
“Cindy got caught kissing another girl in school!” Stephen suddenly blurted out at the breakfast table. “It was Jess she was kissing.” Cindy’s father shot an angry look at her.
“Is this true?” Cindy’s mother asked. Cindy’s face had gone a bright red.
“Of course not!” Cindy lied. Her no good brother had tried to shame her.
“Homosexuals burn in Hell.” Her father stated. “No child of mine is going to choose to be gay.” Cindy ran from the table and hid in her bedroom. She knew her parents would never understand.
Word count: 99
This was written with the prompt shame provided by the Carrot Ranch August 22 Story Challenge.
This is yet another Young Jess and Cindy story that takes place before Cindy was thrown out of her home and went to live with her grandmother. This is the first time I’ve directly had her brother and her parents in a story, as before this they’ve only been mentioned.
It was a late summer evening. Jess and Cindy sat out on their porch watching the sunset while drinking beers. All their fields were full of tall cornstalks. It had been a cruel summer, but thankfully their crops had survived the heat.
“It’s still over a month until the harvest.” Jess stated.
“I know, but we should do well this year. It looks to be a good crop, despite everything.” Cindy replied.
“Don’t bank on it until we are finally harvesting it. Though the money will be welcome. Our finances are getting rather low now.”
“Shame none of your side projects have yielded much so far.”
“I still think we should give alpacas a go.” Jess suggested. Cindy screwed up her nose.
‘We grow corn. What do we know about raising alpacas? Raising animals can bring a whole host of problems we know nothing about.”
“I still think we should give it a go. We’ve got that small field we don’t use for anything. We could fence it off and try raising a small number of them and see how that goes. At least we’ll just be farming them for their fleece and not killing them for meat or anything.” Jess answered. Cindy shrugged her shoulders. “You’ve been quiet that last few days. Is there something troubling you?”
“I’m thinking about going to Faerie and seeing the Queen.” Cindy admitted. Jess raised her eyebrows.
“Babradon told me if I wanted to get pregnant again I should see the Queen.”
“Okay.” Jess replied not understanding.
“She’ll help with ensuring the baby is carried to term.” Cindy explained. Jess began gently rubbing Cindy’s back.
“Are you sure you’re ready for that? The miscarriage devastated you. I don’t want to see you go through that again.” Jess told her.
“Well apparently the Queen can help with that. Babradon told me she helped my grandmother do the same. It’s due to my family having some fay blood, which is why I can walk through portals and see fay folk when others can’t.” Cindy told her. Jess slowly nodded her head.
“Maybe I should go with you.” Jess offered. Cindy smiled.
“Thanks. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m not sure if you’d be welcome. As far as we know your bloodline is totally mortal. I should only be away a couple of days.”
“Gee thanks. A couple of days our time, or theirs? A couple of days in Faerie could end up being far longer here.” Jess warned.
“I know. I’ll try to be as quick as I can.” Jess sighed deeply.
“Okay if you really want to do this, but what about the impregnation part? Unless the Queen is going to take care of that as well, IVF is really expensive.” Jess asked. Cindy laughed briefly.
“I guess we could try the turkey baster method, but we don’t need to worry about any of that until I get back.” Cindy replied.
“Artificial insemination? Just like they do with cows?” Cindy hit Jess in the face with a cushion.
“Thanks for comparing me to a cow!” They both laughed and stared out into the darkening sky.
“When do you think you’ll go?” Jess asked.
“Not sure yet. maybe I might wait until after the harvest.” Cindy answered.
“Whenever you decide to go it’ll be okay.” Jess told her. Cindy nodded. They both sat there and watched the stars slowly fill the sky.
Cindy was walking back from the mailbox. The only piece of mail she had received today was a letter from Melissa apologising for past events. Cindy followed the path until she came to some old steps. She remembered Grandma saying that beyond the steps was a gateway to Faerie. Cindy had always thought Grandma was slightly crazy, but now she wasn’t so sure…
She went up them and saw a haze in the air. Walking through it, she came to a place she had never seen before. Everything there seemed more green and vibrant.
“You look like Rose, but you’re not her.” said a voice.
Cindy looked down to see a small squat figure with a long white beard smoking a pipe.
“Rose was my grandma. She died a while ago now.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that. I really enjoyed talking with her.” He said.
“Hi, I’m Cindy.”
“Hello, my name in Babradon.” He said standing up and bowing. He was half Cindy’s height.
Just wait till Jess sees this, Cindy thought. She looked down at the small figure of Babradon.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but what are you?” She asked him. He looked at her surprised.
“I keep forgetting in your world humans are mostly the only sentient race there. You’re probably not used to seeing other races like me. I’m what you would call a gnome.” He informed her.
” I see. What do you mean we’re mostly the only sentient race?” Cindy asked curiously.
“It’s not important. There are others like us still living in the fringes of your world, if you know where to look. And being near a gateway means you get a few peoples going back and forth.”
“So what other races live here in Faerie?”
“Well aside from gnomes, there are also elves, dwarves, trolls, goblins, pixies, boggarts, to name a few.” Babradon said.
“There are all manner of strange creatures here, possibly countless numbers of them.” He revealed. Cindy gazed in wonder at the vibrant green landscape before her.
“How far does it go on?” She asked.
“Probably forever.” He told her. “This is your first time here isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Cindy admitted.
“There are some basic rules to Faerie you will need to know. Firstly don’t be so trusting with anyone you meet here and don’t accept everything you see at face value. Always look deeper. And be careful who you give your name out to. Give everyone your nickname or something similar.”
“Why?” Cindy asked him.
“Because if you give out your true name to someone, you give them power over you.”
“Okay.” Cindy replied. “What do you mean by true name?”
“What’s the name you give yourself?” He asked.
“Me.” Cindy replied. Babradon looked away for a moment.
“I mean what name do you think defines you? What name do you think is you?” He asked carefully.
“Well everyone calls me Cindy, and that’s the name I think of myself as.” She answered.
“Then don’t give that name to people here. Are there any other names people call you?”
“I was christened Cynthia, and a lot of people call me Cinders, and when I was at school some people used to call me Cinderella, but that was to annoy me.”
“Maybe use the name Cinders?” Babradon suggested.
“Okay.” Cindy replied. “So I guess Babradon isn’t your true name then?”
“No it’s my use name. My true name I keep to myself.” Babradon revealed.
“So do you live out here?” Cindy asked.
“I have a small house nearby. I help keep an eye on the gateway you came through.”
“It’s so lovely here.” Cindy said as she sat down on the ground with the sun on her.
“You’re very much like your grandmother. Did you know that?” Babradon told her. Cindy gave out a short laugh.
“Yeah some people have said that to me before. I think we have a similar temperament.”
“I’m sorry to hear she has died. I’ll miss her.”
“I miss her too. Me and Jess now have her farm.” Cindy revealed.
“Who is Jess? Tell me more Cindy” He asked.
“My girlfriend.” Cindy answered. “Does it bother you I’m in a same-sex relationship?”
“Following your heart and being with your True Love is what’s important, no matter who they are.” Babradon responded.
“We had to clear all the farmland as everything had become overgrown, and we also had to fix the farmstead, but now we are living there together and I’m very happy.” Cindy told him.
“That’s good to hear.”
“I’ve recently found out that Jess slept with a mutual friend when I was still living in the city. We weren’t together again at that point, but for some reason it’s made me feel very jealous. I just want Jess all to myself and I get very possessive over her, which I know isn’t a good thing. I worry she might have feelings for our friend.” Cindy told him.
“I’m not an expert when it comes to love, but if you fixed the farm together and now live there with each other, surely you’re the one she wants to be with.” Babradon advised her. Cindy sighed loudly.
“I know. It’s not like we both didn’t have affairs when we were apart, but for some reason I feel really threatened by this other person. I was really horrid to her at a friend’s funeral recently.”
“Jealousy is not an attractive trait in anyone. If you continue to be jealous your partner may always feel under pressure when socialising with others and that may end up pushing her away. Always remember if she is with you, she wants to be there. Trust in that.”
“Thanks for the advice.” Cindy replied. “Sorry about unloading my problems on you. I’m not sure why I told you all this.” Babradon shrugged his shoulders.
“When you’re the Warden of a gateway, people tell you all sorts of things.” he said.
Cindy looked at the path that led away and went beyond the trees.
“So where does that path go?” She asked.
“It goes on through the forest and eventually leads to towns and great cities. Just beyond those trees there I think there is a marketplace at the moment. That could be well worth a look, though I would advise you to be careful with everything you say or do there .” Babradon informed her.
“Ooh a marketplace! I would love to check that out! Maybe I’ll have a quick look at it.” Cindy enthused.
“Yes you’ll find it rather eye-opening I’m sure. Just be careful there! Faerie can be quite perilous. And remember what I told you about names.” Babradon warned.
“I will.” Cindy told him.
Cindy stood up and wandered down the path. As she looked behind her she saw Babradon had sat down again and was relighting his pipe. She turned around again and faced the trees. She took a deep breath and walked into the forest.
Cindy didn’t want to admit it, but she was lost. She had followed the path as Babradon had suggested, but then she had seen some beautiful flowers and left the path to have a closer look at them. When she went back, the pathway seemed to have disappeared. She walked for ages, but there was no sign of it.
“You’re lost!” said a voice. Cindy beheld a small figure sitting on a branch.
“I am.” She admitted. “I’ve lost the pathway.”
“Well you’re going the wrong way! For a small fee, I’ll take you back to it.” they volunteered.
“I’m not sure I have anything.” Cindy said searching her pockets. All she had was a letter from Melissa, and a quarter. She handed the coin to the figure.
“Ooh I’ve never seen one of these before! Okay follow me!” the figure sped off in a completely different direction. Cindy followed.
Cindy wasn’t sure where the pixie was leading her. If only she hadn’t walked off the path…
“Just pretend you’re an intrepid explorer,” she told herself.
“We’re here!” the pixie exclaimed.
Before Cindy was a marketplace with strange creatures looking at tables of wondrous items. She had never seen anything like this before.
On the path to the Faerie Market, Cindy came across a small stone well with a stone serpent running along the lip. The pixie alighted on her shoulder.
“It’s a true wishing well.” the pixie told her.
“What does it do?” Cindy asked.
“You cast something personal into the water and make a wish.” the pixie replied.
“Cast something valuable in, you mean?”
“Maybe, or something deeply personal, or even a stone you’ve been carrying in your hand as you walked through the forest.” Cindy smiled at his words.
“Does it work?”
“Verily it does. You wish for something, but here’s the catch: you can never tell anyone what you wished for, even if it comes to pass, or the wish will become undone.” the pixie warned.
Cindy stood there wishing for something deep in the confines of her heart. Then she cast the stone into the water.
Cindy then walked towards the Faerie Market. There were all manner of different creatures wandering around the market place or minding the stalls. She could see elves, dwarves, gnomes, a tree-ish woman Cindy presumed to be a dryad, and many others that she had no name for, while above fairies and pixies flittered around them all.
The market stalls had many wondrous-looking items on display. There were gems, jewels in the shape of flowers that blossomed before your eyes as though they were alive, potions, weapons, small chests full of ointments or perfumes, and many more such things. Cindy stopped at a stall that had various trinkets. An old woman with long silver hair wearing a long black cloak regarded her. Cindy picked up a small silver bell that had intricate patterns etched into the metal. When she rang the bell it made a clear note that drove away her feeling of tiredness.
“You like the bell? Would you like to exchange something for it?” The old woman asked.
“I don’t have anything to buy it with.” Cindy told her.
“You have nothing at all?” The woman clarified looking at her keenly. Cindy dug into the pockets of her jeans. She produced the letter from Melissa, which was the only thing she had left.
“I’ve got a letter from a friend and that’s all.” Cindy said.
“Hand the letter over to me child and let me have a look at it.” The old woman requested holding out her shaking hand with long fingers and dagger-like fingernails. Cindy reluctantly gave it to her. The old woman looked it over and opened it up to read. “Ah a letter of apology from a sorceress. This has much value. Feel free to take any item.” A sorceress? Cindy thought, it’s just plain old Melissa. Cindy picked up the silver bell.
“Okay I’ll take this silver bell. It’ll make a nice gift for Jess, my partner. It will help prove to her I was actually here.” Cindy informed her. The old woman nodded.
“It’s a fair exchange.” She declared. She spat on her hand and held it out to Cindy, who then reluctantly shook hands with her. “It is sealed.”
As Cindy walked away she looked behind her to see the woman hide the letter away amongst her belongings. Cindy began to consider it was time to move on. She should really get home as she was unaware how long she had been lost in Faerie, and time seemed to move differently here. Jess would be worrying about her. And it wasn’t like she anything else to exchange with aside from the clothes she was wearing, and she would rather not part with those.
Once finding the path she assumed would lead her back to the portal, she followed it to see where she would end up this time. The path led her through the forest and then upwards through bush until she came across Babradon who was sitting there smoking his pipe.
“I saw you approaching. You were away for some time. Did you get lost?” He asked.
“Yes. I left the path and couldn’t find it again.” Cindy told him.
“I did warn you not to leave the path. Then count yourself lucky you found your way back to here. You could have been lost in Faerie until you were silver haired.” Babradon informed her.
“I know. Luckily a pixie helped by leading me to the Faerie market. I’m really glad I saw it.”
“All’s well that ends well then.” Babradon replied.
“I better be going home. Jess will probably be wondering where I am.” She looked towards the portal.
“I suspect I’ll be seeing you again. So until next time!” Babradon said. Cindy nodded.
“Yes until next time.” Cindy replied as she walked up to the portal. She was looking forward to getting home.
Cindy jumped through the portal. To her surprise, it wasn’t the familiar buildings of her own farm that she saw when she returned, but someone else’s. She had no idea where she was. For all she knew she could be on the other side of the world. Nor did she have any idea how long she had been in Faerie. She knew Jess would be worried and she imagined Jess standing in the kitchen watching through the windows wondering where she had got to. One thing Cindy was certain of: she had never seen these buildings before anywhere near her own farm.
“Hello!” she called out. “Is there anyone here?” The buildings remained silent. She seriously considered going back through the portal. The feeling that things had gone terribly wrong was growing in her. Just then, she heard a door creak slowly open…. Around the corner an old woman with long grey hair and wearing an old black dress hobbled into sight. She walked with great difficulty.
“Hello my lovely! What are you doing here?” the old woman asked as she approached Cindy.
“I’m lost.” Cindy replied. “I don’t know where I am, or even what part of the world I’m in.”
“Oh dear, that doesn’t sound so good. You’re in my farm, if you need to know. Why don’t you come to my farmhouse and have a sit down? I’ll give you a nice hot cup of tea and something to eat and we can work this out together.” the old woman offered. It sounded good to Cindy, though there was a feeling of misgiving in her heart, as though maybe things weren’t as they seemed. She followed the old woman to her house. The woman opened the door and there was a loud creak, exactly like the one Cindy had heard before. “Now go in my lovely and have a sit down.” the woman suggested.
“Thanks.” Cindy answered. She went inside to what was a musty old kitchen and sat down on a chair by the table. Instantly she felt stuck. She pressed her hands on the table to give herself leverage so she could escape the chair, but then found her hands were also stuck. The old woman laughed.
“You have fallen for my trap my lovely!” The room melted away and Cindy found she was stuck to a huge web. She turned to look at the old woman and saw that she had transformed to the largest spider she had ever seen. “I put this web in-between worlds and catch the occasional portal jumper! So glad I’m back in my true form. I hate wearing that human skin. It’s so hard to walk in!” the spider said as she moved closer to Cindy now showing no impediment in her movement. Cindy struggled, but found the more she struggled, the more stuck to the web she became. The spider approached. Cindy was now almost fully stuck to the web. The spider stopped and towered above her. It’s large eyes looked down on Cindy while it’s fangs dripped with venom.
“I’m going to bite you and turn your insides to jelly which I will then suck out.” the spider declared. “You look so tasty!”
Cindy shook her head. How did she get into this mess? She thought about Jess who would be wondering where she was. She would never know what became of her. What would happen when she never turned up? How long would Jess wait for her? What would happen when Jess finally realised she was gone for ever? She felt overcome with sadness.
“I’m sorry Jess!” she called out into the void, hoping her words might get to her love as tears began to fall down her cheeks. Maybe Jess would be alright. Maybe she would hook up with Melissa again… Melissa? Suddenly a light went on in her brain. What had they said at the Faerie Market about Melissa, of all people? It had been rather surprising…
“Aw you’re crying! Don’t worry, it will all be over soon!’ the spider said as it’s fangs began to bear down on her.
“Melissa!” Cindy called out into the dark hoping her voice and thoughts could reach their target. “Melissa, I’m sorry for what I said when we last met. I was jealous, but I need your help. I’m trapped between worlds by a giant spider. If you can hear this, please help me!”
“I’m trapped too.” a voice abruptly said in Cindy’s mind. “But I’ll do what I can. I can see you in my mind’s eye. When it hits, get ready to run as fast as you can, no matter what condition you’re in.”
“Okay.” Cindy replied. Beyond the web, floating in the dark she saw a light in front of her in the shape of her friend.
“Now!” said the voice and suddenly the entire web was hit by lightning. The spider screamed and recoiled, while Cindy was thrown from the web and landed on solid ground.
Without a thought Cindy stood up and ran for the portal. She heard the spider behind her and knew she was being chased down. She didn’t dare look back as she ran straight for the glowing portal in front of her. She could hear the spider catching her up and suddenly felt the spider’s legs try to grab hold of her. Cindy managed to dodge them as she jumped through the portal. The last thing she heard was the spider scream with frustration and anger.
Cindy landed on some soft earth. When she opened her eyes, she saw she was in Faerie again. That was close, she thought. In front of her was Babradon smoking his pipe, as always.
“You weren’t gone for long.”
“I tried to leave, but there was spider in-between the worlds that caught me. I only just managed to escape.”
“Ah yes, Her. You were lucky. Few ever escape her dark web.” Babradon replied.
“I had some help.” Cindy said. “But how do I get home? The way through that portal is trapped now.”
“I understand. Follow me.” He led her to a large tree that leaned. “There is a portal in this tree. Go through the opening in the trunk and you will get back to your world.”
“But I won’t fit in there.”
“You will.” He replied. Cindy looked at him doubtfully, but to her surprise the opening was now large enough and she suddenly found herself sliding down into the darkness…
Cindy landed on the ground with a thud. She sat up rubbing the back of her head. Babradon hadn’t warned her about the rough landing. She wondered where she was this time and spotted a middle-aged woman walking a fox terrier. Cindy walked up to her.
“Excuse me, where am I?” Cindy asked. The woman looked at her as though she was crazy.
“You’re just outside the town of Lawrence.” the woman told her before hurrying off and occasionally looking behind her. She was home! Finally! Now all she had to do was walk back to the farm…
Within half an hour she was at the front gate. She walked down the driveway to the homestead. As she approached Jess ran out the door and grabbed Cindy in her arms.
“Where have you been? You’ve been missing for days! People are out searching for you. I’ve been so worried.” Jess blurted out quickly as she hugged Cindy tightly.
“I can’t breathe!” Cindy got out. Jess relaxed her hold, and looked into Cindy’s eyes.
“Oh sorry! I’m just so relieved to see you. I really feared the worst. Let’s get you inside.” The two of them walked into their home with Jess leading the way. Cindy sat down on the couch in the living room while Jess kneeled in front of her. “Where have you been? Were you attacked? Are you hurt?”
“I got stuck.” Cindy replied.
“You got stuck?” Jess frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I got stuck in Faerie.” Cindy clarified. Jess sighed deeply and shook her head.
“Not this again.”
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me so I brought you back something from the Faerie market.” Cindy dug into the pocket of her jeans and produced a delicate silver bell and handed it to Jess. She looked at it moving it around in her fingers.
“And what did you use to trade for this? Magic beans?” Jess asked.
“I had a letter from Melissa. They were quite happy to exchange it for that.”
“You exchanged a personal letter from a friend for this in some market stall? Why did Melissa write to you?”
“She wanted to apologise for sleeping with you.” Cindy replied.
“Melissa had no need to apologise to you. When we had sex, you and I weren’t back together. You were still in the city.”
“So why all this jealousy with Melissa? Surely when you were in the city you dated other woman?”
“Yes.” Cindy answered.
“And I did likewise when I was here on my own. Who I slept with then is not really your business. I don’t ask who you slept with in the city do I?” Jess asked while searching Cindy’s face.
“So why all this jealousy regarding Melissa? Are you afraid we’re going to hook up again?”
“I do worry about that.” Cindy admitted.
“She has her own girlfriend now, that tall pale blonde, and I’m sure they’re quite happy together. You have nothing to worry about.” Jess reassured her. “I think you should be more worried about your delusions.”
“Speaking to fairies and visiting fairyland.”
“My grandmother could see the fairies and speak to them. I’ve inherited her gift.” Cindy told her.
“Yes your grandmother told everyone that she spoke to the fairies, and she was nuts. Everyone knew that. I don’t want to see you go the same way.”
“I wish you’d believe me.” Cindy implored her, but Jess looked at her concerned.
“Your delusions are getting worse. Now you’re disappearing for days. What’s next? One day you don’t come back at all? You’re covered in dirt, your clothes are all ragged, and you really smell. It looks like you’ve been sleeping in a ditch for several days. For all I know that’s what you’ve been doing.” Jess informed her. “I want you to get help.” Cindy rolled her eyes.
“Okay.” Cindy replied, hoping this would appease her.
“We’ll talk more about it tomorrow. Right now you need to get out of those clothes and have a wash. And then get something to eat or maybe some rest?” Jess told her softly. “I have some phone calls to make.” Jess gave her another long tight hug and left, Cindy slowly got up from the couch and walked to the bathroom. Maybe it would be better if she just kept quiet about Faerie from now on. If only Jess would believe her.
This is a collection of eleven Jess and Cindy stories that followed a continuing narrative.
“The car won’t start.” Jess told her as she examined the car engine.
“So why not call a mechanic?”
“They’re too expensive. Besides, I fix the tractor regularly.”
“Yes fix it regularly, because it keeps breaking down. Do you even have the right tools?” Cindy asked.
“Of course I do. Anyway I believe it’s fixed, see if you can start it.” Jess suggested. Cindy got in the front seat and turned the key, but nothing happened. “Okay, maybe it’s something else?” Cindy rolled her eyes. What would it take for Jess to admit defeat?
This was the first Jess and Cindy story I ever wrote. However I originally wrote it in first person from Cindy’s perspective, so I never included it in the Jess and Cindy chronology. I’ve decided to revisit it. It takes place after Jess Waits.
Rekindling An Old Flame
Cindy surveyed the land before her. It was overgrown with weeds and the remainder of crops that had long since gone to seed. The farmland was going to need a lot of clearing. Even the old homestead was dilapidated and the barn was now practically in ruins. There was a lot of work that had to be done, and it looked like she was going to be the one that would have to do it, alone if necessary. She couldn’t believe her parents had let her grandmother’s farm go this way.
The city had broken her. After her parents had been killed in a freak car accident she decided to return to her old hometown of Lawrence and re-establish her roots there. In the Will, her parents had left both their house in town and her grandmother’s farm to be administered by both her brother and herself, which frankly had quite surprised her. She was surprised she was included in their Will at all. She thought they had disowned her due to her “lifestyle choices”. In the end, her brother and her decided to split them: Cindy 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 Cindy really wanted, even though it would need a lot of work. She assumed 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 she was the screw up who failed at everything she tried. Cindy went to college, and afterwards had become a teacher while also trying to be a writer, but she failed spectacularly at both of these things. Everything she tried, all it did was seem to confirm in her parent’s eyes that she was an absolute failure. Amazing lawyer Stephen and his screw-up sister Cindy; what a couple of siblings they were.
As she looked at the overgrown farm before her, a car coming down the road began to slow down. It was old lime-green station wagon that she recognised belonged to old Mrs Philips. It had been a while since Cindy had seen her and saw that she now had short grey hair.
“Is that you Cindy?” Mrs Philips asked in surprise as she stuck her head out of the car window. Cindy smiled and nodded.
“Yes it is.” She confirmed walking over to the car with her arms wrapped around her body.
“Well how are you? You’re looking good. Are you back here now?” Mrs Philips asked in an excited tone of voice.
“Yes I’m looking at fixing up the old farm.” Cindy told her. Mrs Philips shook her head.
“Well it’s about time! It’s a shame the state it’s got into.”
“Yes. It will need a lot of work.” Cindy agreed.
“I was surprised I didn’t see you at the funeral.” Mrs Philips said as she blatantly looked at Cindy for an explanation of why she wasn’t there.
“Yeh I wasn’t able to get there. But Steve was there and told me all about it.” Cindy told her. Mrs Philips nodded, though she was looking at Cindy like she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t make it to her own parent’s funeral.
“Yes it was good to see your brother and his wife Jennifer. Did you ever get married?” Mrs Philips asked. Cindy smiled again and shook her head.
“No I could never find the right person.” Cindy replied with her usual answer to that particular question.
“Not the marrying type I guess.” Mrs Philips responded rather perceptively while looking at her up and down.
“Have you seen Jess yet? You two were as thick as thieves when you were younger.”
“Not yet.” Cindy responded looking away.
“Well I guess I’ll be seeing you! Take care Cindy!” she said.
“You too Mrs Philips!” Cindy called back to Mrs Philips as she drove off.
Cindy sighed. What would she do about Jess? They had grown up together and Jess was the first girl she had ever kissed. Jess had been her first girlfriend. She desperately wanted to see her again, but was also at the same time terrified. They once had big plans when they were together, but then Cindy went off to College, and Jess stayed behind and worked on her parent’s farm. Gradually over the years they had lost touch, and Cindy truly regretted that. Cindy didn’t know whether Jess was still dating other girls, or if she was now in a serious relationship. She really had no idea. She had dated a few other women in the city, mostly a succession of blondes like Jess. She guessed she was still trying to date Jess through other people who looked similar, or so her therapist had suggested.
Cindy grabbed what gardening equipment she had brought with her, tied up her long brown hair, and started hacking away at things on the farm. Over the next couple of weeks she spent most of each day clearing away the overgrown weeds. They were pretty exhausting days. Every night she went back to town to the family house feeling completely done. Steve had said it would be okay to use the family house while she 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 Cindy went back to the farm, it looked no different from the day before. She had spent hours trying to clear the land, but it seemed to be having little effect. She wondered if she had made the right decision to come back here. Maybe she should have stayed in the city and let her brother sell the farm as he had originally suggested.
One night Cindy was relaxing after a particularly long day in the fields when there was a knock at the door. When she answered it her mouth dropped open, for there was Jess standing there. She hadn’t seen her in a long time and yet 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. Cindy laughed.
“Jess!” Cindy exclaimed.
“I brought you a little welcome home gift.” Jess said as she produced a bottle of Jack Daniels from behind her back. Cindy laughed again. Jack Daniels was the first thing they had ever got drunk on together. Jess had stolen it from her father’s stash and they got drunk and ended up making out in the living room, just as Jess’s mother walked through the front door. Thankfully her parents were more open minded than Cindy’s were. They were fine with Jess and Cindy being together as a couple, though her father never forgave Jess for stealing his whiskey.
“Well come on in!” Cindy said fully opening the door. Jess walked in sizing her up and then Cindy followed her into the living room. Jess sat down and produced some cigarettes. Even though Cindy no longer smoked, she took one and sat down beside her. Jess produced a lighter and lit both cigarettes. Cindy sat back in the couch and breathed out the smoke.
“You’re looking very tired, but wonderfully tanned.” Jess said as she got up and went into the kitchen. She came back with two glasses and began pouring the whiskey into them.
“I’ve been having some very long days at the farm.” Cindy told her as she was handed a glass.
“Well cheers!” Jess said as they clinked their glasses together and both knocked them back in one gulp. Jess then poured some more whiskey into the glasses.
“It’s good to see you again.” Cindy said to her. Jess looked at her 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 Cindy as she took a drag on her cigarette.
“I’m sorry.” Cindy replied. “I wanted to, but I was scared.” Jess looked at her confused.
“Scared? Of what?” she asked.
“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to see me.” Cindy answered. Jess looked at her very seriously and nodded.
“Of course I wanted to see you. I’ve wanted to see you again for a long time! 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.” Cindy explained to her.
“Did you know in the last few years both your parents started talking to me again?”
“Really?” Cindy asked. She 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. The Cut Off By Cindy Club” Jess told her. “Maybe they realised I could have been their daughter in law.” Cindy put her head into her hands when Jess said this. Cindy’s feelings towards her parents were still pretty raw, even after all this time.
“I didn’t know.” Cindy explained.
“Yeh that’s pretty obvious.” Jess responded as she filled their glasses again. “Is there any music around here?” She got up and began searching through various CD’s stashed around the room.
“I brought some music with me.” Cindy told her.
“Yeh I’m pretty sure it will all be dyke music huh? What have you got? Melissa Etheridge? K.D. Lang?”
“There’s some Indigo Girls there.” Cindy offered, and Jess looked at Cindy with her head nodding as if she had just confirmed her suspicions.
“I thought as much. No I want some real music!” Jess said as she put a CD on and some music came blaring out of the speakers.
“What is that? The Eagles?” Cindy asked incredulously.
“Yup.” Jess 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.” Cindy replied. Jess laughed for the first time that night.
“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.” Cindy answered.
“I know how you feel.” Jess said blowing more smoke out of her mouth and looking at Cindy.
“So what do you do around here for fun?”
“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?” Cindy asked her. Jess laughed again.
“This town may look much the same from when we were teenagers, but it has changed. People here are now a lot more open-minded than you would think.” Jess told her. “What about you?”
“Well I pretty much failed at everything I put my hand to in the city, so I’ve moved back here so I can fail at something else.” Cindy replied. “I’ve seen some pretty weird stuff there.”
“Well that’s the city for you.” Jess said. They both laughed. Cindy 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.” Cindy answered. Jess nodded her head in thought at Cindy’s 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?” Cindy asked her. Cindy didn’t think anyone ever talked about her. She felt she was pretty much ignored by everyone when she lived here. People really only knew her because she was always with Jess, and Jess was the popular one 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’ve decided to settle down here again.” Cindy told her. Jess looked really surprised.
“Really? Is Cindy the city slicker coming to live with us mere country folk again?” Jess asked sarcastically. “You’re really wanting to settle down here?!”
“I’m afraid so. I’m finished with living in the city.” Cindy told her quite seriously. Jess took hold of her hand. Her hand felt warm and familiar.
“It will be good to have you back here for good.” Jess said to her, her blue eyes looking into Cindy’s. Jess moved towards her and to Cindy’s complete surprise they began hugging. The next moment they were suddenly kissing one another like they had never stopped. Jess tasted of whiskey and cigarettes, but Cindy knew she probably tasted the same now.
“I’ve missed you.” Cindy whispered to her. Jess looked at her with tears starting to fall.
“Why did you never come back? I waited for you.” Jess replied reproachfully.
“I’m sorry.” Cindy said as she started to choke up with tears. “I thought you would come to the city with me. I always hoped you would turn up.” She held onto Jess while 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 from me forever.” Jess 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.” Cindy 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!” Jess 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.” Cindy admitted.
“It didn’t matter what you came back as. So long as you were here.” Jess answered back.
They sat there looking at each other. Both of them were in tears. In their silence, all they could hear was “Peaceful Easy Feeling” playing on the stereo.
“I’m sorry. I know I did wrong. I know I’ve let you down. Can you ever forgive me?” Cindy asked her desperately, fearing the response. Jess sat there as if she was deep in thought looking down at the floor.
“You’ll stay here from now on won’t you?” Jess asked Cindy in a tearful voice as she looked up at her. Their eyes met again. Cindy nodded and they hugged again, this time more tightly than before, as if they never wanted to let go ever again. They kissed each other, though this time it was long deep kisses. Eventually they collapsed on the couch holding on to each other as sleep overtook them.
The next morning Cindy awoke and they were still in each other’s arms. Jess was drooling onto a cushion in her sleep and Cindy had a nasty hangover. She had planned to spend another full day at the farm again today, but didn’t think she could face it. She gently moved so she didn’t disturb Jess and slowly reclaimed her arms. After getting up from the couch, Cindy padded to the kitchen and began to heat up some coffee. The living room smelt of stale cigarette smoke and booze. Cindy 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 Cindy’s hands, 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.” Cindy replied. She gave an understanding nod.
“I’ve been thinking. I looked at your grandmother’s farm a few weeks ago. It’s in a rather terrible state of disrepair. 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.” Jess said looking up at Cindy and smiling. Cindy warmly smiled back at her and then went back to the kitchen to grab another cup of coffee.