“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.
“So you’ve come back to Lawrence then?” Jess asked as she aimed the cue ball at the number seven.
“Yup. I’m here to stay it seems.” Melissa replied as she watched the number seven ball go straight into the right corner pocket. Jess walked around the table to aim the next shot.
“You seen Cindy lately?” Jess inquired.
“Not for a while. I saw her a lot in my first two years at College, but after that I lost touch with her. I was in a relationship after that and didn’t give her much thought, to be honest.”
“So how did that go?” Jess asked as she hit the number one ball go into the side pocket.
“The relationship? It was good until my partner suddenly broke up with me for no reason after we had been living together for several years. She never said why.” Jess made a face after hearing Melissa’s news.
“That’s too bad.” Jess replied as she hit the number three ball into another corner pocket.
“What about you? Have you heard from Cindy lately?” Melissa asked, wondering if her holding the cue stick was merely for decoration as she watched the number four ball go into another pocket. Jess was on the black now.
“No, we lost touch as well. She went to college and we got more distant as time went on. The last time I saw her was when her grandma died. She came back to Lawrence for the funeral, but then was gone again before I had a chance to see her again.” Jess told her.
“I passed by her Grandmother’s farm a few days ago. It’s all overgrown now.” Melissa commented.
“I know. Cindy’s father still inherited the farm after all he had done. He’s chosen to let it sit there and fall into ruin. Pity, as it’s good land there.” Jess struck the cue ball and the black went into the side pocket. “Loser buys the next round of beers.”
“Yup.” said Melissa as she headed for the bar. “If we play again, could I get at least one shot?” Jess watched Melissa go. She thought Melissa was looking rather hot these days with her long brown hair and tight jeans…
After they finished playing pool, Jess offered to drive Melissa home, but ended up driving Melissa back to her own place instead. There they ended up drinking some more and then fell into one another’s arms and started kissing…
Later in the night Jess woke with Melissa’s arms around her. She carefully got out of bed without waking her. She looked down at her sleeping form. She liked Melissa, but she did not love her, not in the way she loved Cindy. Jess also sensed that Melissa had some dark journey of her own to make that she could not be a part of. Tomorrow morning she would drive Melissa home, and would leave it at that.
Jess looked out a window. Everything was still. After all that had happened, she was still waiting for Cindy. To her, it seemed like everything here was waiting for Cindy to return, including the land itself. All she could do was wait.
It was Lawrence High School’s Graduation Day. The ceremony was over, and Jess, Cindy, and Melissa stood together still wearing their gowns and caps and holding onto their diplomas. Cindy’s grandma had come to the event, but not her parents.
“Is there a party anywhere tonight?” Jess asked.
“Yeah I think Fuzz is holding one at his place. Or we could go hang out with Tony.” Cindy replied. Jess rolled her eyes.
“You mean hang out at his parent’s mansion?”
“At least there’ll be plenty to drink, and really great food there!” Melissa suggested. “I think Tony plans to party all summer, before we head to college.”
“It would be nice to have that option.” Cindy replied.
“You still heading to college?” Melissa asked.
“Yup.” Cindy replied.
“What? I thought you were staying here.” Jess said with surprise.
“No. What made you think that? You know I want to be a writer.” Cindy answered.
“But that means I’ll be here on my own.” Jess complained.
“Then why don’t you come to college with us?” Cindy asked.
“You know my parents are expecting me to help out on the farm now school’s done. I thought you were going to stay here with me.”
“I’m sorry, but I changed my mind. I won’t be far away. I’m sure I can come back during breaks. Other couples manage to survive long distance.”
“But it won’t be the same.” Jess replied. “Do you really want to go the city where you don’t know anyone?”
“Melissa will be there.” Cindy told her. “And others.”
“Yep totally!” Melissa replied.
“Well I hope you all have fun together!” Jess shot back as she stormed off.
“Jess wait!” Cindy called out to her, but Jess got into her pickup and drove off.
“Don’t worry, she’ll get over it.” Melissa told her as she put her hand on Cindy’s shoulder. Cindy wasn’t so sure…
This is another young Jess and Cindy story, and probably the last, though there will be new stories following this one set some years later….
Jess and Cindy went out riding. It had been several weeks since Cindy’s miscarriage, and the gloom was still around her. Jess watched her anxiously. As they rode, a big black horse suddenly appeared in front of them. It was black as a storm cloud and it’s hoofbeats sounded like thunder. Instinctively Cindy chased it, with Jess following behind. Then the black horse disappeared, and Cindy brought her horse to a halt. Once Jess caught up with her, she found Cindy motionless and staring into space.
“What was that?” Jess asked.
“Some sort of phantom.” Cindy replied, feeling uneasy.
Cindy was wandering along a path, not really noticing where she was going. Her recent miscarriage was the only thing in her mind at the moment. She chanced upon Hidnoot, the gnome who helped around the farm. He looked up at her sadly.
“I’m sorry to hear of your misfortune my lady.” He said.
“Thanks Hidnoot.” Cindy replied.
“Babradon wants to see you.” he told her.
“Okay.” she acknowledged.
It was several days before she got around to visiting Babradon. She assumed he just wanted to offer his condolences, as everyone did at the moment. After she went through the portal, she sat down beside him.
“Thanks for coming to see me.” Babradon said. “I’m sorry about the loss of your child.” As soon as he said that, Cindy broke down and began crying again. Babradon quietly waited for Cindy’s wailing to subside. “I need to tell you something.”
“What do you need to tell me?” Cindy asked after wiping away her tears.
“There’s a reason why you and your family line can freely walk through the gates to Faerie.”
“I thought we just had a special gift.” Cindy told him.
“It’s deeper than that. It’s because you all have fey blood in you.”
“What?” asked Cindy surprised.
“Somewhere in your family line, an ancestor probably, was someone from Faerie. A high elf I suspect.” Babradon revealed. “The Outer World these days is not a good place for the fey to reproduce. If you want to carry a child to full term, you are going to need help.”
“Help? From whom?”
“Beyond the forest is a wondrous city. When you’re able to journey again, I suggest following the forest path until you come to this city. You can ask the Elven Queen for help.”
“And she’ll help me?” asked Cindy doubtfully.
“I don’t see why not. She helped your grandmother carry your father to full term.” Babradon informed her. Cindy looked at him surprised.
“You said my family line all has fey blood. Does that mean my father could also see the fey world and come through the gate here too?”
“Yes he could, but he chose not to. I think he decided to live in a very narrowly defined world. The fey world scared him.”
“He threw me out of the house for being gay.” Cindy commented.
“Yes it was a very narrow world.” Babradon replied. “One thing: if you do ever decide to visit the Queen, take plenty of silver, true-silver if you have any.”
“How could I ever go there? What would I say to Jess?” Cindy asked.
“Tell her the truth. She’s been here. She’s seen Faerie.” Cindy’s mouth dropped open to Babradon’s news.
“When did this happen?”
“A couple of months ago now. I opened the gateway so she could come through. I thought it would be better for your relationship if she knew the truth.”
“How come she hasn’t told me?”
“Maybe she doesn’t know how, or maybe she’s still processing it. A lot of momentous things have happened in both your lives recently. Give her time.” Babradon counseled. Cindy nodded. She would need to think about all of this, and maybe being able to have a child hadn’t been taken away from her after all…
Cindy stroked the horses head. The farm had now acquired a couple of horses which meant Jess and her could go riding together, like they used to. Cindy was spending time with their newest addition, which helped her keep her mind off things, or so she wished. Two weeks ago, Cindy had awoken in pain and found there was blood everywhere. She was rushed to the hospital, but they only confirmed what she knew: that she had lost her baby.
Jess was being as supportive as she could be, but just now Cindy wanted space with so many thoughts in her head. Jess said they could try IVF again, but Cindy knew she wouldn’t survive if it happened a second time. In one moment her dreams of being a mother were cruelly denied.
“We’ll go riding soon girl. You want that?” she whispered to the horse. The tears were falling again.
Word count: 150
This was difficult to write, but I guessed that this was how it was going to go….
Jess was on her way to the south field, when she noticed a shimmering down the path. Investigating it, she walked through into another world. She looked around. Everything here was greener and more vibrant.
“And who might you be?” asked a voice below her. She looked down to see a tiny man with a long beard smoking a pipe.
“Where am I?” she asked.
“You’re in Faerie, or Elfland, or the Fey-wild, or Fairyland if you so wish.” he replied. “My name’s Babradon. I’m the guardian of the portal you just walked through.”
“I’m Jess.” she told him.
“You must be Cindy’s wife. She’s mentioned you.”
Jess collapsed into the lush grass. All this time she had thought that Cindy was cracking up, like her grandmother had, when she talked about her travels in Faerie. She now knew she owed Cindy a massive apology, like the biggest one ever.