I’ve lurked on this site for quite a few years and finally decided to submit a story. This is a romance between two women with some supernatural elements tied in but not drowning in it. It’s a bit of a read, so those looking for a quickie, this is probably not it.
Enormous thank you to LesbianChickLit for your help through the editing process of this and your continued support.
Feedback is welcome!
The brush eased its way down the white canvas, swiftly gaining toward the center, color splashing over the taut fabric. Natalie Rhodes stepped back and scrutinized her work. Deep red hues mixed with teal undertones, meshing together in a mass of abstract uncertainty. With an irritated groan, she pulled the canvas from the easel and dropped it into the awaiting box in the bottom of her closet.
Her work was lacking recently, no doubt due to the impending school year, and with it, work. Natalie loved her career of teaching the future minds of America, however it did nothing for her creativity nor her artistic inclination. Taking advantage of the three months free of her day job had been liberating.
She was working on old pieces she hadn’t had a chance to finish, or was too frustrated to complete, and beginning new projects with a refreshed vigor that she hadn’t felt in years. With less than two weeks until the first day of school, Natalie’s creativity and patience for her own stubborn perfectionism was waning. Irritation blossomed into anger and she decided to switch mediums. She pulled her shoulder length brown hair into a stubby ponytail and headed through her doorway with renewed determination.
The townhouse was quiet as she eased her way down the narrow hall adjoining the kitchen and cavernous modern living room, slipping into the kitchen to wash her brushes in the large farmhouse style sink. The tangy scent of tomato sauce and cheese tinged with garlic hit her like a wall as she stepped into the kitchen, her lasagna nearly baked to perfection. At least she could complete something. She cursed under her breath and tried to relax.
As she watched the colors swirl down the vast drain, she considered her luck regarding her living situation and her generous extended family. Natalie and her cousin Jamie Sparks had been inseparable friends since middle school, when Jamie and her parents relocated back to Washington state to care for her father’s ill mother. Jamie and her parents had been there for Natalie through some of the toughest times of her life.
Jamie had inherited the property from her paternal grandmother at the age of eighteen and her parents financed for it to be updated. Opting out of staying in the dorm her second year of college and the house being freshly remodeled, Jamie moved in and dragged Natalie along with her.?
With scholastic dedication and a stroke of luck, Natalie received a scholarship to the University of Washington, but she had struggled the first year to afford room and board. Without her parents willing to help, Natalie’s sophomore year was in serious doubt until Jamie proposed she moved in with her. Natalie was reluctant at first, fearing she was taking advantage of her family. But, with Jamie’s reassurance, she agreed to it.
Natalie tossed the brushes in the sink, the sight of the colors mixing together against the metallic surface at the bottom becoming oddly infuriating. In the same way as the colors dissolved into nothingness under the running faucet, she could see the colors in her head, the patterns, the distinct beauty of their coupling on canvas, but when brush met fabric, it vanished before her mind’s eye.
Four weeks spent on the same image that fought her grasp wasted a large portion of her school vacation and vexed Natalie to no end.
The timer on the oven chimed loudly and she turned, grabbing an oven mitt before pulling out the hot dish of lasagna and placing it on top of the stove to cool. Even looking down at the meal she created worsened the frustration. She took a step back, regarding the mixture of red and white, the bronze pasta peeking from the depths of sauce.
“How is it that a lasagna dinner turned out better than my fucking painting?” she shouted in the empty kitchen right before the dish exploded in front of her, shards of sauce covered glass pelting the walls and cabinets.
Oops. She looked around with hesitation, chunky red sauce streaking the dark wood of the cabinets and the white walls, splattered ricotta on her shirt and jeans. The sound of the front door opening caused her to turn.
“Hey, it smells good in here! Wanna help me with…Oh.” Jamie stood in the open doorway, several grocery bags hanging from her wrists, her brown eyes wide. Natalie hurried over to her cousin, relieving her of a few bags and shutting the front door.
Jamie took in Natalie’s appearance, sauce nearly covering her neck and chest as she walked into the kitchen.
“Bad day?” she asked slowly. Natalie nodded with a grimace, squatting beneath the sink and grabbing all-purpose cleaner and a rag. Jamie put away the Ankara escort perishable items, stepping around the mess that extended to the floor. Wordlessly, she grabbed a trash bag and began helping Natalie with the mess. After most of the glass was picked up and cabinets wiped, Jamie turned to Natalie.
“So, do you want to talk about what happened?” Jamie questioned, throwing the last bit of glass away while Natalie wiped the last visible spot of sauce from the stovetop. Natalie laughed, putting her hand over her face, hiding her embarrassment.
“I got a bit frustrated while painting and took it out on our dinner,” she admitted, pulling her hand away in time to see Jamie smirk and shake her head.
“At least you did it before I got home. I would have been pissed if you got sauce on my cashmere,” she quipped, indicating to her soft blouse before putting her hands on her hips.
After a long shower, Natalie meandered down the hall, relieved to be free of lasagna bits and resolved to put painting on hold while she regained her control. Jamie sat perched on the couch, looking up from her cell phone when Natalie sat beside her.
“I have a favor to ask,” Jamie started. Natalie raised her eyebrows in curiosity, happy for their conversation to sway from her mishap. “The firm decided to do some outreach crap, and they’re renting a spot at the Puyallup fair. Said it would be good for business. I was wondering if you’d come sit with me on the days I have to be there?” Jamie requested, her smile cautious.
“This weekend? What exactly would I be doing? Handing out pamphlets?” Natalie asked. Jamie’s smile widened.
“Funny thing is, I kind of told Ms. Morrow you’d be willing to do some low-cost portraits or something artsy. You know, to rope people in long enough to listen to my spiel.”
Natalie threw back her head, letting out an exasperated sigh. “I just swore off art because of my little outburst,” she contended, head still against the back of the couch.
Jamie patted Natalie’s hand. “Come on. Help me out.”
“No. Art is making me way too ragey,” Natalie stated.
“Did you know you’re my favorite cousin?”
“Jamie, I’m your only cousin,” Natalie retorted. Jamie exhaled loudly after a brief silence.
“You know, that was my favorite piece of cookware,” Jamie said, unable to mask the humor in her tone.
“I said no,” Natalie muttered, a smile creeping on her lips.
“My grandmother left me that dish when she died. And you blew it to bits with your brain,” Jamie said in false seriousness. Natalie sat up and glared at her.
“Fine. I’ll do it.”
Tendrils of afternoon light sifted through the closed curtains, pouring over the hardwood floor, reflecting on the shiny surface. Jude Costello rolled over, reaching for a phantom body and only grasping empty sheets. Sleep clouded the edges of her consciousness, causing her the inability to extinguish the sudden loneliness that permeated through her thoughts.
No one had been able to break down the formidable walls she constructed within herself to fill the achy hole she was noticing more frequently, fueled by the dreams she couldn’t bend to her will.
A generic tune pierced the quiet room, followed by a dull vibrating coming from the bedside table, pulling her from the haunting scene in her head. Jude groaned, rubbing her eyes whilst searching for the origin of the noise with her free hand as the tune commenced again.
“Hello?” she rasped when she finally found her phone.
“Jude? Are you still in bed? It’s almost one in the afternoon!” Her father shouted on the other end of the line. Jude sat up, chuckling lightly as she ran a hand through her short, black hair, disheveled from sleep. Dangling her feet over the edge of the bed, she examined the digital clock beside her bed with bleary eyes, concluding it was indeed almost one o’clock.
“You’ve got to get ahold of your life, Jude. All you do is go out, party, and sleep all day. You need to get a job or at the very least go to college. Do you even have a hobby?” he scoffed, and Jude could tell from the movement in his voice that he was pacing. She rolled her blue eyes at the words she’d heard on numerous occasions, only slightly perturbed at his verbal misstep.
Her twin sister, Roland, was the “party” girl among the siblings. Jude herself primarily read and slept, but could admit that her life was being no less wasted, especially from their father’s perspective.
She stood, making her way from the master suite to the kitchen. Part of her knew that her father was correct in his nagging.
“I can understand where you’re coming from, dad, but I assure you that I’m looking into something right now,” she lied, placing a coffee pod in the cartridge before pressing start, the biting aroma of coffee quickly filling the kitchen.
Wandering over to the breakfast nook, Jude looked out onto 4th and Denny from her window at the slow flowing traffic. An enormous billboard advertising a benefit at a nearby art gallery sponsored by Ankara escort bayan the University of Washington for emerging artists stood directly in her view of the water.
“And what would that be?” her father huffed, obvious disbelieve in his tone. Her lips curled into a grin as an idea materialized.
“I have an appointment today to talk with an advisor at the University. Figured it was time to pick something to do,” she fabricated, slipping from the window bench to grab her coffee from the kitchen.
“This is a step in the right direction,” he approved, and Jude felt a mild touch of guilt at her deception, but not nearly enough to tell her father she was lying.
“Thank you. Well, I haven’t made a decision on what I want to do, but maybe a business degree?” she expanded the falsehood instead, knowingly stroking his ego. She dumped copious amounts of cream into her coffee before resuming her post on the bench beside the window, her knees close to her chest as she folded herself, peering outside.
“Following your father’s footsteps, huh? Be careful, I made them a bit hard to fill,” he chuckled, satisfied with her lie.
“I better get ready.” Her eyes were still rolling as she spoke.
“Sure, sure. We’ll talk soon,” he agreed.
Jude sighed as she hung up, relishing in the comfort of her position. A large freight ship lazily drifted on the waters of the Puget Sound and she cracked the window, letting in the city ambience. Supposing she had to actually move forward with the proposition she gave to her father, Jude stood with reluctance, dropping her coffee cup into the sink on her way to the bathroom.
The sun was much hotter later that day, the heat of it nearly sweltering by the time Jude walked up to the coffee shop her sister frequented most days. She felt slightly more confident, having set up an appointment with the university’s admissions counselor for the following day, and she looked forward to the new venture.
If she even went. Jude found her sister, Roland, in the veranda of the shop, her feet propped on another chair, a book in her hand.
“Got your nasty black French press right there,” Roland indicated without lifting her head from the book.
Jude sat down, the old wicker chair protesting with a creak and she muttered a thanks. She sipped at the delicious bitter substance and regarded her sister. Roland’s expression was of intent, and Jude knew better than to interrupt her reading. After several moments of mutual silence, she shut the book, placing it down on the table between them, her carbon copy cerulean eyes raising to meet Jude’s.
“Anything fun planned for today?” she asked.
“I might check out the University, see if I can find something that looks entertaining,” Jude said with a nod.
Roland chuckled, arching a finely trimmed eyebrow. “Jude, you’ve never had any interest in furthering your education,” she remarked with a smirk.
Jude brushed her off with a wave of her hand. “I thought I’d take a look. What else do I have going on?”
“I’m assuming dad called you too?”
“Yep. We should’ve expected it. He hasn’t gone on a rampage for about two months and, as much as I hate to say it, he has a valid point,” Jude acknowledged. Their father supported them financially for far too long without holding any expectation from them. In no way was it a burden on the man, but she appreciated why he pushed them periodically to do something beyond how they currently spent their days with Jude brooding around her apartment and Roland quenching various literal and figurative thirsts.
Roland laughed wholeheartedly, obviously not sharing Jude’s feelings on the matter. “Honestly, I’m fond of the way I live my life. He’ll quit bugging us in a day or so. Besides, we don’t press the matter when it comes to the way he lives his own life. When is the last time he carved out a spot in his day for us? When did we see him last? You’d think by this point in his life, he’d realize we’re the only family he has. He’s going to drink himself to death.” Roland shrugged, clearly unperturbed by her own statements. Jude nodded noncommittally at her sister. Roland picked up the well-worn book and resumed her spot, turning a page tentatively.
Jude regarded her sister carefully. The resentment held toward their father was evident in her eyes when she spoke of him, and Jude could hold no blame for Roland. The childhood they shared with their unapproachable and remote father left its hold upon them both, not to mention their justifiable distrust of him.
She absently picked up the crumpled newspaper she bought on her way there, pretending to be interested in the new construction of yet another viaduct.
“So, what about you – do you have anything planned for today? I’ve been meaning to ask how you and Kara are doing,” Jude inquired as she turned the page, the scent of ink and recycled paper wafting in her face. Roland lowered her book and glared at Jude.
“Nope. I only saw her the two times and we’ve both moved on to bigger, better Escort Ankara things. And have you decided to let anyone into your self-imposed desolate life?” Roland implored. Jude shook her head, a simple smile adorning her face, ignoring the playful jab.
“I’d rather not use our father’s status as a means of finding women, but I won’t judge you for it.”
“I’m so hurt by your words, sister,” Roland said with her grin exposing the contrary, her attention still on the open book in front of her. Jude glanced back down at the newspaper.
“Hey, the state fair is this weekend,” Jude said, the advertisement taking up a large portion of the page. Roland raised her eyebrows and Jude assumed she wasn’t listening. After a few minutes, she put her book down.
“Isn’t that the one Margie took us to every year?” Roland asked. Jude noticed a rare softness in her eyes at the mention of their late caretaker, Margret Frances. They both shared the feeling of her being the closest thing to a mother they were granted. The fleeting look in Roland’s eyes disappeared as quickly as it came.
“Yeah. You want to go with me?” Jude asked. Roland chuckled, picking the book back up.
“Nope. I have prior engagements. Have fun, though.”
Natalie assumed the space would be incredibly limited at the law firm’s stand at the Washington State Fair, but they had not only provided her with an additional table beside theirs, but also a large pack of portrait paper, a folding easel, and charcoal. She wiped her hands on a damp cloth, the blotchy black smearing onto the stark white of the fabric.
Smiling to herself, Natalie recalled the young couple beaming at the large charcoal portrait she’d drawn of them, Jamie intercepting them afterward and setting up an appointment to construct a will for the newlyweds.
Jamie had been right about drawing more attention from passersby, gaining more than a few new clients for the firm. Natalie laced the rag over the lip of the easel, tenderly rubbing the soreness from her hands. Good thing school started soon, she couldn’t imagine doing another day’s worth of portraits.
The sun was beginning its slow descent behind the trees towards the horizon causing the fair to take on an orange glow and Natalie decided it was about time to call it a day. Even though she had only sat with Jamie for two days, Natalie had made quite a bit of extra money.
She was surprisingly satisfied with the work she’d done and glad she had helped her cousin, even if it had been temporary. Natalie owed her much more than a couple of portraits.
Music flittered in on either side of her, mingling with the sounds of children laughing and carnival machinery whirling. Numerous vendors were lined down the midway, selling anything from popcorn and candies to rare jewelry and Native American artwork.
The smell of fresh cotton candy floated in Natalie’s face and she stared longingly at a tuft of the sweet stuff being carried by a little boy on his parent’s shoulders. She needed to get something to eat before she stole candy from a child.
“I’m going to run to the bathroom really quick before you take off. Is it okay if you stay and hold the fort?” Jamie asked Natalie. She nodded, and Jamie rushed her thanks, running off toward the bathrooms. Natalie began gathering her supplies when movement in front of her caught her attention.
“Hello, can I help you?” she asked as she looked up and met the gaze of the most striking blue eyes she’d ever seen, and she had to stifle an immense craving to bring them to life on canvas. With olive cheeks rounded by a pleasant smile, deftly defined cheekbones, and eyes shimmering like water beneath the flickering light cast by the Ferris wheel, Natalie’s potential portrait subject was a breathtakingly handsome woman.
“Are you still doing portraits?” The woman questioned politely.
Natalie nodded, sifting through the clean pages, smiling up at the customer. “I was actually about to pack up, but I think there’s just enough sun left for one more,” she replied as she fumbled with the charcoal before bringing it to the paper.
Her customer waited patiently with a small smile.
“What were you thinking? Something realistic or a funny caricature?” Natalie inquired.
The customer seemed to ponder this for a moment. She was tall, even sitting, a form fitting gray tee hugging her and dark jeans on her long legs. “Forgive me, but I don’t know much about art, not even the basics. What would you recommend?” The woman laughed, a small dimple appearing on her cheek.
“How about a realistic portrait?” Natalie offered, and when the woman nodded, she turned to face the blank sheet. Dragging the charcoal across the paper, Natalie outlined the woman’s face. She was beautiful in her androgyny, her short black hair purposely unruly and the undeniable presence of authority contrasted starkly with her soft cheeks, long lashes and full, pink lips.
Natalie moved to her eyes, concluding that no amount of shading could capture the depth in the cerulean eyes that locked onto her own at that moment. She hesitated, arrested by the enigmatic stare of her customer before mentally shaking herself out of its hold. Her attention back on the portrait, she let her hand move freely.