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Chapter five. After Nana had gone to bed, Ginny sorted through the old issues of Northwest magazine

AFTER NANA HAD gone to bed, Ginny sorted through the old issues of Northwest Magazine. When she found the one she wanted, she took her cup of hot tea and settled on the sofa to read. The picture of Kara Morgan stared back at her and Ginny scanned her face, finally settling on her blue eyes, wondering at her sudden curiosity for this woman. She pulled her eyes away and began reading, glancing back to Kara's picture occasionally. Her eyes followed her index finger as she read, but the article was very impersonal, shedding little light into the woman herself. It wasn't until the final paragraph that Ginny stumbled over the words.

When asked if it bothered her that she is still sometimes referred to as the ‘lesbian artist’, Ms. Morgan replied with ease. " I've never made my personal life a secret, " she said. " I just don't feel it’s pertinent to my work. My sexual preference does not influence the way I paint and I don’t necessarily like being labeled that way."

A lesbian. Ginny stared at her picture again, her eyes dropping for a split second to the lips that curved in a smile. She closed the magazine quickly and sat still. Of course she had known. That was why she really went back to read the article. She didn’t like to just assume these things.

Renee. The name was so familiar, yet it had been years.

She let out a heavy sigh, finally letting in memories that she had thought were well buried. She had been so young and Renee had been much too dynamic for her to resist.

But she had, she reminded herself. She leaned back, closing her eyes, remembering.

Renee Hampton. Her first boss. Her first crush on a woman.

But it was just a crush, she reminded herself. Renee had been ten years older and so beautiful. Ginny remembered the day Renee had looked up and caught her staring. Ginny had tried to look away, but Renee’s eyes had held her. They had been working late and Ginny had been more than happy to stay the extra few hours, if it meant spending time with Renee. But when Renee had insisted on treating Ginny to dinner, their relationship had moved beyond the workplace and soon Ginny found herself looking forward to weekends when Renee would drag her to all sorts of activities that she would never venture on alone.

Even now, Ginny could remember clearly the night it happened. Renee had been so excited about the whale-watching excursion that Ginny hadn’t the heart to disappoint her, but boats made her extremely nervous. And nauseous. They had barely left Puget Sound when Ginny’s breakfast left her. Renee had spent the entire trip by her side and that night, after Ginny had apologized profusely, Renee had wrapped her in long arms and Ginny found herself on the receiving end of a very intimate hug. Warning bells had gone off immediately and by the time that Renee’s lips had sought Ginny’s, she had been able to pull away.

" I’m sorry. I thought you wanted this."

" No, I’m not... I don’t... no."

" Then... what is all this about? "

" I just... I thought we were friends."

Ginny lifted one corner of her mouth and smiled. She had been so naive. She hadn’t had a clue that Renee was a lesbian. Whatever attraction there had been for Ginny, it was just friendship. There had been nothing more. There never could have been. But regardless, their relationship stopped there. Two months later, Ginny had found another job and she had not seen Renee since.

And now Kara.

She sipped her tea, one hand absently thumbing through the magazine, stopping when Kara’s picture stared back at her.

Ginny sat very still, mesmerized by the picture. Kara Morgan was an attractive woman but the flawless picture was breathtaking. Her hair was a little longer in the picture, Ginny noted. And diamond earrings sparkled in each ear. The few times she had seen her, Kara had not worn jewelry. Finally, with a sigh, she closed the magazine.

" Well, it doesn't matter, " she said quietly. She liked Kara. She wasn't going to avoid her, she decided, just because she was a lesbian. Kara would be leaving after the summer anyway.

Although the next morning, when Kara walked in and strode purposefully towards the espresso machine, Ginny wasn't quite able to meet her eyes. She was being ridiculous, she knew, but something told her she should avoid those blue, blue eyes. They would be nothing but trouble.

" Good morning, Kara."

" Morning, Louise."

" Did you have a taste for Seattle coffee this morning? "

" Mocha, " she said and turned amused eyes to Ginny. " Hello."

" Hi, " Ginny murmured, feeling embarrassed and hating herself for it. She shouldn't have read the article, she realized. If Kara had wanted her to know, she would have told her. It wasn’t any of her business, anyway. And did it really matter, she asked herself for the hundredth time.

Kara fished out a couple of crumpled bills from her pocket and handed them to Ginny. When their fingers touched, Ginny pulled back quickly, as if burned, and met the questioning eyes across from her, but she didn’t allow those blue eyes to capture hers for long.

Kara’s eyebrows drew together in a frown, wondering what in the world was going on. Then it hit her. Ginny had either re-read the article or had remembered it from earlier. Ginny looked nearly frightened to be in the same room with her. Kara had thought of inviting Ginny to dinner but now she knew she would never ask. She had seen that look from straight women before. Fear.

Ginny had half a mind to lay the change on the counter, but then she saw the challenge in Kara's eyes and she dropped it onto her outstretched palm, her fingers raking its surface.

Kara moved with her back to Louise and whispered, " Don't look so scared. It’s not contagious, you know."

Ginny blushed and looked away. " I'm sorry, " she murmured. What else could she say? " It’s just..."

" Doesn’t matter."

Kara shrugged and left with a curt goodbye to Louise.

Why was it that some straight women found it so hard to be friends? Did they think that being alone with a lesbian would tarnish them? That they were in danger of being converted? Kara pulled out her cigarettes angrily and shoved one between her lips. Women! Sometimes they were a royal pain in the ass.

When she reached the cabin, she sat in the truck and sipped her coffee, her anger subsiding. She didn't really want to make friends with Ginny, anyway. She would get much more work done being alone. With that, she picked up her sketchpad and went inside, intending to add more color to the meadow she had sketched that morning. She pushed thoughts of Ginny Harrison aside and began working. She was surprised to notice the sun setting later and she glanced at her watch. She had not only worked through lunch, she was missing dinner as well.

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