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CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO. IT WAS NEARLY dawn when she got home, exhausted






IT WAS NEARLY dawn when she got home, exhausted. They had not slept. She hadn't wanted to. When Kara had finally fallen asleep, Ginny left her, brushing her cheek lightly with her lips, whispering words of love to her sleeping form.

She had not been able to tell her, of course. She had been afraid of Kara's response. Kara, who had had many lovers, had probably heard the words many times before. What would her reaction be? Would she be amused?

Ginny showered, hearing Nana in the kitchen and she thought of Nana's reaction, should she guess that Ginny had fallen in love with a woman. She would be devastated. Nana could never understand.

"When did you finally get home?" Nana asked as she handed a cup of coffee from the espresso machine.

"Late."

"Must have been. You look tired," she said, watching her.

Ginny nodded, sipping from her coffee.

"Phil called," she said.

Ginny let out her breath slowly, wondering what in the world he could have to say. "And?"

"Ginny, I just don't understand you. The man is heartbroken," Nana said.

"Nana, please," Ginny said, shaking her head.

"Maybe you were hasty, Ginny. Maybe you need to think about this," she said.

"I've thought about it for the last nine months, Nana."

"But what will you do? Living out here with me," she said, motioning to the windows. "I won't be around for ever. Then what? What will you have? No husband, no babies," she said.

Ginny thought Nana was near tears and she went to her and hugged her. "Nana, please don't worry about me. I know you just want me to be happy. But, right now, this is what I want."

Nana let out a great sigh. "I don't understand women today," she said. "Kara, for instance. Thirty-four and alone. Why must you be so independent? There's nothing wrong with having a man to take care of you," she said.

"I'm not going to get married just to have someone take care of me, Nana. I can do that myself," she said gently.



"I'm worst than a mother, aren't I?"

Ginny smiled. "I wouldn't know," she said.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

"Nana, I've always felt closer to you than to her. You know that."

Nana touched her cheek and smiled. "I'm sorry, child. I'll leave you alone about Phil. You know what's best," she said.

"Thank you."

 

Kara packed her few things, shoving them blindly into her bag. She didn't have much. Most of her clothes were still at the cottage. She had already loaded her paintings, packing them carefully in the back of the Land Cruiser.

Going to see Ginny was going to be the hardest thing she had ever done. But she must, she told herself. She couldn't stay here for the next few months and continue this affair with Ginny as if they had a future together. She had to give Ginny some time. Some time to discover herself. Some time to adjust to her new life and to figure out what she wanted from it. To figure out if this was what she wanted.

But she was hurting. She couldn't deny that. She had fallen so deeply in love with Ginny that she felt as if she were cutting out her own heart by leaving. But better now, then two months down the road, when Ginny came to her senses and realized that Kara wasn't the only woman out there.

And maybe later, after they had both had some time, Ginny might decide that Kara could make her happy in the long run. She might want to have a future with Kara. Kara closed her eyes, envisioning living out here with Ginny, waking up with her every morning, building a life together. Then she slowly shook her head. Did she really believe that would happen?

Ginny was only twenty-eight. She would meet someone younger, someone with her own interests, someone to make her forget about Kara and her summer of discovery.

Leave now and save face, she thought, shoving her clothes hastily into her bag. In a few hours, she would be safely back at the cottage, away from Ginny. She would have time to mend, time to heal her broken heart. Marsha's leaving couldn't even compare to the pain she was feeling now, she knew. Marsha, who she had spent six years with, had left her so quietly that Kara hadn't even known she was gone.



But Ginny, she thought. Ginny would rip her heart out without even knowing it.

 

Ginny looked up as the bell jingled, like she always did. She smiled, surprised to see Kara at the store. But her smile faded when she saw the sadness in Kara's blue eyes. She went to her, unmindful of Nana watching.

"What is it?" she asked, stopping a mere foot in front of her.

"I'm... leaving," Kara said. "For awhile."

"Leaving?"

"Hello, Kara," Nana said, walking up to them.

Kara pulled her eyes away from Ginny and forced a smile to her face. "Hello, Louise. I came to say goodbye," she said.

"Goodbye?"

"I'm going to Seattle. I don't know how long I'll be gone," she said. "So I wanted to stop by."

"Well, we'll still be here when you get back," Nana said lightly, ignorant to the tension between the two women.

Kara turned back to Ginny, her heart splitting in two at the look in her green eyes. "Can we talk?"

Ginny nodded numbly. "I'll be right back," she said to Nana.

Ginny followed Kara outside, her eyes taking in her packed truck. "Kara?" She turned frightened eyes to her. "What are you doing?"

"Ginny, I've got to get back," she said quietly. "I've got... some business to take care of," she said.

Ginny studied her eyes. "You're running away," she said, knowing it was true.

"No."

"Why? Tell me."

"Ginny." Kara reached out a hand to Ginny, then dropped it to her side.

"Why are you leaving me?" Ginny whispered. "Was it that bad for you?"

"Ginny, don't," Kara said. She placed her hands on Ginny's shoulders and made her look at her. "This thing between us... you need some time. I need to give you time."

"I'm in love with you," Ginny blurted out.

"Please don't say that," Kara groaned. She dropped her hands, her heart beating painfully in her chest. "You don't know what's out there," she said. "This is all new for you. Don't assume you love me, just because I'm the one that made you realize your alternatives."

Ginny stared at her, hearing her words, knowing what Kara was doing. "You're afraid," Ginny said. "You're afraid of what I feel for you."

It was Kara's turn to stare. "Don't settle for me," she said gently.

"Oh, I see," Ginny said. "I need to sleep around first. See what's out there? See if I just imagined all this?"

Kara nodded weakly.

"Get a little more experience?" Ginny laughed. "Do I need to practice?"

"Ginny, you know that's not what I mean," Kara said.

"Isn't it? I could tell last night, I guess. You were so far away," she whispered.

"Ginny, no. That's not it. Surely you know..."

"I'm a beautiful lover. Yeah, right," she said bitterly.

"Ginny..."

"Why didn't you tell me before? Why did you make me think that is was good for you, too?"

"Ginny, listen to me," Kara said, gripping her shoulders again. Oh, God, this isn't what she wanted Ginny to think. This wasn't how she envisioned their parting. "I care about you. I... care about you very much," she said again. "I don't want you to hurt me," she whispered, her voice cracking with emotion.

"Hurt you?" Ginny asked, amazed. "How could I hurt you?"

"I just want you to be sure," Kara said. "Before we go too far."

"So you're going to leave me? That's how you want me to be sure?"

"I have to. For me as much as for you," she said.

"It won't change anything," Ginny said. "I know how I feel." She looked up into Kara's eyes. "I'm in love with you. Don't leave me," she whispered and she felt tears gather in her eyes. "Please?"

Kara swallowed hard, hating herself for what she was doing. "Take care of yourself," Kara said and she touched Ginny's face gently.

"Do you love me, too, Kara?" Ginny asked softly. "Is that why you're running away?"

Kara's jaw clinched from the ache in her heart and she pulled her eyes from Ginny's. She walked to her truck and slammed the door and sped away.



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