Frank walked in, “Dinner’s ready!” he said with excitement. Tilda stood, “Could I use the restroom real quick?” she asked.
“Of course, it’s just down the hall,” Frank said. Tilda followed Frank’s directions to the door. She felt bad leaving Jodie alone.
She looked in the cabinets above and below the sink. Both were empty.
A wooden bird sat to the left of the soap. A Golden Eagle.
She washed her hands and started walking back to the dining room, through the drawing-lined hallways. But something caught her eye. Another drawing; another fire. In the woods, now. No house. Just fire.
Tilda sat down next to Jodie. “Natalie was jus' tellin' me that her work’s gunna be shown in a galley downtown,” Jodie said. “Oh how nice,” Tilda responded. “Which one?”
“It’s called Prey,” Natalie spoke up. “I’m showing three pieces.”
“Yes,” said Frank, “I’m very proud of her.”
Natalie turned and stared at Frank. “Happy for her, I mean.” He smiled.
They ate their food in silence.
17 years ago
Jodie and Tilda sat in the almost-dark, drinking wine and laughing. It was three days after Tilda had been attacked. They sat at the dining room table, a candle lit in the center. Their skin quivered in the candle light. They ate cheese that Jodie had made from scratch and they told stories about their lives.
“I’ve never really talked to other people,” Tilda said, laughing. “My grandfather schooled me himself, and when he died, I took over the farm. I sold it a couple years back, and here I am.”
“Am I your first friend, then?” Jodie smiled.
“I think you are.”
“You never really felt alone?”
“Not really. I had myself, I mean. But having a friend seems pretty nice.”
Jodie laughed, “Yeah,” she said.
They sat in silence for a moment.
“Y’ever had a boyfriend?” Jodie asked.
“Nope,” Tilda paused. “Never had much interest in guys.”
“Oh yeah?” Jodie leaned over and refilled her glass.
“I had one. We didn’t click. I was never really attracted to him; my sister, Natalie, had set us up, you know, and I couldn’t say no to her. We were together for ‘round two weeks.”
“And now? You pinin’ for a husband?” She grinned and playfully pushed Jodie. Jodie giggled, swaying in her wooden chair, her wine glass in hand. She swung forward and steadied herself on Tilda’s shoulder. Tilda grimaced. “Shit,” Jodie said, serious now, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Tilda whispered.
Jodie took a few deep breaths and looked up, into Tilda’s eyes. They sat there for a long while, in the heavy silence, staring at each other. She slowly placed the wine glass back on the table. Then she carefully moved her hands to the back of Tilda’s neck, and she kissed her. And Tilda put her hand on Jodie’s waist, and she caressed the soft fabric of her partner’s dress. It lasted for quite a long time, the kiss.
Jodie drew back and opened her eyes. Her cheeks grew hot and she started rubbing her forehead.
“Would you like to sleep in my bed tonight?” She asked, her voice now small and weak.
“I’d love to.”
“That food was amazing,” Jodie said, “Thank you so much for cooking. I loved the turkey especially, what wonderful seasoning.”
“Yes,” Natalie said, “Frank is quite good at cooking.”
“Would anyone like dessert?” Frank asked, grinning.
“I’d love some,” said Tilda.
“Great. I’ll be right back.”
With that, Frank left to the kitchen, closing the door behind him.
“So,” Natalie spoke up, “How is everything, on the farm, you know?”
Jodie answered: “Things are going well; it's been a great year for the crops, you know, and we’ve been making quite a bit of money, actually.”
“I’m glad.” Her smile looked forced. “And how's John?”
Jodie’s eyes widened. The temperature of the room seemed to drop, but she was suddenly hot. Patches of her skin grew red, burning and itching, and she began running her hands desperately over her face, trying to calm the burn and the itch. How did she know about him?
“He’s fine,” she forced out. Her hands shook. She had to leave, right then, she was no longer safe. But Tilda put her hand on Jodie’s thigh. “It’s okay,” she whispered, leaning in. “We’re just gonna leave. It’ll be fine.” She spoke up, “I’m not feeling too well,” she said, “I think I may have contracted something on the train.”
Tilda continued, “Sorry, we'll have to miss-”