It was snowing again. If it didn't quit soon, the four foot powdery drifts would double overnight. The flakes were tiny, and fell like an endless, soft, white rain. Driving home at night in such a flurry looked like one was maneuvering a submarine...floating down into the depths, all the tiny creatures and sediments caught in the lights and floating by.
Jo parked her car and quickly gathered her thermos and backpack. She made a mad dash for the front door. Her body was not made to endure this kind of weather.
She banged her wool mittens together and stomped her feet before entering the small wooden cabin. A small gust of snow followed her, and swirled close to the hardwood floor until she booted the door closed with her rear.
Wisconsin winters were legendary. She could still see her icy breath in the mud room, and hesitated to remove her thick coat. Never in her life had she needed such heavy material wrapped around her for eight months out of the year. It seemed like everything she owned now was either wool or thermal or a combination of both.
Jo kicked off her boots and dragged off her hat and mittens. Finally she braved the freezing air of the uninsulated mud room and shrugged off her coat. She threw it on the silver hook against the wall. She blew out a quick, frosty breath and bent to pick up a couple of logs for the fire from the small stack near the entryway, and then shoved the kitchen door open.
After she'd entered and closed the door, she leaned into it for a moment and let the warm cabin air welcome her home. There was a cauldron of apple cinnamon cider on the stove, and she moved towards it gratefully, absentmindedly placing her armload of wood and belongings on the farm table. Her stomach growled as she bent slightly over the cast iron pot to inhale the sweet aroma of cooking spices.
As she stood over the stove, she heard the soft pad of slippered feet walk up behind her. A warm pair of hands slid around her waist and a gentle voice breathed in her ear.
"Welcome home, baby."
Jo turned in the arms holding her and draped her own lazily around the shorter woman's neck. She smiled into the brilliant blue eyes looking up at her. When she leaned down for a kiss, the other woman raised her hands to her cold cheeks and pressed their lips together. Jo wrapped her arms around her waist and pulled her closer.
"It's fucking cold out there, Brenna."
Brenna caught the slight mischievous tone and her eyes narrowed. "Don't you dare…AUGH!"
Jo had already shoved her icy hands up the other woman's shirt and splayed them with a delighted groan against the warm skin of Brenna's lower back.
Brenna squirmed as she hollered and Jo laughed and made exaggerated noises of pleasure against the woman's rapidly cooling skin. Brenna ripped herself free and fled, laughing, into the living room. Jo grinned and raced after her. In a delightful tangle of arms, legs and cable knit sweaters they collided onto the thick, fluffy rug by the hearth. Jo's wicked grin let the other woman know that she wasn't interested in anything else until she was as warm as the woman beaming beneath her. Dinner could wait.
After dinner, Jo sat back with her hands comfortably warm against her streaming mug of cider. She watched as Brenna once again reached for the small journal tucked amongst the magazines and books on the small bookshelf. They'd done this for months. She was past the point of arguing its necessity, and simply waited for her lover to begin.
Brenna flipped open the journal. She could feel the other woman's exasperation, but she grimly took a breath and began their nighttime ritual.
"First meeting or longer conversation?"
Jo huffed at her. She could do both easily, but tonight she was worn out from the long day, the cautious drive home in the blizzard, and from the delicious things Brenna had done to her earlier in the living room. "First meeting. I'm pretty wiped out." She winked. "Your fault."
Brenna's blue eyes twinkled smugly but she only nodded. "Who are you?"
Jo sipped her cider. "My name is Josephine Elisabeth Walker."
Brenna smiled slightly. "Where are you from?"
"Originally I'm from Cape Cod, but I moved to this fucking icicle state after college."
Brenna pursed her lips but continued, feigning surprise. "So far away from your family?"
Jo looked at the deep blue of the ceramic mug in her hand and swirled its contents before answering. "They are very understanding of my... independent streak."
Brenna smiled widely at her. She muttered something under her breath before continuing. "So what brought you to Wisconsin?"
Jo grinned back at her. "Lucky for my wandering heart, tutors are needed everywhere!"
Brenna jotted some notes and nodded, satisfied, handing the journal over to Jo. Jo passed her the mug of cider and took the little book, flipping a few pages. She waited for the other woman to take a long sip of the spiced drink before beginning.
"Who are you?"
Brenna got up from the table to refill the mug. She sat back down with a sigh. "My name is Brenna Dean Matheson."
"Where are you from?"
Another sigh. "Originally I'm from Washington State. I came here on a scholarship to finish my master's degree."
Jo heaved her own sigh and cast a wearied look at her partner. She opted not to complain, and instead looked down at the worn pages in front of her.
"What was your master's degree in?"
Brenna took another sip of cider. "Social work."
"And what made you stay in such a freezing fucking place?"
Brenna chuckled. "I met my wife. It wasn't a hard decision."
Jo blushed. "That's not the right answer, you little minx."
Brenna put her chin in her hand. "I happen to enjoy eight months of winter?"
Jo shut the journal and looked up at her. "Are you trying to tell me that you are finally getting sick of this routine?"
Brenna stood and traced her hand against the farm tabletop as she walked smoothly over to the other woman. She wrapped her arms around Jo's neck and sat in her lap, brushing their lips together. "I stayed because I found there was a need. I am eager to help the young people lost in the system. Lucky for me there is a need for social workers everywhere."
Jo shoved the journal away and hugged Brenna closer into her lap, nuzzling and kissing her neck before looking up at her. "Finally, woman. I swear you say this shit in your sleep!"
Brenna looked away briefly, a flash of sadness in her eyes. "Good." She said quietly.
Jo saw her sadness and hugged her tighter. She raised her chin and kissed her lover long and deep. She gently moved her hands up and down the other woman's spine in soothing strokes.
"Why don't we turn in early tonight? I'll stoke the fire and be right behind you."
Brenna gazed down at her a moment, studying her soulful green eyes. Then she nodded and got up, heading for the bedroom.
Jo watched her go, biting her lip. For one horribly long moment she allowed old and insecure thoughts to drown her mind. They were quickly followed by the very real and present danger they were constantly in. She looked at the little leather journal, filled with questions and memories and other fictional things. They memorized it, added to it and stored it in the very forefront of their minds. As much as she knew they were both sick to death of that damn book and its significance, she knew their lives depended upon its memorized fiction.
Jo shoved herself away from the kitchen table and shoved all thoughts out of her mind. There was no tomorrow. There was no next week. There was only now. They had lost the luxury of the future, and time would never be in their favor. As she turned the white hot coals of the fire and added more logs, Jo stared at the dancing flames and the peculiar shadows they cast against the bricks. There was only now, and in this moment they were safe, and her lover was waiting for her in the mess of thick quilts piled on their bed. Now was a good moment, and she wasn't going to waste it staring into a fire.
Jo stripped to her boxers and donned a clean tee before climbing in next to the protesting lump under the covers.
"You're letting in cold air!"
Jo grinned and fluffed the covers, earning a solid smack on the rear as she turned to shut off the lamp. She yelped and grabbed the arm, dragging Brenna against her. "Come here," she laughed quietly.
Brenna snuggled up close to her and threw a leg over Jo possessively. Jo wriggled a bit until she was even with the drowsy woman, and they lay still for a long while, facing each other and breathing the same air.
In the darkness and warm security of their secluded cabin in the woods, Jo finally relaxed her throat and let her true accent come forth. "I love you, Bridget Westfall." She whispered.
"And I love you, Franky Doyle." Came the almost inaudible and very Australian reply.