Actions

Work Header

To Everything, There Is A Season

Chapter Text

“Hey great presentation in there Zelda! It’s a really great idea!” 

Zelda Spellman looked up from the open folder on her desk, a haughty, self-assured smile on her face. Her assistant stood in the doorway of her office, grinning. 

“Thank you Oliver. Of course it was a great idea. I think that our acquisition of that farmland will be perfect for the condominium I have in mind. We can really help Greendale come out of the dark ages, and join the rest of civilization in modernity—and class.’

The tall young man just nodded, before looking back down at his phone as it pinged. 

“Oh! That’s the construction company. I’d better call them back so I can book a time for you to meet with their head on construction, to scope out the land. I don’t think there is much to scope out, though. I also will let you know when I’ve gotten in contact with the architect.” He looked down at his watch and held up a hand to Zelda. “Gotta run. I’ll be back with your 3:45 coffee.”

Zelda smiled briefly before turning her attention back to her computer screen in front of her. There was a small alert noise, and she looked up to see a reminder pop down. 

Sabrina’s soccer game! Today at 5PM!

“Oh shit. I’ve completely forgotten! Hilda is never going to let me hear the end of it.” Zelda muttered to herself, under her breath. She looked at the clock on her wall. She slid open her desk drawer and took out a bottle of pills, popping one in her mouth and rinsing it down with the remnants of her cold coffee from earlier. 

If I leave now, I may make it in time to catch some of the game…

Zelda closed her laptop, and unplugged everything, frantically tucking the cords into her purse, and dialing Oliver’s number on her phone.

“Hey it’s me.”

“Zelda. What’s up?”

“I forgot that I have to go to my niece’s soccer game. I promised her I would go, but I still need to do some work on the farm project.” 

Zelda turned off the lights in her office, and locked the door, walking down the hallway for the elevators. 

“Hey, what’s the name of the owners again? It was something that sounded common yet unusual.”

“The family is called Wardwell, and they’ve had the farm in Greendale for many generations.”

“Mmn. Spare me on the history and personal details. That’s one way to make yourself start to feel sorry for the people whose land we are buying. Especially since they aren’t making much revenue anyways. We can figure out the rest once we get the owners to sell.”

Zelda smelled familiar cologne as she pushed the button for the elevator, and she grimaced to herself.

Time to put on a show...

“Oliver...I gotta go. Keep me updated on that meeting. I need it booked ASAP.”

Zelda hung up her phone and didn’t even have to turn to the left to know who had walked up beside her. It was her boss, Faustus Blackwood. There was a ding as the elevator doors opened in front of them.

“After you,” Faustus gestured, stretching his arm out. Zelda stepped into the elevator, and he followed, standing beside her. The moment the doors closed, he reached out his hand to slide it over her rear. 

“Mmn. Exquisite. And just where do you think you are headed off to so early?”

“I…” Zelda shivered as his breath was hot on the side of her neck. “I actually have to catch my niece’s soccer game. I promised my sister I would make it out to at least one.”

“I see. And your plans for that pitiful little Farm. How are those going?”

“I will be meeting with a contractor and an architect this week, to scope out how we want things to go.”

Faustus gripped Zelda’s arm and squeezed it slightly, while leaning in close to whisper. 

“Now Zelda, don’t mess up on your first big project. It would be very very bad for my company—and you, if you make an embarrassment out of things.”

Zelda could feel the Valium she had taken start to kick in, the nerves that she would normally be experiencing now dulled by the benzodiazepine. She put on her usual cold demeanor, and pushed her shoulders back.

“As if I would mess things up. Don’t you know I am as invested in this company just as much as you are? Besides, when this condo project is in full swing, and it is a success—”

“If..” Faustus interrupted.

“When I am successful, we will be making a considerable profit.” The elevator landed on the bottom floor, and Faustus pushed the button to keep the door closed.

“That’s what I like to hear. Money and power are our two main goals here…never forget that.” 

Faustus slid his hand up to cup Zelda’s breast, a look of concentration on his face. She tried not to shrink back from his touch, and gave him a contrived smile. She knew how to play the game, even if she didn’t like playing it. 

“Will I see you later, Zelda?”

“I don’t think so. I might have dinner plans with my family...” 

“Well it’s not like that has ever stopped you before.” Faustus studied her from beneath a supercilious brow, his eyes raking over her. 

“Anyways. Carry on. I have to go collect Judith and Judas from school.” 

Zelda reached forward to push the button to open the elevator, and Faustus grabbed her forearm.

“Don’t mess this up, Zelda.”

“I won’t.” Zelda said sternly, a bit of an edge to her voice. She left the elevator, walking quickly to the parking lot. Her Mercedes Benz G-Class SUV was parked up front, right next to Faustus’s luxury car of the month. Excellent parking was one of the perks of being promoted by Faustus. Originally she had been a part of a smaller holdings company, and they got bought out by Faustus. He had taken a liking to her, and she played his game, power her main goal. She didn’t really care for feelings, especially not those of Faustus Blackwood. She didn’t have time for that. Instead, she was more interested in rising to the top, and gaining control over Faustus. She dreamed of the day she would be in his position, as CEO, and he would be taking orders from her. Zelda climbed into her, and shut the door. She placed her purse on the floor, in front of the passenger seat, and withdrew her pack of cigarettes. With a sigh of relief, Zelda lit the cigarette and took a long drag.

That’s better…

 


 

Cars sat bumper to bumper, stretching across the bridge that led to Greendale, their occupants furious. Zelda lit another cigarette, and turned on her GPS for a traffic update. A robotic voice announced that there was an accident up ahead.

Great...now I will be late for sure.

Zelda rolled her eyes and sagged back against the seat, tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. Her phone made a chiming noise and she picked it up, unlocking it. It was an email from Oliver. He had added an appointment with the lead of construction for her, later that week. Then they were scheduled to drive around Wardwell Farm that Friday, to take a look at the property. Zelda scrolled through some more emails, checking on some of the other properties that they were working on. She closed her email app, tired of looking at work, and opened up the browsing app on her phone. She typed in ‘Wardwell Farm Greendale’ into the search bar, and hit search. 

A 5-star rating and great reviews. Too bad that they don’t have enough money to un-sink themselves.

Zelda clicked on the first hit, the company website. She found out that the farm not only produced their own dairy, but also ran a seasonal pumpkin patch, which was a ‘Greendale staple.’ 

“Wardwell Farm was established in the late 1800s, by Keith Wardwell when he arrived from Scotland—eh, boring.”

There was a section on the website that had pictures of the farm, and Zelda swiped through them, though she had already seen a few. There was a stereotypical red barn, a silo, and windmill. Zelda raised an eyebrow, and kept clicking through the photos. Someone must’ve taken some photographs during the fall season last year, because the next 20 pictures were of the farm when they had guests. There were various booths set up all around the main area in front of the barn, tiny lights on a strand decorating each one. There were families with small children, groups of teenagers, and older couples. All appeared to be laughing and enjoying themselves. People held caramel apples, kids pet animals, and there were pumpkins everywhere . It looked like a scene straight out of a Hallmark movie. 

It looks like people really enjoy themselves here...better not think of it too much, or it will make things even harder come Friday.

Zelda swiped for the next picture, and saw a petite woman sitting astride a tractor, a bed filled with hay hooked up behind her. All of the people in the back of the flatbed were smiling. The caption underneath the photo said: Hayrides during the fall! 

Zelda zoomed in on the photo, and looked at the woman. She had her hair braided in two pigtails, that sat over her shoulders. She was wearing a plaid shirt and overalls, which looked to be a little too big for her. That wasn’t what caught Zelda’s attention, though. It was the smile that was plastered across the woman’s face, seemingly caught in a moment of glee while atop a tractor, of all things. There were crinkles of laughter around the woman’s eyes, and the glasses she wore sat low on her nose. Zelda’s eyes were drawn to a dimple in the woman’s cheek, just below a defined cheekbone. A car horn blared behind Zelda, and she looked up to see that the traffic ahead of her had cleared. She put her car in drive and drove forward. Sabrina’s game would be starting in 15 minutes, and Zelda was still 30 minutes away. She gave her car some more gas and sped along, carefully taking twists and turns on the road back into Greendale. 

When she came drove past the sign that read Welcome To Greendale! , Zelda couldn’t help but roll her eyes. She really despised the little town, even though it was where she had been born and raised. It brought back memories she would rather leave buried. Her, Hilda, and Edward had A lovely childhood in Greendale. Their parents were the wealthiest family in town, and their children wanted for nothing. Zelda let out a forlorn sigh. It would be 16 years that October since Edward passed away. After his and Diana’s deaths, her and Hilda were left with Sabrina. They already had taken in Ambrose, their cousin’s boy, after much in-fighting between relatives. When it came to Edward’s child, though, there was no hesitation in who she would be raised by. Zelda and Hilda proudly raised Sabrina as though she were their own daughter, and she loved her aunties dearly; however, the older Sabrina got, the harder it got for Zelda. She was so much like Edward, and even Diana. Some days Zelda had to take moments to herself, to mourn. 

Returning to Greendale was always left Zelda feeling uneasy. Sure, she came home every weekend, and sometimes saw her family during the week, but she tried to stay away as much as she could. Sometimes, Zelda dwelled on the fact that she had never settled down to have a family of her own.  She knew that the modern woman didn’t need to be tied down via the conventions of traditional marriage. Marriage wasn’t a concern, or a desire, at least not at the moment. But as she was getting older, she realized that she wanted only two things more than anything: to have a child, and to be loved. She had tried so hard for a child. There were countless visits to fertilization clinics, doctors appointments, vitamin regimens, hormone therapy. She had even given up smoking for a few years, trying to make her body as welcome a home as possible for a future child. It never worked out, though, and miscarriage after miscarriage left Zelda beaten down, weak, and eventually callous. It seemed her body had made the decision for her. Zelda was tired, having tried so hard for so long. Her final attempt left her in the hospital, exhausted and catatonic. So, she gave up, and fell into a deep depression. 

Love and romance were still at the back of Zelda’s mind, but she had practically given up on those as well. She could do without relationships. Sex was always there, always an option to release some tension. Zelda was the type of person who could have fun with anyone, regardless of their gender. She was not picky when it came to pleasure; still, she preferred the company of her own hand and a collection of toys. It was easier to keep people at an arm’s length and not have to worry about them getting too close, opening up and risking them find out about your past failures. It wasn’t that Zelda was completely done with relationships, rather, she didn’t particularly need one in her life. She’d had a few trysts under her belt, long-forgotten memories, and her current unwanted on-and-off dalliance with Faustus. Her life wasn’t exactly terrible, but it also wasn’t where she had hoped it to be. So, instead of dwelling on her losses, Zelda threw herself into her work. And lucky for her, work kept her quite busy. She ended up working so much over the past 6 years that she had obtained a small, posh apartment in Riverdale. It was in one of the areas of town had been gentrified by her company—well, Faustus’s company, Blackwood Holdings & Management. Riverdale had become a modern yet quaint town, boasting eateries and shops with organic food, unique gyms, condos, parks, and other boutiques. Zelda was proud of her work for the company, and was doing quite well financially as a result of it. 

 


 

There was a tap on Zelda’s shoulder as she held her cell phone up to her ear.

“Just a minute!” She whispered, not turning around to look. The tap was there again, this time more urgent.

“Zelda!”

“I said just a minute! Can’t you see I’m on the phone? No—sorry, no, that wasn’t meant for you. Someone was interrupting me.” Zelda turned to look back in her sister’s direction, fire in her eyes. 

“Yep...I think that the natural juice shop will be an excellent addition to the bottom floor of the condo. Yeah, yeah. The younger, health-centric crowd will get a kick out of having fresh, cold-pressed juice on the site of what used to be a farm. I think it will be great.” Zelda paused, and bit at the corner of her fingernail. 

“Mhmmn. Hopefully I can convince the owner to sell. Yes. Yes, exactly. There isn’t much left. Oh yeah they are definitely going under. Have been for a while…”

Zelda shifted her weight to her other leg, and looked across the parking lot of Baxter High School. She could hear the cheers of the crowd coming from behind her, as Sabrina’s soccer game neared the end. When she first arrived at the school, not 15 minutes earlier, Zelda had barely sat down in the bleachers before she was rushing out to answer her ringing phone. Sabrina had stood up out of the huddle and looked for Hilda in the crowd, and saw Zelda there too. Her face got excited, and then fell when she saw Zelda rushing out. Hilda nearly cried at the expression on her niece’s face, and had decided to go find Zelda before the game was over.

“Alright Oliver. Thanks. I will get back to you on that other thing—oh! And let me know when you have that architect on board. I really like his work. Alright...okay, thanks.”

Zelda turned around to see Hilda’s retreating form, rushing back towards the noisy crowd. She walked back over to the field, cautious of her heels. When she got there, everyone was screaming with joy, and the Baxter High students who had attended the game were running out into the field. She saw people crowding around the team, and Sabrina being hoisted into the air. Zelda couldn’t hide her smile, pride surging through her. At least she got a glimpse of her niece being praised by her peers. She deserved it. Sabrina had practiced tirelessly, working to get a spot on the soccer team. When she finally made the team, they all went out to eat, in celebration. Tears formed in Zelda’s eyes and she turned away from the crowd. She needed to do better at being there for Sabrina. Her niece saw her as a mother, as Zelda had mostly taken over the more authoritative role in her upbringing. They currently were at a rough patch in their relationship. Sabrina was at an age where she wasn’t shy on calling Zelda out on her absences from the family. It made Zelda feel guilty, and that guilt kept her away even more. She couldn’t face them, didn’t want to be reminded of all of the things she was missing out on. Besides, Faustus kept her busy at work, much to her dismay. She was very well off since being promoted by him, and she didn’t want to do anything to upset him, or risk getting all of her titles and accolades stripped away. 

Zelda walked through the screaming crowd of people, and walked quickly back to her car. She wiped some tears away from her eyes as she started the car, pulling away from the school before the post-game traffic started to build up. Before she knew it, Zelda found herself pulling into the parking lot of the grocery store on the way home to grab a small bouquet of flowers for Sabrina. She rushed over to the front corner of the store where various bouquets were available for purchase. Zelda scanned over the flowers, most looked tired, as they had been sitting out all day. There was a nice bunch of daisies that looked decent, and Zelda grabbed them quickly, as though someone else were waiting around to take them from her. On her way to the checkout, she paused, and turned to visit the liquor section. She passed the dairy on the way there, and her eyes drifted over the organic section. Zelda looked at the milk, variety of cheese, and eggs, curious to see if Wardwell Farm had any of their products in the store. There was a section with milk and eggs that seemed to be separate from the rest. When Zelda got a closer look, she found what she was looking for. There was a handwritten sign affixed to the case above the dairy products that read: ‘Fresh From Wardwell Farm!’ . Zelda pursed her lips, and wondered just how popular this farm was in town. She shook herself from her daydream, and selected a bottle of whiskey for herself. Zelda let out a sigh of relief as she approached the front of the store, and saw that the self-checkout was working, for once. Zelda paid for her items, making haste, and went back to her car. Butterflies danced around in her stomach during the drive, and she hoped that she would make it home before her family, so she could head straight to bed. 

The familiar trees that started to line the street alerted Zelda that her turn was coming up soon. She drove past a few more before taking a left, turning onto the familiar dirt path. Her heart gave a little lurch as she saw her home, her real home, in the distance. She may have not liked returning to Greendale, but she sure did miss her house. A series of memories from her childhood, from raising Sabrina and Ambrose always greeted her when she came back home. It felt good to be back. Plus, she could go and investigate the Wardwell Farm while she was in town. Perhaps everything would go as planned.

 


 

Zelda was the first one downstairs the next morning, already seated at the kitchen table with a cigarette and newspaper in hand. She had a cup of espresso next to her, and her perfectly polished hand came from around the newspaper every now and then to retrieve and set back down her cup. She heard movement near the kitchen, and knew it was probably Sabrina.

“Yes?” Zelda spoke, lowering the paper a bit. Her niece sat looking at her with a smile on her face.

“Thank you for the flowers, Auntie.”

“You’re welcome.” Zelda looked back at the paper, not wanting to make eye contact. Sabrina’s fingertips appeared over the top edge of the newspaper, and pulled it down gently.

“I saw you at my game last night.” 

“I may have made an appearance.” Zelda cleared her throat and raised the paper back up, covering her face.

“I made the winning goal. I know you didn’t see that, though. I was just glad that you came.” 

Zelda’s shoulders sank, and tears filled her eyes. She tried to focus on what she was reading, but instead found herself looking at her lap, letting out a sniffle.

“Are you...are you crying , Aunt Zee?” Sabrina tried to lean around the newspaper to see Zelda’s face.

“No, no. I just have allergies, that’s all. You know how the pollen can be at this time of year.”

“Sure…” Sabrina didn’t sound convinced, and Zelda cursed herself for becoming emotional. She just felt terribly guilty about not being there for her family more. Coming back home always made her realize that she was missing precious moments in Ambrose and Sabrina’s lives, moments that she would never get to experience. 

“So. I have a boyfriend now.” Sabrina sat with her hands under her chin, beaming over at Zelda. The newspaper rapidly fell down, and Zelda looked at Sabrina with a frown on her face.

“Excuse me? And who is this young man that I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting?”

“Oh you’ve met him. It’s Harvey...Harvey Kinkle? Remember, we went to school together since we were younger?”

“I think the name rings a bell. So, this Harvey. Is he treating you well?”

“Yes, of course. He loves me. He wouldn’t do anything to hurt me.”

“Good. Are you two having sex?”

“Aunt Zee! No!” Sabrina looked around, checking to see if anyone else had heard. Zelda was unphased by Sabrina’s embarrassment, and just simply puffed on her cigarette.

“Sabrina, there is nothing wrong with sex. Just as long as you are taking precautions. It is important to make sure that you both communicate with each other, that you both are consenting. Never stay with someone who makes you do anything you don’t want to do.”

“We aren’t doing those things. Besides, we’re so young.”

“That doesn’t mean anything, Sabrina. There are plenty of kids your age engaging in risky sexual behavior. I just want to make sure you are safe, that’s all.” 

Sabrina blushed, and looked uncomfortable. She got up from the seat, an anxious look on her face. 

“Uh...thanks Auntie, but I’ve gotta go. Harvey is on his way to pick me up anyways. Bye!” 

Zelda shook her head, and returned to looking at her newspaper. Hilda entered the room as Sabrina left, and looked back at her niece walking to the front door.

“What’s gotten into her?” Hilda asked, walking over to put the kettle on.

“I had a little chat with our niece about the importance of safe sex, and consent. I hardly made it more than a few sentences in before she was dashing off, embarrassed. I hate that these puritanical schools always teach about these things in a way that makes teenagers even ashamed to talk about it. It’s ridiculous!”

“You know, she would probably listen to you if you were around more.”

Zelda took another sip of her coffee, trying to ignore the guilt she felt.

“I’m sorry, it’s just that I have—”

“I know, I know, you have to work. Hey how is that going by the way? Any fun new projects?”

“Well actually…” Zelda sat down her newspaper, folding it up. “We have a new one coming up. I’m heading it. I proposed it to Faustus and the team, and they gave me the go ahead.”

“Ooh sounds exciting! You’ve always wanted to lead a project!” 

“Yes. And I think it is really going to be a hit with the late twenties to early thirties crowd. We do need to encourage a younger crowd to move to Greendale. We should be able to offer some of the luxuries that larger cities offer, but with a small town feel.”

Hilda smiled to herself as she made her cup of tea. She had seen her sister through some hard times in her life. Though Zelda was always busy with work, it was nice to see her excited about something for once. Hilda stirred some sugar into her tea, and moved to sit down at the table, next to Zelda.

“So, tell me more about it!”

“Well, I proposed we buy a farm—”

“A farm?”

“Yes. Stick with me for a minute.”

Hilda nodded, waiting for more information.

“So, we are buying a farm, and turning it into a modern condo with health-conscious shops, and a park. What do you think?”

“Which farm is it that you are buying? Not the one here in Greendale?”

“Yes, actually. Wardwell Farm. I was looking over land here, and came across it on the map. It’s perfect! I had Oliver make some phone calls for me, and he dug up their finances for the past few quarters over the past three years.They haven’t been doing too well, and the owner is probably about ready to sell right now. They probably could use the money.”

“Zelda...Wardwell Farm is the oldest farm here! It is practically a Greendale staple! It’s a historical landmark! You can’t just buy it and turn it into one of your posh people skyscraper apartment things! The people who will move in probably don’t even actually care about health, or the environment, or anything.”

Zelda was shocked at Hilda’s reaction, and opened and closed her mouth a few times.

“Well I...wow. I certainly wasn’t expecting that reaction.”

“Zelda everyone loves Wardwell Farm. It is a Greendale tradition to go there every fall. You know this. Don’t you remember? We used to take the kids there, when they were little. Remember how Mother and Father would never let us go? I used to beg them.”

Zelda vaguely remembered Hilda as a child, crying about not being allowed to do certain things. Their parents had insisted that they stick with their lessons, and extra-curricular activities that they had picked out for their kids. Zelda then thought of when Sabrina was a child, and how they tried to give her a childhood that included more fun than their own.

“That’s where that was?”

“Yes, Zelda. That farm was a large part of Sabrina’s childhood, as well as many other children here in town. You can’t just tear it down.”

“Well, I can’t exactly just go back into work and tell Faustus that I am not going through with my plans, because I have ‘fond personal memories’ that interfere with our business.”

“That man still has too much power over you, Zelda. I really hope you decide to leave the company one day. It’s not worth it. You shouldn’t be afraid of your boss. Especially when he makes you do... things . It’s just not right.” Hilda shook her head and stood up from the table, taking her tea with her into the next room. Zelda remained seated, and stared at the table, eyes focusing on a smoothed over knot in the wood. She thought back to a few weeks ago, when she found herself on her knees in Faustus’s office, his hand painfully gripping her hair. A shudder washed over Zelda, and she quickly downed the rest of her coffee before deciding to leave. 

Might as well get a look at the farm before we start showing up with contractors and architects. Probably best to just ease our way into things, that way the owner won’t be too upset. Then again, how upset can they be if they are sinking?

Zelda gathered her belongings from her room upstairs and went to her car. She looked up Wardwell Farm in her GPS and punched ‘GO’. As she was turning her car around in the driveway, she saw Ambrose waving to her from the front door. With a slight wave, she put her car back in drive and headed down the road, the farm her destination. 

 


 

“Oliver? Hey, I’m going to be coming in a little late today.”

Zelda had driven up to the front gate of Wardwell Farm, and parked her car. She decided to give Oliver a call and let him know where she’d be, that it was work-related, so Faustus wouldn’t be upset with her. 

“Hey Zelda. I was wondering where you were.” Oliver’s voice came through the speaker system on Zelda’s car.

“I’ve decided to make a stop at the farm on the way back into Riverdale. Hopefully I can meet the owner, maybe butter him up and let him know of our plan.”

“That sounds great Zelda. I’ll keep working from this side of town.”

“Perfect. Thanks. I’ll let you know if I make any headway with the owner. Talk to you later.”

Zelda hung up the phone and looked across the large field. She could see some cows munching on the grass, as well as horses in the distance. The road ahead was made out of dirt, and Zelda was glad that she had a car that was a ways up off the ground.

“All right. Let’s go and see what this farm is about.” 

Zelda started down the road, and recognized the large barn from the photos she had seen online, as well as the silo. There were several holding fences, and bales of hay stacked around near the barn. On the other side of the silo, she could see the pumpkin patch. Zelda kept going slowly down the road, and saw a small two-story cottage. Zelda turned towards the direction of the house, and saw an old red pickup truck parked next to it. She pulled up beside the truck, and parked. It was a nice farm, Zelda had to admit. It wasn’t too big, rather quaint. She opened her car door and stepped out, the smell of animals in the air. 

“Eugh.” Zelda waved a hand in front of her face, and closed her car door, locking it behind her. She walked carefully across the dirt towards the front door, not wanting to ruin her heels. A wooden sign that read ‘WARDWELL’ hung from the front edge of the porch. Zelda slid her purse onto her forearm, and raised her hand to knock on the door. She knocked several times in a row and stood back, waiting for someone to open the door. There was no answer. She waited a few seconds more.

Maybe they’re in the restroom or no one is at home? 

Zelda hesitated for about two minutes before knocking again. 

“Hello? Is anyone there?” She called out, not wanting to startle whomever was in the house. Zelda knocked another time.

“Helloooo?”

Maybe I should just come back a different day.

“Just a minute!” 

Zelda perked up. It was a woman’s voice, and it sounded like it was coming from outside, around the other side of the house. Zelda stepped back off the porch and leaned back, trying to see if someone was outside. Suddenly, the front door opened, and Zelda looked back to see who it was. 

“Hi! I’m sorry to leave you standing out here like that. I’m Mary. Can I help you?”

Zelda stood dumbfounded for a few moments, taking in the woman who stood before her. She walked back up onto the porch, not sure what to say. The woman was wiping her work-worn hands on a small towel as she smiled at Zelda, expecting her to say something. Zelda saw the freckled and tanned skin that peered out from under her clothing.

It’s the woman from that picture on the website!

She wasn’t a very large woman, and was around Zelda’s height—without heels, of course. She had a very peculiar-looking face, and wore not a drop of makeup. She had sharp features, a small, delicate mouth, and striking blue eyes. Her hair was braided back into a ponytail, which fell over her shoulder. Some strands had escaped, and blew around her face. She was a lithe woman—Zelda could tell from the delicate bones of her wrists—but had on baggy clothing. She wore a plaid shirt, the sleeves rolled up over her elbows, and a pair of overalls.

Just like in the picture.

Zelda had to hold back her laughter over the stereotypical farmer’s outfit the woman wore. She looked down at the woman’s feet and saw a pair of socks that looked handmade. It reminded her of Hilda’s knitting, and it made her smile. She quickly remembered herself, though, and cleared her throat.

“I’m sorry, yes. I’m here to talk to you about your farm?”

“Oh boy. It must be serious if they’re sending fancy business people down here!”

Zelda blushed. She didn’t know why, but for some reason she felt guilty and unsettled.

“I didn’t quite get your name…?”

“Oh, uh I’m Zelda. Zelda Spellman, of Blackwood Holdings and Management.”

“Well then, Zelda Spellman of Blackwood Holdings and Management. Come inside. We can talk in the kitchen. I’ve just gathered some fresh eggs from the chickens. That’s where I was when you were knocking on the door.”

Zelda seemed uneasy, and hesitated on the front porch.

“It’s okay, I won’t bite. I promise.” Mary smiled, and Zelda looked away, slightly put off by the ease with which the woman displayed her joy. Zelda stepped inside, and Mary reached around her to close the door. She looked around the house. It had a rustic feel to it, as though you were visiting a fairy tale cottage, hidden away in the woods. The smell of freshly baked bread and just-brewed coffee were in the air, and Zelda’s stomach growled.

“This way.” 

Zelda politely stepped out of her shoes, and followed the woman around the corner.

Chapter Text

“Have a seat.” Mary gestured towards her kitchen table, and Zelda carefully sat down, setting her purse down into the seat next to her. She watched the way the woman gracefully moved across the kitchen, her socks quiet across the hardwood floor.

“Coffee?”

“What?” Zelda looked away from Mary, going a bit red over being caught staring.

“Do you want some coffee?”

“Sure.”

“How do you take it?”

“Two sugars please.”

Mary took the coffee pot off of the coffee maker, and set it aside. She reached into a cabinet and withdrew two mugs, and poured them both some coffee. There was a clinking noise as Mary stirred in their coffee condiments. Zelda reached into her purse, and took out her iPad, pulling up the app where she had written down her proposal for the farm. Mary slipped into the seat across from her at the table, and slid a cup of coffee over to her.

“Thank you,” Zelda said, taking the mug appreciatively. She took a sip and felt the warmth settle in her belly.

“Mmn. That is fantastic. What is this?” 

“It’s actually quite funny.” Mary licked her lips, and started to giggle before she even answered Zelda. Zelda looked up at the woman in front of her, setting her mug down. She looked nice when she smiled.

“I’m sorry, it’s funny, cause it’s called ‘Wake The Hell Up’.”

Zelda raised her eyebrows, a look of disbelief on her face. 

“Um…”

“No, I’m serious! That is what it’s called. One of my coworkers—my farmhand, Jonathan—he got it for me.”

Zelda simply took another sip, and sat her mug down, turning her focus back to her iPad on the table.

“Well. That certainly is interesting. Let’s hope it lives up to its boastful nature.”

“Oh don’t worry. It will. If you didn’t get any sleep last night, this will surely keep you wide awake.”

“Good. I have lots of work to do.” Zelda replied, her voice cold again. She swiped through the notes on the screen, trying to find a good starting point.

“Let’s just cut to the chase here, then.” Mary placed her palms down on the table, and took a deep breath. “You want to buy the farm.”

“Well, yes, yes I do.” 

Mary didn’t say anything, and instead wilted slightly, her shoulders lowering. Her smile slowly disappeared, and was replaced with a defeated look, one of fatigue. Zelda wanted to look away, but for some reason she found herself unable to. Mary blinked quickly, tired eyes closing as tears fell from them.

“I’m sorry.” Mary said, finally finding her voice. She sat back in her chair, and folded her arms across her chest, her eyes on the ceiling. “It’s just been so hard.” 

Zelda felt bad when she saw Mary try to quickly wipe away a tear that had rolled down her cheek. The woman cleared her throat, and shook her head quickly.

“So. How much are you going to give me for it?” Mary looked at Zelda now, and wiped her nose with the back of her hand.

“Well. We were thinking one million…”

“Dollars?”  

“Well what else would it be?” Zelda bit, getting uncomfortable with the display of emotion she had just witnessed. Mary flinched, taken aback.

“I’m sorry…” Zelda closed her eyes, and lifted a hand up in the air. “That was uncalled for.”

“It was. This farm has been in my family for many generations. You have no idea how much it means to me. I just...I never thought I’d see the day when I would even have to consider selling it. I thought it would be in my family for years to come but…” Mary looked sad again. “Well, I at least wanted to pass it on to someone who would carry on my legacy, once I’m gone…but that’s not gonna happen...” Mary turned to look over her shoulder, her jaw trembling again. The tip of her nose had turned pink, and Zelda saw how she bit down on her bottom lip.

“My dad would’ve been so proud to see me running the farm on my own...” Mary sighed and held her head in her hands. “I just don’t know what to do.”

Zelda took another sip of her coffee, and looked at her iPad, scrolling mindlessly back and forth so she didn't have to make eye contact. 

“Well. I’m sorry.”

“Are you? Look, I understand you are doing your job here—but I am doing the exact same thing. This entire farm—this 150 acres of land—is my entire life. This is all I’ve known. I grew up here. My parents grew up here, and my grandparents! I know we’re having some problems right now, but you can’t expect me to just give it away without putting up a fight first.”

“I see.” Zelda bit at the inside of her cheek, considering her next words carefully. 

“Well maybe you’d like to lease the land, so you still get some of the benefits.” Zelda turned her iPad around to face Mary, and slid it across the table. 

“As you can see, there will be several businesses as well as housing that will be bringing in a considerable amount of income. We can even put you up in one of the nicer apartments, and you can still stay on the land.”

Mary pulled a pair of glasses out of the front pocket of her overalls, and put them on. She looked down at the iPad and then back up at Zelda.

“You cannot be serious.”

“Why wouldn’t I be? I came all the way out here, didn’t I? And I’ve seen your earnings for the past few financial quarters, I know that—“

“You what? How did you see those? That’s not exactly public information.”

Zelda blushed, and took a long sip of her coffee.

“Well, in my line of business, we have a way of getting what we want.” Zelda made eye contact with Mary, her face unreadable. The air started to feel heavy between them, and Zelda dropped her eyes to look at the mug Mary grasped between her hands.

“And what is it that you want, Zelda Spellman. What do you truly want? Do you really want to kick a 52 year-old woman and her animals off of her family farm? Do you really want to be that person? Or is there something else?”

Zelda opened and closed her mouth a few times, no words coming to her. 

How is it that this stranger, a woman I’ve just barely met, seemingly sees right through me?

She reached across the table and took her iPad, locking it and closed the case.

“I think I should go..” Zelda muttered, pushing back her chair from the table and picking up her purse. “I have more work to do, so I should probably get on with my day.” 

Zelda flashed Mary a half-assed smile, and turned to leave the kitchen, not saying goodbye. She heard Mary’s soft footsteps on the floor behind her as she slipped her shoes back on. 

“Well it was lovely to meet you Zelda. I’m sure I will be hearing from you again soon.”

Zelda turned around, and gave Mary a nervous grin. 

“Yeah...I’m bringing the architect and head of construction out here on Friday—if you don’t mind.” Zelda felt slightly ashamed that she had trampled in without so much as asking.

Can’t back down now, can I?

“Even if I did mind, could I stop you? You seem like a woman who goes after what she wants, regardless of what anyone thinks. I like that.” 

Mary studied Zelda’s reddening face, and let out a laugh, shaking her head.

“So I’ll see you on Friday then?” 

She held out a hand to Zelda, and Zelda shook it, cautiously. Mary’s hand was a bit larger than Zelda’s, firm and work-worn where Zelda’s was soft. It made her feel warm, and surprisingly, safe.

“See you on Friday.” 

Zelda broke the eye contact and pulled her hand away in an inconspicuous manner. Mary saw how she clenched her hand at her side before turning to try to unlock the door. Zelda seemed like she was in a hurry to go somewhere, and in her haste she turned the locks in the wrong direction, one jamming slightly.

“Fuck.” 

“Here let me help you with that.” 

Mary slid in-between Zelda and the front door, reaching for the locks. Zelda quickly studied the woman as she stepped close, in front of her. She smelled clean with a hint of sweat, but it wasn’t a bad smell. There were a few strands of gray hair in her braids, mixed in with wavy brown locks, and Zelda saw that there was some bits of hay nestled in her hair. 

“There you go.”

Mary pushed open the front door, and stood waiting for Zelda to exit.

“You have um…” Zelda gestured to Mary’s hair, with a raise of her brow. Mary’s hands went to her head, and she brushed over her scalp, watching as pieces of hay fell out. 

“Oh! That must’ve been from earlier this morning! I was out in the barn visiting with my cats. One of them had kittens a few weeks ago. I love playing with then. They are feisty little things.”

Zelda gave Mary a quick hint of a smile, before replacing her usual steely mask.

“You wouldn’t happen to know anyone looking to adopt a kitten, would you?”

Zelda thought about Sabrina for a moment, but didn't want to do anything impulsively.

“I’ll get back to you on that. I gotta go. Bye.” 

Zelda turned and walked to her car, not looking back. Mary stepped out onto the porch and watched as Zelda got back in her car, started it, and drove away.

“These fancy city people…” Mary shook her head. “Always so tense and on the go.” She muttered, before turning to go back into her house. 

 


 

“Hey Oliver. It’s me. Gimme an update.”

“Zelda! So, we’ve gotten the okay from the construction head, and the architect has sent over the initial sketches. Faustus is not happy, though. Hopefully you’ll be able to talk with him when you get here...”

Fuck.

“What’s gone wrong?” Zelda felt anxiety twist in her belly. She took one hand off the steering wheel, and dug around in her purse until her fingertips encountered the familiar pill bottle.

“You’ve missed this morning’s meeting. He wants to see you in his office. How was the farm?  

“Well...it is a lovely property. Would certainly be nice for us to obtain it. I don’t know if the owner is convinced, though. She started crying, and talked about her family.”

Zelda opened the bottle and popped a pill in her mouth, holding her knees up against the steering wheel. She stuck the bottle in a cup holder, deciding to worry about closing it later. 

“It can’t be an easy decision for her to make, Zelda.”

Zelda took a swig of water from her bottle, and washed the bitter pill down, wincing as she felt the rough edges scrape against the inside of her throat.

“Yeah—hey, whose side are you on anyways?!” Zelda teased.

“I’m just saying.”

Zelda smiled as she drove along, crossing the bridge back into Riverdale. She had really come to enjoy working with Oliver. She was reticent when he was first hired, as  millennials usually got a bad rap; however, Oliver really had started to prove himself over the past few years. It was nice to have someone she could count on for almost anything. It was like having a friend.

“I’m almost back at the office. I’ll see you when I get there?”

“See you Zelda. Drive safely.”

“Thanks.”

Zelda disconnected the call, and continued her drive down into Riverdale. They had an opening ceremony tonight, for one of the other condos that they had just completed downtown. Several bigwigs were expected to be in attendance, including the mayor or Riverdale. Zelda was already dreading the event, as she knew she would have to encounter and interact with least favorite townspeople. Despite Riverdale being more uppity and to her taste, the people were way less warm and welcoming than those in Greendale. Never had she felt out of place while in Greendale, even when she was talking with someone whose home or property she was buying and gentrifying. They always found a way to make her feel welcome there.

This is gonna be a long day…

 


 

Zelda stood outside of Faustus’s office, hand raised to knock, when the door opened and she was face to face with her boss.

“Ah Zelda. Do come in.” He stepped aside, and Zelda walked forward, moving to the chair that was on the other side of his desk. He closed the door behind him, and turned the lock. There was silence in the room, until Zelda heard Faustus’s footsteps across the carpeted floor. She didn’t turn around as she felt his hands slip around her waist, pulling her back up against him. He inhaled and then sighed as he held her close.

“We missed you in our meeting this morning, Zelda. Your little barnyard project came up. I really would have appreciated it if you were there.”

Faustus moved one of his hands, this one heading for the waistband of Zelda’s skirt. He buried his face in her hair, and Zelda flinched, stepping away from him. 

“Faustus stop.”

“What’s the matter Zelda? Don’t you want to have a little fun?”

“No, I don’t. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to play this game anymore. You’ve been bothering me like this for years, Faustus. It makes me feel terrible. Please stop.”

Faustus simply rolled his eyes, and threw his hands up in mock exasperation. 

“Oh Zelda, Zelda. You really have got to stop being so dramatic. There is nothing going on here. Why, if there were, that would be very unprofessional.” Faustus walked up to Zelda, and she backed away from him, legs hitting the back of his desk. 

“We wouldn’t want anyone to lose their job over false claims, now would we?”

Zelda gulped, eyes darting back and forth over Faustus’s face. She saw the smug look in his eyes, and it made her stomach turn. 

Fuck…

“No.”

“Good. I wouldn’t want all of your hard work to just go down the drain. Besides, you have to get that farm.”

Zelda looked down at her lap, her hands nervously fidgeting.

“I uh...about that…”

“Zelda. There will be no hesitation. You will get that farm. Especially because we have to impress our donors with news of our most recent acquisition tonight. Wouldn’t want to give them any bad news, now would we? Especially after we’ve worked so well with them in the past.”

Faustus paced the room, his fingers tented together up under his chin. Zelda stood up while he was deep in thought, and headed for the door.

“Goodbye Faustus.”

Zelda .”

Zelda paused at the threatening tone of Faustus’s voice, the door cracked. 

“You make sure you make a good impression on all of our donors tonight. We need them to donate as much as possible, so we can have funds to allocate to other projects....”

Of course, by “allocate”, Faustus really meant to line his own pockets with. It was no secret what he did with the company’s money. The Blackwoods already were one of the wealthiest families in Riverdale, Faustus greedy for power. So it came as no surprise to anyone that Faustus’s main goal was to make as much money as possible. 

Zelda returned to her office, not really sure what she was feeling. Each day more she spent at the company, the worse she felt. Some days were better than others, though, and Zelda could tone out the work-induced malaise. She had initially been known as the “Ice Queen” of Blackwood Holdings & Management. Her past had turned her mean, and indifferent to the feelings of those around her. She still had problems dealing with emotions, and talking about feelings, but she had softened up considerably. It was easier for her to just avoid any situations that involved intense emotions, where she would have to be vulnerable and let her guard down. She was slowly starting to change, and become more self-aware. Perhaps it was the constant harassment and greed of Faustus that gave her the wake-up call she needed. Zelda still had a burning desire to rise above him, to get back at him for all the times he had bothered her, forced her to do things that she didn’t want to do. It would be fun to see him groveling at her feet, begging for her to let him keep his job and good name in town. 

One day, maybe one day.

Zelda sat down in her desk chair, and rolled it over to look out of the large floor-to-ceiling window. Her office had superb views into Riverdale, Greendale, and the surrounding forest. Their company operated out of one of the first skyscrapers in Riverdale. The townspeople had been vocal in their opposition to it at first, not wanting their small town to be turned into a glitzy place; however, money won in the end, and those who had the wealth used it to bribe those in power, to get their way. 

Zelda let her eyes drift over towards the direction of Greendale. She sometimes wondered what her family was doing throughout the day. What would Hilda be doing, right this moment? Was she baking? Spending time with Dr. Cee at his shop? Doing something around the house? Surely, whatever she was doing, Zelda knew she did it with a smile on her face. Her sister was good like that. She always had a positive attitude, even if she was feeling horrible on the inside. Hilda was the kind of person who would go out of her way to make you feel welcome and loved. People were drawn to her, her warmth, and her personality. Sometimes Zelda wished she could be the same way, just have an ounce of warmth and goodness inside of her. 

I just sit here and take peoples’ land away, and cower in fear of my asshole boss…

“Zelda?”

There was a knock at Zelda’s office door, and she turned to see Oliver standing there, smiling, with a coffee in hand. 

“Hey. Is that for me?”

“Yes.” Oliver walked across the office, and handed Zelda the cup of coffee. Zelda took a sip, her eyes closing as she savored the taste. 

“I love this. Thank you Oliver.”

“No problem. So I’ve gone and picked up your dry cleaning, and I put it back in your apartment. It is already hanging and ready for you to put on for tonight. I’ve also contacted Mary about tomorrow.”

“You called her?”

“Yeah. It wasn’t hard to find her number. She said we are welcome to come and have a look around any time after nine.”

“Okay. Let’s make it nine-thirty then.” Zelda turned slightly, and looked out the window again as she sipped her coffee.

“Got it.” 

Oliver hesitated for a moment, observing Zelda’s sad demeanor. “Is everything alright Zelda?”

“Hm?” Zelda looked up around a mouthful of hot coffee, swallowing and licking her lips.

“Is everything alright? It’s just that...you seem sad today.”

“Yes. I was just...thinking about the past, you know how that can go. No use harping on about what you can’t change. Let’s get back to work.” 

“Okay. Just uh...if you ever need to talk or anything, I’m here.”

“Thank you Oliver.” Zelda nodded, with a tight-lipped smile, and turned back to look out the window. Oliver left, heading back for his desk outside of Zelda’s office. 

 


 

Zelda stood in the lobby of The Palms , her company’s newest condo, nursing her third glass of champagne. No amount of drugs or alcohol could dampen the stress she already felt regarding the evening.

“Auntie Zelda! Auntie Zelda!” Two voices called in stereo, and Zelda turned quickly, champagne bubbles sloshing in her glass. She was met with the sight of Faustus’s twins, Judith and Judas running over to her. She lifted her arms up as they both hugged her.

“You two! Look at how big you both have gotten!” Zelda looked down at the two children standing before her. They were adorable children, both with olive-toned skin and dimpled cheeks. Judith had her curls pulled up into two buns on the top of her head, small bows adorning each. Judas had his hair cropped short to his head on the sides,  save for some curls on top, slicked over to one side of his head. They wore matching outfits as well. Judith wore an eggplant-colored dress with cap sleeves, white frilly socks and black patent leather shoes on. Zelda looked down and saw little bows on the buckles. Judas had on a custom-made suit that was made out of the same material as Judith’s dress. They were painfully adorable. Zelda cupped Judith’s cheek, and then Judas’s, smiling at the children.

“Judith, you look like quite the little lady, and Judas—wow, I’ve never seen a more handsome boy in all of Riverdale and Greendale!”

“Thank you Auntie Zelda. Did you know I got an A on my Chinese test this week?” Judas asked, his mouth displaying a missing tooth.

“And I got an A on my Russian test!” Judith countered.

“Congratulations to the both of you! You are such smart little nuggets. I know your parents are proud of you.”

The twins were exceptionally smart, and both went to a private preparatory school that tailored each student’s lessons according to their abilities, as opposed to grouping them in grades by age. That way, the students were given the push they needed in areas they excelled at, and were able to go at their own pace in the areas they had to work harder at. Zelda had first met the twins when Constance had brought them to the office to surprise Faustus on his birthday, back when Zelda first joined the company. They had been two years-old then, but Zelda fell in love with them instantly. Even if their father was horrible, Judith and Judas were the sweetest children around. Zelda loved seeing them each time they had a company party, event, or when Constance brought them by the office. 

“Guess what?” Judas said, brimming with excitement.

“What?” Zelda smiled, as Judas was nearly jumping up and down.

“We’re playing the piano and violin tonight, for the opening!”

“How wonderful. I know you both will be amazing. I can’t wait to hear you!”

“Look there are cookies!” Judith interrupted. Judas turned to look in the diretion she was pointing. 

“Let’s go get some before mom sees!”

The two children ran off, mid-conversation, and Zelda chuckled.

Walk please!” A voice called. Zelda turned around and saw Constance Blackwood sauntering towards her, shaking her head.

“Those two will keep me busy for a looong time,” she said before taking a healthy gulp of her champagne.

“They are lovely children.” Zelda replied, watching the twins in the distance. “And they’ve gotten so big! It seems like just yesterday they were toddlers running around at the office.”

“Yeah.” Constance sidled up to Zelda, and turned to look at her kids interacting with the guests. “I remember them being that size too. Now they are like grown little people. It’s crazy.”

Zelda smiled, finishing off her glass of champagne. A waiter walked by and Zelda sat her glass on the tray before taking another full one off, and starting to sip at it. Zelda enjoyed Constance’s company, even if she was married to someone who was not that great of a person. They always spoke with each other at work events, enjoying each others’ company.

“So. What have you been up to these days?” 

“Well, I don’t know if Faustus told you, but I am currently in the process of trying to buy a farm from one of the Greendale locals.”

“A farm? You mean with all of the animals and what not? Have you gone working class on us Zelda?”

“No, no.” Zelda laughed, taking another sip from her glass. She was starting to feel a bit light-headed. 

“I uh, I want to buy it for the land, not the farm animals and stuff. I just have to convince the owner to sell. She seemed very reticent...though she and I both know that she needs the money from the sale. The farm was in her family for years and years, and you know how that goes. People get attached and stuff.” Zelda moved her hand around while she talked, and the bubbles nearly spilled.

“Yeah. Better to make things as quick as possible in cases like that.” 

“Definitely. I am going to try and convince her tomorrow. Maybe when she sees the architect and construction head it will change her mind. And I’m sure I can think of something that will make her want to sell.”

“Yes, there always is something. How much did you offer to buy it for?” 

“A million.”

“That’s all?”

“Yeah. It isn’t a super luxurious spot. We would have to tear down the barn and raze the land. Aside from that, there isn’t much there of worth, but the physical location is in a nice spot.”

“Hm.” Constance grabbed an hors d’oeuvre from a waiter’s tray in passing, and popped it in her mouth, chewing quickly. “Well, I’m surprised she didn’t jump at the offer to sell the first time. You know those rustic types usually are in need of money.” 

Zelda laughed, the multiple glasses of champagne setting in. 

“You’re right. She was a little rough around the edges.”

“Did you see a husband there or anything?”

“No, there was no one around when I went. She mentioned some farmhands.”

“Must not have a husband if she is taking care of all of the business on her own.”

“You know, you don’t have to have a husband to run a business,” Zelda said, with a raised brow. 

“You’re right. I’m sorry Zelda.”

“It’s okay.”

Zelda finished her glass of champagne, tilting her head back.

“So what was this farmer lady like? Did she have on plaid?”

“Actually she did. It made me laugh.”

“Oh wow. That is hysterical!” Constance laughed, and Zelda giggled. 

“She also had pigtails, didn’t have any makeup on, and looked sun-kissed. I even found some hay in her hair.” 

Constance burst out laughing once more, her and Zelda now properly tipsy.

“Oh god! Hay in her hair? I wouldn’t be caught dead with even my roots showing! It’s a different type of living for sure.” 

“Certainly.”

“Excuse me ladies and gentlemen. May I have your attention…”

Faustus had gotten on the microphone, and was calling the room to attention. Zelda and Constance turned toward the direction of the podium that had been set up. There were balloons on either side of the podium, and a ribbon attached to two stanchions stretched out behind it. There was a grand piano off to the side of the room, with a large bouquet of flowers placed on the top.

“Hello, and good evening. Thank you all for coming to the opening of this gorgeous property, The Palms . As you may or may not know, this is our company’s 15th property. We are extremely proud of the success we have made here at Blackwood Holdings & Management. And now, to celebrate the opening of this new condominium, here are two people who are extremely special to me, my daughter Judith and my son Judas. They are going to perform an original piece for us, written specifically for tonight.”

Everyone clapped, and Zelda saw Judith walk out from around the corner with a violin tucked underneath her arm, and Judas followed behind her, a very serious look on his face.

“Would you like to tell us what the piece is about, my dears?” Faustus asked, looking over at his children. Judith nodded, and Faustus walked to where they were, and held the microphone out to Judith.

“This piece is inspired by the beach, because we like going there in the summer, and because daddy named the building ‘The Palms’, which reminds us of palm trees—and the beach!”

The crowd let out a collective  aww after Judith spoke, and Faustus looked proud as he walked back over to the podium. 

“Well children, my loves, the stage is yours” Faustus bowed as he backed away, and the crowd clapped. Judith smiled as she tucked her violin under her chin, and began to play the open strings to tune it. Judas played the corresponding notes on the piano for her, so she could match her instrument up to the same pitch as the piano. She played with the little knobs at the end of the bridge of her violin, and then nodded over at Judas, her bow ready. He nodded back at her, and they began to start playing. It was a sweet, jaunty piece, written in a major key. The musical prowess of the children wasn’t lost on the crowd, as everyone stood rapt with attention over the technicality of the piece. The twins played off of each other in some passages, like a call and response. In other passages, they played simultaneously, in harmony. The kids were very passionate while they played, and leaned into their instruments as they played. It was beautiful and quite impressive. Zelda found herself with tears in her eyes, and the room seemed to have gone hazy.

This is so beautiful. If I had kids, I would have liked them to turn out like these two...wait a minute, why has the room gone all fuzzy?

Zelda shook her head, the fog temporarily clearing. The twins were playing the final chords of the piece, and Zelda realized that she had zoned out for most of it. The children finished with a flourish, and the crowd went wild. Cries of Bravo! Brava! could be heard throughout the room. Zelda reached up and quickly wiped away the tears that had tracked down her face, and started to clap. Faustus went back to the podium, and adjusted the microphone.

“Weren’t they just lovely? The apples of my eye, Judith and Judas. Now. Some more business. As many of you know, this is another big success for us; however, some of you may not know that we will soon be opening another condo, only this one will be located in Greendale. We finally are going to be bringing the luxuries of Riverdale to Greendale, and boy do they need it.”

The crowd chuckled, and some people shared knowing glances. Zelda started to feel uncomfortable, and slowly backed up, moving so she was behind the crowd. 

Wait, what is he talking about? Mary hasn’t even agreed to sell the farm yet!

“Our very own Zelda Spellman is leading the project. She is purchasing a run down little farm and turning into the future site of one of our lovely condos, complete with boutiques and businesses.” Faustus gestured to Zelda, who was now at the back of the room, ready to leave. People turned to look at her, and clapped.

“Feel free to talk with her about the plans for this project, and don’t be afraid to donate! Every little bit helps. And don’t forget, Mayor Anderson has graciously agreed to match every donation, dollar for dollar!”

No...no...I have to get out of here…

Zelda didn’t stay around to hear the rest of what Faustus had to say. She pushed through the front door, stumbling a bit, and walked to her car.

Why do I feel so strange? I usually can handle my liquor...wait—the Valium. Oh fuck. I have to get home.

It was a stupid decision, and Zelda knew it. She knew that she shouldn’t drive, that she should just call Lyft. But her pride won in the end, and she didn’t want to wait around, or have any of her coworkers see her in her current state. She didn’t want to call Oliver and bother him outside of work hours, this late into the evening. She couldn’t call Hilda either, because she didn’t want her sister to see her like this either, even though she knew Hilda wouldn’t judge her. It was too embarrassing, not being in control. Zelda got to her car, and drank from the bottle she had left there, taking a few deep breaths. 

I can do this. It won’t be so bad.

She continued to take sips from the bottle as she started her car, and started to drive. 

 


 

Zelda didn’t even realize that she had started driving back home, to Greendale, until she passed the familiar sign that bore the greeting Welcome To Greendale . She was too far into town to turn back to Riverdale now, and decided to push on. Her eyelids started to droop, and she shook herself back awake. She reached out to turn on her air conditioner to high, so that cold air was blasting on her. She nodded a few more times, and readjusted herself in her seat, yawning and sitting up straight.  At one point, she found herself swerving her car back to her side of the road, as she had drifted over the line. Zelda soon saw police lights in the rearview mirror, and her heart sank. The officer turned on the siren, and Zelda panicked as she pulled over to the side of the road.

You have got to be kidding me…

Zelda slumped back in her seat, and reached for her clutch, taking out her driver’s license. There was a knock on her window, and she pushed the button to roll it down, wincing as the officer shone a light in her face.

“License and registration please.”

Zelda handed her driver’s license out the window, and leaned over to pull her paperwork out of her glovebox.The officer took them from Zelda, and looked back into the window. 

“Ma’am, do you have any idea how fast you were going back there?”

“Wh—what?” Zelda held up her hand, squinting. The light was too bright, too much.

“You were speeding and swerved into the opposite lane several times. I’ve been following you for the past 5 miles. Have you been drinking tonight ma’am?” 

The officer’s voice sounded young, and Zelda tried to get a glimpse of him around the bright beam of the flashlight. He seemed to be young-ish, maybe around Oliver’s age.

“No...I’m just tired…” Zelda felt the foggy feeling from earlier come over her again. She pressed her hands to her eyes, and shook her now pounding head slowly. 

“Can you step out of the car please ma’am.” Zelda unbuckled her seatbelt, and shakily opened the car door. Her legs wobbled precariously underneath her as she stepped down out of her car. 

“Could you please walk in a straight line here ma’am.” The officer gestured in front of him, and watched as Zelda walked with great effort, resembling a newborn fawn. He stuck out his arm to catch Zelda before she fell over, as she nearly tripped over her own feet.

“How many drinks have you had tonight?”

“Um...I can’t remember.” Zelda felt tears in her eyes. She just wanted to lie down, and go to sleep.

“I’m sorry ma’am, but I’m going to have to arrest you for driving under the influence.”

“Oh…” Zelda was like a ragdoll, limp as the officer pulled her in the direction of his car.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.” the officer opened the back door of his car, and ushered Zelda into the back seat. She began to cry as she sat down, her head pounding.

“You aren’t going to put the handcuffs on me?”

“You seem like a nice lady, and clearly aren’t in a state to be running away anywhere.”

Zelda just nodded, seeing two of everything in front of her.

“I’m sorry I have to do this. It’s my job. Is there anyone you would like me to call to pick up your car?”

“I have...my purse...my phone is in there, in the car. Oliver...call Oliver…” Zelda leaned her head back against the car seat, her eyes drifting closed. She heard the voice of the officer in the background, talking as though he were very far away.

“Hello? Is this Oliver? Hi this is Officer Cruz. I have your friend Zelda...Spellman here. I’ve just pulled her over and she is not well. I don’t know what she has taken, but I do smell alcohol on her breath. She asked if I could call you, so you could pick up her car. I’m going to have to take her in because she was driving dangerously, but you can feel free to meet us at the station to pick her up—if you can make it.”

“Oh god…” Zelda slurred, turning to look out of the window of the car. She saw the officer had a clipboard in hand, and was writing things down as he talked on her phone.

“Okay. I will leave the key under the driver’s seat...yes. I will be taking her to the Greendale Police Station. Okay, bye.”

Officer Cruz walked back over to the car, where Zelda waited, and knelt down to talk to her through the slightly rolled down window.

“So I’m just going to take you down to the station, to get you booked, and then your friend is going to come and pick you up—”

“He’s my assistant…”

“Your assistant is going to come and pick you up, and then you can go home. I’m not going to make you stay overnight, but if you didn’t have anyone to come and pick you up, I would’ve had you stay, just to sober up. I had your name and license ran, and I saw that this is your second offense. You’ve gotta be more careful, ma’am. It’s extremely dangerous to drive under the influence.”

“I know…” Zelda started to cry, and Officer Cruz took a handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to Zelda. 

“It’s going to be okay. I’ll just take you to the station, get some paperwork filled out, and you will be contacted about when your hearing is. I can’t look past this, this being your second offense; however, I can try to put in a good word for you, so you hopefully can avoid jail time, and get a different punishment instead.” 

Officer Cruz got into the driver’s seat, and started the car, checking carefully before pulling out into the road, their destination the police station.

Chapter Text

The drive to the station went by in flashes, as Zelda was now under the influence of multiple substances. When they arrived, everything was a blur. Officer Cruz helped her out of the car and kept a gentle hand around her arm, guiding her inside the station. He brought her over to the front desk area, and paused near a bench. 

“You can sit down here. I’ll be right back.”

Zelda slumped down into the chair, her temples throbbing. She closed her eyes and covered her face, the light making her nauseous. She stayed in that position for a while, trying to make herself as small as possible. Time passed, though Zelda couldn’t tell you how much, and she heard Officer Cruz's voice again, and a hand gently shaking her shoulder.

“Zelda?”

Zelda opened her eyes, wincing. She was sure she looked horrendous.

“I’ve brought you this blanket and some water. Oliver should be here soon. You’ll probably hear back from us in a few days, with information about when you have to appear in court.” 

Zelda weakly took the blanket from his outstretched hand, and wrapped it around herself. She then accepted the paper cup of water, not realizing how thirsty she was as she drank it in a few gulps.

“Easy now. We don’t want you to make yourself sick—by the way, if you do feel sick, or just need the bathroom in general, it’s right around the corner there.” Officer Cruz turned and pointed diagonally across from where they sat. 

“Thank you,” Zelda replied, ready to close her eyes again.

“It’s no problem. Take care of yourself. I hope we can meet again under better circumstances.” He gave her a gentle smile, and Zelda forced a smile and nodded as lightly as she could, without rattling her brain inside her skull. She returned her hands to her face, this time leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees.

What am I going to do? I’ve really fucked up…

Zelda rubbed at her eyes, trying to hold back the tears she felt prickling there. She stayed hunched over, silently going over the events of the evening in her head with disbelief when she heard someone call her name.

“Zelda?”

Oliver.

She looked up, and saw her assistant standing in front of her. He cautiously reached out a hand to her shoulder, not sure if it was okay. 

“Hi,” Zelda let out in a small squeak.

“Let’s get you home, okay?”

Zelda said nothing, simply patted Oliver’s hand, which rested on her shoulder, and began to stand up. He offered her a hand as she rose on shaky legs, the room tilting slightly before righting itself. She pulled the blanket off of her shoulders, and walked over to the front desk.

“Thank you.”

The receptionist sitting there looked up from her phone, and smiled.

“That’s okay dear. You can take that with you.”

Zelda nodded, and turned around. She closed her eyes to gather her bearings before walking towards the front door. Oliver stayed close enough to Zelda, an arm outstretched in case she tripped or was unsteady. They walked to her car, and Oliver held the passenger door open for her. It was always a strange feeling getting into the passenger seat in one’s own car. Zelda buckled herself in, and sat back against the seat, face already turned to the window. Oliver got in the car and said nothing as her pushed the start button on her key fob and put the car into gear. He glanced over at her when they got onto the main road, but said nothing. 

“Don’t tell anyone about this,” Zelda spoke, finally breaking the silence. 

“I won’t.” Oliver replied. “Are you okay though?”

“I will be. We just—we can’t let Faustus find out about this. I’m going to have to do community service or something. We’ll just tell him I am working on something for the farm, okay?” Zelda turned to look at Oliver, eyes shining in the light from the console screen. 

“We’ll think of something. Don’t worry.”

 


 

Zelda was nodding by the time they got to the Spellman house. She didn’t realize they had stopped moving until she felt Oliver’s hand on her shoulder.

“We’re here.”

Zelda opened her eyes, grumpy because she was just falling asleep. She reached for her purse, grabbing into the empty air several times before letting out a noise of frustration. Her coordination wasn’t all there yet.

“I’ll carry it for you.” Oliver reached down by her feet and picked up the clutch before backing up out of the way so Zelda could get down out of the car. Zelda slid out, legs weak, and yawned. She looked around and saw a car parked next to theirs. There was a young man inside, and he sat in the driver’s seat, the blue screen of his phone lighting up the car.

“Who’s that?” Zelda asked, sleepily stumbling towards the house, Oliver close behind.

“That’s my boyfriend. He came to take me back home.”

“Oh no, I interrupted your date night!” Zelda cried, pausing in the stairs of the porch. “I’m sorry.” She sounded genuinely remorseful, and it wasn’t lost on Oliver.

“Hey, no, it’s okay. You just worry about getting inside safely. It’s fine.” 

“I don’t deserve you. I think you may be my only friend.” Zelda’s bottom lip trembled, and her voice had gone thin and watery.

“That’s not true, Zelda.” Oliver gently patted her back. “I think you have plenty of friends. You just don’t know who they are yet.” 

Oliver had to guess which key was the house key, and guessed correctly on the second try. He slowly pushed open the front door, and Zelda stepped inside. Oliver followed behind, looking around in awe at the old-fashioned upper-class style of the Spellman home. 

“Wow Zelda. This place is amazing ! I had no idea your family home was like this!” 

Zelda didn’t respond, and instead just shuffled towards the stairs.

“Here. Let me help you up the stairs.”

Oliver carefully grasped Zelda’s arm as she leaned against the banister, ascending the stairs as if she were twice her age. They made it to the top, and Zelda kept walking, eager to get to her room. 

“Thank you Oliver,” she called weakly, shuffling down the hall to her room.

“It’s no problem. And don’t forget we have to meet at the farm tomorrow morning.”

“What time was it again?” Zelda paused, and turned to look back at Oliver. “Nine?”

“Nine-thirty,” he corrected, stepping down a few steps. I’ll see you then.”

“See you.” Zelda hurried—well, as best she could—to her bedroom. She barely was in the room before she was kicking her shoes off, and climbing onto the bed. Zelda flopped onto her back, and tossed her clutch aside. The full force of the night’s events hit Zelda, and she let out a soft sigh. Tears slipped from beneath her closed eyelids, and she blinked them away as they rolled down into her hairline. 

What am I going to do???

 


 

“Zelda? Zelda?”

Too early, too loud…

Zelda groaned, and turned over onto her side. 

“Zelda wake up!” 

Hilda lowered her voice, much to Zelda’s relief, and Zelda felt her sister’s hand on her shoulder, shaking her gently.

“Zelda wake up ! You have to go to work!”

Zelda opened her eyes, and immediately brought her hand up to cover her face.

“Uggghh…”

“Zelda come on. You’re going to be late!”

“I’m up, I’m up,” Zelda replied, swatting Hilda’s hand away. She sat up slowly, and looked around, wincing in the daylight of the room.

“Well, you certainly must’ve had a wild night last night. You’re still in your clothes!” 

Zelda looked down at her wrinkled dress from the day before, and frowned.

“What happened…” It all came flooding back to Zelda, the opening ceremony, her anxiety over Faustus, Mary’s farm, her arrest, the police station. “Oh…” Zelda jumped down off of the bed with a hand pressed to her mouth, and pushed past Hilda, running for her bathroom. Hilda stayed behind, wincing as she heard Zelda get sick in the other room. She sighed as she walked over to the bathroom door, and stood with her back facing the doorway, knowing Zelda didn’t like to be seen like this.

“Do you need me to bring you anything?”

Zelda coughed, and flushed the toilet, groaning as she stood up. 

“Maybe a new head...and stomach.”

Hilda turned around, and stepped into the bathroom, leaning against the door frame. Zelda walked over to the shower and turned it on, wiping a hand over her mouth. 

“You know, your assistant—Oliver is his name, right?”

“Yeah.” Zelda grabbed her toothbrush and squeezed some toothpaste onto it.

“He called this morning. Said to make sure that you got to the farm at nine-thirty. You know, I didn’t know you were going to be spending the night over here Zelda. I thought I heard some noise last night.” 

“I didn’t plan to. Some stuff happened, that’s all.” Zelda started to brush her teeth, looking away from Hilda, embarrassed.

“Well. I’m sure you’ll tell me all about it later. I’m going to make you some toast and maybe something else easy on the stomach. You just worry about getting ready. You have less than an hour to get to work.”

“Shit!” Zelda spoke around her toothbrush, little flecks of foamy toothpaste flying. She quickly rinsed her mouth out and showered, scrambling as she got out. Zelda barely had time to run a comb through her still-wet hair, and instead pulled it back into a bun, holding it in place with a hair clip. There was no time for makeup even, and Zelda just put on her sunscreen, knowing she would be outside.

I can just take a pair of my larger sunglasses and hide behind those. Maybe a hat too…

She pulled her underwear on, and selected a pair of designer jeans from her closet, and a blouse she already had hanging up. Luckily for her, she could go to her apartment after their little farm visit and change into something more presentable. She glanced over at her shoes on the opposite side of her closet, and was relieved to see that she hadn’t given away her work boots.

These will be perfect. I don’t want to take anything nice down to the farm, especially if I am going to be in the dust, and near animals…

Zelda did a scan around her room, making sure she didn’t forget anything, and grabbed her purse off of her bed, not caring that it was the same clutch from the night before. She bounded down the stairs, and stopped to look in the hall closet, taking out her large sun hat that she wore when vacationing at the beach. 

“Zelda! Is that you? Don’t forget to grab something to eat!” Hilda called from around the corner. Zelda ran over to the kitchen where Hilda was stirring something in a pot. The smell of the food made Zelda’s face turn grey, and her lips pressed together.

“I think I will be okay until later. Better not tempt fate.” 

“Well here, at least take a piece of toast with you.” Hilda tore off a piece of paper towel and wrapped a hot, freshly toasted slice of bread in it, handing it to Zelda. Zelda took it, begrudgingly, and ran out of the house, slipping her sunglasses on as the blinding sunlight cut into her like a hot knife. She started her car, silently hoping her stomach would stay calm, and took out her phone. Zelda scrolled through to Oliver’s number, before she realized that she had forgotten to charge her iPad. She reached under the passenger seat, and withdrew it, plugging it into the cord she had plugged into her console. 

Okay. So now I just have to make it to the farm, take a little tour, and I should be good to go. 

Zelda started her car, and began to drive away from the house. She rolled down the windows slightly, to let some cool air in, and raised her hand to call Oliver, when he called first. She pushed the button to accept his call, suddenly feeling ashamed over what took place the previous night. 

“Hey Oliver.” 

“Hey Zelda. You on your way?”

“Yeah. I’ll be there in about 15 minutes. Are the architect and construction person there yet?”

“Construction, yes, architect, no. She just called and said she is running late. You doing okay?”

Zelda’s head still felt tight from the night before, and she felt a faint throbbing at the base of her skull.

“I’m hanging in there.” Zelda honked her horn at the car moving slowly in front of her, looking on the opposite side of the road before speeding around the car.

“I wanted to say thanks for last night. I...I really appreciate everything.”

“Don’t worry about it. That’s what friends are for.” 

Zelda smiled, her heart warming over the prospect of having friends. 

“Be safe on the road. We’ll see you here shortly.”

“Okay. Bye.”

Zelda continued to smile, though her head ached, and she had no idea what would happen as a result of her arrest. She mentally reminded herself to remain calm during her drive, knowing she had to present herself as confident and level-headed once at the farm. 

Everything is going to be fine. You’re going to show up at the farm, and have a quick look around, then you can leave and put something better on, do your makeup, fix your hair…

Zelda’s stomach churned nervously as she saw the sign indicating that she was arriving at Mary’s farm. She sat up straighter in her seat and drove up the long driveway, parking her car next to Mary’s truck. She saw Oliver’s small Toyota parked near the garage, and there was another large pickup truck parked alongside Oliver’s car. Zelda hopped down out of her car and looked around, not seeing any human movement outside. She winced and raised a hand up to shade her face, despite having sunglasses and a hat on. The headache she felt start up earlier was now turning into a much more noticeable throbbing.

“Zelda?” 

She whipped her head around to look in the direction she heard her name called, instantly regretting it as the pounding in her head turned up a notch. 

“Oliver. Hi.” Zelda began to make her way towards the front porch, suddenly feeling hot all over, and weak. 

“Come on inside. Mary made us some breakfast—well if you are up to eating. Are you feeling a bit better after last night?”

Zelda walked onto the porch, skin clammy, and shook her head. She tucked her iPad further up under her arm, and held the back of her hand up to her forehead. 

“Maybe you should come inside and sit down for a bit, have some water. 

“I think I might have to do that.” Zelda opened the door and went into the much cooler house, her eyes adjusting to the lower lighting of the room. 

“Right this way, Zelda.” Oliver gestured to the kitchen, and Zelda had to hold herself back from rolling her eyes.

“I know. I’ve been here before.”

She trailed behind Oliver, and saw scrambled eggs on the table, jars of jam, honey, a bowl of fruit, and a loaf of freshly-baked bread in front of a pair of muscular arms. Zelda let her eyes trail up the arms, and saw a very handsome man, maybe in his late 50s, sitting there who sat at the table. He had just enough stubble to make him look edgy without being scruffy.  There was also a pitcher with orange juice in it, and three glasses with various amounts of the liquid in them.

“Hello everyone, sorry I’m late.” 

Zelda sat her iPad down on the table, and slid into a chair that had no place setting in front of it. 

“Hello. I’m Jonas.” The man reached a hand out and Zelda shook his, blushing at the kind smile he gave her. He had an accent, his voice warming up the room with its smooth timbre.

“Hi Jonas. I’m Zelda. I’m in charge of this project.” Zelda realized that she still had her sunglasses on inside, and slid them off. She regretted it instantly, and squinted at the light in the room. Sweat beaded on her forehead, and upper lip. She stood up from the table, pushing her chair back.

“Gentlemen, I believe you’ll have to excuse me.” Zelda smiled quickly, not caring that it was completely fake. “I need the restroom.” 

“It’s just down the hall that way,” Oliver said, pointing in the direction of the living room.

“Thanks.”

Zelda walked out of the kitchen, and through the living room. She heard Mary’s voice coming from somewhere upstairs, and it sounded like she was arguing with someone. Zelda paused, and tried to make out what she was saying. All she could hear was Mary mention a name. Adam. Judging by Mary’s responses, it sounded like this Adam wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“No. No! I told you already, my decision is final. We’ve already gone over this. Yes. No. I have to get back to work, okay? There are people here, and—okay. It’s clear you aren’t in a receptive mood today. Goodbye Adam.” 

Zelda quickly kept walking, turning down the hall, out of sight. The last door on her left ended up being the bathroom, and she stepped inside, shutting the door behind her. It was a nice bathroom, though it looked quite dated. It was cool and dark, and Zelda felt better. She walked over to the sink and turned it on. She let the cold water wash over her hands, and splashed some on her face, and brought her hands around to her neck, the cool droplets rolling down her back. Zelda opened her eyes and looked at herself in the mirror, blinking away water. There were dark circles around her eyes, and she looked tired. 

I look quite the fright. I cannot believe I left the house in this state. I must have lost my mind—

There was a knock on the bathroom door, and Zelda rolled her eyes—as much as she could without making her headache worse.

“Zelda?” 

Oh god. What does she want?

“Yes?” Zelda grumbled in response.

“The guys said you weren’t feeling well. Did you need anything?”

The guys. How can she be so friendly and kind with everyone? We are the “bad guys” here.

“I’m not feeling well...and no.”

“Okay well—just let me know...okay?”

Zelda grabbed some tissues, bunched them up and patted her face dry. She tossed the tissues into the trash can, and went to open the bathroom door, tensing up when she saw Mary still standing outside of the door, backing up out of Zelda’s way.

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Zelda sighed and held her hands up to her temples, massaging them. Mary was wearing what appeared to be an oversized men’s button-up shirt, jeans, and another pair of handmade socks. Her hair was braided back into one ponytail today, and a few curls had escaped.

“I’m just about to give everyone a tour of the property, since we’re all here now.”

“Let’s go then” Zelda snapped. Mary was taken aback, and nodded mutely. She walked hurriedly down, and Zelda noticed that she seemed a little tense.

I probably should’ve been kinder to her...

Zelda heard voices talking and laughing when they neared the kitchen, and saw another woman talking and laughing with Oliver and Jonas. She was...well, she was beautiful . She had on a pair of jeans, and a silk, short-sleeved button up shirt on. Her coily curls were pinned up, a few locks falling to the side like bangs, and she wore a fabric headband that matched her shirt. Two golden earrings hung from her ears, a delicate teardrop-shaped bead on the end of each thin chain.

“Hi, you must be Zelda.”

The only thing keeping Zelda’s jaw from dramatically dropping was the fact that she felt like she could be sick at any moment.

“H—hi.” Zelda shook the woman’s hand silently, looked down at her pale skin against the smooth dark skin belonging to the architect.

“I’m Soleil. Soleil Stevens. I think Oliver forwarded you my contact information?”

“Oh.” Zelda kept shaking the woman’s hand, and caught herself, pulling her hand back. 

“Let’s go check out this farm!”

Zelda nodded, and Mary led the way. Zelda stayed back until Mary, Soleil, and Jonas had stepped out of the room, and gave Oliver a look. He waited until they heard the front door close, and stayed back with her.

“If I knew that we were going to be sent models from the Paris runway for an architect and builder, I would have tried just a little bit harder this morning!” Zelda whispered. “How the hell are they even real?!”

“I KNOW! Jonas looks like the Scandinavian daddy of my dreams, and Soleil is just...wow. I literally have no words!”

“Oh Oliver. Must you talk like such a millennial?” 

“I can’t help what I am, Zelda.” 

“Come on. Let’s catch up with the ‘tour’.”

 


 

They made their way around the farm in an hour and a half. Mary took them over to see the pasture first, as it was closest to the main road. A few cows grazed in the grass, as well as some sheep and goats. Zelda swatted flies away as they stood in the sun, Mary showing them around. They passed by some empty pens, a small fenced-in pond, and a pumpkin patch on their way back to the barn. 

Zelda was growing weary, her headache not having given up the entire time, and they still hadn’t gone to see the corn fields out back. Mary’s home, the barn, and the small pasture occupied only the front 8 acres or so of the farm. The rest of the farm was cornfields, most of which were not in use. There was a small gathering of apple trees that branched out, north of the barn; however, the farm’s days of producing fruit and corn were long gone. Zelda learned that most of the farm hadn’t been used for at least the past 10 years or so, after Mary’s father had passed away. Mary became emotional when she brought up her father, and Soleil placed a comforting hand on Mary’s back, rubbing it gently. Zelda bristled slightly when she saw the woman comforting Mary.

How do people do that, being there for someone, even though you’ve just met?? 

“Zelda? Zelda?”

“Oh huh?”

“I said are you ready to get in the truck so we can see the rest of the property?” Mary was speaking to her, and everyone else stood around, waiting for Zelda to respond. Zelda blushed as everyone looked at her.

“Yeah…”

There was the sound of another truck driving up, a cloud of dust trailing behind it. Mary turned and waved, calling out with a hand up to her mouth. 

“Jonathan! Hey! Over here!”

The black pickup truck drove over to where Zelda, Mary, Oliver, Jonas, and Soleil stood, and came to a stop. A young man climbed down out of the truck, his curly mop of hair blowing in the breeze. He wore a pair of overalls with a plaid shirt, much like what Mary had been wearing the previous day.

Okay what is it with everyone here? Zelda mused, wondering if she indeed had stepped onto the set of a Hallmark movie. 

“Hey! I’m Jonathan, and I work here with Mary, on the farm. I usually do a lot of the heavy heavy lifting, and make sure that no one is getting up to trouble on the property.”

Oliver’s jaw nearly dropped as the young man approached them. He looked over at Zelda with eyes wide as saucers, and mouthed oh my god! Jonathan walked over to Mary, and he pushed back some of his curls out of his face, waiting for instructions from her. 

“Do you think you can give half of us a ride, so we can go to the edge of the property? I want them to see everything.” 

“Sure! Hop in guys!” Jonathan went back around to the driver’s side of his car and stepped up. Zelda saw the way Jonas helped Soleil into the truck, and saw Oliver rushing to hop into the front seat, clearly smitten. She then looked at Mary who smiled back at her from behind aviator sunglasses. She had her hands on her hips and a small smirk on her face. 

“I guess it’s you and me in my truck. Let’s go.”

“Zelda sighed, and trudged behind Mary, wishing she were anywhere else but there. Mary opened her door and climbed inside. Zelda pulled the passenger door open, and stepped up.

“Careful getting in” Mary cautioned, holding a hand out to Zelda in case she needed it. Zelda ignored it, of course, and hauled herself into the chair, leaning her head back against the headrest once seated.

“Don’t forget your seatbelt!”

Zelda held back a groan as she looked reached for her seatbelt, jerking when it seemed to be stuck.

“I can’t. Get. It—“

“Hey let me.” Mary reached across Zelda to pull the seat belt out slowly, her face close. Zelda could feel little puffs of air coming out of Mary’s nose, and she leaned away, uncomfortable with the sudden closeness. She chanced a look at the brunette, who was gently tugging on the seatbelt. 

Her eyes are really blue…

Zelda’s heart skipped a beat in her chest when Mary caught her eye, and she felt hot all over.

“There we go.” She buckled Zelda’s seatbelt. “All safe.”

Zelda swallowed, her throat suddenly dry, and turned to look out the window. Mary waved to Jonathan out of the window and he turned his car around, driving past Mary’s house and back to the road that lined the property. Zelda saw a chicken coop in passing and let her eyes close. The road was a bit bumpy, and it made Zelda feel even worse. She kept quiet as they drove out down the road, and the barn behind grew smaller and smaller in the side mirror. Zelda’s phone began to ring, piercing the silence of the car, and she held a hand up to her forehead as she unlocked it, before lifting it to her ear.

“Hello?”

It was an automated recording.

“Hello. This is the Greendale Courthouse. We just wanted to let you know that your hearing will be this coming Wednesday, at 8 o’clock A.M. if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you, free of cost. If you decide to use one of our court-provided attorneys, please contact us prior to your court date, so that you will have time to meet with them. Please do not be late, as we run a tight schedule here. Arrive thirty minutes prior to your scheduled court appearance time, to make time for parking, security, and— 

Zelda hung up the phone, not wanting to hear any more. She dropped it in her lap, and brought her hands up to cover her face.

“Fuck.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing...I’ve just uh, gotten myself into some trouble.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure you’ll get it all figured out.”

“I hope so. Right now I’m just waiting for this hangover to leave.”

“You should have told me. I could’ve given you something to take when you first got here.”

“It’s okay. Maybe when we get back. Gotta stop all of that late-night partying.” Zelda said with a forced laugh, eyes now on the truck in front of them.

“Have you had enough water today?” Mary turned and looked at Zelda, saw the way she winced as they went over yet another bump in the road. 

“I’m a big girl, Mary. I can take care of myself.” 

“I’m just checking.”

“Y’know, why does it even matter? You don’t even know me! I’m the person selling your farm, your life’s work away!” Zelda snapped, growing more and more frustrated by the minute. Mary stayed quiet for thirty seconds or so, before speaking again.

“Zelda. Just because you don’t know someone and they give you a reason to be upset with them doesn’t mean you can’t be nice to them.” 

Shame coursed through Zelda, and her cheeks got hot. She chewed on her bottom lip, and lowered her gaze, wishing she could disappear. 

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. We all have bad days, right?”

Zelda didn’t reply, and just kept to herself. They were approaching the edge of the property, and Jonathan’s truck in front of them began to slow down. Trees lined the edges of the empty cornfield, and Zelda unbuckled her seatbelt as they came to a stop. 

“I’ll be right back.” She muttered, climbing down out of Mary’s truck. Mary watched as Zelda snapped a few photos with her phone, turning slightly and getting photos facing in different directions. Zelda turned around and looked back at Mary in the driver’s seat, and saw the woman looking directly at her. 

Oh…

Zelda looked to her side, glad she had her sunglasses on, and that the heat could act as an excuse for the redness she was sure decorated her face. A car door closed, and Zelda saw Jonas walking over to her. 

“So what do you think?”

“Well, it certainly is a lot of land to work with. We really have the ability to turn this into one of our biggest projects ever. We could even do a combination of condos and townhouses. There certainly is enough room.”

“Oh yes, we have plenty of room.”

“The possibilities are endless. I will get back to you with some of my ideas for the land. How does that sound?”

“That will work.” 

“I’ll check my schedule for next week, and we can arrange for all three of us to meet up then. I’ll call Soleil later and see what she’s thinking as far as design goes.”

“Perfect.”

Chapter Text

“Hilda?” Zelda called out as she stepped back into the house. She had decided to just go back home until she felt better, not up to the drive back to Riverdale. Zelda pushed the door closed behind her, and hung her hat up on the coat rack.

“In here!” Hilda called out. Zelda followed the direction of Hilda’s voice, and found her in the kitchen, mixing something together in a large bowl.

“Just trying to get some baking done before Dr. Cee’s party tomorrow. I still have to make the cream puffs, and the macarons, and—“

“Hilda.” Zelda swallowed, holding a hand up to her forehead.

“Yes Zelda?” Hilda stopped mixing, and wiped her hands off on a nearby dish towel.

“I’m in trouble. It’s bad, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Zelda’s voice cracked, alerting Hilda to the seriousness of whatever her sister was about to tell her. She only cried when it was something really bad. 

“What? Here, let’s sit down.” Hilda gestured towards the kitchen table, and her and Zelda went to sit down. Zelda placed her palms down on the table in front of her, and Hilda saw the way her bottom lip quivered as she tried not to cry.

“Tell me what happened Zelda.”

“I...I got arrested.”

“What?”  Hilda’s eyes grew as wide as saucers, and her jaw dropped. “How?! Why?!”

“I got pulled over, last night,” Zelda gulped, swallowing her tears. “I had some champagne at the opening for work.”

“Well how much did you have? Several bottles? I know you, Zelda. It takes more than a few sips of bubbly to knock you down.”

“That wasn’t all I had. I had taken a Valium right before.”

“Zelda…”

Zelda hung her head, embarrassed, and just not feeling well at all.

“I didn’t know you were still taking them. What has it been, six years or so?”

“Yeah”

“You should talk to someone if you still have to take something for anxiety over...you know.”

“I’m afraid, Hildie.” Zelda’s voice broke, tears coursing down her cheeks. “I don’t want to have dreams of my baby anymore, I can’t. I don’t even want to risk it. It is easier to fall asleep after taking a pill or having a drink or two, and knowing I won’t wake up in the middle of the night.”

Hilda started to cry then, and reached across the table for Zelda’s hand, kissing the back of it.

“I don’t like who I’ve become. It’s been so easy to just throw myself into work, to ignore my pain. Being like this doesn’t make anything better, doesn’t make me any less of a failure of a mother. But being angry felt good ...it feels good when I am sad about how unfair life is.”

Hilda let out a sad noise, and rubbed the back of Zelda’s hand, trying to comfort her. The words kept spilling out of Zelda as she unloaded some of what had been weighing her down the past few years.

“I was mad at anyone and everyone, over the fact that my body just wasn’t able to sustain a life. That’s unfair to everyone else. But it hurts, Hilda. It hurts so badly. There is always something that comes up to remind you of what you don’t have. And I...I don’t want to be mean anymore...but it’s all I know now. I feel like I have no other choice than to be this way, because of work. It’s who I’ve built myself up to be. I have a reputation to uphold, and it protects me...”

Protects me from getting hurt...

“Oh love. You are not a failure, do you hear me? I know the real you. You are one of the best people I’ve ever known. The hardest worker, and the most determined.  You aren’t cold and unfeeling. And what happened with the miscarriages wasn’t your fault. Not in the slightest.”

Hilda reached for Zelda’s other hand, now giving both a squeeze. 

“I want you to try something, Zelda. I want you to let yourself feel . Even if it is something small, like you were sad about missing your favorite television program when it was on, or—I don’t know. Anything. Don’t hide yourself away. Be gentle with yourself, be kind, honest. I know this may sound like a bunch of malarkey, but I really want you to try, okay? For me?”

“Okay…” Zelda nodded, slipping her hands out of Hilda’s.

“But—how is being ‘nice’ going to help me with my DUI? It’s my second one. They won’t go easy on me this time. I should’ve known better.”

“True, true. Well. I guess we just have to hope for the best then, won’t we?”

Zelda sniffled, and wiped her nose with the back of her hand, offering a watery smile.

“I guess so. I just, I hope I don’t get placed somewhere too terrible for my community service. We’ll see what happens when I go to court next week.”

“Goodness it is next week? Do you have a lawyer? Have you prepared a statement?”

“Relax . I know a few people from work. I can call in a favor or two and get a good lawyer—though I am very much guilty.”

“Well I’m rooting for you, Zelda. You know I always will be, even if you did mess up. I’ll always have your back.”

“Thank you Hilda.” 

Zelda squeezed her sister’s hand, and got up from the table, heading for the fridge. She took out a water pitcher and poured herself a glass. Hilda got up from the table and stood near Zelda, watching her nervously. Zelda put the pitcher back in the fridge and took a sip of her water, turning to Hilda.

“What is it?”

Hilda didn’t say anything, and simply reached in to hug Zelda, feeling her stiffen at the sudden contact. Zelda sat down her glass of water, and carefully patted at Hilda’s back, as though she were a stranger. Hilda kept a tight hold on her, and Zelda slowly began to relax in Hilda’s embrace, and wrapped her arms around her sister, holding her tightly.

When Hilda pulled back, Zelda was still holding on, and gently let go when she felt Hilda moving. She had tears in her eyes, and didn’t try to wipe them away.

“Thank you for that. I haven’t been hugged in so long. I’ve forgotten how nice that feels.”

“I love you Zelda. We all do. Don’t you forget it. If you ever need a hug, don’t be a stranger, don’t be afraid to come home. We will be here waiting for you.”

Zelda nodded, and drank some more water.

“I don’t mean to run off, but I really do need to go lie down now. I’m still feeling a bit drained from the hangover, and being out in the sun on Mary’s farm.”

“So it’s Mary now? Have you changed your mind about buying the farm?”

“Well, no, no. Not really. I just...I feel really strange about the whole thing, and I don’t know why. It seemed like such a good idea at first, and then I went there and met her, and...I don’t know.”

“She is a lovely woman. Sometimes I chat with her when I go to the farmer’s market on Sundays, to get fresh fruit for my pies and pastries.” 

“She is...certainly different, that’s for sure.”

“Well of course she is not like the people you’re used to, with all of your posh houses and cars and what not. Remember we are much simpler here in Greendale.”

Zelda nodded, staring at a fleck of something on the edge of the countertop. She leaned forward to brush it away, and then decided to make her retreat.

“Well, I think I’m going to go lie down. I took the rest of the day off, so I don’t have to rush back to work.”

“Okay Zelda. Go take care of yourself. I will bring up something for you to eat in a bit, alright?”

“Sure. Thanks.” 

 


 

Zelda laid low for the rest of the day, and weekend. She got in contact with one of the attorneys she knew from work, and met with her on Sunday. They met in Riverdale, of course, at a café that was located in a neighborhood that Zelda’s company was responsible for. The attorney, Marcy, told Zelda that she could try to lessen the punishment, even sweet talk the judge, or bribe them behind closed doors. It all depended on which judge would be presiding over her case.

“Most people suddenly have a change of heart when money is involved, Zelda. Unless we get some goody two-shoes, I think we might be fine. Just trust me.”

Zelda agreed, and tried to put the details out of her mind, as she had to make sure her meetings with Jonas and Soleil were set up for that week. She also had to come up with a good excuse for when she’d have her court appearance.

The farm, of course. 

That would probably be her excuse for a lot of things in the coming weeks.

When Monday morning came around, Zelda was feeling much better about things. She parked her car in the usual spot, and hummed to herself as she walked into the office building. The security officer at the front door gave her a polite nod, and she returned his gesture with a small smile as she took her sunglasses off. Zelda punched the button for the elevator and stepped inside, nerves fluttering in her belly. She reached out to push the button for her floor, and let her eyes close. 

It’s just another normal Monday. It is going to be a good day if I want it to be.

The elevator dinged when it reached Zelda’s floor, and she opened her eyes, preparing to step forward. As the door opened, she didn’t notice that Oliver was waiting for her, off to the side.  He grabbed her arm as soon as she stepped out of the elevator, his eyes wide.

“Oh my god you’re finally here!”

Zelda looked around, a bit confused as Oliver pulled her aside, urgency in his voice.

“What’s going on?”

“You need to go to your office. Someone is in there.”

“Ah, Zelda. There you are! I’ve been waiting for you to arrive.”

“Faustus.”

Oliver moved to stand behind Zelda, keeping his eyes down. Zelda swallowed, and wished she knew what was going on.

I’ll know soon enough, I suppose.

“Zelda why don’t you and I have a little chat, hm?” Faustus grabbed Zelda’s arm, looking around before squeezing tightly, his grip painful.

“Faustus I don’t understand what is happening.”

She followed alongside him, walking down the hall and through the main office area, pausing before they reached her office.

“You know, I wish you would let me know in advance if you are going to be inviting strange indigents to our office. We do have standards here, as I’m sure you are aware of.”

Faustus eyed Zelda up and down, an indiscernible look on his face. Zelda’s heart sped up, and she wondered what Faustus could be talking about.

“Take care of it. Now , please.” Faustus gave Zelda’s arm another squeeze before he turned on his heel, walking back to his office. He looked over his shoulder into Zelda’s office as he walked away, and clenched his jaw. 

“What in the world?”

Zelda walked into her office, and was startled when someone stood up out of the chair she had, near the door.

“Mary?”

Zelda was stunned, a bit confused as to why the farmer was there in her office. Zelda let her eyes quickly rake over the woman, and was relieved to see that she at least put on something clean before entering her office. She wore a white, freshly-ironed short sleeve blouse, tucked into her jeans, and it was buttoned up to her neck. She had on some plain, black leather boots, with a heel that made her a few inches taller. On her face sat the pair of glasses she had on when they first met, and her hair was out of the braids, and hung in curly waves over her shoulders. She clearly had made an effort to look nice. 

“Hi. Sorry to just show up like this.” Mary nervously shifted her purse from under one arm to the other. She looked rattled, and blushed, biting her lip.

Zelda opened and closed her mouth, not sure what to say, taken off guard.

“I...yes—I mean what can I help you with today, Mary?”

Zelda walked past the woman, and went to sit at her desk, trying to get started with her day.

“Well, I wanted to ask you something about the farm.”

“You’re going to go forward with selling it?” Zelda dug around in her purse, extracting her phone and setting the bag down, under her desk. She pushed the power button on her computer, and turned her desk chair back towards where Mary stood.

“Well that’s the thing…”

Oliver knocked on the door, and pushed it open. He held two cups of coffee in his hands, and sat one down on Zelda’s desk. 

“Thank you Oliver.”

He nodded, and then handed the second cup to Mary.

“I wasn’t sure what you wanted, so I just added a few sugars and some cream.”

“Thank you. That is very kind of you.”

Mary sat the cup down on the edge of Zelda’s desk, and looked down at the steam rising from inside of the plastic lid. 

“Well out with it. What can I help you with?” Zelda said, her voice tight. Mary didn’t answer at first, and Zelda looked up from the paperwork on her desk, biting the tip of her pen. There were freckles that painted her arms, all the way up to her shoulders Zelda imagined, her view obscured by the cap sleeves of her blouse. 

“I wanted to ask you if you’d reconsider—I mean, if you would be keen on a compromise?”

“A compromise you say?” Zelda crossed her leg over the other, and squinted as she looked up at Mary.

“Yes.” Mary bit her bottom lip, and reached for the chair that sat a few feet behind her. Zelda watched as her hair bounced as she scooted her chair closer to her desk.

Did she straighten her hair just to come down here? Zelda wondered. Mary’s hair did look longer than when she last saw it, and upon closer inspection, the thick chestnut tresses had been curled at the ends. Mary fidgeted nervously under Zelda’s gaze, and opened her mouth to speak again.

“I was wondering if you’d be able to give me a bit more time...if I could try to raise some money to try to save my farm.”

“What do you mean?”

“I was thinking, if I raise enough money to buy my farm out, then maybe I wouldn’t need to sell it…”

Zelda sipped her coffee, and pursed her lips as she swallowed. 

“I mean, I know you really really want the land—and maybe we can work something out in the future—”

“I’ll think about it.” 

“Thank you.”

“Mhmmn.” 

Mary sat back in the chair, and sighed, turning to look out the window.

“This is a really nice place you have here. I think your boss was unhappy with my being here, though.”

“Did he say anything to you?”

Mary turned and made eye contact with Zelda, eyes crystal blue in the sunlight.

“He um, well. He definitely wasn’t afraid to show his disgust over my being here.”

“I’m sorry. He can be...he can be quite difficult sometimes.” Zelda absently rubbed at her arm where Faustus had grabbed her, and Mary’s eyes widened as she saw the handprint on Zelda’s forearm. 

“I can imagine. He scared me when I first came in. Oliver was the one who showed me to your office. What a nice young man.”

“Yeah, he is really great.” 

They sat in silence, and drank their coffee, the sounds of the bustling office in the background.

“Mary,” Zelda started, Hilda’s words from Friday coming back to her. “You uh, you look really nice today.”

Zelda quickly took a big gulp of her coffee, to avoid speaking in case she had said too much. A blush spread across Mary’s cheeks, and she smiled, covering her mouth.

“Thank you.” Mary looked down, brushing her hands over her pants. “I guess I should get going, let you get back to work. I have some stuff to take care of too.”

“I’ll see you later then.”

“See ya.” Mary gave Zelda a little wave, and gathered her purse up, coffee in her other hand. Zelda let her eyes follow Mary as she left, before turning back to her computer screen. She saw movement outside her office, in the corner of her eye, and suddenly Oliver was coming through the door, closing it behind him.

“Um, so Mary was totally blushing just now, as she left. What did you say to her?”

“Nothing.” Zelda chuckled nervously, pretending to read emails. “I just told her she looked nice today. That’s all.”

“Zelda!”

“What? She did! It was just a nice compliment. It’s not like we’re friends or anything. I was just being nice.”

Oliver cocked his head to the side, and squinted.

“Since when are you ‘nice’ and giving out compliments, Zelda? In my time here, you’ve sent several temps and interns home crying.”

It was true. Zelda had been quite severe in the past, and it wasn’t something she was proud of. Still, she had a reputation to keep up. She couldn’t back down in front of Faustus, and let him think he could continue to have his way with her. She had to be strong. 

“You’re right. Between you and me, I don’t really want to be that way anymore. It doesn’t feel good.”

“You know, I’m really glad I know you, Zelda.”

Zelda wasn’t expecting to tear up over Oliver’s words, but she was taken by surprise, and had to turn her desk chair around to wipe her eyes. Oliver didn’t pretend not to see Zelda crying. They had been through some hard times together, and he had seen her in an emotional state on more than one occasion.

“Thank you Oliver. Thank you for being you...and for being my friend. You are truly the best assistant I’ve ever had.” 

“I’m glad that I can be here for you.” 

He smiled, and looked down at his phone as it chimed. Zelda watched as a wicked grin grew across his face while he replied to a text message.

“Boyfriend?”

“Not exactly. We uh...”

“What happened?”

“He and I broke up. It wasn’t really working out.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. It was so kind of him to come pick you up when you got me the other night.”

“Yeah...he wasn’t too happy about that. It’s totally fine though. Things were going downhill way before then.” 

“Mmn. Well, let’s get back to work, before Faustus has something to say about us gossiping in here for too long.”

“Indeed. I’ll let you know when I work out your next meeting. I still need to get word back from Jonas. Soleil has already emailed me and said that she is available Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning.”

“Great.”

“Also she sent over some sketches. I’ve forwarded those files to you.”

“Got em.” Zelda clicked through her inbox, opening the email in question.

“And that is all for now. I’ll be back later with your second coffee. Bye!”

“Bye!”

 


 

Zelda sat stunned, in her parked car outside of the Greendale courthouse. The papers in her lap swam in front of her, tears pooling in her eyes. How had things taken such a bizarre and messy turn in less than a week? She was convinced she was living in a television show, or someone was playing a prank on her.

How did this happen???

Her hearing had gone horribly. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. First, her attorney brushed the judge entirely the wrong way, and put him in a bad mood before they even started the hearing. Her attorney whispered to her that the judge was not happy with them, and didn’t want to negotiate. She told Zelda to follow her lead, and they would see how things played out from there. When it came time for Zelda’s plea, she spoke up, ignoring her attorney, and let the judge know that she was truly sorry. That was a mistake, as the judge recognized Zelda, and her attorney whispered angrily in her ear. Zelda strained and tried to remember where she knew the judge from. He seemed familiar. She zoned out for a minute before it hit her: he was the one who lead the protests against their gentrification project last year. What was even worse was her sentencing. The judge had apparently got word of Zelda’s plans for Mary’s farm, and was upset about it.

“Do you know that Wardwell Farm is a Greendale staple Ms. Spellman?” he asked, taking his glasses off. 

“I...”

“Not only did you get rid of several historic buildings downtown not even a year ago, now you want to remove the farm, a large part of Greendale’s history? You come into our town, the town you used to live in, and  you take away important landmarks that our grandparents and great-grandparents helped build. And then you get a second DUI. Do you know how dangerous it is, to put not only your own life but the lives of others at risk? I don’t think you learned your lesson last time, especially since you had a lawyer get you out of trouble. Just for that, I am requiring that you complete 100 hours of community service—at Wardwell Farm. Mary Wardwell has been looking for some extra help, and everyone in town knows that the farm isn’t doing well…” 

Everything else was a blur after that, and Zelda had been sitting in her car since she got her paperwork. She felt yet another headache building up behind her eyelids, and forced herself to control her breathing. Zelda’s phone buzzed in the seat next to her, and she looked over, and saw Hilda’s picture come up. Tears spilled over onto her cheeks as she accepted the call.

“Hello?” Zelda’s voice was rough, thick with tears and raspy.

“Hi Zelds! Just calling to see how everything went!”

Zelda tried not to cry, but she couldn’t help it. The sobs bubbled up in her throat, and she burst into full on tears.

“Zelda? What’s happened? Oh dear…”

“It was bad Hildie.” Zelda hiccuped. “I mean, I know I was guilty, but things are just terrible, and I don’t know what I’m going to do, and I am embarrassed, and I have to think of something to tell everyone at work, and, and—”

“Zelda. Zelda. I need you to take a breath, okay? Just breathe. Take a nice big inhale…”

Zelda noisily inhaled, her breath weak as she tried not to give into her sobs once more. 

“Now exhale, slowly. Blow it out through your mouth.”

She blew air out through her pursed lips, jaw still trembling.

“Again Zelda. Inhale...and exhale.”

Zelda repeated the controlled inhales and exhales a few more times, and Hilda could hear her breathing return to normal.

“Tell me what happened, and take your time.” 

“I did things all wrong, right from the start. The attorney I used was someone I knew from work. She uh, she tried to bribe the judge and that set things off on the wrong foot from the start.”

“Oh no...:”

“Then, it turns out the judge was someone who doesn’t like me. Remember last year, when my company cleared out those old historic buildings downtown, to make room for those condos, health food store and gym? Turns out the judge was the person leading the petitions and protests against our developments.”

“Oh Zelda...I’m so sorry.”

“That’s not the worst part.” Zelda licked her lips, tasting the remnants of her tears. “I have to complete 100 hours of community service.”

“That’s not too bad. Where will you be doing your community service? I hope it isn’t along the side of the road, picking up trash.”

“I almost wish it were.” Zelda brushed a hand over her face, not caring about her makeup. “I have to help Mary. At her farm.”

“Oh. Oh dear. That certainly is...my goodness.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this and work. It is almost like someone is playing a sick joke on me. What if I can’t go through with this project? What if everything goes wrong? I can’t show weakness at work. You know this is my chance to prove myself to Faustus. If he finds out about this, any of it, I’m through.”

“Don’t worry Zelda. I’m sure everything will work out. You’re intelligent, and will think of something. I know it sounds like empty comfort, but it will be okay. Plus, you always have me.”

“Thank you.” Zelda sighed. “I can’t believe that I have to go to Mary’s farm and help her at the same time I am making plans to sell her entire livelihood away. And to think she just came down to the office to ask me for some more time.”

“She came to your office? With Faustus there and all?”

“Yes. Took me completely by surprise. She asked me to give her some time to get money saved up, so she can pay off her balances, and keep the farm. I haven’t given her my answer yet. I’m thinking I may have to, though, just so I can keep things quiet with my community service and what not. I can come up with some setback in the project. Hopefully Faustus buys it.”

“I hope so too. Oh Zelda. I’m sorry that this happened to you.”

“I am too. But I am guilty. I don’t have to serve actual jail time, and my driver’s license is a restricted license, so I guess I can consider myself lucky then.”

“What’s a restricted license?”

“It means that I can only use my car to drive to and from work, and to and from community service. I think I should be okay. I don’t really make any other stops aside from work-related things. I’ll have to use one of those ridesharing applications while in Riverdale, I suppose.”

“Wow. So when do you have to go and start with Mary?”

“Well, I want to get started as soon as possible. The court order did say I have to have started by this time next week. I think I will contact my probation officer, and let them know my work schedule—which of course I will have to modify to work around this.”

“Well. This will certainly be an interesting experience for you. If you ever need a ride for anything, don’t hesitate to call me. I will be more than happy to take you somewhere. Ambrose would be available to help out as well. You know he—”

“NO!” Zelda yelled. “I’m sorry. I just—I don’t want the kids to know yet, not now. Maybe later, when I am almost finished with all of the hours, but not now. Not yet.”

“Sorry, sorry. What? Nothing Ambrose! We were just talking about you helping out more around the house.”

Hilda called out loudly, and Zelda could only assume that Ambrose heard her mention his name.

“I have to go Hildie. I need to call my probation officer.” Zelda gulped. “And Mary.”

“Alright Zelds. Take care of yourself, okay? Who knows, maybe this will turn into something good. We just don’t know it yet. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Bye.”

“Bye-bye!”

Zelda hung up the phone, and pulled down her visor, leaning forward to check her makeup in the mirror. She looked at the dark circles that had started forming around her eyes and frowned.

I’m sure I’ll be looking much more haggard once I start working on that farm...and what is Mary going to say when she finds out? Probably won’t be so nice anymore. Hope she has a good laugh at my expense. I deserve it…

Zelda started to tear up again, and slammed the overhead visor closed, getting angry at herself for being so emotional. 

This is all my fault. Why am I so upset when I am guilty? It’s my DUI, not anyone else’s…

Her shoulders sank as she put her car in drive, and began to reverse out of her parking spot. She would call Mary later, once she was at home, safely, with a large glass of wine. Zelda took a cigarette out of the box she had stashed in her cupholder and lit it, taking a dramatically long drag, before blowing the smoke out.

At least I can have these while driving. Small mercies.

She rolled her window down and flicked the end of the cigarette, dispelling the ash on the end. Zelda pulled up to a traffic light and took several long drags of her cigarette. Her phone began to ring and she saw Oliver’s name come up on the screen on her dashboard. 

“How did it go?”

“Well…”

Chapter Text

Zelda was dizzy as the phone rang, nerves causing her hands to shake. Part of her hoped Mary wouldn’t pick up, that she would be too busy. But she knew that she had to make this phone call, and had to do everything that the court required her to do. The phone continued to ring, and Zelda laid back on her bed, eyes on the roof above her. The phone almost went to voicemail when she heard a click.

Hello?”

“Mary?”

“Yes?”

Zelda gulped, and reminded herself to be strong.

“This is Zelda…?”

“Zelda! Hey. I was wondering when you would be calling.”

“Yeah...I just wanted to know if you had been contacted by the uh, by the court.”

“Yes. I spoke with your probation officer this morning.”

Zelda was silent, waiting for Mary to ask why she had been arrested, or to poke fun at her expense.

“So when do you want to get started? I know next week is the official start time, but you can stop by this week for a few hours if you would like.”

“Yes, yes. That would work. How does your Friday look?”

“Friday works. I’m assuming you still have work later that day, right?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. How does six sound?”

“In the morning ?” Zelda asked, incredulous. One of the perks of her job was that she didn’t have to come in until nine, sometimes even ten.

“Yes Zelda, in the morning. I used to get a much earlier start around here, back when we had more regular business.”

“Wow. I never thought...well I guess there is a lot to do, and you don’t want to be out there all day...hm.”

Mary listened to Zelda think out loud, and smiled to herself on the other end of the receiver. Zelda seemed to be quite funny, though it wasn’t her intention. There was something about her that Mary couldn’t put her finger on...

“So Friday then?”

“Yes. Make sure you wear something you don’t mind getting dirty. I’ll see you on Friday morning at six.”

“Alright. Bye.”

Zelda hung up quickly, not lingering one moment longer than necessary.

 


 

The next day, Zelda went into work feeling uneasy. She was going to see Faustus, to let him know that she would be coming in later on Friday. The elevator took it’s time climbing up to the top floor, people getting in and out on multiple floors. Zelda rolled her neck back and forth, muscles cramping from tossing and turning all night. When she finally reached her floor, she pushed her shoulders back and headed straight for Faustus’s office. She shot Oliver a small smile on her way over, but didn’t stop to talk. 

Faustus had his office door closed, and Zelda knocked gently.

“Come in.”

Zelda turned the doorknob and stepped inside.

“Ah, Zelda.”

“Auntie Zelda!” 

Judith sat in one of the chairs across from her father’s desk, and hopped down out of the seat, running across to greet Zelda with a hug. She had a pink cast on one arm, and Zelda felt the hard plaster against her waist when the child embraced her

“Hello sweetie! What happened to your arm”

Zelda crouched down in front of the child, a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“I got hurt skateboarding at school.”

“You mean you got hurt showing off at school,” Faustus chimed from behind his desk. Zelda saw a blush travel across the child’s cheeks and she looked sheepish.

“Be truthful, Judith. You know what I always say—“

“Honesty is the best policy…” Judith chimed at the same time as her father. Zelda had to bite back a grin, as there was nothing “honest” about Faustus, aside from his love for his children. She squeezed Judith’s shoulder gently.

“Well. It looks like you need some signatures on that cast, don’t you?”

The child’s face lit up, little dimples showing in her cheeks. 

“Let’s see if your father has something I can write with, hm?” 

Judith nodded, and ran around to Faustus’s side, reaching for the pencil cup. He slid it over to the edge, and Judith took out different permanent markers and pens, sliding them back in until she found a color she liked. Zelda stood back up and held her hands behind her back, trying not to show how nervous she was. 

“So Zelda, what brings you here—aside from your job.”

“Well...I just wanted to let you know that I will be coming in later for work on Friday, and probably for the next couple of months.”

Judith ran back over to Zelda’s side, holding her casted arm out, a pen in her other hand. Zelda took the pen from her, and uncapped it. She began to write: To The Bravest Little Girl I Know...Get Well Soon, Judith!

“What do you mean you will be coming in later ?”

“Well—“ Zelda bit her lip, and signed Love, Auntie Zelda on Judith’s cast. The child smiled and leaned into Zelda, who wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

“I am going to be working a little more uh, closely, on the farm project. So, I’ll be working around my time there and here.”

“Hmmn. I see.” Faustus narrowed his eyes, and studied Zelda intently. Zelda was uncomfortable, and was relieved when Judith asked her a question.

“What kind of nail polish is this? It’s pretty.”

“It’s a gel manicure. I got it done at a nail shop here in town.”

“Daddy can I get my nails done like Auntie Zelda?” 

“You’ll have to ask your mother about that.”

“Auntie Zelda can I go with you next time you go to get yours done?”

“I’ll call your mom and see if we can set up a date, okay?” 

“Okay!”

Zelda patted the child on the back, and the little girl had a pleased smile on her face. She got up and ran over to her school bag, pulling out a thick book, and flipping to somewhere in the middle where her bookmark was. Zelda stood to leave, and Faustus cleared his throat. She hesitated, and quickly reminded herself not to show any weakness in front of him. 

“Yes Faustus?”

“I never did give you an answer about coming in at a different time, but...I suppose that should be fine. Especially if it means you are working hard on this little project of yours.”

Faustus tented his hands together under his chin, his lizard eyes focused on Zelda’s face.

“We might even be able to come up with a compromise, or something of the sort…”

“I—I have to go, Faustus.” Zelda walked towards the door, pausing as she pulled it open.

“Bye bye Judith. I hope your arm feels better soon!”

“Thank you Auntie Zelda! Bye!”

Zelda waved at Judith as she walked out of the office, not chancing a look back at Faustus. Hopefully he didn’t retaliate with some crass blackmail, as he had in the past. She tried to put her worries out of her mind, and went back to her office, catching Oliver’s eye on the way back. She had work to do. Faustus could be dealt with later.

 


 

“Who knew it could be this hard to find some fucking clothes?” Zelda grumbled out loud, as she rifled through her closet. There was a pile of blouses, skirts, dresses, and pants sitting on the floor, around her feet. She had to pick something that she wouldn’t mind getting dirty—which in her case, wasn’t anything. 

Maybe some plain, long-sleeved shirts will do. I need to be careful in the sun.

Zelda hastily stuffed some of her selections into an overnight bag, and figured she’d worry about everything later. Besides, after tomorrow, it would be Saturday, and she could sit down and properly work out her weekly schedule. Zelda made sure she had her chargers and electronic devices, and packed them in her bag as well. She looked around her apartment one final time, and locked everything up and left. At Hilda’s suggestion, Zelda had decided to stay overnight in Greendale. Hilda told her that it would be more reasonable, as she would be closer to the farm, and could just drive over in the morning. And once she got there, she would meet up with her probation officer, Ray. He was an older gentleman, probably in his 70s. He seemed very nonchalant, but the one thing he was firm about was that Zelda needed to be ontime, and that she had to actually make an effort. 

“Okay Riverdale. As long as you show up to the farm on-time, and you show that you are trying to work, then you and I will have no problems, got it?

Zelda agreed, and was about to protest and tell her officer, Ray, that her name was Zelda, and that he could use some manners. She didn’t, of course, recalling the last time she tried to speak up, and how much trouble that landed her in. 

When Zelda got home, to Greendale, she was pleasantly surprised to find her family sitting around the fireplace, playing a board game. Hilda had several candles burning around the downstairs area of the house, giving it a warm glow. It felt like she was walking into a warm hug. 

“Aunt Zee!” Sabrina exclaimed, running over to greet her. Sabrina threw her arms around her neck, and kissed her on the cheek. Zelda hugged her niece in return, and stepped back with a smile. 

“How are you doing?”

“Good, good. We won our game last night,” Sabrina said cautiously, as though she wanted Zelda to pick up on something. Zelda stared at her, and then gasped as the realization set in.

“Oh shit! Your game Sabrina! I totally forgot. I’m so sorry, dear.” Zelda frowned, and looked around, not able to look her niece in the eye. She wrung her hands together, and picked her bag up, walking past Sabrina to the staircase.

“Zelds! Aren’t you going to come and join us?” Hilda called from the living room.

“No, no. I’m sorry. I have to wake up very early tomorrow. Goodnight.” Zelda didn’t even stop and look back, and simply rushed to her room, tears in her eyes. Once in the safety of her bedroom, Zelda sat her bags down, and took her clothes off. She slipped into one of her favorite nightgowns and unpinned her hair. The tears were already coursing down her cheeks when she started to remove her makeup. 

How could I have forgotten again ??? I am truly a terrible stand-in for a mother. Maybe it’s good that I didn’t have any kids. I would probably forget one in the supermarket, or something, knowing how distracted I am.

Zelda set her alarm for 5:00 and fell asleep with a heavy heart, her pillow damp and tear-stained beneath her cheek. When her alarm did go off in the morning, Zelda nearly cried again, not used to being awake this early. She accepted her new normal, not without some grumbling and got ready for the day. She didn’t bother with makeup, not knowing what state she would be in after her time with Mary. She kept it simple, with a pair of jeans, her boots from the other day, and a grey long-sleeved shirt. Zelda tried not to linger too long, as she wanted to get to Mary’s early. She didn’t take time to make herself something for breakfast, and left with just her coffee.

Zelda rolled up Mary’s driveway slowly, gravel crunching beneath her tires. The sun was starting to rise, and it backlit the house. Jonathan’s black truck was parked over near the barn, and Zelda saw him walk out from alongside the barn. She parked her car, and turned it off. 

Here goes nothing…

She stepped down out of her car and stretched, yawning as she stood back upright. There were lights on in Mary’s kitchen, and Zelda could see slight movement from behind the curtains, Mary’s form illuminated by the light. Zelda walked up to the front door and knocked, waiting for Mary to answer. She felt nervous,and took a deep breath of the fresh morning air. Birds chirped happily in the background, and she could hear some sheep bleating in the distance. It seemed like it was going to be a nice morning, despite the circumstances. Zelda turned her attention back to the front door when the locks started clicking, and before she knew it, Mary was standing in front of her.

“Zelda! Good morning!”

“Morning.”

Mary hadn’t done anything with her hair yet, and it hung in curls around her shoulders, still damp from her shower. She had on another plaid shirt, but this time it was unbuttoned. Zelda’s eyes traced down to the white undershirt she wore, and there were a multitude of freckles painted across her chest and neck. If Mary noticed her staring, she didn’t say anything, and kept the same smile across her face. 

“Come inside. I’ve made you a bit of breakfast.”

Zelda stepped inside and took off her boots. Mary stood nearby, waiting for her. She could smell Mary’s shampoo, the same fresh, clean smell from the other day. 

“What if I’m not really hungry?” Zelda asked, light-headed as she stood back up from undoing the laces on her shoes.

“You might want to try to have something. I don’t want you passing out on me.”

“Right…”

“I’m serious Zelda. I’ve had more than one new farmhand who skimped on breakfast and regretted it later.”

“Fine,” Zelda huffed, crossing her arms. Mary led her to the kitchen, and Zelda sat down in a chair, noticing a place setting had been done up for her. 

How is she this kind and thoughtful? No one is this nice, especially not to someone who is going to sell your home away...

“Your probation officer sent a text right before you got here and said that he is on his way.”

Zelda nodded, and looked down at the folded napkin and utensils that were placed with care on the table. Mary moved around, and then sat a bowl of hot oatmeal in front of Zelda. She also placed a smaller bowl filled with strawberries and blueberries next to Zelda. 

“There is sugar and cinnamon already on the table, and if you’d like some coffee, you can help yourself. Let me know if you need anything else. I’ll just be right back. I have to finish getting ready.” Mary gestured to her hair, and gave Zelda a wave as she nearly skipped out of the kitchen. Tears filled Zelda’s eyes the moment Mary left, and she brought her hands up to cover her face. 

I’m not going to cry here. Nope. I’m going to pull it together, and be strong. I have to be strong.

Zelda wiped away her tears, and added some fruit to her oatmeal, and then sprinkled some sugar and cinnamon in it. The oatmeal was delicious, and it warmed Zelda’s insides up. She ate quietly, and looked around Mary’s kitchen. It was a quaint house, humble, but welcoming. It seemed like the type of place you would book on an Airbnb country getaway. She worked her way through the bowl of oatmeal, stomach filling up. The doorbell rang right as Zelda was finishing up, and she went to answer the door, still swallowing her last bite of food.

“Riverdale. Wasn’t expecting to see you answering the door.”

Ray brushed past Zelda, a newspaper tucked under his arms, and went to sit on the couch. He slipped his shoes off, and unrolled his paper. 

“There is coffee in the kitchen, if you..”

“Thank you Riverdale. I’ll help myself.”

Zelda frowned. Ray entered Mary’s house with familiarity, as if he had been there many times before. Do they know each other? She wondered. Zelda was about to ask Ray something when Mary came bounding down the stairs, a smile on her face.

“Ah! Ray! There you are!”

“Hey Dimples! Good to see you again!” 

Ray stood up from the couch, and Mary went over to him and wrapped him in a large hug. Zelda felt like she was intruding on a private moment, and went into the kitchen, digging in her purse for her cigarettes. Ray and Mary spoke in hushed tones, and Zelda could hear bits and pieces coming through.

“...things with Adam going?”

“He isn’t taking it well. He did at first, but now he is reaching for scraps. It’s exhausting.”

“Did your attorney say anything?”

Zelda took her cigarette and lighter, and quickly walked out of the kitchen, past Mary and Ray in the living room, and out the front door. She heard the word “divorce” and quickly shut the door behind her. 

Adam was the person Mary was speaking with the other day...is she divorcing him? It didn’t sound like things were going too well. And how does she know Ray? 

Zelda blew a puff of smoke out, and looked out at the pasture, animals noises coming from the creatures that moved around in the distance. One hundred hours was a lot—the equivalent to almost one straight week of working 24 hours around the clock. Zelda knew it was a lenient punishment, especially considering the fact that she was a repeat offender. Yet she worried about her project. She really didn’t want Faustus to find out about her arrest, and she didn’t want to entertain the thought of what could happen if the farm project didn’t go as planned. 

“Zelda?”

The front door opened behind her, and Mary stepped out onto the porch. Zelda stubbed her cigarette out on the sole of her shoe, and blew a cloud of smoke out, away from the direction of Mary.

“Sorry. Old habit.”

“Are you ready to get started?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Zelda, you will always have a choice here.”

Zelda nodded, once more feeling guilty over receiving kindness from Mary. Her throat was suddenly dry, and she swallowed.

“Uh. Where will I be working today?”

“Follow me.” Mary said, smiling and gesturing for Zelda to follow her as she stepped down off the porch. Her hair was braided back in one ponytail now, and there was a damp spot on the back of her shirt where the still wet end of her braid rested against her clothes. There was something organic about Mary that Zelda liked. She didn’t have to pretend for anyone, didn’t work with stuck up people who she was afraid of. She was just herself, and unashamedly so.

Zelda followed Mary out to the barn, keeping quiet as they trudged along the path. She hadn’t gotten a look inside of the large building when they were on the tour the other day. The barn was old, and had been patched up in several places. The front doors were open, and when they walked inside, Zelda saw Jonathan walking by carrying a bale of hay. 

“Good morning ladies!”

“Good morning Jonathan! Zelda’s going to be helping us out here for a bit, so I’m going to show her around.”

“That’s great! Glad to have you with us, Zelda!”

Zelda gave him a small smile, and tried to breathe through the various scents that existed in the barn. The large building stretched far back, and had a high ceiling. There were stables all along one side of the barn, and then to the left an open area where a hay elevator was running. Jonathan was loading bales onto it, and another farmhand received the bales, stacking them up in the loft.

“Wow. It’s pretty big in here.” Zelda said, over the noise of the machine. 

“Yes. It’s kind of like the TARDIS, y’know? Bigger on the inside?”

“What?” Zelda looked confused, and a smile danced across her face. 

“Nevermind. It’s from a show. Follow me. You’ll be working back here today.”

Zelda followed Mary down past all of the stables, animals in some of them. She stayed towards the middle of the walkway, not wanting to be touched by the animals. Mary brought her to nearly the back of the barn, and then stopped next to a shovel and wheelbarrow. Mary picked up the shovel, and folded her hands on top of the handle.

“So, we don’t exactly have something glamorous for you to do here today, and I know I did say you have a choice, but we really need the help. I’m sorry.”

“Well, what exactly is it that I’ll be doing?”

Zelda’s curiosity grew by the second, followed by a flutter of anxiety. The shovel Mary held looked a bit dirty on the blade, and the wheelbarrow smelled really bad.

“You’ll be cleaning out some of the stables—well, the ones that are empty.”

“Shoveling what?”

“Waste. From the animals.”

“Ohhhh no,” Zelda chuckled, backing away from Mary. “No no no. You mean I am going to be shoveling shit ? I’m sorry, I have to do something else. I can’t do that.”

“I’m sorry Zelda, but this is what we need help with for today. It won’t be that bad. Besides, before you know it, it will be time for you to go.”

Zelda sighed, and shook her head.

“Fine.” Zelda grumbled, and took the shovel from Mary. 

“We’ll start here, in this stable.” Mary unlatched the gate, and they stepped inside. Zelda looked around in disgust at the dirty floor. 

“So you’ll just bring the wheelbarrow in here, and scoop everything up. Once you get it filled up a considerable amount, you can take the wheelbarrow out back, and you’ll see a pile where you can dump it. We make our own fertilizer her from the waste. Jonathan takes care of that.”

“Okay, okay. I think I can do that.”

“Perfect. If you have any questions or need help with anything, you can ask one of us. We’ll be around, okay?” Mary patted Zelda’s shoulder, and Zelda warmed under her touch.

She watched as Mary retreated, and went to go look at some animals in one of the nearby stables. Her voice changed as she spoke to the livestock, reaching her hand over the railing and petting them. It was rather sweet, and Zelda could tell that Mary truly had a kind heart. She only let herself stare for a few seconds, though, before turning back to observe the mess around her.

Well...I had better get started.

 


 

Nearly two and a half hours later, Zelda had worked through all of the unoccupied pens. She would fill up the wheelbarrow, as much as she could without it getting too heavy, and wheel it outside, around the side, and dump it in a pile. She had filled up the wheelbarrow too much at first, and had trouble pushing it, which lead to her spilling the waste. She saw a farmhand hide his laughter as she swore, refilling the wheelbarrow again. She shot him daggers with her eyes each time she passed him, and he quickly averted his gaze. It was smelly and tiring, but once Zelda got her gag reflex under control, she was able to push through. She soon worked up a good sweat, and was relieved every time she went outside into the cooler air. Her lower back and shoulders started to ache, not used to the strenuous, repetitive motions. When she was finished, she shoved the wheelbarrow and shovel up against the side of the barn, and walked over to some hay bales that sat under a tree. Zelda sat down with a sigh, ignoring what was going on around the farm. She turned and laid back against the hay, too tired and sweaty to care about whatever bugs and dirt she was sure were there. Zelda laid there and caught her breath, letting her body cool down after the intense workout she just experienced. Across the way, Jonathan caught sight of Zelda laying across the hay. Mary walked past, and paused to see what Jonathan was staring at.

“I think you may have worn her out.”

“Yeah. Poor thing. Probably isn’t used to waking up early.”

Mary felt a twinge of sympathy as she recalled how tired Zelda looked each time she saw her. 

“Want me to wake her up?”

Mary pulled a pocket watch out of the front pocket of her overalls. 

“I’d say give her about 10 more minutes. I’ll wake her up after that. Would you mind going to check the perimeter fence for me?”

“Sure.”

Mary walked past Zelda and headed back to the house. It was nearing nine o’clock, and she figured it was a good time to take a break. In the past, she would work until noon, or into the early afternoon, if there was more to do. But for the past year or so, the farm hadn’t been in-demand, so everyone was able to finish their work early. Mary went in through the side door, and wiped her forehead with her sleeve.

“Ray? You still out there?”

“Dimples? That you?”

“Yeah it’s me. Hold on a sec—”

Mary slipped her boots off, setting them on the back step. Sock-clad, she walked through the kitchen, stopping at her sink. She took some soap in her hands and lathered up, washing her hands, and all the way up her forearms. She dried off, and went to the living room, where Ray still was. The older man was deep into his crossword puzzle, a pair of glasses low on his nose. The other sections of the newspaper were folded in a pile next to him on the couch. 

“So how did Riverdale do today?”

“Riverdale...?”

“Miss Spellman. Our ‘perp’.” Ray made air quotes with his fingers.

“Zelda worked really hard today. I think she truly is sorry. I feel bad for her.”

“You’re too kind, Dimples.”

“Well, I think everyone deserves a second chance. Everyone should be able to tell their side of the story.”

Ray smiled, and folded his hands over his large stomach. 

“You’re so much like your father. He’d be so proud of you, running the farm like this all by yourself, despite the circumstances.”

Mary bit her bottom lip, and tears filled her eyes.

“You have your mother’s heart too, you know? You got the best of both of them.”

“I wish they were here, Ray. I miss them both so much.”

“I know. I miss them too. They were my best friends.”

Mary smiled fondly as she recalled one Christmas where they all sat around the fireplace, there in that very room. She missed having a family, but was glad that she had good memories to look back on. Mary sighed, and wiped away the tears that had rolled down her face.

“So, do you have paperwork or something for me to sign? For Zelda?”

“Yes I do.” Ray reached underneath his folded newspaper pieces and withdrew a folder. He pulled out a sheet of paper and handed it to Mary.

“You just write a short description of the work that was done, that you saw it take place, and for how long. Then you sign, and I sign.”

“Perfect. I actually need to go and wake Zelda up first—in case she has to go somewhere—and then I’ll be back to sign this.”

“Wake her up?”

“She fell asleep after she finished her work.”

Ray started to laugh, a slow chuckle that built up. He wasn’t trying to be mean, and Mary didn’t see it as that way. She knew that farm work was strenuous, and it could be a lot for someone who had never done any before.

“Ohh Riverdale. She is in for a surprise for sure.”

“Don’t laugh too much now. She might be able to do things you can’t do.” Mary said with a wink.

This caused the older man to laugh even harder, and Mary giggled a bit herself. She turned to go back outside, and shook her head, chuckling. 

 


 

Zelda was still asleep on the same bale of hay when Mary returned to the barn area. She knelt down next to Zelda, and gently shook her arm.

“Zelda. Zelda.”

The woman didn’t stir, and Mary shook her arm once more, this time with a bit more force.

“Zelda?”

The auburn-haired woman shot upright and gasped, looking around before realizing where she was. Mary gave Zelda’s shoulder a gentle squeeze before pulling her hand back.

“Hey there. You fell asleep.”

Zelda blushed and stood up, brushing her clothes off, looking disgusted. 

“Not too hard for your first day?”

“No, no. It was fine. I just want to go shower now, thank you.”

“You’re welcome to use the shower here, if you’d like. I know you have to go to work now.”

“I do. Shit. What time is it?” 

“It’s just after nine.”

Zelda nodded, and started to walk back towards the house. Mary fell into step beside her, smiling.

“Do I have to sign something that says I did my hours today?”

“Ray and I got it all filled out for you.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s no problem—oh! I almost forgot! We didn’t talk about what your regular hours would be. Is six a good time for you?”

“I mean, I guess it works.”

“I spoke to Ray the other day, and he recommended you do two to three days a week here, that way it will make the time go by faster. What do you think?”

Zelda was silent as they approached the house, and stopped once they got to the back door. She looked down at the ground, and traced the tip of her shoe back and forth in the dirt.

“Maybe Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings?” 

“That works.” Mary bent down to take her boots off before entering the house. Zelda followed suit. They walked into the kitchen, 

“Would you like anything before you leave? Maybe some water?”

“I would appreciate some water.”

Zelda picked up her purse from the chair she had left it in, and dug out her phone. She sent Oliver a quick text, letting him know she’d be in soon.

“Here you go.” Mary appeared in front of Zelda, a glass of cold water in hand. 

“Thank you.”

Zelda drank the entire glass in one take, and coughed when she was finished.

“Well, thank you.” Zelda looked down at the glass in her hand as she spoke. “I will see you on Monday morning, I suppose.”

“Thank you Zelda. We appreciate the help. Have a good weekend. Get yourself some rest.” 

Zelda scoffed, though she knew she really did need the rest.

“Bye.” 

Zelda offered a smile so quick that it could’ve been missed with a blink. She sat the glass down on the table and walked out of the kitchen.

“Bye Ray.”

“See you later, Riverdale.”

Zelda bristled as she walked out of the front door, leaving a chuckling Ray behind.

“She’s an interesting one, for sure. What do you say, Dimples?” Ray turned to look over at Mary, who was now standing in the kitchen entryway.

“I think she is...nice.” 

Ray chuckled, and Mary bit back a grin, her eyebrows raised in an amused expression.

Chapter Text

The moment Zelda got back home, she showered and fell into bed. She sent Oliver a text, letting him know she might stop by the office later that day. He replied, just as she was drifting off. He reassured her that he would take care of everything, and that she could rest for as long as she needed to. When Zelda woke up, it was almost three o’clock in the afternoon. She had slept right through lunch! A quick glance at her phone showed no missed calls or messages, much to her relief. Zelda sighed, and dialed Oliver’s number, letting him know that she overslept.

“Oliver?” 

“Hey Zelda! How is the farm life going?”

“Will you keep it down over there?” 

“Sorry, sorry. I mean, technically, people don’t know what I am referring to.”

“I know but I would appreciate it if you kept it to yourself, thank you very much.”

“Oh of course. So uh, when can we expect you in?”  

“Monday morning.”

“Monday...okay got it. I just updated your schedule. So, what did Mary have you do on the farm?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Try me.”

“It’s embarrassing.”

“Zelda, after all we’ve been through, I think I can handle it.”

“...I had to shovel shit.”

“No way.”

“Yes way. It was terrible . I had to clean out animal stables and fill up a wheelbarrow, and roll the crap outside. Nearly threw my breakfast back up more than once.”

“Oh you poor dear. We’ll definitely have to schedule another mani-pedi day soon!”

“That sounds divine. Hey, do you want to do one on Tuesday, after work? I have to go back into Greendale, but maybe we can take a long lunch?”

“That works.”

“Perfect. Pencil it in for me.”

Zelda’s phone pinged with the new calendar notification.

“You are the best Oliver.”

“I know. That’s why you love keeping me around.”

“See you on Monday.”

“See you.”  

Zelda stayed in Greendale for the rest of the weekend. It was nice to spend some time with her family. On Saturday, she decided to accompany Sabrina to her soccer practice, which Sabrina drove to. Zelda gripped onto the handle in the passenger side window the entire time, trying to remind herself to breathe. She had Sabrina stop at Dr. Cerberus’s on the way back, and Zelda treated her to her favorite lunch, hamburgers and milkshakes. She missed spending time with her niece, and it felt just like old times. They caught up, and Sabrina filled her in on her busy and confusing dating life. They ate until they were full, and went home, burgers and milkshakes in tow for Hilda and Ambrose.

 


 

Monday went by rather quickly. Mary had Zelda help her with shearing sheep, and collecting the wool to be cleaned later. When she got to her office, she had piles of paperwork to get through. She ended up taking lunch at her desk, working fervently. Oliver ordered her some carry out, and brought it to her. Tuesday was another busy day, as she had a meeting with Soleil about financing for the condo. They ended up talking for much longer than they had intended to, and Zelda had to run back to the office, making it back just in time for their team meeting. She had Oliver push their nail salon appointment to later that day, after work. Zelda was so exhausted that she nearly fell asleep in the chair while getting her toes done. When she got to Greendale that evening, she was dragging, ready to climb into bed fully clothed. Her phone started ringing once she walked inside, though, and she excused herself to her bedroom.

“Hello?”

“Zelda?” *sniffle*

“Yes?”

“It’s me—Mary.”

“Hi Mary,” Zelda frowned. She could hear in Mary’s voice that she had been crying, and her nose sounded all stuffy. “Are you okay?”

“I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to cancel for tomorrow morning.” 

“Oh! Okay. Well…I guess I will see you on Friday then?”

“Yes…” Mary’s voice was watery, and Zelda could hear her move the phone away and sniffle. Zelda wasn’t sure what to say or do, and felt useless sitting on the other line.

“I hope you feel better Mary.”

“Thank you. I have to go. Goodbye.”

“Bye.”

Mary hung up the phone before Zelda could even finish saying the word ‘bye’. Zelda felt disappointed. Sure, she could always make up her community service hours, that was no problem. Butsomeone had upset Mary. She was a kind woman, and she didn’t deserve to be treated poorly. 

But aren’t I going to do the same thing when I buy her farm? 

Zelda’s stomach twisted with guilt, and she decided to put it out of her mind, and try to get some sleep.

The next morning, Zelda slept in, and her body thanked her for it. She worked through some emails on her iPad at the kitchen table, and enjoyed more than one cup of coffee. When they got through their breakfast, and Ambrose and Sabrina had gone off to school, Hilda asked Zelda about her plans for the morning. Zelda told her about Mary cancelling, and that she had a free morning for once. Hilda invited her to tag along with her as she ran errands, and on a whim, Zelda accepted her invitation. They went all around town, and by mid-morning they were at their final stop, Dr. Cerberus’s shop. Hilda had something to drop off for Dr. Cee, as they wouldn’t get a chance to see each other again until later that week. Zelda yawned, and looked out the window, observing the activity in the small parking lot. Someone quickly ran out of one of the storefronts, and paused on the sidewalk. It was a woman. She visibly drooped, as if she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders, and walked into the parking lot.

Mary??

The small woman wiped at her eyes, nearly getting backed into by a careless driver leaving their parking spot. Zelda gasped as the rude driver slammed on their brakes, and laid on their horn, scaring Mary. She rushed past, raising her hand in apology. Zelda’s heart was beating a panicked staccato as she turned in her seat to watch Mary, trying to see where she was headed. Her truck was parked about 8 cars down and across from where Zelda was. Mary disappeared into her truck, but Zelda didn’t hear the vehicle start, or see her brake lights turn on. Zelda bit her bottom lip hard, wondering if she should go see if the woman was alright. Mary did sound pretty bad on the phone the night before. Zelda rolled her eyes and sighed as she unbuckled her seatbelt, grabbing her phone out of the cupholder. 

I hope I’m not getting myself into more than I can handle…

She got out of the car and gently closed the door behind her. Another car went past, and Zelda barely waited for it to move out of the way before she jogged over to Mary’s truck. Sure enough, the woman was still there, sobbing. She had her hands against the steering wheel, and her face pressed into the back of her hands. Her shoulders shook with each sob, and Zelda felt pity. She knocked on the window, and Mary jumped, quickly wiping off her face. When she turned and saw that it was Zelda standing outside of her window, she smiled weakly. Her nose was pink and running, and her eyes were red.

“Are you okay?” Zelda asked, looking up into the vehicle. Mary nodded and closed her eyes, resting her chin on her hand. She didn’t open her eyes, and Zelda walked around the front of the car, relieved to find the passenger side unlocked. She climbed up into the truck and closed the door. Mary was sniffling, and Zelda saw a balled up tissue in her lap. Zelda didn’t say anything, and instead just sat there, giving Mary the stage to talk whenever she felt ready. 

“You know, sometimes life can be quite frustrating.” Mary said into the stillness of the car, her voice wet and thick with tears. Zelda looked at her, nodding, but kept quiet.

“Have you ever been married, Zelda?”

“No.”

“It can be a nice thing, until it isn’t.” Mary leaned her head against the window, and wiped at her nose with the tissue. Zelda felt uncomfortable. 

Why did I even get out of my car in the first place? Why am I being so nice? 

Zelda realized that she still hadn’t said anything aside from a few words, and tried to offer some comfort.

“I’m sorry Mary. I wish I had something more to say. I just—you sounded so sad on the phone yesterday, and I saw you running out of that business over there when I was in my car.”

“It’s fine, Zelda.” Mary reached out her hand and gently grasped Zelda’s forearm. Zelda looked at Mary, not prepared for her touch.

“I appreciate your coming over here to check on me. You’re a good person, Zelda.”

But I’m not…

Zelda couldn’t look away from Mary. Her eyes were too captivating, and Zelda felt like she was being sucked in.

Her eyes...they are so blue...

Zelda started to panic, her heart pounding in her chest. She quickly looked away, a blush spreading over her cheeks. Luckily, her phone started to ring in her lap, giving her an escape from the tense moment. 

“Sorry I just have to answer this.” 

“It’s no problem.” 

“Hey Hildie. What’s up?”

“Where are you?”

“I’m just across the street. I saw someone I knew.” Zelda looked over at Mary, who was now taking her hair down from the messy ponytail it was in. She quickly ran her fingers through the thick locks, and placed her glasses on her face again.

“Are you done? Okay. I’ll be right over. Just give me a minute…alright. Bye.” Zelda sighed, and looked over at Mary, who seemed to be doing better.

“That was my sister. Seems she is ready to go home now. I decided to accompany on her errands run. Didn’t want to risk driving around for a non-work related event with my uh, current charges.”

“Well I’m glad you stopped by. And I’m sorry about cancelling.” Mary looked down at her lap, her hands smoothing away the creases in her jeans.

“There is nothing to be sorry for. And I know we don’t know each other well, but I truly hope you feel better.”

Mary smiled at Zelda, and Zelda couldn’t help but return the smile.

“So I’ll see you on Friday morning?”

“See you then.”

Zelda opened the truck and stepped down, closing the door behind her. She looked both ways before crossing the parking lot, walking back down the row towards her vehicle. When she got back in the car, Hilda was sending voice messages to Dr. Cee.

“Well I love you more, so there!” 

Hilda’s phone made a swooping noise as a new message came through almost instantly.

“Well I love you the most .” Dr. Cee’s voice had a playful lilt to it. Hilda giggled, and Zelda did her trademark eye roll. 

“Hey Zelds! So who’d you see? I didn’t recognize the car of anyone we know.”

“Oh, uh…” Zelda blushed a bit, and quickly put on an air of indifference. “Mary.”

“Wardwell?” 

“Yes.” Zelda clutched her purse in her lap, and stared straight ahead. 

“Wow. I thought you two were going head to head.”

“Well, she was crying and I wanted to see if she was okay. That’s all.” Zelda dug in her purse for a cigarette and stuck one in her mouth. She rolled down the window and angrily lit the cigarette.

“Oh...okay…” Hilda kept her smile to herself, and started the car. They backed out of their spot, and started to exit the parking lot. Zelda looked towards the storefront she had seen Mary come out of, and saw a sign that said Law Offices of Mason Williams And Associates. Was Mary in some legal trouble? 

Maybe it is just something to do with the farm...then again she was talking about marriage earlier, and I heard her mention divorce last week…

Unease washed over Zelda, and she took longer drags of her cigarette, anxious to get back into Riverdale later, and tend to her work.



 

By the time Friday morning rolled around, Zelda was glad that the weekend was near. Faustus had embarrassed her in the middle of their meeting on Thursday, and it took everything in her not to start crying. Soleil and Jonas had been there too, much to Zelda’s dismay. The architect took mercy on Zelda, and pulled her aside after the meeting, making sure she was okay. She was, though her pride wasn’t. Zelda still felt the sting of the previous day’s embarrassment when she woke up, and got ready to go to the farm. 

How am I going to go through with this project? I can’t fail—Faustus would have a field day with that. But I also don’t want to hurt Mary…

Zelda drove on autopilot to the farm, not realizing she had arrived until she nearly passed the entrance. She signaled and turned onto the farm, driving up the long driveway. Zelda yawned as she parked, and stretched once she turned the car off. She slept restlessly the previous night, and was feeling it. As she walked up to Mary’s front door, all Zelda could think about was how badly she wished she could still be in bed. Zelda yawned again, and quickly covered her mouth as Mary opened the front door.

“Hey. Did you eat breakfast today?”

“Yeah I had a bit,” Zelda stepped through the door, into the warmth of Mary’s house.

“Let’s get started early, then, if you don’t mind?”

“Sure.” 

“I’ll just wait for you outside?” 

“Sure. You can go out the back door. I’ll be out there shortly.”

Zelda walked around the back of the house, looking around the farm. Jonathan emerged from inside the barn, and waved at Zelda. There was a squeaking sound behind Zelda, and she turned to see Mary walking towards her, the door slamming shut behind her. She couldn’t help but smile at the spirited woman, with those dimples and blue eyes. 

“Come on Zelda! We’re gonna do something a bit different today. I think you’ll enjoy it.”

She is rather cute, now that I think about it. Hm.

Zelda smiled and fell into step beside Mary.

 


 

“Have you ever ridden a horse before, Zelda?” Mary asked, from around the other side of her horse, Ringo. She reached underneath the horse to tighten a strap on the saddle that sat across the horse’s back.

“Yes…” Zelda didn’t mention that the last time she had done so was when she was a child, and that she was now fearful. She kept her distance, more interested in the calico cat that was currently brushing up against her legs.

“You are just a sweetheart, aren’t you?” Zelda whispered to the cat, scratching behind her ears as she purred.

“Zelda?”

“Hm? Sorry, I was just saying hello to this pretty girl here.” Zelda picked up the cat, which kept purring, and licked Zelda’s hand.

“That’s okay. You know, you can still have one of her kittens if you like. Or, if you know anyone who wants to adopt. We still have several babies left who need homes.”

“I’ll think about it. Would be nice to have a small companion or something…” Zelda muttered to herself under her breath.

“Can you grab that other saddle for me and set it on this hay bale?” Mary gestured to where a saddle hung on the wall. Zelda sat the cat down, and went over to get the saddle. The leather contraption was heavier than she expected, and she tried not to look weak as she brought it over to where Mary was. The horse made a noise, and brushed its tail back and forth. Zelda set the saddle down and backed away. Ringo paid her no mind, and continued to munch at fallen hay on the ground. Mary, who had dipped out of the barn, came back inside, now with a second horse in tow. It had a beautiful coat, and stood tall. 

“This is Waffle. He is the calmest horse here, aside from Ringo.”

The palomino shook his head, blonde mane flowing. Mary picked up the saddle and stood up on the bale of hay, placing the saddle across the horse’s back. He whickered, and moved his hoof back and forth. Zelda walked slowly towards the horse, and stood off to Mary’s side. 

“He is lovely…” her voice trembled, giving away her fear. Mary turned around to look at her, straps to the saddle between his hands.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing...it’s just…” Zelda lifted a trembling hand out, to touch the horse. Mary saw her demeanor, the concerned look on her face, the way her hand shook. Zelda carefully made contact with the horse, and she brushed her hand back and forth briefly over the rippling muscles. Mary placed her hand on top of Zelda’s, and Zelda barely held back her gasp.

“It’s okay. You don’t have to be scared. He won’t hurt you. I won’t let him.”

Zelda’s hand warmed under Mary’s touch, and Mary lifted Zelda’s hand and moved it towards the horse’s head.

“See? He wouldn’t hurt a fly.” 

Mary smiled and moved Zelda’s hand over the horses neck, and he turned his head, whickering.

“Oh!” Zelda jumped and pulled her hand back, now face to face with the horse.

“It’s okay. He just wants to say hello.”

Mary reached around Zelda, her chest brushing against Zelda’s shoulder, and rubbed the horse above his nose. She leaned in and gave him a kiss, before moving back to adjust the saddle. Zelda blushed, and put her hand out again, patting the horse where Mary’s hand had been.

“Come on. We’ve got to go and check the perimeter. Can you get up on the horse by yourself?”

“Yes.” Zelda’s heart sped up, and she moved over next to Mary, who held the reins out of the way.

“Come here.” 

Zelda moved closer, and Mary smiled sympathetically. “It’s okay Zelda. Here. Reach up here for this part of the saddle. It’s called the pommel.” 

Zelda grabbed the hard knob, and looked between the saddle, and where she stood on the ground. Mary placed a hand on Zelda’s lower back, and stood behind her. 

“Okay. Now put your left foot in that stirrup there,” She pointed, and Zelda’s eyes followed. “And make sure it is in far enough, so you can stand up in it.”

Zelda stood uneven now, one foot off the ground. Mary kept her hand on her back, and Zelda felt hot again. She attributed it to her hormones, and looked to Mary for the next set of instructions.

“What next?” She spoke, trying to distract herself.

“This part is going to be a little hard. You’re going to swing your right leg up and over the saddle, pulling yourself up.”

Zelda eyed the distance between the saddle and her foot that was still on the ground. Mary sensed her hesitation, and tried to reassure her.

“Don’t worry if you don’t get it on the first try. You can stand on the hay bale if you need to, as well.”

Zelda was determined, and hoisted herself up, swinging her leg over like Mary had instructed. She almost slipped back off, but used the last bit of her strength to pull herself over.

“Perfect! We’ll make a cowgirl out of you!” Mary said, smiling up at Zelda as she handed her the reins. Mary climbed onto her own horse with ease and familiarity, leaning down to pat the horse’s neck before looking back at Zelda.

“You’re just gonna pull up on the reins to get his attention, then squeeze him gently between your legs.”

Mary gave her horse the signal and he turned around, so she was facing Zelda. She watched as Zelda followed her instructions, and her horse moved forward. Mary’s horse started walking, and she directed him in the direction of the road that went behind the house. The horses walked along at a comfortable pace, and Mary readjusted the baseball cap she wore. Zelda put her sunglasses on, and tried to relax. She felt unstable on top of the horse as it moved. Her hands gripped the horn of the saddle tightly, and she kept her legs tight.

“You doing okay over there?”

“Yes.” Zelda lied, just hoping that they would get away from everyone else, in case she fell or embarrassed herself. “What do we do to check the perimeter anyways?”

“Well, we are going to make sure there are no holes in the fence. Jonathan usually does a thorough check on Monday, but I like to check at the end of the week again, just to be safe. I had a problem with some teenagers joyriding a while back. Drove right through my fence. I just have to make sure there are no breaks or gaps.”

“Why didn’t we just take the truck out?”

“Because I wanted to take the scenic route. I thought you might enjoy spending some time away from the inside of the barn.”

Zelda smiled, and readjusted her grip on the saddle.

“Besides, I wanted to talk to you.”

“Oh.” Zelda raised an eyebrow, and looked over at Mary.

“I’m sorry about cancelling our scheduled session the other day.”

“It’s okay. You had stuff going on. I understand.”

“I wanted to explain a bit more. If you don’t want to hear, you can tell me to shut up. I promise I will.”

Mary imitated a valley girl, changing her voice to sound like a character in the movie Clueless when she said “shut up”. It made Zelda laugh, and she brought a hand up to cover her mouth. Mary caught her chuckling, and tipped her sunglasses down.

“You laughing at me Spellman?”

“I’m sorry!” Zelda started to laugh even harder before gathering herself. “I don’t mean to laugh, but you are funny.”

Mary winked at her and pushed her sunglasses back up, and looked forward again. Zelda sighed, enjoying the feeling of having a good laugh.

“The reason I had to cancel is because my soon-to-be ex-husband, Adam, was trying to draw things out and stall the divorce proceedings. Once we think we’ve reached a settlement, he wants to change things. It’s been like this for a while now.”

The smile died on Zelda’s face. “I’m so sorry, Mary.”

“It’s okay. It’s just frustrating. We started out great, and were friends first—the very best—but we just grew apart. Things got boring, repetitive. One day we both realized that we had fallen out of love with each other. We tried counseling, books, everything. It just didn’t work. I was scared to imagine a life without Adam. He was all I knew. He was one of the main people there for me after my parents passed, and when I had to take on the farm by myself.”

“Oh Mary…”

“It’s okay.”

 


 

Mary continued to tell Zelda about some of what had been going on in her life, and then asked Zelda about hers. She told Mary some of the basic details, mentioned Hilda, Ambrose, and Sabrina, but tried to deflect from anything else. Mary could tell there was more to Zelda than what she was telling her, but she didn’t push.

Time seemed to fly by as they checked the far edges of the perimeter fence. There was a section where a piece of wood was rotting. Mary got down off of her horse, checking the stability of the fence. Zelda watched as she bent down, crouching low next to the fence. She turned and looked at Zelda with a smile, and it warmed Zelda’s heart, and her cheeks soon warmed up as well. She blushed and looked away, focusing on the trees in the distance. 

“I’m going to have to send Jonathan out here to fix this. Let me just get a picture of it.”

Mary reached into her pocket and snapped a few photos of the fence. Zelda yawned, trying and failing to stay quiet.

“Are you falling asleep on me?”

“No.” Zelda stretched. I’m sorry. I didn’t sleep very well last night.”

“We’d better get you back then. I can find something easy for you to do until it is nine.”

Mary walked back over and mounted her horse, and gave it the signal to go. Zelda nudged her horse into motion, and they walked along the edge of the grassy field, back towards the road. They were quiet, the sounds of birds in the distance, the morning cool and crisp. Suddenly, Zelda’s horse stopped walking. She gave him another nudge, trying to make him start again, but he wouldn’t move.

“Uh, Mary? I think my friend Waffle has other plans.”

Mary stopped her horse and turned around.

“He might have to use to bathroom. Just give it a minute. He usually—oh!”

Waffle suddenly lurched forward, breaking out into a gallop. Zelda nearly slid off the saddle as the horse jumped forward.

“Pull on the reins Zelda! The reins!” Mary kicked her horse into action and went after Zelda and Waffle.

Panic gripped Zelda as she desperately yanked at the reins of the horse, the animal ignoring her.

“Please stop! Please! Just stop!” 

Zelda pulled again, bouncing up and down with each gallop. She tried her best to hold on, but the galloping motion bounced her onto the side of the saddle, and she felt herself falling. Zelda gasped, and closed her eyes as she hit the ground. Zelda coughed upon impact, the air flying out of her lungs.

“ZELDA!” Mary called, stopping her horse, hopping down before the animal even came to a complete stop. Zelda lay face down, one arm wrapped around her middle. Mary fell to her knees beside her, and rolled her onto her back. She was relieved to see that Zelda was conscious and breathing, though her face was screwed up in pain, and tears rolled down her cheeks. 

“Zelda talk to me. Where does it hurt?” Mary cupped Zelda’s face and looked her over, hands sliding down over her shoulders.

“My side,” Zelda grunted, through gritted teeth. She coughed in-between gasps of air.  

“Can’t...get...enough...air.”

“Don’t panic, Zelda. I think you just got the wind knocked out of you, and are in shock.” Mary swept some of Zelda’s hair back with her hand. “ It’s going to be okay. Try to take some deep breaths.”

Mary slipped her hand into Zelda’s, the one that wasn’t grasping at her ribs, and gave it a gentle squeeze. Mary’s soothing voice calmed Zelda’s frayed nerves. It began to get easier to breathe and the rise and fall of Zelda’s chest started to return to normal. Mary kept her eyes glued to her face, looking for any sign of further distress. After a minute or two, Zelda’s breathing was even once more, and she opened her eyes and looked at Mary.

“There you go. Do you think you can sit up?”

“Yeah.”

Mary kept her hand around Zelda’s, and Zelda grabbed onto her forearm as she sat up, groaning. 

“You okay?”

“Mhmm.” Zelda winced again, and her hand went to her forehead.

“Did you hit your head?”

“No. I think my brain just got rattled around.”

Mary waited with Zelda for a minute, and rubbed her shoulder.

“Do you think you can stand up?”

“Mmn. Yeah. I just needed a moment.”

Mary turned and looked down the road, where Zelda’s horse was now walking back to the barn, reins dragging on the ground.

“Looks like Waffle is done with us for the day.”

Zelda followed her gaze and saw the horse she had just been on, not even 10 minutes prior, now casually making his way down the road.

“Do you know why he started running?” Zelda tried to stand up, and took a few moments on her hands and knees.

“Careful,” Mary warned. Zelda moved to stand once more, and Mary slipped her hands under Zelda’s armpits, helping her. When she was upright and Mary was certain she wasn’t going to fall over, she went and got her horse, leading him back over to where Zelda stood. 

“Maybe he got spooked by something. Do you think you can get back up on the horse? I don’t want you to have to walk all the way back to the house.”

Zelda looked up at the horse, and reached for the saddle, wincing. “I can try.”

“Let me give you a boost. Here.” Mary stood in a squat position, and patted her thigh. Zelda stepped up onto Mary’s leg, unsteady.

“Easy does it. Take your time.” 

“Uuuugh.” Zelda groaned as she swung herself up onto the horse, and breathed heavily once she settled in the saddle. 

“Hang in there, Zelda. I’m gonna climb up behind you.” Mary handed Zelda the reins, and then stuck her foot in the stirrup. Somehow, she got up onto the horse, behind Zelda. She moved to sit behind the back of the saddle, and slid her arms around Zelda’s waist, reaching for the reins.

“Sorry to get up close and personal.” Mary spoke, her chin practically resting on Zelda’s shoulder. 

“It’s okay.”

If Zelda were honest, it felt nice having someone’s arms around her, holding her, even if it didn’t mean anything. 

Stop that Zelda! Do you remember what you’re supposed to be doing here? You do your service hours, buy the farm, and that’s it. 

Zelda sighed, and let her shoulders sag. She wished she could lie down. A couple of Hilda’s muscle relaxers and a hot water bottle and she would be good to go. 

“How’re you doing up there?” 

“Hurts.”

“I’m sorry. You know, you can sit back and relax. I won’t bite.”

Zelda let herself relax, barely letting her back rest against Mary. 

“You know, when I went to court, I never would’ve expected that a few weeks later I’d be riding a horse with a stranger.”

“A stranger huh?”

“Well...we’re not exactly friends , are we? I don’t want to mix business and pleasure. Besides, the farm…” Zelda began to feel guilty once more, and stopped talking. 

“I think we could be friends. Just depends on if you want to be or not.”

I truly don’t deserve her kindness. Not at all...

The familiar chill of self-loathing washed over Zelda, and she didn’t answer Mary. She kept quiet the rest of the way back to the house. Mary figured Zelda was in pain and not in the mood to talk. They passed the barn, and Jonathan waved at them.

“What happened? Waffle came back here without you.” 

“Waffle decided that he wanted to run, and Zelda fell. I’m taking her inside right now.”

“Ooh. I’m sorry Zelda. Did you break anything?”

“I’ll be fine. Just a minor bruise.”

“Well take care of yourself. We want you to come back in one piece.”

A false smile was plastered to Zelda’s face, as she wanted to just go back home now, and not deal with anything pertaining to the farm. Mary directed Ringo into the barn, near the bales of hay where they had saddled up their horses earlier.

“I’m going to hop off first, and then help you down. You can step on the hay bale for support, so you don’t have to jump all the way to the ground.”

Mary got off of the horse, and then stood on the other side of the hay bale, her arms outstretched to spot Zelda. Zelda slowly swung her leg over the horse, and felt blindly in the air behind her for solid ground. She stepped onto the bale, and Mary took her hand as she stepped down onto the ground. 

“Well, I survived,” Zelda joked, trying not to laugh too hard. Mary didn’t laugh, and instead looked concerned.

“Let’s go get you checked out.”

 


 

“Mary I’ll be fine .”

“Zelda. Either you let me check your ribs, or we go to the hospital and get you checked out.”

Zelda huffed, and crossed her arms. They were now in Mary’s kitchen, and Mary had brought down a small glass jar, about the size of a container of lip balm. Both Mary and Ray had asked Zelda if she planned on going to the hospital to get checked out. Zelda refused, her feelings around the hospital negative due to her experience the last time she was there. She was adamant that she was not going to be going, and Mary had Ray leave the room so she could check Zelda herself.

“I’m not going to the hospital. That’s final.”

“I’m not going to let you leave here until I’ve at least made sure you’re okay Zelda. Please .”

There was no way Zelda could say no now, not with the way Mary was looking at her with those eyes.

“Fine,” Zelda said on an exhale, uncrossing her arms. She reached for the bottom of her shirt, and rolled it up to the base of her bra, exposing her pale stomach. Mary moved in close, and raised her hand to feel Zelda’s ribs. Zelda inhaled when Mary’s hand made contact with her skin.

“There is some bruising here…” Mary moved her hand over the left side of Zelda’s waist, carefully tracing over her ribs. “Take a couple of deep breaths.”

Zelda inhaled, and exhaled, squinting. Mary watched her face as she breathed, looking for signs of additional discomfort.

“How is the pain?”

“Not too bad.”

“Is there any particular spot that hurts?” Mary placed both of her hands on Zelda’s side now, and began to trace over each rib.

“No, no. It’s just sore.”

Zelda’s skin burned where Mary touched her, and it made her head feel fuzzy. 

“I think you might just have some bruising. Hopefully nothing too bad. If any of your pain gets worse, though, please go to the hospital to get checked out.”

“Mary—”

“I’m serious Zelda. Broken bones are nothing to mess around with.” Mary reached up on the counter for the jar, and unscrewed it. She took out some of the salve and rubbed it into her palms, and then placed her hands on Zelda’s side, rubbing it in. 

“That stuff smells like—”

“Marijuana?”

“Yeah.”

“It is—well, it has cannabis in it. I use it sometimes when I have aches and pains. It really helps.”

“Oh.” Zelda looked off into the distance, and tried not to lean into Mary’s touch. The way hands moved over her skin with care was rather comforting.

“You know, in another life, you could’ve been a massage therapist.”

Mary laughed at this, and looked up at Zelda. “I know how to be gentle. It kind of comes with the job. I’ve helped many an animal give birth, set broken legs—pretty much anything you could think of.” She stood up and screwed the lid back onto the small jar. 

“You can take this with you. It will definitely help. Also…”

Mary walked over to her refrigerator, and opened the freezer, digging around. When she turned back around, she had a bag of frozen peas in her hand.

“Here. Hold this against your side as best you can, on your drive back home. It should help with some of the swelling.”

“Thank you Mary. And sorry about all of this. I should’ve held on tighter. Guess I gotta get back to the gym again and work on my core.”

“These things happen, Zelda. I’m just glad you’re okay.” Mary smiled, and looked down at her feet.

Is she...is she blushing? Oh…

“Is my paperwork filled out for today?”

“Yes. Ray signed it for you. I told him that you had finished your hours for today. He agreed to sign off, despite what happened.”

“Thank you, then. Both of you.” Zelda looked down, holding the bag of peas to her side. “I guess I had better get going.”

“Do you need some help getting your purse?”

“No, I should be fine. Thank you, though.” Zelda walked into the living room, shoes still on. She tossed her jacket over a shoulder, and put the jar of balm into her purse.

“I’ll see you on Monday?”

“See you then. And remember what I said. If the pain gets worse, go and get checked out.”

Zelda nodded, and unlocked the door. Mary stood in the doorway, and watched as Zelda got into her car. The redhead looked up and waved before she started her car. Mary waved in response, and smiled.

Chapter Text

Mary hardly slept Friday night. She was feeling guilty, for not being more careful with Zelda, and fixated on how things could have gone much worse. No position seemed to be comfortable. Her heart raced, and she alternated between throwing the covers off and pulling them back up. Around 5 AM, she figured she wasn’t going to get any rest, and decided to go downstairs. Mary did some reading, and then watched the last half of a Hallmark movie that was on. Nothing seemed to hold her attention, and she ended up going to the kitchen, moving on autopilot. She began to take out the ingredients for a cake, the prospect of baking lifting her spirits. She often turned to baking for many occasions in life. Birthdays, apologies, and celebrations. This cake was going to be for Zelda. It was the least she could do, especially after being so careless with her the previous morning. Mary got all of the ingredients mixed together and in the cake pans, and placed them in the oven. After she had cleaned up the mess she made, she put the kettle on to make some tea. Mary had her tea in silence, and ended up having some fruit and toast. She wasn’t too hungry, and was more worried about getting over to Zelda, to see if she was alright. 

Maybe I should go over around eleven, or eleven-thirty. That seems like a decent time.

There wasn’t much to do around the house for the next few hours, so Mary decided to go outside and distract herself until it was time to take the cake to Zelda. She ended up riding her horse around the perimeter of her property, and going over her mental to-do list for the upcoming week. It was easier to think about work things instead of letting herself get bogged down by worry over the whole Zelda situation. When it started to get a bit warm outside, Mary directed Ringo back to the barn. She got her horse some water, and tied him back up in the barn. After a quick shower and a change of clothes, Mary was on her way to the Zelda’s house.

 


 

Mary knocked at the Spellmans’ door and pressed the doorbell, balancing the cake on one hand. She readjusted her hand beneath the plate and took a deep breath. 

I hope coming here wasn’t a mistake…

Mary bit her bottom lip, teeth scraping over the lip balm she had just applied in the car. There was some movement behind the frosted glass. The door opened to reveal a teenage girl standing there with a bright smile on her face.

“Hi!”

“Hello, is your aunt here?”

“Which one?”

“Zelda…?”

The girl turned away from the door and yelled “Aunt Zee! There is someone here for you.”

Zelda’s voice could be heard shouting back from the other room.

“Who is it?”

“I’m sorry, what was your name?”

“Oh! Mary, Mary Wardwell.”

Sabrina turned and yelled once more. “Says her name is Mary Wardwell.”

“Let her in, then.”

Mary felt butterflies flutter nervously in her stomach, and she reminded herself to breathe.

“Come inside Miss Wardwell.” Sabrina stepped aside and Mary entered the Spellman house, taking in the furniture and style with a look of wonder on her face.

“This is such a lovely place you have here.”

“My aunties kept the same decorations from their parents. Of course they’ve changed a few things here and there.”

Mary walked alongside Sabrina and looked all around. The teenager led her through to the living room and kitchen area. There was something baking in the oven, and it smelled delicious. When Mary looked over to her right, she saw Zelda sitting propped up on the couch, pillows behind her. She wore a white victorian style blouse, with a high collar. It was tucked into a skirt that came just below her knees. Mary let her eyes drift down Zelda’s stockinged legs and she lowered her gaze to the cake in her hands, a blush traveling over her cheeks. 

“Well aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” Zelda teased, smiling at Mary. She had a book in her lap, and her iPad was tucked between her and the back of the couch.

“Hi...Zelda.”

“Ooh what’s that you’ve got there love?”

Mary turned to where the voice came from and didn’t even realize that there was another person in the room.

“You must be Hilda. Zelda has told me so much about you.”

“Oh dear.” Hilda laughed, then spoke through clenched teeth. “Only good things I hope.” 

“Of course. I’m Mary, by the way. I uh, I made this for Zelda—well all of you.”

“That is so sweet of you, Mary. What type is it?” Zelda asked, eyeing the baked treat.

“German chocolate.”

“Oh . That is one of my favorites .”

Hilda walked over to Mary, always interested in baked goods, as she was a baker herself.

“I’ll put this in the kitchen for you.” She smiled and outstretched her hands. Mary handed her the cake, and Hilda went back into the kitchen. Mary stood awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot. She wore her usual jeans, this time with a plain t-shirt and boots. Her hair was down, natural curls falling over her shoulders. 

“Come. Sit.” Zelda patted the couch, and swung her feet down, wincing at the effort. Mary shyly walked over, and sat down, on the opposite end of the couch.

“Did you miss me already?”

“No! I mean, I—I”

Mary blushed, and looked down at the stack of magazines on the coffee table in front of her.

“I’m just teasing you.” Zelda reached out to squeeze Mary’s shoulder, and then leaned back into her pillows once more. 

“I just wanted to come and make sure you were okay...that’s all.”

Zelda smiled, her heart warming at the sight of the blushing woman. 

“You are so incredibly thoughtful, Mary. I’m doing a bit better today. The bruising looks worse than it actually is. I’m sure by Monday I’ll be much better.”

Mary nodded, and didn’t look back at Zelda. She squeezed her hands together in her lap, her nerves palpable. 

“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for not being more careful yesterday.”

“It’s fine Mary. I survived, didn’t I?”

“It’s not fine, Zelda! I didn’t even give you a helmet! It was entirely stupid of me. I feel terrible. You could’ve been hurt so much worse.”

Zelda watched as Mary breathed out in a perturbed huff as she spoke, and crossed her arms when she was finished. It was rather cute, and Zelda found herself biting back a smile. 

“I’m okay, Mary. Honestly. And I’m not upset with you or anything. These things happen. Yes, it was scary, but thankfully everything is okay.”

Mary sighed, and finally looked over at Zelda again. Her eyes looked wet, and she sniffled.

“I’m just glad that you’re okay.”

Zelda smiled and sat back against her pillows. Mary looked back at her lap, not really sure why she was still sitting there. 

“Mary?” Hilda called from the kitchen.

“Yes?” Mary looked over, across the room to where the younger Spellman sister was. 

“Did you want anything to drink? We have water, coffee, tea, juice…?”

“Water would be fine, thank you.”

Hilda retrieved a glass and filled it up, and Zelda watched Mary.

“So. Do you guys work on the farm on Saturdays?”

“No, no. We take a break on the weekends. Sometimes I still take the animals out and do some work though.”

Hilda brought Mary the glass of water she offered, and Mary took it with a smile. “Thank you, Hilda.”

“You’re welcome. You know, We’re about to have lunch. You are more than welcome to stay, if you’d like.” 

“You are very kind, but I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“You aren’t intruding, don’t worry.” Zelda eagerly interjected.

“Well...I mean, I guess I could stay.”

“Lovely! I will set an extra place at the table.” Hilda hummed to herself as she went back into the kitchen. Mary drank her water, and licked her lips. Zelda still had her eyes on her, watching her every move.

“So, if you work during the week, and on the weekends, when do you take a break for yourself?”

Mary looked sheepish, and chuckled nervously. Hilda had paused what she was doing in the kitchen, and observed the interaction.

“I don’t really have time for that…” 

“You have to treat yourself every once in a while, or else you’ll go crazy.”

Mary hung her head, and worried her bottom lip with her teeth. Zelda frowned, and sat up straighter on the couch, biting back a groan.

“I’m sorry Mary. I didn’t mean to prod. It’s not my business anyways.”

“It’s okay. Life just gets so busy sometimes, and you don’t have time for things anymore.”

“Yeah. I know what you mean.” Zelda thought about her family, and how she’d neglected them for her job, a job she wasn’t even sure she liked anymore.

“Where is the bathroom?” Mary stood from the couch and looked around. Hilda walked over and threw a dish towel over her shoulder.

“Right this way dear. I can show you.”

The two disappeared from the room briefly, and then Hilda returned alone. 

“So what do you think? She’s not too bad.”

“I think she is lovely Zelda. A very sweet woman.”

“I’m just glad I don’t have someone mean to work with for my community service.”

“Community service?” Sabrina breezed into the room, drawn down to the kitchen by the smell of the food. “You have to do community service Aunt Zee?”

Zelda frowned, and moved to the kitchen table. She gave Hilda a look of annoyance, to which Hilda simply shrugged in return.

“Yes Sabrina, I have to do community service.”

“But, isn’t that for criminals , like, people who have been in jail?”

“Well typically...but it is also for people who’ve been uh, arrested with charges brought against them.”

The teenager’s eyes grew wide, and her jaw dropped.

“Auntie. You mean...were you…?”

“Yes Sabrina. I was arrested. I wanted to wait to tell you and Ambrose when you were both here, but I guess now is as good a time as any.”

“But, but what did you do? I mean, you’re a good person!”

“People make mistakes, Sabrina. I’m not proud of it, but it happened.”

“But what happened ?” Sabrina asked, sliding into the seat across from Zelda. Zelda bit her lip, and considered whether or not she should tell Sabrina the truth. With a sigh, she decided that honesty was the best, especially if she wanted to set a good example for her niece.

“Well, I had taken a few pills that night, for my anxiety. We had an opening for work, a new condo that we opened in Riverdale. Of course, alcohol was flowing, and I had several glasses of champagne. I forgot about what I had taken earlier.”

“But Aunt Zee,” Sabrina started. “You have drinks all the time.”

Zelda blushed a dark red, and cleared her throat.

“Even though it was a small amount, it still interacted with the medication I took, and caused me to have a bad reaction. I shouldn’t have driven home. It was foolish of me. I was just so nervous and stressed out.” Zelda’s voice wobbled and she cleared her throat again. She quickly stood up from the table, pushing her chair back. Her family didn’t need to witness her tears.

“I’ll be back. I need a cigarette.”

“Zelda, your ribs!” Hilda interjected. “You shouldn’t smoke while you are recovering.” 

“Well,” Zelda looked around, trying to find an excuse to leave the room. “I need some fresh air.” She walked out of the kitchen, and towards the front room. Zelda all but ran from the room, her emotions rising. Mary was walking past as Zelda fled. She looked up just in time to see the panicked look on Zelda’s face as she rushed towards the front door. The door slammed behind her, and Mary heard her footsteps on the porch stairs. She contemplated going after Zelda, hesitated to see if one of her family members would go out to comfort her. No one made a move, though, and she could hear Hilda speaking to Sabrina in hushed tones. Mary gathered her courage, and went outside.

It didn’t take her long to find Zelda, as she heard the woman sniffling when she stepped off of the porch. She turned to her left and saw Zelda standing about thirty feet away, her back towards the house. Zelda’s shoulders jerked upwards as she tried to stifle another sob, and Mary walked up behind her.

“What is it.” Zelda’s voice was harsh, biting, and Mary flinched. Zelda most likely thought that Mary was one of her family members, coming to interrupt her. 

“I just wanted to see if you were okay.”

Zelda whipped around, shame-faced, and bit her bottom lip, her chin trembling.

“I’m sorry Mary. I didn’t know it was you.” 

“It’s okay. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I heard what you were talking about inside just now.”

“Of course you heard. You don’t have to apologize. My arrest was just another event in the series of spectacular failures that my life has become.”

“Zelda. Why would you say that? I don’t think you’re a failure.”

Zelda let out a derisive laugh, and shook her head, looking past Mary.

“That’s because you barely know me. If you really knew me, the real me, then you’d know that that is all I do. Fail.” 

Zelda wiped at her nose angrily, and Mary gave her a sad look. she reached out and sat her hand on Zelda’s arm, just above her elbow, testing the waters. 

“I think you are being entirely too hard on yourself, Zelda. True, I don’t know you well, as it has only been about a month since we’ve met. But what I do know is that I think you are a wonderful person, deep down inside. You just hide behind an icy exterior because it is easier that way. I don’t know what pain or trauma you have been through, but you are not a failure. Don’t let a mistake or two define you. Life is much too short for that, and you deserve to be happy.”

Where did all of that come from? Mary wondered, hand still on Zelda’s arm. She felt Zelda’s hand cover hers, and she looked down at their hands before looking back up, meeting Zelda’s gaze. The auburn-haired woman gave her a genuine smile, and looked like she was about to start crying again.

“I’m sorry for dragging you into all of this. You shouldn’t have to hear all of this personal stuff.”

“It’s okay Zelda. Life happens.” Mary gave Zelda’s arm a squeeze before dropping her hand from the soft skin. Zelda missed the warmth of her hand immediately, the feeling of a kind touch (and kindness in general) directed towards her. She let out a sigh, and looked back towards the house.

“I guess we’d better get inside before Hilda wonders what happened to us.”

“Yeah. She is a very kind woman. All of your family seems lovely—well the people I’ve met, so far.”

“They are pretty special.” Zelda almost started crying again, a distant look on her face, but she caught herself. She started walking back to the house, Mary following behind her. Zelda froze when they reached the front door, and turned around.

“Oh, Mary. I uh, I wanted to say that you can have more time.”

“More time for…?”

“To consider your decision about selling the farm. I know on my end, I have to carry on with business as usual. Of course when you do what I do, you treat all business ventures as final, and—then that would give me more time to finish these community service hours, and—oh. I’m rambling, I apologize.” Zelda nervously clenched and unclenched her hands, and blushed. 

Mary had tears in her eyes, and was rapidly blinking them away. She reached out to take Zelda’s hand between her own, and gave it a squeeze.

“Thank you Zelda. Thank you.”

 


 

After Mary had lunch with the Spellmans that afternoon, her and Zelda fell into a routine. Zelda was much kinder to Mary, and they spent the next few weeks working well together. Mary gave Zelda some easier things to do around the farm until her side felt better, and Zelda appreciated her thoughtfulness. Both Ray and Jonathan could tell that Zelda was changing, and they each had asked Mary about it. Mary didn’t think anything was odd about Zelda’s behavior, just chalked it up to the other woman becoming more comfortable around her. They did end up blushing and smiling each time they looked at each other, and Mary noticed that she started to feel nervous when Zelda was around. She hadn’t even stopped to consider why that happened, especially each time they would look at each other. 

Ray stopped Mary one Wednesday morning, when she ran inside to use the bathroom. There was a smile on her face as she walked back down the hall, out into the living room. Ray lowered his newspaper to watch as she walked past.

“Dimples.”

Mary stopped in her tracks, and walked over to where Ray was. She leaned against an armchair, and waited for him to keep talking.

“Yes?”

“Be careful with her.”

“What?” Mary frowned slightly confused. 

“With Riverdale.” Ray gestured with his head in the direction of the barn. 

“What do you mean? If you’re talking about horses, I’ve already spoken with her about safety, and am not putting her on a horse again without a helmet and a crash course in riding.”

Ray folded his newspaper in his lap and looked at Mary with a knowing smile.

“I’m not talking about the horses. I’m talking about the way you two look at each other. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Mary laughed dismissively, and shook her head.

“We’re just friends...well I don’t even know if we are friends. We work well together, and she is nice.”

“Mary...”

Mary blushed and looked away, heat flooding her cheeks.

“It’s not like I have a crush or anything. I couldn’t. I mean, Zelda is a woman, and I am too. I can’t have a crush on another woman.”

“And? Some people are attracted to people who identify as the same gender they do.”

Mary blushed again and swallowed. She stuck her hands deep in her overall pockets, so she wouldn’t start fidgeting. She didn’t want to admit that she felt drawn to Zelda every time she was around, that she actually looked forward to their mornings together. She wanted to enjoy the time they had together while it lasted. It felt nice to have someone her own age to talk to and spend time with, even if it were only a few hours early in the morning.

“I don’t think I have a crush on her…” Mary knew the words were a lie the moment they left her mouth, and she turned an even deeper shade of red. 

“Dimples. I’ve not seen you this giggly and smiling all over the place since that boyfriend of yours back when you were in high school. Now what was his name…”

“Jason. Jason Katzenburg. How could I ever forget him.” Mary smiled at the memory, and remembered how much simpler things were then. 

“He was nice, and we had fun together.” Mary had a dreamy look on her face, and she stared off into the distance. “Well, I should get back to work.” Mary turned to leave, a flutter going through her stomach as she thought about Zelda, still out in the barn.

“We’ll finish this conversation later, okay?”

“See you.” Mary went back outside, stepping into her boots, and returned to the barn. When she got there, laughter could be heard coming from one of the stables.

“Zelda?” Mary called out, looking around the empty barn.

“We’re back here!” Zelda answered. Mary walked down towards the back of the barn, and came to where Jonathan and Zelda were. Zelda was sitting on a hay bale, and holding two kittens. The mother cat was sitting next to Zelda, curled up in a ball, and the other kittens roamed nearby. Jonathan was sitting on the ground, playing with three of the kittens, and laughing at their antics as they climbed over each other. 

“There you are,” Mary said, warmth filling her as a huge smile broke out across Zelda’s face. 

“Just checking in with the locals before I leave for the day. They are so cute!” Zelda held up a small back kitten in front of her face and made a kissy noise as she brushed her cheek against the cat’s small head. “Yes you are! You are just the cutest little thing.”

Mary stared at Zelda, and she felt a little hot under her collar. Jonathan carefully looked between Mary and Zelda, and quietly stood up.

“Ladies, it was a pleasure, but I’ve gotta run.”

“That’s fine. You can take the rest of the day off, if you like.”

“Thanks Mary. I’ll see you tomorrow. See you later Zelda!”

“Bye!” Zelda smiled, and turned her attention back to the small kitten that was interested in her. Mary walked over to where Zelda sat, and sat down on the hay bale.

“Here. Sit back and get comfortable.” Zelda patted the bale next to her, which caused a kitten to swat at her hand, playfully. “We worked hard today.”

“Yeah, we did.” The tortoiseshell calico cat climbed onto Mary’s lap and started purring. She cuddled the cat to her and gave her a scritch between her ears. Mary looked back over at Zelda, who still held a now sleeping kitten in her lap. She woman gently stroked the small black ball of fur.

“I think he likes you.”

“I think so too. I may have just found the newest member of the Spellman family.”

I think I may like you too... Mary thought, shaking her head as her cheeks felt hot.

“...I’m talking about the way you two look at each other. I don’t want you to get hurt.” 

Ray’s voice echoed in the back of Mary’s mind, and she frowned. 

Do I really have a crush on Zelda? Maybe I’m just uncomfortable like this because of what Ray said. I can’t really have a crush when I have all of this stuff going on with the farm and the divorce. 

She looked over at Zelda again, and took her time looking her over. Zelda had on a short-sleeved, button up, and her pale arms on display. There were a few smudges of dirt on her forearms, as well as an angry red mark from where she had gotten rope burn earlier. She looked at Zelda’s hands, delicately stroking through the dark fur of the cat, and gulped. They probably were still soft, despite a month of manual labor. A lock of auburn hair fell forward from Zelda’s ponytail, and she lifted a finger to brush it back behind her ear. Zelda was gorgeous , even with smudges of dirt on her and no makeup. Mary closed her eyes, and bowed her head. It suddenly got a bit harder to breathe, and she coughed, mentally willing herself to calm down.

“You okay?”

“Hm?” Mary’s eyes shot open, and she saw Zelda watching her, concerned. 

“Are you feeling okay? You went all red there for a moment.”

“Oh,” Mary laughed nervously, hoping she wasn’t turning any redder. “I just uh...had a tickle in my throat.”

Zelda didn’t look convinced, but nodded anyways. She turned her attention back to the kitten, who now woke back up and was stretching.

“I think I will come by tomorrow after work and pick this little guy up.”

“You could take him now if you’d like.”

“I have to go to the office now. Well, after I go to my apartment and get changed around first.”

“That’s right. I forgot. Well, he’ll be here waiting for you tomorrow.” Mary reached out to pet the kitten, who was now crawling across the hay bale towards her, meowing.

“You’re just a sweet little thing, aren’t you?” Mary changed her voice when she spoke to the cats, and Zelda smiled to herself.

“Let me be on my way. These cats aren’t going anywhere, and I have to make myself presentable before work.” Zelda stood up from where she was sitting, and gave the kitten one last head scratch.

“Let me walk you back to the house.” Mary stood up, a bit too quickly, and Zelda’s mouth twisted into a grin. She watched as the brunette quickly wiped hay off of herself, and two kittens jumped out of the way.

“I’m a big girl...but if you insist.” She turned her grin towards Mary, and saw the woman visibly become flustered. 

 


 

“Hey boss.”

Zelda looked up from her desk to see Oliver’s head looking around the corner into her office.

“You know I don’t like it when you call me that.”

“I know.” The young man grinned, and walked over to Zelda’s desk. Zelda turned her chair to face Oliver, and crossed her legs. “I heard you’ve been getting on well at the farm.”

“Really? And who told you that?”

“Well,” Oliver pursed his lips and smiled. “Jonathan and I are kind of...friends, now.”

“Friends you say? So a few drinks and kisses and he’s sharing insider details with you? Hm.”

Oliver blushed, and gave Zelda a sheepish grin. “He’s a really good kisser...” 

Zelda smiled and checked her cell phone. “As long as he treats you well, then I’m happy. He seems like a lovely young man.”

“He is. And he is great in the kitchen. I think he got some of his recipes from Mary.”

“She is good. You know she made me a German chocolate cake a few weeks ago?”

“Really?”

“Yup. Between you and me, it may have been as good as if not better than my sister’s. Don’t tell her I said that, though.”

“I’m not surprised. Mary is an amazing cook. She made us some dinner once, for us to reheat later. It was absolutely divine.”

“Oh. So you’ve been over to her house since we all went there.”

“Yes.”

Zelda felt uncomfortable, almost...jealous.

Why do I feel this way? It’s not like Mary and I are friends...though I do kind of wish we had met under different circumstances…

Zelda had to admit that she actually was starting to enjoy going to the farm to work with Mary. Sure, she was never a manual labor type of girl, but when she spent time with Mary, the time flew by. She thought about the woman’s blue eyes, her wild hair, and those dimples when she smiled. A flicker of warmth started to spread in Zelda’s belly as she pictured herself sitting across from Mary’s kitchen table, laughing over a home-cooked meal. Her face felt hot, and she tried to redirect her thoughts.

Woah. Where did that come from?

“Zeldaaaa? Earth to Zelda...”

“Yes?” Zelda looked up at Oliver, relaxing her face from the frown that had formed.

“Where did you go just now?”

“Nowhere, nowhere. I was just...thinking about the cat I’m adopting tomorrow, from Mary.”

“You’re adopting one of the baby kitties?! I love that! I actually have been thinking about adopting one myself.”

“Yes. I actually need to leave here in about…” Zelda checked the time on her phone. “...in about 15 minutes. I’m going to take one home to my family. I think they would love him.”

“So you already know which one you’re taking then?”

“Yes. The little black one. I wish I could take them all. At least I can see them when I go for my community service.”

“How many hours do you have left of that, anyways?”

“I’m not sure. I know I’m somewhere around the halfway mark, so maybe fifty or so?”

“Wow. That’s going by quickly. Before you know it, you’ll be finished with all 100 hours.”

And then you will buy Mary’s farm and she will have no reason to ever speak to you again...

Zelda’s throat felt dry, and she swallowed back the bitter taste in her mouth that appeared as she thought about not seeing Mary in the future. She was a lovely woman, so thoughtful, and kind. Zelda would miss her presence in her life.

“Are you...are you crying, Zelda?” Oliver asked, his voice barely a whisper. He stood up and walked closer to where Zelda was, and sat on the edge of her desk, nearly right in front of her.

“It must be allergies, you know, after all of the work outside.”

Oliver wasn’t buying it one bit. He looked over his shoulder, to make sure they were still alone, and then looked back at Zelda. 

“You know you can talk to me about anything, right?” His voice was lower, and he leaned in closer, genuine concern on his face.

“Mhmn.” Zelda nodded. “That’s one of the things I appreciate that about you. You’re always there for me.”

“And I will always continue to be there for you. Now, what’s bothering you? And don’t say nothing, because I can see that it is clearly something. Who do I need to beat up for you?”

“No one is getting beat up. Close the door.”

Oliver raised his eyebrows and walked over to close the door. He repositioned himself back in the same spot and looked at Zelda. 

“Well.” Zelda looked around nervously. “I think it may just be because I have found myself in a rough spot, but I...oh god.”

“It’s okay Zelda, you can tell me.”

“I feel so strange, and juvenile. This is ridiculous.”

“Hey. It’s just me.” Oliver reached out to squeeze Zelda’s shoulder. “Would it help if I guessed what you are trying to tell me?”

“Maybe. It just seems ridiculous that I’m a fifty-one year-old woman, can’t even get a few simple words out.”

“It happens. You know, sometimes we really want to tell someone something, but may not be able to because of anxiety, nerves—it could be a whole range of reasons.”

Zelda nodded, and looked down at the houndstooth pattern on her skirt. She smoothed the fabric down and folded her hands in her lap. 

“Well. It has something to do with...with Mary.”

“What about her?”

Zelda blushed and wouldn’t look back up at Oliver, instead choosing to look over her shoulder at her now dark computer screen. She shook her head and sighed.

“I keep thinking about her, and I don’t know why. It’s weird.”

“There is nothing weird about a little crush, Zelda.”

Zelda’s head whipped back around so quickly to Oliver, that he was worried she would give herself whiplash.

“It’s not a crush, Oliver. I am a grown woman. I don’t get ‘crushes’.”

“Oh my god it totally is a crush! I just knew there was something going on! You get suspiciously nervous every time I ask about the farm, and then change the subject! Oh my god! Zelda!” Oliver squealed, a smile on his face.

“Shh! Would you kindly keep it down please?”

“I’m sorry, it’s just, Jonathan mentioned something—”

“What?” Zelda’s face grew pale, and her eyes were wide. “What did he say?”

“It’s nothing, he just thought that there may have been something going on between you two, because of how you act together.”

“And how is that, hm?”

“Well you know, flirty, laughing together at things, smiling whenever you look at each other, blushing when one of you is looking at the other without the other knowing."

Fuck.

“Well I’m sure I’ll get over it. Besides, I have to be serious about this. Despite my unfortunate run-in with the law, this is still a business venture.

Oliver stood from Zelda’s desk, and started for the door.

“Whatever you say Zelda. Just know that Jonathan and I totally ship you two. You both would be adorable together. See you later. Have fun seeing Mary in a bit!” Oliver gave Zelda a smug smile before slipping out of her office. She narrowed her eyes at him and turned back to her desk. 

Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuck. Okay. I can deal with this. I’m just emotionally unstable right now. It’s nothing more than that. You can have a crush and not feel anything much deeper than that. Besides, Mary would never want me. I’m probably too fancy for her anyways.

Zelda’s phone made a pinging noise, and she looked over at it. It was a message from Sabrina that said: Can’t wait to see you later tonight!

She turned off her computer and gathered her belongings. Though it was almost six o’clock, there probably would still be some traffic on the way back to Greendale. Zelda sent Mary a quick text, letting her know her ETA. She got a reply back almost instantly, which simply said: It’s okay. Just be careful driving here. Zelda texted back a short reply:

See you soon :-)

Chapter Text

Zelda pulled up to Mary’s house just as the sun was setting. She had been nervous the whole drive over, ruminating on what she had told Oliver.

Why did I have to say anything? Why am I fixating over someone who has every right to hate me? What is wrong with me?

She parked her car and slid out of her seat, a look of determination on her face.

What if I really do have a crush on Mary? How could I have let things get that far? This is so unlike me...

Zelda rang the doorbell and waited for Mary to answer. Her stomach flipped nervously, and she held a hand up to her forehead.

You’re just here to pick up a cat. That’s all. Nothing more.

Zelda, lost in her head, missed the sound of the door opening.

“Hey!”

Zelda’s jaw dropped when she saw Mary. She was wearing a silk short-sleeve blouse, freckled arms out on display. Her shirt was tucked into a pair of high-waisted, khaki linen pants. She had a wide brown belt around her waist, and was barefoot. Zelda looked up at her hair and her heart skipped a beat. It was straightened and pinned up, her delicate neck on display. It looked like she had started to unpin it just as Zelda had arrived, as several long locks laid across her shoulder.

“Um, wow.”

“Come inside!” Mary smiled, dimples showing. Zelda stepped into the house, and slipped her shoes off, out of habit. She gathered herself while Mary locked the door. It smelled amazing in the house, and Zelda hoped she hadn’t interrupted dinner. Her stomach growled at the thought of eating, and her mouth began to water.

“Come on. Your kitty is this way, in the kitchen.” Mary gestured and Zelda followed, watching as the woman continued to unpin her hair. She must’ve done some sort of magic or something, because, by the time they covered the short distance to the kitchen, her hair was completely unpinned, and it fell in waves over her shoulders. Zelda’s throat nearly dried completely as Mary swiped her hair to one side, and bent down, reaching for the cage in the corner of the kitchen. Zelda looked away, trying to remain polite. She did let herself have one peek, though, before quickly averting her gaze. 

“And here is your little guy…” Mary walked over to Zelda with a small cat carrier, and a bag of cat food. The kitten inside mewed, and Zelda couldn’t help herself. She took the cage from Mary and sat it down, bending to open the front door and pick up the kitten.

“Hello sweetheart. How are you?” Zelda held the still meowing kitten up, and brought him close to her chest, fingers rubbing the fuzzy head.

“Aww, you’re purring. That’s a good boy. You are so precious.”

Mary smiled watching them, and jumped when she heard a bubbling noise coming from the stove, where a steaming pot sat.

“Oh!” Mary rushed over and turned the stove down, carefully lifting the lid off the pot and then stirring the contents. “I almost burned my dinner!”

“Speaking of dinner, I think I need to go and get myself something to eat. Thanks again for this little guy.” Zelda kissed the cat on top of his head.

“Are you in a hurry right now?”

“No, not exactly. Why?”

“Well I was wondering…” Mary clasped her hands behind her back and bit her bottom lip. It was a painfully adorable sight, and Zelda wanted nothing more than to hug her. 

“Yes Mary?”

“Would you like to stay for dinner?”

Zelda opened and closed her mouth, no words coming out. She truly didn’t have any other plans for the evening, aside from heading back home and surprising Sabrina with the new cat.

“I know I haven’t properly invited you over, and I’m sorry.”

“Well…”

“I made chili, and the cornbread is fresh out of the oven…” Mary said in a singsong voice.

Zelda’s stomach grumbled, and Mary smiled.

“Sounds like you’re hungry.”

I am. When was the last time I even ate?

“Well, okay.”

“Perfect. You can just pop your cat back in his carrier and get washed up. You know where the bathroom is.”

“Right.” Zelda nodded, a bit dazed at the speed at which things were moving. She put the cat back in the carrier, secured the door, and went to the bathroom. On her way, she grabbed her phone from her purse and sent Hilda a text.

Might be a bit later than expected. Mary invited me to stay for dinner.

Three little dots popped up, indicating that Hilda was typing. With a swooping noise, Hilda’s response came through.

Oh my gosh Zelds! 

There were way too many smiley faces with heart eyes, and Zelda scrunched up her nose in distaste. Why did her sister always have to take things out of proportion?

Oh for heaven’s sake Hilda. Must you always be so dramatic?

Hilda’s reply was instant this time.

Zelda, don’t think I’ve forgotten about how you two were blushing at each other when Mary was over here a few weeks ago.

Zelda grumbled to herself as she washed her hands, looking over at her phone screen to see if Hilda added anything extra. She reached for the hand towel, drying her hands off, and grabbed her phone. She angrily typed back a reply.

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

You have been avoiding the subject every time I’ve brought it up.

Zelda locked her phone with a noise of derision, and shook her head. There was no use in arguing via text, and she was sure she’d get an earful later, once she got home.

When Zelda returned to the living room, she saw Mary had started to set out dinner dishes on the coffee table, in front of her couch. Two bowls sat next to each other, a fork, napkin, empty wine glass, and regular glass next to each bowl. A pitcher of water, as well as a bottle of wine sat on the table. 

“Hey! Everything okay?”

Zelda realized she still must have been frowning, thinking about her sister’s messages, and relaxed her face, giving Mary a small smile.

“Yes. Sorry, I just got a disturbing text message.”

“Oh dear. I hope everything is okay.” Mary walked over and sat down the pot of chili.

“Yeah, it’s fine. More of an annoyance, if anything.”

“Mmn. Good. It’s no fun receiving bad news.”

“No, it isn’t.” Zelda rocked back and forth on her heels, and carefully looked around Mary’s house.

“Do you uh, need help with anything?”

“I just have to get the cornbread and we should be good to go. You can have a seat here. I’ll just be right back.”

Zelda walked over to the couch and carefully sat down. Even though she had been over to Mary’s house multiple times a week for the past month, she hadn’t sat down on the couches. It was comfortable, and Zelda’s tired body sank into it. She let her head rest against the back, and her eyes closed.

What am I doing? What if my being here just leads to more problems for us both? What if—

“Zelda?”

Zelda’s eyes flew open, and she sat back up, moving over to make room for Mary. The brunette sat down on the couch and placed two dishes down on the table in front of them.

“I’m sorry.”

“No need to apologize. You must be tired from work. I can’t imagine sitting behind a computer all day. I can package your food to take home, if you need to leave?”

Zelda’s eyes watered at Mary’s kindness, and she cleared her throat. 

“No Mary, that’s fine. Thank you, though. I’d much rather eat now.”

“Good. Cause I think you’re going to like it.”

“What all do you have here?”

“Well, what I like to do—which is super yummy—is to put the cornbread in the bowl first, and then the chili on top. I have some cheese here too, as well as onions and what not, in case you want some on top of your chili. Zelda’s mouth watered, and she unfolded the cloth napkin over her lap. She reached for her fork, and then grabbed a piece of cornbread, sitting it in her bowl. Mary did the same, and they both reached for the chili at the same time.

“Oh, sorry—”

“Guests first.”

Zelda helped herself to some of the chili, and some cheddar cheese. She scooched back on the couch and dug in. When she brought the first bite to her mouth, she nearly cried. It was delicious, and it took Zelda right back to her childhood. 

“Wow Mary,” Zelda spoke with a hand up over her mouth, still chewing. “This is amazing.”

“You like it?”

“Mhhm. Wow. Oliver was right. You are a really good cook.”

Mary blushed and smiled down into her bowl of chili. She sat the bowl down and reached for the bottle of wine. 

“I’m glad you like it. Would you like some wine?”

What I’d really like is a Valium, but wine also works.

“Sure.” Zelda watched as Mary carefully poured some wine into each of their glasses. 

“Y’know, for some reason, I never really pictured you as a wine type.”

“Well, what ‘type’ did you picture me as, Zelda?”

Zelda chewed and swallowed her bite of food, and licked her lips.

“Well. A more holistic, natural foods type—which doesn’t mean that you can’t drink. I just assumed you didn’t drink. I don’t know why.”

“Well you’re right about the holistic, natural foods stuff. But I also drink—mainly on special occasions.”

“What are we celebrating?”

“The finalization of my divorce.” Mary took a healthy gulp from her glass and set it back down. “Adam and I finally came to an agreement after I all but cried through our last meeting with the attorney. I was so tired of fighting. He just changed, out of nowhere, and stopped pushing back. Thank goodness too. I wasn’t sure how much more of it I could take.”

So that’s why she is dressed up so nicely. Must’ve had to go to court today. Poor thing.

“Congratulations, Mary.” Zelda picked up her glass and took a long sip. She was going to need it to get through the rest of the evening. The wine danced across Zelda’s tongue, and she hummed pleasantly, the cabernet adding a nice spicy yet savory accompaniment to the chili.

“I hope you have less stress in your life now.” Zelda raised her glass to toast, and Mary clinked her glass against hers. Their eyes met as they drank, and Zelda nearly drained her glass. 

“Thank you, but my life isn’t exactly without stress. Kind of have a farm to save.” She chuckled nervously and finished off her glass of wine. Zelda felt guilt gnawing at her insides, and took a large gulp of wine, trying to numb away the emotions as she usually did.

“I’m sorry.”

“You know, you could just pick somewhere else,” Mary said, the alcohol loosening her tongue. She ate some more of her chili, and kept her eyes down.

“I—I wish I could, but there is much that you don’t understand.”

“Try me.”

“Well…” Zelda thought about what might happen if she told Mary too much. The woman didn’t seem like a threat, or that she would hold anything against her. Besides, they’d already taken to mentioning little tidbits of information about themselves—Mary more so than Zelda—during their morning sessions. 

“My boss is kind of an asshole, and this is my chance to prove to him that I am capable of doing things on my own.”

“Zelda Spellman. Since when do you let someone tell you what to do?”

Mary was right. When did she become so scared to stick up for herself? She was known for her icy demeanour all throughout Riverdale, for being a woman who got what she wanted. She shouldn’t let a silly man like Faustus get in her way.

“You have a point. I shouldn’t be letting him tell me what to do…”

...or let him force me into doing things that I’m uncomfortable with.

Zelda’s stomach turned, and she sat the half eaten bowl of chili back on the coffee table, as well as her wine glass. She leaned forward slightly, resting her elbows on her knees, and slid her hands up into her hair.

“It’s more complicated than you realize. He just…” Zelda sighed, not even knowing where to start explaining.

Mary sat a hand on Zelda’s forearm, and rubbed gently.

“It’s okay Zelda.”

“He’s made me do things...in the past he has...and he told me that if this project with your farm isn’t a success, then basically I’d be out of a job, and have a tarnished reputation all throughout Riverdale.”

“Zelda! You can’t let him threaten you like that! It’s illegal! Not to mention downright disgusting.”

Mary’s eyes had gone wide behind her glasses, and her eyebrows were raised almost to her hairline.

“Have you reported him to someone? Or at least talked to HR?”

“No. Everyone is either on his side or they are afraid of him. It’s okay, though. It’s been better since I told him to stop groping me at work.”

“Groping?! Zelda no! This is not okay!” Mary sat her wine glass down and stood up. “I am going to get the number for my lawyer. He has great contacts, and could help you find someone—”

“Mary. Mary!” Zelda reached out to grab Mary’s hand, and gave her a little tug back in the direction of the couch. 

“Please. I can handle it. Thank you, though. Your concern means a lot. Truly”

Mary, who still held onto Zelda’s hand, brought her other hand to wrap around Zelda’s as she sat back down. She pulled Zelda’s hand to rest in her lap.

“I’m sorry. I just get overprotective of people I care about. You shouldn’t let him treat you like that.” 

Zelda’s hand twitched between Mary’s, and she could feel herself starting to sweat. Her skin tingled where it made contact with Mary. 

“People you care about?”

Mary released Zelda’s hand, and reached for her wine glass again, refilling it.

“Yes. My...my friends…?” She carefully looked up at Zelda, who had a small smile on her face. 

“So we’re friends now?”

“Well, I’d like to be, if that’s alright with you.”

It’s more than alright, you dear woman. But I know I will do something to ruin everything. It’s bound to happen…

“Okay.” Zelda was weak, Mary’s sincerity reducing her to a pile of mush. She took the wine bottle from Mary and refilled her glass. They’d made their way through the whole bottle, save for a few drops at the bottom. The wine was starting to make Zelda feel nice and relaxed, and a dreamy feeling washed over her. She saw a similar look on Mary’s face.

“So, we’re friends now? Just like that?” Mary asked, taking another sip of her wine. 

“Just like that, I guess.”

Why do I feel so nervous? Maybe we should play a game or something, to diffuse the mood...I don’t know…

“What’re you thinking?”

“Well, to be honest, I was thinking of playing a game?” Zelda visibly cringed as the words left her mouth. “I’m sorry I’m not the best company. I just, I have a lot on my mind.”

“No, Zelda. You’re fine. Here. Sit back and relax.” Mary patted the couch cushions behind Zelda, and tucked her legs up under herself as she turned to face the other woman. “I know a game we could play.”

“Which one?”

“‘Never Have I Ever’. I played it with Jonathan and Oliver when they were over here, and it ended up with us nearly wetting ourselves from laughing so hard.”

Zelda’s pulse started to speed up, and she reached out to pour herself some water. She brought the glass to her mouth and drank, the liquid blessedly cool in her throat. 

“Oh-ohkay.” Her voice had gone all shaky, and she briefly closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Mary watched her with concern.

“We can play something else if you like…? I have some playing cards in a basket over near my bookshelf if you—”

“It’s fine Mary. I’m just, I’m just worried, that’s all.”

“Why would you be worried? Don’t you know that anything you say here is safe with me? I would never use anything you’ve told me to hurt you. I swear.”

Zelda felt tears welling up in her eyes before she could stop them, and she looked down at the glass between her hands. 

“Thank you.” Zelda’s voice was barely a whisper, now thick with tears. She sniffled, and Mary shifted on the couch next to her.

“Come here.” 

Zelda looked up to see Mary looking at her with her arms outstretched. She was hesitant, and sat her water aside. 

“I just want to give you a hug. You look like you could use one.”

Zelda’s face held a look that was a cross between sadness and perturbation. She nodded, frown lines still showing between her eyebrows, and leaned in. Mary was quick to slide her arms around Zelda, pulling her close. Zelda could smell a hint of perfume, and Mary’s hair tickled her nose. 

Oh.

She was warm and soft, and Zelda sunk into her embrace. She carefully brought her arms up behind Mary and pressed her hands flat against her back.

“There you go.” Mary rubbed Zelda’s back slowly as she kept ahold of her. Zelda felt tears forming in her eyes once more, and she didn’t know why. Perhaps it was everything that she had been keeping inside for the past month (and even the past few years) coming to the surface. Maybe she was just feeling particularly vulnerable as of late. Either way, Zelda found herself trying and failing to hold back sobs. She shook in Mary’s arms as she started to cry, her chest moving up and down as she gasped. 

“Oh sweetheart. You really needed this hug, didn’t you?” Mary tried to rock Zelda from side to side, as best she could in their current position. 

“You just let it all out. You’ll feel much better.” 

Zelda grasped at Mary’s shirt as she cried, her chin resting over the top of Mary’s shoulder. She turned her head, laying it on the narrow shoulder, and tried to get her sobs under control. Mary started to hum quietly under her breath, as she continued to rub Zelda’s back. She kept rubbing until Zelda’s sobs turned into sniffles, and she seemed to have gotten her breathing under control. Zelda cleared her throat and pulled back from the embrace slowly. She wiped her hand over Mary’s now-wet shirt, and frowned.

“I’m sorry. I’ve made your shirt all wet.”

Mary stilled Zelda’s hand, and tilted her head, trying to catch Zelda’s now lowered gaze.

“It’s okay. What’s a few tears between friends?”

“You are too good, Mary. I think you may be the best person I know.”

“Goodness.” Mary blushed at Zelda’s praise, and smiled. “You are too kind.”

“No Mary. I’m serious. You really are.” Zelda brought her hands up to rest on Mary’s shoulders, now making eye contact. “Don’t ever change. You’re an amazing person.”

“Thank you Zelda. You’re pretty amazing yourself, you know.” Mary smiled, and squeezed Zelda’s forearm. They held eye contact for a few seconds more, and Zelda dropped her hands from Mary’s shoulders. A blush coated her cheeks, and it caught Mary’s attention. Zelda brought her napkin up to dab at her eyes.

“So. You said you have Uno?”

“Yes, as well as some other card games. We could play Uno if you like...?”

“That would be fun. I haven’t played it in months.” Zelda thought about the last time she sat down to play a game with Sabrina and Ambrose, and felt bad about not spending more time with them. Mary moved across the room to retrieve the game, and Zelda turned and got comfortable on the couch. 

Zelda and Mary ended up playing several rounds of Uno, and Mary won each time. She also had taken her cat back out, before they started playing, so he wouldn’t get lonely. The small furball curled up in Zelda’s lap and fell asleep, as her and Mary enjoyed their game. Zelda felt warmth wash over her every time she caught Mary’s eye. Her smiles and laughter filled Zelda up with joy and feelings of levity. Mary had also made her some coffee, to help her sober up before her drive back home. 

When they were on their fifth or sixth game, Mary yawned, and stretched her arms up over her head. Her shirt came untucked from her pants, and Zelda let her eyes rake over the freckled stripe of skin that was exposed.

“I’m sorry Zelda, but I’m going to have to go to bed soon. I have to wake up early tomorrow.”

“Me too.”

“Of course! That’s right. I forgot for a moment. I guess I was just thrown off, because I don’t get to see you on the in-between days when you’re not here.”

Zelda gathered up the cards, and placed them back in the box. Mary stood up from the couch, and started to pick up their dishes. She disappeared into the kitchen, and Zelda took her sleepy kitten, and placed him back into his carrier. 

“Are you ready to go to your new home sweetheart?” Zelda spoke, still bending down in front of the cage. The kitten sniffed at her face through the grate, and Zelda stuck a finger in, scratching his head. She stood back up and went to pick up some of the dishes her and Mary had used. Zelda walked into the kitchen, and Mary had two glass dishes out on the counter. She was putting chili in one, and the other had several pieces of cornbread in it. 

“I have the rest of our dishes.” Zelda announced, feeling rather useless just standing there.

“You can put them in the sink. I’ll get to them later.”

Zelda did as she was told, and ran the faucet a bit, letting the water pool in the dishes so the leftover food wouldn’t harden.

“Okay Zelda.” 

Zelda turned around from the sink, and dried her hands off on a dishtowel. She turned and nearly ran into Mary, holding out two glass dishes, filled with the leftovers of their dinner.

“Oh Mary, you didn’t have to—”

“It’s nothing, Zelda. Besides, you can have something to fill yourself up with in the morning, or whenever you choose to eat it.”

“You’re too kind to me. Thank you.” 

“Let me help you carry your things to your car. I’ll get the rest of the dishes later.”

Mary placed her hand on Zelda’s back when she walked past her, back into the living room. Zelda set the food down to get her keys out of her purse, and then slung her purse over her shoulder. When she looked up, Mary had the cat carrier in hand, as well as the small bag of cat food. They put their shoes back on, and made their way out the front door, cautiously, and Zelda unlocked her car. 

“You can put the cat carrier in the front seat. I don’t want him to get lonely in the back by himself.”

Mary opened the car door, and placed the carrier inside. Zelda was busy putting things in the back seat of the car, and didn’t notice Mary moving around to her side of the car. She closed the door, and smiled in the dim moonlight at the sight of Mary standing nervously near the driver’s side of the car.

“Well this evening turned out to be better than I had expected.” Zelda said, folding her arms across her chest as she moved closer to Mary.

“I had a lot of fun. We should do this again sometime.”

“I agree. Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, bright and early.”

“Yeah.” Mary wanted to give Zelda another hug, a handshake—anything, just to make contact again. But it was Zelda who initiated the hug, a quick awkward thing, but a hug nonetheless. Zelda turned her head slightly, inhaling Mary’s scent one last time. Mary smiled so hard her cheeks hurt, and she was glad that it was dark out, and that they were alone. 

“Thanks for everything, Mary.” Zelda opened her car door and climbed inside. “Sleep well. I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

“Bye.” 

Mary stood watching as Zelda started her car, and backed out slowly. She waved, even though she couldn’t see Zelda, the headlights of her car shining bright in her face. She waited until she saw Zelda’s car turn around and start back down the road before moving to go back inside. 

Zelda smiled to herself as she drove away, thinking of the hug her and Mary had shared earlier. Little did she know that Mary was also smiling to herself, thinking of that same thing. 

 


 

“Sabrina? Sabrina!” Zelda called out as she entered the house. 

“We’re in here!” 

Zelda walked into the family room, where Ambrose, Sabrina, Hilda, and Dr. Cee sat, sprawled out and chatting. 

“Hey Auntie. How are you?” Ambrose sat up, putting his magazine aside.

“Hello Ambrose. I’m doing fine. How was school?” Zelda kissed Ambrose on the forehead, and cupped his face. He beamed up at her, a look on his face reminiscent of his childhood self, despite the light hair on his upper lip. When did her niece and nephew become adults? Sometimes she looked at Sabrina and Ambrose, and it made her emotional, realizing the quick passing of time. 

“It was mediocre, yet tolerable. The usual.”

Zelda laughed and shook her head. Ambrose was always one with a flair for the dramatic.

“Aunt Zee, what’s that you’re carrying?” 

“This is actually for you, Sabrina.” Zelda lifted the carrier up, and the kitten who was now awake.

“Oh my god! Aunt Zee!! Is that a cat?”

“Yes. I got him from Mary. Her cat had kittens a month or so ago, and she kept asking if I wanted one.”

Sabrina already had the kitten out of the carrier and was cuddling him. 

“Hello you cutie! Welcome to your new home!” Zelda smiled as her niece hugged the cat to her chest, and spoke to him in a high pitched voice. Dr. Cee got up and was also looking at the cat, making little noises at the small creature.

“I’ll be right back. I have some more things to get from the car.” Zelda turned to leave the family room, and Hilda got up from the couch, following her.

“Zelds! How was it?” Hilda caught up with Zelda, and walked outside with her.

“It was fine.”

Hilda stopped in front of Zelda, not letting her step down off of the porch.

“Zelda…”

Zelda huffed, and folded her arms. “We ate dinner, hugged, played a few rounds of Uno, and then I left. Happy?”

“Oh Zelda! You hugged!”

“...what’s so exciting about that? It’s not like it was a date or anything.” Zelda’s heart beat wildly, so loud that she wondered if her sister could hear it. 

“You know how you are about physical contact Zelda. Mary must be very special if you let her hug you.”

Zelda thought about how it felt being embraced by Mary, how safe and comforted she made her feel. She wanted nothing more than to hug her again, and again, and again.

“She is special,” Zelda said, without thinking. Her eyes grew wide and she looked at her sister’s face, afraid she would make light of her situation. But Hilda simply took Zelda’s hand in her own, and squeezed it.

“I’m proud of you Zelda. Ever since you’ve started working on the farm, you’ve become a different person. You’re blossoming into the Zelda I know and love, the person you try so hard to keep hidden from everyone, and it is beautiful to witness.”

Zelda didn’t know when she started crying, but she hiccuped and quickly wiped her eyes. Hilda walked a step up on the porch, and slipped her arms around her. Zelda wrapped her arms around her sister, and hugged her in return.

“Thank you Hildie,” she whispered with sincerity. Hilda broke the hug, and wiped away tears from her own eyes. She walked up the stairs past Zelda and reached for the front door. Hand on the doorknob, she paused, and turned back to look at her sister.

“Zelda?”

“Yes?”

“You should invite Mary over again. I think it will be fun.”

Hilda disappeared into the house, and Zelda stood still, lost in thought. 

How do I continue this friendship with Mary while still trying to do my job? I don’t want to mess this up. Mary doesn’t need to be hurt any more than she already has.

Zelda let out a sigh, and got the rest of her things from the car. When she got back into the house, she put the leftovers from Mary in the fridge, and headed upstairs. It wasn’t late, but she still had to wake up early the next morning. She said good night to everyone, and trekked up the stairs. The sea of emotions that had been swirling inside of her for the past few hours had built up to a tempest, and Zelda laid down on her bed, fully clothed. 

What do I do?

Thoughts of Mary, Faustus, and her job plagued her until she drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text


A summer thundershower settled over Greendale overnight, and it continued on throughout the next day. Zelda and Mary spent most of their time inside the barn, making sure that there were no leaks in the roof, and that all of the animals had clean dry hay. They worked together with ease, nothing but smiles and warmth between them. Jonathan noticed a marked difference in their interactions, as did Ray. The rain let off halfway through Zelda’s session, and her and Mary went outside to do some of the outdoors chores they hadn’t been able to do earlier. Their time together was spent in good spirits, and the rest of the week flew by. Zelda was busy at work dealing with some more of the legal processes surrounding the acquisition of Mary’s farm. She hadn’t told Faustus that she was giving Mary more time to raise some money to unsink the property; he would most definitely not approve. He would tell Zelda that she was being too nice, that there was no room for personal feelings in their line of work. A few months earlier, Zelda would have heartily agreed, and would have not even given a second thought to proceeding. But things were different now. She and Mary were growing closer, and Zelda was starting to consider Mary’s feelings, wants, and needs above her own.

There also was the issue of Faustus’ rising suspicion over Zelda’s late entry to the office on certain days of the week. When Zelda walked into work on Friday morning, Faustus was already there at her desk, waiting with his feet crossed on top of her desk.

“Oh! Faustus.” Zelda lowered her gaze, and tried to put on an air of indifference before making eye contact with her boss again. “What can I help you with?”

“Come over here.”

Zelda gulped, hoping this encounter wouldn’t end poorly, or with her sick in the restroom over whatever they were going to discuss. 

“Where have you been going each morning?” Faustus slid a hand up the side of Zelda’s hip, his eyes following his hand before looking up at her. Zelda swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. She took a step back from Faustus, who suddenly stood up, and approached her. He narrowed his snakelike eyes as he waited for Zelda to respond. 

“As I mentioned to you before, I’ve been doing some extra on-site work for the farm project.”

“Ah ah.” Faustus gripped Zelda’s arm, slowly increasing the pressure of his fingers. It was one of his regular go-to power moves, and he enjoyed seeing his fingerprints there marring her delicate skin. It was a sick game for him, and Zelda hated playing it. Faustus stepped closer, and Zelda tried to pull her arm away. 

“If I find out you’ve been lying to me,” His breath tickled her ear, and she felt sick.

“Faustus stop it. You’re hurting me.” Zelda tried again to pull herself out of his grip, but he only increased it.

If I find out that you are lying to me, Zelda, there will be serious consequences, you understand me?”

Zelda fought against his now two-handed grip on her shoulders, and pushed at his chest.

“I said do you understand me?”

Yes! Now will you please let go of me?” Zelda pushed away as Faustus released her, as though he hadn’t been manhandling her seconds before. This caused Zelda to stumble backwards a bit, and Faustus headed for Zelda’s office door. He opened the door and turned to look back at a still red-faced Zelda.

“You know, you really should be more careful, Zelda. Clumsiness is never an admirable quality.” 

Zelda watched as Faustus retreated, and collapsed in her desk chair, her head in her hands. She choked back stomach acid and tried not to cry.

What am I going to do? What if Faustus finds out? I have to be strong here, I can’t let them see me weak.

 


 

Zelda was dragging when she got to the farm on Monday. She spent all day Friday feeling ill after her encounter with Faustus. Oliver had to bring her antacids, and she sipped on ginger ale and sparkling water all day long. Zelda threw herself into her work all weekend, trying to compensate for the suspicions that Faustus had brought to her attention. She didn’t come from behind her laptop once that entire weekend, save for making trips to the bathroom to shower and take care of personal needs. Her family kept their distance, as they knew she was in one of her moods. Hilda brought her meals regularly, and didn’t try to interact with her. 

 

By the time Monday arrived, and Zelda pulled up to the farm, she was dragging. To make matters worse, she had barely put her car in park before Mary was running over to her driver’s side door. Zelda quickly unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car.

“Mary, what’s the matter?”

“It’s one of the mares! She is about to give birth! Come on!”

With no time for settling in, Zelda left everything behind in the car and followed Mary, walking quickly towards the barn. She barely had the energy to run behind the other woman, and wished she were still at home, tucked away in her bed.

“I didn’t even know that one of your horses was pregnant!” Zelda exclaimed, trying to keep up with Mary and not let her fatigue show. 

“She hasn’t been out much, and I don’t think you’ve seen all of my animals. We’ll have to change that. I have some very kind-hearted creatures here on the farm.”

Besides you? Zelda thought as she followed Mary inside the barn. There was a pickup truck parked near the front entrance. When they walked past Zelda noticed it had a decal on the door that said Greendale Veterinary Services .

“You guys called the veterinarian down here? Who needs the vet when they have you.” Zelda’s heart gave a whoosh as the brunette smiled at her, a beautiful sight.

“It’s just a precaution. Just like if a woman were to give birth at home, she’d have the midwife come by.”

Birth, midwife, babies, pregnancy...

Zelda’s throat went dry and she swallowed, trying to gather moisture. Everything around her blurred and all she heard was the sound of her own heartbeat, and each breath she took.

Don’t think about it. You don’t have to. Think about the farm, the animals. Don’t think about that day. Don’t—

“...those blankets over there, and then we can use them to receive the foal, in case there are complications…’ Mary realized she wasn’t being heard, and stopped and turned to Zelda, who was staring off into the distance.

“Zelda? Zelda?”

“Oh. Sorry about that. I’m just a bit more tired than usual today.” Zelda smiled and shook her head, as though nothing was wrong, and Mary eyed her suspiciously. “What were you saying?”

“Could you grab those blankets over there?” Mary gestured across the barn, over to where some items had been set in a pile.

“Sure.”

Zelda walked over to retrieve the supplies Mary had asked for, her pulse still racing. How could she still be so affected by something that happened six years ago? Zelda walked across the barn, and steadied her racing thoughts, preparing to focus on the task at hand. She didn’t know what Mary would have to do, but she wanted to help, to make sure that she wasn’t skimping on her community service hours. She found Mary, Jonathan, another farmhand, and the veterinarian all in one of the larger stables. The veterinarian was crouched down next to the horse, listening to her belly with a stethoscope. Mary lay on the other side of the horse, stroking the mare’s head, and whispering comforting things to her. Jonathan looked over at Zelda and smiled when she approached. 

“Hello Zelda. How are you this morning?”

“I’ve been better.” Mary looked up at Zelda, concerned, unbeknownst to the redhead. “Where did you want me to put these?”

“I can take those for you. Thanks.” Jonathan took the heavy woolen blankets out of Zelda’s arms, and walked over to chat with the veterinarian. Zelda stood still and just watched everything that was taking place. Mary stood up and walked over to Zelda. Zelda wasn’t expecting her to stand right in front of her, and so close. 

“Are you okay Zelda? You can make up your hours another day if you aren’t feeling well.” Her voice lowered, to an octave only Zelda could hear. Zelda worried her bottom lip between her teeth, and smiled sadly.

How does she always know when something is wrong?

“I’m fine. I’ll be fine.”

“Okay. Well just let me know if you aren’t feeling well.” Mary sat her hand down on Zelda’s shoulder, and Zelda placed her hand on top of Mary’s. She smiled again, this time genuinely. Blue eyes searched green ones for a sign of something more, of things left unsaid. Zelda turned red under Mary’s gaze, and looked down, clearing her throat.

“Thank you.”

Mary squeezed Zelda’s shoulder, and let her hand slide down to the side of her arm. She let her hand linger there for a few seconds longer before removing it. Zelda felt warmth that migrated with Mary’s touch, and she hoped she wasn’t blushing.

“Hey Mary? She’s getting restless again. I think you may need to come over and help calm her down.”

The mare was now making noises of discomfort as she experienced more labor pains. Zelda was left red-faced as Mary walked back over to the horse, kneeling down in front of the horse’s head, taking it into her lap. She began to sing quietly as she ran her fingers through the horse’s mane. Zelda felt tears form in her eyes as she listened to Mary’s dulcet tones. The woman was entirely too beautiful, and Zelda didn’t even think Mary realized it. Mary paused her song to talk to the distressed animal, gently encouraging her through her distress. Suddenly, the horse moved as though she were going to stand up. Mary and the veterinarian backed up, giving the animal room. The mare shifted back and forth, restless, and made noises of discomfort. 

“You’re okay dear. There’s a good girl.” Mary stood near the front of the horse, rubbing her nose. The other farmhand got a shovel and wheelbarrow, and removed some waste from the pen. Jonathan went into the corner where two hay bales lay, and separated one of them, bringing fresh hay to lay around the horse. Zelda watched everything intently, never having witnessed an equine birth before. Mary and the veterinarian took turns comforting the horse, and Jonathan kept track of the contractions. They waited patiently for about 45 minutes before something happened. The horse started shifting around and her water broke. Zelda felt slightly queasy at the amount of fluid that left the animal, and brought her hand up to her mouth, steadying her breathing.

“The foal should be here soon. We need to step back and let the birth occur naturally, unless there is something wrong.” The veterinarian advised, turning to address everyone. “I’d say it should be out in the next ten to twenty minutes.” Mary stood and returned to Zelda’s side, smiling. She slipped her arm around Zelda’s and looked at her.

“Isn’t this exciting? You get to watch the birth of a foal, up close and personal!”

“Yes I suppose.”

“It’s okay if you’re not excited. It certainly isn't something you’d see every day.”

Mary rattled off some facts about foaling, which Zelda learned was the term given to the equestrian birthing process. She nodded as listened to the different things Mary was telling her, and let her mind drift back to that day when she found herself at the hospital twenty-eight weeks into her pregnancy. She would never forget the sounds of the doctor and nurses moving around her bed. Zelda had squeezed her eyes shut then, in hopes that maybe it was all a bad dream. She could still hear the screech of the curtain being drawn around her bed, to give her privacy, the sound of the nurse reading off her vitals. There was the sound of Hilda’s voice in her ear, whispering calming words in a tear-laced tone.

Don’t think about it. Just don’t think about it.

“—due to the length of the normal gestation period for horses. It’s—oh! The foal is crowning!” Mary jumped, and startled Zelda from the daze she was in. Zelda looked back towards the horse and saw a hoof start to poke out of the mother. The mare rested briefly, and the veterinarian took a step closer, in case the horse needed assistance. But she didn’t, and instead pushed the foal the rest of the way out in small increments, resting in-between to gather her strength. The mare made grunting noises, and pushed every so often, the baby moving out just a bit further each time. Eventually the foal slid out of its mother, traces of the amniotic sac still in tact, a slick and wet mass of bony limbs. Mary was crying, and so was Jonathan. The umbilical cord still trailed out of the mare, but she didn’t seem to mind. She was nuzzling her baby, and began to lick the foal. Zelda felt tears tight in her throat as she watched the baby animal begin to try to stand on unsteady legs.

“The process of birth is such a beautiful thing.” Mary muttered, clasping her hands to her chest. It was a beautiful sight, and Zelda herself felt moved by the birth. But she was also thinking about birth in general, and her own experiences. She looked at everyone, distracted by what had happened, and decided to slip away. There was no stopping her tears now. 

Zelda walked quickly, breaking out into a light jog once a ways away from the stable. Once outside of the barn, Zelda looked side to side, and realized she would be sitting out in the open anywhere she went. So, she opted for running around the side of the barn, to the back. At least she could hide back there for a while. Zelda’s tears fell naturally now, and she wished she had a Valium. It usually helped to prevent exactly what she was currently experiencing. She brought her hands up to cover her face, and cried, the loud sobs bubbling up out of her. She slid down to the ground, her back up against the rear of the barn. She cried for her stillborn baby, all of the miscarriages she had, for the current state of her life, the feeling of being trapped in her job, the confusing feelings she was starting to feel towards Mary—everything. There was too much that was simmering beneath the surface as of late, and Zelda didn’t know how much longer she could’ve kept it all in. Zelda stayed there up against the back of the barn, and drew her knees up to her chest, and buried her face in her kneecaps. She wrapped her arms around her knees and wept, feeling completely overwhelmed. She didn’t know how long she was crying, but eventually there was a soft hand on her forearm, and she felt someone sit down next to her. Zelda looked up from her arms and saw Mary sitting there, a look of deep concern on her face.

“Oh Zelda…” 

The tone of her voice cut straight through to Zelda’s heart, causing her to cry even harder. Mary wrapped her arms around Zelda, and drew her head to her shoulder. 

“It’s okay sweetheart, it’s okay.”

Mary could not have known what was going through Zelda’s mind at the moment, but the mere fact that she was comforting Zelda regardless of the cause was enough for Zelda. She went like butter in Mary’s arms, and wrapped her arms around her in return. Mary leaned her head against Zelda’s, and rocked her gently. 

“I’m—I’m sssorry ,” Zelda hiccuped, trying to get herself under control. She sat up and wiped her face. Mary kept a hand on her back, and worked her thumb in little circles over the base of Zelda’s neck. Zelda still let out the occasional hiccup, and Mary kept comforting her, giving her as much time as she needed. 

“I’m sure I look a fright,” Zelda said with a chuckle, as she wiped her nose. “I can’t imagine how red my face is right now.”

“You look beautiful Zelda.”

“Yeah right.” Zelda turned her face away from Mary, and shook her head. “I’m a walking disaster.”

Mary reached out and turned Zelda’s face back towards her, blue eyes focusing on Zelda with all seriousness.

“You are beautiful, Zelda, and I’m so sorry you aren’t feeling well right now. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. I don’t like seeing you like this.”

Zelda held her breath as she let herself get lost in Mary’s eyes. A myriad of emotions were swirling through her, and she wasn’t sure what was happening. In that moment, she felt drawn to Mary, like she could tell her anything. 

“I...I don’t know…” Zelda dropped her gaze as she stumbled over her words, and swallowed.

“It’s okay. Take your time. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to. You know that.”

Zelda leaned her head back against the barn and could feel Mary’s eyes still on her. She looked up at the large elm tree that hung over the back of the barn, providing them with shade. Bits of blue sky peeked through the branches, and birds chirped happily.

“Seeing the mare giving birth in there...I know it is crazy, but it just reminded me…” Zelda’s bottom lip trembled, and she closed her eyes against the coming tears. Mary took her hand between her own, and gave it a gentle squeeze, giving Zelda the strength to continue.  “It reminded me of when I gave birth…”

Mary sensed the ominous tone in Zelda’s voice, one that implied that this story did not have a happy ending. She traced her thumb over the back of Zelda’s hand, and squeezed it again.

“What happened?”

“The baby,” Zelda’s eyes were squeezed shut tightly now, as though she were in physical pain. “The baby didn’t make it. I had to deliver her even though she wasn’t...wasn’t alive.” Nausea and sadness settled into Zelda’s belly, and her stomach flipped nervously. She subconsciously laid a hand over her abdomen, as she remembered the feeling of being pregnant. 

“I am so sorry Zelda.” Mary brought Zelda’s hand up to her mouth, and kissed the back of it. “I really am so sorry sweetheart.” 

“I had been trying for so long. It was the longest I had been pregnant. I thought it was going to finally work, after my years of trying. I had the nursery ready, clothes, stroller, car seat—practically everything. Sabrina and Ambrose were excited, as were Hilda and her boyfriend. But one afternoon something just didn’t seem right. I couldn’t...I couldn’t feel her moving anymore.” Zelda opened her eyes again, and sighed, a defeated sound. “The one thing I wanted in life was to be a mother, and I couldn’t even do that. I know I have Sabrina and Ambrose, and I love them more than anything—but I always wished to have a child of my own.” 

Mary kept listening, and brushed some hair away from Zelda’s face, tucking it behind one of her ears.

“I turned to work as an escape from my pain, and now it’s been five years of that.” Zelda sighed, and her shoulders drooped. “And now you know why I am such a bitch all the time.” Zelda spat with a hollow laugh, a look of disgust on her face. 

“You are not , Zelda. Listen to me.” Mary took Zelda’s face between her palms, warm and soft, and raised her eyebrows. “You had an incredibly traumatic and unfair thing happen to you. It takes time to heal from something like that. You aren’t a bitch, and you never will be, okay?”

Zelda’s voice was watery when she spoke, and tears pooled in her eyes. “But I am.” 

“Not to me you aren’t.”

Zelda tried to blink away the tears in her eyes, but they rolled down her cheeks. Mary wiped them away with her thumbs, and kissed Zelda on the forehead. Zelda brought her hand up to hold onto one of Mary’s, and smiled. She turned her face, ever so slightly, and kissed her palm. Mary blushed, and bit back a smile of her own. 

“You’re so sweet, Mary. I’m really glad that I got to meet you.”

“I’m glad that we got to meet too.”

Zelda looked at Mary, and slipped her arm through the other woman’s, and leant into her. “It’s nice out here, in the shade.”

“It is.” Mary hummed happily, and leaned her head back against the barn. “Makes me wish I could take a day off from work.”

“You should, Mary. You deserve it.”

“I wish I could. But I have so much to do.” Mary bit her bottom lip, and Zelda felt her shift next to her. “Jonathan uh, he started a GoFundMe for the farm. I didn’t know if I was going to bring it up or not…” Mary sat up straight, and unlinked her arm from Zelda’s. “I felt bad, keeping it from you, since we are friends and all, and you are the one who is trying to buy the farm…I just, if there is a chance that I could keep everything here, I want to take it—I’m sorry if this is too much, I just—”

Zelda grabbed Mary’s hands, which were twisting together anxiously in her lap. “It’s okay. You don’t have to worry. You are entitled to your own secrets and opinions. I know I kind of stormed in here like the big bad wolf, telling you what I was going to do with your farm.”

“You did.”

“And I am sorry for that. I should have at least asked you about it first, before assuming. I am sorry Mary, I truly am.”

“I’m not.”

Zelda turned to look at Mary, a look of surprise on her face as she waited for Mary to explain herself.

“If you never came here, then I never would have gotten to meet you.” Mary brushed at her jeans, and let her finger trace over the stitching along the side seams. “I don’t know if we would have gotten to meet otherwise, and the thought of that pains me.”

Zelda slipped her hand in Mary’s and linked their fingers together. She studied the way their skin looked next to each other, hers a milky white, and Mary’s a light olive, painted with freckles. 

“You wanna know a little secret?” Zelda asked, rubbing her thumb over the back of Mary’s hand. 

“Sure.”

“I actually really like coming here to work with you.”

“You do?”

“I do. I was scared at first, and extremely guilt-ridden. I still am, actually.”

“Why would you feel guilty? Because of your job?”

“Yeah. I still have a lot of things to figure out, but between you and me—I really want you to keep the farm.”

“Seriously?”

“Mhmn.”

“Oh my. Oh my goodness! This is excellent news!” Tears sprung up in Mary’s eyes, and she wrapped her arms around Zelda’s neck in a hug. Zelda hugged her in return, and buried her nose in Mary’s hair. Now it was Mary who started to cry, and Zelda kept her arms wrapped around her waist. Mary pulled back from the embrace and smiled, her dimples showing. Zelda couldn’t help herself, and traced the back of her fingertips over Mary’s cheek. 

“I guess I had better think of something good to tell the people at work, huh?”

“I guess so.” Mary took a deep breath and beamed. “Oh Zelda! I feel so happy right now. You have made me so happy!” She leaned over and planted a kiss on Zelda’s cheek. “Thank you so much!”

Zelda felt like she was melting when she felt Mary’s lips on her cheek, her skin tingling. She couldn’t hide the smile that broke out across her face. Part of her wanted to turn and meet Mary’s lips, and she didn’t know why.

If we are just friends, and nothing more, then why do I feel so funny inside, and hot all over?

“I’m sorry. That was too much.” Mary folded her hands in her lap.

“You don’t have to apologize. It wasn’t too much.”

It was hardly enough…

“Okay good. If I’m ever invading your personal space or anything, feel free to let me know. I want you to be comfortable here, and around me.”

“I think we may be beyond being in each others’ personal space now, Mary.” Zelda said with a chuckle. Zelda thought about her job, and how she never felt uncomfortable with Mary like she did with Faustus. It was a completely different experience. She actually looked forward to being around Mary, as opposed to dreading their encounters, as she did with Faustus. Speaking of Faustus— fuck! Zeld gasped when she realized that her and Mary had been sitting idly, chatting, for quite some time. 

“What’s wrong?”

“Do you have the time? I totally forgot to check! My phone is in my car.”

“Oh shoot!” Mary reached into her pocket, and withdrew her phone. “It’s just about nine.”

“I’d better get going. I don’t want to be late to work. My boss has been getting very suspicious as of late.” 

Mary stood up first, and held her hand out to Zelda to help her up. When Zelda was fully standing, she brushed off the back of her pants.

“So I guess I will see you in a couple of days then?”

“For sure.” 

Both women stood around awkwardly, not wanting to end their time together.

“Walk me to my car, hm?”

Zelda turned to walk back around the side of the barn, and Mary followed, a smile on her face.

“Did you guys think of a name for your kitten yet?”

“Sabrina did. She named him Salem.”

“As in Massachusetts?”

“Yeah. Like the Salem witch trials. She is actually quite into the history of witchcraft in America. Her and Hilda both are, actually. I used to read up on it too, back in my younger days, but not anymore. I kind of got interested in other things.”

“That certainly is fascinating. What else are you interested in? I feel like I need to learn more about you.”

“Well,” Zelda tapped her chin to her finger as they walked along. “I enjoy studying foreign languages, reading, wine tasting, and good music.”

“Hmmn. Nice.”

“I think there might be another thing I can add to that list, though.”

“What’s that?”

“I also am really starting to enjoy visiting my friend on her farm.” Zelda purposefully brushed her arm against Mary’s as they walked. 

“Visiting your friend on her farm you say?”

“Mhmmn.” Zelda smiled, and looped her thumbs through the belt loops on her pants. “I’m very lucky, because I get to visit this friend several times a week, and she is a ton of fun to be around.” Zelda and Mary approached her car, and Zelda lingered by her driver’s side door. 

“Well, just so you know, your friend also loves having you here several times a week. As a matter of fact, your friend cannot wait for you to come back on Wednesday.” 

“Is that so?” 

“Yep.” Mary rocked back and forth on her heels, and looked up at Zelda from hooded eyes.

“Thanks again Mary. I know we didn’t get much work done today—and that was partially my fault—but I thank you for understanding.”

“It’s no problem Zelda.” Mary outstretched her arms and moved towards Zelda, who stepped forward to embrace the woman. “I’ll see you on Wednesday morning?”

“I’ll see you then. Goodbye Mary. I hope you have a great rest of the day.”

Zelda regretfully ended their hug, but not without rubbing her hand across Mary’s back, briefly. They parted with matching smiles, and Zelda drove off, happier than she had been in a long time.

Chapter Text

When Zelda pulled up to Mary’s house on Wednesday morning, Mary was already outside. The lithe woman was leaning against a post on her front porch, a mug between her hands, a smile across her face. Zelda’s heart fluttered the moment she caught sight of Mary, and she couldn’t help but smile herself, in return. She kept smiling as she parked her car and unbuckled her seatbelt. Mary stood up straight, and sat her mug down on the porch railing. 

“Well aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” Zelda said, walking slowly up the stairs to stand in front of Mary. She had her hair braided in a single ponytail, and was wearing a white t-shirt underneath a pair of overalls.

“Hi Zelda,” Mary smiled and blushed profusely, seemingly shy. Zelda stepped up onto the porch next to Mary and looked her over.

“You look very...farmer-ish today.”

“Well, I am a farmer Zelda.”

“I mean, I like it. It’s...it’s cute.”

Oh god did I really just say that?

Mary blushed once more under Zelda’s gaze, and this time Zelda resisted the urge to smack her palm to her forehead. 

“I’ve embarrassed you. I’m sorry.” Zelda’s stomach flipped, nerves tearing up her insides.

“No, it’s not that, it’s just—thank you.” 

She is so adorable...

“So. What are we going to get up to today?”

“We’re actually going to go into town. I have a small amount of products that I sell at a local grocery store in town. I also need to pick up some things from the farm supply store.”

“Wow. You really are amazing, you know that?” 

Mary licked her lips, and raised her eyebrows. “How so?” 

“You just, you are just so...so original, and unique. I don’t know.” Zelda shrugged and dropped her hands to her sides. Mary picked her mug back up, and took a long drink, draining it.

“Come on. Let’s go inside. We have to put some labels on some jars first, before we can take them to the store.”

Zelda followed Mary into the house, and kicked off her shoes once she crossed the threshold. As usual, Ray was sitting on Mary’s couch, deep into his crossword puzzle. 

“Ah Riverdale. How goes things?”

“I’m doing well, Ray. How are you?”

The older man let out a dramatic sigh, and folded his paper over. 

“I think I might live.”

“Hey Zelda? I’ll be right back. The stuff is in the kitchen.” Mary disappeared upstairs, ponytail bouncing against her back. Zelda sent a forlorn look after her, eyes watching her until she was out of sight. She wondered what would be the least rude way to walk into the kitchen without seeming like she was trying to avoid Ray (which she was), and the chance that he would try to make small talk. Sure, spending time with Mary had brought out a kinder side in her, but she was still afraid of Ray--well, more so of the disapproval she knew would be directed her way, should her crush on Mary be revealed. The older man had a no nonsense attitude, and ever since Mary had disclosed his connection to her family, she had been scared of him. Zelda stepped forward, ready to bolt into the kitchen, when she was stopped in her tracks by Ray’s voice. 

“Don’t you hurt her.”

Shit.

“What?” Zelda turned around to look at Ray, who had his arms folded across his chest. He had a stern, unreadable look on his face. 

“I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you are talking about.”

“I think you do. Anyone can see, from the way you two look at each other, you got a thing goin’ on.” Ray gestured with his hand, between Zelda and the direction Mary went. Zelda opened her mouth to respond, but no sound came out.

“I’ve already talked to her about it, and I know how she feels about you. She can’t stop talking about you.”

Heat coursed through Zelda, and she felt exposed, felt the need to flee. She looked towards the kitchen, and then back at Ray.

“Now, I shouldn’t be encouraging any sort of inappropriate dalliance, especially as you are here on court-ordered business.”

Zelda gulped, her eyes wide. But I’m not in a relationship with Mary? Why do people keep thinking we are?

“I’ve never seen Dimples this happy, not in a long time. Her happiness is all I care about. She’s like a daughter to me. There has been a lot of pain in suffering in her life, especially these past two years. She’s finally in a better place now, is happy again. Don’t mess that up for her.” 

Zelda nodded mutely, throat drying out, and started to back up. Ray picked up his paper, and continued to look over his crossword puzzle.

“You should try some of the coffee Riverdale. Dimples made a real good pot today.” 

Zelda went into the kitchen, and didn’t look back. She walked to the window and looked outside, trying to check in with all five of her senses. Her pulse was skyrocketing, and she felt overwhelmed.

What is happening?

Zelda turned and leaned back against the wall, and held a hand up to her rapidly beating heart. She chewed on her already raw bottom lip. These emotions were so new, and they scared Zelda. Sure, she had experienced feelings for people before, but this was something different. It took her by surprise, and was all-encompassing. Before Zelda realized what was happening, there were tears rolling down her cheeks, and she brushed them away.

“Zelda?” Zelda looked up in time to see Mary approaching her. She sat a stack of papers down on the kitchen table, and walked over to Zelda. 

“Did something happen?”

Zelda shook her head, and gave Mary a sorrowful smile. “No, it’s nothing.”

“It doesn’t look like nothing. Can I give you a hug?”

“I’d like that, thank you.”

Mary slid her arms around Zelda’s waist, and Zelda leaned forward, setting her chin over Mary’s shoulder. Her eyes closed, and she sighed, resting her weight on Mary’s frame. They stood in silence, and Zelda let the serotonin wash over her. Mary rubbed her back, letting Zelda stay in the embrace for as long as she needed to. 

“You give really great hugs, you know that?” Zelda’s voice was all blissed out as she remained in the embrace, and slid her hands up Mary’s back. 

“I try my best. I really like hugging you.”

“And I really like being hugged by you—oh.” Zelda realized she had said the last part out loud, and she pulled back from Mary, her face rapidly turning bright red. 

“I, I’m sorry, I—”

Mary tipped Zelda’s chin up with her finger, and caught her gaze.

“Hey.” Mary’s voice went soft, and Zelda saw something in her eyes that she had caught traces of before. 

“You have nothing to apologize for, Zelda.”

“I know.” Zelda licked her lips. “I just...I’m feeling a lot of things lately, and it’s all so much, so quickly, I…” Zelda’s eyes fluttered closed and she blew a shaky breath out through her mouth as Mary rubbed her thumb back and forth over the slight cleft in Zelda’s chin. 

“It’s okay. Whatever you are feeling, just let it happen.”

Zelda opened her eyes and looked panicked, as she tried to make sense of everything. Mary let her palm rest against Zelda’s cheek, her thumb gently stroking the soft skin there. She looked at her with such an intense gaze, that is seemed her eyes saw straight through Zelda. 

“I have to tell you something, Zelda, and I hope you will still want to be friends afterwards.” Mary felt emboldened when Zelda licked her lips, and her tongue almost brushed against the side of her thumb. 

“Tell me,” Zelda whispered, pulse thundering in her own ears. She was surprised she was still standing upright, and hadn’t fainted dead away.

“I don’t want to pretend anymore. I can’t. I feel things when you’re around, and it makes me happy...which I haven’t been in a long time. I don’t know how you feel, and maybe I’m wrong—but I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable with me, because of what I’m telling you now. If you need some space and want me to back off, then I will. If you want to keep on being friends, then I can respect that.”

Oh, this woman! This dear sweet woman!

“...but, if you want to see if our friendship can go in another direction—to take things slowly—then I am okay with that too. But it is entirely up to you, Zelda. I don’t want to pressure you into anything.”

Zelda didn’t respond at first, and just smiled at Mary. She didn’t trust herself to not mess things up. If she were truly honest with herself, she did want to be more than friends. But Zelda never was one for relationships. She usually just kept things cordial, because getting into relationships meant getting hurt, and Zelda had enough of that in her life. In addition, the thought of hurting Mary was so painful to Zelda, that she didn’t even want to imagine it. Mary deserved to be protected and loved, to be cherished. She was much too kind, too good of a person. Zelda was just...Zelda. 

“Did I say too much?”

“No! No, you’re fine, I was just thinking...I think I may need some time, if that’s okay?”

I’m scared. I really like you and I’m scared.

“Of course. I respect that.” Mary dropped her hand from Zelda’s cheek, and Zelda saw a bit of the light leave her eyes, and it broke her heart. She reached out and took Mary’s hand, rubbing her thumbs over it. She never wanted to see a defeated look like that on Mary’s face again.

“Just because I need time doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything, just so you know.” Mary looked back at Zelda, a hopeful look on her face.

“I just...I need to work some things out, okay?” 

I feel so much right in this moment and I don’t know what to do.

Zelda kissed Mary’s hand, and rubbed over where her lips had been. Mary got a nervous smile on her face, and nodded. 

“Now what’s in these jars over there on the table? Jam or honey? Looks like something sweet.” Zelda asked, effectively changing the subject and cheering Mary up.

“Both.”

“Wow. You make jam and honey? Does your sweetness ever end?” 

Mary blushed, and ducked her head down.

“I just take about fifty jars of each into the grocery store in town every few weeks. It is a very limited stock.”

“Hm. I will have to try some of it sometime, especially since it is very ‘limited edition.’” Zelda made air quotes with her fingers. Mary brought over the sheets of labels, and showed Zelda where she liked to stick them on each jar. It was easy work, and between the two of them, they got through the 100 jars in no time. They loaded up the jam and honey in Mary’s truck, and started for the store. Zelda couldn’t keep her eyes off of Mary as they drove along, wisps of hair blowing around her face. The windows were down and the early morning light made Mary’s eyes look so light blue, that they were practically translucent. Her skin shone golden, and her nose and cheeks were slightly pink from being out in the sun. She was the most beautiful thing that Zelda had ever seen, and she knew right then and there that she had fallen for good. There was almost what felt like a physical pain in Zelda’s chest every time she looked at Mary. Zelda blinked away tears as Mary sang along to the song on the radio, a huge smile on her face. It was Natalie Merchant’s song, San Andreas Fault , a song which Zelda hadn’t heard in ages.

“Oh how I just love this song! Do you know it one Zelda?”

“Hmmn?” Zelda looked up from her lap and faked a yawn as she wiped away the tears from her eyes. Mary was perfect .

“Are you sure you’re alright? You're not thinking about what I said earlier, are you?”

“Uh…”

I am. I didn’t know you felt that way about me, and now I can’t take my eyes off of you. 

Mary pulled her truck up to the same grocery store that Zelda had stopped at a while back, where she first saw some products from Mary’s farm. She put the truck in park and pulled up on the brake. 

“I really didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, Zelda. That wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to be honest with you, about my feelings.”

“It’s okay Mary. Truly, it is. I’m just having a hard time with myself.”

“Please be gentle with yourself. You deserve kindness and love…” Mary brushed her hand over Zelda’s shoulder before unbuckling her carseat. She left the windows rolled down, and closed the door and leaned back through the driver’s side, looking over at Zelda.

“I’m just going to run these things inside and be right back. Do you need anything from the store?” 

“I’m good. Thanks.” Zelda answered in a clipped tone. She felt her emotions threatening to make themselves known, and knew she wouldn’t be able to hold herself back were she to let go. She kept her eyes down as Mary walked back and forth past her side of the car carrying wooden boxes into the store. When Mary’s back was turned to her, Zelda let herself take a look at the woman. She felt a tug in her chest as she watched the way Mary’s body moved in her overalls, the curve of her arms, her waist, and even her ass. The tears fell on their own now, and Zelda covered her mouth as she gasped, unable to contain her feelings any longer. Her shoulders shook, and she tried to get herself under control. 

Come on Spellman. You’re okay. It’s okay.

By the time Mary was walking back towards the doors of the store, Zelda had calmed herself, and now sat wondering if she could trust her own heart

Am I in love ? Am I just experiencing a crush? What is the truth?

But Zelda knew the truth. She didn’t want to think about even letting herself face the truth. She had fallen hard—and fast—for Mary, and it terrified her. Real feelings never ended well for Zelda in the past. That’s why she usually kept things at a surface level: dinner, flirting during dinner, and sex after dinner. She reached up and pulled down the visor wiping tears away in the mirror. There wasn’t much she could do about the redness, and Mary would know for sure that she had been crying. Zelda folded the visor back up and turned her face towards the window, angling her body away from the driver’s seat. Mary opened the driver’s side door and climbed inside the truck.

“Well that’s done. Now off to the farm supply—Zelda?”

Zelda felt Mary’s hand reach out and touch her back, and she couldn’t keep her tears at bay.

“Are you feeling sick?”

She didn’t answer at first, but instead slowly turned to face Mary. 

“Can I...”

“Yes? What do you need sweetheart?”

Zelda leaned forward and awkwardly wrapped her arms around Mary, holding onto her tightly. 

“Oh.”

Mary was taken by surprise, but quickly returned the hug, and drew her hands back and forth over Zelda’s back. Zelda didn’t say anything for a while, and instead pulled back slowly, but still remained close to Mary. 

“Mary I…” Zelda’s voice trailed off into a whisper, words leaving her once more. She cupped the Mary’s face between her warm hands, and smoothed her thumbs over sharp cheekbones. Mary usually didn’t wear makeup, and Zelda liked her better that way. She wasn’t wearing any today, and Zelda let her eyes drift over every freckle, spot, and wrinkle. She was easily the most beautiful thing that Zelda had ever seen. Tears blurred in Zelda’s eyes once more, as she looked between Mary’s eyes and her mouth. Zelda wanted to trace a fingertip down the bridge of Mary’s nose, to feel every ridge. She moved her thumb to trace over Mary’s lips, spending a second longer to smooth over her Cupid’s bow. Mary’s lips parted slightly, and Zelda could hear her breathing speed up. Zelda looked back into Mary’s eyes, and felt reassurance wash over her. She leaned forward and gently pressed her lips to Mary’s. Her mouth tingled pleasantly when their lips met, and it felt so good. Mary moved her mouth beneath Zelda’s, and she let out a little sigh. Warmth shot through Zelda’s body at the sound, and she rubbed her thumbs over Mary’s cheeks as she pulled back for air. Zelda couldn’t help but smile, for Mary still had her eyes closed, and the tip of her nose had gone pink. When she did open her eyes, Zelda was still there, waiting with a small smile on her face.

“Woah…” Mary said on an exhale, corners her mouth turning upwards in a grin. Zelda let go of Mary’s face and brought her hands to rest in her lap, trying to hold herself back from caressing Mary, in case she had gone too far.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.” Zelda immediately apologized, stumbling over her words. “I know I said I needed time, but...you are just too beautiful, and I couldn’t help myself.”

“So you do feel something, then?” 

“I feel everything , Mary, and it scares me to death.” Zelda looked like she was going to cry again, and Mary reached for her hand.

 “I don’t really know how to do relationships.” Zelda lowered her gaze, and sniffled. “I’ve never really fallen in love before.”

Love?

Zelda chanced a look at the woman sitting across from her, and saw no judgment, only a reflection of the same feelings she was feeling. Zelda still felt nervous, though, and squeezed her hands together in her lap.

“I know you just finalized your divorce, and things are still raw, and you’re probably stressed, and that’s no good—“

Mary silenced Zelda with another kiss, this one wet and urgent. Zelda didn’t mind, and sank into the kiss, her heart soaring. One of Mary’s hands slide up to the base of her neck, tangling in her ponytail along the way. Pulled even deeper into the kiss, Zelda opened her mouth and felt Mary’s tongue slip inside. She moaned helplessly as the woman teased her, tongue tracing over the inside of her mouth and dancing with her own. It was Zelda who broke the kiss, the need for air becoming too great. They both looked at each other and laughed.

“So uh, what now?” Mary asked, licking her lips. Zelda reached out to cup Mary’s cheek, and smiled as the skin turned pink under her touch.

“I guess we can just go slow and see where things take us?”

“I’d like that.” 

Zelda nodded, heart still thundering. She still couldn’t believe what had just happened. It was so unlike her to do anything like that, in the spur of the moment. But she truly couldn’t help herself. Zelda felt her cheeks heat up as she felt Mary’s eyes still on her.

“What?”

“Oh nothing. I was just thinking about how delicious you tasted just now.”

“Well,” Zelda started. “I guess we had better hurry up and run these errands, so you can have another taste.”

Mary leaned over and kissed Zelda on the cheek, and let her lips linger next to Zelda’s ear. 

“I’ll be looking forward to it.”

Zelda felt faint, and her stomach did backflips. She was a goner for sure, completely weak for Mary.

“Me too,” Zelda replied, her voice nearly a whisper. Mary had already started the car and was backing out of their parking spot. They drove across town to the farm supply store in no time, and Zelda decided to go inside the store for this stop. It was getting warm out, and she didn’t want to sit in the car. She followed alongside Mary, and blushed when Mary held the door open for her. 

“Thank you.”

“Of course.”

The store was like a miniature home improvement store, only it mainly contained farm supply items. Mary walked to a counter near the entrance and the worker looked up with a smile.

“Hey Mary! How’ve ya been?”

“Good good. Did my order come in yet?”

“Yes uh—ma’am, can I help you?” The worker looked past Mary towards Zelda, who was looking expectantly at Mary and then the worker.

“Oh she’s with me, Tony. Zelda, come here.” Mary waved her over, and Zelda walked up next to Mary, suddenly feeling shy. 

“This is Zelda, and she’s been helping me on my farm. Kind of like a partner.”

Butterflies went through Zelda’s stomach at Mary’s use of the word partner.  

“Hi there, nice to meet you.” Zelda held out her hand to Tony, who took it between his own and gave it a squeeze.

“It’s lovely to meet you, Zelda. Any friend of Mary’s is a friend of mine.”

Mary slid an arm around Zelda’s lower back, and it grounded her. It took everything in Zelda not to sink into Mary’s side, like she so desperately wanted to.

“It might be a few minutes. Do you want to wait in the car?”

“No, it’s okay. Take your time.” Zelda turned and started down one of the aisles, looking at all of the different equipment. She could hear Mary and Tony talking about horse feeders and troughs, and it made her smile. 

So this really is my life now? Farm animals and troughs. Tractors and hay bales. And Mary. Oh god. 

Zelda’s heart fluttered rapidly as she walked to the end of the aisle she was in and peeked around the edge to sneak a look at Mary. 

She is so beautiful. What am I supposed to tell everyone at work? ‘Sorry, I can’t do my job anymore, because I fell for the person I’m supposed to be buying land from’? 

She turned the corner, and saw an impressive array of rakes and shovels, something she never thought she’d be interested in. 

Ooh I would get through the stables in no time with this one…

Zelda walked slowly down the aisle as she observed the tools. The day was turning out to be quite strange, and she was still trying to figure out what she was going to tell everyone, if anything at all. Oliver would surely be filled in on any updates on her situation by Jonathan, and she didn’t mind. Hilda would surely spot that something was different right away, and grill her for details. She figured she would worry about everyone else later. The thing was, Zelda had never really been in this position before, and she was scared shitless. Ray’s warning from earlier came back to haunt her, and Zelda felt sick. 

Whatever I do, I can’t hurt Mary. Her happiness is key.

“Zelda? Zelda?”

Zelda stood lost in thought while Mary’s voice got closer and closer. Her face appeared in front of Zelda and she blinked.

“You ready?” Mary reached for Zelda’s hand, and quickly kissed the back of it. Zelda shook her head, dispelling the daydream.

“Yes.”

 


 

They started to drive back to the farm, but not without Mary stopping off to get them some milkshakes. Zelda raised her eyebrows as they pulled up to the unexpected stop, right in front of Dr. Cerberus’s Books

“Um, why are we here?” Zelda asked, trying to recall Hilda’s work schedule that she caught a glimpse of on the refrigerator door a few days prior.

“I wanna treat you. I know it’s still early, but I never come into town without stopping here for one of my most favorite things.”

“Which is?” 

“Strawberry milkshake. They make the best in town here.”

“They do.” Zelda agreed with no hesitation.

“You been here before?” Mary asked, unbuckling her seatbelt and opening the door.

“Something like that.” 

Zelda kept a hand on Mary’s back as they crossed the street. She removed it, though, when she went to open the door, this time letting Mary go in first. Zelda stepped into the store behind Mary, and was relieved to see that her sister was not at her usual spot behind the counter

She must be doing the later shift today. Thank goodness.

It was still early in the morning, but the store was open for breakfast. The smell of greasy breakfast food and coffee filled the air, and it made Zelda’s stomach grumble. Mary walked up to the counter and rang the small bell that sat in front of the cash register. 

“Just a minute!” Dr. Cee’s voice called out. Zelda’s eyes widened, and she shifted nervously next to Mary. Mary sensed her discomfort, and placed a hand at the small of her back. It was a small gesture, but did not go unnoticed by Dr. Cee, who rounded the corner with a smile on his face and a towel thrown over his shoulder. He was in a vampire costume, and didn’t have his hair slicked back yet or his false teeth in. 

“Good morning ladies. Hey Zelda!.” He waved at the familiar face, and Zelda blushed.

“Hello.”

“I didn’t know you were in town—I mean, Hilda did mention that you have some work project here now. Anyways. How are you?”

The tips of Zelda’s ears got hot, and she wondered just how much Hilda had told him. 

“I’m doing quite well, actually.”

“Well I’m glad to hear it! And Mary, how are you?”

Of course they know each other.

“Excellent.”

“I didn’t know you two knew each other,” Dr. Cee said with a twinkle in his eye.”

“We—“

“I—“

Both women spoke at the same time, and smiled at each other.

“You go first,” Mary prodded. Dr. Cee watched the exchange, completely amused.

“We actually are working together.” Zelda kept her eyes on Mary while speaking, and then turned to look at Dr. Cee. 

“Ah! That’s great! You know, Wardwell Farms is a Greendale tradition. I can’t wait until fall comes. I have even more spooky candied apple ideas for you for this Halloween!” 

Mary smiled, but then looked sad. Zelda knew she was thinking about if her farm would even make it to Halloween this year. 

And it’s all my fault…

Guilt washed over Zelda again, and her stomach turned. 

“I can’t wait to see what you’ve found.”

“Awesome! Hey did you just want your usual?”

“Yes, but make it two please, thanks.”

“You got it.”

Mary and Dr. Cee continued to chat about the holidays, and how summer was going by so quickly. Mary paid him, and then asked about how things were going for him with the shop. He mentioned some things, and then brought Hilda up while scooping their milkshakes into styrofoam cups. He slid their milkshakes across the counter and then disappeared into the back, briefly, and returned with two bags. 

“Here you ladies go. I hope you have a great rest of the day.”

“Thank you,” Mary responded, already taking a sip of her milkshake.

“It was good to see you both. Hope to see you again soon?”

“Maybe,” Zelda muttered, and shot Dr. Cee a smile. 

“Bye!” Mary waved as they walked out of the door. Zelda was quiet until they were back in the safety of the truck, and Mary sat the bag in her lap.

“What is this?”

“You’ll see. Open it up.”

Zelda reached into the bag and saw that there were two to-go containers in the bag, stacked one on top of the other. She pulled out the first box, and opened it up. Her mouth watered as she laid eyes on the fluffy waffles that laid before her. There were fresh strawberries sitting on top of the waffles, as well as a healthy dollop of now melting whipped cream. Mary reached over to take the bag off of Zelda’s lap, and pulled her own box out. She sat a plastic fork in Zelda’s lap before opening her own box.

“I’m guessing you really like waffles, huh? Since this is your favorite order, and you named your horse Waffle.”

“Yep.”

“Good. Now I know something else about you.” Zelda smiled, digging into her waffle. Mary watched as she ate a few bites of the waffle, and moaned at the taste. 

“You are so beautiful, Zelda.” Mary spoke honestly, and Zelda turned to see blue eyes affixed on her. She blushed, and looked away before looking back at Mary.

“You are the one who is beautiful. You just enter a room and it lights up. Your personality, your kindness, those killer eyes and that gorgeous smile. I’m pretty much a goner any time you’re around.”

Zelda quickly looked away, and stuffed some more of the waffle in her mouth, embarrassed over her admission. She chewed and swallowed, hoping she hadn’t said too much. After all, she was the one who requested that they take things slow. Mary didn’t seem to mind, though. In fact, Zelda felt fingers on her chin, turning her face ever so slightly. There was a split second before Mary’s lips were on hers once more, and she hummed her approval. Her heartbeat pulsed rapidly and her eyes drifted closed. Mary gave Zelda several sweet kisses, her lips slowly kneading Zelda’s. She pulled back and smiled, her hand still holding Zelda’s chin. 

“It’s going to take me a while to get used to that,” Zelda said, breathily. Mary brushed a lock of hair behind Zelda’s ear and cupped her cheek. Zelda leaned into her palm, and smiled

“Don’t worry. There will be plenty more where that came from. All in good time.” She winked at Zelda and turned to start the truck. Zelda leaned over and closed Mary’s to-go box for her, and set it on the center console. She didn’t buckle her own seatbelt until she had given Mary a quick peck on the cheek, though. Mary turned and kissed Zelda in return, her nose brushing against her hairline. She left her lips there for a second longer, and sitting back upright. 

“Let’s get you back. I don’t want you to be late for work.”

“Yeah,” Zelda sighed and looked out the window, thinking of returning to her job—which she was starting to despise.

I wish I could just work with Mary all day...though I don’t think we would get much work done.

Zelda’s cheeks warmed as she thought about the kisses she shared with the other woman. It felt so good, and right, and she didn’t know why it took her so long to realize what was right in front of her. Not only was Mary lovely, she was also an excellent friend, which Zelda needed. She was the dearest person Zelda knew, and her heart leapt every time she thought of or looked at the brunette.

Their drive home was pleasant, despite the July heat. The windows were down, and Zelda sipped on her milkshake, all the way back to the house. When they turned onto the driveway, Zelda felt sad. She had had a pleasant morning, probably the best she’d had in ages , and she didn’t want it to be over yet. The end of her sessions with Mary meant she had to go back to her real life, her job, her anxieties and worries. Zelda hung her head, and willed herself to be strong. 

“Here we are,” Mary said as she put the parking brake on. She’d pulled the truck around the side of the house, where Zelda had seen her park sometimes.

“Do you need help unloading that equipment in the back?” Zelda asked, trying to prolong their time together.

“No. I’ll have Jonathan or someone take care of it. Thank you, though.”

Both women were quiet for another moment, and Zelda took a sip of her milkshake. Mary leaned on her steering wheel, and turned towards Zelda.

“I really had fun today, Mary. I know I’m supposed to be helping you on the farm...but it was fun.”

“Who says you weren’t helping? What you gave me today means more to me than you think.”

Zelda’s cheeks turned pink, and a smile danced around her lips. This was quickly becoming a day Zelda would never forget.

“I guess I will see you on Friday, then?”

“Most definitely. Do you have all of your stuff?”

“Yes. I think there is one thing I am forgetting, though.”

“Really? What’s that?”

Zelda leaned across the console and gave Mary a parting kiss, a short, sweet peck. 

“Mmmn, Zelda.”

“Sorry. I know I said I need to take things slow, but I just couldn’t help it. I needed one more, to hold me over until Friday.”

“You know, you are welcome here any time. I know we are supposed to be taking things slow, but I’d love to have you over for dinner again sometime. I promise I will keep my hands to myself.”

“You’re funny,” Zelda said, a light chuckle leaving her. “I think I’d be more worried about myself than you.”

“No way,” Mary said, in mock disbelief.

“Oh yes way. But that’s a conversation for another time. I’d love to stay and chat but I absolutely must get going.”

Zelda held her bag and milkshake in one hand, and opened the car door with the other. She smiled over her shoulder at Mary before she hopped down out of the truck, and walked back over to her car.

“Bye Zelda!”

“Bye!”

Chapter Text

Zelda walked into work later that day with a smile plastered on her face, and a blush on her cheeks. Everyone noticed something was different about her the moment she walked in, smiling and greeting everyone with a cheery ‘good morning!’ Oliver could tell something was up, and was on his feet rushing to Zelda’s office almost walking in step with her. 

“Good morning Oliver!” Zelda greeted, still walking to her office. Oliver didn’t say anything, and simply linked his arm around Zelda’s and walked with her through her office door.

“Okay. You have got to spill. Who are you, and what have you done with Zelda?”

“What do you mean?” Zelda smiled as she powered her computer on, and typed in her password.

“Seriously? You walked in here smiling , Zelda, and were telling everyone ‘good morning’.” Oliver spoke in a mock chipper voice as he imitated Zelda. She rolled her eyes, and bit her bottom lip. 

“Sorry.”

“No—don’t be sorry.” Oliver sat down on Zelda’s desk, and pushed her keyboard and papers aside. “Just tell me what is going on!”

“Nothing. I just feel good today, that’s all.”

“It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you saw Mary this morning, now would it?”

Zeda blushed profusely now, and ducked her head down. She tried and failed to keep the smile off her face, and her stomach gave a lurch.

Mary…my Mary...

Tears filled Zelda’s eyes, a now common occurrence on this day, and her smile grew.

“Oh my god Zelda. You have to tell me what happened! I’ve never seen you like this before! Did you two kiss or something?”

Zelda just smiled up at Oliver and looked away nervously.

“OH. MY. GOD! ” Oliver’s voice was a loud whisper, and he threw his arms around Zelda’s neck in a hug. She clenched her eyes shut, and sniffled.

“I’m sorry,” Zelda sat back out of his embrace and wiped her eyes. “I just...I never expected anything like this to happen, and I feel good for once. I feel happy.

Oliver now wiped at his own eyes, and reached for the box of tissues that sat on the corner of Zelda’s desk. He took out a tissue and handed the box to Zelda, who also took out a few tissues.

“Sorry,” Zelda said with a chuckle, and held her hands up in a gesture of exasperation. 

“There is no need to apologize. I am so happy for you, Zelda. You really deserve this.”

Zelda was silent and just nodded, dabbing at her eyes. Her nose had also started to run and she picked up another tissue and wiped it. She took a deep breath, and felt the familiar feeling of warmth stirring in her belly as she thought about Mary’s lips on her own. Without thinking, her fingertips traced over her lips as she stared off into the distance.

“Oh you have got it bad .”

“You’re right. And I’m terrified, Olivier. I don’t mean to discuss too much of my past, but I’ve never really fallen for anyone like this before, and it scares me. Mary is so special, and I don’t want to mess things up.”

Oliver took Zelda’s hands in his own, and looked her in the eye. 

“Don’t worry Zelda. You won’t mess anything up. From what I’ve heard, you and Mary are perfect together.”

“Oh god.” Zelda looked away from Oliver, and her lower lip trembled once more. “I...I really like her Oliver. I think I might…”

“It’s okay Zelda, you don’t have to say it. I can tell that your feelings are genuine.”

Zelda nodded, her lips pursed, and a distressed look on her face. “I also don’t want to buy the farm anymore. I don’t know what to do about it.”

Oliver’s eyes grew as wide as saucers, and his jaw dropped. “Oh Zelda. Faustus was just saying in our meeting earlier today that he expects an update on the farm soon.”

“Shit.” Zelda’s stomach soured, and she gulped down the bile that rose in her throat. “I don’t know what to do, Oliver. I don’t want her to lose her farm!” 

“It’s okay. We’ll think of something. Is there any way you can come up with something, some new information or plans from Jonas and Soleil? There has to be a way to delay things.” 

“Yes! That’s exactly what I want to do, to delay things.” Zelda stood up from her chair, and began to pace the room. “Now, Mary has already mentioned that she set up a GoFundMe page for the farm, and is accepting donations. We just have to find a way to help her raise enough money, so that she can cover the costs for the past few quarters when they weren’t making money, and then she won’t have to sell the farm.”

“Maybe we could sell something, and have the proceeds go towards the farm?”

“Yes, yes. But it couldn’t be us. Once Faustus finds out that we are behind any sort of fund-raising efforts that would make the company lose a potential purchase, we’re done. You know how Faustus feels about losing. He always gets what he wants. And now that he has seen the potential for the farm, I know he would never want to let it go.”

Oliver nodded, his arms folded across his chest. “Well. There has to be other ways. Do you know anyone in Greendale who might be interested in helping Mary?”

Who didn’t want to help Mary? She was loved by all in the small town… which meant that they would be very willing to help her! That’s it!

Every person who Zelda had spoken with in town about Mary—or who she saw Mary interact with—seemed to truly care about the woman, and her farm. After all, it was an important part of Greendale history. 

“You know what. I think I may have something. Come back and talk to me later this afternoon, and I’ll fill you in.”

“Okay. I’ll also go get you your morning coffee.” Oliver pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. “Sorry I didn’t have it ready for you. I was so thrown off by how you came in this morning.”

“It’s fine Oliver. Just, go and get it now. And thank you.”

“Sure thing boss!”

 


 

Zelda spent the rest of Wednesday planning how she was going to come up with a way for the purchase of Mary’s farm to fall through. She had never intentionally set out to fail before, and knew that letting Mary keep her farm would most likely cost her her job; however, it was a risk she was willing to take. She cared about Mary far too much to go through with things. Zelda dodged Faustus at every chance she got, and when she looked up at the clock and saw that it was time to leave, she quickly gathered her belongings and made a beeline for the elevators. She saw Faustus watching her as she left. He was preoccupied talking with someone else, but gave Zelda a look she knew well. She knew she could expect him for sure to be waiting in her office tomorrow morning. 

Let me not think about that now...it will just make me feel sick with worry. I don’t need to have one more thing to worry about.

In addition to feeling sick from worry and anxiety, Zelda was also feeling sick physically. She wasn’t a stranger to occasional summer cold when she overworked herself. Zelda got into her car and unlocked her phone, looking over her to-do list. Seven out of the eight things on her list were work-related, and she couldn’t bear to look at one more work-related task, not now. So, she was left with a trip to the grocery store. Zelda pulled out of the parking lot, and drove to the natural foods market that she usually shopped at. Luckily for her, everything was relatively close to her apartment, so she didn’t have to worry about violating the restrictions on her driver’s license. She made it to the market in under 10 minutes, and dug around in her back seat for the reusable shopping bags she kept there. 

Okay so I just need a few basics. I shouldn’t get too much, since I still have just under a month of community service hours left, so I’ll be splitting my time between home and Riverdale…

Zelda got herself a shopping cart, and deposited her purse in the child seat. She entered the store and headed first for the snack section. She was trying to find some healthier things to munch on throughout the day, and was going to try some of the snacks Mary recommended to her a while back. She looked over the shelves, and heard a familiar voice come from the next aisle over. She brushed it off as nothing, and continued on to the next aisle, looking for her favorite breakfast cereal.

“Auntie Zelda! Auntie Zelda!”

Zelda did know that voice. She turned just in time to see Judith running down the aisle towards her, arms outstretched. Constance came around the corner following her, pushing a full shopping cart.

“Hello you!” Zelda bent down to catch the running child in an embrace, and picked her up. Judith wrapped her arms around Zelda’s neck, and Zelda gave her a kiss on the cheek. 

“Hey Zelda. How are things?” Constance had caught up with them at the other end of the aisle, and now leaned against her shopping cart.

“Hello Constance. How are you?” Zelda sat Judith back down on her feet. “And how are you sweetheart?”

“Good!”

Constance leaned in for a hug, and Zelda smiled as she wrapped her arms around the other woman.

“Zelda you are just glowing ! What’s your secret?” She studied Zelda’s pink cheeks, and the way she suddenly looked quite embarrassed. “What’s his name, rather?” 

“Well…” Zelda blushed, and couldn’t keep the growing smile off of her face. 

“So I’m not mistaken? There is someone?”

“Well, technically, yes.”

“It must be good if you are blushing like this! Wow.” Constance reached out to cover Judith’s ears and she lowered her voice. “I need to spice things back up in the bedroom myself. It has been far too long.” 

“Well, we haven’t done any of that...yet.” 

“No s-e-x and you are out here looking the best I’ve ever seen you?” Judith pulled her mother’s hands away from her ears, and shot her a slight frown before turning back to Zelda. 

“He must be very special.”

“She is.” Zelda blushed again, and licked her lips as she thought about Mary’s mouth on her own. 

“She!” Constance looked shocked yet amused, and a slow smile spread across her face. “Well I wish you both the best Zelda I truly do. Love looks good on you.”

Zelda smiled, and swept some hair behind her ear, revealing a blushing cheek. She looked down at Judith, and cupped the little girl’s dimpled cheek. 

“How have you been sweetie?”

“I’ve missed you Auntie Zelda!”

“I’ve missed you too.” Zelda patted the child’s back and gave her a hug. “How is that brother of yours? Tell him I said hello.” 

“I will.” Judith reached out to take Zelda’s hand, and looked at her nail polish. 

“She really does miss you, Zelda. You’re all she talks about. Says she wants to go get her nails done like you.”

“Shoot! I forgot to ask you Constance!”

“As me what?”

“Well, Judith here mentioned that she did want her nails done like mine, over a month ago. I was supposed to call and set up a girl’s date for us all.”

“You’re too kind, Zelda.” Constance pulled out her phone and looked at the screen briefly. “You know, you can take her to hang out for a while now if you’d like. I have to go pick up Judas from his piano lesson, and I have a few more stops to make.”

The little girl gasped and looked up at Zelda with a look that was best described as a smiling pout. 

“Pleeease Auntie Zelda? I don’t care if we just sit around balancing your checkbook! I just want to spend time with you!” Zelda’s head was starting to hurt, but it wasn’t bad enough that she couldn’t deal with it. Besides, Judith was looking up at her with her hands folded under her chin. There was no way Zelda could say no to her, absolutely none.

“Well I suppose we could get up to something for an hour or two.”

“Yay!” Judith hugged Zelda’s side, looking up at her. Zelda smiled down at the child, and tapped her on the nose. 

“I’ve got to get going Zelda.” Constance typed something on her phone. “Bring her back before seven, okay?”

“Of course.”

Constance disappeared down the aisle, and Judith smiled happily up at Zelda.

“All right little one. I think we need to go get our nails done, what do you say?”

“Really?” Judith beamed up at Zelda, and gave her another hug. 

“Yes. I just need to get a few things here first, and then we’ll get going.”

Zelda pushed her cart around the store, and Judith chatted happily about what she was going to be learning at school once she returned, as well as the new musical compositions her and Judas had been working on. 

“We even started working on Christmas music even though it is almost August! Can you believe it? Judas said it is better to get a headstart, so we will know the songs well by the time Christmas comes around.” Judith said, as she placed items onto the conveyor belt with Zelda. Zelda smiled, and thought about what it would be like to have conversations like this every day, with a child of her own. She felt a familiar painful tug in her chest, and forced herself to think about something else. 

“Ma’am? Ma’am?”

“Auntie Zelda?”

Zelda shook her head, and smiled at the cashier. “Sorry about that.”

“No problem. Your total comes out to $97.83.”

Zelda reached in her bag and withdrew her wallet, unfolding it and removing her card. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Judith take out her phone to record a voice message, humming some notes under her breath. She caught Zelda, as well as the bag boy watching her, and smiled.

“I just got an idea for a composition, that’s all. I always try to record my musical ideas, so I can remember them later.”

“Cute kid,” the cashier said as she handed Zelda her receipt. 

“Indeed.” Zelda replied, a hand coming to rest on top of Judith’s head. The bag boy placed Zelda’s bags in her cart, and then looked at Zelda. 

“You two have a lovely day now, okay?”

“Thank you.”

“Thanks!”

Zelda pushed her cart away from the checkout and towards the exit of the store.

“What color nails do you think you want to get?” Zelda asked, as her and Judith walked across the parking lot to the car. Zelda had put her cart back and was now carrying her shopping bags slung over each shoulder, and held Judith’s hand. 

“Well, I do love purple—but I think I will get whatever you get. I want to match with you!” 

“You are a sweetheart. You can get whatever color you want, though, and any style. You want glitter? You got it. Stripes, polka dots—even a rainbow, you can get it.”

“Wow Auntie Zelda really? This is going to be so much fun!”

Zelda helped Judith into the car—as it was an SUV and quite high off the ground—and the child buckled her seatbelt. She sat her small school bag down on the seat next to her, and took out a book. Judith never went anywhere without a book (neither did her brother). Zelda turned in her seat to see what the child was reading, and saw that it was the Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

“Which book are you on?” Zelda started the car, and checked her mirrors before pulling out of the parking spot. 

“I’m halfway through The Two Towers . It’s kind of slow where I am right now.”

Zelda smiled to herself, and remembered her days as a youngster, reading the fantasy epic for the first time. Her and Hilda had been taken with the series. Edward too, now that Zelda thought of it. Their parents had made sure literature was a large part of their lives, and always read to them every night, until they were pre-teens. Zelda smiled, remembering a much younger Edward running around in the backyard with a broom between his legs, shouting “ Forth Eorlingas!”, pretending to be on horseback. Between the three of them, they sure had a lot of fun back in their day. Zelda looked at her rear-view mirror, and then back at the road. 

“Let me know when you finish the book, Judith.”

“Okay.” Judith finished reading the page she was on, and then caught Zelda’s eyes in the mirror again. “Have you read it Auntie Zelda? This series?” 

“I have. Several times.” 

“Wow! Which character is your favorite?”

Just as Zelda was about to answer, her phone started to ring, and she reached out to push the button to answer it.

“Just one second sweetie—hello?”

“Hi beautiful.” 

Mary’s voice filled the car, as well as Zelda’s heart, and she blushed, feeling warm all the way down to her toes. 

“Hi Mary. How are you?”

“Better now that I’ve heard your voice. How was your day?”

“Well, it wasn’t the best. But it turned around. As we speak, I’m currently taking my boss’s daughter to go get a manicure.”

“Oh! How fun! Do you want me to call you back later?”

“Yeah, I can’t talk freely like I would like to right now. I’m sorry.” 

“It’s okay Zelda. There is nothing to apologize for! You are busy. Do you know what time you’ll be free?”

“Most likely after seven. I’ll call you after I drop Judith off at home, okay?”

“Okay. I’ll be looking forward to your call. Talk to you later sweetheart.”

“Bye Mary.”

There was silence for just a moment, before Judith looked up from her book, and caught Zelda’s eyes in the rear-view mirror once more. 

“Aunt Zelda? 

“Yes Judith?”

“Who was that?”

“Oh, just one of my special friends.”

“Do you mean your girlfriend?”

“Well…”

“Either she is or she isn’t, Auntie Zee. It’s simple, really.”

My goodness. When did she become so grown up?

“Do you love her?”

Zelda’s heart lurched as she thought of the few kisses her and Mary had shared. She thought back on every hug, every touch, even when they first met. She didn’t have to think hard to find an answer to Judith’s question.

“I think I do…”

“Well then she’s your girlfriend!”

Zelda tried to stifle her laughter, and looked up in the rearview mirror again. 

“Just like that, huh?”

“Yep! Just like that!”

Zelda and Judith continued on with their trip to the nail salon, and got matching purple manicures. Though Zelda wasn’t a fan of the bright shade, she humored the child and went along with it. They followed up their nail date with a trip to a gourmet pizza parlor, at Judith’s request. Judith filled her in on just what exactly took place in the life of a modern day seven year-old. She told Zelda all about her busy schedule, one that nearly rivaled Zelda’s, and how she barely had time to play with friends aside from recess at school. Judith kept talking until the moment they drove up to the gated mansion where the Blackwoods lived, and she paused her story to tell Zelda the key code to get into the gate. Zelda drove her car down the long driveway, and parked right in front of the grand front doors. She hopped out of the car and Judith followed.

“You ready?”

“Mhmm. Thank you for taking me to get my nails done Auntie Zelda.” Judith replied, as her and Zelda waited on the front step for the door to be answered. Zelda heard footsteps on the other side of the door, and the front door swung open to reveal Judas’s smiling face. 

“Auntie Zelda!”

The child lunged forward to hug Zelda, and she encircled him.

“How are you Judas?”

“Good.”

“You two know you have to get to your violin and piano practice now, before bed.” Constance’s voice came from nearby, and she stepped into the doorway. 

“Mommy look! I got my nails done just like Auntie Zelda!” The child waved her fingers up in the direction of her mother's face.

“I see. They look good on you. Did you tell Zelda thank you for taking you out?”

“Yes.”

“Thanks again Zelda. She really missed you.”

“It’s no problem Constance. I’m glad I got to spend some time with one of my favorite twins. I’ll have to take the both of you somewhere next time.” Zelda placed her hands on the tops of both of the childrens’ heads. 

“I hope you all have a great evening.”

“You don’t want to have a glass of wine or something before you head out?”

“That sounds nice, but I’m actually not feeling too well. I have a headache that has gotten worse over the past hour. Thank you, though.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll have to come by some other time.” 

“It’s no problem. I hope you feel better. I’ll make sure to tell Faustus to go easy on you tomorrow.”

Zelda knew Constance was joking, but Zelda really did wish that Faustus were easier on her. She didn’t even want to think of his reaction when he found out the truth about her farm project. With a wave and a mournful sigh, Zelda left the Blackwood residence, and drove back to her apartment. When she was almost back home, she remembered that she hadn’t returned Mary’s call. At a stop light, she opened her phone and went to the most recent calls, and clicked on Mary’s name. The phone rang briefly, before Mary picked up. 

“Hello?”

“Mary, it’s me.”

“Zelda.” The way Mary said her voice sent warmth shooting straight through Zelda’s entire body, just as it had when she called earlier.

“Promised I’d call you back.”

“Did you have a nice time with Judith?”

“I did, yes. I know I never mentioned her before—her or her brother Judas. It’s complicated.”

“How so?”

“I mean, they are great kids. I’ve watched them grow up these past five years. Their mother is wonderful too, but their father, my boss…”

“The same guy who’s been giving you all this trouble lately?”

“Yep. The very one. The kids call me ‘Aunt Zelda’, and I love being a part of their lives—“

“There’s a but in there somewhere. I can tell.”

Zelda took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.

“I have been thinking about leaving my job. I don’t want to work there forever, and certainly not in the near future.”

Mary was silent on the other line for a few seconds, thinking of what to say, if anything at all.

“Mary? You still there?”

“Yes. I was just thinking.”

“About?”

Mary let out a sad sigh, and Zelda could hear her audibly swallow on the other side of the phone.

“I wish my farm were doing better. I’d offer you a job here. It would be fun. You already know the farmhands, the animals, some of the standard operating procedures…”

“And I’d get to see your adorable face every day.”

Mary giggled, and Zelda just knew that she was blushing, that she was smiling and those adorable dimples were showing in her cheeks.

“Now that would be an added bonus. Then I could kiss you—whenever I wanted. Well, not whenever, but for a good portion of the day.”

“Now that would be a dream.” Zelda felt sadness and anxiety wash over her as she thought about their current predicament, her wanting to back out of buying Mary’s farm, having to confront Faustus and tell him that she wasn’t going through with things. Tears welled up in her eyes, and her nose began to run. A horn blared from behind her and she startled, realizing she was still stopped though the light was green. She sniffled a few times in a row as she gave her car some gas, and the car that was behind her sped up and drove off, but not without giving her a dirty look first.

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah...no. I don’t know.” Her voice was all watery, and she knew Mary would be able to tell she was crying. Luckily, Zelda’s apartment building was in sight, so she wouldn’t have to remain on the road for much longer. She was distracted now, and knew she shouldn’t be on the road. Besides, her headache had gotten worse, and she wanted to lie down. 

“What’s the matter sweetheart?” Mary’s use of the term of endearment drew a sob up out of Zelda, and she covered her mouth, trying to keep quiet. She turned into the parking lot of her building, and found her designated spot. Zelda put her car in park, and leaned back against her seat. 

“Do you need me to come over?”

“I...I don’t know. I need a new job, a new life—not without you, of course,” Zelda said wetly, and wiped at her eyes.

“Don’t cry my dear. Things will work out. I’m almost certain. We don’t know what the future holds, but just know that I will be there for you. As a friend, and as more, if you want me to. We’ll get through this together, okay?”

“Okay…”

How is Mary the one reassuring me? I wouldn’t even be in this mess if I hadn’t been so headstrong with her farm. But then I wouldn’t have gotten to meet her either if I didn’t try to buy the farm. Ugh. This whole situation is a mess.

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?”

Zelda coughed, and cleared her throat. 

“I think so. I’ll be better when I get to see you again on Friday.”

“Mmn. I’ll have a big hug waiting for you here.” 

“I can’t wait.” Zelda sighed, and rubbed at the back of her neck. It had been a long day, and she was feeling it. “I need to go lie down. I think I might be coming down with something.”

“Take care of yourself sweetheart. And let me know if you need anything. Don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Thank you Mary. Have a good evening.”

“You too. See you on Friday.”

“See ya.”

Chapter Text

Zelda spent the rest of Wednesday evening in bed, feeling worse for wear. She did some light reading on her tablet on all sorts of things. Fundraisers, farm trusts, and specifics on real estate development pertaining to farm properties. Everything began to run together, so Zelda closed all of the tabs she had open, and checked Mary’s GoFundMe page.

She should have much more by now, if she wants to save the farm in time. Fuck. I really don’t want her to lose this farm. 

With tears in her eyes, Zelda fell asleep thinking of ways she could help Mary raise enough money to save the farm.

Thursday was its own particular hell. Zelda woke up with a pounding headache, and she felt like she hadn’t slept one bit. She dragged around the office, avoiding everyone. Oliver brought her DayQuil, and many cups of tea with copious amounts of honey and lemon in them. She had met with Soleil briefly in the afternoon, and had an updated plan of action sent over from Jonas. She was looking to have anything that could have served as an update for Faustus. The entire prospect of the project was becoming so uninteresting to Zelda, that she wondered how she could even keep up the facade for much longer. 

As long as I provide Faustus with updates, to give the appearance that I am working hard on this project, then I should be fine. Hopefully...

Zelda could barely keep her head up by the end of the day, and had to buy a large iced coffee just to be able to drive back to Greendale. The moment she stepped inside the house, Hilda immediately knew something was wrong, and sent her straight to bed. She then came up later with a tray of soup, some NyQuil, and a large mug of tea. Sabrina and Salem trailed in behind Hilda. Sabrina sat down on the end of the bed, and she held Salem in her lap. When she caught sight of all of the items Hilda had on the tray, Zelda rolled her eyes.

“I’m not even that sick. I just have a headache and am tired. Nothing a good night’s sleep won’t take care of.”

“Well you do forget I did grow up with you and live with you for a considerable part of your life, so I know when my sister is sick.”

Hilda walked over to Zelda’s side and placed the back of her hand against her forehead.

“Hm. You’re warm.”

“Well I would hope so, as I am alive.”

“You know what I mean,” Hilda replied, exasperated. “Do you feel like you have a temperature?” 

“No…” Zelda did feel off, and the left side of her head was hurting, near her ear.

“Well if you start to feel any worse, please go and get checked out. I know how you feel about doctors and hospitals, but I just want to be safe, okay?”

Zelda didn’t answer, and just kept her arms folded across her chest.

“At least try to get some fluids in you Zelds. You need to stay hydrated—regardless of how you feel.”

Zelda took a sip from the glass of water that was on the tray, and ended up draining it completely, not realizing how thirsty she was

“Aunt Zee?”

“Yes Sabrina?”

“If you start to feel worse, promise you'll go get checked out? Please?”

Zelda crossed her arms and frowned. She always wanted to be a good example for Sabrina, and she knew that Hilda knew she would be less stubborn if Sabrina were around. Salem climbed off of his spot on Sabrina’s lap and padded across the comforter, carefully stepping on the soft, uneven surface.

“Look! Even Salem wants you to feel better!” Sabrina exclaimed. The kitten mewed and looked up at Zelda, melting her heart instantly.

“Hey cutie. You wanna come sit over here with me?” Zelda patted the bed and the kitten pranced over, rubbing his head against Zelda’s outstretched hand. He began to purr, and Zelda felt love course through her.

“I suppose I could try to eat something. Thank you Hilda.”

“It’s no problem Zelda.” Hilda stood from the other side of the bed where she sat. “I’ll just be downstairs. Give me a ring if you need anything!” Zelda smiled as Hilda disappeared from the room, and then looked over at her niece, who was watching Salem make himself comfortable up against Zelda’s side. 

“You can always text me too, Auntie, if you need anything. I’ll let Salem hang out with you for a bit.”

“Thank you Sabrina. I really appreciate it.”

“Have a good night Auntie. Sleep well.” Sabrina stood from the bed, and kissed Zelda on the forehead, the same way Zelda had done so many times to Sabrina when she was a child. Something about it brought tears to Zelda’s eyes. Maybe it was because she wasn’t feeling well, or maybe it was because of the nostalgia and the passing of time—who knew. But Zelda found herself filled with an immense love for her family in that moment. She took out her tablet and catch up on one of the shows she had been watching, while eating some of the soup that Hilda brought up. Zelda finished half of the bowl before the headache returned, and she decided to call it a night. Salem was now curled up at the foot of her bed, purring happily. She left him there, and turned off her light, slipping under the covers.

 


 

Zelda slept soundly that night, but when she woke up, the same throbbing pain was still there. It seemed to be centralized on one side now, and Zelda’s head felt full. When she stood up from the bed, the room felt like it was on a see-saw, swinging back and forth, and Zelda gulped back nausea. It took her a good 15 minutes to be able to move from her bed. She quickly took some medicine, and got showered and dressed, ignoring how tired she felt. The trek down the stairs nearly ended in injury, as the same uneasy sensation overcame Zelda once more. 

“Zelds is that you?” Hilda’s voice called out. She must’ve heard Zelda’s footsteps on the creaky stairs starting and then stopping several times.

“Yeah it’s me. I’m just going to head out to Mary’s. I don’t think I can tolerate any food right now.”

“Are you sure Zelda?” Now Hilda was at the bottom of the staircase, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.

“Mmn. Mhhmn.” Zelda nodded and held a hand to her forehead.

“You really don’t look good Zelda. Are you sure you don’t want to reschedule? I’m sure Mary will understand.”

“I’ll be fine. Thank you though.”

“You remember what I told you. At the first sign of any more pain you go and get checked out, okay?”

“Sure Hilda, whatever.”

“I’m serious Zelda!” Hilda called out, as Zelda shut the door behind her. Her head still throbbed on the left side, and she shook it quickly, a mistake. Zelda dug around in her glove box for the painkillers she kept there, and took out four. She swallowed them down with a gulp of water, and drove to Mary’s farm. 

She felt even worse by the time she got there, and wanted to go back to bed. 

It’s only a few hours, I can make it. And then maybe I can call out sick from work. I just have to make it these three hours.

Sweat beaded on Zelda’s brow and she wiped it away as she parked her car. Mary wasn’t waiting on the porch for her when she pulled up, and she felt relieved, as she had time to pull herself together. Zelda looked at herself in the mirror and sighed. 

I can do this. It won’t be too bad. It’ll be over before I know it. Then I can go back home.

Zelda got out of her car, and lumbered up the steps of Mary’s porch. When she raised her hand to knock, the door opened, and within a few seconds, she was in Mary’s arms. 

“Hello you,” Mary murmured, as she embraced Zelda. Zelda went weak in Mary’s arms, and turned to lay her head down on Mary’s shoulder. Everything seemed just a bit too loud and fuzzy right now. Mary held her tightly as the hug ended, and Mary pulled back with a question in her eyes.

She looks quite worried...about me!

“Are you feeling better?” Mary asked, hands cupping Zelda’s cheeks as she looked her over. 

“I…” Zelda winced, and brought a hand up to the side of her head. “I think I’ll be okay.” Mary reached up to feel Zelda’s forehead, blessedly cool on her heated skin. 

“Zelda you’re burning up! You can’t work like this.”

Zelda started to protest, but felt too weak to argue. She was so tired, and wanted nothing more than to sit, and perhaps lie down. 

“Do you think we can sit down? I don’t feel well.”

“Of course. Come with me.” Mary slipped an arm around Zelda’s waist, and guided her inside. Ray was on the couch, and looked up when he saw Mary with an arm around a very pale Zelda.

“Riverdale! You’re not looking too good.”

“I’m sorry Ray, but would you mind moving to the kitchen? Zelda is sick. I need to make sure she’s okay.” 

The older man had already started gathering his newspaper the moment Mary asked if he could relocate. On his way to the kitchen, he patted Zelda on the shoulder. 

“Hope you feel better soon. Dimples here will take good care of ya.”

He shuffled to the kitchen, and Mary was quick to walk Zelda over to the couch. Zelda sat down, relieved, and leaned her head back.

“My head is killing me,” Zelda said, hand palming the left side of her face. “It feels like there is pressure in my ear, like someone is shoving their fist inside of it.”

“Have you taken anything?” Mary’s hands cautiously reached out to hold Zelda’s face again, and she checked Zelda over again, this time more closely. 

“Yeah...I took some painkillers I had in my car—oh.” Zelda’s eyes closed as a fresh wave of pain washed over her, causing her to clench her eyes shut. She leaned forward and held her head. Mary was now extremely concerned, and rubbed Zelda’s back.

“I’m taking you to the urgent care, Zelda. something is wrong.”

Zelda’s jaw trembled, and she let out a sob—which was a mistake, as it made her head hurt worse.

“Oh sweetie.” Mary’s voice was sorrowful. She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the back of Zelda’s neck, where she smelled like shampoo, and her own scent. Mary let her mouth linger and peppered a few more tiny kisses there, for good measure. “I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well. Let’s get you checked out, okay?” 

Zelda sat back up slowly, her hand still at the side of her face. She wiped away her tears and put on a brave face. 

“Okay.”

Mary quickly informed Ray of what was going on, and her plans to take Zelda to see a doctor. He didn’t mind, but said that Zelda had to be sure she made up her hours. Zelda weakly agreed—promised that she would, and he left, wishing her well. 

As Mary drove Zelda to the urgent care, she held her hand, and checked in with her. It seemed like the longest drive of Zelda’s life. When they got there, Zelda started to cry, and Mary wiped her tears away.

“You don’t feel good,” Mary stated, fingers trailing over Zelda’s damp cheeks. “Let’s get you inside, okay?”

Zelda hiccuped, and shook her head. “It’s not that.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s...it’s the hospital. I mean—I know this is the urgent care, and not the same thing, but the emergency room is just around the corner...and it reminds me of that day…” Zelda hung her head, and her bottom lip trembled. It took Mary a few seconds to register that Zelda was talking about the day she lost her baby. Sadness washed over Mary like a cold chill, and she slid her arms around Zelda. Zelda went easily into Mary’s arms, and rested her head on her shoulder.

“I’m so sorry Zelda.”

“It’s okay. I just have a hard time coming here. I even try to avoid driving past, if I can. Brings back too many bad memories.”

“It’s okay. I’ll be there with you every step of the way. You don’t have to do this alone.”

Mary felt Zelda’s lips press against her neck, and it sent a flutter through her body. She turned and kissed the crown of Zelda’s head.

“Come on sweetheart. Let’s go make sure you’re okay.”

One, and then two hours passed at the urgent care, the clock ticking slowly. Zelda stayed tucked into Mary’s side the entire time, her aching head resting on Mary’s shoulder. When Zelda’s name was called, she asked Mary to come back to the examination room with her, her hands shaking. Mary jumped to her feet and took Zelda’s now familiar hand, following her and the nurse back to the examination room. The nurse checked Zelda’s vitals, took her weight and blood pressure and had her wait for the doctor. Zelda was tense the entire time, and Mary kept her distracted as best she could, until the doctor arrived. She talked about animals on the farm, her to-do list for the week, and what she was going to make for dinner that weekend. Zelda just listened, played with Mary’s hands, and tried to stay calm. When the doctor did come in to see her, she was diagnosed with a bad ear infection, which had been responsible for the headaches and fatigue. A prescription for antibiotics and an 800mg pain reliever were sent to the nearest pharmacy, and she was discharged. 

“Where are we going now?” Zelda asked, as they drove out of the parking lot in the opposite direction of Mary’s home.

“To pick up your medication. I don’t want to take you home without it. Besides, it saves you the trouble of having to go back out. Especially if someone isn’t at home to get it for you.”

Zelda looked like she was going to cry again, and Mary missed it, her attention on the road. She did however reach out to hold Zelda’s hand, and her thumb rubbed back and forth over Zelda’s skin. Zelda leaned back in the seat, and tried to ignore her pain, and instead focused on the feeling of Mary’s hand in her own. 

I haven’t even given her one kiss today, or asked her how she’s doing…

Zelda looked up to see that they had arrived at the pharmacy, and Mary was turning into a parking spot. 

“And here we are. If you just come in with me really quick to verify some of your personal information at the pharmacy, we should be back on the road to your house in no time.”

I don’t deserve this caring, beautiful human in my life. What a gift Mary is.

Zelda went inside the pharmacy with Mary, picked up her prescriptions, and left. Mary purchased a large bottle of water on the way out, but Zelda didn’t think anything of it. When they were back in the car, Zelda opened up her medication, and saw an uncapped water bottle being held out in front of her face.

“I got you the water so you could take your meds right away.”

Zelda’s eyes misted over, and she took the water bottle from Mary with an appreciative smile.

She thinks of everything. She really cares about me.

“Thank you.” Zelda popped a pill in her mouth and chased it with water, wincing as she swallowed it. She then repeated the same process with the other pill. When she looked over at Mary again, the woman was watching her intently, with a small smile on her face. Zelda took another sip of water from the bottle before replacing the cap. 

“Hopefully you will start feeling better soon.”

“Thank you Mary. For all of this. I’d probably still be lying in bed right now if I didn’t come to see you. Then again, the prospect of seeing you was enough to get me out of my bed.”

Mary leaned over and kissed Zelda on the cheek, and Zelda turned her face, so Mary’s lips fell next to her mouth. Her skin tingled where Mary’s lips landed, and she felt warmth rush through her. Of course, it could have been her slightly elevated temperature that caused her to feel warm. But Zelda forgot the ear infection the moment her face was near Mary’s, their skin touching. She rested her forehead against the brunette’s, and reached out to cup her cheek. 

“You are such an amazing person, Mary. I’m very lucky to know you.”

“As are you, Zelda. I’m so glad we met.”

“Me too."

Zelda tilted her head down, and placed a tiny peck against Mary’s mouth. Mary surged forward, barely giving Zelda a chance to break the first kiss, and joined their lips once more. Her hand went to the back of Zelda’s neck, thumb brushing through the hair at the nape of her neck.

“Mmmnf.”

“I’m sorry,” Mary said, panting as she broke the kiss. “ I’ve been thinking about doing that since I last saw you. I know you aren’t feeling well, and I promise I’ll ask first next time.”

Even in the midst of her pain, Zelda appreciated the delicious blush that now spread across Mary’s cheeks as she blinked rapidly, eyes not on Zelda. She tilted Mary’s head up and gave her another kiss, this one much slower, and sensual. Zelda finished the kiss with a peck over each of Mary’s eyelids, as well as each cheek, and the tip of her nose. Mary was turning pinker from Zelda’s ministrations, and Zelda gave her a final, lingering kiss on the lips.

“You never have to ask me for a kiss, just so you know.” Zelda winked and then leaned back against her seat, a smile on her face. 

“Duly noted.” Mary added a wink of her own, and started the car. Zelda’s stomach rumbled as they drove back to the farm, and though she wished she had stopped for something to eat that morning, she was more interested in getting back in the bed. When they drove back onto Mary’s property, Zelda was giving herself a mental pep talk for the drive back home, trying to gather up some energy, if there was any left. Mary parked her truck right next to Zelda’s car, and ran around the front end, opening Zelda’s door and holding out a hand. Zelda took her hand, and stepped down out of the truck onto unsteady feet. She took a step back, trying to gather her bearings, and Mary closed the door behind her. 

“Don’t leave yet. I want to drive you back home.”

Zelda frowned at this, not wanting to wait around any longer than she needed to. The idea of not having to drive was enticing, though.

“In my car, or yours?”

“Yours. That way, you don’t have to worry about coming back to get it. You aren’t feeling well, and I want to make sure you are okay. I don’t want you driving right now.”

“Um, okay.” Zelda looked around, and moved to stand in the shade of the porch. Mary followed her, and leaned against the wooden banister of her porch. 

“How will you get back?”

“I’ll call Jonathan. It’s no problem. Really.”

 Mary walked to her front door, and opened it, pausing to look back at Zelda. 

“I just need to go inside and grab something. I’ll be right back.”

Zelda wondered what Ray was making of all of this, and hoped that he wouldn’t be too upset with her for not working her hours for the day. She then realized his car was no longer parked outside, and breathed a sigh of relief. There was no way they would be able to hide their blossoming relationship from the older man now, and Zelda was certain he knew what was going on. Especially with the stern talking to he gave her a few days prior. Zelda yawned, stretching her arms up over her head, and wiped at her eyes. Mary came back through the front door, and locked it behind her.

“You ready to go?”

“Yeah.”

 


 

Mary held Zelda’s hand once more as they drove, and Zelda lifted it up every so often to press kisses to the back of it. Her unwell state was causing her to be rather affectionate, but somehow she liked being affectionate with Mary. It just felt good, and right. Zelda was still afraid to let herself give into the feelings completely, was scared that something would go wrong.

I hope I don’t mess things up. Please, Universe, anyone—please don’t let me mess things up. 

Zelda brought Mary’s hand up to kiss the back once more, just as they were parking in her driveway. Hilda’s car was parked outside, and Zelda groaned. There was no way they would be able to hide from Hilda. Zelda wordlessly got out of the car, bag of medication and purse in hand.

“Thank you for this, Mary.”

“It’s no problem, Zelda. I’m glad I could help.” She handed Zelda the keys, and Zelda’s hands shook. She fumbled with the keys and the keyhole, trying to find the correct key. 

“Easy now. There’s no rush.” Mary moved close to Zelda and place her hand on the small of her back. 

“I know. I’m just nervous about Hilda. I haven’t told her about us yet.”

“It’s going to be okay. Don’t worry.”

Zelda opened the door, and stepped inside the cool house. “Hilda?”

“Zelds is that you?”

“Yeah.”

Hilda appeared around the corner, a look of surprise on her face.

“Oh! Mary! It’s lovely to see you! How are things going?”

“Well, I’m just looking after your sister here. She wasn’t feeling well, so I took her to get checked out.”

“Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.”

Zelda looked embarrassed at being discussed while present, and turned for the staircase. 

“I think I’m going to go to bed now. I’ll talk to you in a bit Hilda...” Zelda made eye contact with Mary, and gave a slight nod of her head in the direction of the staircase, and Mary reached out her hand to Zelda’s back. Hilda noticed, of course, and her smile grew.

“I’m just going to make sure she is okay,” Mary said, blushing. 

“Well don’t let me keep you two. I’ll talk with you later.” Hilda disappeared back to whatever she was doing, and Mary followed Zelda up the stairs, a hand still at the small of her back, just in case. She followed Zelda down the hall to her room, and through the door. Zelda closed her bedroom door behind them, and then kicked her shoes off, tossing her purse aside. Mary folded her hands, and averted her gaze, not really sure what to do. 

“I’m just going to go to the bathroom really quick.” 

Mary nodded, and watched as Zelda opened her closet and pulled out a silk nightgown. She went into her ensuite bathroom and Mary could hear the sound of clothes hitting the floor. The sound of the toilet seat lid echoed, and moments later there was a flush, and then water rushing from the sink. Mary had been looking across the room, out of Zelda’s window, and was taken by surprise when Zelda re-appeared, now clad in a thin silk nightgown, pale flesh on display.

“Wow. You look...wow. You’re beautiful, Zelda.” 

Zelda looked down and held her arms out, jeans and shirt draped over her arm. “This old thing?” She gave a little toss of her hair over her shoulder, and then winced, suddenly looking dizzy. Mary went over to Zelda, and took the clothes from her arm, and draped them over her own shoulder. She took Zelda’s wrist, leading her to the bed.

“Come on. Let’s get you in the bed. I’ll let Oliver know that you aren’t feeling well.” Mary reached to peel back the covers, and Zelda climbed into bed. Mary tucked the covers up around Zelda, and leaned forward to kiss her on the forehead. 

“Sleep well. I hope you feel better.”

“Mmmn. I will, now that I’ve been tucked into bed by my favorite farmer.”

Mary leaned against the edge of the bed, her hands still on either side of Zelda.

“Your favorite farmer, you say?”

“Mhmm. The best one I know. The only one I know. Therefore, the best.”

Mary snickered, and Zelda yawned again. 

“I am quite exhausted.”

“Get some rest, okay?” Mary stroked Zelda’s cheek. “I’ll just call Oliver and then be on my way.”

Zelda was silent for a while, and Mary thought she was drifting off. She opened her eyes, looking directly into Mary’s, and sighed. 

“Do you think you could stay for a little bit? Just until I fall asleep?”

Zelda looked so vulnerable and small, tucked into her bed, fluffy pillows around her. Mary’s heart was melting, practically liquid in her chest. Seeing Zelda like this was not good for her health. She felt like she was going to pass out from how cute Zelda was, right then and there.

“Of course.”

Mary gave Zelda’s shoulder a squeeze and then slid down from the bed. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and went for the door, stepping out into the hallway. She winked at Zelda right before she disappeared from sight, and Zelda felt butterflies in her stomach, even in her current state. Mary’s voice echoed in the hall, soft and warm, and Zelda felt like she could listen to Mary read the phonebook and it would make her feel good. 

I really like Mary...so much…

Mary stepped back into the room, and closed the door behind her. Zelda cracked one eye open, and looked over at her.

“What’d he say?”

“He said that he hopes you feel better. Mentioned something about your boss.”

“Shit.” Zelda sat up quickly from the bed, looking disoriented. “I knew I shouldn’t have called in. Faustus is going to be so upset with me. I should just go in, try to work things out.” Zelda tossed the covers back and swung her legs around, moving to get out of bed.

Mary rushed around to the side of the bed and stopped Zelda from going any further.

“Zelda no, it’s okay. Here, get back in bed.” 

Zelda gave in, and climbed back under the covers, a defeated look on her face. “He is going to be so upset with me,” Zelda muttered, turning to lie on her stomach. Mary reached out and began to rub Zelda’s back in slow circles.

“Then he will have to be mad. You are sick Zelda, and I’m sure you can afford to miss one day. He is going to just have to accept it. If he has a problem with it, then he can talk to me.”

“I love it when you are all protective and caring,” Zelda muttered, her face now slightly pressed into the pillow. 

“Well I like looking after you, and I do care for you.”

“I care for you too...and these painkillers. I took another one you know. I’m feeling gooooood.”

Oh Zelda , Mary thought. My heart belongs completely to you.

“I’m glad. I don’t want you to have any pain.”

“How can I, when you’re here?” 

Mary’s hand stopped momentarily on Zelda’s back, and she felt tears well up in her eyes. Zelda was smiling happily as she drifted off, and Mary leaned forward again to kiss her, this time next to her ear. 

“Sleep well, my darling.”

 


 

Mary tiptoed down the hall from Zelda’s bedroom, and walked down the stairs. She called Jonathan, and let him know that she was ready to be picked up. He told her that he would be on his way, as soon as he finished the task he was currently in the middle of. Downstairs, Mary  walked over to where she had seen Hilda go earlier, and looked for the younger Spellman sister.

“Hilda? I’m heading out now.”

Mary peered around the corner, and found Hilda sitting down at the kitchen table, knitting supplies piled up around her, a notebook out in front of her, and her brows creased in concentration. She wore red glasses, a thin metal cord on each arm of the spectacles, draped around the back of her neck, and she was writing.

“Hilda?”

“Oh, love, I didn’t hear you. I’m sorry.” Hilda’s demeanor changed, and she was back to her smiling, bubbly self. “Would you like anything to eat or drink? Have a seat.” Hilda gestured to the empty chairs around the table. 

“I’m good, thanks.” Mary slid into a seat across from Hilda, and leaned around the piles of yarn.

“I’m sorry about all of this. I’m just getting started on my Christmas knitting early this year. You knit?”

“Actually, I do.”

“Oh wonderful! Anything in particular? Scarves, socks, sweaters?”

“Basically all of those things. Growing up, we weren’t rich, even though we had the farm. My nana taught me how to knit. Made me many sweaters, scarves, hats, and socks to keep me warm throughout the winter. As I got older, I started to make things for myself, and I haven’t really stopped since.”

“That is amazing, Mary.”

Mary blushed at the compliment, and turned her attention towards some of the cream-colored hanks of yarn that sat piled up in front of her. “Is this alpaca?”

“Hm? Oh, yes. I got it from a local farm.”

“This is going to be lovely when you use it. What are you planning to make with it?”

“A sweater for Ambrose. That boy still just keeps growing, even though he is just about finished with his teenage years. Have to keep my niece and nephew warm this winter!” Hilda said, a playful lilt to her voice.

“You’re a great aunt, Hilda. Both you and Zelda are, actually.”

“You are very kind, dear. You only see the external results, though. We’ve both struggled over the years, raising Ambrose and Sabrina. Luckily they are both amazing young people, and will most likely become successful, loving, kind adults.”

“I’m sure their parents would be very proud of you both.” 

Hilda’s eyes grew wet, and she let out a sob, looking down at the notebook on the table. 

“Sometimes I wish Edward were here, so he could at least see Sabrina. He passed away when Sabrina was barely a few months old. Ambrose’s parents passed away when he was very young, and we didn’t know them well.”

“I’m so sorry Hilda.” Zelda hadn’t delved into this part of her family history yet, and Mary didn’t want to pry, respecting her privacy. “I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for you both.”

“It was very rough. We three were inseparable. Sabrina reminds us of Edward more and more each day. It is especially hard for Zelda. She was very close to Edward, and her and Sabrina used to butt heads a lot. They still do, sometimes. It was especially bad when Zelda had...oh, never mind.”

“When she lost her baby?”

“So she’s told you.” 

“It came out several days back.” Mary bit at a piece of dry skin on her bottom lip, and took a deep breath.

“She doesn’t usually tell people. That’s how I know for sure that she thinks highly of you.”

Mary looked up, a question in her eyes. Hilda put her pen down, and folded her hands on top of the table.

“Mary, Zelda just doesn’t open up to anyone. I think you’re good for her. Especially because I’ve never seen her this happy in my entire life. Thank you for making her happy, for loving her.”

“I...I…” Mary faltered. “You’re welcome.” Mary rubbed her arm, and her cheeks burned. “I really care about her.” 

“I know. I can tell.

Mary got nervous under Hilda’s gaze, and hoped the woman wouldn’t find her pathetic. It did seem like a rather silly crush, if Mary thought about it. Zelda was accomplished, well-off, and most likely hung out with people in a completely different social circle than Mary.

I don’t even have a social circle, now that I think of it…

Mary felt sadness settle in over her, and she hung her head. She really liked Zelda, would do anything for her—but what if Zelda got tired of her, and moved on for someone more, someone more...? The thought of Zelda being with someone else sent a bitter taste to Mary’s mouth, and almost caused a physical pain in her chest.

“Are you okay Mary?”

“Hm?” 

“Are you okay? You got a look in your eyes, like you were sad about something.”

“It’s nothing,” Mary tried to brush it off, and tilted her head back, as tears filled her eyes.

I love Zelda! I am in love with Zelda! And I have never fallen in love with a woman before...

“Are you sure?”

Mary shook her head, and started to cry. She smiled as her heart cracked open with the acceptance of the depth of her feelings.

“I’m sorry. I just—have you ever been in love before, and that realization just hits you like a ton of bricks, and you feel like you can’t breathe?”

“Yes, I have—I currently am in love.” 

“I’ve never felt like this before. I mean—I used to be married, but we got a divorce. The spark just wasn’t there. But now, this...this thing. It feels so new, yet so right.”

“You are in love with Zelda.” It was a statement, more than a question, and Mary nodded, tears still streaming down her face. Hilda’s eyes got watery at Mary’s admission, and a tear rolled down her cheek. “Zelda talks about you all the time, you know. I don’t even think she realizes it. You seem like a good fit.”

“I hope so. I’ve never been with a woman before.”

“Really?”

“Nope. Never.”

“Wow. I really am not trying to sound rude or anything, but I assumed you were quite experienced in that department.” 

Mary stared at Hilda, and Hilda worried she had offended the woman. But she was soon relieved when Mary started laughing, tears of joy springing to her eyes.

“You should’ve seen your face just now. Oh man.”

“I’m sorry. I just thought you were into women. I shouldn’t have assumed. That is horribly outdated of me.”

“It’s okay.” Mary looked down at the overalls she wore, and raised her eyebrows. “Now that you mention it, if I saw myself in public, I’d think I were into women too.”

“And there is nothing wrong with that.”

“I just worry that I won’t be—that I’m not good enough, for Zelda. Oh god, this is ridiculous. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be airing my insecurities like this.”

“You’re fine. I’m not here to judge, love. If you ever want to talk—“

Hilda was cut off by Mary’s phone ringing, and Mary slipped it out of her pocket, swiping her finger across the screen and bringing it up to her ear. 

“Hi Jonathan...okay, be right out.” Mary locked her phone and put it back in her pocket. “I gotta go, but thanks for the chat and all. Good luck with your knitting!” Mary looked like she couldn’t get away fast enough, and Hilda barely had time to stand up from the table before Mary had raced out the front door.

What am I going to do with these two... Hilda thought, and smiled to herself.

Chapter Text

Everything was warm, comfy, and Zelda felt great. The pain of her earache was temporarily forgotten, and she woke up with a dreamy smile on her face. Someone had been calling her name, and that was what woke her. Not only did she hear her name being called, but she could also sense someone sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Mary?” Zelda muttered, eyes still closed. “Mary? Is that you?”

“I’m afraid it’s not, love.” Hilda replied. Zelda shot upright in bed, and held a hand up to her forehead, the room spinning.

“Woah.”

“Easy Zelda, take it easy. It’s just me.”

Zelda looked past her sister, towards the bedroom door.

“She had to go home love, remember?”

A blush crept across Zelda’s cheeks, and she leant back against the pillows, dropping her gaze. 

“You know, you don’t have to be embarrassed about it. I know how you two feel about each other.”

“All of Greendale might as well know by now,” Zelda huffed. “What time is it?”

“It’s just after one. You slept straight through lunch.”

“Hm.” Zelda yawned, covering her mouth. “You know, I had a really good idea, while I was sleeping.”

“Really? About what?”

“Mary and the farm. I think we should do a fundraising day, to help her raise money. It can be like an end of summer festival, before all of the kids go back to school for the fall.”

“That’s...that’s actually a really good idea! I think Mary would like that, especially since she already has the whole pumpkin patch fall thing she does each year.”

“Yes!” Zelda tossed the covers back and tried to stand from bed, taking a moment to wait for the feeling of lightheadedness to pass. 

“Be careful Zelda. I brought you some lunch up here. Have something to eat first, before you get into your work.”

Hilda had gone over to Zelda’s vanity, and was back at her sister’s bedside, a tray in hand. There was a sandwich, apple slices, a mug of tea, a glass of water, and her medication. She sat it down and reached for Zelda’s tablet, setting it on the bed next to her.

“Here we are. I’m assuming you haven’t eaten yet today, right?”

“Yes. Thank you Hilda. I really appreciate it.”

Zelda unlocked her tablet, and started to look up carnival rides available for rent, as well as food trucks. She picked at her lunch as she went through page after page. A pinging noise sounded and a notification popped up. Zelda had a new message, and it was from Mary. 

Hope you are feeling a bit better <3

Zelda typed a quick message back, smiling as she wrote.

I do actually, thank you. Are you busy right now? Want to call.

Three dots appeared as Mary typed a reply. Nothing happened for a few seconds, and then her message came through.

I’m free now. You can call whenever you like, though. I’ll always make time for you :-*

A tingle went through Zelda’s body, and she felt warmer all over. Mary was such a sweet person, and Zelda didn’t know what she did to deserve her kindness. She clicked on Mary’s name, and started a video call with her. The phone rang several times before the screen said “connecting”, and Mary’s face materialized. Zelda’s heart nearly stopped as Mary appeared before her. She had pulled her hair back into a ponytail, and had her glasses on. Her nose was a bit pink, from being out in the sun, and Zelda wanted to kiss her. 

“Mary…” she breathed, unable to keep a smile off of her face. 

“Hi sweetie. How are you?”

“I’m a bit better. How has your day been?”

“Well, so far so good. I got all of my work done for the day. Jonathan stayed by later to help out.”

Mary licked her lips, and a dimple showed in her cheek. Zelda was mesmerized.

“That’s good.”

God, she is stunning.

“Mary you’re beautiful,” Zelda blurted, without thinking, quickly turning beet red. Mary blushed, and looked up at the camera from beneath hooded eyes. 

“Thank you Zelda. I think you are beautiful too. Always.”

“I’m sorry. I’m embarrassing myself.” Zelda covered her face, and sighed. “I’m sure I look a mess right now.”

“You couldn’t look more gorgeous. I mean that with all honesty.” Blue eyes stared unblinking at Zelda, love deep in their unwavering gaze. Zelda shivered, and changed the subject, uncomfortable with facing her feelings.

“Thank you, Mary. You know...I really wanted to call to tell you some good news—rather, to run an idea past you.”

“Sure!”

“I think I might have an idea on how we can raise some money for the farm. Now, you have a fall, pumpkin patch sort of thing you do there every year, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well I was thinking, why don’t we have a fair? I’ve been looking up rides we can rent, and food trucks, and I think it will be great. We can even have some of the things you have when you do the pumpkin patch. So what do you think?”

Mary bit her bottom lip as she thought, and looked off into the distance.

“Well...that is a good idea. I just wonder how I’d be able to afford renting everything.” Mary looked sad now, and Zelda’s heart broke.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll figure everything out.”

“That certainly is a serious undertaking. You really would do it? For me?” Mary’s voice went liquid, and her eyes misted over.

“Without a doubt.”

“But you shouldn’t have to.”

“I want to. Let me help. You just worry about the basics, as though you were getting things ready for the pumpkin patch, and I’ll worry about the vendors and rides, okay?”

“Okay.” Mary turned her face away from the screen, and when she looked back at Zelda, her eyes were wet, and tears were rolling down her cheeks.

“Oh Mary...don’t cry. It will be okay.” Zelda felt tears of her own springing up in her throat, and she swallowed them back down. Her tears fell, though, when Mary leant forward, and covered her face with her hands, apologies echoing in her palms.

“I’m ssssorry. *hiccup* I just never thought I would end up in this place, where I can barely afford things for the farm.”

“Please don’t cry, darling. You are making me cry. And I am not even there to hold you, and god do I want to hold you right now.” 

Mary wiped her eyes and smiled, a beautiful sight. “You are sweet, Zelda.”

“Really? I guess it’s cause I hang around with you so much.” Zelda yawned, and felt a dull pain. “Oh…”

“Is it hurting again?”

“Only just now, when I yawned.” Zelda rubbed the side of her face, near her ear. “I’m actually still feeling a bit sleepy.”

“You should get your rest, then. You need it.”

“I know, I know.” Zelda paused to yawn again, as if to add emphasis. “I guess I’ll talk with you later, or tomorrow?”

“You can call me anytime you like, Zelda.”

“Okay. I’ll see you on Monday?”

“I’ll see you then. Bye.” Mary blew a kiss at Zelda before hanging up, and Zelda just stared at the screen long after Mary had hung up. 

Well. There is no turning back now.

 


 

The rest of the weekend was spent writing down ideas as to what sort of food and attractions would be suitable to raise money, as well as other things that could be fun for the community, and help to raise money. Zelda made herself a list, and updated it as new ideas came to her. She ended up staying in bed all weekend, trying to recuperate so that she would be as functional as possible come Monday morning. Hilda found her sleeping with her tablet in her lap several times during the weekend, and took pity on her sister. Even when she was ill, she still worked tirelessly. Hilda knew that Zelda was an extremely hard worker, and would sacrifice her sleep and health for her work. It was an admirable but dangerous quality. 

On Monday morning, Zelda was brimming with excitement, and woke up well before her alarm. She quickly brushed her teeth, showered, got dressed, and drove over to the farm, eager to see Mary. When she got there, Ray hadn’t even arrived yet. Zelda felt nervous, knowing that she would have some time alone with Mary. She wasted no time in parking and knocked politely on the door. A few seconds passed, and the door opened, revealing Mary, her hair damp over her shoulders, and her shirt unbuttoned. Zelda’s heart danced wildly in her chest and she couldn’t help but smile. 

“Zelda.” Mary breathed, outstretching her arms. Zelda wrapped Mary in a hug, and buried her nose in her neck.

“Sorry I’m early,” Zelda said, her voice muffled by Mary’s hair. Mary slid her hands up Zelda’s back, one snaking into Zelda’s hair, gently scratching at the base of her skull. Zelda breathed deeply, inhaling the smell of Mary’s shampoo. 

“It’s okay.” Mary turned and pressed a kiss to the side of Zelda’s head, and kept hugging her. It felt so good, hugging Mary, and Zelda secretly wished she could hug her more often, any time she wanted.

“You smell good.” Zelda nuzzled her nose deeper into Mary’s thick, chestnut locks, and sighed. 

“So do you. Mmn. Let’s go inside,” Mary said, giving Zelda’s back one final rub. Zelda reluctantly pulled back from the hug, but felt the same warmth return when Mary took her hand, linking their fingers together. Once the door was closed behind them, Mary took Zelda into the kitchen, where she had a bowl of oatmeal she had been working on. There was a second bowl out, which Zelda knew was for her. Mary’s thoughtfulness was one of the things that endeared her most to Zelda. 

“How are you feeling? Did you eat yet? I have some oatmeal in the pot on the stove. And of course coffee and tea. Same as always.”

“I haven’t, and I’m doing much better. I still have some leftover fatigue, though.”

“Hm. Well I planned on us staying inside for most of our time today anyways. It is going to be hot out today, and I didn’t want you to stay out in the heat for too long.”

“That’s very kind of you.” Zelda looked at Mary’s back as she moved around the kitchen, and she pictured her and Mary there in her kitchen every morning, as a couple. Zelda’s stomach lurched, and her mouth became dry. They would move around each other as they prepared breakfast, sharing kisses here and there. It sounded perfect, and Zelda hadn’t let herself daydream like this, not for a while. She came back to the present, saw the way Mary licked her bottom lip, how her shirt moved as she reached for things in cabinets, how her damp hair landed across her shoulders. Zelda was overcome with the sudden need to have Mary in her arms, and she moved towards the woman without thinking, body on autopilot. 

“Mary I…”

“Yes?” Mary turned to look at Zelda, who now stood in front of her looking nervous. Zelda inched closer, and backed Mary up to the counter.

“Oh.” 

There was no mistaking the lust in Zelda’s eyes as she slid her arms around Mary’s waist, her hands warm through the thin fabric of Mary’s undershirt. Mary reached up and linked her arms around Zelda’s neck, as the auburn-haired woman moved in closer. Zelda wasted no time in capturing Mary’s lips in a kiss, soft and warm. Mary hummed against Zelda’s mouth, and Zelda deepened the kiss, pressing her back into the counter, her tongue exploring Mary’s mouth. Mary let out the cutest little moans, soft and needy, as their tongues moved against each other, and Zelda’s head felt buzzy. She felt a gush of wetness in her panties when Mary moved her leg up, hooking it behind Zelda’s knee, pulling her even closer. This action caused Zelda to feel bold enough to reach for Mary’s other leg, holding the other woman up against her. Somehow Mary pulled back just enough to hop up on the counter, not minding that their kisses had momentarily turned sloppy. Teeth clashed, and noses bumped, before Mary got comfortably situated in the counter. She looked down at Zelda, her lips swollen and pink, and swept her hair behind her ears. Zelda looked up at her expectantly, face and neck flushed. Her lips were wet, parted, and her breath came heavily, as she waited for Mary to make a move. Mary just looked at Zelda, hands cupping her cheeks.

“Beautiful,” she muttered, looking over Zelda’s face. “You are just so beautiful. I don’t think I’ve seen a more beautiful sight in my life.”

Zelda blushed under her gaze, but didn’t look away. She could feel the heat prickling in her cheeks, and sweat prickling on her chest. Mary leaned forward, careful not to fall off of the counter, and let her nose brush up against Zelda’s. She tilted forward a bit more and let her lips barely brush against Zelda’s, before giving her a kiss that the redhead felt all the way down to her toes. There was another gush of wetness between Zelda’s legs, and she slid her hands up Mary’s thighs, leaning up into her. Her knees felt weak, and she broke the kiss, resting her forehead against Mary’s abdomen. 

“Too much too soon?”

Zelda closed her eyes, and felt the brunette dropping kisses in her hair, her hands cradling her head.

“No, I just—I just need a minute.” Zelda didn’t want to mention that her panties were soaking wet, and for some reason today she just felt quite, well, horny. Not to mention, she was leaning just above Mary’s crotch, and could feel the heat emanating from the woman. A high-pitched whistle caused Zelda to jump, the tea kettle deciding on serving as a mood killer. Mary placed a final kiss to the top of her head, and Zelda backed away, looking quite red in the face. Mary hopped down off of the counter to tend to the tea kettle, and Zelda scurried out of the room. 

“Zelda?” She heard Mary calling after her, and felt embarrassed. She closed the bathroom door behind her, and leaned back against it, sliding down to the floor.

Fuck. What was that? 

Zelda checked in with herself, swallowing, trying to coat her now dry throat with some moisture. The feeling that washed over Zelda when she let herself enjoy the kiss without holding back—she hadn’t felt anything like this in quite some time.

Breathe Zelda, breathe. You can’t be ducking out like a hormone-riddled teenager every time you have a good kiss. 

Zelda took deep breaths, and fanned herself, willing her heart to slow down.

I don’t know who I am anymore. Mary has changed everything. I feel good . I feel loved, I—is this love? Zelda shook her head, and straightened her shoulders.

I...I’d better get back out there. Mary might think something is wrong.

Across the house, Mary was currently experiencing similar feelings as Zelda, though she run away from the scene. She had dreamt regularly of kissing Zelda, and felt like she was flying into sublimation when Zelda took her by the waist and pressed their mouths together. Sure, they had kissed several times before, the week prior—but this was different. Each kiss they shared was better than the last, and they always made Mary’s heart feel like it was going to beat right out of her chest. She too had an embarrassing wetness in her underwear, and chalked it up to not being sexually active for the past few years. Her marriage was headed for the rocks before the farm troubles began. Mary found herself bored during sex, and eventually started to turn it down, until Adam got the hint altogether. Obviously the sex wasn’t the main reason for their divorce, but it did contribute to it. Frustrated with both her and himself, Adam moved out, leaving Mary alone at the cottage. And then the farm’s finances took a turn for the worse. With all of the troubles at the farm, combined with the divorce, Mary’s free time for dating or having a social life became non-existent. And so, she took matters into her own hands, when the mood arose. Sometimes she touched herself, and she secretly looked up videos online, feeling guilty afterwards, albeit sated. She craved human touch, wanted to make love with someone she actually loved. But she wasn’t sure that was going to happen for her, not now, not until Zelda came into the picture. Zelda had awoken something inside of her, something that she thought was long gone. 

Mary hung her head, trying to cool herself off by thinking of anything but how badly she wanted to kiss Zelda again, and do much more. She heard Zelda’s footsteps behind her, and didn’t turn around until she felt Zelda’s hand on her shoulder.

“Mary? Sweetheart?”

Mary clenched her eyes shut, and nodded. Zelda was the one now comforting her, rubbing her hands up and down her shoulders. 

“I’m sorry if that was too much. I got carried away.”

“Mary I’m the one who kissed you.” Zelda said, a hand going to rest against Mary’s cheek. Her thumb smoothed over the soft, freckled skin in a soothing back and forth motion. 

“I’m sorry to have run off like that. I’m just...I was um…” She hesitated, and swallowed. “I really like you. I know I asked that we take things slow, but my body...my body says otherwise. You make me feel things...”

Mary physically and audibly sighed beneath Zelda’s touch, and made eye contact with the redhead. “I’m so relieved to hear that, because I feel the exact same way.”

Zelda pulled Mary in for a hug, and kissed her ear. They held each other for a few moments, just enjoying the feeling of being in a warm, loving embrace. Zelda slid her arms down to Mary’s waist, and Mary moved to look at Zelda, still pressed up against her.

“So. Maybe we should get started on some work or something, huh?”

 


 

Mary and Zelda ate breakfast together, smiling and blushing like schoolgirls over spoonfuls of oatmeal. Unbeknownst to them, Ray laughed to himself in the other room. They were quite taken with each other, and neither realized just how deep. When they had finished up their breakfast and cleared their dishes, they went to the porch to talk about the carnival. Zelda had a cigarette, and moved off to the edge of the porch, out of courtesy. Mary watched the way her lips puckered when she took drag after drag, and the “o” shape they formed when she blew out clouds of smoke. She was stunning , skin pale and creamy, face clean of makeup or any adornment. 

“You make smoking look really good,” Mary said as Zelda stubbed out the end of her cigarette. 

“Do I?” 

“Mhmmn.” Mary walked up behind Zelda, and brushed her hair aside to press a kiss to the back of her neck. Mary’s eyes closed as she breathed her in, and her lips traced over the soft skin. There was a slightly smoky smell, but underneath was all Zelda, her own scent, her body wash, her shampoo. Mary was addicted.

“I’ve been meaning to quit, you know. But, old habits die hard.”

Mary slid her arms around Zelda’s waist and gave her a squeeze. “It’s okay. I’ll still like you either way. Now let me in on these plans of yours. I know you have some great ideas to share, and I’ve been dying to hear what you’ve come up with.”

Zelda patted Mary’s hand, and they moved to the two adirondack chairs that graced Mary’s porch. Zelda moved her chair close to Mary’s, and turned it slightly so that they were turned towards each other.

“So, I’ll just read through everything I have, and you can tell me your thoughts on things, okay?”

Mary nodded in response, and reached out to give Zelda’s hand a squeeze. 

“Okay. So first, we need to have something for the kids. If people bring their families, then that means more chances to spend money. I know normally things aren’t all about money, but in this instance, we want them to spend money.” Zelda swiped down on her tablet, and then zoomed in on some more of her notes. 

“So I’m thinking we could do a petting zoo, with some of your friendly animals—wouldn’t want a lawsuit on our hands. A uh, bounce house, a big slide, and a train that goes around the entire fair area. I might even be able to get a ferris wheel here—a small one, of course.”

“I do like ferris wheels.” Zelda looked up at this, and smiled.

“Well, if you like them, then we’ll have to have one, won’t we?”

Mary leaned forward and kissed Zelda on the cheek, and settled back into her seat. “What else?”

“We can have some other rides, for the bigger kids. But ones that the family could enjoy too. One of those chair swing things, for one, and a Round Up, for the thrill seekers.”

“What’s a Round Up?”

“It’s one of those rides where you go inside of this circular thing, and you stand up against the walls. A harness comes down over your shoulders, and the ride starts to spin, spinning you to the wall, before it turns up on the side—I don’t know if I’m explaining it well.” Zelda tried to show the motions of the ride with her hands, and Mary watched with wide eyes.

“That sounds terrifying! Have you been on one before?”

“Yes, but ages ago. Back when I was much younger, a teenager. One of the times the Greendale Fair came through town, I went with Hilda and some friends. We rode that ride so many times that I couldn’t walk in a straight line, and I was sick all over my date.” Zelda stared off into the distance as she reminisced. 

“Oh you poor thing!”

“It’s okay. It was a good summer. Though, I did have to replace his white shoes.” Zelda looked over at Mary and let out a snicker. 

“I bet you were sweet, even back then.”

“I don’t know how I was. You’d have to ask Hilda...though she probably wouldn’t have anything good to report. I wasn’t the kindest to her, or any of my family back then.”

Mary lifted Zelda’s hand and kissed the back, and rested her cheek on it. 

“We all have things in our past that are unpleasant, Zelda. It’s okay. It’s just a part of life.”

“I know.” Zelda sighed, and looked back at her notes. “Now where was I…”

“Rides?”

“Oh. Yes. So, We’ve already talked about the kiddie rides, some for the adults...I think it is time to talk food.”

“That is the best part!” Mary exclaimed, and leaned over to look at Zelda’s notes. Zelda turned the iPad so Mary could see the notes she had scribbled down while bed-ridden.

“We definitely have to have traditional fair food—you have your popcorn, cotton candy, and ice cream stands. But I was also thinking of food trucks. They are easy, modern, and convenient.”

“Those certainly are convenient. We wouldn’t even have to worry about waste, or hooking them up to the water line or anything.”

“Exactly.” Zelda looked at her notes before continuing. “Craft beer truck—something for the adults, a deep friend truck that offers all sorts of things, from deep fried Oreos to funnel cakes, and a hot dog and burger combo food truck. I’ve looked into the hot dog and burger truck, and there is one that goes around Riverdale. It even has plant-based options, which will be suitable for those with alternative diets.”

Mary reached out for Zelda’s tablet and looked at all of the notes that Zelda had written, a smile on her face.

“You’re amazing Zelda, you know that?”

“Really now?”

“Mhmmn. You came up with all of this—even have the pricing all worked out and everything—just to help me save the farm. I know I probably mentioned it before, but no one has ever done anything like this for me before.”

Zelda looked directly into Mary’s eyes, and her face was serious. “Well you are worth it. Completely worth it.”

Mary leaned across the arm of her chair, a hand holding onto Zelda’s tablet, and gave her a kiss. Zelda slid a hand behind her head, and slid her fingers up into her air-dried curls. 

“How is it that you always taste so good?” Zelda asked, licking her lips. “I think your sweetness makes you taste even better. There has to be something behind that.” Zelda tapped the tip of Mary’s nose with her finger, and felt butterflies in her belly as Mary giggled, and a dimple showed up in her cheek. 

 


 

The rest of Monday was quite ordinary, much to Zelda’s relief. She had shared her latest developments with Oliver, and he was behind the idea one hundred percent. He went to his desk for several hours and returned with his laptop, as well as several designs for flyers that announced the fair. Zelda had asked him if he would be interested in helping her spread the word in Greendale, and he readily agreed. He also contacted the city hall for information on promoting the fair in the local newspaper, as well as on the radio. Zelda crunched numbers at her desk, and made phone calls to different businesses in Greendale, trying to get sponsorship and support for the farm. Most didn’t even know that the farm was doing as badly as it had been, and Zelda brushed it off as Mary having a busy life and not being able to keep everyone in the loop. She didn’t want to talk about Mary’s personal life, what with Adam and the divorce. She tried to keep things simple, and really sold the fact that the farm was a Greendale staple, something to be treasured for generations to come. Of course nearly everyone said yes, all wanting to help Mary. And she went home that evening feeling a step ahead of where she had felt the day before, and was feeling quite pleased. 

On Tuesday morning, Zelda spent the first few hours of the morning with Oliver, hard at work on carnival plans. They had decided on a potential date, the Sunday two weeks away. Zelda had Oliver email her the posters he designed, and she sent them to Mary, who was still deciding on her favorite. They worked up until 11:00, when Faustus barged into her office. Zelda quickly looked up from what she was doing, glad that her computer screen wasn’t visible upon entry into her office. Still, as a precaution, she minimized all of the tabs she had open, and opened her work emails. 

“Oscar, please leave.” Faustus demanded, repositioning a manila envelope that he had tucked under his arm. 

“It’s Oliver .”

“Whatever. Leave us. Now.” 

Zelda exchanged a worried look with Oliver, and he held a hand up to his chest, the look on his face apologetic.

“Faustus. How can I help you?”

Faustus walked over to her door, and closed it. He looked out of her office window that looked over the workspace filled with interns and others in lower positions, and they all scrambled to appear busy, as though they weren’t watching what was happening in Zelda’s office. He drew the blinds shut, window by window, and Zelda grew more worried by the second.

“You can help me,” Faustus opened the envelope and reached inside. “...by explaining this.” He sat down pictures, one by one of Zelda and Mary. Dread filled Zelda’s stomach, and it took everything in her not to be sick all over her desk. The first few were of them in town, sitting in Mary’s truck. There were photos of Zelda and Mary leaving the farm supply store, them sitting in the truck kissing—even some from before that day, of Zelda busy on the farm. Whoever took the photos appeared to have hidden in the bushes, around corners, and behind cars.

“Wh...what is this, Faustus?” Zelda’s throat had gone completely dry, panic stealing the air from her lungs.

“I think you should be the one answering that for me.”

“I was doing research…”

“You never were the best liar, Zelda. That was the one thing I couldn’t teach you.”

Tears swam in Zelda’s eyes now, and the pictures blurred in front of her. As she blinked, her tears fell, warm droplets onto her cheeks, and she looked away from Faustus. 

“Now Zelda. I don’t know what kind of charade you have going on here, but this is unacceptable. Completely unacceptable.”

“It’s not what it—”

“Ah ah ah” Faustus held up his hand. “I don’t want to hear it. So this is where you’ve been, all those mornings? Off playing house with some sad little farmer? And it seems you’ve gotten desperate, judging by the nature of these photographs.” Faustus pushed the picture of Zelda and Mary kissing further across the desk towards Zelda, and her heart broke. She was terrified of Faustus, and scared that he was threatening her, but seeing the way Mary’s face looked in the photo gave Zelda the courage to find her voice.

“Faustus this is illegal! You can’t have people following me around.  You can’t do this!”

“I will do what I want when it comes to my company. Besides, are you really going to call the police on me ? I know this job is important to you.”

Zelda wanted to slap off the smug, snake-like smile that was currently across his face. She swallowed back down some stomach acid, and glared at her boss.

“So, Zelda, I am hoping that my assumptions are wrong here, and that instead of whatever this looks like, I am wrong. I hope that instead of you traipsing off from your duties here, you really have ulterior motives, and are getting close to gain trust before  pulling out the rug from underneath her feet.”

Zelda felt sick. In the past, that was definitely something she would have done. She had pretended to be nice with more than one client, only to turn around and betray their trust at the last minute. Zelda always had to make sure she was extra mean when she saw looks on their faces once they’d realized what she had done. She would smile, put on an air of haughtiness, and later drown her sorrows in cigarettes and alcohol. It didn’t make it hurt any less, but she just focused on the money and her position in the company back then. Now the thought of doing that to Mary caused Zelda to gag, and she reached for her water bottle. Faustus watched as she brought the bottle to her lips, and drank, and shook his head.

“You look ill, Zelda. Don’t tell me you are having feelings of regret.”

“Actually I do, have feelings of regret.”

“Excuse me?”

“I...Mary is my friend, Faustus. I won’t hurt her.”

Faustus slammed his fist down on Zelda’s desk, sending the pictures flying, and giving Zelda a right scare. 

“You have to choose, Zelda. I want that property. It will make us a lot of money, and you promised that you would take care of everything. I don’t know what has been going on with you lately, but you will get that property, or you can say goodbye to working here, you understand? I won’t have you losing us money and opportunities.”

Zelda’s jaw trembled, and she nodded, though she didn’t agree. Faustus stared at her, and then placed his hand against the side of her face. Zelda flinched away from his touch, and closed her eyes. Faustus slid his hand underneath Zelda’s chin and forced her to look up at him. She tried to pull away and he held her face in place, forcefully, studying her with a scornful eye.

“Faustus stop . You’re hurting me!”

He let his hand slide down the side of Zelda’s neck, then dropped his hand.

“We used to work well together, Zelda. I don’t know what mid-life crisis you are going through now, but you need to snap out of it, and get back to work. Go and clean yourself up.” 

Faustus turned and left Zelda’s office, leaving her standing, breath coming in pants. There would be no way to stop the tears now, and Zelda rushed out of her office, to the bathroom. Oliver saw Zelda run past his desk, seconds after Faustus left her office, and got up to follow her. When he opened the bathroom door, he crouched down to see if anyone was inside. Only Zelda’s shoes could be seen in the last stall, and Oliver heard her cough.

“Zelda?”

Another cough echoed through the bathroom, and Zelda let out a sob. The toilet flushed, and Oliver walked over to the stall she was in. 

“Zelda,” his voice was soft, and he waited in front of the stall. The lock turned with a click, and Zelda stepped out, face red, makeup smeared. Oliver outstretched his arms, offering a hug, and Zelda accepted it without hesitation.

“What did that bastard do now, hm? One of these days I am going to fuck him up real good.” He patted Zelda’s back, trying to offer any modicum of comfort he could. Zelda suddenly pulled away from Oliver and looked embarrassed.

“I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to see me like this.” She walked over to the sink and rinsed her mouth out with water. 

“Zelda it’s okay . We’ve been through much worse together.”

Zelda gripped the edge of the sink and turned pale, as though she would be ill again.

“I can’t believe him. I can’t believe he would do such a thing.”

“Do what?”

Zelda gulped cautiously, and looked down at the golden flecks in the black marble of the sink.

“He had someone follow me, Oliver. Followed both of us, Mary and I. The worst part is that there are pictures.” Zelda shuddered, and her tears began to fall once more. “I don’t know whether to cry or to go into his office and give him a piece of my mind.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“Yes! Very! I tried to tell him that, but he only threatened me. I can’t quit now, not when we are about to have the fair so Mary can keep her farm. But I have to do something. I just don’t know what. I wish I had proof or something.”

“Do you still have the pictures?”

“They’re in my office…” Zelda gasped, and looked at Oliver. “I left my office open. We’d better get back in there before he takes them.”

Zelda turned and ran for the bathroom door, and Oliver followed. They walked quickly back down the hallway back to Zelda’s office, coworkers looking at them curiously. Zelda let out an audible sigh of relief when she saw that the pictures were still sitting out on her desk, and she quickly stuffed them back into the envelope Faustus had brought them in.

“Oliver you need to keep this somewhere safe, in case Faustus tries anything.” Zelda sank into her desk chair and held her head in her hands.

“I will protect these with my life. In the meantime, I think you should head home. You’ve had more than enough excitement for today.”

“I think you’re right.” Zelda placed a hand over her still unsettled stomach, and sighed.

“Maybe you should give Mary a call, and let her know what’s happening. Also she could probably cheer you up right now. I know I always like to speak with my significant other when I’ve had a bad day.”

Zelda couldn’t even deny that she thought of Mary as the special someone in her life. Not after the kisses and touches they’d shared. If someone were to mention anything pertaining to romance or love nowadays, Zelda immediately thought of Mary. If she was honest with herself, she thought of Mary anytime something made her happy. She wanted to share all of her joy with Mary.

But not this. This is too much. She already has enough to worry about…

“I’m going home, Oliver.” Zelda stood up from her chair, and started to shove things back into her purse. Oliver could tell that Zelda was shutting down, and that she most likely was going to go and isolate herself.

“I need to go to Greendale later, but I am going home to nap first. I’m still getting over that bug I had last week, and I don’t think I’ll get much more done here today. Tell Faustus I got sick if he asks where I went. Feel free to embellish as much as you like.”

“I’m glad you are going to go take care of yourself. Let me know if there is anything you want or need me to do.”

Zelda logged out of her computer, force quitting all of the programs she had open, not even caring about what she was doing before the drama with Faustus took place. She tucked her tablet into her purse, followed by her water bottle, and moved from her desk. Zelda turned to look back at Oliver, softening for a minute.

“Thank you for always being a good friend and the best assistant. I really appreciate you Oliver, and our friendship.”

“It’s no problem Zelda. I’m glad I can be there for you.”

Chapter Text

Tears rolled down Zelda’s cheeks as she made the short drive back to her apartment. She was nearly sick again while locking her car, anxiety souring her stomach. 

What if someone is watching me now? Has Faustus had someone hiding outside of my apartment too, in addition to Mary’s home?

The elevator couldn’t move fast enough. Once on her floor, Zelda hurried off before the elevator doors had completely opened, and hurriedly unlocked her front door. She went straight to her bedroom, tossing her purse into a chair in the corner of the room. With a mournful sigh, she stripped off her clothes and pulled on an old, oversized t-shirt, and some pajama shorts. Normally, Zelda wore luxury items to bed, fine silks and lacy things. But this outfit she saved for when she had a particularly bad day. It just felt more comfortable than any of her other things. She trudged to her en suite bathroom and hastily removed her makeup—what little was left of it—and thought to herself how she should probably go back to a matte foundation, if crying was going to be a regular thing in her life again. Zelda typically cried in private, where it didn’t matter if her makeup was ruined or not, or if anyone saw her. But now, there was a large soft spot in her heart, because of Mary. Her heart, once a tough, hardened organ was now a pile of mush. Mary’s presence in her life had truly changed her. Zelda flopped into her bed, phone in hand. With a few swipes, she set an alarm for herself, and then went to her messages. She came to her thread with Mary, and a thought gave her pause.

What if she isn’t safe, because of me?

Warm tears rolled across the bridge of her nose as she started to type a message, before she stopped herself, backspacing. Her phone let out a swooping noise as a text appeared from Mary.

Oliver just called me. Are you okay? He’s worried about you. I’m worried too. Let me know <3

Nerves twisted inside of Zelda’s stomach and she curled up onto her side.

I have to pull it together. I have to be stronger than this…

Zelda felt drained, and her eyelids felt heavy as she replayed the events of the day, struggling to stay awake.

Maybe I should call Mary, just to let her know I’m alright…

A fitful sleep overtook Zelda, and she dreamt.

An ominous presence followed Zelda, everywhere she went. She felt like she was being watched, eyes constantly on her. In addition, she kept getting text messages and emails containing pictures of herself. She yelled for it to stop, and then suddenly she was in her office, being publicly humiliated. Dream Faustus made a show of her failure to capture the farm, and everyone, including Oliver, Jonas, and Soleil pointed at her and laughed. She tried to leave but every door she came to, there were office colleagues there, blocking her entry. It was as if they were automatons cemented in place, unable to do anything but point and laugh. As Zelda started to panic, they closed in on her, leaving her little space to move, let alone breathe. The worst part of the dream was when she thought it was about to be over. Her colleagues suddenly backed away, made a path, and then Mary started to walk towards her. Dream Mary was completely stone-faced, not a smile nor dimple to be found. Dream Mary told Zelda that she didn’t want to see her anymore, because it was too risky being associated with her. This public rejection caused her colleagues to laugh even harder, and she truly had nowhere to turn to. Zelda squeezed her eyes shut and started to cry. Her hands flew to her ears as she tried to drown out the sound of their laughter, but nothing seemed to work. And so, Zelda screamed.

In the real world, Zelda cried in her sleep, tortured by her own mind. Sweat poured off of her, and her covers felt like they were suffocating her. She whimpered as she tossed in bed, before finally waking up. Her breath came in ragged, uneven pants, and there was stomach acid in her throat. She forgot where she was for a moment, and wiped the tears away from her eyes before remembering that she was safe, at home in her apartment, several floors up. She moved her leg and heard her phone clatter to the floor. She jumped down to pick it up, relieved it hadn’t cracked, and saw that she had three missed calls from Mary, as well as several texts. 

Zelda? Did you just try to call? 

Zelda looked at her call log, and sure enough she had called Mary, most likely while in and out of sleep. She went back to her messages and read the two that Mary had sent. 

Please let me know if you are okay.

I know I shouldn’t worry, but I am. I need to know that you are okay. Is it okay if I come over to check on you?

Zelda looked at the time, and realized that she also had slept straight through her alarm.

Great. Now I’ll have to deal with all of that traffic back to Greendale.

A knock sounded at Zelda’s door, and she nearly dropped her phone. 

I sure hope that is Mary. Please let that be Mary.

Zelda couldn’t help but wonder if it was Faustus, though.

What if he sent someone over to scare me in an attempt to keep me “loyal?” I wouldn’t put it past him. That sadistic fuck...

There was another knock, and Zelda felt herself get angry. She wouldn’t let him keep her scared in her own house. She marched out of her bedroom, and through her living room, right up to the front door. There was another knock, and this time…

“Zelda? It’s me.”

Mary!

Her voice was muffled from the other side of the door, but there was no mistaking who it was. Zelda quickly unlocked the door, with a cry of relief, and pulled it open.

“Quick! Come inside!” Zelda looked out into the hallway in a panic, looking in each direction. She all but slammed the door shut once Mary was inside, and locked it. 

“Are you okay Zelda?

“Are you okay?” Zelda threw her arms around Mary’s shoulders, hugging her tightly. “I don’t know how much Oliver told you, but I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry that you got dragged into this!”

“Zelda what are you talking about? All he said was that you had a tough day at work, that you went home sick.” Mary rested her palms against Zelda’s chest. “Are you still feeling ill? Is it your ear?” Mary lifted a hand to the side of Zelda’s face, and looked her over for any sign of sickness. She then placed her hand against Zelda’s forehead, checking for a temperature. 

“Hm. You’re a bit warm…”

“He didn’t tell you…” a look flashed over Zelda’s face as she paled momentarily, and took a step back from Mary, whose hands reached out for her involuntarily.

“I think we’d better sit down.”

“Of course. Can I put this in your kitchen first? I brought you some dinner.” Mary held up a reusable shopping bag that was stacked with plastic containers, and Zelda’s heart clenched. She loved this woman.

“Yes. It’s right that way,” Zelda pointed, and Mary disappeared momentarily. 

“Where are your cups?” Mary called out from the kitchen.

“Cabinet over the dishwasher, on the right.”

Mary reappeared with two glasses of water, and handed one to Zelda as she sat down next to her on the couch. Zelda drained the glass in its entirety and set it down.

“So…” Zelda wrung her hands together, nerves eating at her. Mary reached for her hand, and kissed the back of it before holding it in her lap.

“My boss knows about me doing my community service hours with you, and he knows about...about us .”

“Oh. Well, he was bound to find out sooner or later, wasn’t he?”

“Yes but, but it’s not that he found out. It’s how he found out.” Zelda gulped, feeling sick again. “He had someone follow me, and there were pictures. A lot of them. Even ones of us kissing.” Zelda looked as ill as she felt, and she shook her head, still in disbelief.

“What? He can’t do that Zelda! That is illegal!.” 

“I know. Oliver has them, for safekeeping. I want to go to the police—but I need more proof that it was him.” Zelda shuddered, and placed a hand over her stomach, which had started to hurt again.

“Good. You have to report him.”

“I know. He threatened me, tried to scare me away from filing a report.” Zelda absent-mindedly rubbed over her jaw, where Faustus had grabbed her earlier. Mary reached out for Zelda, who still was still staring straight ahead. 

“He knows where you live, Mary—I mean, my whole company does—but this is just a whole new level of awful. I’m so sorry Mary. I didn’t want you to get dragged into this. I didn’t mean to. It really is all my fault…” Zelda trailed off, and shrank away from Mary. Familiar feelings of self-loathing sent chills through Zelda’s body, and her voice caught in her throat. She tried to start several times before closing her mouth, tears threatening to overcome her. 

“I would completely understand if you didn’t want to see me anymore, because it is safer that way.” Her voice trailed off, lost to her tears. Zelda wrapped her arms around herself and shook, preparing for rejection from Mary. But Mary wanted nothing more than to tell her right then and there that she loved her.

“Zelda. Come here.” Mary held her arms out, palms turned upwards, and Zelda looked up slowly, still uncertain. Mary gestured for Zelda again, and Zelda only hesitated for a split second more before moving in for the hug she so desperately craved. She laid her head on Mary’s shoulder, and felt Mary tuck her chin over her shoulder in return. Zelda cried silently, and held onto Mary for dear life, trying not to squeeze too tightly. Mary’s hand traced patterns over Zelda’s back, her shirt still damp with sweat.

“I don’t want you to ever think that you have to stay away from me for my own safety. Your boss is an ass, quite frankly. If he wanted to get to me, he would do so, regardless of if you were in the picture or not. But I very much do want you in the picture, with me.”

Zelda sat back to see if Mary was telling the truth, to see her face. She saw nothing but love in Mary’s eyes, filling her with reassurance. 

“Are you certain?”

“Yes Zelda. By now I don’t think I could live without you. I mean, if I had to, it would be extremely painful.” Mary blinked from behind her glasses, a small smile on her face.

She really is telling the truth , Zelda thought. She was falling harder for Mary by the second, and knew that there was no coming back from it. Butterflies fluttered through Zelda’s stomach, and her now-mush heart started pounding. Zelda moved closer and kissed Mary gently, half-draped across her lap. Mary’s hand moved to her neck, caressing it her fingers a featherlight tickle against the delicate skin. In that moment, Zelda felt the sudden urge to kiss Mary until there was no air left in her lungs. But, she stopped herself, not wanting to do too much too soon or scare Mary away. Besides, there was the whole Faustus issue. She looked back after forth between Mary’s eyes, still unsettled by the events of the day.

“What is it darling? Tell me.”

“I really care about you. A lot.” 

“I care about you too Zelda.” Mary rubbed Zelda’s arms, encouraging her. 

“It would absolutely devastate me if anything happened to you, Mary. Especially because it would be my fault.” Zelda bit her bottom lip to keep herself from crying again. 

“It’s going to be okay. Trust me, Zelda. We can get through this. We will get through this, okay?” Mary took a lock of Zelda’s hair and tucked it behind her ear. Zelda nodded, licking over the spot on her lip where her teeth had been.

“I’m just worried. I had no idea that Faustus would ever do anything like this. Especially not to me.”

“We are going to stop him. Don’t you worry. Just relax now. Let me comfort you. I don’t want you sick over this.”

“Too late for that, I’m afraid.”

Mary brows drew together in concern, her forehead wrinkling. Her palm brushed against Zelda’s cheek, and Zelda’s eyes closed at her touch.

“Can we sit here for a bit? Maybe watch some TV or something?”

“Of course, Zelda. This is your house. We can do anything you like.”

I don’t know if you’d want to do all of the things I want to do, Mary…

Zelda sat up momentarily, leaning forward for the TV remote that was on the coffee table in front of the couch. Mary kept a hand on her lower back, watching as she turned the TV on and put the volume up a few more decibels. 

“Do you watch this show?” Zelda asked, as the commercial break ended and 90 Day Fiancé returned, jumping back into a heated scene between a woman and her family. They were arguing over her foreign fiancé, whether or not he was in it for the long run.

“I do, actually. It is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me.”

“Me too! I am way too into it. Knowing I am not alone in my obsession makes me feel better, though.” Zelda winked at Mary, who giggled and gently poked Zelda in the side. Zelda sat back on the couch and looked at Mary, gauging where she was going to cuddle up against her. Her eyes darted between Mary’s lap and her face. She held her breath as she took a leap of faith, and laid her head down on Mary’s lap, turning so she could still see the TV. Mary leaned forward to kiss her temple, which caused Zelda to smile. They got through half of the episode, laughing and exclaiming at the actions of some of the people. It felt good to spend time together, watching TV, and doing nothing. Zelda craved this in her life, and now that she had it, she didn’t know what to do with herself. She snuggled closer to Mary, and before she knew it, her eyes were closing. The last thing she remembered was a hand rubbing her back, and sleep pulling her under.

When Zelda opened her eyes again, it was later in the afternoon, and the TV was still on. A hand was playing in her hair, fingers wandering up her scalp, in a mesmerizing motion. Another rested against her back, a welcome feeling. Zelda flipped over onto her back, and smiled up at Mary.

“You’re still here.”

“I am. How are you feeling now?”

“Better. But hungry.” 

“Did you eat today?” Mary asked, stroking Zelda’s hair.

“I did, but I got sick at work.”

“Oh dear. You did mention that earlier and I forgot.” Mary stroked Zelda’s cheek, still looking down at her. “Well, if you feel up to it, I brought you some pasta, Caesar salad, and some garlic bread. It is a bit heavy if your stomach is still unsettled, but it is here if you want it.”

“Thank you Mary. You are so thoughtful.”

“It’s no problem.”

Mary prepared Zelda a plate of food, as well as one for herself, at Zelda’s insistence. She brought their plates over to the couch and they ate while continuing their 90 Day Fiancé binge, as well as one of the spin-offs. Zelda finished eating first, and went to brush her teeth while Mary took their plates to the kitchen, cleaning up.

“Mary?” Zelda called, now situated back on the couch.

“Yes?” Mary appeared in the doorway of the kitchen, wiping her hands dry.

“Could you come here for a moment?”

The brunette was already halfway to Zelda anyways, her feet moving the instant Zelda called her name. Mary circled the couch and looked down at Zelda.

“Yes?”

Zelda patted the cushion next to her, and Mary sat down. She moved closer to Mary, who watched her expectantly. Zelda’s heart was racing, and she reached up to remove Mary’s glasses, and placed them on the coffee table. Mary kept quiet, curious as to what Zelda would do next. 

“You know,” Zelda said, scooting closer to Mary. “I really appreciate you taking care of me.” Zelda slid her arms over Mary’s shoulders, and linked them behind her neck. She moved her face closer to Mary’s, and continued to look her in the eyes.

“You are the sweetest,” Zelda inched closer. “...most considerate person I have ever met.” 

And I love you…

Zelda kissed Mary on each corner of her mouth, with teasing brushes of her lips. Mary held onto Zelda’s waist, trying to keep herself upright.

“I love that I can be here for you Zelda. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else—“

Zelda cut Mary off with a minty kiss, hungry for the feeling of Mary’s lips pressed up against hers once more. A sensual moan tore through the room, and Zelda blushed as she realized the sound had left her own body. But she didn’t care. She was enjoying herself far too much. Zelda came up for air with a wet smack, a smile dancing around the corners of her mouth. Mary was smiling in return, her lips wet, the tip of her nose pink.

She really doesn’t know how beautiful she is…

Mary wore her hair down today, parted right down the middle. There were two small braids on each side near her temples, keeping the locks from falling into her face. There seemed to be some more gray hairs that had sprung up around her temples, and Zelda nearly swooned. She loved Mary like this, with her hair natural, no dyes, no makeup, just Mary. Zelda unhooked her arms and ran both of her hands up through Mary’s hair scratching gently at her scalp, as Mary always did to her. A soft moan left Mary, and Zelda found herself wet all over again. She wrapped her arms around Mary’s neck again, and pulled back slightly, trying to lay back on the couch. Mary didn’t follow at first, but Zelda kissed her on the lips and pulled back again, trying to give her a hint.

“Kiss me,” Zelda said in a plaintive tone, embarrassed by her own need. This time Mary moved with her, and placed her palms flat on the couch, on either side of Zelda’s head. She kissed Zelda, as requested, her tongue swiping over Zelda’s, tickling the inside of her mouth. Mary broke the kiss with a pleased hum, and a nuzzle of her nose against Zelda’s. Zelda lay with her arms now at her sides, waiting for Mary to make her next move. Mary slowly lifted her hand and ran her pointer finger back and forth over Zelda lips, her resolve weakening when Zelda’s tongue darted out over her finger. Zelda turned and sucked on the tip of Mary’s finger lightly. Mary flushed a deep red, and closed her eyes as though in pain. 

Maybe that was too much? She thought, fire now burning between her legs. Perhaps it wasn’t, though, for Mary sat her hands down on Zelda’s shoulders, and then spoke.

“Can I touch you?” There was a look of vulnerability in her eyes, icy blue yet completely warm, and it caused Zelda to melt. 

“Yes,” Zelda swallowed, and smiled. She wasn’t used to letting someone else be in charge; however, she loved Mary far too much to care, and would let her do anything. Mary’s hands shook as she moved them down Zelda’s chest, pausing as she reached the tops of Zelda’s breasts.

“I’ve never touched a woman before...or been with one,” Mary whispered, hands still trembling. Zelda reached for her hands, and kissed her knuckles. She looked back up at Mary while guiding her hands to rest on the soft mounds.

“You don’t have to be scared. I want you to touch me.” 

Even though Zelda had directed Mary’s hands to her chest, anticipating her touch, her nipples still hardened beneath her shirt. She knew Mary could feel them too, because her eyes grew wide. It was in that moment that Zelda felt a lifetime of love for Mary, a woman she had only known for a few months. 

Fuck.

Mary moved her hands to cup Zelda’s breasts, sliding her thumbs over her nipples. Zelda exhaled sharply, and Mary froze, uncertain. Zelda gave her a reassuring nod, and Mary starty to move again. She kneaded her breasts with a look of wonder, and Zelda arched up into her touch. 

“Mary…” Zelda whispered, feeling more wetness in between her legs. Mary’s hands slid down her sides, and Zelda instantly missed the feeling of her hands on her chest. But Mary had something else in mind, as her hands were now at the hem of Zelda’s t-shirt. She carefully slid it up just a few inches, revealing the creamy flesh she had been craving since Zelda’s accident with the horse. She held Zelda’s waist, thumbs swirling over her skin, before pushing her shirt up a bit more, to just beneath her breasts. Zelda’s chest rose and fell rapidly, and Mary licked her lips. She pushed Zelda’s shirt up even further, and her breath caught in her throat as Zelda’s chest was bared to her. Zelda reached in-between their bodies, and pulled her top all the way off, revealing her uncovered breasts. Mary now looked truly terrified, but also a bit sad. Her eyes now looked wet, and Zelda was concerned.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. It’s just that...you’re beautiful.” Mary reached out, hands hovering over Zelda’s chest. Her nipples stood to attention, dark pink buds upon milky skin. She had wanted to see Zelda for so long, wanted to feel her beneath her, and now she finally had her chance. 

“May I?” 

“Yes please,” Zelda responded. She moaned the moment Mary’s hands met her breasts, at long last. Even Mary’s thumbs shook as they now purposefully circled around her nipples. Mary watched the effect this had on Zelda and smiled to herself, before pinching the little peaks. This caused Zelda to moan loudly, loud enough that the neighbors could hear. Her head was tossed back, neck bared to Mary, and Mary couldn’t help herself but lean in and kiss at her neck. She kept her hands on Zelda’s breasts, and kissed and nibbled her way across her neck. Zelda opened her legs a bit wider, and traced one foot up the back of Mary’s leg, up her calf. Mary suckled at her neck and Zelda moaned again, hips bucking up into Mary with a gush of wetness. If they were wearing less clothing, Mary for sure would know what was going on between Zelda’s legs. Zelda kept her eyes closed, tingling all over from the sensations of Mary teasing her, her neck still red.

“You are absolutely gorgeous, Zelda,” Mary muttered into her neck before sitting back up. “I can’t wait to try other things with you.”

At this, Zelda’s eyes shot open, and Mary giggled at her reaction.

“Not right now, but soon.” She gave Zelda another kiss, Zelda’s eyes still wide, her pulse racing. Mary backed up off of Zelda and offered her a hand. Zelda took it, glad for the support as the blood rushed to her head. 

“You really are going to be the death of me, aren’t you?” Zelda found her voice, now a deep rasp.

“Not if you don’t kill me off first,” Mary said with a wink. 

“Mary that was...you are...I can’t even find the words. I need to change my underwear, actually.” Zelda blushed, suddenly embarrassed, and looked at the TV. Mary placed a finger against Zelda’s chin, and kissed her. 

“Wanna know a secret?” Mary asked, a mischievous look on her face. She had one eyebrow raised, and her mouth formed a cute little smirk.

“Okay…”

“I may need to change mine too.” Mary gave her a wink and put the tip of her pointer finger between her teeth, biting it. She stood up and walked back to the kitchen. Zelda’s jaw dropped, and tried her best to collect herself.

There is no way I will survive if she starts teasing me like this. I won’t make it.

Zelda sat back and took deep breaths, thinking of anything but how badly she wanted Mary. She stood from the couch, shirt in hand, with the intention of going to clean herself up in the bathroom.

“Do you want me to give you a ride back to Greendale?” Mary called out from the kitchen. Zelda turned and walked towards the kitchen instead.

“But then you’d have to pick me up tomorrow morning.” Zelda’s voice grew closer, until it came from behind Mary, across the kitchen. “And...after we finish, you would need to bring me back here, so I can go to work.” Mary turned to see Zelda standing in the doorway, arms up, pulling her shirt down over her head. 

“It’s up to you, really. I don’t mind. Besides, we’d get to spend more time together.”

“Now that is promising thought.”

 


 

After even more chit-chat and cuddling, Zelda finally forced herself up out of Mary’s embrace, and put some real clothes on. After she was fully dressed, she walked up behind the couch Mary currently occupied, and placed her hands on either side of her head. Mary had her head back against the cushions of the couch, eyes half mast.

“You ready to go?” Mary asked, sleepy blue eyes looked up at Zelda. Zelda leaned forward to give her an upside-down kiss.

" Mmhmn . You know I will never get tired of this, the taste of your lips.” 

Mary grinned up at her, and turned around to kiss her properly, moving to kneel on the couch. Zelda teased her, leaning in and then moving back, causing Mary to whine out of frustration. Zelda gave in and kissed her with the utmost devotion, her lips gently nibbling Mary’s. When she pulled back, Mary’s face was red, and her eyes were closed.

“You look so stunning right now, Mary.” 

Mary opened her eyes, and sat back down on her heels, her hands still gripping the back of the couch. 

“I’m feeling quite overheated, if I’m honest.”

“Just like how you left me earlier, all wet and wanting?”

Mary looked sheepish, and Zelda reached out to rub her shoulder. Mary caught her hand, kissing the palm.

“I don’t mean to tease you, sweetheart. Shall we get going?”

Mary nodded, and stood from the couch. “Do you have any bags or anything you’re taking?”

“Nope. Just my purse and myself.”

“Alright. Let’s go.” 

On the drive back, Mary turned to a radio station that was playing 90s music, specifically a long playlist of female singer/songwriters. The music took Zelda back to her late 20s, back when things were much simpler, and she was at the peak of her sexual liberation. She was drawn out of her thoughts by Mary singing along to the chorus of Tori Amos’s Crucify , which secretly had been one of Zelda’s favorite songs. She turned in her seat to watch Mary, completely enamoured. The drive was pleasant, and they sang along to the radio here and there. Mary reached out for Zelda’s hand when she could, and Zelda pressed the occasional kiss to her cheek. 

When they got back to the Spellman house, they were like hormone-filled teenagers, unable to say goodbye without kissing for minutes more. Every time Zelda went to get out of the car, she couldn’t help but turn back around to give Mary another kiss. One kiss turned into two, and before they knew it, the windows inside of Mary’s truck were all steamy. 

“Zelda,” Mary spoke, completely breathless. “We have to stop.” She could make out a sad look on Zelda’s face. 

“But I don’t want to.”

“I know, I know. I don’t want to stop either…but I don’t want to make love to you in my truck.” Mary slid her hand up to cup the base of Zelda’s skull. “I want everything to be perfect, bed and all.”

“Oh. So...you want to sleep with me then?”

“Oh god Zelda, yes! I have wanted to for quite some time now, but I was afraid that you wouldn’t want me like that. If we did do other things, it might take me a bit to get it right because, as you know, I haven’t actually been with a woman before.”

Zelda turned her head and kissed Mary’s wrist, and basked in the feelings she felt for Mary. 

Oh how I love this woman. If only she knew.

Mary continued with her speech, and Zelda sent a supportive smile her way.

“Kissing you is amazing, Zelda and if and when you want more, I can try to make you happy. I don’t exactly have much to offer right now, but I will try my hardest.” Mary wilted, and it was as though someone was stepping on Zelda’s heart.

“Don’t say that. You are perfection . You are everything I could have hoped for, and more.”

Mary sniffled in the nearly dark car, and Zelda reached out to wipe her cheeks. 

“Hey. It’s okay sweetheart.”

“I just worry...that you’ll get bored with me, and go back to your fancy friends in Riverdale.”

Where is all of this coming from?

“Mary. This whole journey that I’ve been on these past few months has been incredible. I have experienced the highest highs, and the lowest lows of my life. If I didn’t go through the hard parts, then I never would’ve gotten to experience the highs. Meeting you and getting to know you has been the best part. You grabbed a hold of my heart early on, and just wouldn’t let go.” 

This caused Mary to smile, and she wiped at her eyes, sniffling. 

“I’m sorry. I haven’t thought of myself as a sexual being, as someone who could be desirable in a really long time, especially since I really haven’t had the time for dating or meeting new people. You gave me hope. You give me hope.”

“You are absolutely desirable. And if you want to go on a date, I will take you anywhere you like.”

“Well, how is the fair next Sunday, for a start?”

“That works. I know things will be crazy for a while, but we could get on some rides together.”

“Oh we are definitely getting on some rides together. How can I face the Round Up alone without my favorite girl by my side?” Mary put on a dramatic air, and Zelda played off of it.

“So I’m your girl now?”

“Well, if you want to be? I’m sorry if it is too soon. God, I’m so nervous, probably saying too much…” 

Zelda leaned across the console once more, her elbow sore from the position, and kissed Mary. She reached out for her hands, mid-kiss, and linked their fingers together.

“Are you asking me to be your girlfriend?”

“Yes, yes I am.”

“You know, when I was sick in bed last week, it dawned on me that you are the first person I think of when I wake up, when I go to sleep, when I’m happy—I just can’t stop thinking about you.” Zelda looked at their conjoined hands, and took a deep breath. 

“Oh…”

“I asked to take things slowly because I was afraid...afraid that I wouldn’t be good enough for you, or that I would mess something up and you’d get hurt. You are a really good person, pure of heart and character. I felt like I was this villain or something.”

“Wait. So you thought you weren’t good enough for me, and at the same time I thought I wasn’t good enough for you? Oh my word…”

“Anxiety and self-doubt can be quite nasty. I struggle with them frequently.”

“You shouldn’t have to. Don’t ever doubt yourself, Zelda. You deserve this happiness. We both do.”

Zelda gave Mary’s had a squeeze, and They sat in silence for a few seconds, longer. Zelda reluctantly opened her car door once more, finally making the move to get out of the car. A light on the Spellmans’ front porch came on, and Zelda saw movement behind the front window. 

“I guess I had better go inside for real this time.” Zelda turned back to Mary, a sad look on her face. “Don’t ever doubt my feelings for you, Mary. They are very real, and you are just right for me.”

“Okay.”

“See you tomorrow morning?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Come a bit early. We can have some breakfast here, if you’d like.”

“I’d definitely like that.”

“Perfect.” Zelda gave Mary a parting kiss that made her head spin, before sliding down out of the truck. “See you tomorrow.”

Zelda couldn’t see in the darkness, but she knew for a fact that Mary was blushing, and had one of her dimpled smiles on her face. She stood and watched Mary’s truck disappear into the night, her lips still numb from kissing. When she couldn’t see the tail lights of Mary’s truck anymore, she walked up the stairs of her front porch, and went inside. 

When Zelda stepped into the house, the smell of Hilda’s fried chicken filled the air. Zelda wandered into the kitchen, and saw her niece and sister busy in the kitchen.

“Aunt Zee!” Sabrina exclaimed, rushing over to hug her. Zelda wrapped her arms around the teenager and kissed the side of her head.

“Hello dear. How are you?”

“Good. Great, actually.” Zelda met Hilda’s eyes over the top of Sabrina’s head and raised her eyebrows.

“You’re in a cheery mood tonight,” Hilda commented.

“Well, if you must know, I am in a relationship now,” Zelda said smugly, a blush coating her cheeks.

“Zelda! I am so happy for you love!” Hilda rushed over in a flurry of flour and breadcrumbs, and squeezed Zelda in a bone-crunching hug. Zelda usually didn’t share her personal life with her family, but this time she couldn’t help herself. The love she felt for Mary combined with her new-found happiness could not be contained.

“Is it with Miss Wardwell, that lady who came here a while back?” Sabrina asked.

“Yes. I’m in a relationship with Mary.”

“Aunt Zee you are blushing badly!”

Zelda tried to hold back her smile, but couldn’t. 

“She is…” Zelda chuckled, her smile growing. “Well, for one, she is amazing.”

“Sit down! Tell us everything!”

Zelda hesitated at first, but found herself sitting down regardless, a smile across her face. For the first time in a long time, she opened up and told them everything.

Chapter Text

Zelda woke up feeling refreshed, smiling as she tumbled out of bed. She had gone to sleep with the intention of waking up early to make breakfast for Mary. After she had talked with Hilda and Sabrina the night prior, they had all ended up crying and hugging, which was quite unusual for Zelda. Of course Hilda cried the most, Zelda only cried because she couldn’t help it, and Sabrina cried because she loved hearing about others in love, and she was happy for her aunt. It was a much-needed cathartic conversation with the family, and Zelda felt much better afterwards. Ambrose came in to see his family all red in the face, wiping away tears. He was concerned, naturally, and Zelda reassured him, informing him of the recent developments in her life. They talked about the fair, how it was going to be set up, which booths they would have, and how much money they hoped to raise. Both Ambrose and Sabrina agreed to help out with the fair as much as they could, and Sabrina sent out a group message to her friends asking for their help. Later than night, Zelda lay sleepless, though completely exhausted. So far, everything seemed like it was going to work out. Every night, just before she went to sleep, Zelda would stare up at her ceiling. She wished on imaginary shooting stars, pleaded with the Universe that things could stay good for her and Mary. Zelda was afraid to admit it, but things were actually going well for once. Her last thoughts before being pulled into a dreamless sleep were of Mary’s smiling face.

Mary was at her door at 5:00 A.M., and Zelda nearly dropped her mug of coffee when her phone buzzed with Mary’s text, informing her of her arrival. She all but ran to the front door and unlocked it, beating Hilda, who was ambling down the stairs rubbing sleep from her eyes. Mary stood before her in a pair of overalls and a tank top, bare, freckled arms showing. Her hair was down, as it was the day before, and Zelda could smell her shampoo. She absolutely burned with desire for Mary, despite the mild temperature.

“Good morning Zelda.”

Zelda was speechless, as she usually was in Mary’s presence. She managed a smile, though, and looked Mary up and down. Mary stepped up close to her, sliding her arms around her waist. Zelda remembered to breathe when Mary pressed the front of her body up against hers, and she finally forced herself to move, wrapping the other woman in a hug.

“Good morning,” Zelda replied, her voice raspy, her stomach full of warmth. Mary moved her hand to Zelda’s cheek, and Zelda automatically went in for a kiss. She wasn’t able to help herself, not with the way Mary was looking at her. Zelda walked Mary back further out onto the porch, not breaking the kiss. She then turned them so Mary’s back was to the wall, and gently pushed her up against it. Mary reached her arms up and over Zelda’s shoulders, linking her hands behind her neck. 

“You are so beautiful, Mary.” Zelda muttered, blinking rapidly as she started to kiss the brunette’s face, placing tiny pecks to the tip of her nose, her cheeks, her eyelids, her forehead. Mary sighed as Zelda kissed her way across to her ear, and gently nibbled on the lobe. Mary inhaled sharply, and Zelda moved her mouth to just behind Mary’s ear, her hair tickling her nose. 

“Are you wet right now, sweetheart?” Zelda whispered, flicking her tongue out over Mary’s skin. Mary’s back arched against the wall, and she moaned.

“Mhmmn.”

Zelda kept kissing Mary’s neck, and Mary moaned, car keys clattering to the floor. The noise startled Zelda, and she stopped, taking a moment to catch her breath. 

“I am so weak for you, Zelda,” Mary said, opening her eyes. Her hair was fluffed up around her shoulders, and Zelda smiled, running her fingers through Mary’s curls.

“I feel the same way about you.” Zelda sighed, and kissed Mary’s forehead. “Are you hungry?”

Mary nodded, her stomach grumbling as if on cue. Zelda placed a hand down to Mary’s belly, and tickled her lightly. Mary giggled at the sensation, and Zelda’s heart leapt at the sound. 

She is absolutely adorable!

Zelda kept at it, and used both hands Mary laughed and squirmed beneath Zelda, tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks.

“Stoooop!” Mary got out in-between gasps of air. Zelda hadn’t expected her to be as ticklish as she was, and it was rather cute. Zelda gave in, and stopped tickling the brunette. Mary’s stomach let out another growl, and Zelda heard it this time.

“Sounds like I had better get some food in my girl.” She leaned in and kissed Mary, mumbling against her lips. “Especially when she always does such a good job of keeping me full…” Zelda kissed her again, this time ending it by nibbling on her bottom lip. Mary reached down and slid her hands into the back pockets of Zelda’s jeans and squeezed.

“I do love taking care of you. It’s one of my most favorite things to do.”

“One of your most favorite things. Hm.” Zelda cocked her head to the side and pursed her lips, eyes looking between Mary’s eyes and mouth. “And what are some of your other favorite things?”

“Well. I can think of something.” Mary grinned, and pulled Zelda’s hips up against her own. 

“And what might that something be?”

Mary moved towards Zelda’s mouth, so close Zelda could feel air leaving Mary’s nose with each exhale. 

“This.” Mary ran her tongue over the seam of Zelda’s mouth and Zelda went like putty in her arms, opening up her mouth, letting her in. Mary’s hand went to the base of Zelda’s neck, fingers threading through her hair. Zelda shuddered, trying to stay upright. Her voice of reason was being drowned out by her desire to beg Mary to have her right there on the porch, silenced by her yearning to take Mary’s pants down and feast between her legs. Everything was hazy now, as Zelda’s fantasies played out at the same time Mary was kissing her. Much to Zelda’s disappointment, Mary ended the kiss, and pressed a soft peck to Zelda’s cheek.

“That is my favorite thing to do.”

“Mmn. Mine too.” 

By the time Zelda took Mary inside, Hilda had already set out place settings for them both, and was sitting at the table herself behind a steaming mug of coffee. She had also refilled Zelda’s mug, and filled up a mug for Mary.

“I made you some French toast,” Zelda said, rushing over behind a counter, and carefully picking up a ceramic dish. She walked back over to the table and sat it down in front of Hilda and Mary. “I also made scrambled eggs, and we have some fruit, yogurt, and granola.”

“That sounds delicious. Thank you Zelda.”

“Of course. You just let me know what you need, and I’ll get it for you.” 

“Anything?”

“Anything.” Zelda was walking back to the table with the eggs, and sat them down when she saw Mary blush profusely. She sat her hand on Mary’s shoulder before taking her own seat, and brushing her thumb back and forth over the bare skin.

“You okay?”

“Mhmmn.”

Mary took a few bites of her food, and Zelda glanced over at her every so often. She could do with this view every morning. Hilda watched the way they caught each others’ eyes and looked away, grinning into their coffee mugs and blushing. It was quite obvious that they were in love.

“So uh, how’s the GoFundMe coming along, Mary?” Asked Hilda, setting down the romance novel she had in her hands. Mary brought her napkin up to her mouth, wiping away some syrup.

“Not well. I expected things to be much further along by now.” The tone of her voice changed, and she sounded scared, disappointed, and small. Zelda looked up across the table, concerned. How had she noticed Mary’s distress sooner? 

“Oh love, I’m so sorry to hear that. I’m sure with the fair coming up soon things will work out.”

Mary nodded, tried to give Hilda a smile, before her shoulders sank and her face crumpled. Zelda was up out of her chair by the time Mary let out the first sob. 

“Oh dear.” Hilda reached out to rub Mary’s back, and Zelda crouched down by her side. 

“Mary…” Zelda took Mary’s hands between her own, and held them to her chest. “What’s the matter sweetheart? Talk to me.”

“A small part of me can’t help but worry...what if we don’t get enough money, and everything will have been for nothing?” Mary said wetly. She pulled a hand out of Zelda’s grasp and wiped at her nose. Zelda stood up and took Mary’s face between her hands, tears forming in her eyes as she saw the stress and fatigue on her partner’s face. 

“Listen to me. I will do whatever it takes so that you can keep your farm. I don’t care if I have to move mountains. You will have your farm, okay?”

Mary nodded, and Zelda leaned in to kiss away the lone tear that rolled down her cheek. Somewhere in the middle of it all, Hilda had left the room, giving them privacy. Mary stood up, sniffling, and laid her head on Zelda’s shoulder. Zelda stamped a kiss to the side of her head and wrapped her arms around her waist.

“It’ll all work out sweetheart. You don’t have to worry.”

“Thank you Zelda.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I don’t know why I worry so much. I mean—I never let on about it, but sometimes...I can’t sleep through the night because I am so worried about the farm.”

Zelda let out a sad hum of sympathy, and brushed Mary’s hair back from her face.

“You’re always up early each day. When do you get your rest?”

“I get some sleep here and there, when I can. I only have a few nights a week when my sleep is interrupted.”

“Mary I had no idea. Do you take anything? To help you sleep?”

“Only if it gets really bad. I also try to take naps when I can—but I’m used to it, Zelda. It only happens when I’m extremely stressed out.”

Zelda hugged Mary to her again, cradling her head to her chest. She began to rock her from side to side.

“I’m sorry you’re stressed.” Zelda said with an exhale. “We really are good for each other, aren’t we?” Zelda thought about Faustus, and how he could have seen them out on the porch earlier. Her stomach gave a sick lurch, and Zelda tried to focus on the present. After all, she had the most beautiful woman in her arms, and she was the only thing that mattered to Zelda. 

“Two stressed peas in a pod.” Mary said with a chuckle. Zelda kissed her on top of her head, and burrowed her nose in her hair. 

“Speaking of stress, how are you doing? I know the conversation you had with your boss yesterday really shook you up.” 

A shiver went through Zelda’s body, her stomach turning once more. Mary lifted her head to look at Zelda, who had started to bite her lip nervously.

“Zelda?”

“I almost forgot about him, until I realized he could be anywhere, watching and waiting.” Zelda clung even tighter to Mary, as though keeping her close would keep her safe. Mary pressed her mouth against Zelda’s, trying to relax her. Zelda graciously accepted the kiss, the comforter now the comforted, and leaned forward into Mary. They kissed, quietly, Zelda enjoying the feel of Mary’s mouth against hers, the way her tongue snuck out and flicked over her own, and the roof of her mouth. Her stomach gave a slight jolt, this time out of arousal, not nervousness, and she broke the kiss to ran her thumb over Mary’s now wet mouth. Mary caught her hand, and kissed it.

“Let’s try not to worry about these things, Zelda. I know it sounds ridiculous to say, but just hear me out. Whenever you feel yourself about to worry about your boss, think of me. Think of this moment right here, just the two of us. I will do the same, when I start to worry, and think of you. Besides, the fair is next Sunday, and you’ve worked incredibly hard, harder than I’ve seen anyone work before. After Monday, you can take a well-deserved break. I will treat you.”

“What did I ever do to deserve you, Mary?” Tears pooled in Zelda’s eyes, and Mary kissed her again.

“You didn’t have to do anything sweetheart. You won me over easily by just being your strong, beautiful self.” Mary traced her fingertip over Zelda’s lips, and leaned in for another kiss. Zelda could taste a bit of syrup on Mary’s lips, and she licked it off, her tongue repeatedly flicking back and forth over Mary’s bottom lip. Mary groaned, and clung to Zelda, hands scratching at her back. 

“Oh! I’m sorry.” A voice came from across the room, and Zelda looked up to see Sabrina standing in her pajamas, awkwardly backing out of the room. Zelda could ‘t look at her niece, her cheeks quickly flushing. Mary buried her face against the side of Zelda’s neck, and Zelda held her there.

“It’s okay Sabrina. I um...sorry.”

Mary lifted her head from Zelda’s shoulder and put on a smile for Sabrina. The teenager simply muttered a ‘good morning’ before rushing into the kitchen. Zelda turned her attention back to Mary, who had also gone red.

“We should get going soon, huh? There is a lot of stuff we have to do today.”

“Yeah,” Mary replied mournfully. She turned out of Zelda’s embrace and gathered up her dishes from the table. Zelda just watched her for a few seconds, and smiled as Mary went into the kitchen, moving around Sabrina. Zelda gathered her own dishes, and took them over to the sink. Sabrina stepped out of the room, and Mary sided up to Zelda, and spoke in a much softer voice. 

“I wish we could take a day off, to just relax...maybe spend all day cuddled up under a blanket—even though it is still summer.”

Zelda turned off the sink, and dried her hands. She handed a towel to Mary, and leant back against the counter.

“We will. Once things slow down a bit, I promise we will. We can even take a whole week off.” 

“Okay.”

“You know, we could have a cuddle date this weekend, if you’d like.”

“I’d like that very much.” Mary gave Zelda a quick peck, and a smile grew across her face. She slid a hand around Zelda’s side, and rested it on her rear.

“Let’s get back to the farm.”




 

Zelda and Mary stayed busy on the farm, preparing the property for the large crowd they expected in just under a week and a half. They spent the rest of the week as well as the next one clearing away dead leaves and branches, moving hay bales, going over logistics, making space for the attractions, and building booths for games, and going over even more logistics. Zelda was quite worried that she would forget something, and painstakingly went over all of her notes, including a map of the farm, multiple times every day. Mary reassured her as best she could when they were together. Sometimes she would pull her around a corner, behind a haystack, and kiss her till she was flushed and nearly faint. That usually calmed her down for a bit, though she was worked up in other areas.

By the time Friday rolled around, Zelda could barely move. All of the muscles in her body ached, and she wanted to crawl back into bed. Mary had asked her to come to work a few hours later than she normally would, and told her to bring a change of clothes with her for when they were finished. Zelda suspiciously obeyed, and wondered what the other woman had up her sleeve. Since she was going to be coming it later, Zelda went ahead and took the day off from work so she could rest after they finished their work for the day. Zelda worked the hardest she had ever worked, and when they did finish, she took a moment to catch her breath. Mary had to coax her up from the dusty ground where she sat, and all but dragged her inside. Ray signed her papers signifying that she finished all of her community service hours, which made Zelda emotional. Mary hugged her, and told her she was proud of her, and Zelda struggled to hold her tears back. When Ray got up to use the restroom, Zelda asked Mary if she could go change, as her current attire was dirty and smelly. Mary took her by the hand, up to her bedroom, and into the en suite bathroom. 

“You can use whatever you like. There are towels and a washcloth laid out for you over there,” Zelda looked in the direction Mary was pointing. “If you need anything else, just let me know.” 

“Thank you Mary.”

“It’s no problem.” Mary smiled before disappearing from the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Zelda looked around the bathroom as she waited for the shower to warm up. That morning, she had worked so hard that her clothes were stuck to her, coated in dirt and sweat. Zelda removed her shirt, pants, and undergarments and carefully folded them, not wanting to get dirt on Mary’s pristine bathroom floor. Once the water seemed warm enough, Zelda stepped under the warm spray of the shower and rested her palms flat against the wall, letting the water cascade over her aching muscles. She was finally done. After nearly three months, she had finished all of her community service hours. Tears snuck down her face, mixed in with the water that ran down over her, and Zelda let herself cry. Who could’ve known that her foolish mistake, getting arrested, proposing the farm project at work, would take her on a journey she wasn’t prepared for? Now she was in a completely different place than when she started, and it was for the better. What had begun as something scary and terrible ended with her finding the love of her life. At the start of this journey, Zelda was cold and callous, and yet Mary had accessed the softness in Zelda’s heart that had been locked away for so long. Mary found that goodness, deep inside of Zelda, and grabbed onto it, never letting off until it was spilling out over everything. 

I love Mary so much. If it weren’t for her I may have never changed...

Zelda’s thoughts raced as she quickly bathed herself and got dressed. It had been two weeks and they still hadn’t come up with a solution to their Faustus problem. He was closing in on Zelda, going behind her back and contacting Jonas and Soleil for updates. Of course, Zelda had spoken with both Jonas and Soleil separately, and told them that she was no longer working on the farm project. They both were okay with it, and covered for Zelda when Faustus tried to contact them. But he was still skeptical. Oliver had been trying to stay  with Zelda in her office, should Faustus try to confront her again. She did notice Faustus walk past her office every now and then and look inside, only to get frustrated when he saw Oliver there. Oliver gave him a smile and turned back to his laptop, the very picture of an employee hard at work. Oliver was truly the one good thing left about her job. He had been a true friend and confidant to her, especially the past few months. Zelda was eternally grateful to him, and wanted to do something nice for him as a ‘thank you’ gift. 

Zelda was considering leaving the company after Mary reached her fundraising goal. She truly had no reason to stay, at least not anymore. The only reason she did was to give Mary enough time to save up money and dig her farm out of the financial rut it had been stuck in for so long. Zelda stared at herself in the mirror, her makeup-free face, dark circles and new freckles standing out against her pale skin. She was excited for the fair, but would be very glad when it was over. Now that it was only a few days away, Zelda was feeling the pressure she’d been putting on herself. She was dreading standing up to Faustus, informing him of Mary’s change of plans with the farm; however, she knew that it would finally set them all free, would get rid of the dark cloud of uncertainty that hung over all of them. A soft knock at the bathroom door brought Zelda back to the present, and she started to brush her hair again. 

“Zelda?”

“Yes.”

“Are you almost finished? Can I come in?”

“Yes of course. This is your house, after all.”

The bathroom door opened slowly, and Mary appeared, wearing different clothes, and she smelled freshly-showered. Her hair was pulled up into a high ponytail, the thick locks falling down over her shoulders and back. Zelda smiled as she gave her hair a few final run throughs with the brush, and set it aside.

“You look beautiful, Mary. I mean you always do, but I’ve never seen you wear your hair like this.”

Mary slipped her hands around Zelda’s waist, and kissed her square on the mouth. 

“Thank you, darling. You are looking gorgeous yourself.” Mary kissed across Zelda’s jaw until her lips ended up behind her ear, sharp nose brushing against Zelda’s skin. “And you smell like my shampoo.”

Zelda’s eyes drifted closed, and just as she was about to get worked up, Mary pulled away. Zelda opened her eyes and practically pouted at Mary, giving her a look akin to that of a hurt puppy.

“Oh darling. There will be much time for that later. I have a little surprise for you downstairs, if you wouldn’t mind following me?”

“Okay.” Mary took Zelda’s hand, linking their fingers together, and Zelda followed behind her. As they descended the stairs, Zelda thought she heard another voice in the house, a giggle perhaps, but brushed it aside.

“Is there someone else here, Mary?” Zelda asked, looking around the living room. Mary raced down to the bottom of the stairs, in front of Zelda, and stopped her from going any further.

“What’s going on?”

“I’m just going to cover your eyes while we walk to the kitchen, okay? I don’t want to ruin the surprise.” 

“Okay,” Zelda gulped. Mary stepped behind Zelda and swept her hair aside, dropping kisses to her neck. Mary gave her just enough kisses to tease Zelda, stopping when the redhead let out a moan. She placed her hands over Zelda’s eyes, and spoke quietly to her.

“Walk forward, Zelda, just straight forward.”

Zelda’s arms went out in front of her, feeling for any obstacles, and her hands shook. 

“Don’t worry, sweetheart. I won’t let you hit anything.”

Zelda nodded behind Mary’s hands, and kept walking forward. 

“Turn left here, just into the kitchen...there you go. Now just keep walking forward, aaaaand stop.” 

Mary kept her hands over Zelda’s face for a split second longer, and then when she pulled them away, several people in the room yelled “ SURPRISE!!!”

Zelda looked around the room in shock, and felt Mary’s hands on her back. Hilda and Dr. Cee were there, Sabrina, Ambrose, Oliver, Jonathan, and even Ray. They had haphazardly decorated the kitchen with dark blue balloons and streamers, and had on matching party hats. On the table, there was an array of fruit, finger sandwiches, a charcuterie plate, and other bite-sized treats. When Zelda turned back around to Mary, she was holding out a cake that had fancy, swirling letters on it that read Congratulations Zelda! You Did It!

Zelda didn’t want to start crying in front of everyone, but she felt herself getting choked up anyways. She quickly wiped at her eyes, and Hilda rushed over to embrace her. Zelda clenched her eyes shut, and held onto her sister. 

“We are so incredibly proud of you, Zelda.”

“For what?” Zelda asked in a tear-logged voice. 

“For finishing your hours!” Oliver exclaimed. “And of course, for taking charge to help Mary with saving the farm. It is truly commendable.”

Zelda hugged Oliver next, and held onto him for a few seconds. 

“You are truly are my best friend,” she whispered, turning to kiss him on the side of his head. “Thank you for all of your help with everything.”

When she pulled back, the young man had tears in his eyes as well. 

“And you are mine. I’m so proud of you Zelda. You are my inspiration.”

Zelda nodded, and squeezed Oliver’s hand. She made her way around the kitchen, hugging the few others who had shown up. When she turned back around to Mary, the woman was passing out glasses of champagne to everyone, save for Sabrina, who she handed ginger ale to. 

“Um, so I’d like to make a toast, to Zelda.” Mary’s voice wobbled, as she held up the champagne flute. “These past few months have been some of the hardest yet some of the most incredible of my life. When Zelda first came here, I was angry, sad, and confused. I thought ‘how dare this incredibly attractive woman come here and tell me what she is going to do with my property.’ And then, I got a phone call from Ray, telling me that this same woman was going to be working with me, doing community service on my farm.”

Zelda chuckled to herself as she thought back to the first day she started working with Mary on the farm, shovelling waste.  

“For a second, I took delight in the fact that she would have to do community service at the very place she was trying to buy. It was like karma, if you believe in that stuff.” Everyone in the kitchen chuckled, even Zelda, who still felt some residual guilt about her rocky beginnings with Mary.

“But then, something happened. As we talked and worked together, day by day, week by week, I started to feel things.” Mary looked down now, seemingly embarrassed. She sniffled, and Jonathan reached out and rubbed her back. When she looked up again, her eyes were wet, and tears rolled freely down her cheeks. 

“I have never met anyone who works as hard as Zelda. She has turned this farm around. Even if we don’t raise enough money on Sunday, I will forever be indebted to her, for the dedication she put into this farm. Zelda is truly an incredible person, and I’m so glad that I got the chance to meet her. I can’t imagine my life without her.” Mary cried openly now, and Jonathan kept rubbing her back. Zelda moved across the room to her, and went to the side that Jonathan wasn’t on, sliding her hand to the small of Mary’s back.

“And so, I’d like to raise a toast, to Zelda, the most amazing person I know.”

“To Zelda!” the group said in unison, before clinking their glasses together, and drinking from them. Zelda placed her glass down on the counter behind Mary, and took her face between her hands. 

“You didn’t have to do all of this for me, Mary.”

“Is it too much? I’m sorry. I just wanted to celebrate you.”

Zelda rubbed her thumbs back and forth over Mary’s cheeks, not caring about who was in the room. She leaned forward and kissed Mary in front of everyone, their friends fading away in the background. Jonathan let out a whistle, and Oliver placed his hands over his heart, smiling.

“Awww! Look at them!” Hilda exclaimed, leaning into Dr. Cee’s side. “I love seeing people in love.”

“They are quite adorable. But not as adorable as you, my Hildie bear.” Dr. Cee booped Hilda on the nose, and Ambrose turned away, looking unwell. He leaned over to Sabrina and whispered.

“Is this what we are going to have to see on a daily basis at the house now? Our aunties acting like teenagers?”

“Come on Ambrose, don’t be like that. They both deserve this. Especially Aunt Zee, with all that she’s been through. They both deserve this.”

“You’re right cous.” 

The small group continued to talk with each other, helping themselves to the hors d’oeuvres and champagne, and didn’t interrupt the happy couple. Mary and Zelda stood with their arms around each other, speaking in hushed tones.

“Thank you again for all of this. It was so thoughtful of you.”

“You know I couldn’t pass up on the occasion to celebrate my favorite girl.”

Zelda blushed, and kissed Mary on the cheek. “You are absolutely darling, you know that?”

Mary beamed at Zelda, and then sauntered across the kitchen, looking back at Zelda with a wink. They continued to talk with their guests for the next hour and a half, before Zelda was starting to fade. Hilda knew her sister well, and picked up on the hint that it was time to go. Luckily for Zelda, Hilda knew how to start as well as how to end a party. She announced their departure as her and Dr. Cee gathered up the now empty platters they’d brought. Dr. Cee thanked Mary again for including him in this surprise for Zelda, and congratulated Zelda once more before he and Hilda made their exit. He had to get back to work, and Hilda needed to take Sabrina and Ambrose back home. Pretty soon, Jonathan and Oliver were out on the front porch, slowly making their way to Jonathan’s truck, and that left Ray. He shuffled over to Zelda while Mary was out on the front porch saying goodbye to Jonathan and Oliver.

“You did good, Riverdale.”

“Thank you.”

“You are very welcome. You’ve done a really good job here. I wish you the best, and I hope you stay out of trouble in the future.”

Zelda blushed, and nodded. She held out her hand to Ray for him to shake, and he took it, and patted the back of it.

“Now, you make sure you take real good care of Dimples, okay? She is my family, and I don’t want her to get hurt.” Ray paused and cleared his throat. He struggled to get his next words out, suddenly full of emotion. “It fills my heart with joy to see her happy again. I have you to thank for that.”

“I will, Ray. And you’re welcome.” Zelda found her words coming much easier than expected. “It is impossible not to love her.”

Ray nodded and even gave Zelda a small smile as he departed the room, patting Zelda’s shoulder as he left. Zelda stood alone in the kitchen, looking around at the half-eaten cake, empty champagne glasses, and leftover plates, and began to put all of the dishes in the sink. She heard Mary at the front door, saying goodbye to someone, before closing the door. Zelda smiled to herself as she imagined this being her life everyday, being domestic with Mary, doing dishes after hosting parties together, going around the house in pajamas. It was a daydream that Zelda had often thought about in the past few weeks but wouldn’t let herself fully dive into. She yawned, and wiped the back of her hand over her eyes.

“You should go upstairs and get some sleep,” Mary said, walking up to Zelda. She rubbed Zelda’s back as she yawned again, turning away from Mary.

“But…”

“No buts ma’am. Well, except for yours, maybe,” Mary smirked, sliding a hand down over Zelda’s rear and cupping it. Zelda smiled at Mary, her shoulders sagging from exhaustion. Mary pulled Zelda to her chest and hugged her. Zelda still held the plate she was working on in her hand, arm stretched out away from Mary so that she wouldn’t get wet.

“Forget about the dishes, Zelda. You’re barely able to stay up on your own two feet!”

“I’m just…”

“Come on. Let’s get you tucked into bed.”

Zelda reached out to turn off the sink and put the plate she was working on down in the basin, and wiped her hands off on the back of her jeans. 

“I just wanted to check the fair plans one more time, to see if everything is in place.”

“I’m sure everything will go according to plan. I’ve seen you go over those notes at least 30 times.”

Mary took Zelda’s hand and she followed her, with little protest.”

“But, but…”

“...they’ll be waiting for you right there on your tablet once you take a nap. Once inside, Zelda stood shy, not moving forward.

“Come over here,” Mary called from the far side of the bed. She pulled back the covers and sat aside the decorative pillows. Zelda unzipped her jeans and peeled them off, down her legs, conscious of Mary in the room. Mary didn’t say anything, and just watched as Zelda folded them up and sat them on the end of the bed. She walked over to where Mary was and climbed up into the bed. She could feel the fatigue of the day as she flopped back, too tired to move. It was as if every muscle in her body sighed in relief when she finally laid down. Mary’s face appeared above her and she pulled the covers up to Zelda’s chest. 

“Sleep well, my gorgeous girl.”

“Don’t I get a kiss before you go?”

“Absolutely.” 

Zelda smiled as Mary moved in, placing a series of soft kisses against her lips, before resting her forehead against Zelda’s. Mary gently rubbed the side of her face against Zelda’s, before sighing. 

“Do you think you could hold me? I know there are still some things you have to do for the fair on Sunday, and—”

Mary was already pulling off her pants, and unbuttoning her shirt the instant Zelda asked to be held. She pulled back the covers, temporarily exposing Zelda to the cool, air-conditioned room. Zelda scooched over, making room for Mary as she climbed into the bed. Mary slid up behind Zelda, spooning her, and wrapped an arm around her waist. She nuzzled her nose in Zelda’s now frizzy hair, burying a kiss in the auburn locks. Zelda sighed, her worries and cares of the day melting away. 

“There we go. How is that?”

“Perfect...just like you.”

Chapter Text

Zelda stirred, and felt an arm around her waist. There was the sound of a sigh, and air blew out against the nape of the neck. 

Mary. My Mary...

Zelda smiled and carefully flipped her body over, so that she was facing her partner. Mary didn’t stir and Zelda watched her as she slept. She hadn’t yet had the opportunity to study Mary sleep like this, and she wanted to enjoy every second of it. The wrinkles around Mary’s eyes seemed more pronounced these days, her skin darkened and freckled from the sun. The creases between her eyebrows and on her forehead were deeper, as were the smile lines around her mouth. Zelda had to hold herself back from kissing Mary and potentially waking her up. 

She is just so incredibly gorgeous. Radiant, like the sun...

Zelda bit her lip, wanting nothing more than to lavish her partner in kisses. A pleasant sigh left Mary, and she nuzzled her face in the pillow. Zelda held her breath. waiting to see if she would wake. Instead, Mary snuggled further under the blanket, still dozing. Zelda’s heart whooshed as she watched the whole scene. She knew her partner needed her sleep, but perhaps just one little kiss wouldn’t hurt. Slowly, Zelda inched her face closer, until their mouths were mere millimeters apart. She could feel Mary’s exhaled breaths against her upper lip, and she went in for the kiss. It was a soft kiss, no tongue, barely any pressure—but Zelda let her mouth linger. Mary’s breathing hitched, and Zelda froze, slowly backing away.

“Why’d you stop?”

Fuck.

Zelda didn’t answer, cheeks burning over being caught. Mary opened her eyes and Zelda’s heart nearly stopped when she saw those blue eyes looking directly into hers. There was a look in them that caused Zelda to feel like she was melting into a puddle of goo, and it was suddenly difficult to breathe. 

“I’m sorry I woke you,” Zelda said, clearing her throat. Mary moved towards Zelda, closing the distance between them, and gave her a kiss similar to the one Zeda had just given her. She topped it off with a tiny kiss to the tip of Zelda’s now pink nose, and laid back, smiling. 

“I wouldn’t mind being woken up from sleep any time, day or night, if it means you’re going to be waking me up like that .”

Mary traced her fingers down the side of Zelda’s face, and followed them with her eyes.

“You are truly exquisite, you know that?”

Zelda’s eyes fluttered closed, and she blushed, a smile forming on her face. Mary slid her hand underneath Zelda’s blouse and clasped the side of her abdomen, near the base of her ribcage. Her thumb traced soft circles on the skin, and Zelda sighed. 

I could stay like this forever…

Mary swallowed, and reached for Zelda’s breast, forgetting she still wore a bra. Work-worn fingertips traced back and forth over the black lace, and Zelda inhaled sharply. Mary pulled her hand away, unsure of if Zelda wanted her to stop or not. She soon had her answer, though, as Zelda sat up and started to unbutton her blouse. Mary sat up with her, and watched as Zelda shrugged off the garment, the silk fabric like wrapping paper, and Zelda the gift. Mary could see her nipples through the fine mesh, and she ached to put her mouth on them, which was new. In all honesty, she wanted to kiss Zelda everywhere , and it scared her, these new feelings and sensations. The only women she’d lusted after before were in videos she’d secretly viewed on the internet, after Adam fell asleep. She longed for the loving touch of a woman, was curious to know what it felt like to have one use her mouth on her. It had been what Mary secretly desired the most. She didn’t know how to bring it up to Adam. And now, she had Zelda, and there was no need to be ashamed. Zelda wanted her, and she wanted Zelda in return. There had been many a hurried masturbation session that resulted in shame and feelings of loneliness. That was before Zelda, and before the divorce, though. Things were different now. Now she had someone who she wanted , someone she loved. 

“You okay?”

“Yes. Better than okay, actually.”

“Good.” Zelda winked at Mary, and reached behind her back to unhook her bra, sliding it down her arms. At last, the dusky, pink buds Mary had been craving were exposed, and she stared like a woman starved. Zelda caught sight of Mary’s stare, and felt light-headed, and wanted to lie down (with Mary on top of her, of course). She wanted Mary to touch her, kiss her, fuck her—anything. She was desperate. Zelda closed her eyes, and tried to take regulate her breathing. When she opened them, Mary was pulling her own undershirt over her head, throwing it behind her. Zelda reached out for Mary, fingertips sliding up her arms, to the straps of her bra.

“Can I?” Zelda asked, brushing against Mary’s skin. Mary nodded and reached behind her back to take her bra off. Zelda pulled the bra down Mary’s arms, and licked her lips. A shiver went through Mary, and she crossed her arms at her waist, hands against her elbows. Zelda moved closer, and sat her hands on Mary’s shoulders while she looked at her. Her breasts were small and pert, and her nipples were a deep tan. Zelda was pleased to discover that Mary’s freckles continued down over her chest, and practically across her whole body. She worried her bottom lip, let her eyes track up Mary’s neck, jaw, and then finally stopped at her eyes. 

“You are breathtaking, Mary.”

Mary shook her head, a nervous smile on her face. Zelda tipped her chin upwards, and caught her eye.

“You are . Don’t ever forget it.” Zelda’s voice trembled, reduced to a whisper. She blinked back the tears that had caught in her throat. Mary sat a hand on Zelda’s shoulder and leant forward to kiss her. Zelda opened her mouth enough for Mary’s tongue to slip in, and turned her head slightly. She lost herself in the kiss and the feeling of Mary’s tongue sliding over hers, her resolve weakening by the second. Zelda snuck a hand up to Mary’s head, her goal the high ponytail she had her hair in. She broke the kiss to make sure she carefully undid the elastic, not wanting to pull any of Mary’s hair in the process. Mary waited patiently, lips wet, chest rising and falling, as Zelda finally pulled the elastic free, and Mary’s hair was fully unleashed. Her hair was everywhere , thick curls bouncing around her shoulders when she moved. Zelda had never seen it so wild and free, and she loved it. 

“Your hair is beautiful, Mary.

“This old mess?” Mary joked, pointing to her head. Zelda looked at her, completely serious.

“Yes. And it’s not a mess. Nothing about you could ever be. You are beautiful, and I can’t get enough of you.”

Zelda leaned in and gave her another kiss, hands moving up Mary’s chest to her breasts. Mary inhaled sharply, and moaned into Zelda’s open mouth. Zelda ran her hands back and forth over Mary’s breasts, thumbs tracing over her nipples. Mary hissed in a breath of air, leaning further into Zelda. Zelda kept her hands moving, and reached behind Mary’s legs, pulling her towards her lap. Mary took the initiative, and straddled Zelda, slowly setting herself down on Zelda’s lap. Luscious hair cascaded over her shoulders, framing her face. She grinned down at Zelda, and tossed her hair over her shoulder. 

“I’ve dreamt of this moment for so long,” Mary spoke, still smiling, her dimple showing. Zelda looked up at her in disbelief, tears pooling in her eyes. 

“Me too.”

She kept her eyes on Mary as she leaned back against the pillows. Mary moved forward as Zelda laid back, and was now on top of her. Zelda unfolded her legs, and Mary readjusted herself, hair trailing over Zelda’s skin. She climbed up over Zelda, their faces even, and Zelda lifted her head from the pillow to give Mary a quick peck against her lips.

“Mary...”  

Zelda relaxed back against the pillow, a dreamy look on her face. Mary went with her, her breasts brushing up against Zelda’s. Zelda moaned, and Mary dove in for more kisses, stealing the air from her lungs, and her heart from her chest. Zelda was dizzy with pleasure, and barely had a chance to catch her breath before Mary was moving to her neck, teasing her as she had a few weeks prior. She was a flurry of lips, tongue, and teeth, and Zelda helplessly canted her hips up towards Mary. Her legs opened and Mary fit between them perfectly, her body warm against Zelda’s. Zelda tried to stop herself from grinding up against Mary, but she simply couldn’t help it. She was too desperate now, especially with Mary leaving what would be a noticeable mark on her neck. 

“Mmmn, Mary please .”

Zelda felt a gush between her legs, and was sure Mary could feel it through the thin fabric of her underwear. Mary released the skin she held between her lips, giving her neck a final lick before kissing her way further down Zelda’s body. She moved down, slowly, until her face was level with Zelda’s breasts. She didn’t move for a moment, and Zelda looked down to see what was happening. Mary’s hand hovered over Zelda’s breast, trembling. She slid it up underneath the small fleshy mound, cupping Zelda while leaning in with her mouth poised and ready. Zelda let out a strangled moan when Mary’s lips closed around her nipple, warm and wet, suckling at the already hard bud. Her tongue swirled around, and she gently scraped her teeth over the nipple. Zelda was shaking, and couldn’t stop herself from moaning at the sensations. There was another gush of wetness between her legs as Mary switched to the other breast, and gave it the same treatment.

“Mary,” Zelda panted. “I need you.”

Mary came up for air, and kissed Zelda on the lips, clashing with Zelda’s teeth. Within seconds Mary moved back down to Zelda’s waist. She kissed down her sternum, and down her stomach. Her hands rubbed across Zelda’s soft belly and she leaned forward to flick her tongue in Zelda’s belly button. This caused Zelda to giggle, and Mary smiled up at her, and gave her a kiss just below her navel. Mary traced her fingers over the top edge of Zelda’s lace underwear, and looked up at her for permission.

“Is this okay?” She dropped a kiss to Zelda’s thigh, and slipped her fingers just beneath the waistband of the panties. 

“Yes,” Zelda nodded, desperately. Mary hooked her fingers beneath the waistband and began to drag them down Zelda’s legs, groaning at the sight that met her. Zelda was all pink down below, with a very fine dusting of auburn colored hair on top. Mary could smell Zelda’s arousal, and it made her mouth water. She looked at Zelda in lust awe. She hadn’t been with a woman before, and never this close to this particular area of another woman. Her heart raced, and she thought for a moment about how she could potentially disappoint Zelda with her inexperience. Tears filled her eyes and she quickly blinked them away, ashamed.

“Mary?” Zelda asked, leaning up on her elbows to look down at the now verklempt woman between her legs. “Is something wrong?”

“No, no. I just. I want it to be really good for you, that’s all.”

“You’re always good, Mary. Don’t worry.”

“But...I’ve never done this before...I’ve only watched videos...haven’t actually tried any of the things I’ve seen online...” Mary’s voice trailed off, and she wiped away a tear

Zelda’s heart filled with even more love for Mary as she looked at the dear woman who had stolen her heart completely.

“Sweetheart,” Zelda cupped Mary’s cheek with her palm. Mary didn’t meet her eyes, a fearful look on her face. Zelda sat up and reached out to hold Mary’s face between her palms, and her heart broke as tears rolled down Mary’s cheeks. 

“Look at me, Mary.” 

Mary opened her eyes, fear present in them. Zelda took a deep breath, and held eye contact with the crying woman. 

“I love you, Mary. I love you so much. There is nothing you could or couldn’t do that would make me love you any less. Okay?”

Tears continued to course down Mary’s cheeks. Hearing Zelda tell her that she loved her was like the final piece of a puzzle being slipped into place, the whole picture now complete. Mary smiled and nodded, and slid her hands to wrap around Zelda’s wrists.

“I love you too.”

Zelda kissed Mary, and let her teeth scrape over her bottom lip. She blessed her mouth with another languid kiss and carefully took one of her hands, moving it lower. Mary’s eyes flew open as she felt damp heat beneath her fingers, as Zelda had guided her hand between her legs.

“Do you feel that?”

Mary nodded, heart pounding rapidly. Zelda was sticky and warm, and Mary felt like all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the room.

“This is all for you Mary. You make me wet like this.”

Mary nodded and kept her hand against Zelda, struggling to regain her composure. She took a deep breath, and swallowed.

“Lie down,” Mary whispered. “Please.”

Zelda smiled smugly at Mary’s shaky instructions, and laid back down against the pillows. Mary was over her, going in for an urgent kiss. Zelda flicked her tongue inside of Mary’s mouth, trailing over the roof of her mouth. Mary’s hand pressed down against her, causing Zelda to let out another moan. 

“Mmmn Mary.”

Zelda gently scratched at the back of Mary’s head while they kissed, her fingers tangling in the wavy locks. Mary moved her hand, fingertips seeking out Zelda’s clit, and began to rub directly on the bundle of nerves. Zelda’s legs fell open wider, and Mary kept kissing her, barely giving her a moment to breathe. 

“Is this good sweetheart? Do you like it?” Mary asked, releasing Zelda’s lips. Zelda nodded, her neck and chest flushed. Her head was thrown back into the pillows and Mary felt immense love for Zelda wash over her. She continued to play with Zelda’s clit, thoroughly enjoying watching the redhead come undone. 

“I need you... hnnng ...I need you inside.” 

Mary slid her fingers down to Zelda’s entrance, down to where she was all wet and slippery. 

“Now?”

“Yes. Please, Mary.” 

Mary watched Zelda’s face contort with pleasure as she slid two fingers inside of her wet heat. Zelda grabbed the sheets and whined, moving her hips, desperate for more. Mary started to curl her fingers inside of Zelda, as she had read about. She figured she must have been doing something right, when she felt wetness gush out onto her palm. 

“Faster.”

Mary groaned and sped up the movement of her fingers. Zelda was already worked up, and Mary decided to tease her a bit. She nuzzled at Zelda’s ear, and gave her tiny kisses on the side of her face.

“You are so wet, sweetheart. Just watching you is making me wet.”

Zelda was close, and couldn’t even talk anymore. Her cheeks were now flushed as well, and her eyes were squeezed shut. She moaned with each thrust of Mary’s fingers, and Mary kept at it. 

“My gorgeous Zelda.” Mary moved back to Zelda’s mouth, swallowing her moans with a kiss. “I can’t wait to watch you come.”

Zelda’s back arched off the bed as she got closer and closer, her breathing audibly ragged. Mary kept kissing her, had moved to place little butterfly pecks next to her ear. Her fingers kept curling inside of Zelda with each thrust, and she was starting to feel worked up herself. The sounds Zelda was making sent heat to her belly, and wetness between her legs. 

“There you go, just like that—”

Mary was cut off by Zelda moaning loudly as she came, hips jerking, her core pulsating. Mary felt a gush into her palm with each contraction of Zelda around her fingers. She kept her fingers moving as Zelda rode out the waves. When Zelda reached the end, she went limp against the bed, tears streaming down her face. Mary pulled her fingers out of Zelda and licked the tips, getting a quick taste. She wiped her hand off on the sheets and moved to lie next to Zelda, who still laid there, awash in euphoria. Mary draped her arm across Zelda’s waist and pulled her closer. 

“Zelda? Was that too much?” Mary asked, relieved when Zelda curled up against her, and buried her face against the side of her neck. 

“It was just right,” Zelda slurred. “You are...you are amazing and I love you” She whispered, with a kiss to Mary’s neck.  

“I love you too.” Mary sat her chin on top of Zelda’s head, and pulled the sheet up over the both of them. 




 

Zelda’s face was pressed against something soft and warm, and she felt good all over. It took her a second to realize where she was, before a huge, goofy smile broke out across her face. She moved carefully, not sure if Mary was awake or not.

“Did you have a nice mini-nap?” Mary mumbled, face buried in Zelda’s hair.

“I did, thanks to you,” Zelda sat up, forgetting for a moment that they were both topless. She glanced down at Mary’s chest and blushed before leaning up to kiss her. Zelda sighed into Mary’s mouth, and placed a hand on her chest, moving to lay on top of Mary. She felt the other woman’s arms wrap snug around her.

“I want to taste you, Mary.” Zelda spoke against Mary’s mouth. Mary let out a whimper, and Zelda kissed her cheek. “Is that okay? I have been thinking about it for so long, wondering how delicious you must taste.” Zelda began to play with Mary’s nipples, drawing another garbled whine out of the brunette.

“You know,” Mary said breathlessly as she writhed beneath Zelda’s touch. “It has been a dream...of mine...to have someone put their mouth on me...down there…”

Zelda paused, a slight frown on her face. “But you were married. Surely you—”

“Nope. I wanted to try but was too embarrassed to ask. I would’ve had to admit to watching porn…” Mary’s face turned red. Zelda moved up to her face, and smoothed the backs of her fingers over Mary’s cheek.

“It’s okay, Mary. You don’t have to be embarrassed. There is nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I know, it’s just...it’s been so long, since I last...what if I make a mess, or taste bad, or—”

Mary was silenced by Zelda’s finger pressed to her lips, and then her lips against her mouth.

“Did your ex-husband tell you these things Mary?”

Mary bit her lip and turned to look at the ceiling, tears rolling down the sides of her face. Zelda wiped the tears away, nearly in tears herself.

“He didn’t want to put his mouth on me there. Told me that it was dirty. I almost got him to do it, once, though. It was after a lot of alcohol, and before anything could happen, he just fell asleep.”

Zelda wiped away more of Mary’s tears, and brushed away a few of her own. She gently grasped Mary’s chin, making sure she had her full attention.

“There is nothing wrong with being pleasured orally. Not one thing. It isn’t dirty. You could never be dirty.”

“I know there is nothing wrong with it but...I just haven’t had anyone want me like this in so long.” Mary blushed, and took a deep breath. “I used to just lie there while Adam took what he needed. I mean, it was always consensual, and I was a willing partner.” Mary placed a hand on her forehead, trying not to let herself get worked up again. “I wanted it to be good for the both of us...but I wasn’t always left satisfied.”

Zelda kissed Mary on the cheek, and reached for her hand, linking their fingers together. Mary turned to nuzzle against the side of Zelda’s face like a cat, taking the comfort she needed.

“You deserve to be pleasured, Mary. Your happiness is the most important thing to me. Will you let me make you feel good?”

“Yes.”

Zelda gave Mary another kiss, and swept some of her curls behind her ear. “I love every single part of you, my darling, and I can’t wait to make you cry my name.”

“Zelda…”

Mary felt embarrassed about the wetness in her underwear as Zelda slid her hand between her legs, over the damp fabric. Zelda kissed her, long and hard, before backing down onto her stomach, between Mary’s legs. She traced her nose back and forth over the edge of Mary’s panties, and hummed. 

“You smell so good, sweetheart. I know you are going to taste even better.”

Zelda reached up for the waistband of Mary’s underwear, simple white cotton, and the brunette let out a whimper.

“You okay up there?”

“Yes, I just can’t believe that this is finally happening.”

“It’s happening, sweet girl. Let me know if you want me to stop at any time, okay?”

“Okay.”

“I’m serious. If you feel any discomfort, are scared, or just aren’t feeling it, you let me know, okay?” Zelda’s hand rubbed back and forth on the side of Mary’s thigh. Mary nodded in response, eager for what was to come. Zelda began to pull her panties down, revealing a very wet Mary, glistening in the afternoon sunlight. 

“Beautiful,” Zelda whispered as she pulled Mary’s panties all the way down. She backed up to pull them down over Mary’s toned legs, and slid onto her stomach between said legs. She hooked Mary’s legs, one, and then the other over her shoulders, and moved so that her face was level with her crotch. Zelda turned and kissed Mary’s inner thigh, the freckled skin soft beneath her lips. She kissed her way across her inner thigh until her lips met soft dark hair. Mary’s belly rose and fell rapidly as she readied herself for Zelda’s ministrations. She could already feel Zelda breathing against her where she was wet. Zelda looked up at Mary as she moved her face forward, and kissed her directly over her clit. 

“Mmmn, Zelda.”

Zelda licked the entire length of Mary, causing Mary to dig her heels into Zelda’s back.

“Is this okay?”

“Yes, fuck.

Did Mary Wardwell just swear? Zelda wondered, mouth hovering a fraction of an inch from where Mary wanted her the most. Mary gasped as Zelda slowly dragged her tongue up and down her slick folds, stopping near her entrance where she was a wellspring. 

“Zelda please . I can’t handle any teasing right now. Just, just fuck me. Please.”

“The lady gets what the lady wants.”

Zelda promptly began to eat Mary out, her tongue working wonders. Mary reached down and sunk her fingers into Zelda’s hair, clenching at the sensations she was experiencing. She never knew it could be like this, and she felt like she could die and be completely alright with it. Zelda snuck down and slid her tongue in and out of Mary’s entrance for a while, thoroughly enjoying the taste. Mary was moaning with each movement of Zelda’s tongue, and Zelda moved back up to focus on her clit. She watched Mary pulsating beneath her, and leaned in, her tongue flicking over the small bundle of nerves. Mary groaned and let out another gush. Zelda began to suck at Mary’s clit, using her tongue every so often. She kept sucking and working her tongue back and forth, and before she knew it, Mary was pulling her hair and arching back up off the bed. She pressed her heels down into Zelda’s back so hard that Zelda knew she would bruise. Mary’s breath was ragged, and she tossed her head from side to side, unable to stave off the oncoming orgasm.

“Zelda, please, fuck , I’m going to... mmnf ...I…”

Mary came with a cry and a splash of wetness, her thighs quivering. Zelda licked over her as she endured the orgasm, and traced her fingers over her inner thighs. When Mary finally was on the other side, completely spent, Zelda placed a final kiss over her clit, and crawled back up to her face. Mary wrapped her shaking arms around Zelda and pulled her close, kissing her. Zelda’s mouth and chin were wet with Mary, but neither of them cared. She could feel Mary’s bottom lip trembling beneath her mouth, and pulled back just in time to see Mary’s face scrunch up as she began to cry. 

“I’m sorry,” Mary said wetly as she covered her face, embarrassed, and feeling rather silly. Zelda hugged her, and pulled her further into her embrace, so that Mary lay on top of her. 

“It’s okay sweetheart, I’ve got you.” She rubbed Mary’s back as she cried, unable to catch her breath. Zelda said nothing, and kept comforting Mary, burying kisses in her hair, until her sobs subsided. When Mary lifted her head up from Zelda’s chest, her face was completely red, her cheeks wet, and she sniffed, giving Zelda a small smile.

“I’m sorry about that.”

“You know you don’t have to apologize, Mary.” Zelda brushed away a lock of hair that got stuck to her tear-stained face. 

“That was...that was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, Zelda. Thank you.” Mary’s voice cracked again, and she gulped. Zelda cupped her face, looking at her with nothing but the deepest love. 

“You are very welcome, my love. As a matter of fact, I’d like to do that to you more often, if you want.”

Mary blushed, and ducked her head down before smiling up at Zelda, a dimple in her cheek. 

“I would love nothing more.” She blushed again, and then looked back up at Zelda, searching her eyes. “How did I taste?” Mary asked, scared for the answer to her question. Zelda cupped Mary’s chin, and slowly pressed their mouths together. 

“Absolutely,” *kiss*, “and completely,” *kiss* “delicious.” *kiss*

Mary’s eyes fluttered closed, a sleepy smile on her face. She moved to sit up more, and held a hand to her forehead, suddenly light-headed.“Woah take it easy.” Zelda placed a hand between Mary’s shoulder blades. Mary yawned and stretched, not used to the feeling of being sexually satisfied. She turned to look at Zelda, her hair a mess, face still flushed. Mary reached over to her nightstand for a water bottle. Zelda’s heart fluttered in her chest as she watched her drink, and set the bottle back down. 

“Thank you for giving me that experience, Zelda. I’ve never felt this good after sex.” Mary said as she sat back against the headboard, a look of wonder on her face. Zelda kissed her on the cheek, and rearranged herself so that she was lying against Mary.

“I don’t want to leave,” Zelda muttered, turning her head slightly to drop a kiss to Mary’s breast.

“Then don’t.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I know you eventually have to go back to work, and the fair is Sunday, but you can just stay until Monday. I can take you to your house tomorrow to pick up anything you may need.”

“Right now, you are all I need,” Zelda replied, snuggling into Mary. 

“I love you,” Mary said, a smile dancing around her mouth.

“And I love you.” Zelda kissed Mary’s chest once more, and squeezed her. Mary kissed the top of Zelda’s head, and all was right in the world. 




 

The rest of Friday was spent in bed, talking and kissing. Zelda couldn’t help herself, and crawled down between Mary’s legs several more times as time went by. She wanted to make sure that Mary knew just how worth it she was, how she deserved to be pleasured to her heart’s content. Mary cried each time she came, and they held each other afterwards. 

“You’re so good at that, Zelda,” Mary mumbled.

“Hm?”

“Eating me out,” Mary blushed, turning to hide her face against Zelda’s chest. “God I’m embarrassed to even say it to you. I’m an adult! I shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about it.”

Zelda traced her fingers over Mary’s back, playing an invisible game of connect-the-dots with her freckles. 

“It’s alright, Mary. You haven’t expressed your deepest desires out loud until recently. Of course it is going to be difficult to talk about.”

She felt Mary sigh against her, and she caressed her head, letting her fingers trail through the curly locks. 

“I haven’t even told you everything.”

“There is no need to rush yourself, either. Tell me when you are ready.”

Mary sat up in Zelda’s embrace, and looked into her eyes. “Okay.”

Sometime in the early evening, Zelda went downstairs, clad only in Mary’s sheet, and retrieved some of the leftovers from their get together earlier that day. She brought napkins and two bottles of water, and precariously made her way back up to the bedroom. Mary brought out her laptop, and they put on Netflix in the background while they ate. Mary fell asleep part of the way through The Crown , which she had been binge watching. Zelda had already seen the first season, which Mary was still going through, and hadn’t had time to watch the second. They watched until the sun was setting, well-relaxed and tucked in under blankets. Zelda shot up from where she lay and scrambled for her phone.

“What’s wrong?”

“I forgot to let Hilda know I would be staying over here. Though, I’m sure she can put two and two together.”

Zelda slipped out of the bed, opting to call Hilda instead of texting. Mary watched Zelda pace back and forth across her bedroom, completely naked, as she talked with Hilda on the phone. She still couldn't believe that Zelda was here in her bedroom, casually walking around naked, after their marathon of lovemaking in her bed. 

This must be what heaven is like...




 

The next morning got off to a lazy and unhurried start. Zelda and Mary took their time in bed, kissing and holding each other. They only decided to move from the bed when food became a necessity. Mary put on a robe, and gave Zelda one to wear as well. They ate in silence, pleased with just sharing the same space as the other. Zelda took out her tablet and started going over her plans for the fair the next day, merely picking at her food. Mary could see Zelda getting worked up over everything, her worry and panic increasing. She cleared the table, frowning at Zelda’s barely eaten food. 

“Zelda?”

“Mmn.”

“Let’s go sit out in the living room, just for a bit.”

“Okay.” Zelda stood from the table without looking away from her tablet, and picked it up. Mary stopped Zelda from going any further, stepping in front of the woman. Zelda looked at Mary with her eyebrows raised and Mary kissed her.

“Leave your tablet here, in the kitchen.”

“But I have work to do, Mary.”

“It won’t be long. I promise. I’ll even set a timer.”

Zelda hesitated, looking down at what she was doing and then back up at Mary. She pushed a button on the side of the tablet to lock it, and put it back on the kitchen table. Mary had already gone into the living room, and was seated on the couch with a pillow in her lap. Zelda sat down next to her, and Mary patted her lap.

“Come here.”

Zelda obeyed, and stretched out on the couch, laying her head in Mary’s lap. Mary’s hands came to rest on Zelda, one against her head, the other on her waist. 

“Close your eyes and relax. I know you’re working hard on going over your plans for the fair tomorrow.”

“Yes there is so much to do.”

“And it is all going to work out, Zelda. Just try to relax for a moment. Take some deep breaths.” 

Zelda nodded, closing her eyes. Mary began to lightly scratch at her scalp, and Zelda felt like she was being lulled to sleep.

“You have done an amazing thing here, Zelda, and you should be proud of yourself. There is no need to worry about a thing, okay?”

Zelda nodded in response, and smirked up at Mary.

“What?”

“What I should be worried about, if anything, is a shower.”

Mary chuckled, and leaned forward to kiss Zelda’s forehead. “Don’t worry. We can take a shower soon. I just wanted to take you away from the worries of work for a moment, to check in and make sure you were doing okay.” 

Zelda reached for Mary’s hand and kissed the palm, before turning her cheek into it.

“I love you, Mary.”

“I love you too sweetheart.”

Chapter Text

Most everything for the fair had been set up in place, ready to go. It would be ready to open in a few hours, and were actually ahead of schedule. The sun beat down on the farm, an unusually hot day in Greendale for the end of summer. Volunteers took refuge in the shade, the crinkling sound emptying plastic water bottles in the distance. Zelda was still going through her entire to-do checklist from start to finish. 

“Zelda please sit down. Have some water, at least. You need to take a break.”

“I know, I know. I just need to make sure everything is in place.”

Oliver rolled his eyes at Zelda’s retreating form as she flitted from one attraction to the next, checking that each ride operator had everything they needed. She already had gone through all of the booths three times, making sure each booth had the correct signage, their electricity and sound was hooked up and working—despite the reassurances of their audio visual technician hired especially for this day. If it wasn’t one thing she was worried about, it was another. She turned her attention from rides and booths to the trash cans and portable toilets, making sure they were clean and presentable. Her obsession at present, was the lights that had been hung up on wooden posts around the area some of the teenager and adult-centric rides would be. They were down the road a ways, out on the cornfield on a section that had been razed and covered in wood chips, just for the fair.

“Zelda get away from there,” Oliver said, teasing annoyance. He was used to seeing his boss like this, frantic, overworking herself due to worry. It was usually him who brought Zelda something to calm down and carry on with the rest of the day. 

“I just need to make sure that the lights are okay, and that the posts are buried deep enough into the ground. We wouldn’t want someone bumping into one and knocking it over.”

“That is what the electricians are for. You have more than enough help. Don’t worry. Come on, let’s go sit down for a minute.”

“Oliver I’m fine—ugh.”

Oliver disappeared around a corner, helping a ride operator move something into place. Zelda stood up from where she was crouched down on the ground, and everything went fuzzy around her, sounds turning to garbled mush in her ears. She swayed, legs threatening to give out from beneath her, and wrapped her arm around the wooden light pole.

Okay. Breathe through it. It will pass…

She turned and slowly eased herself down to the ground, the wood chips poking at her through her jeans.

Maybe I should’ve taken a break sooner…fuck.

Zelda took a deep breath, waiting for the headrush to pass. She shook her head, a wave of heat and nausea dancing around her, her stomach threatening to expel its meager contents. She breathed through it, letting her eyes close, forcing herself to take deep breaths. The feeling passed, much to Zelda’s relief, and she opened her eyes and looked out over the farm. Everything looked better than she could have ever imagined. Now they just had to hope that enough people came and spent enough money. Zelda’s heart fluttered as she saw Mary in the distance, busy taking Waffle from the barn, out to a pen. She had set up an area in one of the pens, separate from the petting zoo for the horses. Of course no one would be allowed in this area, for safety reasons, but she still wanted to showcase some of the animals she had at her farm. Mary looked beautiful, even from this distance. Her hair was braided back into two french braids, the ends of the plaits swinging as she walked back into the barn, a spring in her step. Zelda sighed, lost in her love for Mary. 

I truly don’t deserve to have her love and kindness in my life. Especially not if things don’t go well today...

“Zelda! Are you okay?” Oliver’s voice interrupted Zelda’s Mary-filled daydream, and he appeared in front of her, crouching down.

“Yes I was just taking a break.”

“On the ground?”

“Well, you know I’ve gotten rather comfortable here on the farm,” Zelda joked. But Oliver wasn’t convinced. Zelda’s cheeks were still flushed red, and she looked exhausted. Her body was tingling, and she felt like she had just left a sauna. She could tell Oliver didn’t believe her, so she moved to stand up, to prove her point.

“Careful. Here.” Oliver reached out for Zelda’s hands, pulling her to her feet. She swayed once upright, and wiped the back of her hand over her forehead.

“Everything okay over here? Need me to go get one of our first aid guys?” Jonathan asked, walking over to them with a roll of electrical wiring draped over his forearm.

“No, please. No.” Zelda said, swallowing carefully.

“I think you better take Zelda back to the house for a bit.”

“I’m fine Oliver. I just got a little too hot.”

“I have worked with you for a really long time, Zelda. Years! I know you better than you think. Did you eat today?”

“I...I had a little something earlier.” 

“Which means you probably didn’t have anything at all.” Zelda looked away, embarrassed by how nervous she let herself get over the fair. She felt Oliver’s hand come to rest on her shoulder. She covered his hand with her own, and looked back at him, a guilty look in her eyes. 

 “It’s going to be okay. Jonathan will take you back to the house so you can at least have some water, okay? I don’t want you fainting.”

“Fine.” Zelda had to admit, sitting down for a while did sound nice. Especially as she had been on her feet all morning, and had been flirting with a headache for the past hour. She had meant to take a break, two hours earlier, but there was just so much that needed to be done. 

Jonathan abandoned what he was doing and jogged over to where his truck was parked. Oliver stood with Zelda and kept an arm around her shoulders as the large pickup truck made its way closer to them. When Jonathan parked the car, Oliver walked over and opened the passenger side door, and Zelda walked forward. He offered a hand to Zelda, which she took, carefully hoisting herself into the truck.

“Oh, um Oliver?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t say anything to Mary, please. I don’t want her to worry about me. There is already a lot on her plate.”

“Zelda…”

“Oliver please. I don’t want her worried.”

“She loves you, Zelda. She will be pretty upset if I lied to her—which I won’t—but she is going to find out sooner or later.”

Zelda frowned, pulling the door closed, and buckled her seatbelt. Oliver stepped back away from the truck door and watched the truck drive back to the house, a trail of dust in its wake. Zelda laid her head against the headrest, a dull pounding in her head. It didn’t help that the dirt path was uneven in places, knocking them around. The shortest drive of Zelda’s life felt like the longest, and she couldn’t get out of the truck fast enough. Jonathan parked where Mary usually did, as she currently had her truck with her at the barn. 

“Thank you, Jonathan. I’m afraid this is rather embarrassing.”

“It’s no problem Zelda. And don’t be embarrassed. Things like this happen. I know if I don’t eat regularly, I can get pretty scary.”

Zelda nodded, and closed the truck door, heading for the house. Jonathan followed her inside and went to get a glass from the cabinet. Zelda kicked off her shoes and watched as Jonathan carefully filled up the glass. 

“I’m just going to go upstairs and lie down for a spell. I’m certainly feeling my age today.” Zelda chuckled nervously, and Jonathan gave her a lop-sided smile.

“Make sure you get something to eat Zelda.”

“I will. I just need a minute. Thank you, though.” Zelda started to leave, and Jonathan stopped her in her tracks.

“Wait. Take this.” He held out the glass of water to Zelda, and she took it appreciatively, her hands shaking. She drank the entire glass in one go, and handed it back to Jonathan.

“Thank you. I’ll see you back outside when you’re feeling better.”

Zelda turned to climb the stairs, not waiting to hear his response. She went up the stairs as quickly as she could, without taxing herself. Once in the privacy of Mary’s bedroom, Zelda pulled off her pants, and went to use the restroom. She wet a washcloth in cold water, and wiped it over her face, as well as the back of her neck. Cool droplets rolled down onto her back and over her shoulders, and Zelda’s shoulders sunk with relief.

There. That’s better. 

Once back the bedroom, Zelda moved to climb onto the bed. Mary’s voice came from downstairs, and Zelda’s heart fluttered, as it always did when Mary called her. 

“Zelda?”

Her heart gave another whoosh . She had been at Mary’s home for the past few days, and was getting used to being in the same space as her. But there was just something about Mary calling for Zelda while she was comfortably half-dressed in her bedroom. It felt so...so domestic. It felt like she belonged there. It made Zelda feel good, but it also scared her, for their relationship was still new. Deep down inside, Zelda still feared that she would mess things up, and Mary would tell her to leave one day. 

Jonathan’s soft baritone rumbled around the kitchen, and Zelda heard Mary running up the stairs. She had just laid back on the bed when Mary came through the doorway of the bedroom. Zelda sat up, and swung her legs over the edge of the bed.

“There you are.” She rushed to Zelda, and inspected her, hands gentle as they traced across her body. “Are you okay?” She cupped Zelda’s face between her palms, and ran her thumbs back and forth.

“Mhmn. I’ll be fine.” Zelda felt herself melting the moment Mary’s hands met her face. She wanted to curl up next to Mary, face buried in her neck, and sleep. Mary caught the dazed look in Zelda’s eyes, and her face suddenly got serious.

“You had me so worried, Zelda. I was looking for you and one of the volunteers said you passed out?”

“No, I mean almost, but—” Zelda sighed, her shoulders sinking. “I was light-headed. Think I got a little overheated...” Zelda mumbled something about low blood sugar, and looked off into the distance. Mary would never make fun of her. She knew it. But she still felt embarrassed that she let herself get so worked up that she ignored her needs completely.

“Sweetheart, you have to take care of yourself. If not for you, for me? Please?”

Zelda nodded, blushing, and Mary brushed her hair away from her face. She reached up to wrap her arms around Mary’s waist, her face pressed into Mary’s stomach. Mary dropped a kiss to the top of her head, and let her mouth linger, breathing in Zelda’s scent.

“I’m going to make you something to eat. Lie down for a bit, I’ll be right back, okay?”

Zelda nodded, and Mary gave her a kiss, her thumbs rubbing over Zelda’s cheeks once more. Zelda slouched as she watched Mary depart the room. She let herself fall back on the bed and looked at the ceiling, eyes following along the wooden beams that spanned across the top of the room.

Today is the day. Hopefully things turn out well. It would absolutely kill me if Mary didn’t raise enough for the farm. She only needs about $20,000 to $30,000 more…

Zelda blew out a breath of air, and made a mental note to check her own savings account, to see what she could contribute personally. She was willing to donate as much as she could, if necessary. She pulled out her phone, and unlocked it. Zelda was looking through her purchases and account balances on her banking app when Mary re-entered the room, a plate and cup in hand.

“Here you go. I know it isn’t the fanciest meal, but I figured it was the quickest thing I could make that would give you an energy boost.”

“What is it?”

Zelda sat up, and turned so her back was up against the headboard. Mary sat the glass down on the nightstand, and handed Zelda the plate. 

“Peanut butter and banana sandwich and some milk.” 

“Thank you, Mary.” She took a bite, and her eyes closed as she chewed.“You know, I haven’t had one of these in forever. I always forget how good they are.”

Mary unbuckled her overalls, kicking them off, and climbed up on the bed next to Zelda. She moved back against the headboard and crossed her legs at the ankles. 

“You ready for this afternoon?”

“I think I’ll finally be able to fully relax once it’s over.”

“You’ve been working so hard Zelda, and I am really proud of you.”

“Thank you, but I don’t think there is much to be proud of. I still feel sick with guilt when I think about how I even ended up here in the first place. The only good thing to come out of this all was you.” A sad smile crossed Zelda’s face. Mary took her hand, and kissed the palm. 

“Love, you’ve got to forgive yourself. You can’t keep punishing yourself for things that have happened in the past. We’ve all made mistakes in life. It’s how we handle them that matters.”

Zelda sat the sandwich down and stared at the plate. Mary cupped the back of Zelda’s neck, and slid her fingers into her hair.

“Regardless of how we started, I want you to know that you have made my life so much more beautiful. This thing we have, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love you, and no matter what happens, I’m not going anywhere.”

Zelda inhaled sharply and looked at Mary, her nose red.

“You’re going to make me cry.”

Mary kept her hand where it was, and leaned in to kiss Zelda.

“It’s okay sweetheart. You cry if you need to.”

Tears had already started to make their way down Zelda’s face, and Mary wiped them away, one by one. 

“I love you so much,” Zelda croaked, tears in her voice. She sniffled and wiped her nose.

“I love you too.”

Zelda smiled for a split second, before her face contorted into a yawn. Covering her mouth, a low chuckle sounded from her. Mary rubbed her upper back, and patted it lightly before readjusting the pillows behind Zelda.

“I’m not used to staying up late like we did last night.” Zelda’s tongue ran over her bottom lip, and she gave Mary a seductive look. “I mean I used to stay up late, but not since before I started working on the farm with you.”

“I guess I’d better let you get to sleep sooner tonight, then.” Mary winked, and Zelda teased a smile around a bite of her sandwich. She chewed, and started coughing, a bite having gone down the wrong way. Mary patted Zelda’s back as she tried to clear her throat. Zelda turned and reached for the glass of milk, taking a long drink. 

“You know, I do sleep better when I’m here with you. It’s the best sleep I’ve had in years.” 

“I can relate. There is just something about having you here with me that makes it easier.”

Zelda sat her plate aside, and rearranged herself on the bed, maneuvering herself until she was flat on her back. She turned her head, looking up at Mary.

“Maybe I should sleep with you more often.”

Zelda’s cheeks turned red as she realized what she had just said, and she laughed.

“I mean—of course I want to sleep with you, but I also want to actually sleep.”

“It’s okay Zelda. I understood what you meant.”

Mary slid down next to Zelda, and pulled her into a hug, her hands splayed out across her back. Zelda snuggled up against Mary, and tucked her head underneath her chin.

“I really want everything to work out today.”

“Zelda.”

“Hm?” Zelda looked up at Mary, only to be given a heart-stopping kiss. Mary pulled back and wiped away some peanut butter from the corner of Zelda’s mouth.

“Everything is going to be fine. I just want to make sure you are okay.”

Zelda smiled and tucked her face back into Mary.

“Are you okay?”

“I will be.”

“Good.” Zelda searched for Mary’s free hand, and linked their fingers together. Mary gave Zelda a squeeze, and rubbed her back.

“How much time do we have before people start showing up?” Zelda’s voice was muffled, her face pressed into Mary’s shirt.

“Enough time for us to sit here for a while longer.”

Mary began to scratch gently at Zelda’s scalp, smiling when Zelda sighed and relaxed into her even more.







“Zelda?” Mary shook the sleeping redhead gently, a hand brushing through her hair. “Sweetheart. It’s time to wake up. People are here.”

Zelda stretched and moaned, a pleasant smile on her face. She opened her eyes and crawled up to give Mary a kiss. A kiss turned into a nibble at her neck, and before they knew it, Zelda was on top of Mary, kissing her fervently. Mary slid a leg up in-between Zelda’s, drawing a moan out of her. She broke the kiss and smiled down at Mary.

“What time is it?”

“It’s just after two. We have a little time.” Mary leaned up and kissed Zelda, sucking on her bottom lip, drawing her back down. 

“Mmn. Wait.” Zelda sat up and pulled her underwear off, and then reached for Mary’s. Mary lifted her hips slightly so Zelda could pull them over and down her legs. 

“There. That’s better.” Zelda said, settling back down on top of Mary. She sought out her lips, picking back up where they left off. 

“I almost want to say forget the fair, and just stay here, kissing you.”

Mary rubbed a finger back and forth across Zelda’s lips, and brought her thigh up once more, her skin meeting warm wetness. She reached in-between their bodies to run her fingers over Zelda’s folds, and brought them back up to her mouth, sucking the taste off.

“I can’t wait to get my mouth on you. Later, though. I want to take my time.”

“Mhhm,” Zelda replied, eyes focused on Mary’s mouth. She slid against Mary’s thigh, hot and slippery, and purposefully ground herself down onto Mary. 

“Zelda…” Mary’s throat was bared to Zelda, and Zelda wanted nothing more than to nip at it. But she feared she would bite down too hard, draw blood and mar that perfect, light olive skin. She kept finding her pleasure against Mary’s thigh, and rested her forehead against Mary’s. Mary held onto her, pulling her down further.

“Yesssss. Mary. Ahhh—”

Zelda was a vision. Mary couldn’t believe that this was her life. She had the pleasure of having the most beautiful person she had ever met, her lover , sharing this beautiful and intimate moment with her. Zelda was grunting and gasping above her, nearing her climax, and tears sprung up in Mary’s eyes.

“Zelda I love you so much. You are beautiful.” 

Mary reached up and cupped Zelda’s face, their teeth colliding when she went in for a kiss. 

“I love seeing you like this, Zelda. You are everything , you gorgeous, darling—”

“Mary , I’m— Zelda went rigid and jerked against Mary’s thigh, leaving moisture in her wake. She groaned loudly, and fell forward, and Mary eased her leg down. 

“You are absolutely incredible, Zelda. So beautiful.” 

Zelda barely let herself take a moment to catch her breath before she was back hovering over Mary, her hand up against her. She still panted as she leaned down to kiss her Mary, and pulled back to get some more air. Her hand moved in a small circle over Mary, drawing a moan out of the brunette.

“Oh Mary . My sweet girl, is all of this for me?” 

Mary nodded quickly, her breaths coming in rapid succession. She had already been worked up from Zelda grinding on her leg, watching Zelda come while above her. Now Zelda was talking to her in a deep sensual rasp, calling her pet names, and she didn’t know if or how she was going to survive. She whined, and Zelda swallowed it with a kiss.

“I’m going to make you come, sweetheart. Would you like that?”

Mary nodded, her nose bumping against Zelda’s. Zelda kissed her again, unable to help herself. Mary gushed against Zelda’s fingers, and Zelda smirked against her mouth, breaking the kiss.

“Can I use my fingers...inside?” Zelda kept her hand rubbing back and forth over Mary, slipping through her folds.

“I would be disappointed if you didn’t,” Mary said on an exhale, her cheeks now red. Zelda carefully slid two fingers inside of her, and watched her face for any sign of discomfort.

“More.”

Zelda raised an eyebrow, her insides warming. Mary licked her lips and had her eyes closed.

“Are you sure?”

“Mhmmn.”

Zelda slid a third finger in, and began to move inside of Mary, feeling a familiar wetness back between her own legs. She leaned forward and kissed her, smiling as Mary desperately searched her mouth with her tongue. Their kisses turned sloppy and wet, a dance of tongues, lips, and teeth. Zelda’s hand kept moving inside of Mary, her palm now damp. She knew Mary was close when she felt her mouth form a perfect “o” beneath her lips. Zelda leaned forward to suckle at Mary’s neck, just beneath her ear.

“I love you,” Zelda whispered as Mary raggedly groaned with each thrust of Zelda’s fingers. Her head was tossed back, eyes closed, eyebrows raised as though she were concerned about something. Zelda buried her face beneath Mary’s ear once more, and began to lightly suck at the skin of her neck. Mary went rigid beneath her and cried out so loudly that Zelda was sure everyone outside could hear. She spasmed, her breath catching, and Zelda slowed her fingers, easing her down gently. She repeatedly placed kisses against Mary’s half-open mouth until she saw those icy blue eyes looking up at her once more. 

“How do you feel?”

“Really good. Like I don’t want to leave this bed.”

“I know.” Zelda dipped to kiss Mary again, scraping her teeth over Mary’s lip when she broke the kiss. “But we’ll be right back here tonight, and we can do whatever we want.”

“True.” Mary sighed, and sat up. Zelda backed out of the way and blushed when Mary got down from the bed, still pantsless. “I’m going to go get cleaned up,”  Mary said, taking her previously discarded underwear in hand and walking to the en suite bathroom. Zelda hesitated and then followed her into the bathroom. She walked around the corner to see Mary wiping between her legs with a damp washcloth.

“Oh. I’m sorry. I’ll just wait—” Zelda turned red and made to leave the bathroom. 

“Zelda it’s fine. Besides it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.”

“Right…” Zelda shyly went to the sink to wash her hands, and caught Mary watching her in the mirror. She smiled and turned her attention back to her hands, the water now far too hot. She turned off the sink and dried her hands, suddenly nervous. 

I really hope everything works out today…

Zelda leaned forward in the mirror and fixed her hair, smoothing it back down where it had gone all messy. When she looked back in the mirror, Mary was already walking out of the bathroom. 

“I’ll see you downstairs.”

“See you.”

Zelda put on some light makeup, and hurried to catch up with Mary. She found her in the kitchen, finishing off apple slices.

“Hey there.”

“Hey.”

“You ready to go?”

“Mhhm!” Mary floated across the kitchen, over to Zelda, and kissed her. Zelda pulled Mary close, and hugged her, gathering strength from her embrace.

“You ready to make some money and save this farm?” 

“More than ever.”

 


 

Zelda was expecting a good sized crowd, but nothing could have prepared her for the amount of people she saw once they stepped outside. Music was playing, rides were spinning, and children were running around happily, pointing at different booths. There were a multitude of smells in the air, various things cooking all at once. Hot dogs and hamburgers were sizzling on grills, along with onions and spices. Apples were dipped into their warm, caramel baths, and doused with nuts before being passed to waiting hands. Popcorn was being popped, and cotton candy was being spun, and people were eagerly gathering their treats from the concession stands. 

“Wow,” Zelda breathed, looking around in awe. “This is just...wow.”

“It is pretty amazing, huh? I think I have you to thank for spreading the word so efficiently.” Mary took Zelda’s hand, and squeezed it. Zelda blushed, and followed Mary to the makeshift entrance of the fair. Jonathan and Oliver were near the front, giving direction to some volunteers. 

“Which ride do you want to get on first?” Mary asked, swinging Zelda’s hand in her own.

“Well. I may have to pass on the Round Up. I’m sorry. I still feel a bit off from earlier.”

Mary stopped walking, and sat her hands on Zelda’s shoulders. “Sweetheart. You know you don’t ever have to apologize for anything. Especially not when you are looking after yourself.”

Zelda looked around and placed a quick peck against Mary’s lips, blushing when she pulled back.

“Thank you.” Zelda smiled, and looked over the farm. “Maybe we could start with the ferris wheel? I know it’s your favorite.”

“Let’s go.”

Mary led Zelda over to where the small queue for the ferris wheel was, and they got in line. The family that stood in line in front of them let them cut to the front of the line, and Mary thanked them. They stood against the gate, watching as the ferris wheel went around several times. 

“You must be Mary—er, Miss Wardwell.”

Mary and Zelda looked up as a young woman, most likely around Ambrose’s age, walked over towards them. She was the ride operator, and was preparing to stop the ride after a few more revolutions. She blushed as she stood eyeing Mary.

“Yes, that’s me.” Mary held out her hand. “And you are?”

“Kate…” The young woman blushed again, and Mary smiled, remembering her days as a young person.

“Well it’s very lovely to meet you, Kate. Thank you for volunteering your time to come work here.”

Kate nodded, seemingly only having eyes for Mary.

“We learned about you in my Livestock and Agriculture class at Riverdale Community College. You’re kind of a hero to me. I want to have a farm of my own one day.”

“That’s wonderful! Maintaining a farm is no easy job, but it can certainly be worth it.” 

Kate nodded, and Mary gave her a smile before checking back on Zelda. She turned and looked back at the redhead, who was yawning. Mary slid her arm around Zelda’s waist, and pulled her to her side.

“You still sleepy?” 

“A little. I might duck out to make myself some coffee.”

Mary brushed some of Zelda’s hair behind her ear, and cupped her cheek. Kate looked on in what appeared to be jealousy, and her face turned red. Zelda caught a glimpse of the girl’s face, and Kate’s eyes darted away. Mary turned back around and faced forward, her back to Zelda. Zelda rested her chin on Mary’s shoulder, keeping an eye on Kate.

“I think someone has a crush on you, Mary.” Zelda whispered. 

“Besides you? Who?”

Zelda subtly gestured in the direction of the young adult, and bit back a smile. 

“I don’t think she is a fan of me, either. Should we give her a show?”

Zelda slid her hands into Mary’s back pockets, and squeezed at Mary’s rear, subtly.

“Zelda!” Mary whispered. “You’re going to turn me on.”

“Next!” Kate called out. Zelda smiled smugly, and removed her hands from Mary’s pants. Kate held the swinging seat still while they moved forward and sat down. She placed the bar across their laps and locked it into place. Zelda slid her arm around Mary’s shoulders, and they sat back. The ferris wheel began to move, before swinging to a stop every so often, for more passengers to board the ride. They got closer and closer to the top, and Zelda looked out across the property in awe. 

I can’t believe I used to want to gentrify this beautiful place. How could I have been so blind? This farm belongs here. This is a piece of history.

“What are you thinking about?” Mary asked, catching Zelda’s gaze. They had now stopped at the top, and were at the highest point of the ride. 

“Just you, and the farm, and how things might have turned out. I’m really glad that I didn’t turn this farm into a condo.”

“Zelda?”

“Hm?”

“Kiss me.” 

Zelda leaned forward just as the ride started to move again, and she let out a surprised noise. Her hand went to Mary’s chin, cupping it, and she kissed her. Mary leant into her embrace and placed her hand on Zelda’s shoulder. When Zelda broke the kiss, her face was red, and she had a guilty smile plastered across her face.

“I’m sorry. I got carried away. I forgot we were in public.”

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Zelda.”

“I know. It’s just, you know how things in a small town can be. I just hope that no one has a problem with us.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, just enjoy this moment.” 




 

Zelda and Mary went around the entire fair, trying food from each booth, and interacting with guests. Zelda even won Mary a stuffed animal from one of the game booths. It was a large fluffy elephant, and Mary kept making kissing noises, and holding the toy up to Zelda’s cheek. They were almost at the end of the game booths when over the din of the fair, Zelda heard someone calling her name.

“Auntie Zelda! Auntie Zelda is that you?”

Zelda turned around, and saw Judith and Judas running over to her, a third child following behind them. Zelda was stunned into silence momentarily, before she dropped down to greet the children. They ran into her arms and she hugged them, and kissed them both on the cheek. 

“What are you two doing here?” Zelda asked, completely thrown off. Her heart sped up as she stood up, looking around to see if she saw Faustus or Constance. “Are your parents here?”

Mary picked up on her panic, and was about to step in and ask what was wrong. Instead, Judith slipped her hand into Zelda’s, and Judas did the same. The kids were as darling as ever, Judith with her braided pigtails, and Judas with his curls growing out. They both looked taller than when Zelda saw them last, a reminder of the passage of time. 

“We came with our friend Melissa.” Judas pointed at the girl who stood nearby, stuffing her face with cotton candy while waiting for her friends.

“Her grandma lives here in Greendale. We are having a sleepover” Judith chimed, matter of factly. 

“I see.” Zelda looked back at Mary, and then looked over the farm, eyes silently searching for any sign of Faustus.

“Auntie Zelda who’s that?” Judith asked, in a not so quiet voice, gesturing towards Mary.

“Hm?” Zelda turned her attention back to the kids.

“That lady there. She looks nice. And pretty.”

Mary stood with a smile on her face, watching the exchange. She stepped close to Zelda and placed a hand on her back. Zelda brought her hand against Mary’s lower back in return, fingers splayed against the side of her waist.

“This is my partner, Mary.”

“Partner? Like in a school project?” Judas asked, afternoon sun gleaming in his hazel eyes. 

“No sweetie. Mary is...she is my girlfriend.” Zelda looked back and forth between the children, watching as the realization sunk in on each of their faces.

“You’re the one Auntie Zelda was talking to on the phone that one night!” Judith jumped up and down, and ran over to hug Mary.

“Oh!” Mary patted the child’s back, and smiled. Judith looked up at Mary and then took a step back, holding out her hand. 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t even introduce myself! I’m Judith, and that is my brother Judas.”

Mary shook the small hand that was held out to her, and smiled.

“Hello Judith. It is very nice to meet you. And you too, Judas.” 

“And that is our friend Melissa over there.”

Mary waved silently at the third child, who offered a blue-lipped grin around a large piece of cotton candy. 

“If you and Auntie Zelda are girlfriends, does that mean you do kissing stuff?”

“Judas! That is very rude! You know how mommy always says that you shouldn’t ask people about personal things!” Judith scolded her brother, and Zelda couldn’t help but laugh.

“That is private, Judas, but yes. We are just like any other couple, only we are both women.”

“Okay.”

“Hey guys?” The little girl that had been standing nearby walked up to her friends, her fingers and lips blue from the cotton candy she had been feasting on. “Can we go get on some more rides? My grandma said she wants to leave before it gets too late.”

“Okay Melissa.” Judith turned back to Zelda and Mary, and leaned in for one more hug.

“Bye Auntie Zelda. I love you.” 

Zelda felt tears form in her eyes as she hugged the child, and she closed her eyes and kissed Judith on top of her head.

“I love you too.”

“Bye Auntie Zelda!” Judas shouted, already running off with their friend. Zelda watched the children disappear back into the crowd, and sighed. Sometimes little things reminded her of what her life could have been like, if she had her baby. It was hard for her, having those moments. She was still looking off to the spot where the twins had disappeared, when it suddenly dawned on her.

Faustus is going to know about all of this. Us saving the farm, me not completing this assignment. Everything will come out now, and I never planned how, or when I would quit. I have to do it this week. I have to do it tomorrow . I can’t work there anymore. I don’t want to stay there. I can’t. I—

Zelda needed to be alone, she needed to get away from everything, if just for a moment. She also really wanted a cigarette, her pack left in her purse, back at the house. She had been smoking less around Mary, had been trying to cut back—but at present, she really needed one.

“Are you okay, Zelda?” 

Zelda didn’t even register Mary’s hand in her own, or hear her voice. She turned, lost in thought, and finally made eye contact with Mary.

“I will be right back,” she got out, her voice sounding foreign to her own ears. She squeezed Mary’s hand and started to walk back to the house, her steps turning into a slight jog the further she got. Mary stood watching Zelda go back to the house, and contemplated whether or not she should follow her. She waited until she saw Zelda disappear into the house, and then started to trace her footsteps. 




 

“Where are they?! This stupid fucking oversized purse!” 

Zelda grumbled angrily to herself and dumped her purse upside down onto Mary’s bed. Lipstick, stray coins, a tin of mints, her wallet, a checkbook, a makeup compact, a pack of chewing gum, and a pen fell out, amongst other items. Zelda shook the purse again and her pack of cigarettes fell out onto the bed, the box slightly crushed from their time spent at the bottom of her purse. She withdrew a cigarette and dug through the contents of her purse, until she found her lighter. When she got it, she raced as though she were being timed, nearly tripping down the stairs. She burst out onto the front porch, the door swinging open behind her, and lifted a shaking hand to light the cigarette. Zelda’s eyes closed as she took a long drag, and blew out the smoke. She backed up until her body hit the wall next to the front door, and slid down, careful with her lit cigarette. She brought her knees up to her chest, and took another drag, before resting her forehead on her knees.

This is all too much. 

It felt like an elephant was sitting on Zelda’s chest, like she couldn’t get enough air. She was sure her smoking wasn’t helping the situation either, but she just needed something familiar, something to calm down for a minute. She hadn’t had anxiety like this since before she started taking Valium. Now that she had been off of it for a few months, she was left to deal with the full force of her anxiety and worries, unaided by her go-to calming agent of the past. 

Breathe, just breathe through it. You’ve done this before, it’s okay.

Zelda put her cigarette out and leaned back against the wall, letting her eyes close. She inhaled, held her breath, and then released it slowly. Her heartbeat still thundered in her ears, but she kept going. Gleeful cries echoed in the distance, as well as music from the rides, and the music being played over the speakers. The chatter of the crowd sounded like the buzz of bumblebees, busy in their hive. Zelda let all of it fade into the background, though, and focused on her breathing.

“Zelda.”

Mary’s voice washed over Zelda like a balmy breeze, and her boots scuffed across the creaking wooden porch. Zelda opened her eyes to see Mary crouching down next to her. Mary went to her knees and sat down next to Zelda, mimicking her position.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Zelda did want to talk about it. But she felt so foolish. Why was she nervous about seeing Faustus tomorrow? She was just going to quit. He wouldn’t have any power over her, and the sooner she quit, the better. 

“I…” Zelda looked up at the roof, tears burning her eyes. She kept her gaze upwards, even though the tears rolled freely down her cheeks now. Mary took her hand, lacing their fingers together, and kissed the back of Zelda’s. 

“It’s okay Zelda, whatever it is. I’m here for you.”

Finally, Zelda turned to look at Mary, a look of sadness and love on her face. With a slight nod, Zelda leaned forward to Mary, and laid her head on her shoulder.

“Oh love,” Mary whispered, slipping her arms around Zelda. “It’s going to be okay.”

Chapter Text

“...so, with the donations from the local businesses and the money from tonight, that brings today’s total to $25,486 dollars and eighty-five cents!” Oliver placed the last few dollar bills down on the stack in front of him, and looked up at the people standing around the table.

“Oh.” Mary looked faint, and stretched her arm out, feeling for a chair. Jonathan guided her to a seat, and Zelda hugged her from behind. Neat little piles of money were stacked up in front of them on the kitchen table

“We did it Mary! Can you believe it?” Zelda gently grasped Mary’s forearm, trying to get the woman to look at her. Mary covered her face with her hands and began to sob loudly, her shoulders shaking up and down.

“Oh sweetheart…”

Jonathan placed a hand against Mary’s back, and Zelda was out of her seat, kneeling by Mary’s side. She waited for her to look up. Mary took one of Zelda’s hands, as she continued to cry, and kissed the back. Oliver stood nearby with tears gathering in his own eyes. 

“It’s okay darling. Everything is okay. You did it.”

Mary nodded, and wiped at her eyes. She slid off of the chair and threw her arms around Zelda’s neck. Zelda held onto her, nearly colliding with the chair behind her. 

“I love you Zelda. I love you I love you I love you.”

Mary held Zelda’s face between her hands and peppered kisses all over her. Zelda giggled, forgetting for a moment that they weren’t alone. Oliver and Jonathan looked at each other, and nodded. 

“I think we’re going to leave now,” Jonathan announced loudly. Mary stood up and wiped her still wet cheeks. 

“Thank you, Jonathan.”

“Thank you for letting me help out today. You know I love this farm as if it were my own.”

Mary began to cry again, and this time she didn’t cover her face. Zelda stood behind her, and slipped her arms around her waist. Mary leaned back into Zelda, rubbing her forearms.

“Thank you again guys, We appreciate all that you’ve done to help out.”

“It’s no problem, Mary. Besides, I got to spend more time than usual with Olly.” Jonathan slung his arm around Oliver’s shoulders, and Oliver kissed him on the cheek. 

“You boys have a lovely evening. Thank you so much,” Zelda spoke, holding Mary against her. Mary walked forward out of Zelda’s embrace and followed Oliver and Jonathan to the door. She sniffled and waved at them as they disappeared around the corner, over to where Jonathan had parked his truck. Zelda stared at Mary, her own woes temporarily forgotten as her heart burst with love. Mary closed the door and locked it, then turned back to Zelda.

“We should probably put that money out of sight.”

“You’re right. I think we have some leftover cash boxes here from the concession booths. We can worry about taking it to the bank tomorrow.”

Mary smiled, and wrapped her arms around Zelda’s neck. Zelda’s arms went to Mary’s waist and pulled her close. Green eyes met limpid blue, and desire flashed in Mary’s eyes. 

“I love you, Zelda.”

Zelda gently placed her forehead against Mary’s, her hands coming up to cup Mary’s face.

“I love you too sweetheart. I love you too.”

Mary pressed their mouths together, her tongue searching Zelda’s mouth, and Zelda let out a ragged moan. Kissing her always stole the very air right from her lungs. Mary was warm and gentle, but sensual. Her mouth fit perfectly against Zelda’s, their tongues sliding over each other. Zelda felt moisture between her legs, and slid her hands up to the base of Mary’s neck. 

I don’t want to kiss anyone else but Mary for the rest of my life.

Mary began to unbutton Zelda’s shirt, her mouth still pressed up against Zelda’s, while her deft fingers moved with precision. Zelda let Mary take her shirt off, even pulled it the rest of the way off herself, without missing a beat. Mary slid her hands around Zelda’s waist, and bunched up her undershirt, fingers desperate for the milky skin that lay beneath. Mary broke the kiss to pull the undershirt up over Zelda’s head, tossing it aside and getting back to the task at hand. Mary leaned in close and traced her mouth back and forth over Zelda’s, their noses bumping one another. Zelda moaned, a desperate sound, and Mary flicked her tongue out over the seam of Zelda’s mouth before pulling away. Zelda’s eyes opened, and Mary stood in front of her, a few feet away, with her hand reaching out for Zelda.

“Come here.”

Zelda went willingly, slipping her hand into Mary’s. Mary took her over to the couch, and gestured for her to take a seat. Zelda sat, never breaking eye contact, a tiny smile on her face. Mary sat down next to Zelda, and reached for her waist. Slowly, she traced over her skin, hands moving back and forth, before sliding lower. 

“My gorgeous girl,” Mary whispered, making eye contact with Zelda again as she reached for the zipper on her jeans. Mary gave a slight raise of her eyebrows, asking permission to continue further. Zelda nodded, her breath speeding up. Mary undid the button on her pants, and pulled the zipper down. She hooked her fingers under the waistband of both Zelda’s pants and her underwear and pulled. Zelda had to help, when her jeans got tangled around her ankles. Mary ended up laughing softly, as they worked on undressing her, and pulling off her socks. Mary crawled up Zelda’s body for another kiss, lips nibbling a path from Zelda’s mouth to her neck. 

“Oh Mary ,” Zelda whispered. “You are so good.”

Mary smiled as she cupped one of Zelda’s breasts, and pinched at her nipple. Zelda squeezed her thighs together and moaned.

“I can’t wait to get a taste of you,” Mary mumbled, eyes drawn to between Zelda’s legs. Mary leaned forward and placed a soft kiss against Zelda’s tummy, and let her hands come to rest on Zelda’s hips. Zelda took a deep breath and opened her legs, exposing everything to Mary. She felt slightly brazen, and an undercurrent of excitement buzzed in her veins. 

“Look at you…” Mary set her hands on Zelda’s thighs, gently holding her legs open. “You are so beautiful, so wet .”

She leaned forward so that her mouth even with Zelda’s pink, wet pussy, and placed a whisper soft kiss directly over her clitoris. Zelda inhaled sharply, and felt more wetness leave her. Mary’s tongue flicked out in an experimental lick, just inside of Zelda’s entrance. Zelda let out a ragged moan that sounded like she was in pain. But there was no pain present, only pleasure. Mary licked Zelda a few times, from bottom to top, testing the waters. She tasted salty-sweet, and pleasant. Mary licked at her once more, and pulled back with a smile.

“You know I’ve never done this...particular thing before.” Mary spoke into the stillness, uneasy. “I want it to be good for you.”

“Sweetheart. You already know you don’t have to worry about it being good for me. I love you, and anything that you want to try is fine by me.”

Mary kissed Zelda’s inner thigh, and smiled. “You taste good, by the way. I was afraid at first, because I didn’t know if I would like it or not.” Mary leaned forward and licked Zelda from bottom to top once more, and moved back down, sliding her tongue inside of Zelda. She flicked her tongue into Zelda’s wet heat and moved it in and out, sticky wetness gathering on her tongue. 

“Hmnnnggg. Mary .”

Mary pulled away and smacked her lips, letting Zelda’s taste roll over her tongue. 

“I really like this. I really like you —this part in particular.” Mary moaned as she dove back in and began to lick at Zelda eagerly. Zelda nearly died as she watched Mary bobbing up and down between her legs, felt her tongue swirling around on her. 

“Fuck me.” Zelda ground out, her hands grabbing at the fabric of the couch. There was no way she was going to last, not with Mary doing what she was doing. Zelda chanced another look between her legs. Mary was still licking her up and down, but suddenly she moved up to Zelda’s clit, and lowered her head down. She blew a thin stream of air against it, causing Zelda to jerk and drip once more. Mary smiled, and her thin lips closed over the small bundle of nerves. Now she would feast. 




 

Three orgasms and a shower later, Zelda and Mary found themselves tucked into bed, comfortable and warm. Zelda held Mary in her arms, and rested her chin on her head. 

“Thank you again for organizing everything, Zelda. I couldn’t have come up with a better idea myself.”

“You’re welcome sweetheart. I think it turned out to be worth it.”

“Oh it was most definitely worth it.” Mary said with a sigh. Zelda kissed her still damp hair, and slid her hand up Mary’s pajama shirt to trace across her back.

“Did you have a nice time?”

“I did. I’m just glad I got to spend time with you. We haven’t really been on a proper date yet, since we’ve gotten together—not that I don’t enjoy staying in and having sex with you.” Mary blushed a deep red, and was glad that Zelda couldn’t see her face. Zelda made kissing noises as she buried her nose and mouth further in Mary’s scalp.

“I do enjoy making love to you. I think I may want to do so now.”

Mary sat up and looked at Zelda, a hand on her chest. She pushed Zelda’s shirt up, and lowered her head down until her lips met one of Zelda’s nipples. Zelda groaned, still sensitive from earlier. 

“Marryyy,” Zelda hissed in a breath of air, already wet between her legs. “It’s my turn... agh ...to fuck you.” 

Mary pulled away, her mouth releasing Zelda’s nipple with a silent pop . She gave Zelda a wanton look, one Zelda hadn’t seen on her face before, and pulled her pajama top straight up over her head.

“Well then,” Mary batted her eyes, and bit her bottom lip, the picture of seduction. “Why don’t you fuck me.”

Zelda didn’t have to be told twice. She surged forward and kissed Mary, a hand snaking between them and into Mary’s pants. Zelda didn’t even bother with removing Mary’s pajama pants, her fingers going to their destination. Zelda slid three fingers into Mary and began to move inside of her. Her motion was limited, because Mary still wore her pajama pants (she had forgone underwear in hopes that something like this would happen). The heel of Zelda’s palm ground down against Mary’s clit with each thrust, and soon Mary was soaking Zelda’s hand while she cried out. Zelda had accidentally bitten down on Mary’s neck while Mary came in her hand, and she felt bad, knowing it would leave a bruise. She licked over the spot, kissing her apologies into the soft skin. Mary was oblivious to the bite mark. She lay blissed-out, her head thrown back, and a smile on her face. Zelda licked at her hand and then pulled Mary’s pajama pants off. The brunette’s eyes remained closed, and Zelda leant forward, chin brushing the damp bed beneath them as she cleaned Mary up. 

“Are you ready for bed now?” Zelda asked, kissing up over Mary’s inner thigh. 

I’m ready for death now, for I could die of such pleasure and happiness, Mary thought.

“Yes sweetheart. Thank you.”

Zelda crawled up to where Mary was, and held her arms out. Mary curled up on her chest once more, a pleased look on her face.

“Good night Zelda. I love you.”

“Good night, my sweet girl. I love you too.”

 



Zelda’s alarm went off early the next morning, shrill and piercing the silence.

“I’m sorry,” Zelda groaned, reaching out for her phone. Mary slid down to the bed off of Zelda’s chest, pulling the covers up. Then, the intrusive noise was no more, and Zelda settled back down in the bed. Mary let out a sad whine from her warm burrow beneath the covers, and Zelda rubbed her back.

“I wish you didn’t have to go to work today.”

“You know I’ll be back later. I just have to take care of some things at my place, and then I will go in and quit. I should be back here before lunch time, okay?”

“Okay.” Mary sat up, and pulled the sheet up with her. The white fabric stood out against her tanned, olive skin. A multitude of freckles danced near the edge of the sheet, and Zelda wanted to lean in for a taste.

 “I wish you could quit over the phone.”

“I wish I could too sweetheart. But I need to do this in person, for closure. Besides, I have to tell Faustus the good news about the farm. I’m sure that will be taken well.” Zelda added with a sarcastic tone, as she pulled up her jeans and zipped them. 

“Zelda” Mary reached out for Zelda, her face suddenly serious. “Don’t let him hurt you. If he does, please call the police. Make sure you talk to him in an area where everyone can see. Please.” 

Mary’s thumb traced small circles around Zelda’s wrist, and she kissed the back of her hand. Zelda nodded, climbed back onto the bed to kiss Mary goodbye. Mary accepted the kiss eagerly, sinking back down into the pillows,  her arms going around Zelda’s back. Zelda let out a moan that turned her insides to mush.

“Mmmn. I had better go before I lose my nerve and stay here all morning.” Zelda stood up and slid her purse back up onto her shoulder. “See you later, then?”

“I’ll be here waiting.”

With a nod and a smile, Zelda was gone, and Mary flopped back onto the bed, heart still racing. 

 


 

Zelda drove with the windows down on her way back to Riverdale. Finally, at long last, things were working out for her. She did something good for once, and helped someone. Better yet, she had found love. Zelda wasn’t really looking for love, but then Mary came into her life, and she fell. Hard. Now, things couldn’t be more perfect. She didn’t know what she was going to do after quitting her job, but she had been looking into trusts, and was planning on setting up a living trust for the farm, making Mary the trustee and naming Jonathan as a beneficiary once both her and Mary had passed away. She didn’t want to be listed as a beneficiary to the farm, only because it didn’t feel right profiting off of something she would do for free. 

I’ll see what Mary thinks about all of this. Maybe I will bring it up later today, over lunch .

Zelda planned on being finished with her business by lunchtime. She was going to quit, then swing by her apartment for some more clothes. What Zelda really wanted to do was to get Mary some of her favorite waffles and milkshakes from Dr. Cerberus’s on the way back over. Having a day off was a rarity for the both of them, and they wanted to make the most of it. Zelda pulled into the parking lot of her office building and held her breath, hands searching for her phone in her purse. When she found it, she sent Mary a text, to keep her updated. 

Just got here. Trying to remind myself that everything is going to be fine. I’ll be seeing you soon, hopefully. Love you.

Zelda slipped her phone into her pocket, and got out of her car. A quick glance at her attire reminded her that she was only here temporarily. Zelda normally wouldn’t be caught dead wearing jeans to the office, as she was today, but today was different. In addition to quitting, she had started to become more relaxed, thanks to Mary’s influence. Life didn’t always need to be fancy and showy. She could be comfortable and still be fashionable. Zelda tucked her shirt into her jeans as she walked to the front door. The doorman nodded at her as he held the door open for her. 

“Morning.”

“Morning Miss Spellman. This is a new look for you today.”

“Yes it is.”

“Any special occasion?”

“Well, to tell you the truth, I’m quitting my job today.”

“Really? I would’ve never expected that. You are one of the most dedicated people here.” 

“Well. Sometimes you can only put up with things for so long. One day you wake up and realize that life is worth more than the company which you’ve devoted your every waking hour. And then you find someone who makes life worth living, and you don’t want to waste anymore time.” 

“Well good luck, Miss Spellman. I truly do wish you the best.”

“Thank you.” Zelda smiled, and walked over to the elevator. It dinged, and Zelda stepped inside, her eyes almost watering as she thought about Mary. She pushed the button for her floor. Nerves and anxiety sent her stomach aflutter, but she knew that she had to go through with her plans. 

Think of Mary. You can do this. Mary believes in you. 

The elevator came to a stop, and Zelda waited for the doors to open. She took a final deep breath and imagined how good she’d feel once she was finished, and was on her way back to Mary.

Let’s do this.

Zelda walked out of the elevator, and into her office. She put her bag down, and looked out the window, enjoying the view for what would probably be the last time. Zelda shook her head, and turned to leave her office, not wanting to waste any time. She checked her phone before going to Faustus’s office, and saw that there was no response from Mary. 

That’s odd. She usually keeps her phone on her. I’d better not worry about it. Maybe she is sleeping. The poor thing has had a lot to deal with this past week. 

Zelda walked herself to Faustus’s office, not wanting to delay the inevitable. She pushed her shoulders back, and held her head high, feigning confidence. Once outside, she saw Faustus talking with one of their accountants, Nate. She knocked on the frame of the door, and Faustus looked up.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, gentlemen, but can I have a word? Privately?”

Faustus nodded, and the Ned got up to leave.

“I’ll get those numbers to you later today, sir.”

“Thank you. And please be quick about it.”

Nate nodded, and left. Now Zelda and Faustus remained, his office door still open. Faustus leaned forward and rested his elbows on the edge of his desk. He folded his hands and rested his chin atop them.

“So. What can I do for you today, Zelda?”

“Well,” Zelda’s voice faltered. Be strong. You can do this. 

“I’m listening…?”

“I wanted to let you know about the uh, farm project. It will no longer be happening.”

“I feared as much, when you weren’t providing me with further updates.”

“I...I…”

“I had hopes that you would take my advice, to get in close with the farmer to make it easier to pull the plug.”

The thought of purposefully double crossing Mary made Zelda feel sick to her stomach. Her mouth watered and she swallowed, saliva thick in her throat. Zelda opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by Faustus.

“What could you possibly have to say for yourself? I was counting on this being a success. I trusted you had things under control.” 

“Faustus I did, but, things changed. We can’t buy that farm! We can’t and we won’t. It's a piece of history! I am not going through with the project, and neither will Mary be. It’s a done deal, Faustus.”

“Not if I have a say in things.”

“Is that a threat?”

“If you take it as that, then yes.”

“I knew I should’ve called the police back when you had me followed. Only you could be so cruel. I would like you to know that I quit. I am not coming back to work here anymore, not tomorrow, not ever again.”

“You think you can just leave me? All of this that we’ve built Zelda?” Faustus rose from his chair, and walked around the desk, approaching Zelda. Zelda backed towards the door, making sure she was still able to run if she needed to, and that she was in view of others. 

“You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”

“So what if I am? That’s none of your business.”

“I see you have let your personal feelings get involved with your work, and you’ve failed to obtain a property that we apparently have put a lot of money into. That leaves me no choice but to let you go.”

Zelda scoffed, and folded her arms. This is absolutely ridiculous.

“You can’t fire me if I’ve already quit.”

“You’re right. But I can make sure that you never work in this town again. Would you like that, to be grovelling and begging for someone to rehire you, only for them to already know of your tarnished reputation?”

Zelda’s face remained unreadable. She was fuming, trying not to lose control, but her bottom lip trembled slightly. Faustus smiled when he saw her resolve weakening, slipping through the cracks. Zelda backed up away from Faustus, and bumped into the doorframe. 

“And don’t think I don’t know all about your little fair. My darling children told me they saw you there. When I asked what the fair was about, they told me it was a fundraiser for the farm.”

“It...it was, yes.”

“Well I hope your little farmer friend has other plans for the future, plans that don’t involve that farm.”

“Why?”

Faustus glanced at his watch, and slid his finger over the face, reading a text message. 

“There might not be much left of it now, which means less work for us, if we want to get in properly gutted in order for construction to move forward.”

Zelda’s stomach sank, and chills pin pricked across her body. What?

“What do you mean?” She swallowed carefully, her throat dry.

“Oh nothing. Just that you might end up selling the farm after all, when there is nothing left to hold onto.”

“Faustus what did you do?!” Zelda shouted, her raised voice drawing the looks of some of her former coworkers outside of Faustus’s office. “You tell me right now!”

“Money can’t buy you happiness, but it sure as hell can help you get exactly what you want.”

“What does that even mean?” Zelda’s heart was racing now, and she looked at her phone again. Still no messages from Mary. It was probably nothing, but Faustus’s haunting words gave her pause.

“Did you hurt Mary, Faustus?” The words tasted bitter on her tongue, and she felt she could vomit at any second

“I haven’t harmed a hair upon her head.”

Zelda pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers, and took a deep breath. A feeling of deep-seated anxiety settled in, and Zelda felt unwell. 

Something isn’t right. I need to get back to Mary.

“You know what Faustus. we’re done here. You don’t have to worry about me coming back to work here ever again. I will be reporting you to the police for those pictures—oh yeah, did you miss those? I have them safe, somewhere you will never find them.” 

Zelda turned and left Faustus’s office, not giving him a second more of her time. She had to go find out if Mary was okay. She could worry about everything later. 

“You are a fool, Zelda Spellman! Do you hear me!” Faustus followed behind Zelda as she went to her office, not caring who heard. “This company is the best thing that has ever happened to you, and you know it!” Faustus stormed into Zelda’s office, and his chest heaving. Zelda simply ignored him, gathering things from her desk. She would have to ask Oliver if he could get remote access to her work computer. There were a few former contacts that she would need for the future. Once everything was gathered, Faustus stood in the doorway, blocking the door. Zelda sighed, and rolled her eyes. Great.

“Could you please move?”

“I will not. This is my office building, and you should be here working, not running off to some lost cause.”

“Faustus” Zelda pretended to walk to one side, and then quickly stepped in the opposite direction, slipping past Faustus out the door. Just when she thought she was safe, she felt his hand clamp down on her arm. Zelda jerked, and her belongings fell to the floor. 

“Let go of me!”

Faustus gripped both of Zelda’s arms painfully, nails digging into her skin. His face was contorted in a snarl, and when he spoke spittle flew from between his gritted teeth.

“You are making the biggest mistake of your life. I hope you know that.”

“Let GO!” Zelda said, pushing Faustus away. He stumbled backwards, and glared at Zelda. Zelda ignored him, and gathered her belongings as best she could, and ran to the elevator. Once in the elevator, she took out her phone and dialed Mary’s number. The phone rang and rang, and there was no answer.

“Please pickup. Come on...come on…”

“Hi you’ve reached Mary. I can’t come to the phone right now, but leave me a message and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks!”

The phone beeped, and the words rushed out of Zelda. “Mary? Mary it’s me. Please call me back as soon as you get this. I’m on my way over now.”

Zelda hung up the phone, and sent Mary another text message.

Are you okay? I’m worried. Please give me a call back.

Tears pooled in Zelda’s eyes as she rushed to her car. All she could do now was try to calm down, and hope that Mary was okay.

 


 

Goosebumps rose over Mary’s body, and she put her pajamas back on. She could still feel the ghost of where Zelda’s mouth had bitten down on her neck the night before. She squeezed her thighs together and shivered, pulling the covers back over herself. Even though Zelda had not even been gone an hour, she still missed her. She was getting used to having a warm body in bed next to her every morning, and was cold in Zelda’s absence. Her pillows were bathed in Zelda’s scent, and even though Zelda wasn’t there with her, it still felt like she was. Mary inhaled deeply and sighed, flirting with sleep once more. She fell into a light sleep, and dreamed. In the dream, Zelda was next to her, smoking. For some reason the smoke was stronger than usual. Mary shrugged in her half-asleep state, and turned over onto her side. The same smoky smell was still there, though, and it got even stronger. It smelled like someone started a campfire right in her bedroom, or a fireplace, like something was burning

Wait. Is something burning?

Mary opened her eyes in the morning light of her room. The smoky smell was quite strong, and she didn’t know where it was coming from. Mary shot upright in her bed and looked around, feeling for her glasses on the nightstand. She put them on and ran over to her bedroom window. Her room faced the back side of the house, so she couldn’t see anything save for dark smoke blowing into her line of vision.

“Oh my god!” 

Mary grabbed her phone from the nightstand and put her slippers on, running out of her room. The smell of smoke was strong throughout the house, and she coughed involuntarily.

Please let the barn be okay. 

Mary opened the back door and ran outside, not believing her eyes. It was like a scene from a nightmare, as her worst fears were confirmed. Black smoke billowed up out of her barn, from each window, and tall flames shot up from the back of the barn. Mary stood in shock, before she broke out in a sprint, not caring about her bedroom slippers. She unlatched the barn doors and raised her arms up to cover her face, shrinking back as she was met by Waffle bucking, his front legs up in the air. Mary fell to the ground as Waffle and some of her other horses galloped past, leaving dust in their wake. 

I have to call for help! Oh god my animals! My barn!

Mary sat on the ground, winded and in shock. She looked over at the hose and outdoor water trough she had for her larger animals, and wondered if she could fill up buckets and try to put some of the flames out herself. 

No. I need to call for help, then try to save the animals!

Mary pulled her phone out of her pajama pocket, and dialed 911. The phone rang briefly, and Mary went back into the front of the barn, flames crackling around. The heat was searing, and dust and smoke blew all around the air. Her head spun, and she held her arm up over her mouth in an attempt to block out some of the smoke. Pieces of the roof were starting to fall down, and Mary could see a hole opening up in the back of the barn, heat rippling in the air.

“9-1-1 what’s your emergency?”

“Hello? Hi! I need help!” Mary shouted over the roaring of the flames. “My barn is on fire!”

“Okay ma’am I’m going to need you to stay calm. Are you somewhere safe right now?”

Frightened bleating jolted Mary back to the task at hand, and she tucked her phone into her pajama pockets. 

“Ma’am? Are you somewhere safe? Are you in danger?”

Mary ignored the 911 operator as she ran to unlock one of the stables. Some of her sheep had passed out from the smoke, Their dirty cream-colored fur standing out amongst the dust and debris.

“No…”

The flames were centralized to the back corner of the barn, so there was still an area that remained unaffected. Mary looked over to where all of her hay was, up near the front of the barn, and knew that once the flames met the dry hay, the entire barn would go up in flames.

“Ma’am? Are you still there? Ma’am?”

“Uh, yes…” The 911 operator was soon forgotten, though as Mary heard the distressed cries of her animals. Their stables were back towards where the flames were, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself if she didn’t at least try to help them escape. Running on adrenaline, Mary ran straight towards the flames in the back of the barn. The heat was unbearable, and Mary felt herself start to sweat almost immediately. She unlatched the stables with shaking, sweating hands. The older animals sprung from their stables, towards the direction of safety. Mary scooped up two baby goats and ran, dropping them outside of the barn. She started to cough, and bent over for a minute to catch her breath. Her head felt spacey, nearly causing her to collapse headfirst in the dirt, and her eyes and nose watered. She wiped the back of her hand over her nose and spat, everything tasting like the cloying smoke. There was a creaking noise and Mary looked up at the barn. The bright orange flames were travelling across to the top of the barn roof, consuming the wooden structure.

I have to go back in there...

With a shaky deep breath, and another coughing fit, Mary ran back into the barn. A section of the roof had started to fall through near the back, and Mary had to dodge falling pieces of wood when she returned to the back of the barn. More sheep and goats ran out of the burning barn to safety, and Mary looked around in the smoke, trying to see how many animals remained. Almost all of the animals were out, but Mary wanted to at least try to see if some of the animals who had passed out would rouse. 

Even if I can only save one, I have to try!

Mary coughed again, the smoke burning her lungs. It felt like she was inhaling the flames directly. Gasping, she ran over to where some of the unconscious animals lay, and fell to her knees. She crawled over to one of her ewes who had recently given birth.

“Wake up sweetheart. Please wake up. Please!”

She shook the ewe, hands feeling over her thick wool, trying to gauge if she was breathing or not. The barn gave another cracking noise, and Mary turned around in time to see more flaming wooden beams fall, dust flying up when they hit the ground. She began to cough again as the air felt like it was being squeezed out of her lungs. Mary leant forward and nearly laid down next to the ewe, her energy almost completely gone. 

I have to get out of here. There is nothing else I can do for these animals.

Mary’s bottom lip trembled as she stood, and the room swirled around her. An idea sparked in her foggy mind, and she bent down to pick up the ewe, the room tilting around. Mary slid her hands beneath the animal and stood, with great effort. Pain tore through Mary’s lower back and neck, but it faded away in the background as she considered the task at hand. Slowly, yet urgently, Mary walked, hoping she didn’t trip over anything. She kicked off her slippers, not wanting them to cause her to trip. If she fell down now, she didn’t think she would be getting back up. 

I can’t think about that. My animals need me. Zelda needs…

At the thought of Zelda, Mary’s strength was momentarily renewed. She readjusted the ewe in her arms, and kept walking to the barn door. The animal was heavy, still full of milk, and Mary felt her legs shaking beneath her as she got closer to the exit. Wood creaked once more and Mary felt a blow against the side of her head accompanied by searing hot pain. A terrible burning sensation brushed over the side of her arm as well, and a cold sweat broke out over Mary’s already sweating body. She felt nauseous, the pain nearly bringing her to her knees. But, by some adrenaline-infused miracle, Mary kept walking, and forced one foot in front of the other. It was becoming increasingly hard to breathe and the light of the barn door was wavering. 

Just a few more feet. I can make it. I just have to…

Mary stumbled out of the barn into the fresh air. She fell to her knees, the hard ground jarring her bones. Her arms were no longer able to carry the unconscious sheep, and it slid to the ground, which had now begun to swim before Mary’s eyes. Her breath caught in her throat and she started coughing again, so hard that she began to gag. She spat, a mixture of blood and sooty mucus, and wished she had water. Mary glanced in the direction of the main road, to see if anyone was coming, She had forgotten all about the 911 call, and hoped they would send someone. It sounded like sirens were in the distance, but she couldn’t tell if it was true, or if she was just imagining things. 

Zelda...I need Zelda. 

Mary couldn’t hold herself up any longer, her arms shaking beneath her weakened body. She fell forward, chest colliding with the ground knocking what little air she had left in her lungs out of her. Mary rolled onto her back and started coughing again. Panic started to settle in, and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to breathe unaided. Either that or she would never breathe again.

Zelda…I love you...

The last thing Mary saw was the underside of the large elm tree she lay beneath, before everything drifted to blackness.

Chapter Text

Zelda. Where are you?

“Ma’am? Ma’am? Can you hear me?”

Sounds and light filtered in and out of Mary’s mind like waves, coming and going. The hard ground was no longer beneath her, her aching shoulders now resting against something soft. The smoky smell seemed to have died down, and there were noises. A symphony of beeps, voices blurring together, and the faint sound of what sounded like a siren. Mary felt a sharp prick and then coolness in her arm, and it made her wince.

Ow!

She tried to pull away, but gentle hands held her still. Mary coughed, an awful sounding thing that left her gasping, gulping down precious oxygen. When she tried to clear her throat it felt like she had swallowed sandpaper, like she was downing a glass of gravel. When she opened her eyes, she felt like she was in-between sleep and awake. There was something sitting over her mouth and nose, and she felt elastic straps, taut against the sides of her face. She could breathe again. Finally. Despite the coughing, air flowed into her lungs, pure and clean. Everything was a blur, and her glasses were no longer on her face. Mary tried to look around, but it hurt her neck, and she decided against it. She let her eyes close for a split second, the events of the past hour a lot to process.

“Ma’am?”

There is that voice again. Who is it? Where is Zelda?

The side of Mary’s head started to throb, the pain that had been masked by adrenaline was now coming to the forefront, in full force. She moaned as the ambulance sped up, wishing someone would ease the pounding. In addition, her chest was sore, like someone had been pressing down on it forcefully.

I don’t feel good…

Mary opened her eyes again to see the roof of what she assumed to be an ambulance. Weakly, she reached for the oxygen mask that sat on her face. Her lips were dry and cracked, and her nose was running. She pulled the mask aside, and swallowed.

“I’m thirsty.”

Mary went through the motions of talking, but her voice only came out a useless croak, her throat burning.

“Take it easy, ma’am. You need to leave that mask on.” 

A blurry young woman materialized in front of Mary, and she reached out to put the oxygen mask back on Mary’s face. Mary weakly protested, and held her hand up to block the mask.

“Please . I need Zelda. She doesn’t know where I am.” It took all of Mary’s energy to speak, and the paramedic slid the mask back over her face.

“Is Zelda your wife?”

“She…” Mary nodded, too weak to correct the woman. Tears filled her eyes and fell, rolling down the sides of her temples. 

“It’s okay.” A hand rested on Mary’s shoulder, and rubbed back and forth. “We’re going to take care of you, alright?” 

Mary nodded, everything around her out of focus.

“What’s your name?”

“Mary...Mary Wardwell.” Under different circumstances, Mary would’ve laughed at the way she sounded with the oxygen mask on, reminiscent of a character from Star Wars . She blinked, and tried to focus her vision. The woman appeared to be writing something down.

“...date of birth? Mary? Are you still with us?”

“Oh. Mhmmn.”

“What is your date of birth?”

“Um…” I know this.. . “December...November 23, 1966.” 

“Perfect. And do you know what day of the week it is?”

Mary’s head hurt as she tried to make sense of everything. It felt like there was a fog over everything, the answers just out of reach. 

“Well the fair was yesterday, and that was a Sunday...Zelda had to go to work today, so, Monday?”

“Correct.” 

The paramedic turned her back to Mary for a moment, and seemed to be retrieving something from one of the shelves that lined the ambulance. When she turned back around she held out Mary’s phone to her.

“If you unlock this I can call Zelda for you.”

Mary unlocked the phone and weakly held it out to the paramedic. She could barely keep her eyes open, suddenly tired from the lack of oxygen.

“Hello? Is this Zelda Spellman?”

Everything was muddy after that. 

Mary felt herself being moved, smelled the scent of exhaust, then bleach and antiseptic, and heard people’s voices talking all around her. She felt the open air beneath her as she was lifted and laid back down again on another soft surface. Her clothes were cut away and the air was cold on her skin. A shiver went through her body and she tried to cover herself up, to preserve some modesty, but gentle hands kept her from doing so. 

I don’t know what’s happening. Where’s Zelda?

She shook like a leaf as a thin gown was placed on her. Someone brushed her hair back, hand brushing over where it hurt the most. Mary shook as she felt a stinging sensation near her temple, and brought her hand up to her mouth. She couldn’t watch as they cleaned the cut. Sure, she had seen her fair share of blood, with animals being born on the farm every year. But seeing her own blood was another thing. Mary shut her eyes, and wished the nurse would work faster, so she wouldn’t have to sit through the pain any longer. Liquid was flushed over the wound, which burned, and she felt fabric dabbing at it. The pain was terrible, and Mary felt the contents of her stomach rise into her throat. She then felt a tiny, sharp stick followed by a tugging motion. Mary’s eyes flew open and she swallowed nervously.

“I feel sick. Please. Please stop.” She made eye contact with the nurse who was working on her stitches, and tried not to cry. 

“Hold on Mary. We’re going to give you something to help with the nausea.”

Rubber shoes squeaked against the linoleum floor as some blessed soul went over to her I.V. and injected some medication. Mary visibly relaxed, and felt her nausea slowly retreat.

“Is Zelda here?” Mary looked around, trying to get a view of the door. A nurse gently guided back to sit up against the pillows.

“No sweetheart. But the minute she does come here, I’ll make sure I send her directly to you. What does she look like?”

Mary went on to describe Zelda, a smile forming on her face despite the pain she was in. Her nurse, Rachel, cleaned her up a bit more, cleaning the dirt off of her face and limbs. Rachel helped her into a pair of clean underwear, a pair of fuzzy socks, and tucked her into bed. A doctor ran some tests on her, and she was taken to get an MRI. By the time Mary got back from the MRI, she was knackered, and wanted nothing more than to curl up and go to sleep. Rachel wheeled her back to her bed and locked the wheels of the wheelchair. The distinctive smell of sterile hospital linen was in the air, and Mary was soon snug beneath the recently changed covers once more. Se turned onto her side, and shivered. 

“Are you cold?” 

“A bit.”

“I’ll be right back.”

Rachel left the room and returned moments later with a blanket in hand. She spread it out over Mary, and checked her vitals.

“We’ll let you sleep for a bit. The doctor wants to keep an eye on that concussion of yours. I’ll be back to check on you every two hours, okay?” 

Mary nodded, a faint throbbing in her head. The tears were already rolling across the bridge of her nose, leaving little drip drops on her pillow. She trembled beneath the blankets, and tried not to sob.

 


 

Zelda ran like never before once she arrived to Greendale General Hospital. One of the firefighters, who she thanked profusely, gave her a ride over. Earlier, when she had arrived back at the farm, she barely put her car in park before she was jumping out and running towards where the firemen were. They asked her if she knew the owner, but all Zelda could do was stare in horror, falling to her knees in the dirt. A firefighter helped her up, and took her back over to the truck to check her vitals. Zelda swatted her away, and stood to walk around the side of the fire truck. Once she was alone, around the other side of the truck she was nearly sick, but had nothing in her stomach to come up. Tears clouded everything, and Zelda felt herself being guided over to sit on the porch. It was the firefighter whom she had first talked to, the one who had checked Zelda’s vitals. Zelda appreciated the woman’s kindness, especially when she went as far as to bring Zelda a glass of water from inside the house. She waited with Zelda, gently ordering her to take small sips. Zelda finished the glass of water and set it aside, trying to calm her racing pulse.

“Can I,” Zelda swallowed. “I need to go see about Mary. I need to make sure she’s okay.”

Wasting no more time, they were off to the hospital. Zelda called Jonathan and Oliver on the way, to let them know what happened. Jonathan agreed to go to the farm and make sure none of the animals had run away, and to lock up the house. Oliver planned on gathering Zelda some toiletries from her apartment, and told her he would contact Hilda, filling her in on the latest news. 

Zelda’s appreciation for her friends in that moment was insurmountable, and she found herself wiping away tears from inside of the fire vehicle. The firefighter handed Zelda some tissues as they pulled up to the hospital Zelda thanked the woman and was racing the minute her feet hit the ground. She burst through the hospital doors like a runner at the starting gun, and nearly crashed into passersby. She choked down the suddenly present bile in her throat as she skidded to a stop at the front desk. 

“Please! Where is Mary Wardwell?”

“How do you spell that name, ma’am?”

“Wardwell. Ward. Well! It’s not that hard. Please,” Zelda shook her head. “I’m sorry. I just need to know what room she’s in. I’m her girlfriend. She was just brought in not too long ago?”

The woman behind the front desk typed on her computer, and then looked back up at Zelda.

“Looks like she is in room 4438. If you just go down the hallway here to your left,” Zelda looked in the direction the woman was pointing. “…and then you’ll take the elevator up to the fourth floor, you’ll be in the right place. Just follow the signs from there—“

The woman never got a chance to finish, as Zelda had already taken off down the hallway, shoes squeaking on the floor. 

Please please please let her be okay.

The elevator doors opened, and Zelda ran inside, furiously pushing the button for the fourth floor. The doors closed slowly, and Zelda shook, biting her bottom lip hard trying not to break down in the elevator. The doors finally dinged, and Zelda ran out, nearly colliding with a nurse. 

“No running in the hallways, please!”

There was no time for Zelda to apologize, though, as she had one goal in mind. One destination. The only thing of importance to her. Mary.

When Zelda came to her room, she took a few moments to gulp down some air, trying to do away with the impending panic attack that she felt building up since she got back to the farm. She stepped closer to the doorway, her eyes immediately going to the person curled up in the middle of the bed. Mary lay there, her hair frizzy, wearing a hospital gown that was far too big for her. There was a bandage wrapped around her left forearm, and she had some stitches on the same side of her forehead, near her hairline. Zelda rushed over to her bedside, her stomach turning over.

“Mary...oh love. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there!” Zelda cried upon closer inspection. Mary’s face was red, as though she were badly sunburnt. She wore an oxygen mask, and had tubes coming out of her arm and from under her blanket. The blankets shook as Mary shivered, her knees tucked up to her chest.

“Zelda?”

It was a pitiful sound, and Mary began to cry harder, pulling off her mask. Zelda sat down on the edge of Mary’s bed, facing her, and reached out to set her palm against her face. She leant down to give her a kiss, Mary’s lips warm and dry and against hers. When she pulled back Mary was still crying, and Zelda’s heart sank. 

“My darling girl. I’m so glad that you’re okay,” Zelda stroked Mary’s face, wiping away residual smudges of dirt. With great effort, Mary moved to sit up, and began coughing. Zelda patted her back and waited with her until the coughing fit ended. It sounded like she was coughing something up, and Zelda looked around frantically before seeing a small basin sitting on the table next to Mary’s bed. She grabbed it and held it under Mary’s mouth as she spat. Zelda rubbed her back, worried at how long it took her to catch her breath. Mary gestured towards the cup of water that was on the table next to her bed. Zelda saw what she was pointing at and picked up the cup, bringing the straw to Mary’s lips. She rubbed her back while she took a few sips, and swept her hair over her shoulder, noticing how the gown left her back out. Mary leaned back when she had drank enough, and Zelda took the mask from Mary’s hand and slid it back over her nose and mouth.

“Don’t worry about trying to talk. You need this oxygen right now.” Zelda leaned down and kissed Mary’s forehead, and noted that she smelled like smoke. She put the cup back on the side table, and moved closer to Mary.

“The barn...someone set it...on fire,” Mary gasped, the mask fogging up as she spoke. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she started to cry, coughing 

“I know sweetheart. It will be okay. Just sit for a minute. I’m here now, and I’m not leaving.” 

Zelda’s reassurances sounded hollow to her own ears, but she had to remain strong and be present for Mary. Mary nodded, sent a weak smile in Zelda’s direction, her energy spent. 

“Have you been here long?”

The brunette shook her head slowly. “Maybe 2 hours?”

“Mmn.” Zelda gulped, her throat suddenly dry. “Did your doctor say all that was wrong? How long before I get to take you home and take care of you?”

Zelda fidgeted with her hands, her stomach bubbling, full of nerves. She hoped Mary wouldn’t mind her referring to her house a home. They hadn’t talked about moving in together yet, but Zelda knew without a doubt she would at least be there until Mary recovered.

“Smoke inhalation...and a concussion.” Mary said on an exhale. “Don’t know...when I can leave...but you better...you better wear a sexy nurse outfit...when we get home.” Mary chuckled behind the mask, the sound more like a weak exhale, and coughed. Zelda cupped Mary’s cheek and smiled, tears pooling in her eyes. 

“You went in the fire?”

“The animals...I had to try to save them.”

“My brave girl. How did you get the concussion? You didn’t fall, did you?”

“No, I...I think something fell, on me?”

“Oh my god.” Zelda eyed the neat line of stitches near Mary’s hairline, and saw leftover traces of dried blood on top of the bruised skin. The thought of Mary cut and bleeding and hurt sent a shiver through Zelda, and she couldn’t stop the tears that sprung up in her throat.

“I was so scared when I got to the house and you weren’t there. I thought that you…” Zelda’s face crumpled, eyebrows pushed upwards, mouth downturned as she began to weep silently. Zelda’s sobs shook the bed, all of her emotions coming out like a waterfall. Mary squeezed Zelda’s arm, and gave it a tug. Zelda didn’t look up, and Mary did it again. This time she lifted her head and looked at Mary, and saw tears streaming down her face as well, with outstretched her arms. Zelda leaned forward to hug Mary as best she could. Mary’s shoulders shook as they embraced, her face buried in the side of Zelda’s neck, and Zelda cried harder. The room was silent, save for the sound of muffled sniffles and staggered breaths, with Mary’s machines beeping quietly in the background. Zelda rubbed Mary’s back in a trance, her hand warm against the goosebumps on Mary’s skin. 

“I love you,” Mary said in a whisper. Zelda lifted her head from Mary’s shoulder and set her forehead against Mary’s, cautious not to put pressure over where she was hurt. Mary moved her mouth to Zelda’s, laughing when bumped her mouth with the mask. Zelda slid the mask down under Mary’s chin and kissed her with the utmost care. The heart monitor off to the side of Mary’s bed started to beep and Zelda broke the kiss, sliding the oxygen mask back onto Mary’s face.

“Oops.” Someone muttered from the doorway. Zelda sighed, and lifted her forehead off of Mary’s. She turned to look at the intruder and saw a nurse standing there with a stethoscope out. She stepped into the room, and smiled at them both.

“Ah you must be the girlfriend.” She went over to Mary’s monitors and double checked her I.V. “I got worried when I got the notification that her heart rate had gone up, but I can see that it was for a good reason.”

Zelda blushed, and lowered her gaze. The nurse came over to Mary and took her pulse, and checked on her oxygen. Zelda got off the bed and moved herself out of the way, eyes remaining on Mary. She kept moving until her back made contact with the wall, and she let her head sink back with a soft thump . Mary’s conversation with her nurse faded into mumbling in the background as Zelda considered how lucky they were that Mary wasn’t hurt worse. She still couldn’t believe the events of that morning. Mary was never supposed to end up hurt. Things were supposed to work out! Faustus wasn’t supposed to come and interfere. Tears burned Zelda’s throat, the wellspring threatening to burst once more. There was movement in the corner of her eye as Rachel walked over to the opposite side of the bed with a wheelchair. Zelda stood up straight, and walked forward to Mary’s bedside.

“What’s wrong?”

Mary pulled the mask down, readying herself to speak.

“I have to use the bathroom.”

“Oh.” 

Zelda watched as Mary’s nurse helped her from the bed, and spoke to her in a gentle tone. She wanted to jump in and help Mary, saw the way she held onto the bed, uneasy on her feet. Her gown fell open and her freckled back was exposed, nothing underneath save for a pair of hospital-issued panties. Zelda wanted to kiss that back, she would kiss that back when they were alone. Zelda’s cheeks warmed, and she scolded herself for thinking about such things while Mary was in the hospital. 

“I’ll be right back Zelda” Mary said as she was wheeled past. She looked peaky, and her skin had gone gray. Zelda ached to hold her, wished her love for Mary could make her better.

“I’ll just be out in the hallway. Need to make a phone call.” Zelda gestured to the door and left, her cheeks pink. She found her phone and made herself scarce




 

“Hilda?”

“Zelda! I’ve been trying to get a hold of you! What happened at the farm?”

Zelda’s breath caught in her throat, and tears rolled down her face before she could get the words out of her mouth. 

“Someone burned down the barn and Mary got hurt,” Zelda sobbed, her emotions spilling out of her unrestrained. 

“What?! Oh my god! Is Mary okay?”

“She has a concussion, and some smoke inhalation?” Zelda leaned against the wall, and wanted nothing more than to slide down to the floor and sob. “I was so scared Hildie. I still am. I love her so much. If things went differently--”

“You stop thinking like that Zelda! You two have been through enough already. Don’t think like that. She is here, and you are here, and you are together now, and that’s all that matters.”

Zelda continued to cry on her side of the line, and walked over to a chair, sinking down into it. She bent forward and watched as her teardrops fell to the buffed-clean floor. Hilda was silent, and listened to the sounds of Zelda’s sobs.

“Oh Zelds. I’m coming over there. What do you need me to bring?”

“Uh, um” Zelda wiped over her eyes with the back of her hand. “Maybe some pajamas? For the both of us. They have Mary in this gown that is way too big for her, and she is cold.” 

“Okay. I am leaving work right now. I’ll bring you something to eat too. I’m sure you haven’t eaten since yesterday.”

Hilda was right. Zelda hadn’t eaten since the day before, in addition to nearly fainting then too. She’d do well not mention that piece of information to Hilda. She knew her sister wouldn’t let her hear the end of it. 

“Thank you, Hildie. I love you.” Zelda’s voice broke and she felt a flood of affection for her sister, who was always there for her, even when she shouldn’t have been.

“I love you too Zelds. Don’t you worry about a thing. I will be there soon. You just take care of Mary as best you can, okay?”

“Okay. Bye.”

Zelda stood from the chair and stretched, feeling light-headed when she lowered her arms back down. 

I need to take better care of myself. I have to be there for Mary.

When Zelda walked back into Mary’s room, she was just pulling the covers back up over herself. Zelda’s heart nearly beat out of her chest as she watched Mary look around the room, blinking slowly until her eyes met Zelda’s. 

I am so in love with her…

Zelda smiled, and went back to her bedside. “So how was your trip to the bathroom? Meet anyone fun along the way?” Zelda teased, knowing the bathroom was right there in the room. 

“It was harder than I thought, actually. I almost fell over a few times, from being so dizzy. But Rachel helped, of course.” Mary leaned back against the pillows, and pulled the mask back up over her nose and mouth.

“Oh sweetheart” Zelda stroked Mary’s hair, and kissed her forehead. “I’m so sorry about all of this. Truly, I am.”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to apologize.”

“I do . If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be in this predicament, and your barn would still be okay.”

“Zelda,” Mary sat back up, pulling her mask off once more, the action winding her. “You can’t keep...bringing up the fact...that I wouldn’t be in this situation...if it weren’t for you.” Mary swallowed, and turned her head to the side, coughing again. “This isn’t your fault.”

Zelda reached off to the side of the bed, and poured Mary some more water. 

“Here.”

Zelda held out the cup, plastic straw turned towards Mary’s mouth. Mary’s lips closed around the straw and a look of pleasure crossed her face. 

“Mmn. Thank you. I have been so thirsty today.”

“You’re welcome. Let me know when you want more.”

“I will.” Mary looked at Zelda, and could see the guilt all over her face. “Zelda come here. “ Mary weakly gestured to Zelda with one finger. Zelda moved closer, and Mary held her face in place, the plastic pulse monitor on her fingertip pressing against Zelda’s cheek.  “I meant what I said, just so you know.”

Zelda looked back and forth between Mary’s eyes, looked up at the cut near her hairline, looked down at the bandage wrapped around her forearm, and nodded curtly. 

“It’s just hard, seeing you like this. All I want is for you to be safe…”

“I am safe. You’re here with me, and that is all I need.”

Zelda blinked rapidly, vision blurring over with tears. Will I ever stop crying today?

There was a knock at Mary’s room door, and the sound of a voice over a walkie talkie. Zelda could sense someone in the room, and she turned to look. Two police officers stood at Mary’s room door, waiting for an invitation. One looked familiar, and Zelda gasped when she realized where she recognized him. It was Officer Cruz, the same officer that had taken her in to the station, back when she got her DUI.

“Sorry to interrupt, ladies, but do you mind if we ask you two some questions? The nurse said it would be okay, as long as you were up to it, Mary.”

“That will be fine.”

The two officers walked into the room, and stood near Mary’s bed. Zelda smiled at Officer Cruz, and dropped her gaze.

“Don’t I know you?” he asked, squinting at Zelda.

“Pardon?”

“You’re that nice lady I pulled over a few months back.”

Zelda blushed, embarrassed about reliving that unfortunate piece of her life. She looked at Mary and wished she could hide underneath her bedcovers until the officers left.

“Yes, that’s me.”

“How have you been? Staying out of trouble, I hope.” He laughed, trying to make friendly conversation. All Zelda could manage was an empty laugh in response, too on edge to find humor in the moment. Mary subtly reached out for Zelda’s hand and brought it to her lap, her thumb rubbing back and forth over it. Zelda’s eyes fluttered closed, and she took a deep breath. 

“So I’m Officer Smith, and this is Officer Cruz, as you know already.” The second officer who stood next to Officer Cruz spoke, and pulled out a notepad and from her pocket. “We’re just going to ask Mary a few questions, and then be on our way. You are welcome to stay, ma’am.” 

“I think I will stay. Thank you.”

“Do either of you mind if we record your answers?”

Zelda and Mary looked at each other, then back at Officers Smith and Cruz, and shook their heads. The police officers proceeded to ask Mary a series of questions about what happened that morning. They didn’t get very far before Mary’s head was starting to hurt, and she had to lie down. Zelda tucked her in, and discreetly pressed a kiss to her forehead. Officer Smith pulled Zelda aside, her hand soft where it met Zelda’s arm.

“Do you mind if I ask you a few questions as well?”

“Oh, uh, sure.” Zelda looked back at Mary, and then back at the young officer.

“It’s okay. We’ll stay in here so you can keep an eye on her.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s no problem. I know I wouldn’t want to leave the room either if my wife were in the hospital...though with my job, it would probably be the other way around. Anyways…” she flipped to a clean page in her notepad, and had her pen ready. “How long have you known Mary?”

“Oh, um, a few months now. Since the end of May or so.”

“Okay. And how do you know each other?”

“Well...it’s kind of a long story. I used to work for a land management and development company and I wanted to buy Mary’s farm. I proposed a whole project and had an architect and construction manager and everything. Things were stressful at work and uh, long story short, I took some substances and got arrested by Officer Cruz, for driving under the influence. This was right after Mary and I first met. Then I was assigned to do community service at her farm, the very place I was trying to buy.”

“Wow talk about karma.”

“I know.” Zelda looked down, and turned red again. “If I didn’t do my community service, though, then I wouldn’t have had the chance to get to know her better, or fall in love with her.” Zelda looked back at Mary, and sniffled, her eyes watering involuntarily. Officer Smith sat her hand on Zelda’s shoulder, which caused Zelda to turn back around. 

“I’m sorry, today has been really emotional.”

“I understand. I only have a few more questions. Now, is there anyone you could think of who would be upset with you or Mary?”

“Yes.” Zelda blurted out, Faustus’s angry face from earlier coming to mind. “My boss—well, former boss, now. He was upset with me for not going through with the farm project that I proposed. He…” Zelda closed her eyes and searched for the strength to continue. 

“It’s okay, Zelda. Take your time,” Officer Smith encouraged, her voice soothing. Zelda rubbed over her arm, where Faustus had grabbed her earlier that morning. It was still tender to the touch, and she shuddered.

“He verbally and physically abused me, pushed and grabbed me, made sexual advances—not all at once, but just little things here and there, over the years. I never reported him, because...because I was afraid. Afraid of losing my job, and afraid of him. He even had me followed, and I have pictures to prove it—well, not on me right now, but my coworker has them. If we left them hidden at work, Faustus was sure to find them.”

Officer Smith’s pen scribbled furiously across her notepad, and she had a frown on her face. 

“And Faustus is your former boss’s name?”

“Yes. Faustus Blackwood.” 

“And your office was located in…?”

“In Riverdale.”

“Okay. I think that is enough information for us. We will definitely be looking into this. You can bring those pictures down to the station any time in the next few days. Is there anything else you would like to add?”

Zelda was silent for a moment, and then pushed up the sleeves of her t-shirt, showing off where Faustus had grabbed her.

“He put his hands on me today. I’m sure you can see where.”

Officer Smith hesitated, and then pulled her phone out. “Would you mind if I got a picture of that?”

“No, it’s fine. Where do you want me to stand?”

“Just where you are is fine. Ah...there we go.” 

Zelda was patient as Officer Smith snapped a few photos of her arms, from different angles, and slid her phone back into her pocket. 

“If you could get those pictures to us as soon as possible that will be great. Take care of yourself, Zelda, and Mary too.”

“Will do. Thank you.”

“No problem.”

Zelda smiled after Officer Smith, and heard her talking to Officer Cruz once she was out in the hallway. Zelda turned around to go back to Mary’s bed, and saw that Mary was awake and she was crying, silently. Zelda rushed to her side, and sat down careful not to shake the bed around too much.

“What’s wrong my love?”

“He,” Mary gulped, a mask of pain and anger settling on her face. She looked like she was going to be ill, or go into a fit of rage, or both. 

“He put his hands ...on you.”

Zelda had never seen Mary this upset before, and felt bad for not telling her of the other things Faustus did sooner. She hung her head, and licked her lips. “Yes, he did.”

“Zelda why didn’t you tell me? I need to teach that bastard a lesson.” Mary sat up and tossed her covers aside and stood from the bed, ready to fall over.

“Mary no!” Zelda rushed around the bed to hold onto Mary and guide her back to the bed. Mary wilted under Zelda’s touch, and started to cough, gasping in-between each cough. 

“Please sweetheart. Get back in the bed. We will let the police worry about Faustus, okay?”

With a look of defeat, Mary climbed back into the bed. Of course she knew she couldn’t go anywhere in her current state. But the thought of Faustus hurting Zelda infuriated her. How dare he lay a hand on Zelda? Thoughts of Faustus getting what he deserved occupied Mary’s already aching mind, and she tried to let it be, tried to let herself relax. She let out a pained moan without even realizing she did so.

“Is your head hurting?”

“Yes,” Mary sniffed, and wiped away some tears. “I think the medication is wearing off.”

Zelda reached for Mary as if she were made of porcelain. Slowly, like molasses, she brushed a feather-soft kiss across Mary’s temple, letting her nose brush across her hairline. The smell of smoke was still strong in Mary’s hair, and Zelda could see residual flecks of ash nestled in the curly locks.

“Do you want me to get the nurse?”

“Please?”

Zelda rose from Mary’s bed and walked to the nurse’s station, not too far down the hall from Mary’s room. Mary’s nurse was at the computer typing, with a folder out in front of her.

“Um…”

“Yes?” The woman peered up at Zelda over red framed glasses

“Do you think you could come check on Mary? She is in pain again. I think it is hurting worse than she is letting on.”

“Of course.”

The nurse rose from her seat and walked side by side with Zelda back to Mary’s room.

“What was your name again? I didn’t get it.”

“Rachel.”

Zelda nodded, not really in the mood for further small talk or pleasantries. At least she now knew the name of the person looking after Mary. She wanted to make sure everyone knew who she was, that Mary received the best care available. When they re-entered Mary’s room, Mary was lying back against the pillows with her eyes clenched shut. The nurse left and returned in minutes with more medication for Mary. Zelda watched as Mary swallowed down the pills with some water, and leaned back again, her eyes closed. When the nurse left for good, Zelda sat back down on the edge of Mary’s bed and took her hand.

“You’re going to get through this, Mary. I know it hurts right now, but I will be here every step of the way.” Zelda lifted Mary’s hand up and kissed it, smiling when Mary set her palm against the side of Zelda’s face.

“I love you,” Mary whispered, not opening her eyes. 

“I love you too.”

Chapter Text

Hilda was an angel

She arrived with a small duffel bag slung over one shoulder, a blanket tucked under her arm, and a brown grocery bag between her hands. Zelda was sitting next to Mary’s bedside when she arrived, a chair pulled up close to the bed. Zelda turned around at the sound of Hilda’s sigh, and tears clouded her vision.

“Hildie…”

The younger Spellman sister quickly sat the items down on the rolling table that had been placed at the foot of Mary’s bed, and moved towards her sister. Zelda stood and wrapped Hilda in a hug, crying into her shoulder.

“Shhh. It’s okay Zelds.” Hilda hugged Zelda in return, and tucked her chin over her shoulder. Zelda slouched in Hilda’s arms, her body shaking, and Hilda could feel her tears soaking through her collar.

“Let’s have a seat, shall we? Have a bite to eat?” Hilda asked, stroking Zelda’s hair. Zelda pulled back, wiping at her nose, and nodded. Hilda walked behind the chair and pushed it up behind Zelda for her to sit in. Hilda moved another chair near to where Zelda’s was, but she didn’t sit down. Instead, she reached inside of the brown paper bag, and withdrew a small styrofoam bowl with a lid on it.

“I know you’re probably not hungry, but you need to eat something. This is tomato soup, and I have some grilled cheese in the bag.”

Hilda held out the bowl to Zelda with a spoon, and Zelda took them, her forgotten hunger now gnawing impatiently at her empty stomach. Steam drifted up from the bowl of soup when she opened it, and her mouth watered. She was starving . Zelda dipped the spoon into the bowl, gathering a spoonful of the hot liquid. She blew on it, carefully testing it with her lips before sliding the whole spoon into her mouth. Her eyes closed at the taste, and Hilda smiled as Zelda continued to eat. The room was silent for a few minutes, while Zelda ate the soup, and Hilda moved around the room. She unfolded the blanket and draped it over Mary’s sleeping form. 

“This is so good, Hilda. Thank you.”

“You are very welcome.” 

Mary let out a moan, stirring in her sleep. Zelda looked up from her seat, ready to set her food aside to check on Mary.

“It’s okay Zelds. I think she’s okay. You just worry about getting some food in your body.” 

Zelda sat back down, and spooned up the last few bites of her soup.

“Do you have those grilled cheese sandwiches you mentioned?”

“Yes.” Hilda dug around in the bag and pulled out the sandwich wrapped in a brown, grease-stained paper. Zelda unwrapped the oily thing, and sank her teeth into the still-warm sandwich. 

“I’ve forgotten how good these are,” Zelda mumbled around a bite. “I should have some more often. I’m so used to restricting myself and it feels nice to...relax, for once.”

Hilda smiled as the Zelda she knew, the one Zelda had worked so hard to hide, shone through. Her sister often kept herself hidden away, was always strong in front of everyone, even her family. But spending time around Mary caused Zelda to lower her defenses, and she seemed to be genuinely happy.

“You know, I am so glad that you and Mary found each other, Zelda.” 

Zelda smiled, unable to keep her feelings for Mary private. She crinkled the sandwich wrapper, rolling the edge back and forth between her fingertips. 

“Me too.” Zelda quickly snuck a look at Hilda and turned her gaze back to the sandwich she held in her lap.

“So I uh...I quit my job today…”

“You did ?!” 

If Hilda’s jaw were to drop any further, it would be on the floor. Zelda almost wanted to laugh at the expression on her sister’s face.

“Yes.”

“Wow. I never thought I’d see the day.”

“He uh—Faustus…” Zelda gulped. “I didn’t want to be around him anymore. I don’t want to be around him anymore. He has become unspeakably cruel, and I feel uncomfortable working for him.”

“Good for you Zelda. I am proud of you. I never did like that man.”

I used to, Zelda thought, guilt over her past filling her stomach like a ball of lead. How many people had they hurt with their ruthless business practices? Good people who meant well, who had grown up and invested in their properties? People like Mary? It pained Zelda to imagine her past self treating Mary the way she used to interact with all of their business ventures. 

Business ventures…

That’s how Faustus had them refer to the people whose property they bought. He always said it was important to keep things to business, and not get too friendly, or refer to people by their names. Zelda’s stomach hurt, and she blurted out what she had been thinking about since arriving at the hospital.

“Hilda I think he might he responsible for the fire.”

“Oh my god...really?”

“Yes. It had to be him. He said some threatening things to me when I told him I was quitting. Joked about there not being ‘much left’ of the farm. It was awful Hilda. And then to go back and find the barn still up in flames, and Mary nowhere to be found!” Zelda’s breath caught in her throat, and she almost started crying again.

“It’s so hard for me, seeing her here like this. I haven’t had to deal with seeing someone I love hurt like this. Not since...”

Edward.

Hilda moved her chair closer to Zelda’s and reached for her hand. Zelda squeezed Hilda’s hand like she was a lifeline, saving her from drowning in a sea of her own dark thoughts. Hilda laid her head on Zelda’s shoulder as the unspoken name of their brother hung in the air between them. The accident that took their brother and sister-in-law had been terribly hard for them both, but it was completely devastating for Zelda. Her and Edward had been so close since childhood, that they were practically twins. Hilda knew Zelda carried that pain with her daily, even though the tragedy took place almost 17 years ago. She wiped her eyes, and took a deep breath.

“Do you know when you will get to take her home?” 

“No, not yet.” Zelda licked her lips, eyes drifting over to Mary’s sleeping form. “Soon, I hope. They wanted to do some more tests and keep an eye on her overnight.”

“Poor love.” Hilda patted the back of Zelda’s hand with her free one, and observed her sister for any sign of further distress. “Listen, it has been a looong morning for you. If you want to step out and get some air or something—”

“No! I’m not leaving her.” Zelda grimaced at the harsh tone of her voice, and shrunk back into her seat. 

“I’m sorry.”

Mary stirred once more, and coughed lightly. Hilda and Zelda both turned to look at her, holding their breath for a moment to see if they had woken her. She coughed once more, and then rolled onto her back. Mary’s sleeping form went blurry before Zelda’s eyes, tears clouding her vision. The room was getting just a tad too cozy for Zelda, and she struggled to draw breath. 

“I think I might take you up on that offer to go outside, actually. I just need a minute alone, to process...” Zelda stood from the chair, tears ready to fall from her eyes.

“Oh..okay.” Hilda looked up at Zelda, concerned for her sister. Zelda had all but worked herself into a panic. 

“I’ll be here with Mary, don’t worry.” Hilda reached into her purse and pulled out her latest knitting project, and started counting stitches. Zelda turned to walk into the hallway, and rushed past everyone, the stairwell at the end of the hall her goal. Stumbling through the door, she ran down a flight and sat where she wasn’t in view of the door that led to Mary’s floor. Zelda’s thoughts raced as her mind kept going over a number of questions.

What is Mary going to do now that she has to rebuild the barn? How many animals were saved? How many didn’t make it? What about the future of the farm? Will Faustus try to come for me next? Will he be arrested? What if Mary is hurt more seriously than we know? What if she...doesn’t make it? I can’t lose her!! No...no I can’t…

Zelda choked down air, her ragged breaths echoing in the stairwell, an ugly sound. Were someone to walk out onto the stairs, they would definitely hear her, and probably come to see if she was okay.

Deep breaths, that’s it. In and out. It’s going to be fine. Mary’s alive, and you will find a way to rebuild. Mary’s alive... 

Zelda stayed there on the stairs until her breathing (mostly) returned to normal. The events of the past two days had drained her, and she needed to be strong for Mary. Zelda rubbed at her neck, the back sore from the position she assumed between Mary’s legs the night before, when they had no idea what awaited them the next morning. She missed Mary, even though she was just by her side not 15 minutes earlier. Zelda reached up for the railing, and pulled herself upright, her joints popping as she stretched to her full height. 

Maybe I should book us a massage after all of this is over…

Zelda walked back up the stairs, and opened the door walking down the hallway. As she neared Mary’s room, she could hear Hilda’s voice talking gently

“It’s okay love, I’m sure she’ll be right back...yes she is still here. She just went to stretch her legs…”

This spurred Zelda along faster, heart beating in her throat, and she rushed to Mary’s bedside. Her hand reached to grasp Mary’s, and Hilda moved out of their way. Zelda kissed the back of Mary’s hand repeatedly, and held her hand to her chest, over her heart.

“My darling. Are you alright?” Zelda looked back and forth between Mary’s eyes with concern.

“I am now.” 

Mary reached her other arm up and held both of her arms out like a small child asking for a hug. Zelda gladly obliged, her heart a mushy mess in her chest. She was aware of Hilda’s presence in the room still, but just for a moment everything else faded away and it was just her and Mary. 

“I love you,” Zelda whispered into Mary’s hair, somewhere near her ear. The railing on the side of the bed was digging into Zelda’s ribs, but she didn’t care. She would stand there, bent over Mary’s bed at that same awkward angle all night if she could keep Mary in her arms. 

“Hilda brought you some pajamas,” Zelda spoke in her regular tone as she carefully extricated her arms from around Mary. “And a blanket...which you already are using.” Zelda chuckled, and Mary blinked sleepily, a smile on her face.

“Help me put the pajamas on? I’m still a bit chilly.”

“Of course.”

Zelda went for the bag Hilda brought, and saw her sister had left the room. Her purse still remained in the chair she had occupied, though.

“Let’s see what we have here...oh!” 

Mary looked up from the bed as Zelda pulled out two pairs of silk pajamas.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, it just looks like Hilda bought us some new pajamas.”

“Oh. Well what’s wrong with that?”

“They’re matching .”

“You don’t want to match with me?” Mary batted her eyelids up at Zelda, and pouted. Zelda went back to Mary’s side, pajamas falling to the bed, and took her face between her hands.

“Of course I want to. I would do anything for you.” She held Mary’s gaze for a moment, and Zelda could feel herself melting. “Let’s get these pajamas on you, hm? You’ll be the envy of everyone on this ward, the most fashionable patient here.”

Mary snickered, and Zelda kissed her on the cheek over a dimple. She stood upright and reached for the curtain that surrounded Mary’s bed, drawing it around them until there was a barrier between them and the rest of the room. Mary sat up, with some effort, and took a moment while stars danced around in her eyes.

“Easy does it, Mary.” Zelda rubbed Mary’s back, her hand warm against Mary’s skin. She carefully untied the gown, and helped Mary remove the oxygen mask and pulse monitor before putting them back on. Mary’s I.V. proved to be problematic, though, and Zelda had to call for the nurse to disconnect it from the port in Mary’s arm so they could get the gown off and the pajama shirt on. Rachel was quick with disconnecting the tube, and Mary carefully pulled her arm out of the sleeve. Zelda’s face grew warm as she watched Mary fully undress, her bare chest exposed. With some shuffling and mumbled apologies, Mary got the shirt on, though still unbuttoned, and Rachel got her hooked back up to the I.V.

“I think I can take it from here,” Zelda said, reaching for the edges of the pajama shirt. Rachel nodded and left, and Zelda turned back to Mary. She pulled the gown away from Mary’s chest and began to button it up, letting her eyes trace over all of her skin. Zelda ducked her head down and pressed a kiss to Mary’s breastbone before buttoning up the last button, drawing a sigh out of Mary. Mary sank her fingers into Zelda’s hair and kissed the top of her head, holding Zelda in place.

“I’m so glad you are still here Mary. I don’t know what I would do without you.” Zelda let out a soft sob, and Mary squeezed her in a hug, rocking her from side to side as best she could. She murmured words of comfort and consolation, as though Zelda were the one sitting in the hospital bed. 

“I fought to get out of that barn because of you . You make me strong, Zelda. You inspire me.”

Zelda looked up in disbelief. Mary wiped away Zelda’s tears, and under her nose. 

“I’m...I inspire you? But...but how?”

“Everything that you’ve been through, from the moment I met you, and even what you’ve gone through long before we met.”

Zelda’s bottom lip trembled and Mary caressed her face, her thumb catching another stray tear.

“You are incredibly driven and determined. When life dealt you an unfair hand, you still pushed through and came out on the other side victorious. You’ve stood up for yourself against your boss, and put your foot down when it was hard to do so. But most importantly, you make me want to cherish every day I have on this planet. You have made me a better person, and I will always love and appreciate you for loving me, just as I am.”

“Oh Mary…” Zelda had already cried so much that it was almost her second state of being, sniffling and weeping her way through the day. “I will always love you. You make every day special.” Zelda tucked a frizzy lock of hair behind one of Mary’s ears, and let her finger trail down her jawline. “And you inspire me too. You could have given up so many times, but you didn’t. I think a lot of people could learn from you, you know? You’ve taught me so much, especially about hard work and persistence.”

“I think you already had those things in you, Zelda. You don’t give yourself enough credit. And you know what else?”

“Hm?”

“I think I need another kiss.”

“Do you now?”

“Mhhmn.” Mary nodded, and pointed at her cheek. “Right here.”

Zelda leaned in and kissed her where Mary’s finger had been, nose brushing against her cheek. 

“Where else my love?” Zelda pulled back and looked at Mary, her hands on either side of her head. Mary pointed to her other cheek, and Zelda kissed her there, two soft pecks for good measure. When Zelda looked up again, Mary pointed to her forehead, where the stitches were. Zelda brushed over, not wanting to hurt Mary. Though her kiss over the wound was whisper soft, Mary found herself trying not to flinch, the skin hypersensitive. She made eye contact with Zelda again, and pointed to the tip of her nose, and Zelda kissed it. Mary wordlessly pointed to each of her eyes, and they fluttered closed as Zelda kissed each eyelid. At last, Mary touched her lips, and Zelda turned her head as she leaned in to kiss her. Mary moaned when she felt Zelda’s tongue swipe over her lips, and opened her mouth wider to let her in. She lost herself in the kiss, felt like she was falling into an endless pit of love. 

Somewhere off in the distance, in the back of Mary’s love drunk mind she heard her heart rate monitor going off. She paid it no mind, and continued to kiss Zelda to her heart’s content.

 


 

The hospital was silent as its inhabitants slept, quiet beeps sounded in the stillness of the night, and the lights on the ward were dimmed. Earlier that night, Rachel showed Zelda how to turn the leather chair off to the side of Mary’s bed into a recliner. She brought Zelda sheets, a pillow, and a blanket, and they turned the chair into the best makeshift bed they could. Zelda closed her eyes as she listened to Rachel give Mary her night time dose of medications, and tuck her into the bed. She tiptoed out of the room, and whispered to Mary that she didn’t want to wake Zelda. But Zelda wasn’t sleeping, though too tired to correct Rachel. 

Mary fell asleep almost instantly after her nurse left, and Zelda laid under the blanket, her mind going over the day, and how things could have gone if she hadn’t left for Riverdale. She tossed and turned on the chair, and eventually opened her eyes, and stared at the ceiling. Mary’s doctor had come to talk to them earlier that evening, and filled them in on her test results. She wanted to keep Mary admitted for a few more days, three at the most, just to make sure her breathing was okay, and that her concussion wouldn’t cause any other problems. The doctor also gave them some instructions for when they did eventually return home, and told Zelda to keep an eye on Mary, as she had been experiencing headaches and nausea from her concussion. Zelda listened thoughtfully, and took notes. She was quiet after the doctor left, and stood near the window, looking out at the forest. 

“What’s wrong?” Mary asked from behind her mask, the plastic fogging up with each breath she took.

“I was just thinking about taking you home and getting you all tucked into your own bed. I know sleeping in a bed that isn’t yours is difficult, especially when you are aren’t feeling well.” 

Mary could tell that something else was bothering Zelda, but she didn’t press her for an answer. 

“I would like nothing more.” 

Little else was said, though Zelda did bring up some of her future ideas for Mary’s farm while feeding her spoonfuls of soup. After she got Mary some food, Oliver and Jonathan came by for a visit, brightening the mood, despite a few coughing fits from Mary. 

Zelda turned over onto her other side and stared at Mary’s bed, wanting to climb in bed with her. She sighed, and closed her eyes, figuring she could at least try to get some sleep. The moment she closed her eyes, though, she heard a small whimper. 

“Mary?”

There was no response, just another whimper, a sad, pained sound. Zelda sat up and her blanket fell forward to her lap. She waited with bated breath to see if Mary would fall back asleep.

“No. Please! No, no .” 

She was having a nightmare. Zelda could hear beeps coming from Mary’s heart rate monitor, indicating her rising pulse, and she began to thrash under the covers. Zelda rose from her chair, and rushed to Mary’s bedside. 

“Mary.”

“Zelda... no ...my farm...no no no...”

Zelda gripped Mary by the shoulders, careful not to squeeze too hard, and gently shook her.  

“Sweetheart wake up! It’s just a bad dream! You’re safe…”

“Zelda?” Mary inhaled sharply and started coughing. Zelda helped her sit upright as she coughed and gasped for air, the terror of her nightmare fading. Zelda couldn’t see her in the darkened room, but heard Mary sniffling, and felt her shoulders shaking.

Fuck it. 

Zelda climbed into the bed, and crawled across Mary to the opposite side of the bed.

“Come here sweetheart,” Zelda whispered, her heart filling when she felt Mary slip an arm across her waist and snuggle up to her side. “There you go.” 

Mary tucked her face into the space between Zelda’s neck and shoulder, and let out a soft sob.

“Shhh ,” Zelda soothed. “It’s alright. You’re safe.”

“I had a bad dream,” Mary gulped, her voice wet and rough. “You were there, in the fire. I had to choose between saving you and my animals, and I waited too long and couldn’t get to you, and, and…” 

Mary shivered and clung to Zelda. With one motion, Zelda reached to pull the blankets up over them, and rested her chin against Mary’s head.

“To everything, turn, turn turn…” Zelda began to sing softly, her singing voice shaky from disuse. “...there is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time, to every purpose, under heaven.” Zelda took a breath to start the next stanza, and felt Mary’s trembling slow.

“A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap. A time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh...a time, to weep.”

Mary sighed and felt herself beginning to relax, entranced by Zelda’s voice. She looked up at her girlfriend in the darkness, and smiled, wondering how she became so lucky. Zelda rubbed her back, and kept singing.

“To everything, turn, turn, turn...there is a season turn, turn, turn, and a time, to every purpose under heaven. A time to build up, a time to break down...a time to dance, a time to mourn. A time to cast away stones, a time to gather, stones, together...”

Mary started to snore lightly, and Zelda felt tears form in her eyes. Her heart hurt for what Mary had been through that day. But at the same time she felt she couldn’t love her more. Mary was the most beautiful thing to have ever happened to her. There was nowhere large enough on the planet, or in the entire universe to contain Zelda’s love for her. Zelda realized that getting arrested was the best thing for her, because that led her to this moment right now. Despite all of the bad things that happened that day, Zelda felt like she truly was where she belonged.

“Rest my love. We will face everything together in the morning,” Zelda whispered, stroking Mary’s hair. Zelda soon followed her into sleep, and they stayed there holding each other until morning.




 

“Sorry. I don’t make up the rules. You have to draw eight cards.” Mary shot Zelda a frown and reached out for the cards. Zelda bit back laughter as Mary drew cards from the pile and added them to her already growing hand. Zelda put a card down and then waited, gesturing for Mary to make her move. Mary put down a card to change color, and Zelda immediately slapped down all but one card in her hand. 

“Uno!”

Mary bit her lip and played another card, and Zelda threw her last card down.

“Yes!” Zelda pumped her fist in the air. Mary cradled her forehead and shook her head.

“I don’t know what is wrong with me. I’m usually better at this.”

“Hey, you can’t beat yourself up. You are still recovering from a concussion, you know. The doctor said that you may have some fogginess and leftover fatigue, and even headaches.” 

“I know, I know. I just want to go home,” Mary said, sliding down to lay on her back. Zelda leaned over her and kissed her square on the mouth, feeling tingles rush through her body when Mary’s hand slid up into her scalp. Zelda could not get enough of Mary, and she had to remind herself not to get Mary too worked up, not now at least. Mary had a healthy blush on her cheeks when Zelda pulled back. 

“Soon my darling, soon.”  Zelda reached across the bed for the game box, and worked on stuffing the Uno cards back in, putting them away. “I have a feeling you will be getting out of here today, what do you think?”

“I sure hope so. I am tired of just laying around here coughing. I mean, I’ll probably be doing the same thing at home, but then you can stay in bed with me all the time, and not just at night.”

“Touché.” 

Mary ended up getting discharged later that day, much to both her and Zelda’s relief. Zelda helped her get dressed in one of the outfits Hilda brought a few days prior, and packed their things up in the overnight duffel bag. Rachel took Mary’s I.V. out and covered up the spot with a cotton ball and taped it down. While Rachel got Mary ready to leave, Zelda checked around the room to make sure they hadn’t let anything behind. Mary sat waiting in a wheelchair, the duffel bag sitting in her lap. Rachel walked up to Mary, and outstretched her hand.

“Well Miss Mary, it seems this is goodbye. You take care of yourself, okay?”

Mary shook Rachel’s hand, and smiled. “Of course. I’ll have Zelda looking after me.” 

Zelda stood up from where she was crouched, and sat her hand on Mary’s shoulder. Mary placed her hand on top of Zelda’s, and gave it a squeeze.

“You two ladies don’t hesitate to call back if anything changes. Mary, if you aren’t feeling well please give us a call and we’ll get you right back in, okay?”

“Okay. Thank you Rachel, for everything.”

Zelda started to walk forward, pushing Mary in the wheelchair, and stopped in her tracks. She glanced over her shoulder at Rachel and found herself moving towards the woman and wrapping her in a hug.

“Thank you so much for looking after her and helping her get better.”

“You are very welcome. You have a special person in your life. I can tell you two care about each other a lot. I wish the best for you both.”

“Thank you,” Zelda said with a blush, and turned back to grip the handles of Mary’s wheelchair. 

“Goodbye.”

Rachel gave a little wave in response as the two women left the room.

 


 

Jonathan was waiting in front of the hospital when Zelda rolled Mary out of the front doors, and Mary nearly jumped out of the wheelchair to give him a hug. 

“It’s good to see you looking better, Mary.”

“It’s good to see you too!” Jonathan held out his hand to help Mary up from the chair, and Zelda moved to her other side. 

“I think we’ll put you in the back, so you can lay down if you want to. I also put some plastic bags back there, in case you feel sick on the way back, and there is a bottle of water. I’ve been reading up on concussions and figured I couldn’t be too careful.” 

“Thank you.” Mary climbed into the truck carefully, winded by the time she sat back in her seat. Zelda buckled her in, and gave her a kiss. 

“Let’s go home.”

Mary was silent as they drove back to the farm, a spacey feeling in her head. Zelda and Jonathan made small talk all the way back to the barn, and Mary could tell they were both avoiding discussing the fire. When they pulled through the gates of the farm, Mary gasped, and began to cry once she got a glimpse of the barn. Where once a beautiful, tan-colored barn was now stood a burned down foundation. A few pieces of the charred walls remaining like jagged, jack o’lantern teeth. Zelda unbuckled her seatbelt and climbed into the back seat, hugging Mary. She held her while she wept, and Jonathan parked the car, respectfully stepping outside once the vehicle was turned off. 

Mary was numb upon returning, and went through the motions as she was helped back into the house. She remained silent as Jonathan carried her up to her bedroom, and didn’t even say goodbye when he left. She uttered not a word as Zelda drew a bath for her, and undressed her. She held onto Zelda’s shoulders as Zelda helped her step out of her panties, and climb into the tub. Mary sank down into the warm water and drew her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on them.

“Is the water too hot for you?” Zelda asked as she squeezed body wash onto a washcloth. Mary said nothing, and barely shook her head no. Zelda hummed a nameless tune as she bathed Mary, gently scrubbing her skin clean with a washcloth. She kissed Mary on the cheek before she started to wash her hair. Still, Mary remained silent, her mind going over Monday morning, and the loss she had experienced. 

The dam started to break when Zelda got her out of the tub though, wrapped her in a towel and sat her on the toilet seat. Tears started rolling down her face when Zelda rubbed leave-in conditioner through her hair, and started to brush it out. Zelda’s hand froze when she realized that Mary was crying. 

“Let me know if there is anything I can do, okay?”

But Zelda had already done so much. She was wonderful . Mary looked towards the window that faced her barn, and thought about her animals. Suddenly she felt ill, and swallowed.

“Hey.” Zelda felt across the back of Mary’s neck, frowning when she felt the heat coming up off of Mary, her skin slick with sweat. “You okay?”

Mary shook her head, and jumped from where she sat and turned, falling painfully to her knees. She lifted the lid of the toilet and was sick.

“Oh sweetheart…”

Zelda held her hair out of the way, and rubbed her back. Mary’s towel fell away from her body and Zelda slipped it back up over her waist. Mary moaned, and was sick again, shaking as Zelda held her upright. When she was done she flopped back against Zelda, who held her. 

“It’s okay.”

Mary wiped her hand over the back of her mouth. Her nose was running and tears streamed down her face. She opened her mouth to speak and a sob came out.

“I just can’t believe it is really gone. And my animals...I wasn’t able to save them all.” 

Zelda wrapped her arms around Mary’s waist and cried with her, wishing she could take Mary’s pain away. Mary cried until she was exhausted, and eventually tried to to move.

“Let me help you up.” Zelda stood up first and then reached down to help Mary to her feet. She took her by the hand and had her clad pajamas in no time, and even managed to braid her hair back in a ponytail. Mary climbed into bed, and laid back against the headboard.

“That’s better, isn’t it?” Zelda asked as she pulled the sheets up over Mary’s legs. Mary managed a sad smile. 

Soon, Mary found herself properly tucked her into bed with a cup of ginger tea, for her stomach. She sipped at the tea, making it halfway through the mug before it was too much, and Zelda put it on the nightstand. 

“Thank you Zelda.”

Zelda climbed up on the bed next to Mary, and kissed her cheek. “Get some rest my love. You’re home now.”

Mary reached for Zelda’s hand, and Zelda turned onto her side to face Mary, watching as she fell asleep. 

“Zelda?”

“Yes sweetheart.”

“Will you sing to me again?” 

Zelda held Mary’s hand up to her cheek, and rubbed circles into her palm with her thumb. How could she say no to her?

Zelda began to sing the same song from the hospital again, warming at the smile that grew on Mary’s lips as she fell asleep.

 


 

Mary had been asleep for an hour when Zelda’s phone started to ring. Zelda sat up from the bed and scrambled for the bedroom door, trying to stop her phone’s loud ringing. 

“Hello?”

“Zelda! Thank GOODNESS you picked up. Are you sitting down? You are NOT going to believe what just happened...”

Chapter Text

“What’s wrong? Is it something bad?” 

Nerves churned in Zelda’s stomach, and she hoped to all that was holy that nothing else happened while they were away in the hospital. 

“No. It’s good great, actually, in a weirdly surprising way.”

At the news, Zelda felt a little bit better. Still, her stomach flipped as she awaited Oliver’s next words.

“So I took those photos over to the police station for you on Monday, after we visited you guys. I just got a call today from one of the girls at work who asked me if I knew what was going on.”

“If you knew what was going on?”

“Yeah. So apparently, Faustus is acting all unhinged and nervous, stumbling over his words and sweating. I wish you were there to see that bastard fall apart!”

Zelda smiled, but her stomach still hurt. She began to pick at her thumb, a nervous childhood habit she had long since stopped. 

“So Faustus is acting weird...okay. But I feel that is not the reason for your call?”

“I’m getting there. So, you know our accountant guy, Nate?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, he and Shirley both just stopped showing up to work. Amanda you know the one whose desk is next to mine?”

“Yes.”

“Well. She tells me she saw Nate in town the day after you quit, after the fire, and he looked real shifty.”

“As in…?”

“As in he looked scared, sweaty and nervous.”

“Well. What’s he got to be nervous about, unless…but he couldn’t have…”

“Now you’re up to speed. No one knows anything for sure just yet, but I have a strong suspicion that Faustus put him up to it. He usually isn’t the type to turn against people, unless money is involved. Even I have slipped him a twenty in the past to get me details on a potential hookup from one of the other floors in our building.”

Zelda shook her head, still in disbelief over her boss. He was treacherous—it was a known fact—but to turn towards her coworkers and bribe them with money, promotions, or whatever it was he used? It was quite low, even for him.

“I can’t even think of what Nate would have against me. Shirley, I know, has been trying to get my position for years . I think she has a not-so-secret thing for Faustus, but Nate?”

“He did it to get back at me. He knows we’re friends, and wanted to hurt you so that it hurt me too.”

“But why?”

“Asked me on a date a few months back and I immediately turned him down.”

Zelda pursed her lips, and tried to recall all she knew about their quiet accountant. “But doesn’t he have a wife and kids?”

“Bingo. I told him I am not participating in homewrecking, and that he needs to have an honest talk with his wife about his sexual satisfaction.”

“Oh my god Oliver. You’re so bad! But I mean, at least you were honest.”

Zelda chuckled, and Oliver laughed on the other end of the line.

“So how is our favorite farmer doing?”

“She’s sleeping now.” Zelda looked back towards Mary’s room. “She was sick to her stomach when we got back here, poor thing.”

“That poor lady. I’m glad she has you looking after her though. Seeing you two together is so beautiful, Zelda. It truly is. I never thought I’d see the day where you were so completely taken by someone.”

“I never thought I’d see the day either, if I’m honest. I had just planned to focus on work for the rest of my life, until I retired, and then maybe go and live on a beach somewhere.”

“You can still do that you know. Now you just have the added bonus of someone who loves you, and will always be with you.”

A shiver went through Zelda as she thought about the fact that she very well could stay with Mary until they both died, and she would be perfectly fine with it.

“You’re right. I might take her for a trip to the coast after all of this is over, when she is feeling a bit better. Take her to see the sea.”

“Mmn.”

Zelda stared at the yellow orange stripes of light on the wall across from her, the setting sun painting everything in broad strokes. She daydreamed of driving with Mary out to one of the beaches, and sitting side by side on a blanket. She would have sunglasses on, and Mary a baseball cap. They’d both be in jeans, Zelda with hers rolled up around her ankles, wearing an oversized sweater. Mary would have on her overalls, and a sweater underneath. She’d bring one of her sherpa throws from the house and have it wrapped around then both, as one of them read aloud to the other. 

“You still there boss?”

“Yeah. And I don’t think I am your boss anymore, now that I don’t have a job.”

“It’s okay. You’ll always be the best boss I ever had, regardless of what comes next. I really appreciate you taking a chance on me, all those years ago.”

“Me too Oliver, me too.” There was a moment of silence between the two of them, and Zelda bit at her thumb, thinking about the whirlwind of a week they’d just had.

“I think I’m going to go back and check on Mary, if that’s okay.”

“Of course! You know you don’t have to apologize for looking after your lady. Go on, and give her a kiss from me. Tell her I’m thinking of her.”

“Will do. Thanks again Oliver.”

“Sure thing! Catch ya later!”





 

Zelda climbed back into bed feeling lighter. She was finding that she felt much better when she let herself be vulnerable and honest with those around her. It used to terrify her in the past, but being with Mary had changed everything. Her eyes traveled down to her love, and she couldn’t help but reach out and set a comforting hand against Mary’s back. Zelda slid her hand up to the base of Mary’s neck to check for fever, or any further signs of illness. To her relief, Mary felt the same temperature as usual, if not a little on the warm side. Mary whimpered in her sleep and turned over.

“Shh. You’re safe sweetheart, you’re safe.” Zelda whispered, rubbing Mary’s back. That seemed to dispel some of the restlessness. Zelda withdrew her hand, and slid down to lie flat against the bed. Without warning, Mary shot up in bed next to her. 

“No!” Mary shouted, arm outstretched, reaching for an apparition from her slumber. Zelda sat back up and wrapped her arms around Mary, drawing her near.

“It’s okay my love.”

Mary nodded and shuddered, clinging to Zelda. She could feel Zelda’s lips kissing across her scalp, and she tried view each kiss as Zelda sharing more and more of her strength with her. 

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Zelda looked shocked, and pulled back to look Mary in the eyes. 

“I don’t mean to keep waking up like this. I feel silly, like a child.”

“Sweetheart. You’ve been through a traumatic event. It only makes sense that you would have nightmares. It’s okay.”

Mary nodded, and laid against Zelda’s shoulder. Zelda hugged her close once more, and rubbed her arm.

“Are you having any pain? Your head? Stomach still upset?”

“My neck and lower back still hurt. I strained them when I…” Mary looked down and worried her bottom lip between her teeth. “I was carrying my animals out of the barn and trying to run. I wasn’t strong enough. Couldn’t tell when I was in the hospital because everything hurt then.”

“Oh dear…” Zelda slid her hand up to Mary’s neck, and let her fingers rub up against the base of her skull. “I’m so sorry that all of this happened to you Mary. Truly, I am.” 

“It’s not your fault, Zelda. You know that.” Mary rolled her neck, chin dropping down to her chest as Zelda gently massage her neck. 

“I know.” Zelda leaned over and kissed the back of Mary’s neck. “I just hate seeing you like this.”

Mary moved so that she was sitting facing Zelda, her legs criss-crossed. Zelda mirrored her position, and held her gaze. 

“I won’t be like this forever, you know. Besides, now that I will be spending more time in bed for the next week or so, that means that I have the opportunity to get even more kisses from you.”

Mary poked Zelda’s belly, and grinned, her dimple showing. Zelda leaned forward, and brushed her nose over Mary’s, lowering her mouth so close that when she spoke next her lips brushed against Mary’s. 

“You can have all...of the kisses...you like.”

Mary threw her arms around Zelda’s neck and pressed their mouths together, moaning into Zelda’s mouth. Zelda’s hands remained still on Mary’s back, As Zelda was cautious of her still-healing body. But Mary didn’t seem to care, though. She climbed up into Zelda’s lap without breaking the kiss, kissing her how she’d wanted to for the past several days. Mary tasted like toothpaste and tea, and Zelda languished beneath her kisses. She wanted nothing more than to flip Mary over and lick at her between her legs. But she knew she couldn’t do that, not just yet. Zelda became aware of Mary’s labored breathing, and rubbed up and down her back, trying to get her to go slower. 

“Mary,” Zelda mumbled, in-between Mary’s lips moving hungrily over her own. “Mary…”

The woman in question panted as she broke the kiss, the tip of her nose pink and her lips swollen. Zelda imagined that she herself looked the same right about then. 

“Yes?”

“We have to take it easy. You just came home from the hospital.”

“I know.” Mary squeezed her thighs together, and peered up at Zelda from beneath her lashes.

“You... ” Zelda swallowed, and tried again. “You need your rest.”

“I know .”

The brunette leaned in for another kiss, and Zelda’s eyes fluttered closed out of their own volition. Mary nibbled on Zelda’s earlobe, her breath warming Zelda’s ear, and sending wetness between her legs.

“I miss your mouth on me…and your fingers inside of me.”

Zelda inhaled sharply, and took a deep breath, willing her racing heart to slow down. 

“Mary, you are still recovering. We can’t do—”

“I need you to make me forget everything. Please Zelda. I don’t want to keep thinking about what happened. I can’t .” Mary dropped her forehead to Zelda’s shoulder and began to sob, her frame shaking against Zelda. 

“Oh my darling one…” Zelda held her close and closed her eyes. “It’s going to be okay.”

“How will it ever be okay again Zelda? I just got enough money to get myself out of this awful spot I’ve been in, and now this goes and happens! I will have no choice but to sell the farm now.”

“No. That is not happening, Mary. I won’t let it happen. Look at me.”

Mary couldn’t bring herself to meet Zelda’s gaze, afraid of what she might see there. She felt Zelda’s fingers underneath her chin, tipping her head upwards, and she looked up. Zelda had tears in her eyes, and her eyebrows were raised, knitted together on her forehead. 

“I will do whatever it takes to make sure you keep this farm. You will have it until the day you die. I will make sure of it. This farm isn’t going anywhere, you hear me? It is important to you, which means that it is important to me.”

Mary’s heart gave a nervous flutter in her chest, and her bottom lip trembled, joy bubbling up inside of her. 

“Zelda I...I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything. Just let me help you, let me love you, and we’ll make it through this.”

Mary sniffed her way through a series of barely contained sobs, and nodded, wringing her hands together. 

“I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t met you, Zelda.” Mary said trying not to break down again. She held Zelda’s face between her warm hands, and kissed her, their lips melding together like old friends picking back up where they left off. They kissed until Mary started to cry. 

“What’s the matter?”  

Mary hugged Zelda, the weight of the past few days heavy on her shoulders. Zelda rocked her from side to side, and whispered words of love into her still damp hair. They stayed that way, Mary crying against Zelda, until she yawned, and Zelda turned to kiss the side of her neck. Mary lifted her head up, and found Zelda’s eyes. 

“I love you, and I don’t want to spend another day apart from you.”

“I love you too…” Zelda looked to Mary for further explanation, trying to make sure she understood what she thought Mary was saying.

“I hope you wouldn’t find it too forward if I asked you to move in here, with me.”

“I…” Zelda smiled, and struggled to find the words.”

“I’m sorry if it’s too much too soon. It’s just, I don’t want to waste any more time, and I think—no I know I want to be with you for whatever time I have left on this planet. These past few months have been like a dream. I don’t want to spend another night going to bed alone, or wake up to an empty bed, wishing you were next to me. I want you here .”

Zelda nodded, and grasped Mary’s chin, leaning in for a kiss. She lingered just long enough to feel that familiar fire in her belly start up, and pulled back. Mary let out a defeated sigh when Zelda pulled away, and bit her bottom lip.

“I would love nothing more than to live with you, Mary. Besides my heart already is with you. Always.”

Mary’s eyes got wet, and she nodded, trying not to disturb the tears ready to roll down her face. Mary rubbed her eyes and yawned, taking a deep breath and slouching on the exhale.

“You should try to get some more sleep, if you can.”

Mary sat up, and scrubbed her hands over her face, backing up out of Zelda’s lap. 

“All I’ve been doing for the past four days is sleep. And cry, of course.” 

Zelda took Mary’s hand between her own, and laced their fingers together, their position reminiscent of two kids on the playground, knees touching. Mary looked down at their linked hands, and sighed.

“Well, we could watch something, if you like?”

Mary hesitated, and Zelda wasn’t sure she was going to answer. Zelda tipped Mary’s chin upwards and ran the back of her fingertips over an angled cheekbone. “I just need my glasses. Do you know where they went?”

Zelda reached across Mary to the nightstand, and picked up Mary’s glasses, and handed them to her. Mary slipped them on and blinked, raising her eyebrows.

“Now that’s much better. I can see you again.” Mary looked at Zelda, and let out a dreamy sigh. “and what a gorgeous sight you are. You’re beautiful .”

“No you are,” Zelda replied with a blush. She hadn’t slept in a bed for days, leaving the wrinkles around her eyes and between her eyebrows were more prominent. Her nose was rubbed red from repeated wiping with tissues. Zelda didn’t think she had ever cried this much in her life, at least not since she was in the hospital herself. Her hair was clean, but free of its usual large, swooping curls. Instead she sported limp yet slightly frizzy auburn locks, her hair curling in wisps near her hairline. She was certain she had more greys showing, too. Zelda longed for the day she could be as comfortable as Mary with her age. She’d already loosened up considerably since they became a couple, and for that Zelda was grateful. 

“You okay?”

“Huh?” Zelda blinked rapidly, trying to dispel her thoughts. She opened her mouth to speak, and closed it. Mary tucked Zelda’s hair back behind her ear, and cupped her face. 

“What’s going on in that beautiful head, hm?” 

Zelda covered Mary’s hand with her own, and turned her face to drop a kiss to the palm of her hand. 

“I was just thinking about life, and us, and age. Nothing too big.”

“I don’t want you to worry about anything right now Zelda.”

“Shouldn’t I be the one saying that?” Zelda teased, licking her lips.

“Let’s not worry about the future. What is most important is you and me in this bed, right here, right now.”

“You’re right.” 

Zelda unlocked her iPad, swiping until she got to the Netflix app. “Come here.” Zelda lifted her knees up and patted the bed next to her. Mary nudged Zelda’s legs apart, confusing Zelda, until she realized that Mary was trying to lie between her legs. Mary propped her knees up and leaned back against Zelda, her head resting against Zelda’s chest.

“I can hold the tablet, if you’d like.”

Zelda handed it to Mary, and wrapped her arms around her shoulders. “What do you want to watch?”

“Mmn...something light, not too dark or heavy.” Mary swiped through Zelda’s list, and then went to the search bar. She typed in romantic comedies and scrolled through the list of movies that came up. She ended up settling on something that probably didn’t do well at the theater. They laughed through the cheap and purposeful jokes for the first twenty minutes of the movie, not really getting invested in the storyline. Mary slid a hand up to Zelda’s forearms, and rubbed over her skin, drawing goosebumps. Zelda gave her a squeeze, and dropped a kiss to her head. 

“I love you,” Mary muttered, hand still tracing over Zelda’s forearm.

“I love you too.” Mary put the tablet aside, and sat up out of Zelda’s embrace. The movie kept playing, and she turned around to face Zelda. Without breaking eye contact, she slid her glasses off of her face, and folded them, setting them out of the way. 

“What’s wrong?” Zelda asked, faint stirrings of worry starting up in her stomach. Mary didn’t say anything, and reached between Zelda’s legs. She pressed her hand up against Zelda, and bit her bottom lip.

“Mary— mmm .”

Mary rubbed over Zelda’s center, painfully slow, and crawled up close. Zelda was wet the moment Mary’s hand met her, and was sure Mary could feel the heat coming through her pajamas. Mary locked in on Zelda’s eyes, hands inching towards the waistband of Zelda’s pajama pants. She broke eye contact to work on pulling the pants down, and Zelda lifted her hips to let Mary pull them off. 

“Mary…”

Zelda’s heart sped up as Mary moved back between her legs. Mary’s nose brushed up against Zelda’s belly, over the stripe of skin between the bottom of her t-shirt and top of her panties. Zelda shivered, and glanced between her legs. Mary was kissing her way down over Zelda’s underwear, with the tiniest of pecks. Zelda twitched when Mary’s mouth brushed over her clit, and she nearly ground herself up into Mary’s face, overwhelmed by her own arousal.

“You’re still...you’re still recovering,” Zelda panted, her resolve nearly gone. Another sigh left her parted lips, as Mary sucked at her through her panties. Mary was winning this battle, and Zelda knew she would be helpless were she to try to resist. 

Mary said nothing, and smiled up from between Zelda’s legs before pulling the drenched silk aside. Zelda’s head fell back to the pillows, and she anticipated Mary’s touch. But, instead of her fingers, Mary used her mouth. Both women inhaled sharply the moment Mary’s tongue touched Zelda’s folds. Mary sighed at Zelda’s taste, and began to lick at her clit, so tenderly that tears welled up in Zelda’s eyes. She had missed this. Sure, they had last had sex at the beginning of the week, but it seemed like ages ago. 

“Mmn—Mary, fuck , I—”

Zelda couldn’t speak, for she was too overwhelmed by the intimacy of the situation, and her love for Mary. Mary licked at her with careful diligence, around and around, up and over. Zelda was trembling from the sensation, and felt like she was being consumed. 

“Oooh...Mary…”

A familiar, delicious , warming sensation started deep down inside of Zelda, and her toes curled. She tried to breathe through it, knowing her climax was nigh. The sheets were scrunched up between her fists, her knuckles red, palms sweaty. She held on for dead life as Mary continued with the same, even pace, licking at her like she was a delicacy. Zelda ached to reach out and sink her fingers into Mary’s hair, and hold her closer to her. But she didn’t want to give her headache, or cause her any pain. Zelda closed her eyes and focused on the sensation that was washing over her. She but down on her bottom lip, drawing blood, as her orgasm washed over her like a rising tide, slowly, and then suddenly, all at once. Zelda went rigid against Mary and shook as she came. Mary kept licking over Zelda, her mouth tight over her clit.

Zelda lost all sense of her body as warm waves of pleasure took her under. She was vaguely aware of a second orgasm starting, and the feeling of being almost overstimulated. Her neck seized up as she cried out again, her throat raw, and then everything was quiet. Zelda opened her eyes and felt like she had been drugged, or had awoken from a deep sleep. Mary leaned over her, her hand soft on Zelda’s cheek, her thumb swiping back and forth.

“Are you okay?” Mary asked, wiping away another tear that rolled down Zelda’s cheek. 

“Yeah,” Zelda whispered. “I’m more than okay. I’m…” so in love with you that I am beside myself.

Zelda looked back and forth between Mary’s eyes, and slipped her arms up around her neck, for a hug. Mary happily gave in, staying in the hug and letting herself soak up all of the love. Zelda turned her face to whisper into her ear. 

“I love you more than words can express. When I try to find the words, I can’t…” Zelda’s voice cracked, and she struggled to continue. Mary unwrapped her arms from Zelda and laid down next to her. She returned her hand to the side of Zelda’s face, and leaned in to kiss her cheek. A soft sob escaped Zelda, and Mary stayed where she was, her own heart bursting at the seams. Mary shifted, and pushed herself up on her hands, making sure she had Zelda’s full attention.

“I think you—no I know you are the love of my life, Zelda. As you know, because I’ve told you several times, I never expected to fall in love again. Not after all of the drama with the farm and my divorce. I didn’t have love in my life for a while—unless you count Ringo and Waffle.”

Zelda giggled at the addition of Mary’s horses, and rolled onto her side so that she was facing Mary. She rested her palm against the side of Mary’s neck and waited for her to continue.

“What we have is precious, this deep, passionate love...it’s truly one of the greatest things to have ever happened to me. Thank you, again, for everything.”

Zelda leaned in to kiss Mary, and blushed right to the tips of her toes when she tasted herself on Mary’s mouth. 

“Um,” Zelda could feel the heat rushing to her cheeks, and she smiled, trying to play off the strange combination of embarrassment and arousal, and get back to the conversation at hand. 

“What is it?”

“I...it’s silly.” Zelda shook her head, somewhat mortified over her disbelief that this was her life now. Sex with Mary, kissing Mary, being loved and in love. 

“You know I will never laugh at you with the intention of ill will, Zelda.”

Zelda nodded, and licked her lips. “I can’t believe this is my life, for it is the best it has ever been, and I can’t wait to make more memories with you.” Zelda shook her head, always one to get sentimental after sex.

“Mmm,” Mary nuzzled Zelda’s nose with her own, and kissed her. Zelda pulled back and licked over Mary’s lips with the tip of her tongue.

“You taste like me.”

“Oh. Well, you have become one of my favorite flavors. Can I list that when I go to the doctor and they ask about my diet?”

“You wouldn’t!” Zelda laughed, a radiant smile splitting across her face.

“Maybe I should, just to see what they say!” Mary started to laugh as well. She suddenly sat up and put her glasses back on, slipping them down the bridge of her nose. She held out her hand in front of her like she was looking at a clipboard, and then began to speak, doing her best impersonation of the Queen. “Ah yes, Miss Wardwell, is it? Yes, erm, what have you been eating as of late? You are positively glowing! We’ve seen a marked improvement in your countenance and levels of overall satisfaction!”

Zelda was nearly doubled over with laughter by this point, rolling back and forth on the bed with tears streaming down her face. Mary leaned in and tickled her, causing Zelda to let out an uncharacteristic squeal. Zelda started to cough from laughing so hard, and Mary stopped tickling her.

“Here. Have some water.” Mary held out her own glass of water that Zelda had brought up for her. Zelda sat up and took a drink, clearing her throat. 

“Mmn. Thank you.”

“Have some more. You need to stay hydrated. Especially after what we just did.” Mary winked at Zelda, causing Zelda’s cheeks to warm. 

“You’re fantastic, Mary. Truly.”

“Why thank you. I think you are fantastic too.” Mary winked again, and smiled, but was interrupted by a yawn. Her yawn ended with a small coughing fit, and Mary tried to breath deeply to catch her breath. Zelda rubbed her back, and slipped her arm around her shoulders.

“You okay?"

Mary nodded, still not trusting herself to speak without coughing.

"You’re tired. Let’s go to sleep.”

Mary didn’t protest, and reached for the blankets, pulling them up around them before settling down to the bed. She tucked into Zelda’s side, the weight of fatigue settling in over her. The activities they had just engaged in had left Mary more tired than she realized.Zelda reached around for the iPad, and turned off the movie, locking the device before setting it aside. Mary kissed Zelda’s chest, and let out a sleepy sigh.

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Mary. You just rest now, okay?”

Mary didn’t respond, already drifting off to sleep. Zelda sighed, and closed her eyes, too tired to turn off the nightstand light. 

 


 

“Spellman. S-p-e-l-l-m-a-n.” Zelda twirled a lock of hair between her fingers, and leaned against the back door, looking out into Mary’s backyard. Morning light danced around, illuminating the dewdrops on the grass, the flowers, the trees. A bird flew up to the bird bath, and looked towards Zelda before taking a dip. Zelda watched as the creature shook its wings, sending little water droplets flying. There was a shuffling noise on the other side of the phone, and Zelda readied herself to speak again, nearly getting lost in the micronation she was observing through the window. 

“Are you still there ma’am?”

“I’m still here! Yes, yes, that’s right. Zelda Spellman…I’m calling because I was trying to see if I could get Wardwell Farm officially registered as a historical Greendale landmark. I know it is unofficially, but I want it to be official.”

“There is a registration fee of $500, as well as some paperwork to fill out. I take it you aren’t the owner of the farm?”

“No, no. That is my partner, Mary. Her family actually has owned the farm for decades, and it was the primary source of dairy, fruit, and other products for Greendale, back when it was first settled. Her family was one of the original families in Greendale.”

“Well ma’am, you just get your signature from Miss Wardwell, pay the application fee, and we will consider your application.”

“I can pay now, if you need me to. Can you email me the forms? I can have them back to you tomorrow. Today, even.”

“We close today at 5:00 PM. If you have the paperwork to us before then, great. If not, tomorrow works too. What is your email address ma’am?”

“It’s uh,” Zelda hesitated, almost giving the clerk her work email address. “The letter zee, as in zebra, dot, Spellman, my last name, six, six, seven, at Gmail.com.”

“Alright Miss Spellman. I should have that paperwork over to you shortly.”

“Thank you.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“No, no. That will be all. Thank you. Goodbye.”

Zelda hung up the phone and continued to stare outside, yearning for a cigarette.

Now I just have to make a few more phone calls, and hopefully everything will work out. It has to.

Chapter Text

“Hello? Jonas? Hi, this is Zelda Spellman.”

“Ah, Zelda. How is life?”

“Well,” Zelda blushed and broke out in a smile as she looked over at Mary napping on the couch. “Life is really good, actually. The best it’s ever been.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Zelda. What can I help you with today?”

Zelda stood from the couch, and walked into the kitchen, leaning back against the counter.

“Well…”

Zelda proceeded to fill Jonas in on the past few months, the business with Faustus, her falling in love with Mary. She then recounted the events of the previous week, the fire, her quitting her job, and their current situation. 

“I see,” came his response, a silence on the other line. Zelda’s stomach began to churn as she waited for him to say something more.

“Do you think—I mean, is there any way that you could help me rebuild the barn? I’ve already looked up pricing online, and I’m hoping we don’t spend too too much. I also wanted to contact Soleil, and get her opinion on a redesign, and I have to make sure I can get everything done by October and, and—” 

“Zelda it’s okay! I am going to find a way to work things out for you, okay?”

Zelda felt what could turn into a panic attack creeping up around the edges of her body, a wispy vapor promising a thick fog to follow. She shook and tried to think of something calming, something relaxing and grounding. She pictured Mary’s fingers drifting across her scalp, as Mary often did when they were falling asleep tucked up against one another.

“You still there?”

“Mhmm.” Zelda tried to steady her voice, to fight back against the impending nausea, and sound as normal as possible. 

“I will get back to you with a price Zelda, okay? Try not to worry about things too much. Soleil will most likely want to help you out too.”

“Okay, okay.” Zelda nodded her head, though she knew Jonas couldn’t see her on the other line. “Thank you.”

“You are very welcome. Now I’ve got a few calls to make, but I will get back to you as soon as I have the numbers for you. Take care of yourself Zelda. And Mary too.”

“I will. Bye.” 

Zelda hung up the phone quickly and wiped tears out of her eyes. Why am I getting so emotional about this? 

She wanted nothing more than to curl up next to Mary, to have her strong arms wrapped around her, holding her tight. She looked down at her still shaking, sweaty hands, and wiped them on her pants. 

I can’t go in there like this. Mary will know something is wrong, and I don’t want to bother her while she is trying to rest.

Zelda’s hands started to shake again, and she peered into the living room. Mary had an arm tossed behind her head, and lay across the length of the couch. A wisp of hair blew up and down as Mary breathed inhaled and exhaled, and Zelda felt a tug in her heart. She quietly padded across the living room, and sat down on the edge of the couch, swinging her legs up as she slowly laid herself down against Mary’s chest. Mary didn’t stir, and Zelda kept her hands clenched together up against her own chest. She frowned and bit her lip as she tried to steady her breathing.

This stupid anxiety...

Mary moved beneath Zelda, and Zelda froze, trying not to show her distress.

“Zelda?”

Fuck.

Mary’s arms wrapped around her, and she sat up slightly. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry to have woken you.” Zelda’s voice was muffled in Mary’s shirt, and she was too embarrassed to look up and meet Mary’s eyes.

“What? No, my love, it’s fine.” Zelda kept her face hidden in an uncharacteristically shy gesture, prompting Mary to gently lift Zelda’s head so she could look at her. 

“Zelda. Look at me.”

Slowly, green met blue, and Zelda relaxed just a bit, and took a deep breath. “I will be okay, I think.” 

“You’re shaking. Did something happen?” Mary rubbed Zelda’s back, in that careful, relaxing way she always did.

“No,” Zelda got out from between clenched teeth. “I just...anxiety, that’s all.”

They both were no strangers to anxiety, and often helped each other through their rough moments. But Zelda had been having a hard time since Mary was in the hospital, and kept it to herself. She had been making a conscious effort to ask Mary for help if and when she needed it, but also didn’t want to weigh Mary down while she was recovering. 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. Just hold me.”

“Of course.” Mary laid her chin against Zelda’s head, and did just that.

 


 

A day or two later found Zelda and Mary en route to Riverdale. The pleasant afternoon sun beat down, the sky a perfect blue and the weather just bordering on the more tolerable side of warm. Mary fell asleep ten minutes into the drive, and Zelda adjusted the air conditioner at one of the traffic lights, making sure it wasn’t blowing too cool on Mary. Hilda had called halfway through the drive, and asked if they wanted to come by for dinner. Zelda had been on the fence, traces of her earlier anxiety still lingering. But, she knew that it would be nice to see her family for a bit, and to get out of her own head. Besides, Mary loved her family, and they hadn’t seen Sabrina and Ambrose in quite some time. Also they would get to see Sabrina’s cat, Salem. A smile flickered across Zelda’s face as she thought of the evening she went to Mary’s house to pick the cat up. That was the first time that she could see herself falling in love with Mary, her kindness, and her stress-melting hugs. 

And now I can hug her any time I like, Zelda thought, her cheeks warming. She turned into the parking lot for her apartment building, and drove to her parking spot, shutting her car off.

“Mary we’re here,” Zelda leaned across the center console of her car gently shook Mary, trying to rouse her. The woman continued to sleep silently, and Zelda smiled, rubbing up and down Mary’s arm. The doctor mentioned that in addition to migraines and nausea, Mary would most likely deal with a lot of fatigue and spaciness while recovering. Mary had been taking a nap or two a day, curling up on the couch, bed, or her favorite spot, right next to Zelda.

“Mary?” Zelda tried again, unbuckling her seatbelt and leaning over to kiss Mary’s cheek. She carefully left a trail of tiny kisses all the way to her mouth. 

“Maryyy,” Zelda whispered in a singsong voice. Mary’s eyes cracked open, revealing her familiar pale blue eyes that had become one of Zelda’s favorite sights. The brunette yawned and unbuckled her seatbelt.

“We’re here?”

“Mhmmn.” Zelda sat back up and opened her car door. Still disoriented from sleep, Mary panicked briefly when Zelda seemingly disappeared. But then her car door opened, and Zelda was by her side, offering a hand. A tremor went through her as she took Zelda’s hand, and for a split second Mary remembered being back in the barn, the flames crackling around her. When she stepped out of the car, her knees trembled, and her grip on Zelda’s hand tightened. Mary quickly shook her head, trying to dispel the memory.

“You okay?” Zelda asked, looking over Mary, holding her steady. Mary flashed Zelda a quick smile and stood straighter. Frustration over her own personal anxieties flickered like a flame inside of her, a small, hot thing. She thought about the fire almost every time she went to sleep. Sometimes she would even awake with a start, thinking her barn was on fire. 

“I think so.” 

Zelda kissed her temple, bringing her back, as always. That was one of the things Mary appreciated about them being in each others’ lives. They balanced each other out, had a grounding presence when one of them wasn’t feeling like themselves. It had never been like that with Adam. No, everything back then was proper and emotions were packed away into neat little boxes, only to be dealt with later, whilst alone. Sure, Mary was open with her emotions, and was honest, but Adam wasn’t the best at helping her through things. She opened up far more to Jonathan and her farmhands, had more crying sessions sat on hay bales than she did with Adam. Mary looked at Zelda and felt like she could cry, gratitude and love surging strong inside of her. Zelda was the one she had been waiting for all along, the person she didn’t even know she needed. Mary smiled to herself all the way upstairs, to Zelda’s apartment. Once they got inside, Zelda took her by the hand, and led her to the bedroom.

“I just need to pack a few things. You’re welcome to lie down while I do.”

Mary nodded and climbed up onto Zelda’s bed, curling up on her side. Zelda hesitated, and walked back over to Mary. Mary looked up as Zelda leaned in to kiss her, dropping her purse to the ground when Mary’s arms snaked around her neck. 

“Kiss me Zelda,” Mary whined in a sleepy voice. Zelda lost herself in the taste of Mary’s lips. She climbed onto the bed and lowered herself down on top of Mary, nudging her to roll onto her back. Mary opened her legs, and wrapped them around Zelda, pulling her up against her. Zelda kissed across Mary’s face and went for the spot behind her ear, leaving little nips along the way.

“Yessss,” Mary hissed, tossing her head back. She had missed their prelude to intimacy, as Zelda had been more concerned with Mary getting her rest and not overexerting herself. Mary groaned as Zelda focused on one spot, teasing with her tongue. Mary grabbed at the sides of Zelda’s blouse, and pulled the silk fabric out of her pants, so that she could touch Zelda’s skin. 

“What happened to being tired?” Zelda asked in-between nibbles. Mary was panting now, and swallowed, trying to answer Zelda. 

“I was—I am, but I want something else” Mary said, craning her neck away from Zelda so she could look at her. Zelda’s lips were pink, and she ran her tongue over them. Mary blushed, and brought her thumb up to trace over the path Zelda’s tongue just made over her swollen lips.

“It’s been over a week since I got back from the hospital, Zelda. I miss you, you know.” Mary looked pointedly down and back up at Zelda, a blush on her cheeks.

“Well, you have been feeling a lot better lately...” Zelda’s hands reached for the waistband of Mary’s sweatpants, and pulled them down. “...and you haven’t been sick or feeling too light-headed…have you?” Mary shook her head as Zelda pulled the pants over Mary’s sock-clad feet, one leg, and then the other. Mary shivered when her bare legs were exposed to the chilly apartment air. 

“You okay?” Zelda asked, rubbing her hands up and down Mary’s legs. The brunette nodded, blinking rapidly. Zelda started down by Mary’s ankles, and kissed her way up one leg, her hair tickling Mary’s inner thigh. When she reached her center she moved back down Mary’s other leg, before hovering back between Mary’s legs. 

“I think I need to get a closer look,” Zelda said as she pulled off Mary’s panties. Mary let out a needy whine when Zelda’s fingertips brushed over her thigh while removing her underwear. 

“Zelda please.

Zelda slid herself up in-between Mary’s legs, resting one over each shoulder. With a relieved moan, she spread Mary open with her tongue, and began to enjoy what she had gone far too long without.




 

A cell phone chirp roused Zelda from her slumber, and she opened her eyes, blinking away sleep. Her face was pressed up against Mary’s chest, and Mary had a hand tangled in Zelda’s hair. Mary was still asleep, despite the electronic intrusion. 

Carefully, Zelda got down from the bed and grabbed her blanket from the foot of the bed, and spread it out over Mary. The sleeping woman smiled and tucked into herself on her side. Zelda kissed her cheek and left the room. 

The new message that she had received was from Jonas, which read

Just spoke with Soleil and we came up with a price for you. Give me a call when you get a chance.

Zelda nearly started crying over the text, relieved that things were working out. True, she hadn’t heard the price yet, but she would do whatever she needed to get Mary’s barn rebuilt. She called Jonas back and spoke with him, searching for a seat when he started to tell her what he came up with.

“And that is a um, a normal price?” Zelda swallowed her throat suddenly dry.

“Yes. That is the lowest I can get for a barn that size. It is a ridiculously good deal, Zelda. Let me know what you want to do, okay? If you want to move forward, then I can be there with my guys by Monday. If not, then I can try to recommend some other companies who would be willing to help. Either way, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny.”

“No, no. I want you to fix it. Don’t worry about the money. I will get you your money. I just need the barn fixed. Please come on Monday.”

“Okay. We’ll see you on Monday then.”

Zelda laid back against the couch and let her mind race, considering everything. She only let herself have a few moments to gather herself before she returned to packing. It didn’t take long, and Zelda had an easy time deciding what she did and didn’t need, With a resigned sigh, she zipped her suitcase shut, and rolled it to sit by the front door. She had packed herself two weeks worth of clothes, some books, toiletries, and other things she thought she might need. There was always time to come back later for more, if need be.

“Zelda?”

Zelda turned around, her curls landing softly against her shoulders. Mary stood in the doorway of Zelda’s bedroom, wrapped in a blanket. She still wore her flannel shirt and socks, but had nothing on besides that. She still sported her natural curls, not bothering with straightening her hair since getting back from the hospital. The thick locks were braided back into a ponytail, strands escaping here and there. The late afternoon sun shone onto her, making her look like she was adorned with a halo. 

She was beautiful . Devastatingly so.

Mary shifted the blanket that sat over her shoulders, and Zelda grew hot under the collar. The blanket parted and Zelda got a glimpse between Mary’s legs. There were red marks where she had sucked and nibbled her love onto Mary’s skin.

“Zelda?” Mary asked again, this time in a worry-laced tone. Zelda’s mouth went dry, and she approached Mary. Upon closer inspection, Zelda saw an imprint on Mary’s cheek from the decorative pillow she had fallen asleep against, and there was a small down feather in her hair. Zelda reached up and plucked the feather from her hair, blowing it away.

“Yes my love?”

“Did you finish packing yet? I wanted to help you.”

Blinking blue eyes sent Zelda’s heart into overdrive, making her knees weak. Mary was adorable , and Zelda was enjoying the view. She cupped her face between her palms, and slowly brought their lips together in a kiss. Mary lifted her arms and wrapped them around Zelda’s neck, causing the blanket to fall off. 

“Oh—” Mary started for the blanket but Zelda pulled her back upright.

“Forget about the blanket. Come here.”

Mary stepped over the blanket and Zelda drew her close, arms wrapping around her waist. She swayed from side to side, and Mary laid her head against Zelda’s shoulder.

“You are so dear, Mary.” Zelda mumbled against Mary’s mouth as she kissed her again, tenderly. Mary leaned into Zelda, and Zelda’s hand slipped behind her knee, lifting her leg up. Her other hand reached for Mary’s opposite leg, and Mary got the message. She wrapped both legs around Zelda as Zelda picked her up with a gentle heave. Zelda had never picked Mary up before, and found that she was very light. She wrapped her arms around the lithe woman and tried to stand strong as Mary began kissing her neck, leaving little love bites Zelda was certain would bruise. 

“Maryyy…”

Zelda could feel dampness seeping through where Mary’s bare (and wet) center was pressed up against her shirt, and it sent a jolt of arousal through her. She held Mary there, hands beneath her rear as she studied her.

“I have never seen as beautiful a sight as you right now.”

Mary turned several shades of pink, and dropped her gaze, biting the corner of her lip as she often did. Zelda kissed her right next to her mouth before walking them over to the wall, careful of the blanket on the floor.

“Do you think you can stand for a bit?” Zelda asked, leaving a peck on the tip of Mary’s nose.

“Yes-”

Before the words were out of Mary’s mouth, Zelda released Mary, and sank down to her knees. She peered up at Mary, her chin resting against Mary’s thigh. 

Mary’s heart clenched in her chest and she sat a hand atop Zelda’s head, her fingers gently scratching at her scalp. 

“Are you going to—”

“Mhhm,” Zelda replied matter of factly, already drawn to the scent of Mary. She took Mary into her mouth and lapped at her sticky wetness, fully enjoying every moan she drew out of the woman. 

“Zelda... aaah!”

Zelda’s neighbors, if home, surely would know what was going on. But neither Zelda nor Mary cared. Zelda looked up at Mary as she writhed against her mouth, her hand tangled in Zelda’s hair, grabbing at her scalp. Mary’s head was tossed back and her back was arching up off of the wall. Zelda leaned up into Mary and began to move her tongue even faster against her clit, before slurping at the entire length of her. When Zelda began to suck at Mary’s clit, Mary screamed her orgasm, cries tearing from her throat like sobs. Zelda felt wetness splash against her neck, and Mary’s legs clenched around her face.

“I love you,” Zelda whispered against her skin as she dripped and pulsed above her. She licked her lips and wiped the wetness from her chin and neck, watching Mary come down from her high. Mary’s legs were still shaking, and she grabbed at the wall behind her. Zelda stood from her knees, her joints cracking, and Mary’s arms automatically went around her neck. 

“That was a nice surprise.”

Mary leaned forward and flicked her tongue over Zelda’s smiling lips and ran her hands down the front of Zelda’s chest. “I got you all wet, though” Mary said as she brushed over damp spots on the front of Zelda’s shirt. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Zelda leaned in close, so her nose and lips brushed up against Mary’s ear. “Besides, I like it when you come like that.” Zelda ended her sentence with a nibble on the side of Mary’s neck, teeth leaving marks against the delicate flesh. Mary whined, and tossed her head back, hitting the wall with a thud .

“Oh!” Zelda stopped kissing Mary and cradled her head, one hand gently rubbing over where she hit the wall. 

“Are you okay? Should we call your doctor or the hospital and have them take a look at you? Oh god....” 

Zelda’s worrying over Mary was quite endearing, and Mary fell in love with her just a bit more. 

“I’m fine, Zelda.” Mary took Zelda’s hands between her own, and held them up to her chest. “If I feel odd, I promise you will be the first one to know, okay?”

“Okay...okay.” 

“Is there anything else you need help packing?” Mary asked, with a kiss to Zelda’s hand. Zelda turned and looked around her living room, taking a moment to consider everything.

“I think I have all I need for now.” Mary’s stomach grumbled into the quiet of the room, and she giggled. Zelda rubbed Mary’s tummy, and gave her a lopsided smile. 

“Sounds like someone is hungry. What d’you say we hop in the bath and then head out?”

“I like the sound of that.”

Zelda went back into her bedroom and found Mary a change of clothes. They were still dressing in outfits that were suited for the gym, or staying at home. But Zelda didn’t care, and wanted to be comfortable, and make sure Mary was as well. She laid out their clothes on her bed, and stepped into the bathroom, leaving a trail of her own clothes in her wake. She shivered and crossed her arms over her chest, walking on her tiptoes across the tile. Mary approached Zelda, and guided her towards the tub. 

“Come. Get in while it’s filling up. I think it’s warm enough.”  

Zelda climbed into the bath, the balmy water welcoming her chilled body. She quickly sat down and hugged her knees to her chest, waiting. Mary had gone silent across the room, and when Zelda looked over, the brunette was removing her flannel shirt, and then her undershirt. She wore no bra underneath, and Zelda’s mouth went dry. She stared shamelessly as Mary moved across the bathroom towards the tub, nude. 

“Scoot forward a bit?” Mary asked, lifting a leg up over the lip of the tub. Zelda obeyed, and Mary got in, sliding behind Zelda. Zelda couldn’t help but smile when she felt Mary’s hands reaching for her waist. She fit between Mary’s legs, and hummed her approval when Mary wrapped her legs around her own, and pulled her back up against her. The warm water sloshed up around them and Zelda let herself slide down in Mary’s embrace, and laid back against her. They laid there and said nothing for a while, Mary cupping water between her hands and pouring it over Zelda’s chest. Zelda let her gaze drift down to the water and the bubbles that floated across the surface. 

“So. What do you think about having the barn rebuilt?”

Mary kissed Zelda’s collarbone, leaving several tiny pecks in a row. She sighed, and Zelda could feel her despair leaving her body. 

“I would love for that to happen as soon as possible, but I don’t want to use all of the money from the fair. That was supposed to be to fix things up, to help me pay some past due fees and try to get the farm back on its feet.” 

“I don’t want you to have to use that money either, but we might have to, at least some of it.”

Mary sat up and Zelda went with her, soapy water stirring around their bodies. She reached for a washcloth and some body wash. She squeezed the gel onto the washcloth and began to rub it over Zelda’s back in long, sweeping strokes. 

“Well. If there is no other way…”

“Actually there is.” Zelda looked over her shoulder at Mary, an excited gleam in her eye.

“I know that look. What do you have planned, Zelda?”

“Okay. Well, I’ve been talking with Jonas and he spoke with Soleil, and they said they can get started with construction by Monday. Jonas said his team works exceptionally fast, and can have something put together by the beginning of September.”

Mary considered this for a while, and Zelda turned her body all the way around, so she was kneeling facing Mary. 

“So…?”

“I mean, that is great and all, but how much would it cost? I don’t exactly have money for that sort of thing at the moment.”

“Don’t you worry about that. If we have to dip into the funds from the fair, I will let you know. But right now, I don’t plan on doing so. I think I have something worked out.”

“Okay…” Mary stared at the bath water between them until everything started to blur in front of her, as tears fell from her eyes. She tilted her head back and looked up at the ceiling, shaking her head. Zelda sat her hand against her shoulder, her thumb smoothing over the soft skin.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes. It’s just that,” Mary sighed, and looked at Zelda. “I don’t want you spending your own money on this, on me . It’s too much.”

“Hey.” Zelda took Mary’s face between her hands, and looked her in the eyes. “Do you remember a few days after we got back from the hospital, I told you I was in this for the long run?”

“Yeah.”

“Well it’s true. I am in this for good. Words cannot express my love for you. The farm is important to you, so it is important to me. I want to help, Mary, because I love you.”

Mary all but lunged forward, taking Zelda’s face between her hands, and began to kiss her, water splashing out of the tub onto the floor. Tears of gratitude rolled down her face and mingled with their kisses. The water swayed back and forth as they stayed there kissing until the bathwater turned lukewarm, and Zelda was nearly grinding against Mary’s thigh.

“I think we had better stop, or else we’ll never leave,” Mary said, her lips full and red. She sank to a sitting in Zelda’s lap, and bit her lip. Zelda rubbed her thumbs against Mary’s waist, where her hands gripped lightly.

“We probably should, before you wear me out.” Zelda retorted with a wink. 

They made quick work of washing up, the water growing colder around them. Once they dried themselves and the bathroom floor off, Mary was clad in a pair of Zelda’s expensive leggings, and an oversized sweatshirt. She looked rather cute, and Zelda couldn’t help but kiss her breathless near the front door before they left. They got to the car, eventually, despite Zelda being overcome by the need to keep kissing Mary. She had to force herself away to start the car, otherwise they’d never make dinner in time. The drive back to Greendale was smoother than their drive in and Zelda was feeling much calmer than she did that morning. In addition to her brighter mood, the traffic was light, and they rode with the windows rolled halfway down, the last bit of summer weather almost gone. 

They pulled up to the Spellman house just as the sun had gone a beautiful orange in the sky, and Zelda’s eyes were glued to Mary as she looked at the sunset. 

“I’ve missed being outside. I know it’s only been a week or so, but for someone who is outside on a daily basis, a week feels like a month.”

Zelda slipped her arms around Mary’s waist, pulling her back against her. Mary rubbed Zelda’s arms, and leaned back into her embrace with a sigh.

“I’ll have to get you out more. I’m sorry.” 

Mary could feel Zelda’s lips near her ear, and then a gentle peck. She turned in Zelda’s arms so that she could face her, and leaned forward, resting their foreheads together.

“You have already been doing such a wonderful job of taking care of me, Zelda. I couldn’t have asked for a better nurse...or partner. I love you.” 

“I love you too Mary.” Zelda took a deep breath, leaning forward to kiss Mary for what seemed like the fiftieth time that day. Everything disappeared around Zelda, and all she knew was Mary, her warm mouth, her hands holding Zelda close. 

“Goodness.” Mary pulled back, gasping for air. “I’ll have to stop or else I might not make it in the house.”

“Come on. Let’s go get some dinner.”

Zelda took Mary by the hand and walked up the steps to her front door. She tried the doorknob, and was pleased to find that Hilda had left it unlocked for them. She kept her hand at the small of Mary’s back as they stepped inside the house. They were overcome by the smell of something delicious, and Zelda’s mouth watered instantly.

“Hello! We’re here!”

“Auntie Zee!” Sabrina called from around the corner. Footsteps padded across the floor, and Sabrina appeared, her cat Salem in her arms. She sat him down on the floor and stretched her arms out towards Zelda, hugging her aunt. Zelda hugged the teenager, and smiled when she saw her sister coming around the corner, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.

“There you two are.” Hilda wrapped Mary in a hug, and pulled back to look her over. “How are you holding up, love?”

“I’m getting there. Of course, I have Zelda to thank for taking such good care of me.”

Sabrina moved towards Mary, and offered a sympathetic smile. “I heard about the fire, Miss Wardwell. I’m so sorry.” Sabrina wrapped Mary in a hug, and rubbed her back. Mary blinked rapidly, trying to stave off tears in her still emotionally raw state.

“Thank you Sabrina.”

Salem meowed his entrance as he slunk over to Mary and rubbed up against her leg. 

“Oh you are just so handsome and big now, aren’t you?” Mary spoke to the cat in dulcet tones, and stroked him, her dimple showing as she smiled. Sabrina began to chat with Mary about Salem, and Hilda disappeared back into the kitchen, just as a timer went off. Zelda turned to leave, and Mary shot her a questioning look.

“I’m just going to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.”

Mary nodded, and Zelda left to take care of her business. She wasn’t long, but did stop to check her hair in the mirror before leaving the bathroom. Her eyes drifted down to a small hickey that was left near the base of her neck. An excited flutter shot through her as she remembered Mary’s mouth on her there. She brushed some hair over her shoulder to conceal it, and blushed.

Maybe if I grab a sweatshirt that will cover it...

Zelda was so caught up in her thoughts of how to hide the love bite, that she nearly ran into Sabrina who was carrying a glass of water.

“Oh! I’m sorry!” 

Zelda’s eyes went wide, and she saw Mary sitting down on the couch, Hilda next to her with an arm around her shoulders. Zelda rushed to Mary’s side and sat down, panicking.

“What happened?” She asked as she reached for Mary’s hands, saw her phone sitting in her lap. Mary looked at Zelda with a look of shock, and a small, careful smile flickered around the corners of her mouth.

“The police just called. They said that your boss was arrested and they want to ask me some more questions down at the station.”

Chapter Text

“What?”

“Apparently, someone named Nate turned himself in, and provided them with enough evidence to arrest Faustus.”

“Oh,” Zelda said, the tightness that had gathered in her chest slowly unravelled, releasing her. Of course Nate would crack, the pushover. His lack of backbone always infuriated Zelda when it came to projects where he would have to make decisions, or have a say in something. For once, she was glad that he gave in, though.  

“Did they say anything else?”

“No, but you will probably get a call too.”

Zelda felt tears threatening to overwhelm her, and she didn’t have anywhere to go. 

“If you all would just excuse me for a moment,” Zelda muttered as she stood from the couch.

“Zelds? You okay?” Hilda questioned after her sister. All eyes were on her as she rushed towards the chapel, barely getting the door shut behind her.

“I’ll go check on her,” Mary said, already following in Zelda’s footsteps. She pushed open the doors to the chapel and was met with the sound of Zelda’s quiet sobs. Mary scanned the room, her eyes adjusting to the darkened room. She listened to the sound of Zelda’s sniffles, and moved in that direction, smiling when she saw Zelda’s legs sticking out from behind one of the pews. Mary said nothing as she walked over to Zelda, and took a seat on the floor next to her, up against the back wall. Zelda had a hand on her chest, and one on her stomach, and her head was bowed.

“Zelda,” Mary started, reaching for her. “It’s okay Zelda. Come here.” 

Zelda tucked into Mary’s side and sniffled, smiling when she felt Mary’s lips trailing across her hairline. 

“I’m sorry...sorry. I didn’t expect to react like this. I’m just really relieved.”

“Don’t be sorry, my love. You are allowed to feel.”

“I know, I know.” Zelda sniffled loudly and wiped the back of her hand across her nose. “I’ve had this huge weight sitting on me for the past week, and even long before that. I just had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. And then the fire happened, and my guilt and sorrow added to that weight. I never knew that this would end with you getting hurt. And now we have a chance for justice, for Faustus to pay the price, and all I can think about is what if he gets off? What if he pays someone off and tries to come back to do something more, something worse?” Zelda gripped Mary’s clothes between sweaty fingers, trying to hold onto something to ground her. Mary took Zelda’s hand and pressed a kiss to her damp palm.

“Don’t worry sweetheart. I don’t think he will be trying anything, now that the police are keeping an eye on him.”

“You’re right. I’m just being ridiculous. I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time today.” Zelda tried to pull away with a huff, clearly frustrated with herself. Mary held Zelda still, her hands a comforting weight on Zelda’s shoulders. She smoothed her hands back and forth, thumbs tracing over Zelda’s collarbone.

“You are not being ridiculous. Not one bit.” Mary’s hands kept moving in a soothing motion, and she slid them up to hold Zelda’s face. She couldn’t see Zelda clearly in the dark, but she knew the woman's eyes had fluttered closed. Mary chanced a kiss, then two, then three butterfly-soft pecks against Zelda’s face. Mary sought out her mouth, and kissed her, pouring every ounce of love into each sweep of her lips over Zelda’s. Mary’s kisses were sweet, and Zelda found herself emotional once more, her heart laden with love for Mary. Surely Mary felt the telltale tremble of Zelda’s chin. Zelda broke the kiss and looked down at her lap in the dark. Mary leaned into her side, the tip of her nose brushing over Zelda’s cheek.

“I love you so much Zelda. We are going to get through this together, okay?” Zelda nodded, her cheek moving against Mary’s nose. Mary stamped a kiss to her cheek, and moved to standing, hand reaching out for Zelda. Zelda took her hand, and Mary pulled her upright, and straight into a hug. Zelda sank into the embrace, a sense of calm washing over her. 

Zelda was silent when they finally emerged from the chapel, and Sabrina gave her a hug, holding onto her aunt for longer than expected. Ambrose bounded down the stairs and Hilda quietly filled him in on what had taken place. He disappeared into the pantry and returned with a bottle of one of Zelda’s favorite wines, and opened it up. The family had a filling dinner of homemade pizza, and ate until they nearly fell out of their seats from food-induced lethargy. Slowly but surely, each family member made their way to the living room and picked a landing pad—the couch, a pillow near the fireplace, an armchair. It was an unspoken tradition of the Spellman family to move to sit near the fire after eating dinner. Better yet, it was finally getting cool enough at night to enjoy the fireplace, and Ambrose didn’t hesitate to put some fresh logs in and start a fire. The fire didn’t take at first, and Ambrose stoked the weak flames, and added another log, causing the fire to crackle and pop louder. Mary kept a close eye on the fireplace, and flinched when the flames crackled. Her whole body tensed up at a second, much louder pop, and she pressed her face into Zelda’s shirt.

“You okay?” Zelda asked, whispering near Mary’s ear so that only she could hear. 

“I will be,” Mary squeaked in return, her voice shaking. She closed her eyes, blindly reaching for and finding Zelda’s hand. “It’s just a fireplace, everything is under control,” Mary whispered to herself. Zelda held her tighter, and continued to whisper reassurances into her ear. Hilda watched the interaction and stood abruptly, the perfect distraction coming to mind.

“Would anyone like to hear a little music?” She looked around the room, her tone as giddy as ever.

“Sounds good to me. Ambrose?” Sabrina looked across a pile of cards at her cousin who shrugged and nodded.

“Fine by me.”

Hilda caught Zelda’s eye as she walked past, and Zelda mouthed thank you

You’re welcome.

Zelda held Mary close as Hilda selected an album, and placed it on the record player. There was a crackling sound, and then the opening strains of The Beatles’ “ Come Together” started. Mary perked up in Zelda’s arms, and took Zelda’s hand between her own. Zelda’s heart fluttered, nearly skipping a beat. It took everything in her to not kiss Mary breathless right there, in front of the family. 

“Anyone down for a game of Uno?” Sabrina asked, holding up a pack of cards. Zelda and Mary both met each others’ eyes with a large smile, as if on cue, and they joined in the game with fervor. They made it through a few rounds of Uno and later Catchphrase before their excitement died down, and everyone turned to more individual activities. Hilda, as usual, had her knitting out, and Sabrina and Ambrose entertained themselves with another game. Mary opted out of playing the last round, and instead tucked back into Zelda’s side. Zelda rested her chin on top of Mary’s head, and gently scratched her back. 

“We should get you back home soon so you can go to bed.”

Mary yawned, and shyly slid her hand up to Zelda’s collarbone, tracing over the spots where she had nibbled earlier. Zelda caressed Mary’s wrist, fingers soft against her skin, and Mary let her eyes close. With her belly fully, being warm and wrapped up in Zelda’s arms, Mary was unable to stay awake a moment longer, and drifted off. Zelda let her head drop against the back of the couch, and stared at the ceiling, trying to resist nodding off herself. She too felt the call of sleep, pulling her under. 

“Zelds? Zelda?” Someone was gently shaking Zelda’s shoulder. Zelda lifted her head from the couch and winced, her neck muscles protesting over the position she had fallen asleep in. Mary was still tucked up against her side, fast asleep. The room was cooler now, and there was a lone light on, on one of the end tables. Zelda blinked and looked around. Hilda stood in her pajamas and robe, and had her glasses on. 

“What time is it?” Zelda asked, blinking away sleep from her eyes.

“It’s just after ten. You two better sleep over here tonight, just to be safe. I’ve put some clean towels in your room, Zelda.”

Zelda sat up further, careful with Mary. The brunette whimpered and tried to curl back up next to Zelda.

“Mary. Hey.” Zelda swept hair away from Mary’s face, and dropped a kiss to her head.

“What happened? Are we playing another game of Uno?” Mary muttered, cheek pressed up against Zelda’s chest. 

“No, sweetheart. It’s late now. We’re going to stay over here tonight, and go back to the farm tomorrow, okay?”

Mary sat up and looked around, blinking in the light of the room. She yawned, a frown on her face. “What time is it?”

“It’s just after ten,” Zelda said, parroting Hilda’s words as she stood from the couch. She stretched, her joints popping. “Are you okay with staying over here tonight?”

Mary stood up, and slid her arms around Zelda in a hug. “I’m okay sleeping anywhere, as long as you’re there.” Mary sought out Zelda’s lips, and gave her several sleepy pecks in a row. Zelda returned her kisses, eagerly, and pulled Mary up to the bedroom. It didn’t take long for both women to strip down to their underwear and crawl beneath the covers. Zelda wrapped her arms around Mary’s waist and pulled her to her, kissing the nape of her neck. 

“Goodnight my love. Sleep well.”

 


 

Things seemed to go by slowly, but all at once after Mary and Zelda visited the police station the next day. It was a bit nerve-wracking, recounting all of the trauma they had experienced over the past few months, but they pushed through it. Zelda tried to disguise her worry over the possibility that the case would fall apart and Faustus would seek revenge. Mary too, was worried, but for a different reason. She couldn’t keep her mind off of the money, and how Zelda would pay for the barn. Mary brought her focus back to the task at hand, and her and Zelda made it through their statements and returned home. The rest of the week was spent in relative comfort, Mary finding things around the house and farm to do to keep her mind off of the court case. Zelda distracted herself by kissing away the look of worry on Mary’s face whenever it appeared, and just by kissing her in general. 

If I focus on her, then I won’t have to think about my own worries, she told herself. And so she did. Mary could still sense her unease, as they were attuned to each other by this point in their relationship. But Zelda tried her best to keep her anxiety at bay, and sought out Mary when she needed extra reassurance. Mary joked and told Zelda that if there were an award for cuddling, then they would definitely win first place. That drew a laugh out of Zelda, which made Mary feel a bit better. Not only did Mary work to keep her and Zelda distracted, but she also tried to keep Zelda fed. Anxiety had stolen her appetite, which Mary was no stranger to. The brunette was extremely patient and caring, researching and experimenting with different recipes she found on the internet. Surprisingly, and much to Mary’s relief, she discovered that Zelda was quite fond of soup. With a little coaxing on her part, she got Zelda to eat some. And so, Mary began to make pots of soup, and portioned them off into containers for Zelda to heat up whenever she needed something lighter in her stomach. 

In the week following their initial visit to the police station, Zelda had suggested to Mary that they should look into some sort of legal representation. It would be for both Mary’s and the farm’s sake, should something go wrong. One afternoon, after Zelda had been catastrophizing over what could go wrong, she blurted out her suggestion once more. The timing could have been a bit better—her and Mary were laying naked in bed with droplets of sweat still drying on their bodies.

“Mary?” Zelda stroked Mary’s belly with her fingertips, and replaced them with her lips. Mary sighed, and slid a hand into Zelda’s hair, scratching at her scalp. 

“I really think we need to hire a lawyer, instead of waiting for the court to appoint one to us.” Zelda kissed her way across the taught, freckled skin, and snuck her tongue out into Mary’s belly button. This got a squeal and a giggle out of the brunette, and Zelda couldn’t help but laugh in response, easing her worries. 

“We can get someone good, someone who will protect us.” Mary didn’t respond at first, and Zelda continued her journey up to Mary’s mouth. She paused to swirl her tongue around a nipple. She finished off each swipe of her tongue with a suck, causing Mary to arch up off of the bed. 

“So what do you say?”

“Zelda I, mmn, okay,” Mary panted, squeezing her thighs together as she had done earlier. Zelda seemed to sense what was wrong before Mary even said anything, and she wordlessly slid a hand back down between Mary’s legs, and pressed against her, wetness gathering in her palm.

“I just want you to be safe, that’s all,” Zelda spoke against the side of Mary’s neck. A vision of Mary in the hospital flashed before Zelda’s mind’s eye and she froze, trying to dispel the memory. She pulled back and looked Mary in the eye, her face suddenly serious. 

“I couldn’t bear it if anything else happened to you or the farm.” Zelda looked back and forth between Mary’s eyes, and her voice caught in her throat. She swallowed and prayed her eyes wouldn’t start watering. She pulled her hand from between Mary’s legs, and fully sat upright, blinking. Mary sat up on her elbows, and cupped Zelda’s face between her hands. 

“I’ll call my divorce lawyer tomorrow and ask if he has any recommendations of a good defense lawyer here in town, okay?”

Zelda nodded in response, and bit her bottom lip. She dropped her gaze, and let out a sigh of relief. 

“Come here Zelda,” Mary reached her arms up, and Zelda went right into her embrace, tucking her face into the side of Mary’s neck.

“Don’t worry sweetheart. I know you are worried—and I am too—but everything is going to be fine, okay?” Mary smiled when Zelda slipped her hand back between her legs once more, and began to move her lips against her neck.

“I take that as a yes, hm?”

“Mhhmn.” Zelda muttered, far too concerned with getting Mary off once more.



————————————————

 

Several weeks came and went, and Mary really started to feel back to her old self again. She didn’t need to take as many breaks when doing things around the house, wasn’t as tired, and had started to get back to doing chores on the farm. One Wednesday afternoon, as Jonas was nearing the end of his work on the new barn, Mary took a moment to relax, just out of the way of the construction crew. She plopped down onto a hay bale and wiped sweat from her brow. She hadn’t worked as hard as she had that morning since before the fire, and she could feel it. Her muscles ached from exertion, and she was covered in a light sheen of sweat, despite the weather being on the cooler side. The sounds of power tools and heavy machinery echoed from inside the barn, and Mary held a hand up to the back of her sweaty neck as she watched construction workers bustle in and out of the new barn. She still couldn’t believe the path that her life had taken over the past month. Everything since the fair, the fire, the barn being rebuilt, just everything. Mary wiped sweat from her brow with the back of her hand, and swung her legs around on the hay bale, so she was sitting on the short end, facing the barn. It really was beautiful, and she couldn’t wait to put it to use. Jonas had told them that they would have things finished up in the next 1-2 weeks, which was perfect. It gave them just enough time to get things ready for Halloween and the annual harvest festival.

“Hey, didn’t you hear me calling you?” 

Mary turned and looked up towards where she heard Zelda’s voice, hand shielding her eyes from the sun. Zelda stood in front of her with a thermos in one hand and a hand towel in the other. 

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear over all of the noise from the barn.”

Zelda pinched the bridge of her nose and looked regretful, and shook her head. “I’m sorry Mary. I realized how awful that sounded as it was coming out of my mouth. I just got worried, because I saw you sitting down and I thought you were feeling sick.” 

Mary patted the hay bale and Zelda moved to sit behind her, swinging a leg over the bale and sliding up behind her.  

Are you feeling sick?” Zelda asked as she brought her arms around Mary, and unscrewed the thermos, holding it up. 

“Mmn...not really. I just haven’t worked this hard in a long time. I’m feeling my age today.” 

Mary took the thermos from Zelda, and unscrewed it. She hummed appreciatively as she took a sip, surprised to find not water, but fresh lemonade inside. 

“This is so good. Thank you.” Zelda held Mary carefully, and snuck a kiss to the side of her neck. She continued to kiss over Mary’s neck, moving to the base. Mary smelled good, well at least to Zelda she did. She could still smell her shampoo, and it reminded her that she was home. Zelda let herself linger there, lazily dropping kisses to her damp hairline, and holding her. Mary screwed the lid back onto the thermos and pulled the towel from over her shoulder to wipe her face. 

“Are you done for the day?” Zelda asked, pulling Mary back so that she was leaning against her. A construction worker walked past and tipped his hat at them, drawing a blush out of Mary.

“Yeah. I wanted to take it easy before tomorrow.” Mary gulped, and began to fidget with the lid of the thermos. 

“I have a surprise for you back at the house,” Zelda whispered into Mary’s skin, followed by another kiss

“What? Zelda, you know you don’t have to get me anything.”

“Well it really isn’t so much of a ‘thing’ as it is something beneficial...oh, I don’t want to spoil it. Are you finished up out here?”

“Yes. Shall we go inside?”

“Yes.”

Zelda got dinner started while Mary was upstairs, washing off the day of work. She hummed to herself and floated around the kitchen with an air of levity as she boiled water, added pasta noodles to the water, and cut up vegetables for sauce. She heard the shower stop, signalled by the sound of pipes shutting off above her, in the ceiling. Mary would be down soon, and Zelda couldn't wait to see the look on Mary’s face when presented with her favorite pasta dish. Zelda set the table, and plated a serving of pasta for each of them. She shredded fresh parmesan on top of both hers and Mary’s plates, adding extra just the way Mary liked. She uncorked a bottle of wine they had been saving, and placed a bowl of freshly tossed salad on the table. The finishing touch was a small bouquet of flowers and a framed certificate, signifying that the farm was officially a historical Greendale site. She didn’t tell Mary, but she also set up a living trust for the farm. She set it up so that Mary was the trustee of the property, and Jonathan the beneficiary. When Mary died, he would take over the farm, and could name someone else the beneficiary, so that the farm wouldn’t be sold off to some stranger or anything. Zelda and Mary were too old to have children, and most likely weren’t going to look into that at all, so Zelda turned to Jonathan, the closest thing Mary had to a child.

“Mary?” Zelda called, unable to contain her excitement a moment longer. There was nor response from upstairs, and Zelda figured Mary must’ve not heard her. She turned down the stove to low, and wiped her hands off before making the journey upstairs, to their bedroom. When she got to their room, she stepped through the doorway, and saw Mary laying near the foot of the bed, her eyes closed. She had a clean flannel shirt on, and a pair of leggings. Her hair was pulled back into a hasty braid, with errant curls framing her face. 

“Mary? Are you...oh.” Zelda smiled as a quiet snore left Mary. She walked over to the sleeping woman and kissed her on the cheek, tucking a lock of still damp hair behind her ear. She pulled a blanket over Mary and and left the room, quietly closing the door behind her.

 


 

Mary kept calm all the way until the moment they arrived at the courthouse. She took Zelda’s hand in hers as they walked up the front steps, and couldn’t keep away the telltale tremor. Zelda noticed, but didn’t say anything until they were right outside the door. 

“Mary.” Zelda stopped, not letting go of Mary’s hand. “I want you to know that whatever happens in there today, I will always be here for you, and I will support and defend you and the farm until I can no longer do so, okay?”

Mary’s eyes got wet and shiny, and she pushed her glasses up on her nose. Zelda reached for Mary’s skinny tie and tucked it into her blazer. “There we are,” Zelda patted the lapels of Mary’s blazer, and left her hands just below her shoulders. “You look incredibly sexy, my love. If we weren’t due in court today, I would have to take you back to the truck and have my way with you.”

“Oh,” Mary blushed, and Zelda stole a kiss, forcing herself to refrain from getting too sloppy right there in public. Mary ran her tongue over her bottom lip, and Zelda placed a kiss against her cheek, and snuck a second one to the corner of her mouth. 

“Ready to go in?”

“I’m ready.”

They stepped through the doors of the courthouse, hoping to have this unfortunate chapter of their lives closed once and for all.




 

Mary was good in court, in fact, she was fantastic. Both her and Zelda were called as witnesses, which they had been well-prepared for. Faustus was there too, of course, and Zelda’s stomach turned when she made eye contact with him. She breathed through her discomfort, and was surprisingly at ease once she was up on the witness stand, and giving her side of the story. When they took a recess, they had a minute to regroup with Mary’s attorney, who informed them that the trial would probably take a few days, and that they didn’t have to come unless they would need to be called on again. But Zelda wanted to be there, wanted to see Faustus’s face as his wrongdoings were exposed. Mary was on the same page, and also wanted to see Faustus brought to trial. And so, the court case continued. One of the first things that was shown to the court were the photos taken of Zelda, back from when Faustus had her followed. She blushed at the photos which showed her and Mary kissing, and wished she could run out of the courtroom and hide. She wasn’t embarrassed of her relationship with Mary, but rather, the fact that personal moments were being shared freely with the court. Zelda took deep breaths, forcing herself to work through her discomfort, as she knew that everything needed to be presented to make an ample case against Faustus.

A surprising and varying host of witnesses were called to the stand over the next couple of days, including Oliver, Jonathan, and even Constance, Faustus’s wife. Zelda fought to contain her surprise, and Constance looked equally as surprised to see Zelda there, though she had no doubt the woman knew of her husband’s wrongdoings by now. Constance gave a very interesting testimony, and spoke of her knowledge of some of Faustus's deeds, and his threats to keep her quiet. It wasn’t surprising to Zelda, or anyone else in the courtroom by then, and sounded a lot like her own experiences with Faustus at work. The only thing that seemed to be “true” or “honest” about Faustus was his love for his children. Aside from that, he was just rotten, and an all-around terrible person who was being exposed as he deserved. 

After three days of the trial, it came time for Faustus to take the stand. Mary squeezed Zelda’s hand as they watched him raise his hand in the air and swear to tell the truth. Zelda had to hold back a scoff, knowing Faustus would be spouting nothing but lies. He went through his statement, portraying himself as a misunderstood businessman, and tried to pin the entire barn fire on Ned. He spun a tale of how Ned was jealous of Zelda and wanted her position, and also claimed that Zelda was the one who came onto him. Zelda was furious and was hardly able to contain her rage when she felt Mary’s lips press to her cheek, near her ear.

“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.” Mary whispered, squeezing Zelda’s hand, which had gone sweaty. Neither woman was expecting what came next, though, when Zelda was called to the stand once more. Mary gave Zelda’s hand another squeeze again as Zelda stood from her seat, and let go of Mary’s hand. Mary kept her eyes on Zelda as she made her way to the front of the courtroom and took the stand once more. Their lawyer began to ask Zelda questions about what it was like working with Faustus, and how he manipulated and coerced her into things. 

“Miss Spellman, would you mind informing the court as to what it was like working with Faustus, and how he treated you as a coworker.”

“He…” Zelda didn’t dare look over at where Faustus was, and swallowed, willing her throat not to close up. “He…”

“Take your time Miss Spellman.” The attorney stood waiting, a kind yet understanding smile on his face. Zelda gulped past the sick feeling in her throat, knowing that Constance was in the room and listening to her give her testimony. She truly had considered Constance a friend, and now she was going to reveal that the whole time they had been friends, she had been engaging in sexual activity with her husband. It was no secret by now what kind of man Faustus was, and Constance knew of some of his behavior—but she didn’t know about this, and that scared Zelda.

“I, he,” Zelda looked down at her lap, and swallowed again, shame coursing through her. She felt hot all over, and her stomach turned. “He made me...made me do things...with him, and to him.”

“I know this is incredibly painful for you, Miss Spellman, but bear with me. When you say ‘things’, do you think you could elaborate for the court?”

“Interjection your honor!” Faustus’s lawyer shot up from her seat, pumped up. “Counsel is leading the witness!” 

All eyes in the courtroom traveled between the attorney and the juge, their breaths held in anticipation. Mary kept her eyes on Zelda and whispered a silent prayer to anyone who was listening to give her partner strength to continue.

“I’ll allow it. Please continue Miss Spellman.” Zelda looked at the juge and nodded, and spoke once more.

“He made me pleasure him, uh, sometimes in his office, and sometimes in mine. He also groped me, and hurt me when I wasn’t doing things his way. I knew it was wrong, but I was scared, and didn’t want to lose my job.” Now tears rolled down Zelda’s cheeks freely as her secret shame was put on display for an audience, for Constance, and Mary. She hadn’t even told Mary the extent of all that took place at her job, for she was ashamed that she let it occur for so long. The bailiff set a box of tissues on the edge of the witness stand and Zelda took one, dabbing at her eyes. 

“Miss Spellman, I just have a few more questions, okay?” The attorney walked over to a poster board that sat on an easel in the corner of the room and flipped it around. “Now, we have a picture here taken by Officer Smith, on August 18, 2019.” The attorney began to pace back and forth in front across the front of the room as he spoke. “This photograph was taken at the Greendale General Hospital, after Mary Wardwell was brought in for treatment in the aftermath of the fire at her farm.” He paused in front of Zelda at the witness stand, and looked her in the eye. “Could you please tell us how you got those marks on your arms, Miss Spellman?”

“Yes. That morning, I went to tell Faustus that I was quitting my job, because I no longer wanted to work with him. I was supposed to be working on a project for the company—as you all know—and I ended up not wanting to go through with it. It was my plan, my project, and I had every right to end it, and every right to quit my job. He grabbed me when I told him I was leaving, and he threatened both Mary and I.”

“Did you ever feel unsafe at your job Zelda?”

“Yes. Many times.”

“There will be no further questions your honor.”

Zelda bit her lip nervously, and tasted blood in her mouth as Faustus’s lawyer approached the stand, and stood directly in front of her. 

“You’re a businesswoman, right Zelda?”

“Yes.”

“So you could say that everything that happened between you and Faustus was business then, correct?”

“Well, not all of it, but most was, yes.”

“Which means that you were just doing your job then.”

“No, I—he violated me! He forced me to do things I didn’t want to do!” Zelda huffed, feeling heat rise up under her collar.

“But you wanted to be successful and at the top of your company, did you not?”

“Yes, but that was only at the beginning—”

“Answer the question please. Yes or no.”

“Yes…” Zelda shrank down into her seat, and felt a new set of tears pooling in her eyes. She needed to get out of the courtroom. It was all too much, and she just needed to take a moment to herself. 

Faustus’s attorney stood with her arms folded, and gave a little nod at Zelda’s answer before turning towards the judge.

“I have no further questions for this witness, your honor.”

Mary’s attorney didn’t seem to have any follow-up questions for Zelda either, and he as well as the entire courtroom could see how Zelda was visibly distraught from discussing her experiences with Faustus. She was excused from the stand, and walked quickly off of the courtroom floor, and back down the aisle, unable to look at anyone. Mary stood from her seat, and quietly and quickly excused herself. When she got out in the hallway, Zelda was nowhere to be found, but Mary knew she was most likely in the bathroom. She hurried down the hall, and pushed open the door to the ladies room.

“Zelda? Sweetheart, are you in here?” Mary leaned down to see if she saw Zelda’s shoes underneath any of the stalls. 

No answer. 

Mary walked out of the restroom, and looked back and forth down the hallway. Something told her to check outside, and so Mary went to the front entrance of the courthouse, and walked outside. She scanned the outside of the courthouse, and saw Zelda’s form sitting on the steps, off to the side. Mary walked over and sat herself down next to Zelda, arms automatically wrapping around her. Zelda leaned into Mary and laid her head on her shoulder.

“That was terrible. I have never been so ashamed or embarrassed in my life.”

Mary rubbed Zelda’s back, the silky fabric of her shirt damp with sweat. Zelda sniffled and wiped her nose, tears still dripping from her eyes.

“My darling, it’s okay . Everyone in there knows what kind of man Faustus is. They know that it was incredibly hard for you to talk about the things that happened. You don’t have to worry about being embarrassed.”

“I know. I just...it is hard to talk about, especially with an audience.” Zelda sat up and looked at Mary, her eyes red-rimmed. Mary tucked a lock of hair behind Zelda’s ear, and placed a peck against her mouth. 

“You did a good job in there Zelda, and I am so proud of you. I know today was a lot, so maybe we should just leave? Maybe stop by Dr. Cerberus’s on the way back and get an order of waffles? Or any sinful, sweet thing you’d like. Then we can go back home and get all tucked into bed, and watch something funny. Whaddya say?”

“I’d like that. Thank you, Mary.”

Chapter Text

“Zelda, you have to eat something sweetheart.” Mary brushed Zelda’s hair back from her face and sighed. “Do you want to try some soup?” Zelda looked up from her position on the couch, and gave Mary a lazy half-smile.

“I…I guess I could try some.”

Mary nodded, and leaned in to kiss Zelda, sinking into the liplock when Zelda slid her arms up around her neck. Mary moved to lay on top of Zelda, and kissed her for a good while, until Zelda was red in the face, and had a dreamy look in her eyes.

“Feeling better now, my darling?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m going to go make you some of that soup, okay?”

“Okay.” Zelda watched Mary retreat into the kitchen, and held a hand up to her chest in an attempt to calm her racing heart. She’d been having a hard time over the past few days, while they waited for their final day in court. Come Monday, the the judge would sentence Faustus. Zelda didn’t want to go, couldn’t bear to be there if all he got was a slap on the wrist. But part of her really wanted to be there to see the look on his face should he be convicted. It was a toss up, and the uncertainty of not knowing the outcome left Zelda with a stomachache all weekend long. She was less than interested in eating, and barely left the house. Mary tried taking her outside for a walk around the farm, to try to take her mind off of things. She even took her around behind the new barn, and kissed her breathless, up against the wooden building. All of her attempts weren’t lost on Zelda; however, Zelda was too worried to voice her thanks.

“Zelda? Do you want bread on the side? Or do you want a small salad?” Mary’s voice trailed out from the kitchen, and Zelda swallowed down her anxiety to answer.

“Um, bread is fine.” Zelda shouted in response. She could feel the familiar flames of anxiety and panic starting up again, and forced herself up from the couch. She couldn’t sit there, not with the smell of food wafting in from the kitchen. She started up, uneasy on her feet, and placed a hand over her mouth as she hurried upstairs where she could be alone.

“It’s almost ready Zelda! Zelda?”

The woman in question was already up the stairs in the bedroom, sitting in the window seat with her knees tucked up to her chest. Zelda rested her cheek on her knees, and had her face turned to look out the window as she forced herself to take deep breaths in and out.

“Zelda?” Mary’s voice grew nearer, and Zelda wiped her face, not wanting to seem as broken as she felt. It was just a court case. Even if Faustus didn’t have to serve time, his name would be tarnished for a very long time, and there would be no amount of money big enough for him to buy himself a new reputation. Despite her worry over what could go wrong, Zelda tried to give herself a pep talk, to try to calm down.

Mary’s here. She will be with me. Everything is going to be okay.

“Zelda? Oh! Are you okay?” Mary’s feet padded across the carpet as she approached Zelda, reaching out for her. Mary’s hands were pink, recently washed, and Zelda wanted to kiss them.

“I think,” Zelda swallowed, not turning her head away from the window. It was terribly hard for her to be seen like this, even with Mary, who she felt completely safe with.

“I…”

Zelda chanced a look at Mary, fear present in her green eyes. Mary’s heart gave a lurch in her chest when Zelda’s bottom lip began to tremble.

“Come here sweetheart.” Mary outstretched her arms immediately, walking right up to Zelda. Zelda didn’t hesitate and went swiftly between Mary’s arms, hugging her. Mary simply held Zelda, and Zelda let out a almost soundless sniffle. Mary could feel her shaking in her arms and she wrapped her arms tighter, holding Zelda to her and rocking her from side to side.

“You know. I used to think about what it would be like to hold you like this, back when we were still getting to know each other.” Mary snuck a kiss to the side of Zelda’s head, and began to rub her back. “Now, I can’t imagine not getting to hold you like this. I hope you know how much I love you, Zelda.”

“I love you too,” Zelda whispered, tears threatening to overcome her. She lifted her head from where it rested on Mary’s shoulder, and saw tears in those crystal blue eyes.

“It’s going to be okay. Just wait and see. It will all be over soon.”

All Zelda could manage was a slow nod in response, and laid her head back down on Mary’s shoulder.

 


 

“Zelda? Are you ready? We’re going to be late!”

Mary stood at the foot of the stairs, looking up towards where Zelda should have been walking down. There was no sounds from upstairs, and Mary hesitated, contemplating whether or not she should go up and check on Zelda. She decided to give it a few more minutes, and if Zelda didn’t come downstairs, she would go up and check on her. The poor thing had been worried sick, and Mary did her best to try to comfort and encourage Zelda. She hadn’t gotten much sleep the night prior, either. Her night was spent tossing and turning, sweating in the sheets. Mary was incredibly patient and understanding, and gave Zelda her space when she needed it.

“Sorry,” Zelda’s shaky voice came from around the corner, the woman herself appearing a second later. “I had to fix my makeup.”

“It’s okay.” Mary’s eyes stayed on Zelda as she descended the stairs. “You look beautiful, as always.”

Zelda blushed as she stepped off the bottom step, and pulled a cigarette out of her purse.

“I just need one for the road. I’m having a hard time.”

“Of course.” Mary replied sympathetically. She slipped a hand around Zelda’s waist, giving her a squeeze before heading to the front door. They quiet as they stepped outside, and Mary locked the door behind them. Zelda lit her cigarette with shaking hands, and took a long drag. She walked ahead of Mary to the car, and leaned back against the passenger side of the truck, puffing on her cigarette. As Mary walked over to the car, she noticed Zelda quickly brush away tears.

“It’s going to be okay, you know.” Mary chanced, coming around to Zelda’s side of the car. Zelda didn’t say anything, and instead bent down to put out her cigarette. When she stood back up, Mary pulled her into a hug and planted a peck against her cheek.

“Let’s get going.”

Inside the truck, Mary sent a quick text to Hilda, updating her on their schedule. The two had been texting about their plans to have a small get-together after the results of the court case, in order to cheer Zelda up. Mary proposed it to Hilda, hoping that it would be similar to the one they had after she had finished her community service hours. Hilda readily agreed, and suggested that they have it outside, in front of the new barn. They were shooting for the upcoming weekend, and invited pretty much everyone from the last get-together. The only difference this time was that they would have to order some heaters, as they would be outdoors. Mary looked at Zelda as they drove into town, and her heart broke. Zelda sat tense, her shoulders stiff, with a hand over her stomach. She could almost feel the tension in Zelda’s jaw and hear how she ground her teeth together. Mary wished she could take away Zelda’s anxiety, but knew that she couldn’t. She herself was worried, but knew that letting herself get worked up wouldn’t be good for her health. At her last follow up appointment with her doctor, he told her to avoid as many high-stress situations as much as possible. Mary wanted to obey. She had to be there to take care of Zelda, especially as her anxiety had been in overdrive as of late.

“Well. We’re here.” Mary pulled the car into a spot close to the front of the courthouse, and parked. Zelda had gone silent, her skin paler than usual. She audibly took deep breaths, breathing in and out. Mary reached for her hand, and pressed kisses to the back of it.

“Come on sweetheart. You ready?”

Zelda nodded and smiled, bringing Mary’s hand up to her chest, just over her heart. “I’m sorry I haven’t been myself. It’s just hard…”

“I know darling, I know.”

“I love and appreciate you so much though, and I couldn’t have done this without you.” Tears pooled in Zelda’s eyes, and she leaned over and cupped Mary’s chin in her hand, bringing their faces together. Their lips met in a soft kiss, and Zelda’s tears fell, dripping onto Mary’s face. Mary wiped Zelda’s face, and kissed her again.

“Let’s go in there and show that asshole that we aren’t afraid of him, okay? Regardless of what the judge decides, I’ll be with you the entire time. You don’t have to worry.”

“Okay.” Zelda nodded, and unbuckled her seatbelt. She hopped down out of the truck, and walked around to Mary’s side, waiting for her. Mary slipped her hand into Zelda’s, and they walked up the front steps of the courthouse.

By the time they went through security and got themselves situated in court, Zelda had fallen silent once more. Mary, true to her word, kept Zelda’s hand in her own, for as much as she could. When they took their seats in court, Zelda caught a glimpse of Constance sitting across from where they were. Shame coursed through her once more, and she stumbled to her seat, guilt gnawing at her. Mary kept a careful hold on her, and guided her to the bench, taking a seat next to her.

“It’s going to be okay sweetheart,” Mary whispered in Zelda’s ear, topping it off with a tiny kiss on her cheek. The bailiff walked over to his designated spot in the courtroom, and spoke.

“All rise!”

Everyone stood, no strangers to the typical court proceedings by now. When the judge ordered everyone to their seats, Mary tugged gently on Zelda’s hand, guiding her back down to the bench. Mary’s attorney got up to speak first, and presented what he felt would be ample punishment for Faustus. And then Faustus’s attorney got up to speak, and she presented a less than fair—by Zelda’s standards— punishment for Faustus. Everyones’ words sounded muddled, and Zelda was sweating through her clothes. She was surprised that Mary even kept a hold of her hand now, with it sweating.

Zelda was aware of every single sound in the courtroom, the tap of their attorney’s pen against the edge of the table, the sound of gum popping came from one of the members of the public, in the gallery. The clock on the wall ticked and locked, and each movement of its arms sounded like a drum in Zelda’s head.

Stay calm. Everything is going to be fine. It’s going to work out.

It was unfortunate that it wasn’t acceptable to cuddle one’s girlfriend in the middle of a courtroom. There was nothing more Zelda wanted to do than to snuggle up to Mary, and pretend they weren’t here in court, but rather at home on the couch, watching a movie together instead. With a sigh, Zelda looked down at their intertwined hands, and began to study them. It was better than having to look around the courtroom, or at anyone they knew.

The judge’s voice boomed on the microphone, and a sharp hum echoed through the room as the microphone gave off some feedback. A semi-silent, collective groan went through the courtroom, and some people covered their ears. The judge apologized, and then began to discuss how Faustus would be sentenced. Zelda shut her eyes, and held her breath, trying not to give off just how worried she was.

Guilty. Guilty. Please let him be found guilty. He is guilty. He’s hurt me. He’s hurt Mary . Please, for the love of all that is holy—

Suddenly Mary was hugging Zelda, and squeezing her hand.

“What?” Zelda opened her eyes, and looked around. People looked happy, and Faustus huffed angrily, seated next to his attorney.

“Zelda we won. He’s going to jail!”

Oh.

Relief flooded through Zelda like a breeze, and she suddenly felt light-headed, as though all of her anxiety had been keeping her upright until this moment. Tears rolled down Zelda’s cheeks, and she blinked, not even noticing them. Their attorney hand turned to face them, and was saying something to Mary. It was like he was underwater, his mouth moving in slow motion, and Zelda couldn’t make out what he was saying. She sagged back against the the bench, and leaned into Mary’s side. She looked across the courtroom towards where Faustus was, and saw him chatting with his attorney. Well, his attorney seemed to be doing most of the chatting while Faustus glared across the courtroom. He was looking directly at Zelda and Mary, with a snarl on his face. Zelda wanted to look away but she couldn’t help but get a final look at the smug bastard, to at least send a smile of satisfaction in his direction.

“Fuck you,” Faustus mouthed at Zelda, and looked at her with extreme derision. If looks could kill, Zelda’s life would certainly be in danger. She just smiled at Faustus, despite the small flutter of fear she felt in her belly.

He can’t hurt me. He’s going away for quite some time. His kids will be teenagers by the time he gets out of prison. Oh! Judith and Judas…

Zelda bit down on her lip and tasted blood, remembering Faustus’s children. They would go through their teenage years without a father. Even with all of the pain Faustus had caused Zelda, Mary, and countless others across Riverdale, Zelda still felt bad for the kids.

I’ll probably never get to see them again. Not that they’d want to see me again anyways.

“Mary…” Zelda’s voice came out rough, and she wasn’t sure Mary had heard her. Their attorney still spoke in an animated manner, and someone else had walked up, talking with them.

“Mary,” Zelda tried again, this time a bit louder.

“Yes Zelda?” Mary’s face still held a smile, but it soon changed to worry as she studied Zelda’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“I—can we leave? I’m ready to go home.”

Mary turned to face Zelda, and lightly grasped her shoulders, as though she could hold her upright.

“Yes sweetheart. Let’s get you back home.” Mary placed her hand against the small of Zelda’s back, and walked out of the courthouse. They excused themselves past the people standing around talking in the courtroom, and had almost made it to the door when they were stopped.

“Ladies! Leaving so soon?” Oliver appeared in front of them, a smile on his face. Zelda took a moment to look over her young friend, and couldn’t help but smile.

“Hey stranger.” Zelda smirked, and Oliver wrapped her in a hug, holding on for a second longer than usual before releasing Zelda.

“You off to celebrate the good news?”

“Actually I wasn’t feeling too hot, and was going to have Mary just take me back home.”

“Oh. We wanted to treat you both to dinner tonight.” Jonathan nudged Oliver in the side, and he spoke up again. “We can reschedule, though.”

“We’ll have to catch up with you boys another day,” Mary said, as she slipped her arm around Zelda’s waist, pulling her to her side. “I have to go take care of this one.”

Zelda blushed beneath Mary’s touch, not used to having Mary show her off in public. They hadn’t been out that much in public, and certainly hadn’t been on more than just simple errands around town as a couple. Zelda leaned into Mary and smiled up at Oliver.

“We will definitely take a rain check. But right now I need to go get something to eat.”

Mary slipped her hand into Zelda’s and started to walk forward, waving to Oliver and Jonathan.

“I’ll call you later?”

“Mhmmn.”

 


 

“You’ve been awfully quiet over there. You feeling okay?” Mary’s voice cut through the silence in the truck, and Zelda turned to face her, her face unreadable.

“I’m just tired. And hungry. I wish I would’ve eaten something this morning.”

“It’s okay sweetheart. You weren’t feeling well then.”

Zelda reached across the center console for Mary’s hand, and linked their fingers together. Their eyes met as the truck stopped, now waiting for the road to clear, so they could turn onto the road that lead back to the farm. Mary couldn’t help herself, and leaned over to kiss Zelda.

“We’ll be home soon, my love. Then you can eat and relax.” Mary reassured, before turning her eyes back to the road.

Zelda remained silent the remainder of the drive back to the house, but kept Mary’s hand between her own. Something had shifted inside of Zelda, and though she was quiet, Mary could tell she was relaxed, that a weight had been lifted.

At least things can start getting back to normal now, Mary thought, as she parked the truck next to Zelda’s SUV.

 


 

“What?” Mary asked, her pasta-covered fork stalling on its way to her mouth. A smile danced around her lips, and Zelda looked flustered, color rising to her cheeks.

“Nothing,” Zelda replied, looking down at the table. Her fork scraped against the plate as she chased errant pasta noodles, and Mary chewed the long-awaited bite she had on her fork. Mary watched Zelda as she took a sip of water, and placed her glass back down. Zelda looked up at Mary again, with the most demure look, and this time Mary caught her staring. Zelda smiled and looked back down at her plate, and Mary smiled back.

“Zelda what is it? Do I have something on my face?”

Zelda coughed, and shook her head, a piece of food suddenly going down the wrong way. She reached for her glass, and gulped water down while patting at her chest. Mary rose from her seat and bounced around the edge of the table, so she was by Zelda’s side. She patted her back while she coughed, patiently waiting for the fit to pass.

“Mmmn. Excuse me.” Zelda picked up her napkin and wiped at her nose which was now running. “Got something stuck back there.”

Her hair was slightly frizzed up around the ends, and Mary brushed it back over Zelda’s shoulders. Mary’s hand stilled on Zelda’s shoulder, and Zelda reached for it. She picked it up, and placed a kiss to her palm. She didn’t stop at Mary’s palm though, and kissed her way across her wrist. Mary inhaled sharply, and let out the sweetest sigh Zelda had ever heard. She looked up at Mary with a loving look, and turned her seat, Mary’s arm still in hand. She pulled Mary forward, and slid her hands to her waist. Mary rested both of her hands on Zelda’s shoulders, and licked her lips, her dimple showing. A lock of hair that had been tucked behind one of her ears fell forward, and brushed the side of her forehead.

“You are so incredibly beautiful. So beautiful.” Zelda couldn’t take her eyes off of Mary, and drew her nearer. Mary stepped closer, and Zelda leaned forward in her chair, placing a kiss against Mary’s belly, over her clothes. She then turned her head and rested her cheek against Mary’s stomach, and hugged her. Mary’s fingers slipped up into Zelda’s hair, tracing against her scalp. Zelda’s eyes fluttered closed, and she took a deep breath. For the first time in a long time, she felt like she could truly relax, and not have to worry about Faustus coming after them, her job, or anything. It was just her and Mary, in the small farmhouse, and their love for one another.

“Mary?”

“Yes love?”

Zelda turned so that her chin rested against Mary’s stomach, and she opened her eyes. Mary held her face between her hands, waiting happily for her response.

“I love you so much, and I wanted to let you know that I did something special for you, and for the farm.”

“What more could you have done, my love? You’ve already done so much.”

“I know, I know. But this was something I had wanted to do for a while, but never got around to it, not until recently.”

“Now I’m getting nervous. You aren’t about to propose or something are you? I know we talked and both agreed that we didn’t feel the need to get married. I mean, if you’ve changed your mind or something—“

“No, it’s nothing like that. I just waned you to know that this farm—this gorgeous, beautiful place is officially a Greendale historical site.”

Mary’s jaw dropped, and she covered her mouth, in shock. She began to shake her head in disbelief. Tears pooled in Mary’s eyes, and spilled down her cheeks. She always wore her emotions on her sleeve, and it was one of the things Zelda loved about her the most. Zelda reached for Mary’s arm, and pulled her back to her side once more.

“Oh Zelda. You shouldn’t have!” Mary cried openly now, and Zelda felt tears of her own spring up.

“That’s not all. I also wanted to tell you that I set up a living trust for the farm, so that you are a trustee, and when you and I pass away, Jonathan will be the sole beneficiary, and he can look after the farm and continue to keep it open in your name. I also took care of the new barn, so you don’t have to worry about paying for that either.”

Mary’s chin trembled as she took in everything Zelda had just said, and she blinked away tears. With a shaking hand she removed her glasses, and placed them on the table, studying the abandoned leftovers of their dinner. She was silent, stunned speechless with her fist held up to her mouth.

“Mary? Is it too much? I’m sorry if it is.” Zelda reached for Mary but didn’t touch her, worried if she had done too much, had pushed Mary over the edge. But Mary remained silent, her shoulders shaking. She turned towards Zelda though, and took a shuddering breath. Her nose was red, and her cheeks shone with tears. Mary wiped her nose with the back of her hand, and then moved to sit on Zelda’s lap, straddling her. Her skirt slid up, exposing more of her stockinged thighs. Zelda’s hands went to her waist immediately, and pulled her close. Mary rested her forehead against Zelda’s and gave her a quick, salty kiss before pulling back to look Zelda directly in the eyes.

“You…Zelda. You are just the most incredible person I have ever met, and ever had the honor of knowing, and loving. Thank you for coming into my life.”

“My love, don’t you know I would do anything for you? Well, anything short of murder.” Zelda smirked, and Mary snorted, letting out a little giggle. Mary started to laugh harder, and tucked her face into the side of Zelda’s neck as best she could, considering their positions. Zelda snuck her fingers around to the front of Mary’s stomach, and tickled her, drawing more laughter out of her. Zelda sat back and watched Mary laugh, as though she had done nothing. Mary wiped more tears from her eyes, this time from laughter, and sighed, her breathing returning to normal.

Something in Zelda’s eyes shifted, her look of amusement now replaced by one of hunger, one Mary knew well. Mary ducked her head down, and then looked back up at Zelda, her bottom lip between her teeth. She reached up for the collar of her own blouse, and unbuttoned the top button, and then the next. Mary’s eyes twinkled mischievously as she undid each button, her knuckles brushing against Zelda’s front the further down she got on the piece of silky fabric. Zelda watched eagerly as Mary pulled her now unbuttoned blouse out of her skirt, and slid her arms out of the long sleeves. She tossed it behind them, and then reached upwards for her hair. She had been straightening it for their last couple of days they had in court, and Zelda loved it. Zelda’s heart skipped a beat as Mary pulled pin after pin out, and her hair cascaded down out of the bun she had it in. Zelda’s lips parted and breath came out in a shaky exhale as Mary ran and hand through her hair, flipping it over to one side.

“Beautiful…

Mary reached for the bottom of her undershirt, and pulled it upright, over her head, and tossed it aside. She gave Zelda a tiny smile, and then reached behind her back and unhooked her bra. It wasn’t anything fancy, just plain basic cotton. But to Zelda, everything about Mary was sexy. She could turn up in a trash bag and Zelda would still be incredibly turned on by her. Zelda refocused her thoughts as Mary slid the bra down her arms, and let it fall down to the floor. Now she sat straddled across Zelda’s lap with her upper half completely exposed. Zelda’s eyes raked across the expanse of freckled skin, over the muscles in Mary’s neck, the curve of her breasts, her nipples. Mary was intoxicating, and Zelda love drunk. She pulled Mary close, and kissed in-between her breasts, over her sternum. Her lips trailed across the soft skin, lips leaving a peck on the side of a breast. Zelda’s kisses turned to soft little suctioned kisses, and she dipped her head down to flick her tongue out. Mary scratched at Zelda’s scalp and tightened her grip in Zelda’s hair ever so lightly, pulling her head back upright. Zelda’s lips were pink already, and Mary tipped her head all the way back until Zelda’s mouth was lined up with her own. Zelda breathed heavily now, and Mary claimed her lips in a kiss, swallowing the moan that she let out. Mary stood from Zelda’s lap, expertly keeping their lips locked together, and reached for the zipper on the side of her skirt. Her fingers fumbled repeatedly with the hook and eye, an she groaned into the kiss. Zelda opened her eyes when Mary backed away, and saw her struggling with the skirt. She reached for Mary’s hands and stilled them, and moved them away.

“Let me help.”

Zelda undid the hook and eye on the side of Mary’s skirt, and pulled her zipper down, letting the skirt fall off of Mary and pool around her feet on the floor. Zelda was about to offer Mary her hand when instead, the brunette pulled both her stockings and her panties down, and stepped out of them.

“Oh…” Zelda’s mouth began to water as Mary climbed back astride her lap, this time completely naked. Zelda rubbed at the small of Mary’s back as she leaned in for another kiss. Mary’s tongue flicked over the roof of Zelda’s mouth, and Zelda moaned, suddenly desperate for more. And then, Mary pulled back again, regretfully breaking the kiss. Zelda was left gasping and probing empty space.

What Mary did next nearly sent Zelda to her grave.

As Mary broke the kiss, she leaned so that her mid-back was against the edge of the table. Zelda held her by her waist, and watched as Mary brought a hand between her legs. She opened her legs wider, as wide as she could without falling off of Zelda’s lap.

“Oh god, Mary…”

Mary looked down at herself as she dipped two fingers inside of herself, slowly. She tossed her head back, and closed her eyes.

“Mmmn. Zeldaaaa…” Mary whispered, making her tone as teasing as possible. She slid her fingers out of herself and spread the wetness up over her clit, and began to play with the small bundle of nerves. Zelda was sweating now, her hands damp on Mary’s waist. Surely she’d soaked through her panties and skirt by now, right through to Mary’s kitchen chair. And yet she couldn’t look away from the sight before her, didn’t want to interrupt. Mary was there, masturbating in her lap, and it was like Zelda had gone to heaven.

Fuck me, Zelda thought, tracing her thumbs over Mary’s sides. Mary’s hips jerked forward and she gushed, her glistening folds dripping down onto Zelda.

“Mmmn—aah. Zelda,” Mary got out, in-between pants. “I used to dream…about doing this…showing you how you make me feel. Uuuugggh.” Mary sped up her hand, her chest flushed red. Zelda had stopped breathing long ago, and was practically comatose, the only thing keeping her alive was her need to watch Mary climax in her lap.

“Mary you are so fucking exquisite.” Zelda swiped her thumbs over Mary’s waist once more, and focused in on the muscles of Mary’s neck as her head was thrown back. “You are the most beautiful person I have ever met, and the kindest.” Mary’s hand kept going, and she began to let out little moans every few seconds, Zelda’s voice bringing her closer to the edge.

“My sweet, darling Mary. You are so beautiful. My everything.”

Sweat droplets rolled down Mary’s chest and her abdomen rose and fell as she started to twitch in Zelda’s lap, hips bucking, seeking more friction, more pressure.

“Come for me sweetheart. Let go.” Zelda spoke in a sultry voice, tears forming in her eyes over the level of trust and vulnerability Mary was openly sharing with her in the moment. Mary started to pant, and her entire chest had gone red.

Zelda decided to try talking just a bit dirtier, and lowered her voice even deeper. “You are such a good girl, showing me how you touch yourself.” Before either of them knew it Mary was crying out, and gushing onto Zelda’s skirt.

“Oh Mary…” Zelda was truly enjoying the moment, trying to commit every single second to her memory. Mary was a vision, she was a work of art. With each spasm, the brunette stiffened against the kitchen table, not really paying attention to the pain. She shuddered several times more and let out a ragged groan before leaning forward to rest against Zelda’s shoulder. Zelda ran her hands up and down Mary’s back, between her shoulder blades, and hugged Mary to her.

“Zelda?” Mary lifted her head from Zelda’s shoulder, and wiped her nose. Her body felt heavy, and she was starting to feel chilly, coming down from her high.

“Yes sweetheart.”

“How can I ever repay you? For everything you’ve done for me?”

Oh Mary. Even as she sits here in my lap, after giving me the gift of being here with her, of getting to see her in this moment, she is still worried about repaying me? My darling girl…

“My love,” Zelda smoothed the back of her fingers across Mary’s cheek, and watched as Mary’s eyes fluttered closed, causing her heart to catch. “All I could ever ask of you is for you to continue to be your sweet, generous self. You have the biggest heart of anyone I know, and I’m so glad you have room for me in there.”

“Of course I have room for you.” Mary lifted Zelda’s hand to rest on her chest, over her heart. “You live here now, not only in my physical home, but in my heart. Permanently.”

Now it was Zelda’s turn to cry.

She had nowhere to turn, couldn’t help the sobs that bubbled up from deep inside of her, her emotions spilling out like a tidal wave. She felt everything, all of it, and for the first time in her life, Zelda felt like everything was going to be okay.

“Shhh Zelda. It’s okay. You just let it all out. I’m not going anywhere—well, except maybe to get a blanket, because I’m getting cold.”

This got a laugh out of Zelda, and she shook her head. “God, I love you.”

“The feeling is mutual.”

Zelda wiped at her face, and looked towards the living room. “What do you say we go build a fire? We can put some music on and relax?”

“I like that idea.”

 


 

Mary’s nose nuzzled against the side of Zelda’s neck, indicating that she was still awake. Zelda hummed, and gave Mary a squeeze, kissing the crown of her head.

“Can’t sleep?”

Mary pushed up so that she was leaning on her elbow, looking down at Zelda. They were both naked now, entwined atop a soft mass of blankets and pillows, right in front of the fireplace. The fire had died down to smoldering embers, casting a faint red glow over the room. Mary rubbed her hand across Zelda’s tummy, and leant down to place a kiss just beneath her breasts.

“How can I sleep when I have you here all to myself?”

Zelda felt a tingle between her legs, still wet from the aftermath of Mary licking her through several orgasms. Even in the midst of the glow of the fire, Mary could still see Zelda’s blush at her words.

“You are going to be the death of me, Mary. But I would love to die by your hand, if it meant I got to go out in ecstasy.”

Mary slid down Zelda’s body, leaving a trail of kisses in her wake. She paused once she reached the top of the soft curls between Zelda’s legs. “You’re funny.” Mary mumbled in-between kisses. She dipped lower, flicking her tongue out to enjoy the familiar taste. “Do you think you can give me one more?”

Zelda’s fingers wove into Mary’s hair, now mussed all over the place.

“I’m still sensitive, Mary. I don’t know—oooohhhh.” Zelda arched up off of the pillows she was propped up on, as Mary gently dragged her tongue up the length of her. Zelda’s legs fell apart, and she involuntarily canted her hips upwards.

“I will be gentle Zelda.” *kiss* “Don’t worry.”

And she was gentle. Mary was the most tender and sweet as ever as she brought Zelda through another orgasm, and licked away the evidence. Zelda fell asleep afterwards, with Mary kissing her as she drifted off.

Life couldn’t get any better.

 

 


 

One month later

 

Zelda took a deep breath as she looked out over the farm. The crisp autumn air smelled pleasant, and a myriad of scents drifted by. The scene was similar to the fair that had taken place just a few months prior. There were people from town all over the place, booths with seasonal treats, kids in the petting zoo section, and parents snapping photos. Mary and Zelda had worked around the clock to prepare the farm for the annual pumpkin patch, a Greendale tradition. Mary had explained to Zelda ages ago that she had forgone the pumpkin patch last year, because she hadn’t been able to afford it. Luckily, thanks to the fair, they were able to open the farm up again to have the pumpkin patch. Mary had cried when presented with a poster advertising the re-opening of the pumpkin patch. Zelda had commissioned Oliver work it for her. Now, they were in their second weekend of the pumpkin patch, and they had an excellent turnout. Zelda stuck her hands into the pockets of her overalls—a pair she had found to match Mary—and walked over to sit down on a hay bale. Some kids ran by, chasing each other with toy swords made out of foam, wearing capes.

This is my life now. This is my life, and I love it.

There was a tugging at Zelda’s sleeve, bringing her back to the present. She turned and looked, and nearly gasped as she saw Judith and Judas Blackwood standing side by side, looking at her expectantly. Constance stood off in the background, with a smile on her face. Zelda gasped, and felt guilt gnaw at her in full force. Judas had a half-finished candy apple in hand, and Judith stood with a somber yet hopeful look on her face.

“Auntie Zelda?”

Zelda’s tongue felt thick in her mouth, and she swallowed, forcing herself to speak. “…Judith…Judas.”

“Auntie Zelda, you don’t have to say anything. I just wanted to say that Mommy told us how Daddy was mean to you, and how he did bad things and has to go away for a long time. We aren’t mad at you though.” Judith turned to look at her brother, and the boy stepped forward, and wrapped his caramel apple back in the plastic wrapper he held in his other hand.

“Mommy said you had to tell the judge what Daddy did because it would help you and Miss Mary.”

Tears filled Zelda’s eyes, and her bottom lip began to tremble. She looked over towards Constance and saw nothing but understanding there, and no traces of judgment whatsoever. Judith sat her hand on Zelda’s arm, and patted it lightly.

“Can I give you a hug? We missed you, and Mommy said we had to wait until court was over to talk with you.”

“Yes dear.”

No sooner had Zelda said yes before she had her arms full with both twins, hugging her tightly. Zelda kissed both of the kids on the cheek and tried not to weep. Constance walked over, and sat down next to Zelda.

“They really did miss you, Zelda.”

Judith and Judas pulled back and sat down on either side of Zelda, their feet dangling off the edge of the hay bale. Judith leaned into Zelda’s side and Zelda wrapped an arm around the little girl.

“Constance…” Zelda spoke hesitantly, afraid to look over at the woman. When she did look, she was surprised to see tears in the other woman’s eyes as well.

“I’m sorry, I—"

“You don’t have to apologize, Zelda. I completely understand. You did what you had to do, and I did what I had to do. I just wish I would’ve known sooner what a bastard Faustus was.”

“Mommy! Language!” Judas scolded. Constance booped his nose, and looked back at Zelda.

“I mean, I knew he was terrible, but I had no idea that he was terrorizing you at work like that. I’m truly sorry Zelda. If there is any way I could ever make it up to you, let me know.”

The one thing Zelda had been worried about the most—negatively impacting these kids’ lives—had not happened. Constance had shown her mercy and kindness, when she could have chose otherwise, and Zelda was forever grateful.

“Thank you, Constance. There really isn’t anything to make up, but I do know I’d love to see my niece and nephew more often.”

“That can be arranged. They ask about you all the time. I think you are the one good memory they have from the business.”

“They are good kids, Constance. I’m glad I’ll get to see more of them.”

“Does Mary give riding lessons? I think Judith would love that. Especially if it means she gets to come over here one a week.”

“I will ask Mary.”

“Ask Mary what?” Mary said, as she walked over to the group. The dimple in her cheek was showing, and Zelda’s heart fluttered at the sight.

“Miss Mary!” Judith jumped up from Zelda’s side, and ran over to hug Mary. Mary hugged the child, and greeted everyone.

“We were just talking about you,” Zelda said, blinking up at Mary. “Constance here was wondering if you gave riding lessons?”

“I could definitely work something out if you’re interested.”

“Oh that would be lovely.” Constance stood and held her hand out to Mary. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Constance. Constance Blackwood. I know you’ve met my kids already but you and I haven’t had the pleasure.” Mary shook Constance’s hand, and said hello.

“I’m Mary, as you know by now. I saw you at the trial, actually, but figured that would be an inappropriate time to introduce myself. I’m just glad that things can be okay between us all now.”

“Yes, I agree.”

“Well. The kids and I better get going. They still want to get on the train ride, and have yet to pick out pumpkins for carving.”

“It was great seeing you again Constance,” Zelda said, standing to hug the woman. “Thank you for being so kind and understanding.”

“It is no problem Zelda. We will see each other soon.”

“Bye Auntie Zelda! We’re going to go ride the train now!” Judith waved, and Judas had already taken off down the dirt path. Zelda waved at the kids in response, and smiled, wrapping her arms around herself. Mary stepped up behind her, tucking her chin over Zelda’s shoulder, and slid her arms around her waist.

“She seems nice.”

“She is. She was one of the first friends I made upon moving to Riverdale. I’m just glad she wasn’t angry at me for everything that happened.”

“Zelda, how could anyone who listened to your testimony be upset with you over what happened?” Mary turned Zelda around in her arms, and looked her in the eye.

“I don’t know. I just, I was so worried this whole time, and it just feels good knowing that everything is okay now.”

“Things are more than okay now, Zelda. Things are absolutely perfect. The farm is getting back on its feet, I’m back to my old self, and you are here now, for good.”

“Oh I am most definitely here for good.” Zelda slid her arms around Mary’s waist, and pulled her up against her. she gave Mary a kiss, and rested their foreheads together.  “Remember the song I sang to you when you were in the hospital?”

Mary pressed her lips against Zelda’s, once, than twice, and nodded. “Mhmmn.”

“Well, it’s true, that there is a season for everything.” Zelda kissed Mary again, finding it harder to draw herself away to finish her sentence. “…and I believe, without a doubt, that our season of love is more than a season. Rather, it is a permanent season.”

Mary kissed Zelda hard this time, and threw her arms around her neck. Zelda slid her hands up Mary’s back, and held her to her, one hand snaking up into her hair. When Zelda pulled back Mary leaned into her, weak in the knees.

“It is permanent, Zelda.” Mary gasped, licking her lips. She looked back and forth between Zelda’s eyes and mouth before speaking again. “Would you mind taking me back to the house, so I can show you just how much I love you, away from prying eyes?”

A devious grin spread across Zelda’s face as she took Mary’s hand.

“I would love nothing more.”