Disclaimer: I own none of the characters from Desert of the Heart or the movie Desert Hearts, I'm only borrowing them for awhile.
Desert of the Heart: Oasis
Reno, Nevada is many things. It's a false oasis in the desert, a home for gambling and the quickie marriage and divorce and often a haven for those who don't quite fit in anywhere else. The slot machines ring all night in the bright lights of the city, gamblers coming and going, and the city feeds on them with a remorseless kind of hunger.
Over in a ill-defined neighborhood just past the church and a deserted school house was a guesthouse, one that had been running there for the better part of a century. At first it had belonged to Mrs. Frances Packer, but when she passed away a few years back and her son moved away her adopted daughter Ann Childs took over running the place, along with Ann's lover Professor Evelyn Hall.
Ann and Evelyn were a fixture in the community now, though newcomers occasionally were taken aback upon meeting the two of them. While not related both women bore a almost eerie resemblance to each other, slim beauties with similar hair and faces. Some found it disturbing that two so similar women were lovers, and more than one friend had jokingly accused them of narcisism.
"Good morning, love," Ann smiled warmly as she carried in a cup of hot coffee, seeing her lover sitting at her old fashioned desk writing away at the computer. When on a deadline for a paper Professor Hall was known to rise early and go to bed late, consumed with the need to complete her work.
"Thank you, Ann," Evelyn smiled greatfully as she took the cup and sipped. "Ah, that's good," she sighed happily.
Evelyn, as Ann was often heard to say, was a handsome woman. While older than Ann she didn't really look it, only a few lines around her eyes and mouth giving her character. Out in the world of academics she wore starched suits and a impersonal manner as armor, but at home she seemed most comfortable in battered T-shirt and long pants.
"I missed you when I woke up," Ann murmured as she bent down to kiss her lingeringly.
"Hmmm," Evelyn purred slightly as they kissed, once again feeling the fire flickering inside her at Ann's touch. It had been years since they first moved in together, but still Ann inspired a most primitive hunger within her. "Bad girl," she murmured reluctantly.
"All work and no play make Evelyn a dull girl," Ann teased gently.
Evelyn laughed softly as she gently pushed her away. "You have a guest to pick up," she reminded her, "another one of our divorcees."
Ann nodded, "True enough." She sighed after a moment, "Is it me, or are they coming more and more often?"
Evelyn took off her glasses, a feature the older woman had needed to add a few years back. "I think so," she agreed, "and even though it helps support us I can't say I like it too much."
"Me too," Ann agreed, "I almost prefer the tourists as guests."
With a smile Evelyn offered, "We could stop taking guests, you know. My salary as a professor and your cartooning would keep us comfortable even without guest income."
Ann looked troubled, "You're right, but..."
Evelyn reached out to pat her hand gently. "You think Frances would want you to keep it open?" she guessed gently.
"I don't know," Ann admitted after a moment.
Later, in the car on her way to the railway station Ann found herself mulling over that question. Frances hadn't been her mother, exactly, rather the lover of her father without marriage, but their relationship had been close without being stifling. Frances had managed to be a friend, mostly, and if she hadn't always understood Ann she did her best to help.
Despite all that Ann really didn't know what Frances would have though of her and Evelyn running the guest house. She might have expected it from her, but Ann rather thought that she had been training Walter for the job. However the awkward young man had grown up into a uncomfortable adult, at least out here in Reno, and had only seemed to come into his own away from the desert and his past.
Driving the old blue Ford car Ann pulled in at the railway station, getting out and leaning up against the side as she watched the crowds with go by a cynical eye. Her detached, often caustic view came out in her comics, observations that often saw print in many magazines both serious and popular, while her darker works were released only in her book collections. Eve's Apple, as the series was called, was very popular but Ann often wondered if people saw the same things she did in them.
The lady leaving the train walked up, her black hair falling around her face as she smiled reluctantly, "Miss Childs?"
"Hi," Ann extended her hand, "Miss Tasuki?"
"Karen," the black haired, half Asian woman answered wryly as she shook it, "thanks for meeting me here."
"And I'm Ann," she said briskly as she took her luggage and heaved it into the back seat. "So, what brings you to Reno?" she asked briskly.
Karen climbed in the passenger's seat with a sigh, "Same that brings most to here, I'm getting a divorce."
Ann tossed the woman a look, hiding a frown. While there was nothing too dykey about Karen she had deffinately caught a lesbian vibe off her, and she was a bit disturbed to be wrong. "Were you and your husband together long?" Ann asked mildly.
Karen's lips rose in a wry smile, "Wife, actually."
Ann nearly swerved the car, she was that surprised. Recovering her wits she asked "Wife?"
Karen looked amused as she answered, "Peggy and I thought it'd be romantic to get married in Hawaii... not one of my brighter moves, it turned out."
"I guess so," Ann conceded, switching safely to small talk as they drove on. As they arrived at the house she added, "My partner, Evelyn, is upstairs in her office. Try not to bother her, okay?"
"Business partner?" Karen looked curious.
"Business and personal," Ann answered frankly.
A slightly sad smile tugged her lips as Karen answered, "I'm glad for you, then."
Helping grab her bags Ann continued briskly, "Come on, we've got a room ready for you. Meals are at six, but we can be flexible if needed."
"Thank you," Karen followed with a slightly bemused smile.
Evelyn looked up as Ann knocked, taking in the slightly quirky smile of her partner. "What's got you so amused?" she wondered.
Ann shook her head, "Just when I thought I'd seen it all..." With that she relayed what she had talked about with Karen.
"Lesbian divorcees?" Evelyn blinked. She shook her head wryly, "I thought we usually just rented a u-haul and left."
Ann snickered, "Apparently, they went the whole nine yards."
Evelyn shook her head with a smile, "We shouldn't joke, I'm sure this is hard on her."
Ann walked over, leaning against the side of the desk as she gazed down at Evelyn thoughtfully. "Evelyn...," she started.
Evelyn looked up at her curiously, "Yes?"
"Do you think we've lasted as long as we have because we didn't get married?" Ann wondered, smiling at Evelyn.
Evelyn reached out to caress Ann's thigh, "Does it matter?"
"No, I guess not," Ann admitted as she leaned over to kiss her lover lingeringly. Drawing back a bit she smiled, "I don't suppose I could pull you away from your work for a bit?"
Evelyn gave a throaty little laugh, "I think I can spare a few hours..."
Notes: Jane Rule, author of Desert of the Heart as well as many other novels passed away in late November, 2007, of complications from liver cancer. This story is a sort of continuation of her first novel, written back in 1964 and one of the first mainstream novels featuring lesbians getting a happy ending. Karen Tasuki is from another Rule novel, "After the Fire" though I've tweaked her story a bit.