I was taking yet another descent of the large wooden stairs to again face an uncomfortable and possibly career ending confrontation with one of the ladies of the Institute. This time it was Anne that I would discuss our relationship with; Willow's and mine. That surely must have been what she wanted to speak to me about when she had summoned me to the Library. My life since arriving here had been a rickety see-saw of emotion, teetering between amazing highs and heart dropping lows.
After assuring Willow that I had not, in fact, gone dumb, I had kissed her softly and quietly slipped through the hidden door to my room. Her hisses of 'good luck' behind me sounded more desperate than comforting. I had taken extra precautions to wash up and tidy my appearance to speak with Anne. It was now just past seven o'clock in the morning as I gingerly made my way down the staircase. I stepped softly and precisely, trying to make as little noise as possible, though I did not know why I felt the need to do so. Much of the house was already awake and bustling with activity.
When I finally reached the bottom of the stairs, I was nearly knocked sideways by a blur of young women; the early risers were already rushing into the dining area to take breakfast. Behind them trailed Harris at a more leisurely pace, carrying a ruler which she was pointing doggedly at them.
"Slow down you little ragamuffins, or I'll put beech gum in your hair!"
I must have made a sound, somewhere between a grunt and a laugh, at Harris' admonishment of the girls. She noticed me standing there, whereas she clearly had not before.
"Oh! Tara, I didn't see you there. Why are you just standing there? Is there an interesting thing?"
Harris moved closer to me, peering around my dress and standing on her tip toes to look over me. A look of disdain overtook her face when she realized I was really just standing there.
"Nothing of interest here Harris, I was just coming down the stairs when the girls rushed by. I'm to meet Anne in the Library."
"Oh yes, to discuss your sexual interest in Willow? Got your hand caught in the cookie jar again did you dear Tara?"
"Is nothing sacred to you Harris? I thought you agreed to keep this between us. Remember? You keep quiet, I give details. You blackmailed me." I hissed under my breath, livid to once again be confronted by Harris' crass observations.
"Well" Harris harrumphed, "I kept my end of the bargain; I haven't told a soul! You however, seemed to have forgotten to inform me of your little tryst with Willow last night. How could you tell Anne before me? I am truly insulted."
"I didn't tell Anne! What a horrible notion! She figured it out on her own, she caught us!"
"Oh that little devil didn't tell me she saw the show. Now you're going to have to let me watch, it's only fair!"
"OH!" I huffed and flounced away from Harris, disgusted by her bizarre obsession with Willow and I.
"Well wonderful, let me know when a good time to come by and watch would be..."
Harris' voice trailed off as I hurried towards the Library with an irritated gait. At that moment, I was more eager to face Anne's wrath then deal with Harris' lewd behavior. I arrived in the Library in a flurry of cloth, rushing up to where Anne sat by the fireplace and abruptly stopping.
"Good morning Tara," Anne looked up from her newspaper "how are you?"
"This household is mad Anne!"
"Did you run into Harris then?" Anne laughed softly.
"You're laughing? She's insane!"
Anne folded her newspaper crisply, setting it on the side table nearest to her and motioning to a maid in the corner, who hurried over with tea.
"Sit Tara" Anne pointed to the seat opposite hers. The maid set the tray on the table between us. I sat gingerly on the end of the seat.
"Harris isn't mad Tara; she simply lacks the portion in her brain that controls inhibition. And common sense. And apparently libido."
I grinned wryly at Anne, who then smiled back at me.
"Either way, she's at least entertaining Tara. She keeps us all on our toes and our lives interesting."
"I have no doubt of that Anne."
"Well as you know Tara, I have unusually good hearing. I take it that you were arguing with Harris in the hall about what I interrupted this morning?"
I colored immediately, looking down at the floor.
"Are you ashamed of it Tara? Are you ashamed of Willow?"
"No!" I exclaimed, "I just know it's not accepted."
"Good. Willow is my sister, my best friend. Never be ashamed of loving her; never turn away from her love. It's a gift. She's a gift."
"I agree Anne; I just thought...surely you'd be angry. That you'd let me go."
"The only anger you could incur from me in regards to Willow is hurting her Tara, that's why I warned you early on to be careful with your intentions, though I was a bit unsure of what they were myself."
"Oh. So you weren't going to chastise or dismiss me?"
"No, it never crossed my mind. Willow assures me that you are brilliant and good. However, I presume that she is a little biased."
I blushed at the compliment and the insinuation.
"I am grateful for your understanding Anne."
"Don't be grateful Tara, just be worthy of Willow's love, and above all kind. And for heaven's sake, ignore whatever Harris has blackmailed you with. She attempted the same maneuver when I became beaus with Willow's brother."
I smiled, first happily and with relief, then ruefully at remembering Anne's fate.
"Yes, well, let's get to the reason I asked you to speak with me."
Anne reached for a small book sitting on the coffee table next to her discarded newspaper, opening the binding somewhere in the middle and extracting a small folded paper. I leaned towards her, instinctively knowing it was an important text. As she unfolded the paper I saw that it was a letter.
"It's from Alex. He's indicated that it is no longer safe to travel in the South. Small skirmishes along the borders of the North and South states have begun."
"War already? But the election is months away!"
Anne passed the letter to me and I hesitantly took it, fingering the edges gently and scanning the contents.
"It's not war until Congress makes it so Tara. Until then they are just rebellious clashes and radical uprisings."
I nodded solemnly and handed the letter back to her.
"The armies shall be recalled to camps outside the northern cities - those that will obey that is. The men and their families will be making their way back North. You should let your brother know immediately. He has sanctuary here if he needs it."
Placing my hand atop of Anne, I squeezed lightly.
"Many thanks Anne. I will write him immediately and urge him here."
After a brief stop to the nearest telegram station to rapidly tap out a warning and a plea to Donald, I went in search of Willow. I was eager to tell her that there was no danger of me being dismissed and that all, generally speaking, was well. However, I did not find her in her room; or mine. It was a Sunday and the school rooms and halls where empty. Almost all of the girls had gone home to visit family or had been chaperoned to town. The Institute bore a bleak silence as I wondered from room to room in search of her.
I opted for a leisurely stroll about the wild green gardens and woods immediately surrounding the Institute. I had not spent much time exploring them yet. I passed small patches of vegetables, some rigged with watering systems much more advanced than any I had ever seen. They were Willow's doing I surmised. I smiled ruefully at the thought, so in love and impressed.
As I neared a large oak tree, I spied her. Beneath it she sat, a book on her breast, her hat tipped over her face to shade it from the sun. She was asleep, her chest rising and falling slowly. I crept to her slowly and sat next to her. She was reading Darwin again and I smiled lovingly down at her. I slowly and reverently picked up the book and set it on the blanket on which she sat. She barely stirred. I took a few moments to study her before I touched her.
Her skin was so fair; her red hear contrasting in stark relief on her neck and cheeks where is spilled from her faux army cap. She wore a simple tan skirt today, which framed her so well, and her top was a sharp mens dress shirt again. She was fond of them and they fit her just perfectly in all the right places. I spent moments gazing on her face, then her neck and chest. I memorized her like I had seen her do to me before.
"Like what you see Love?"
I whipped my head up startled to stare at Willow who was staring back at me, a bemused look on her face.
"How long have you been awake Willow!" I admonished her lightly.
"Long enough to appreciate the attention Tara."
Willow partially sat up then, leaning forward to brush her lips against mine and hug me lightly. But it wasn't enough in that moment. My relief and my love welled up in me and I rushed forward to meet her, throwing her off balance and against the tree as I attacked her lips greedily.
"Ooof," she mumbled between our lips.
I pulled back to look into her eyes and grinned. I stroked her face with my hand and lay my forehead against hers.
"I love you," I whispered.
"You aren't leaving me are you Tara?" Willow said with mock seriousness. I laughed and hugged her again. "Never, sweet Willow. I'm just so relieved and happy and sacred at the same time."
Willow sat up more straight, leaned forward and took my face in her hands.
"Why are you scared baby? Then you can tell me why you are relieved and happy."
"The War is approaching faster than I thought possible. There are already fights breaking out along the North and South borders. Anne wanted to tell me about them since my brother is in Virginia. I'm worried about him."
"But Virginia is safe territory Tara, as long as he stays in the cities. And how did she hear this? I haven't seen anything in the press!"
"Alex wrote to her. The troops are being called North."
"Harris will be thrilled!" Willow laughed.
I laughed too, happy to find some amusement in the fact.
"It will be alright Tara," Willow assured me "If Alex had the advanced knowledge of impending trouble it can't be widespread just yet. He is in the fray, your brother not so much."
"This is true Willow. You always know just what to say." I smiled and leaned into her. Her arms came around me and I smiled in contentment.
"And why relieved and happy Tara?"
"Anne wasn't upset about us, she simply wanted to make sure my intentions were in the right place. She only wanted to talk to me about making sure my brother was safe."
"That's grand news Tara."
"It is Willow," I grinned against her neck.
"It's freezing out here Tara, how did I ever fall asleep? It's supposed to snow this evening."
"I know a way to warm you up Willow." I turned my head into the crook of her neck and kissed her there. I felt her warm skin beneath my lips and the beat of her heart, sure and steady. She shivered.
"Hmm, as lovely as that sounds Tara, we are outside, beneath a tree, but a few hundred feet from the back door."
"Ah, 'tis true Willow, but not a soul can see us and if you can promise to be quiet, I will make it worth your while."
Willow stared at me in surprise; mirth and anticipation, the combination of emotions embolden me. She grinned and nodded, kissing me fiercely.
"I've been wanted to try Chapter Six on you Willow. Would that be alright?"
Willow's breathing increased rapidly and her chest rose and fell in arousal. I was amazed, still, at her eager and sudden reactions to me. It was a heady mix of power, love and lust that I felt wash over me. She stared into my eyes and nodded quickly.
I moved to sit with my back against the tree and pulled Willow on top of me into a deep kiss. My mouth explored hers deeply, our tongues plunging in and out of each others mouths. It felt like years since we had done this, like the first time, not like just the night before. I cupped her breasts, rubbing them fiercely while at the same time pushing her up to sit more fully over me.
I leaned forward to kiss and lick her neck, pulling delightful moans from her. Her arms wrapped around my head, trapping me against her. I groaned into her chest as I felt her fingers scrape my neck, then my scalp, my hat falling off and my hair falling to disarray. We moved against each other sensually, primally, already grinding into each other with a needy urgency.
I moved my hands quickly to her hips, urging her more fully on me. I could feel the heat of her on me. I gasped against her, moved my right hand beneath her dress, then her petticoats, my fingers searching for hot flesh. She urged me on with sighs of my name in my ear and moans of pleasure. When my fingers found her, slipping into her wetness, we both groaned deeply, Willow falling heavily against me; unable to support herself any longer.
"Put your hands on the tree love" I gasped out.
My fingers moved on her, slipping helpless and deliciously against her, and she fell forward more, her breasts in my face, her hands now gripping the tree behind my head.
"I want to be in you Willow. Can I?" I gasped out. I wanted nothing more at that moment.
"Oh yes Tara, please" Willow moaned, moving and jerking her hips against me to make it so.
I slowly obliged her, allowing a finger to slip into her wet opening. I felt her close tightly around me and I moaned, my face rubbing on her neck, my lips nipping at her ear as she moved against me.
"Oh god yes Tara, you feel so good."
Oh but she did, fitting around me like a glove. Her muscles urging me on. I pushed more fully into her, crooking my finger towards me as I had read. I felt the results immediately as more wetness flowed from her and her head whipped back.
"Oooooh baby, you have it, oh yes," Willow growled out and moved more rapidly above me, rising and falling on my hand. The feeling was incredible, being inside of her. I was overcome with the feel of it, immediately addicted.
Willows hands dug into the tree, using it as support and leverage at the same time. Her head dipped down and we kissed heavily. She was moving so wildly over me now, her hips jerking frantically. On pure instinct, I gave her another finger. I wanted her to feel more, I wanted to feel more of her.
She froze briefly, then shuddered, sinking even more fully only my hand. It felt as though she was all around me. Hot, wet Willow all around me. Her hips where speeding up, her head lolled against my shoulder now as she frantically rode my hand.
"Tara, oh god what you do to me!" She rasped in my ear. And then she was coming. I could feel her coming on my fingers. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever felt. Her body heaved over me and she moaned incoherent words in my ear.
She collapsed on me, tired and sated. Her whole body heaved with shuddering breaths. I dared not move my fingers, both unsure and unwilling to do so. I felt so at home there. I hugged her tightly to me with my free hand, then rubbed her back lightly, touched her hair. She stirred slightly to pull back and look at me.
"You are an incredible, amazing, lovely woman and I would never let you go for anything Miss Maclay."
I smiled and nuzzled her neck, pulling her back against me to rest.
"So, are you warm now Miss Rosenberg?"
"Warm indeed. Can't you feel?"
"Oh yes," I sighed, flexing my fingers slightly.
"Oooh," Willow moaned.
And we began again.