Return to The Art of Burning Bridges Chapter Six

The Art of Burning Bridges

Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
Rating: PG-13
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Disclaimer: I own nothing but the clothes on my back...

The candle that had to be relit when they'd returned now burned brilliantly once more. Its light set the dirt walls ablaze in its glow, but Tara barely noticed. She turned her back to Willow as she silently pulled off the shirt she'd thrown on only hours ago. Tara replaced it with a slightly longer version that came to her knees. Lana had embroidered the bottom of the sleep shirt in a design that traditionally represented a peaceful slumber. Tara expected to find little comfort in that sentiment that night though. Tara's skirt joined the pile of clothing her shirt had begun, leaving her legs bare and vulnerable. Tara was relieved to find that Willow had adverted her eyes and was examining the belt slung low on her waist. Tara pulled the pallet covers back and got in. She sat waiting for Willow to do the same.

Tara had shared her bed with many women before Willow, though purely in a platonic setting. The Shinty were a very progressive community when it came to personal space. Tara had grown up around women, being close to them and touching them in loving ways. The Shinty had no boundaries between them when it came to things such as sharing sleeping accommodations. So why was she feeling so uncomfortable now? Tara shifted under the rough textured blanket as she waited for Willow to join her.

Tara lifted her eyes to Willow who was standing stalk-still against the back wall. She wondered for a moment, if Willow was going to remain so for the rest of the night. "A-are you c-coming? Tara asked with raised eyebrows. She couldn't help the way her words halted in her mouth and she hated the way her voice sounded when she stuttered. Tara realized that she had done more of that since meeting Willow than she had done in her entire life.

Tara's stutter started from the time she could verbally communicate. When she was seven, a highly regarded spiritual man from the deep within the Cave Clans told her parents that her stutter was an effect of having so much spiritual information stored inside her mind but having little knowledge to expel it. That explanation had seemed grand to her as a child but now that she had grown it seemed less grand and more like an inadequacy on her part.

Willow regarded Tara carefully. She didn't really know what the blonde expected of her at this point. Their eyes met but the gaze was broken when Tara took her eyes away from Willow's view. Willow's fingers began to sweat as she worked them around the metal clasp at the front of her utility belt. It snapped loose and Willow removed it, setting it on the floor next to the pallet. Willow didn't know what to do next so she moved on to her boots. She decided that the neutrality they offered would buy her more time to figure out where she should go from there. After all, she didn't know of any culture that slept in their shoes.

Willow looked down at her dirt stained pants and wondered if it would offend Tara if she were to keep them on. Willow chanced a glance in Tara's direction but the look she got came back inconclusive, so Willow began to reason with herself. The blonde didn't have pants on, but then again she hadn't worn pants in the first place. Willow bit her bottom lip as she pondered her situation. It was either climb into bed with muddy pants and soil the woman's bedding or take them off and risk humiliation. Would Tara spring from the pallet in disgust? Tara cleared her throat and Willow cursed silently at her own cowardice. Once again spurred into action, her fingers moved to the button at the front of her pants. She stalled for only an instant before moving forward with clear intent.

Willow moved quickly to the pallet. She pulled the cover back and slid inside next to Tara. Their bare thighs touched without warning and the soft smoothness of the blonde's leg touching hers in such an intimate way caused Willow's breath to catch. Willow tried to cover the sound behind a yawn, but Tara had already moved away from her by the time Willow regained her composure. "Until tomorrow... Willow spoke softly. She didn't trust her voice above a whisper.

"On the morrow" Tara replied. She closed her eyes against the candlelight, but not before she caught a glimpse of Willow through slanted vision. She didn't know what to make of the way her heart had sped up at the feel of Willow's leg against her own. Could it be that she was feeling something beyond the common bond of friendship for this woman? Tara reminded herself that she was over-committing with the use of the word "friendship. It was too soon to make such assumptions anyway. And Tara wasn't even sure if she wanted a friendship with Willow.

Tara couldn't help but feel uneasy about the information she'd surmised about Willow that night. Tara wondered about the woman's culture and about where she had come from. There was nothing about the redhead that singled her out as belonging to any specific group outside the forest clans - and Tara had met quite a few. From the Celestine Clan that inhabited the mountainous region beyond the forest to the people from the Cave Clans that resided, as their name insinuated, in Caves along the salted sea.

Tara had never been away from the forest, but people from those near and far places would track the Shinty Folk as far back as Tara could recall, coming from high places and low places to obtain the sacred knowledge held onto by the elders of the village. Tara had seen man and woman alike, turned away by the elders and had memorized their features....the shape of their head, the slope of their jaw...anything that would connect her with the outside world beyond the confines of her own heritage.

Tara felt trapped. She felt trapped in every way possible. Tied to this life by the bonds of her people. Tara used to dream about breaking free, she used to dream about leading a life outside of duty and expectations...but she could not just up and leave her family or her people. So they had been only dreams and nothing more. But then this redhead showed up and seemed to be succeeding in turning Tara's mostly secure world askew.

Tara listened to the steady sounds of sleep as Willow's chest rose and fell with each exhalation of air. Tara had thought that relaxing enough to fall asleep was going to be an impossible feat that night, and was surprised when sleep easily overtook her body's ability to stay awake.

The night went by relatively uneventfully, each keeping to her own designated area. Tara awoke only once to find her hand brushed up against Willow's bare arm. Tara left it there for a moment; she kept her eyes shut tight. She lived silently in the moment and without moving she memorized the feel of Willow's skin against her fingers.

Continue to The Art of Burning Bridges Chapter Eight

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