Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

The Storm Queen

Summary:

Amy Warrren takes a pre-dawn walk in the aftermath of  a storm to answer a few questions she had when she was a child. (Author’s note: if you don’t remember why Amy Wellis and her partners now have the same surname, check out Family Name.)

It rained overnight on Squire’s Isle.

It went unnoticed by most, save for those like Clifton Gail who were up late doing paperwork on the countertop of his restaurant’s kitchen. Nadine Powell woke just long enough to confirm the sound she heard was rainfall before lowering her head to the pillow. She scooted back on the mattress to close the distance that had grown between her and Miranda in slumber, and Miranda responded by tightening her arm around Nadine’s waist. Alex Crawford had the garage doors of the fire station open and stood at the edge of the overhead light’s reach, facing the darkness so the occasional drizzle fell onto her face and clothes.

It was the last hot day of the year, according to the weather reports, and the cool breezes washing in behind the rain felt like magic. The storefronts along Spring Street glistened in the streetlights as if the muggy summer had been swept out the door. Soon leaves would be changing color and accumulating in doorways and everyone on the street would be bundled in layer on top of layer, but for now the chill would be welcomed by all. By five o’clock, the main storm had moved on. It doused the island and was pushed south along the Strait to eventually disperse over the Olympic peninsula.

The coldness of the bedroom pulled Amy Warren out of a deep sleep. She was normally up around this time for work, but it was her day off. She blinked at the clock, pulled the blanket higher up on her arm, and twisted to see who was with her. Nicole and Kate had both come to bed with her the night before, but sometimes they drifted off to their own rooms to sleep. A pair of feet were crossed on the pillow between her and Kate, and for a moment it looked as if Kate had twisted into the most uncomfortable feline yoga pose ever.

Amy smiled and rolled over, kissing Nicole’s feet. Nicole stirred under the blankets and kissed Amy’s leg in return. Now she remembered how they had gotten into the odd position and her smile widened. She reached past Nicole and brushed the hair out of Kate’s face. Kate was still fast asleep, undisturbed even when she was touched. Amy slipped out of bed, and Nicole’s hand appeared from under the blanket.

“Hey,” said in a quiet but high-pitched squeak. “Where you going?”

“Just for a walk.” She smoothed the blankets over Nicole’s head and kissed the lump. “Go back to sleep. I won’t be gone long.”

She quickly changed out of the shirt she slept in, exchanging it for jeans and a clean T-shirt. She went into her closet and dug out a sweater she hadn’t worn since April. When she turned around she saw Nicole had rearranged herself in the bed so she and Kate could cuddle and share their body heat. When they bought the house, it was a huge selling point that they would all have their own bedrooms. They wanted the privacy and independence it would afford. Even if it was odd that she had two partners and still slept alone more than half the time, she didn’t want it any other way. She loved spending the night by herself, but she was always thrilled to see the women she loved asleep in her bed. She didn’t want that feeling diminished just because she was used to it.

When she got downstairs she opened the curtains to let in the meager predawn light. She put on her shoes, then turned on her iPod to grab Nadine’s latest podcast. She didn’t care who the guest was; she just liked having Nadine keeping her company when she walked. When the file had downloaded she stuck the device in her pocket, plugged in her earbuds, and pulled a poncho on over her sweater. The heavy rain was long gone, but there were still pockets of drizzle to worry about. Plus she planned to walk under trees, and their leaves and branches had a way of holding onto a storm long after the rain stopped.

On the porch, Amy debated which route to take. Straight out across the backyard was a longer walk, but it would take her past their neighbors’ property. She didn’t have anything against them, but they were a bit more conservative than the majority of the island. They didn’t like the pot smell occasionally wafting over, they didn’t like the fact Amy was open with her sexuality, and they seemed in complete denial about Nicole’s part in Amy and Kate’s relationship. Still, it was early. Maybe they wouldn’t be awake yet.

She hit play on the podcast as she descended the steps to the back lawn. A sprightly burst of music played, and then came Nadine’s voice. “Welcome to Pixie’s Podcast! I am your hostess, Nadine Butler. If you’re a longtime listener, I want to thank you for coming back. If you’re a newcomer to the island who decided to check this out and see what it was like, I’m very happy to greet you.

“What you’re about to hear is a conversation. I know I’m going to do most of the talking, but I don’t want to just be talking at you. I’m going to be answering questions you might have, telling you some fun facts about the island. When you’re a tourist, you sometimes just wander through this strange new place hoping you see everything worth seeing. This podcast was made to help point you in the right direction. You’re not alone out there, stranger, and the people of December Harbor want you to feel at home. We want you to know this town, not just see it. So settle in, relax, and let me show you around.”

Amy stuck her hands into her pockets and set out on a trail she knew extremely well. She hadn’t yet created a trail in the grass, but Nicole assured her it was only a matter of time. As she’d expected the trees were still pouring down rain. The wind coming in off the water was downright frigid, even though a few days earlier she’d gone out in shorts and a tank top and still ended up sweating.

Beyond their property was an unspoiled acre of trees that stretched to the edge of the little outcropping of land on the north side of the harbor. It was a beautiful wilderness, made more attractive by the fact their town’s designers had arranged it so there could never be anything built on the land. Their house, and their neighbors, were positioned almost as a shield against further development. Not enough room for a road or even a cul-de-sac.

The long route was her favorite. It came out near the university laboratories and gave her a beautiful view of King’s Bay. She weaved through the trees to add a little distance to her walk, but finally she reached the edge of the world. It was still too early to spot ferries, but there was a chance of whales or other wildlife making a pre-dawn appearance. She crouched down next to a tree and leaned back against the trunk, crossing her arms over her stomach as she gazed out over the dark water.

When she was a little girl she used to sometimes make the same trip before school. She lived further away, so the walk was much longer, but she always managed to arrive before the sun was up. These days she didn’t have the time to do it often. She figured it made her feel the same way others felt when they went to church. It gave her a chance to think away from other people and the demands of the coffee shop. She paused Nadine’s podcast so she could hear the wind and the water.

Years ago, when she would come to this shore as a child, her thoughts had been much different. It felt like so long ago, so many lifetimes in the past, she could hardly believe it wasn’t just a story she’d heard. Once upon a time, there was a girl named Amy. She came to sit in the dark and listen to the water lapping against the shore because it was the only place she could get away from all the chatter. She didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up, only that she didn’t want to work at their father’s bookstore. She wished there was a boy, any boy, at school who interested her. She comforted herself thinking everyone else was just making up their crushes or exaggerating how they felt.

Then she Mary moved to the island.

She wished she could go back in time if only to have one conversation. If life was a movie, one morning she would arrive at the shore to find her nine-year-old self leaning against one of the trees. She would tell her so many things. She would warn little Amy that there would be times when it felt like her life was over, but it was just the beginning. Being kicked out of her home because she accepted the advances of her older neighbor. Being homeless. Selling pot. Getting arrested and going to prison in Walla Walla. Being forced to go back to Squire’s Isle when her father died.

Back here? After I finally escaped?” she imagined herself saying. “No. Never.

Amy smiled brightly and laughed. She had to come back to the island. She had to take control of the bookstore and turn it into something of her own. Because one day, there would be Kate. The sporty brunette reporter who came in every morning at seven, sat by the window, and watched people out the window. Kate, who was taken and therefore a safe crush to harbor. Then one day, Kate was single. And Amy couldn’t stand to see her looking so despondent.

She would fall in love with Kate. She would fall harder than she imagined possible. Kate would be the person she was always looking for, the light at the end of a long tunnel, the hope she’d always told herself was waiting at the end of every hardship.

And then Nicole came back into her life. Her first grown-up love, a woman she could have seen herself settling down with if it wasn’t for her restless feet. Nicole who seemed to be always looking for a way out. Nicole and Kate met and hit it off. It was supposed to be one fun night, a drug-hazed fantasy to tick off their list. When Nicole came back to town, they offered her their bed again. And again. And again, until they realized they had both fallen in love with another woman.

How can I be in love with two people at the same time?” the girl would have asked.

Amy didn’t have an answer. If she did, it would’ve been easier to explain to people who gave them weird looks in the supermarket or whispered when they saw her sitting with either Kate or Nicole in the shop. Sometimes they went out to dinner together and she felt on display, as if the other diners were watching to see who sat on which side of the booth.

You sit with Kate one time and Nicole the next time. It has to be even.

But it didn’t. They agreed early on there would be no scorekeeping. They would sit where they were comfortable, go to bed where they wanted, and there would be no guilt-tripping or tally of who got more kisses from whom. It wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t as complicated as people tried to make it. Sometimes they would take sides in an argument. Sometimes Amy and Kate were both angry at Nicole, or she was mad at both of them. One memorable weekend they had all been pissed off at each other for three different reasons. They made it work the way anyone made a relationship work: talking and understanding.

It had gotten just bright enough to see, so she stood up and walked down to the muddy shore, choosing a spot between two rocks. She scanned the black sand and stooped to pick up a few seashells. There was a thin spiral one, and one that looked like a flattened clamshell, and she placed them in the pocket of her poncho to give them to Kate and Nicole. She also found a few pieces of beach glass, smoothed and rounded by decades being tossed around by the sea. She gathered a few pieces of that as well and zipped up her pocket to keep the prizes from tumbling out.

She walked back by a shorter route, cutting to the south so she could come up on the side of the house. The window she’d opened to let in the light was still open, but now it was pouring out light of its own. The kitchen was shining gold, and her partners were visible within. Beautiful Kate, her hair tousled, was at the stove in her Squire’s Knights jersey with probably nothing underneath it.

And Nicole, the one who had always refused to be tied down, was seated in front of the window. She was looking off in the distance, in the direction Amy had taken when she left earlier. Amy realized Nicole was watching for her to come home, and she had to stop walking because her eyes had suddenly fogged over. She wiped away the tears before they could fall and smiled as she continued on. She only needed to take a few more steps before Nicole saw the movement from the corner of her eye and turned toward her.

A smile broke across Nicole’s face and she waved. Amy blew her a kiss. She picked up the pace, suddenly eager to get back inside to the warm embrace of her home and her loves.

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