Authors: Kate Owen
Tags: #F/F romance, contemporary
"Fair enough. What's left?"
"My room," Jules said opening the door to the master bedroom and motioning for Gen to feel free to look around. The room was painted a French blue, with white crown molding and baseboards. There was a faux finish on the walls that made them look like homemade paper, flecks of darker blues, lighter blues, and whites were randomly clustered all over the walls. The dark brown wood bed and furnishings contrasted beautifully with the walls. The bed was made, and chocolate brown sheets peeked out from a blue and tan comforter. There were photos framed in white clapboard frames, all around the room, all photos of the water, rocky coastlines, open sea, one of a single rower on calm water with the sun rising behind her.
"Is that you?" Gen asked, gesturing to the picture of the woman rowing.
"Yeah, that's me in college."
"Your whole house is done extremely well, but this room is fantastic."
"Thanks. My sister-in-law is a decorator. She helped me out a lot."
"She did a great job."
"She'll be glad to hear you think so. We had several arguments because, apparently, I can't do my whole house in blues." Jules inclined her head toward her closet. "This was where I found the safe." She opened the closet and showed Gen the safe, still on the floor of the closet surrounded by the wooden studs because she'd stopped the renovation while she decided what she was going to do with the safe.
Gen looked inside. "You have surprisingly few clothes, Jules."
"Ha ha. They're all hanging up in one of the guest rooms for now. Once I finish the renovation on the closet, it will be a walk in and everything will have a place."
"So, what else is there to see?"
"Master bath, which Auntie had redone before she died and I am so grateful for." Jules opened the ensuite door and Gen saw the corner jetted tub and granite shower area with glass doors and several shower heads.
"This is amazing."
"Yeah, Auntie believed in having good bathrooms and kitchens. I honestly think she expected me to sell the house, but I love it too much to let it go. Besides, she enjoyed having the tub and shower as she got older and needed the tub to relax her joints and room to put a bench in her shower. I still kind of think this was her extra gift to me."
"So, here ends our tour? The bathroom?"
Jules smirked. "No, there's one more thing."
"Jules, if you think you're taking me to bed ..."
"Of course not, not when I haven't even taken you out on a real date. What kind of woman do you think I am?"
"The kind who sleeps with a nurse whose name she can't remember."
"Yeah, I knew that would come back to bite me," Jules muttered. "But, I do want to show you one more thing, that is not my bed."
Jules offered Gen her hand and led the other woman out of the bathroom and toward the French doors on the other side of the bedroom. She opened the doors and flipped a switch. Twinkling lights were all over the upper gallery as Jules led Gen outside. A fan was oscillating above a cafe table and two chairs that looked over the street below.
"Okay, wow. Did you set all this up today?"
"As smooth as it would be to say yes, the answer is no. My brothers did this for Auntie a few years ago, I just keep it up."
Gen turned to face Jules. "You could have lied, I wouldn't have known."
"Yeah, well, two things about that. First, I'm a terrible liar, which is why I don't do it. I worry I'll be obviously lying if I keep things vague, so I wind up adding insane details that are so improbable I give the whole thing away."
"You said two things," whispered Gen, who was inches away from Jules.
Jules smiled ruefully. "Yes, I did. The second thing is what two different people told me today, and that is that I have absolutely no game. So, if I tried to be this smooth, I would have totally screwed it up."
"Oh, well, I guess it's good that I don't want to play any games, then," Gen murmured as she moved toward Jules. Jules wrapped her arms around Gen's waist and pulled her against her. Jules leaned down and Gen moved forward, stopping millimeters away from Jules' lips. Jules groaned, closing the gap and bringing their lips together.
Gen wrapped her arms around Jules' neck and deepened the kiss. Her fingers started playing with the short hair at the nape of Jules' neck causing the brunette to groan and pull her in closer. Jules broke away suddenly and Gen looked at her, eyes wide. "What is it?"
"Blocked by the dogs, Samson is barking. We'll have to finish this later, but we will pick up where we left off."
Gen shivered. "Yes, we will."
Jules led the way back down the stairs and saw Samson barking at the back door. Belle was whining; Jules had forgotten to unlock the dog door after her shower. She flipped a light switch and let both dogs out in the backyard. Gen followed her out and stood watching the dogs. Jules walked up behind her and wrapped her arms around Gen's waist, pulling her back to rest against her body.
"So," Jules began.
"Can I take you out on Saturday?"
"Hmmmm, I don't know," Gen said, laughing lightly. "I'm not really into girls."
"Not funny, Gen," Jules growled in her ear.
Gen shivered at the way Jules’ breath felt against her neck. "Well, what did you have in mind?"
"I'm not sure yet. I haven't started planning because I don't have an answer on whether I'll be going out with anyone yet."
Gen smiled and leaned back against Jules. "Yes, you can take me out on Saturday."
"Oh, it better be."
Jules laughed. "Where did all this mean teasing come from? 'Cause if I get a vote, I'd much rather have you sending all kinds of signals back."
"Well, now that I've finally convinced you to give us a shot, I don't have to keep trying to convince you. The balance of power might shift a little."
"As if I ever had any power here," Jules muttered.
Belle finished doing her business and she and Samson started running around the yard.
"Jules, as much as I hate to admit it, it's getting kinda late for you, and I, for one, don't want to have to guilt myself into getting up so early for keeping you up so late two nights in a row. So, if we're going to figure out anything from the journal, we should probably start."
"Yeah, okay," Jules said inhaling and then releasing Gen and whistling over her shoulder. Samson immediately ran up to her and sat down.
"Good, I was hoping that was to get him to follow and not me."
"Nah, I'll give you a different whistle so Samson doesn't get confused," Jules said in mock seriousness.
Gen slapped her on the ass and went through the door Jules held open to sit back down at the dining room table.
Jules sat down next to her and opened the journal, "Well, that was anticlimactic." She slid the open journal toward her.
Gen looked at the journal. "It's blank?"
"Yup, blank with about a third of the pages cut out."
"Then, what do we have with the newspaper articles?"
Jules looked over them. "They are all about my great grandfather's death."
"How did he die?"
"He was killed in a mugging in the quarter."
"New Year's Eve."
Gen choked on her wine. "New Year's Eve, 1939? When Julianna and Evie were going to leave?"
Jules eyes widened. "Yes."
"Oh, God, Jules, Do you think they killed him?"
"I don't know, I mean, maybe he was mugged coming after them."
"Why wouldn't they have escaped then?"
"Maybe he died protecting them?" Jules tried weakly.
"Or maybe one of them shot him."
Jules pulled out her cell phone.
"Who are you calling?" Gen asked.
"A girl I row with who's a detective for NOPD."
Gen covered the phone with her hand. "No."
"No. Not until you know one way or the other."
"Because you are not allowed to profit in the commission of a felony. If she killed her father, you might lose your house."
"I don't know, but it's possible."
Jules raked both hands through the back of her hair. "Shit, double shit, balls!"
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Gen laughed at Jules' outburst.
Jules looked down at the papers spread all over the table. When she'd found this stuff she really just thought it would give her an excuse to get to know Gen better, but now she was stuck in the middle of trying to find out if the great aunt she'd loved, and had been closer to her than either of her grandmothers, had murdered her great grandfather. She wasn't sure she really wanted to know. Gen's small hand was rubbing along her back to soothe her. She looked around the table and saw a fly land on the diary page and stay there, taking off and landing again on different parts of the page.
"That's weird." Jules picked up the journal and smelled the paper. She broke out in a grin, remembering a game she used to play with Auntie Julianna when she was a kid. She jumped up and turned to Gen, "I'll be right back."
She ran up the stairs before Gen could ask. She burst into her bedroom and then to her bathroom, grabbed what she needed and ran back downstairs.
As she walked back in the room Gen looked at what was in her hands and arched an eyebrow. "Styling emergency?"
Jules plugged in the hair dryer. "It's for the journal. Auntie Julianna used to play a game with me. We would make invisible ink out of lemon juice. The citric acid weakens the paper, so when you heat it, it burns. Then, you can see the message in brown. The fly kept going after the journal, smell it."
Gen picked up the book and sniffed the page. "Lemon."
Jules folded the journal so the top page was exposed and the rest of the pages were bent the other way. She turned on the hair dryer and started moving it over the paper. Slowly, brown lines began to appear. She continued and saw her aunt's cursive take shape on the paper.
July 22, 2006
My dearest Niece,
If you are reading this, you found the safe with some of the things about Evie. I have no doubt that you will be the one to find it. What is here is not the whole story. You can find the whole story but you need to look for it. Find Evie, she will tell you what else you need to know.
All my love,
"Did she find Evie?" Gen asked.
"I don't know, I mean, I would think that if she had, I would have met her."
"Why wouldn't she have found her after her father died? I mean, he was the obstacle, right?"
"I guess so."
Gen bit her lip in thought. "Maybe she kept Evie a secret because she didn't want you to know she was gay."
"She knew I was."
"There is that."
Jules looked down at the table and was peeling the label off her beer bottle. "She knew before I really admitted it to myself, I think."
"So, if it wasn't shame, Evie is either dead, or left her."
"Gen, maybe Evie never showed up."
"Maybe, but if that were the case, then the letter never got to her, because you have it."
Jules tilted her head to the side then nodded in concession. "Maybe her father intercepted the letter and confronted her about it in the quarter," Jules said, not really thinking it was likely.
"And your auntie shot him?"
Jules dropped her head in her hands. "God, I hope not."
"Let's go over all these newspaper articles. Your aunt must've saved them for a reason."
Jules split the stack into two piles and began skimming the articles in her stack.
After about ten minutes, Gen gasped.
"I think I found Evie." She put down the article so Jules could read too. "'Negro Woman Hanged for Death of Local Businessman.'"
Jules' eyes ran across the article and she shook her head. "Marie Evelyn Baker killed John Delacroix … that doesn't make sense."
"No, if that were all that happened, why would Auntie have apologized to who she thought was Evie."
"For putting her in a position to have to kill him? For her taking the fall for it?"
"You don't seem convinced."
Jules yawned. "Sorry, it's not you, or the story, it's the hours."
"I get it, I'll head home."
"No, don't be. Besides, I want you to be well rested for Saturday."
Jules' eyes widened. "Really, now?"
"Wait, I don't think I quite meant it the way you're taking it."
Jules smirked. "Well, I will make sure to bring my A-game, such as it is."
Gen clipped Belle's leash to her collar, and Jules walked her and her dog out the door. Gen got Belle settled in the backseat of her red Honda Civic and turned to look at Jules who was standing behind her with Samson at her side. Jules pulled her into an embrace and kissed her so gently, yet with so much emotion, that Gen didn't respond for a second. The kiss was like sinking into a warm bath and she threaded her fingers through Jules short, brown hair, as Jules pulled their bodies together. It was Jules who pulled back first. She opened Gen's driver's side door. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"You're spoiling me, Jules."
Jules grinned. "Oh, I haven't started to do that yet, cher."
Gen ducked her head and smiled as she got into the car. Jules shut the door and backed away from the car, Samson whining for his new friend. "We'll see them again soon, Sam," Jules said as she scratched behind his ear, watching Gen pull away from the street. She went back inside with Samson, glanced at the stacks of papers on the dining table, and decided to leave them there for now. She crated Samson for the night, and headed to bed.
The morning passed quickly. Jules had been hoping for Gen to do another drive by at practice, but assumed it wouldn't happen. She watched her crew come into the boathouse and went up to the school. She walked into her classroom, cup of coffee in hand and saw coffee and beignets sitting on her desk, the coffee still steaming, with a note.
I didn't want to make you punish more of your crew, so I thought I'd do it this way, today. --G