Quest for Tamsin.
Baba Yaga at Large
“We should stop here for gas,” Louis said.
Elle looked over and saw that her husband was talking in his sleep. Since he was, she did as he suggested.
Elle only followed Louis’s directions when he gave them in a hypnotic trance. In the four long days since they had left Hadleyburg, she had discovered that he had an uncanny sense of direction and the ability to sniff out the best places to stop—but only when she had put him into what he called “the ottoman state,” meaning a trance in which his mind remained active but unfocused, open to all the psychic forces around him, while outwardly he appeared to be unconscious. She’d discovered this fact the second day out, when Louis, in his role as navigator, had become somewhat stressed by the job of figuring out where they should stop for the night. They had a AAA guide to motels, but Louis found the listings somewhat unenlightening. At the same time, he was distracted by literary worries because he was still going back and forth with his editors about the new Milagro Hada mystery—the final one—he had sent them from Hadleyburg.
His flustered state was distracting her from the peaceful site of the Kansas prairie rolling past on either side of Interstate 70. The scenery was boring, true, but it was soothing, and it left Elle’s mind free to consider the next step in their quest to find her old teenage friend Tamsin, whose disappearance years ago had caused a panic in the small Missouri town where she lived—and which continued in a weird way to echo in the lives of her friends who still lived there. Elle had been only a summer visitor to the area in the Ozarks east of Hadleyburg, and so had almost forgotten the pain and confusion of that summer night—the last night of the last summer before the gang split up, some to go to college and others to find their way in the world of work—when Tamsin had vanished from their secret hideout behind Puységur Falls and disappeared from their lives.
Louis’s nervous chatter was interrupting her reverie, so, in a rare moment of irritation, she had reached over, snapped her fingers in front of his face and said, “Louis! Ottoman, now!”
At once he had slumped over bonelessly against the passenger door, his eyes falling heavily shut and his breath slowing. The silence that followed was almost shocking. Elle had smiled and returned to her thoughts. She had suppressed a lot of memories of that summer, she realized now. In fact, she had denied to herself for years that the “gang” of girls—not only her, but her cousin Joan, Tamsin, Bobbie Jo, and that eerily tall, almost wordless girl (what was her name?) with the porcelain skin, raven-black hair, and pale luminous eyes who had managed to join them every night without sharing much about herself—that “gang” was actually a … coven. Teenaged witches, who together could see and do things that they had thought humans could never do or see. They couldn’t fly, but they had learned spells that worked at a distance—spells that got them friends the grades they wanted and blinded their parents to their doings, and that seemed to be leading up to yet more powerful feats, before the loss of Tamsin disrupted everything.
“Pull off here,” Louis’s voice had said suddenly. The sound was so unexpected that Elle gave a small jump and a yip of surprise, almost losing control of the car. Once she’d settled down, she turned to him in irritation, saying, “Louis Wentworth, you are supposed to be in—” At that point she’d noticed that he was still in a trance, eyes closed, face slack, muscles loose. He’d spoken without waking.
Intrigued, she’d pulled off. There, at a relatively desolate exit, was a small motel called the Prairie Schooner Inn. It didn’t look prepossessing. But it looked friendly, almost as if it came from an earlier time before hospitality had become an industry instead of a personal gift.
“Pull in here and check in,” said Louis’s voice. Something had made Elle obey; as a result, that night they had enjoyed a wonderful night’s sleep and eaten a marvelous meal cooked by the Inn’s proprietor, desk clerk, and chef, Ella Chouteau, who was also an authority on local history. After dinner she’d laid them a fire. “Not much to do here at night,” she’d said, leaving them to it. Louis’s spell of trance had left him in a delightful state of yearning for her, and they’d managed to amuse themselves until well into the evening.
Since then she had driven much of the way with Louis in a trance. Several times during the days on the road he had alerted her to good eateries; once he had warned her of a dangerous accident ahead (which there was no way to see in advance), convincing her to pull off on a side road until emergency crews cleared toxic chemicals off the Interstate.
Her conscience bothered her—a bit—for depriving her husband of the scenery, but Louis had told her the next night that while he was under, he had come up with a plan for an entire series of novels featuring Milagro’s seductive cousin Adrielys. Elle was—of course—too personally secure to be flattered that the Adrielys character was based on her, but still, it was not unpleasant to hear.
And the dear boy did tend to wake up so … ardent. It made lonely nights on the road a good deal easier to bear.
Now, on the fourth day, just after they had crossed the Utah state line into southern Wyoming, she obeyed sleeping Louis’s suggestion without hesitation, and pulled into the gravel parking lot of a rough-looking gas station and roadside store, which advertised, among other things, elk-hunting permits. The store itself looked as if it had been cobbled together out of raw lumber, with a boardwalk porch straight out of a western movie, and a big ice locker on the side of the building nearest the dusty gravel parking area. It was mid-afternoon; the store seemed all but deserted. The only figure visible from outside was a rather forlorn-looking old woman leaning against one of the wooden pillars of the porch.
They got out and stretched. Without being told, Louis immediately grabbed the gas hose and began filling the car. Elle strolled inside; the old woman’s eyes followed her as she walked. For some reason her blank, seemingly incurious gaze made Elle feel uneasy. She carefully walked up the steps on the opposite side and went inside.
The store itself seemed to come from a different era. Elle saw soft drinks she had only read about—Cheerwine, Moxie, Tiny Grape, Wink, Like, Filbert’s Old Time Root Beer—and in the beer cooler she saw cases of Olympia, Old School, and Fidelio. The store stocked every piece of equipment needed for outdoor hunting and fishing, as well as a small unpromising sampling of groceries (the corn flakes box was so old that the side that faced the window had faded almost to white). She bought them both cans of diet soda (but decided against the cheese-waffles, pork skins, horehound drops, root-beer barrels, and candy cigarettes on display), paid the clerk, and made her way back onto the porch. There she found her husband in earnest conversation with the old woman. “Elle,” Louis said, “This is Tommie. She’s not feeling well and needs a ride back to her house.”
Something in Elle rebelled at this idea. The woman had spooked her—which was ridiculous. Old and weather-beaten (she looked and dressed the way Annie Oakley might have if she’d slept out for a week), the woman was clearly harmless, and perhaps somewhat mentally disabled. But still—“Louis, it’s getting dark—we need to get someplace to sleep—” she began.
“I told you she wouldn’t mind,” Louis said to the old woman. With great solicitude he put an arm under one elbow and helped her to her feet, then carefully escorted her to the passenger seat; he himself climbed in back.
Elle was nonplussed. Louis had never just ignored her before, but this time it had been as if he couldn’t hear her speaking. This made Elle wonder whether allowing the old woman in the car was a good idea; at the same time, she had been relying more and more on Louis’s sixth sense to guide them on this trip, and that sense seemed to be steering him in the old woman’s direction.
“All right,” she said, though neither of the others was listening. “But we drop her off and then we need to get back on the highway.” Fingering the keys, she followed Louis and Tommie to the car.
Tommie’s memory of the exact location of her house was not as vivid as Elle had hoped. An hour later, they had wandered up and down dirt county roads until Elle was thoroughly turned around. She was contemplating taking Tommie back to the store—although, of course, she had no idea how to get back to the store. Then the old woman said, suddenly, “Look—over there by the mountains.” She pointed west, and Elle could see a tiny cabin outlined against the setting sun.
Louis followed her pointing finger. After a moment, he said, “I see. Yes, of course.”
“What do you mean, Louis?” Elle said.
“Look at the mountains, Elle,” he said. “Look at the sun. One of them is in the wrong place.” He walked away and helped Tommie back into the car.
They drove in silence across the valley as the shadows lengthened, and suddenly Elle saw it. “The mountains are….”
“East to west,” Louis said. “This is what we have been looking for.”
They pulled up in front of the tiny cabin. Without a word, Tommie jumped out of the car, gesturing imperiously for them to follow her inside. Elle hesitated. “All right, Louis, we’ve taken her hom—” But Louis was already out of the car and right on Tommie’s heels. Elle shrugged. She was not used to Louis slipping the leash, but she would be in and out and they could be on their way.
The interior of the cabin was clean but sparse. If Tommie lived here alone, her life must be pretty simple, Elle thought. The wind was already whistling around the wooden shack, and later that night it would be howling. There was a small wood stove, a washbasin, an old-fashioned ice box, and a single cot in the corner of the room. The cot was simple, but it was neatly made up, with clean sheets and a colorful quilt. It would be a comfortable, if lonely, place to sleep.
Suddenly Elle had an image of herself sleeping alone on the cot, and that made made her realize suddenly how tired she was—tired not just from today’s long drive across northern Utah and Southern Wyoming, but tired from the long days since Hadleyburg, and from the long search for her childhood friend, and from the flood of memories that she had encountered since they had left home in the middle of the night—why? She had decided to do that, she had commanded Louis to take her out into the wilderness, but why? She knew there had been a reason, but she couldn’t think what it could have been.
Her eyes were heavy and her body was heavy, and—wait! Something about this was wrong, she thought, but then her heavy eyes closed and her heavy body fell quietly to the cabin floor and she saw Louis lying there next to her, eyes closed, and then everything was dark and still.
“Wake up, sleepyhead!”
When she got her eyes open at last, she found herself looking into an oddly familiar pair of green eyes. “Who—wha’?” She raised her head from the ground and saw an impish, lightly freckled face surrounded by a mop of thick glossy red hair.
Things began to fall at least partially into place. “Tam—Tamsin? It’s you?”
“Let’s do the math,” said that smug humorous voice. “Tommie? Thomasina? Tam-sin…? Starting to add up?”
Elle was still feeling wobbly, but she levered herself off the floor and looked around. Louis was sprawled on the floor nearby, still unconscious. “Where—where are we?”
“In the cabin,” Tamsin said. She got to her feet. More than 15 years had passed, but Tamsin looked unchanged. She was small—5′3 or so; as solid and toned as she’d been as captain of the Puységur County High women’s soccer team back when Elle had known her. She had broad shoulders and small breasts, and solid, muscular legs. Elle was often complimented on her posture, but Tamsin’s regal bearing had always made her feel like Quasimodo by comparison—and it still did.
Elle looked around. In place of the bare windy room she’d seen when she’d escorted Bobby home, she now saw a cozy, carpeted room, walls hung with intricate quilts, organized around a flickering hearth. The heat was relaxing; Elle didn’t really want to get up, but felt she should.
“This isn’t the same cabin,” Elle said.
“Isn’t glamor wonderful?” Tamsin asked.
Elle got up and walked toward the door, intending to get a breath of fresh air. “Stop!” Tamsin said as Elle reached for the doorknob. “You do not want to go out there right now.”
Elle glanced out the window and saw … nothing. Just a featureless grey fog, an airless, soundless nowhere neverland. “What—where?”
“East of the sun and west of the moon, my darling,” Tamsin said. “Haven’t you read your fairy tales? This dwelling is nowhere most of the time, like Baba Yaga’s cabin—but a lot more livable.”
“Elle?” Louis was stirring. Tamsin brightened and rushed over to his somnolent form. “Hel-LO,” she said, bending down to stroke his head. “Aren’t you the sweetest little bonbon in the Whitman Sampler? Tamsin could just eat you alive.”
“Tamsin!” Elle hissed. The redhead looked back at her with a smile.
“Oh, Ellie, Ellie, Ellie,” she said. “You always were such a mamma bear. Don’t worry, sweetheart. You know I bat for the other team. And besides—” She reached down and grabbed Louis’s face in her hand, bending down to look deep into his befuddled eyes. “Shh, shh, honeybun,” she whispered to him. Then she added, almost to herself, “It’s really true. Elle, it’s really true—there is no room anywhere inside that handsome head for any woman at all but Elle Murphy.” She let go of Louis’s face, leaving him blinking in confusion, then crossed to where Elle was standing, reached up, and cupped Elle’s face the same way. The green eyes were deep, so deep—she felt like an escapee in an old prison movie, trapped against the wall by the powerful searchlight in the guard tower. She could not have broken away if the building had been on fire.
“My, my, my,” Tamsin said. “You too, sweety. You have it as bad as the boy wonder. Sooo in love, aren’t we?”
Elle managed to free her gaze, then moved back a step, breaking out of Tamsin’s grasp. She felt Louis’s eyes on her; his expression was a blend of confusion and surprise. He had never seen anyone talk to Elle Murphy like this. And Elle knew Tamsin well enough to know that the redhead was not about to back off.
“Louis, look at me,” Elle said. “You’re going to take a little nap while I talk to Tamsin. Stretch out over there by the fire, that’s it—you will hear nothing, see nothing, think nothing, until you hear me call your name, understand? Sleep now.”
Louis stretched like a rag doll in front of the fire. Once she saw he was safe, Elle turned back to Tamsin.
“What do you think you are doing, Tamsin Riley?” she asked.
Tamsin smiled. “Why, Ellie, darling, I am calling my old friend for help.”
“Calling? What do you mean? You didn’t call us—in fact, you pretended to be some crazy old lady!”
“Oh, yes?” Tamsin’s smile was so smug that Elle wanted to wipe it off her face. “Why were you even there?”
Elle started to recount the sequence of events that led them there that afternoon. But the story had hardly gotten to the waterfall when Tamsin, looking even more smug than before, said, “Okay, just to tot up the score at halftime, you woke up in the middle of the night and decided you and Dreamboat there needed to go camping right away, yes? Right then? And that you needed to drive all night down to Puységur Falls to look up the old gang at Trilby’s? Is that your usual method of operation—the impulsive camping trip?”
“So what—” Elle’s mind came to a sudden shuddering halt as the events of the last month reassembled themselves into an entirely different pattern. “Wait, Tamsin—you’re telling me that you—”
The impish redhead nodded. “Yup. I needed you, I called you, and you came.”
“How? How did you—”
“Elle, you spent a lot of years becoming some kind of psychologist so you can pretend you’re not doing magic. Not me, darling—I started as a witch and I have worked on it every day since then. So you were—”
“Yes, indeed. And now you’re here.”
“Why? If you needed me, why didn’t you come and get me?”
“Look out the window again,” Tamsin said, gesturing at the grey fog beyond the window. “This house is special—it can go almost anyplace. Almost.”
“You couldn’t come find me?”
“Well, I could get you to find me, and here you are. And you’re going to help me get back where I belong.”
“Have you ever wondered what happened to me and why I disappeared?”
“Only every night, Tamsin. Joan does too—and I think Bobbie Joe too—”
“Oh, please,” Tamsin snapped. “Bobbie Jo knows exactly why and she knows where I am.”
“Wait—what do you mean?”
“Tell me about Bobbie Joe, Elle. Tell me what she’s like now.”
“Well—it’s funny,” Elle said. “We saw her—Louis and I talked to her—but it’s not very clear in my mind—I remember she has a big house—”
“Wake up Charmant here,” Tamsin said, gesturing at the sleeping Louis. “I think he remembers.”
Elle thought of Louis’s reading of Bobbie Jo, and said, “Louis—Louis, darling. Open your eyes, that’s it! Tamsin is going to ask you some questions and you can answer—one, two, THREE, that’s it, up you come!”
Louis’s eyes popped open and, without further prompting, he said, “You’re having trouble remembering Bobbie Jo because Bobbie Joe wasn’t really there. She wasn’t in the world we are in. She lives in a bubble and spends all her energy keeping other people out.”
Tamsin nodded, as if this gibberish made perfect sense. “Yes, good, honeybun,” she said. “What about her husband?”
“He’s not really there either—not in our world and not in hers. He’s walled away somewhere inside the house—“
“What?” Elle said involuntarily. “She’s killed him and put him in the walls?”
“Ellie, when did you become so literal?” Tamsin said. “Let me explain it to you step by step. First, do you remember what happened that summer when I left?”
“Do I remember? How could I forget? We were all at the waterfall and you and Bobbie Jo had a fight, you disappeared, we spent the rest of the night searching for you, and nobody could ever find you.”
“What happened after that?”
“Well, after a few weeks I went off to college. Joan went to work at Trilby’s. Bobbie Joe took up with—with what’s-his-name—” for some reason Elle could not remember the name of her friend’s husband—“and I got an invitation to the wedding for the next spring.”
“Elle, Elle, Elle,” Tamsin said, shaking her head in seemingly fond disappointment. “All that brainpower—all that learning—and you still can’t sort out cause from effect. That’s the first thing a witch should understand—there’s always a cause and there’s always an effect and the chain goes on and on, world without end.”
Elle was feeling quite provoked. “Tamsin, will you please stop talking in riddles and tell me whatever it is that you think I need to know?”
“Well, darling, you said that I disappeared and Bobbie Joe linked up with—what’s his name—but you have it the wrong way ’round. Bobbie Joe went after him and when she got him I disappeared like that. I found myself here, wherever that is. I had to live in Baba Yaga’s summer place and never get older and never see my friends again.”
“Well, what do you remember about—what’s his name?”
Elle furrowed her brow. “Not much actually. He had that fancy car—wait, he played football, is that right?”
“Yes, darling, he played football. In fact, he was the captain of the football team. And he had a football scholarship to Mizzou. And his father was a member of the legislature. And owned a Mercedes dealership. And they lived in a big—”
“Oh, my god, I thought I’d seen her house before—of course, and they belonged to the country club—”
“Yes, dear, they were royalty in our little county. And that boy looked and moved like a young girl’s dream. And he could have offered Bobbie Joe that whole world that she wanted. But there was a problem.”
“What was it?”
“He had not the slightest interest in anything but her body. She was pretty and sexy—lord knows, she was adorable—but she was also the daughter of a bricklayer, remember? That boy’s family did not even touch someone at that level, much less date or . . . marry them. He would call her late at night and she’d come running but then by morning she had to be gone. She’d see him at the mall and he’d walk by as if he’d never met her. But she was in love. So Bobbie Joe turned to other means…”
“Other means being . . . “
The three of them were alone in the little cabin, but Tamsin now leaned closer to Elle and lowered her voice as if afraid of being overheard. “A love spell.”
“She cast a love?” Tamsin laid a finger across Elle’s lips. Elle moved her hand away and went on, “Tamsin, there’s no such thing!”
“That’s what we are supposed to think—if you’d ever dipped more than an one adorable toe into the craft, though, you’d know that these . . . spells . . . do exist. But they are strictly forbidden—they bring powerful mischief when someone casts them.”
“She cast a … spell … on—what’s his name—and what happened?”
“Well, first of all, I was gone. Blip! Like that! I couldn’t be in the same place, the same world, as the two of them.”
“Why ever not?”
“Elle, I hope you’re more perceptive now as a therapist than you were then as a girlfriend. Did you never notice anything—out of the ordinary—about me and Bobbie Joe?”
“Out of the ordin—wait, Tamsin, are you telling me you were together? You were a couple?”
The redhead nodded, her face flushing with embarrassment. “Yes, Elle, when we were alone we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. But Bobbie Joe made sure nobody else noticed a thing, even you and Joanie. Bobbie Joe said her father would kill her if he knew—and I, like a fool, believed her and kept her secret deep and dark. The fact is that she was killing time with me while she plotted her move on—what’s his name.”
“Why can’t we remember his name?” Elle said.
“For the same reason that I have to live here away on this strange unworldly plane. Tell me, Elle—how did Bobbie Joe seem to you when you saw her?”
“She seemed—I don’t know, lonely. She’s as skinny as a rail, she looks like a Vogue model—Louis says he doesn’t think she really eats meals….”
“And what about her beloved husband?”
“He wasn’t in evidence—his car was there but he was away somewhere, she didn’t talk about him.”
Tamsin nodded. “Exactly, Elle. When two people are caught in … one of those spells, the first thing that happens is that all the old girlf—lovers—are wiped out at a stroke. I gather that two country club beauties who’d dated what’s his name disappeared at about the same time. Next, the enchanted lovers are together in a magical bubble—and at first, oh, it’s wonderful, it’s all the movies and romance novels come true, all they need is each other—but slowly, slowly they use each other up—each has to be the whole world to the other and nobody can do that indefinitely—and then the bubble begins to shrink, and their world gets smaller and smaller, and they get more and more faint to those outside them—that’s why you can’t remember his name, Elle. Tell me, can you remember what he looked like?”
Elle frowned. “Did I ever meet him?”
Tamsin shook her by the shoulder. “Meet him? Elle, you were as hot for him as Bobbie Joe, or Joanie, or those two bimbos at the country club—you used to watch him in the parking lot of Trilby’s and you looked like a lioness in a NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC documentary, like you might just give one mighty spring and eat him alive—”
“That can’t be true—I remember all the boys I lusted for—”
“Yes, I know, and you had most of them and threw them away afterwards, we don’t need to have that conversation now. The point is that as the bubble shrinks, his memory in others’ minds is shrinking and pretty soon he will just wink out in a soggy little blip, and so will Bobbie Joe. No one will remember them, and it will be as if they never existed—unless we stop it.”
“How can we do that? I remember enough witchcraft to know that a spell can’t be un-cast.”
“Well, that’s mostly true,” Tamsin said. “But I’ve had a lot of time to study—and you’d be surprised at the power of some of the witches trapped on this plane. And there is a hope for them—one hope—but we have to act fast.”
“What is it?”
“Well, step over here and let me show you.” Taking Elle by the arm, Tamsin gently guided her over to the round wooden table next to the kitchen door. On it was a bowl of water, some small bottles, a wand, a candle, and a book. “I know what’s happening to them because I can see them. I can’t live on that plane—I can visit if I come in a glamor, like ‘Tommie’ who snared your boy toy—but I can’t stay there and I can’t see anyone I knew before. In person, I mean. I can scry them by water.” She picked up the wand and gently stirred the water. “Look in here and tell me what you see.”
Elle looked into the swirls of the dark water and gasped. “Wait—Tamsin—that’s not Bobbie Joe, that’s me—me and Louis—how can that be? We’re here!”
“The bowl can take us through time as well as space,” Tamsin said softly. “What do you see? Tell Tamsin.”
The image came into focus and what Elle saw stunned her—“Tamsin, that’s the night after our first date—after we first made love—and there I am waking up alone and wondering where he’s gone—had he left me? But, see, he was out on the deck writing—he was writing a story in longhand—it was published later, it was called ‘Bathysphere’—it was about him and me under the ocean—”
“And does that moment mean to you, Elle?” Tamsin asked. She had begun to stroke the back of Elle’s hand softly as she talked. Elle appeared not to notice; she was staring straight into the bowl, all her attention on the scene in the water. “Oh, well—it was—well, oh, I suppose, we’d had a very nice night—”
“Elle, don’t lie to Tamsin. This cottage is special, it’s safe, it’s where we tell each other our secrets.”
“Yes,” Elle said softly, nodding her head slightly. Then a broad smile spread over her face—remarkably enough for Elle Murphy, a silly smile, unguarded and almost childlike, as if whatever she could see in the water was so magical that she had forgotten everything but how much it pleased her. “Yes, Tamsin. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s the moment—looking back—that’s the moment … I fell in love with Louis, realized he wasn’t just another boy-snack to keep me from being bored—I really fell in love, Tamsin, I didn’t think that could ever happen again after—what happened to me in college with my professor—but I did, I fell . . . in… love—”
Tamsin reached over and put her hand on Elle’s shoulder. She cocked her head, as if listening to music no one else could hear. After a moment, she nodded, as if confirming a hunch. “Yes, of course you did, darling. Now Tamsin needs you to wake Louis and tell him to come over here. Order him to tell me what I need to know. Go ahead.”
Elle’s gaze did not waver from the bowl. “Louis,” she said in an even voice. “Wake up and come over here. I order you to tell Tamsin what she needs to know.”
Louis rose from the hearthrug and came to stand next to Elle. “Yes, Tamsin?” he said.
“Look into the water, you darling boy,” she said. “Tell Tamsin what you see.”
Now a ridiculous smile to match Elle’s spread over Louis’s features. His gaze grew fixed, and he spoke as if unaware he was speaking. “It’s my second date with Elle, Tamsin. It’s when I realized I was in over my head with her, so in love that I had no control any more over what happened to me and that I didn’t want any.”
“Yes, darling? Why was that?” Tamsin asked.
“I took her home after dinner—she wanted to go to my house—and I was ashamed because it was so . . .messy. But . . . Elle just laughed… she turned to me and snapped me into a trance and told me I wanted to clean up and I did, I was like the maid while she sat there and laughed at me, she looked soooo sexy but I couldn’t even really look at her because I had to clean because she told me to and at first it felt strange but then it started to feel—right—like I had never been… me… before and now I was because I had stopped worrying about trying to be me and had become what she wanted me to be and I was the man who wanted to be what she wanted . . . it was so quiet and calm and peaceful and . . . sexy….”
Tamsin reached out now and took his shoulder as she had taken Elle’s, again cocking her head seemingly to hear an unheard melody. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, I can see that. It was, wasn’t it? And it still is.”
She released his shoulder and spoke now to both of them. “Dear children, look into the bowl. Something wonderful is about to happen.”
Louis looked where Tamson talked. The dark waters swirled, like shows, like music, like the stars on a winter evening, like the wind outside their beautiful house in the Tri-County Area, where the fire was always bright on a night like this and Elle—his Elle! Elle, the most beautiful, the most magnetic, the most brilliant woman in the world, she was his and he was hers, and on a night like this he would….
She was right there! They were . . . alone together, weren’t they? He took her in his arms and put his mouth on hers, and she was welcoming, her mouth like water and they snatched at their clothes until they were naked and Elle pulled him down beside her and then she lay under him, welcoming him into her, ready and wet for him as he gently caressed her breasts. “Take me, Louis,” she said.
“Yes, Elle.’ He felt as if he was trying to climb inside her, she was everything he desired and all he needed. “Elle, I love you,” he said.
“I love you, Elle.”
“Elle, I love you!”
“Yes,” she said. “And I—love—YOU!”
He fell into another a kind of doze, hearing her soft, satisfied breath beside him, a smile on her face as if she was dreaming the most glorious dream.
Elle was dreaming the most glorious dream, so pure and joyful that there were no words for it, no images of it, just colors and feelings and the deep, heavy feeling of her healthy and satisfied naked body against the carpet and the happy burden of her husband’s sleepy muscular body half on top of her and half off.
And then—“OUCH! Goddamnit!” Her eyes opened and she saw Tamsin leaning over him, a pair of scissors in one hand and in the other a lock of Elle’s own thick tawny hair. She winked at Elle, then leaned over Louis and cut off a lock of his hair as well.
“Thank you, darlings,” she said. “That was exactly what I needed. And by the looks of things it’s what you needed too.”