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Lila's Little Adventure
I didn't much care for the warrior princess. Especially not in the beginning. When Gabrielle came home for the first time after taking off after the woman, we had a bit of a ding dong about her. It was Xena this and Xena that, and it really got up my nose after a while. Of course we sorted it all out before Gab left again. We always do sort things out eventually.
So when my sister sent word that she was coming home to visit, and bringing the warrior with her, I had mixed feelings. Ingredient one: Gab's coming home to visit! Whoopee! I get to see my sister after months of absence. Yes!
Ingredient two: Xena's coming with her. Hmm, well, I can deal with that, but Father's going to be an absolute pain in the butt about it. He hates Xena.
Ingredient three: Gabrielle decided it was necessary to send word, rather than just turn up as a surprise. Now why would she do that?
Several reasons, perhaps. One, she wanted us to get lots of food in ready. Two, she wanted us to know she was coming so we made sure we were at home, and that one of us hadn't left to do something important (hah! Like that was likely!). Three, she wanted us to be prepared for the warrior's arrival.
There was a possible reason number four. Gabrielle deliberately gave Father the chance to go off somewhere to do something (even if it was totally unimportant) so that he would miss Xena. It could happen. It wasn't like Gabrielle would be desperate to see Father anyway. When we were little, Gab and I used to pretend that we had a different father. To be honest a few people in Poteidaia wouldn't have been surprised to learn there was something in it, because Gab and I were nothing like him -especially Gabrielle. He was miserable and boring. Enough said.
But it was hard to understand. As children we used to make up fantastic stories about our mother. We decided that she must have been a dazzling adventurer in her youth. In our imaginations she toured the world, charming men with her wit and beauty, and we were the results of her romantic forays. In fact we concluded that we probably had different fathers. Gabrielle's was a dashing pirate with flaming red hair and a gold earring. Mine was a foreign prince, dark and enchantingly mysterious. We found the idea rather attractive in a wanton kind of way. Unfortunately our Poteidaian father was the one who tried to run our lives. He ear-marked Gabrielle for Perdicus when they were still kids, and when Gab left I was in severe danger of taking her place. I was glad when Perdicus left. In fact he impressed me by leaving. They both did. Maybe I should try it sometime. And obviously Father never forgave Xena for "encouraging" his daughter to run off with her.
So when Gab and Xena turned up in Poteidaia on a short visit, everything predictable happened. I raced up the road as soon as I saw them approaching with that big gold horse, and I nearly knocked my sister down. She dropped her staff and we hugged and laughed, and it was quite a while before I got round to "noticing" Xena (yeah, like you could miss her). She stood patiently to one side and waited until I turned to her. I said hello politely and smiled, and she gave me the same back. I think that pleased Gabrielle. She grabbed our arms and gave us both a big grin as we walked into the village.
Gab and Xena said that they were staying two nights. Father didn't go off somewhere to do something unimportant, more's the pity, so whenever he was around things were pretty tense. He was barely civil towards Xena, and he wasn't much better with Gabrielle. As it went on I started to get quite embarrassed about it. Xena kept her comments calm and neutral, obviously for Gab's sake, but I could tell he really annoyed her. In fact he made me so uncomfortable that I started going out of my way to be welcoming towards the warrior, just to spite him. Towards the first evening I was actually starting to get on with her a bit, and when I realised how much Gabrielle loved this I decided to make more effort for the rest of their stay.
It was still tricky. What do you talk about with a former warlord? A former bloodthirsty warlord! I'd heard all about Xena's exploits from Father. Admittedly I've learned to take a lot of what he says about anything with a big dollop of salt, but where the warrior princess was concerned there were other sources to back him up. I knew that Xena had killed mercilessly, and destroyed villages just like ours. It was perhaps only by chance that she hadn't conquered Poteidaia. Even Gabrielle admitted that Xena had a terrible past.
So it was hard to initiate a conversation. I mean how do you start? So, Xena, tell us about yourself? Hardly.
The truth was, she still scared the Hades out of me.
That first night I was relieved when it was time to turn in. As I expected Gabrielle slept with me in the room we shared before she left. We've kept her bed there beside mine ever since. Xena stayed downstairs on some blankets by the hearth. There wasn't really anywhere else for her to go.
I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd decided to leave early on account of Father's special brand of hospitality, but the next morning it was clear that they intended to stay another day. They said something about the horse needing a rest because of some recent exertion. I didn't ask about the nature of the exertion. It probably had something to do with a healing cut on Xena's arm and a nasty bruise on my sister's shoulder, and I thought if Gab wanted to talk about it she would have brought up the subject herself. She didn't.
So I wondered how we would all endure another day of awkward comments (and I wondered if Father wouldn't end up with his throat cut by supper time) as I brought Gabrielle up to speed on Poteidaian gossip, and tried to make friends with her intimidating companion. I don't know why I bothered.
Blacktail started it all. She's one of our hens. She got her name because she has a tuft of dark feathers sprouting from her behind. Blacktail's one of those hens that seems a little more intelligent than the rest. She wanders around by herself, eyeing the other hens with detachment. While most hens will fight stupidly over a crust of bread, Blacktail waits until they manage to toss it out of reach, and then runs in to grab it and spirit it away. She doesn't get distracted by shiny objects like raindrops, and she never mistakes your boot-laces for worms.
She's a good layer too. Unfortunately she has a habit of laying in very odd places. Last Autumn the old couple next door decided to light their bedroom fire because the evenings weregetting colder. They couldn't understand why the smoke kept billowing into the room, so they stuck a stick up the chimney to clear whatever blockage had to be there. A clutch of sixteen eggs crashed down. I went in to help clear up the mess and believe me it stank like the Styx. Blacktail must have got broody and decided that the straw they used to seal their chimney during the summer months was as good a nest as any. It didn't surprise me to learn that none of those eggs were fertile. Blacktail's had chicks once, but she's terribly selective when it comes to mating. It's a clever rooster that can persuade Blacktail into a little slap'n'tickle.
The day after Gabrielle and Xena arrived I realised that Blacktail's distinctive eggs were noticeable by their absence again, so I decided to go and have a hunt for her latest hideaway. I always go to the barn first. It's still the most likely place, and more than once I've managed to locate her nest early enough to save the eggs for eating. The only window in the barn is an open hatch near the top. I left the door open to let in some extra light, and started with a diligent search of the floor, scuffing up the stray straw to satisfy myself that Blacktail hadn't left any little presents at ground level. After a few minutes I crossed to the back of the barn and climbed up onto the next level, where we store the bulk of the hay for winter. I began rooting around in the soft dry grass, crawling on my hands and knees. To my delight I soon found what I was looking for. There in a hen-sized depression at the rim of the ledge were two dark brown eggs. I immediately recognised them as Blacktail's distinctive brand, and I leant forward on my belly to reach them.
Just as my hand closed around the small eggs a noise from below startled me. I looked up, and saw Gabrielle and Xena enter, closing the barn door behind them. Their heads were about two feet below mine, and from this distance they couldn't see me in the hay. Gab quickly looked around and found a pitchfork, which she used to brace the door shut. That puzzled me, and I was about to get up and speak to them, when the weirdest thing happened.
My sister leapt up into Xena's arms, wrapped her legs around the warrior's waist, and kissed her.
It was a real doosie of a kiss. Gabrielle grabbed the back of the dark woman's head and planted her lips firmly on Xena's mouth, crushing herself against her armoured chest. What startled me even more was Xena's reaction. She didn't seem surprised at all. She folded her strong arms around my sister's ribs and returned the kiss, thoroughly. I'm not sure, but I think my jaw dropped. I do know my eyes were popping out of my head, because I remember actually feeling the popping sensation. In fact if my eyes had popped much further they would've fallen out of their sockets and rolled around with the eggs I was trying to retrieve. The rest of me froze solid. I was utterly dumb-struck. Looking back I realise that this was significant, because if I'd been able to find either my voice or my motor co-ordination at this point things might have panned out differently. However I can honestly say that this sudden spectacle stilled my breathing to that of a corpse, and sealed me to the ledge like a fly trapped in amber.
As a result, Gabrielle and Xena continued under the illusion that they were alone together in the dimly-lit barn. They broke their kiss after long, dreamy moments, and Xena husked seductive words into Gabrielle's ear.
'I take it you're feeling a little deprived?'
'I'm feeling downright frustrated!' Gabrielle insisted. 'I missed you last night, and I'm going to miss you again tonight... I just have to get some attention in the interim.'
Xena chuckled softly, and placed gentle kisses on my sister's cheek. 'I will do... (kiss)... whatever it takes... (kiss)... to keep you happy.'
Gabrielle smiled at this.
'Ooh good. Well, since we've got a couple of hours to kill...'
She ran her fingers down Xena's firm back and started to unbuckle her armour. I saw Xena's tongue extend and begin to toy with Gabrielle's lower lip. She held her tightly to her waist, carrying Gabrielle's weight easily while the smaller woman peeled away the breastplate and tossed it aside into the straw. Then Gabrielle's hands cupped the warriors leather-clad breasts and began to knead them purposefully. Realising that I had to get some new air into my lungs, I let out a very long, careful breath, and inhaled again. My head spun. Gab and Xena. Xena and Gab. My own sister with this legendary warlord, kissing and groping like a couple of...
Like a couple of equals, I realised. That shocked me. I loved my sister, but when it came to comparing her with the warrior princess I never saw her as much more than a tag-along. I was in the process of discovering, very rapidly, that she had become a great deal more than that.
As I regained control of my limbs I debated what to do. I could get up now, cough sheepishly, and make a swift exit. It would be very embarrassing, I concluded. I wasn't sure how embarrassed they would be, but I knew I would probably dissolve into a puddle if they realised I had seen them.
The alternative was to keep still and just wait until they finished
necking and left.
Indecision swayed me more than anything, because I ended up doing the latter, which in effect was nothing. I lay in the hay with my hand wrapped around a still-warm egg, and watched.
Xena let Gabrielle slide smoothly down on to her feet again. They moved away from the door towards the straw piled up at the back of the barn... and towards me. As they got closer I realised that if they looked directly at me they would probably see me. At least they would see my eyes, wide and blinking at them from the hay loft. I shrank instinctively into the dry grass, and I suddenly panicked that even if they didn't see me they would certainly hear me. I knew Xena had incredible hearing -I'd listened to stories about her being able to detect her enemies' heartbeats in the dark. The possibility that the warrior might locate me set my own pulse thumping.
However at that moment Gabrielle giggled as Xena slipped her tongue into her ear, and my inadvertent movement went unnoticed. I resolved to remain as still as a temple statue.
Gabrielle chose a loose mound of straw stacked up against one of the hay ledge's support posts. It was less than four yards from my position, and I rolled my eyes at my sister's relentless ability to make life awkward for me. She sat down and leaned back into the yielding pile, pulling Xena down towards her. They were almost side-on to me, which gave me a good view of both of their faces in profile. I saw my sister's hands slip up under the warrior's leather tunic, and it occurred to me that Gabrielle was doing most of the running so far. That was another surprise.
'Come on then, soldier,' Gabrielle passed her tongue over her lip seductively, 'show me what you're made of.'
Xena grinned and knelt either side of Gabrielle's legs, leaning forward to plant little kisses along the line of her throat. Gabrielle closed her eyes and lifted her chin, moaning with pleasure. Her hands roamed vigorously under Xena's skirt. I wondered where exactly those small hands were headed, and it then dawned on me that the two women might be here for more than just a bit of necking. I thought back to what my sister had said... two hours until supper-time! Oh gods, I couldn't stay still that long, and if they were going to do what it looked like they were going to do...
I was about to jump up then and there, before it was really too late, but Gabrielle's next move put a stop to that. She leaned up abruptly, seized the warrior by her broad shoulders, and spun her hard onto her back.
My eyebrows shot up in astonishment as my sister began tugging fiercely at Xena's leather. Her quick fingers sought out the laces underneath and loosened them, then tore at the shoulder straps. Within
seconds she was wrenching the tunic down past Xena's hips and hurling it aside, before descending to the warrior's thinly linen-clad body and devouring it with her mouth.
Xena arched up into the rough caresses, her muscled legs dividing as Gabrielle's thighs slipped between them. The warrior reached with long arms and began to stroke my sister's hair, curling strong fingers into the tangling strands as Gabrielle's lips descended into her cleavage. Xena moaned in low, languid tones.
I bit my lower lip. I should have shut my eyes, but that was too much to ask.
Gabrielle sat up and pulled at Xena's linen tunic. The warrior's firm breasts appeared as the pale cloth fell about her waist. She winced and squirmed slightly.
'This straw prickles.'
Gabrielle grabbed the discarded leather tunic and pushed it under Xena's back.
'Better?' she asked.
My eyes widened. Gabrielle called Xena a wimp! Mother of Zeus. Any retort that Xena might have made died in her throat when Gabrielle bent down and trapped one of Xena's nipples in her mouth. I could hear her not-so-gentle sucking, and watched amazed as Gab's hand found Xena's other breast and began to pinch it between a finger and thumb. The warrior gasped under this clearly expert assault, and retaliated by reaching for her assailant's breasts. She began working on the ties of Gabrielle's shirt, but my sister pushed the urgent fingers away.
'No,' she murmured against the warrior's skin.
Xena apparently paid no heed, for her hands returned to explore. Gabrielle swatted them away again, but they returned, insistent. Gabrielle straightened abruptly and grasped Xena's wrists.
'You're not going to behave, are you?'
'Would you?' Xena grinned up at her.
Gabrielle didn't answer, at least not verbally. She reached behind her and swiftly untied the laces from one of Xena's boots, tugging the leather thong free from its holes with a sharp snap. Pressing Xena's hands together, she wrapped the long lace around the warrior's wrists, knotting it tightly. Then she pushed Xena's arms over her head and down against the wooden support, binding them securely to the post. It was a good thing I was already lying down. My entire body turned to jelly in shock. I must have looked like an idiot, lying there with my eyes goggling and my chin slumped in the grass. I probably drooled, for all I know. This had gone beyond the unexpected to the downright unbelievable.
Gaping incredulity wasn't my only reaction. I started to feel a little warm too.
Xena's defenceless chest rose and fell heavily as Gabrielle resumed her aggressive ministrations, teasing the warrior's breasts with her teeth. Xena's nipples stood erect like a couple of sentries, and the woman started to move sensuously against the leather beneath her back. Gabrielle shifted her position so that she was lying directly on top of the warrior, her own legs pressed against the longer ones underneath her. She began to lick a slow but clearly downward path across Xena's trembling abdomen. Her hands pushed under the hem of Xena's tunic, rumpling the linen to a strip of cloth across her hips.
My mouth had gone very dry. I tried to wet my lips, but there didn't seem to be much moisture left on my tongue. I thought I could guess where all my body's moisture reserves were headed right now, as my quickening pulse drew undisputed attention to itself in my groin. Now that was too much. I refused to let myself get turned on by my own sister.
It wasn't Gabrielle, I realised. At least not just Gabrielle. Not even just Xena. It was the whole damn situation, really. Here I was playing little voyeur, while this powerful warrior let my sister put her at her mercy. Dear Gabrielle... she of the angelic face, who used to shy demurely at the boys' tentative kisses, and wept openly for the rabbits we caught for the pot. Now look at her... stripping a tough warlord and tying her up to ravish her.
By the gods, ravish was the word, I realised, stifling a gasp. Gabrielle already had her face buried between Xena's thighs. The warrior groaned loudly, like someone in pain. Her taut arms twisted in their bonds and her legs tugged out from underneath Gabrielle's weight, spreading their invitation. She started to whimper between ragged breaths.
Whatever Gabrielle was doing, she was doing it well. The warrior was clearly in delicious torment.
I steeled myself against the growing urge to move. Where the hay touched my skin it tickled now, showing me little more mercy than my sister was showing Xena. I forced myself to breathe steadily and quietly, determined to wait it out. There was obviously no way I could announce my presence at this late stage. It would only get me killed. I regained some of my composure, and I thought I was actually going to make it through the ordeal, when all the gods on Olympus suddenly decided to curse me at once.
I got cramp in my leg.
I'd been holding my body still and rigid for too long. It hadn't occurred to me to relax, and even if it had I doubt that I'd have been able to do it. Now I was paying the price. If you've ever had severe cramp in your calf then you know that it's one of the most agonising sensations there is. I nearly cried out straight away as the spasm hit me. The pain gripped my bunched flesh like a vice, and the horror of my predicament was not lost on me. Any movement I might make to try to relieve the torture was bound to attract attention.
I struggled to endure it, silently pulling my toes upwards to lengthen the contracting muscles, but it did no good. I gritted my teeth as tears sprang to my eyes, but in the end it proved to be more than I could bear. As Xena cried out into a noisy climax below me, I rolled onto my side and clutched at my leg, rubbing it hard.
'Who's there?!' Gabrielle's voice demanded abruptly.
She'd heard me. Oh bugger.
I lay rigid on my hip, daring to hope that she would dismiss me for a mouse or something. Then I heard her getting to her feet.
'Who *is* that?!!'
Bugger bugger bugger.
She was heading for the wooden steps to the hay loft. There was no doubt about it. I was caught.
I struggled to my knees.
'Just... just me, Gab...'
Gabrielle halted and stared at me, her mouth open.
'I was just getting some eggs...' I reached forward and held up Blacktail's two eggs, displaying them weakly as evidence. Gabrielle didn't register the eggs. Her face just froze. I scrambled down quickly and started towards the barn door, hoping to make a swift exit.
I didn't make it.
With a howl of rage Gabrielle landed on my back, knocking me to the floor. I ended up twisting in the straw as Blacktail's eggs launched into the air. I heard one egg crack against the barn wall. The other rolled away and disappeared.
'You BITCH!' Gabrielle screamed. 'You were WATCHING!!'
A lot of people think Gabrielle is the sweetest creature that ever walked the earth. Well I'm her kid sister, and I know better. Oh sure, she's an exceptional person, with great compassion and incredible bravery. But she's still human, and believe me when I tell you that no emotion sits so easily with Gabrielle as righteous indignation.
I remember an incident which occurred when I was about ten. Gab and I both got into trouble for pouring candle tallow into Megga's cider-press. The thing was we hadn't done it. The real culprits were three brothers who lived at the other end of the village, but the big woman caught Gab and me at the scene and just assumed that we were responsible.
She thrashed us both, but Gab got by far the worst of it because she just couldn't keep her mouth shut. While I whimpered dutifully and promised to be good for the next hundred years, Gabrielle let fly at Megga about the true nature of justice, and the lack of intelligence displayed in her failure to carry out a proper investigation.
It did us absolutely no good whatsoever, least of all Gab's backside, and we ended up limping home with very ginger steps indeed. 'Lesson from the school of life number ninety-nine, Gab,' I told her as soon as we were out of earshot. 'Don't answer back the angry woman with the mean switch.'
Gabrielle just hissed something mostly incoherent about adults having brains made of cream cheese, but I'll never forget the fire that smouldered away in her eyes at that moment.
That fire was there again now. Only they weren't smouldering green coals that burned into me this time. They were raging furnaces. I threw up my arms to protect myself as Gabrielle rained slaps on my head and shoulders. She was sitting on my chest, pinning me down. Years ago I used to be able to beat Gabrielle nine times out of ten, but she'd clearly put on some muscle since she started travelling with the warrior princess. Her legs were toned and hard, and her biceps positively rippled.
Luckily for me she reverted to traditional sibling scrap mode. If my sister had had the presence of mind to tackle me like I hear she tackles bandits on the road, I might be talking through a set of false teeth now. But we were back to sisterly strife here, and I even got in a few slaps of my own.
I was vaguely aware of Xena's voice in the background, asking after us mildly. In some odd corner of my mind I figured it was fortunate that Gabrielle had brought Xena to a climax before she noticed me in the hay loft. I wasn't sure what the results would have been if she'd abandoned the warrior a little earlier, but I had visions of the barn being shaken to its foundations around our ears.
As it was Gabrielle alone was more than I could cope with. It also occurred to me that Gabrielle hadn't had any such release yet, and I shuddered at the realisation that her fury had the fuel-injection of sexual frustration.
'Gab...' I explained feebly, 'I was just looking for Blacktail's nest... and then you came in... and you were already...'
'How COULD you?!!' she shrieked back at me, her face flaming red and her lips drawn back in stricken rage. She pounded me mercilessly. She obviously wasn't listening to me, and even if she were it wouldn't have done me any good. With a mighty effort I threw her off my chest and staggered to my feet.
She was up and grabbed me in an instant. We fought like vicious ten-year-olds, scratching and biting, and hauling each other around by our clothes and anything else we could get a grip on. A clump of her red hair came off in my fist as she spun me down towards the back of the barn.
I landed on the bound warrior.
'Oof!' Xena remarked as my light weight hit her ribs. I gaped up into her face, mortified. She smirked, and winked past my shoulder. 'For me, Gabrielle? How thoughtful. You shouldn't have...'
I felt my cheeks burn, and struggled to get up. I only succeeded in driving my elbow down into Xena's bare breast.
Xena grimaced and hissed in pain.
'S... sorry...' I gulped, horrified at my mistake. I felt Gabrielle's hands gripping my ankle like an iron clamp. Immediately I found myself being dragged down the length of Xena's muscled, semi-naked body (now that's an experience you don't forget in a hurry) and instinctively I grabbed for a hand hold. I could have found more dangerous places to hang on, but my scrabbling fingers caught the heel of Xena's boot. It was the one with no laces, and it slid off her foot in my grasp. I landed heavily in the straw and jerked round, flailing wildly with the new weapon. The floppy end of the boot slapped against the side of Gabrielle's head, spinning her sideways. Taking full advantage of the reprieve, I leapt to my feet and dashed for the door.
She caught me again, this time with a running tackle to my legs. I kicked back and hurled myself forward on my hands and knees, fearfully aware that I had no chance of making it to the wedged pitchfork in time to escape. My right hand brushed against something smooth and cool in the straw, and my fingers closed around a small, familiar shape. It was Blacktail's surviving egg.
I was just desperate enough to do it. I turned on my behind and hurled the egg at my sister with all my strength.
Egg shells vary. In general, the smaller the egg, the thicker the shell, relatively speaking. Our hens produce good shells. They get plenty of grit in their diet, and occasionally a bit of crushed oyster shell mixed in the grain especially for the purpose. Blacktail's eggs in particular are very solid. Usually you can drop them from quite a height before they break. Of course no egg can survive a really fierce throw, not even Blacktail's; but the firmer the shell, the harder the impact; and the harder the impact, the more impressive the results when the shell actually cracks.
This one was a good one. My egg landed smack in the middle of Gabrielle's forehead, and lost its contents indiscriminately. The impact knocked her on her butt, and it must have hurt, but the most significant effect was the splatter of raw yolk and sticky gloop which ended up all over her astonished face, from hairline to chin and from ear to ear. It brought Gabrielle's attack to an abrupt halt. She yelped in disgust and tried to wipe the stuff from her eyes. If I hadn't been so anxious to get out, and so out of breath, I would have broken into laughter at the sight.
Xena absolutely howled.
I made a third break for the door, tugging the pitchfork aside and stumbling out into the daylight. This time my irate sister didn't come after me. The last thing I saw was Gabrielle on her feet again, flinging bits of raw egg from her dripping hands as she shoved the door shut behind me. And the last thing I heard above the warrior's laughter was my sister's threatening tones.
'So you think this is funny, do you Xena? Well that's not very bright, considering I know the location of your one and only tickle spot...'
That night I slept on the blankets by the hearth and let Gab and Xena have my room to themselves. We didn't tell Father. He would have made such a fuss that Xena would've had no choice but to strangle him. When they left the next morning I walked with them to the edge of the village. Gabrielle still hadn't really got over it. She had this kind of permanent pout to her mouth, and an oddly stroppy manner which Xena clearly found very endearing. The warrior was taking it all in her stride, but things had been quite difficult for me after the incident in the barn. At supper Xena kept trying to catch my eye, frequently succeeding, and doing her best to make me laugh with that infectious smirk of hers. I made a mental note that leek soup isn't the easiest choice when you're constantly struggling to keep a straight face.
Needless to say, the warrior no longer intimidated me like she had when she arrived, and I'd certainly learned something new about Gabrielle, much to my sister's discomfort. But Gab still managed to hug and kiss me as we said goodbye.
'Don't think I've forgiven you, Lila,' she warned.
'You'd better be careful what you say to me from now on,' I replied. 'Knowledge is power.'
'Watch it, kid.'
I turned to Xena. I felt I ought to apologise for what had happened, but what do you say? Sorry I crushed your boob while my sister had you stripped and bound in our barn? It seemed a bit ridiculous somehow... To my surprise the armoured warrior kissed me gently on the forehead. 'Take care, Lila.'
Briefly I remembered the sensation of her smooth skin and firm torso beneath mine in the straw, and for a moment I went dizzy. I caught myself in check.
Whoa, Lila! Gab's woman. Don't even think about it.
'Goodbye,' I responded shyly.
I waited until they'd led the horse to the bend in the road, and returned their wave as they disappeared out of sight. I sighed, and turned to walk back to the house. I was surprised to see Blacktail standing behind me, looking up at me sideways with a quizzical eye. That's one lucky bird who won't end up in the broiler broth when her laying days are over.