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A Past Remembered

By Anita Louise Copyright 1997

Chapter Eight

The horse trotted up to the stable, Xena jumped down and led it into the corral and removed the saddle and bridle. Telgor the manager walked up to her and said, "Good to see you again Xena. Your horse is lathered, looks like you have ridden it hard."

Xena glanced up at the man and replied, "Got to go see about something." He scratched his head as he watched the young woman run across the street.

Xena bounded into the Tavern, heading directly to the kitchen. It didn't take her long to find the food. Coming across a saddlebag she stuffed the items into it, turning to leave the room she ran into her mother.

"Want to tell me what is going on?"

Xena stared at the woman replying, "I'm in a hurry."

She found her mother's hands on her shoulders as the woman glared, "Not this time young lady, we need to get a few things straight!" Her mother had pushed her back saying, "Sit down!"

Swallowing hard, Xena sat. She had never seen her mother as angry as she was at that moment and she said, "Mother, it's all right."

Cyrene threw up her hands and said, "Is it me? What have I done that has made you so irresponsible?"

Xena answered, "Nothing, it's just I have . . . "

"No excuses, first I want to know about the bloody clothes, how did that happen? Do you think clothes just grow on trees. It took me time to make them."

Xena looked at her mother and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't ask for that to happen."

Cyrene looked down at her daughter and said, "Sorry, no I will not accept that. You tell me right now, what have you been doing?"

Xena gazed down then said, "It was a wounded animal, I helped it and got blood on my clothes. I was going to try to clean them."

Her mother began pacing the floor and replied, "Animal? Where is it?"

"It's gone now."

"Don't lie to me daughter, I know better. For you to have gotten that much blood on your clothes it would not just be gone, unless it died. If that is the case then I want you to take me to it now!" Xena didn't move and Cyrene said, "Just as I thought, another lie." She stopped pacing in front of Xena and said, "You may think you are to big for a beating young lady, but I can still punish you. As long as you are living under my roof, by the Gods, you will respect me. Now tell me what has been keeping you so occupied?"

Xena softly answered, "I . . . I don't know."

"You don't know, then why has Machina's mother been by here to ask me where you are? He has been missing the same amount of time. Xena, I will not have you sleeping around!" Xena jumped up from the chair, glaring at her mother she said, "How can you even say that? I don't know where Machina's is, he hasn't been with me."

The woman stared into her daughter's eyes and said, "If you are telling me the truth, then you will tell me to where you have been."

Xena shook her head and said, "I . . . I can't?" Cyrene was boiling as she struck out at Xena, slapping her across the face with a resounding blow and said, "How dare you disgrace me. Go to your room!"

Tears were forming in Xena's eyes as she cried, "Mother . . . " She ran from the room and out of the building and crossing the street, she opened the corral gate. It didn't take her long to saddle and bridle the horse as she galloped it from the village.

Her face stinging from her mother's hand, she wept, but not from the slap. The hurt was deep, the thought that her mother didn't trust her and imagined she was a whore, was tearing her up inside. Approaching the cave she reined in the horse and dismounted. Slowly walking into the cave she tried to wipe the wet from her face. Ephiny heard the footsteps as she called out, "I hope you are a friend."

Xena answered, "Friend. Did you get any rest?"

The woman answered, " To be truthful I tried, but this bed is not as restful as you."

Xena walked over, removed the bridle and unsaddled the horse. Taking the saddlebag she walked over to the bed and sat down on the floor. "Got some food, want to try to eat?"

Ephiny looked over and said, "You . . . you've been crying. Did someone hurt you?"

Xena replied, "It doesn't matter. You are the one we have to get well. Let's get you to sit up."

Ephiny smiled at her and said, "Only if you sit by me."

Xena stood up, helping the woman to sit. She handed Ephiny the saddlebag and said, "Take your pick, there is an assortment in there."

Ephiny patted the bed with her left hand, motioning her to sit and Xena said, "I'm not hungry."

"Join me, I don't like to eat alone." The woman stared up at her, her eyes pleading with the woman as Xena replied, "All right, I'll have some."

The months came and went, Xena did not go back home. She hunted the meadow for rabbit and carried water up from the spring. Ephiny's injury had healed nicely and the woman was back to normal. Lycius had visited them on quite a few occasions, he had told Xena how things were at home. He had pleaded with her to let him tell their mother the truth. Xena stubbornly said, "No." The last time he left, he looked over at Ephiny and said, "Try talking her into coming home."

Ephiny walked up to Xena, placing a hand on the woman's shoulder she said, "I'm so sorry, I will go to your home with you and we will tell your mother together."

Xena shook her head and said, "No, it's too late now. There is hurt that can't be undone." Ephiny asked, "Who is Machinas?"

Xena turned to look at her and said, "Our families have promised us in marriage."

"Were you two serious?"

Xena shook her head and replied, "He is just like having another brother. I don't think we would ever have married." They walked back into the cave as Ephiny walked over to the bed staring down at it. Xena walked up behind her and said, "Bet it feels good to be on your feet again."

The woman faced her and said, "To be able to do things on my own, it's wonderful but . . ."

Xena looked at her quizzically, "But?"

"It's just, I miss you."

Xena reached out and touched Ephiny's face with her left hand and said, "What's to miss, I'm right here."

Ephiny smiled at her and replied, "In case I never said it, Thank you, you put your life on the line to help me. Your mother is angry with you, you have lost your home. I feel responsible and I want you to come back with me."

Xena thought for a second and said, "You have told me all about your people and their customs, You sure that they won't insist we join Artemis in union? After all we have been living together for some time."

Ephiny's look became serious as she replied, "I hadn't thought of that, I guess that's the way they would look at it. I don't know. But we have done nothing wrong, our living arrangements have been as if we are family. Our customs, are not your ways."

Xena frowned and said, "I'm not to sure what my way is anymore. I only know I have grown very fond of you. I don't think I could face life without your being a part of mine. I would miss seeing your smiling face."

Ephiny's eyes glimmered as she said, "Me too, guess that makes us a pair, one way or the other."

Xena asked, "How about your friend, Eponin?"

Ephiny seemed deep in thought as she replied, "I have special feelings for her, we had been inseparable through childhood, up until I was injured. I don't know, she may be pledged by now, I don't want to lose you and . . . "

Xena smiled as she said, "I've got to meet this Epnin, she must be some kind of a woman." She turned and walked over to the horse. Ephiny followed stepping close to Xena she brushed against her back and said, "Those feeling's are in the past, Xena, you are my present."

Xena turned as she said, "And if I can never give you what may be wanted?"

Ephiny smiled and replied, "Just being you, gives me all I could ever hope for. The weather will be changing soon, we will have to go if we want to make it back to my village before the storms hit."

Xena said, "I don't know, my one goal for so long was caring for you, and now you really don't need me anymore. I don't know, I have to think about it."

Ephiny walked away saying, "Admit it, life would be boring if I wasn't around to liven it up for you, you'd miss me. Come on let's go take a dip in the lake."

Xena called, "Wait up."

Xena set on the bank watching Ephiny do a high dive from a tall tree. She was amazed at the athletic ability she had. Ephiny was splashing in the water having a great time. "Come on in, it may be the last time." Xena stood up and removed her clothes. Placing the last piece on the ground she dove in, swimming out to meet Ephiny. The two frolicked for some time. When they walked out of the water and put their clothes back on Ephiny jabbed Xena and said, "Bet I can beat you!" She raced past her, Xena smiled and ran after her. Arriving at the cave, Xena started a fire and said, "Need to dry off. Take those clothes off and hang them over here by the fire." She had already begun to remove hers.

The crackling of the fire was sending a cheery glow into the cave. Ephiny walked over picked up a blanket and carried it over to where Xena stood, trying to get warm. Ephiny reached out and placed the blanket around the woman as she said, "Here, it will warm you."

Xena gazed at her and said, "Only if you get in here with me." She was holding up her left arm and Ephiny stepped closer, she pulled the blanket around them. They walked over to the bed and sat down as Xena slowly lay down on her side; Ephiny followed. They lay close together, hugging the blanket around them and Ephiny said, "I could get used to this."

Xena kissed her on the forehead and said, "I've never been this close to anyone."

Ephiny placed her right hand under Xena's chin and softly said, "Me neither."

Lying there, arms wrapped over one another, bodies touching, the two women smiled and closed their eyes.

Continued in Chapter Nine