Naomi drummed her candy-apple nails impatiently on the pass-through window.
“Order up!” Sheila, the longest tenured server, barked and passed Naomi the ticket.
Naomi, always three steps ahead, noticed the customers’ fancy attire and guessed they’d be going for the more expensive items on the menu. She bit her bottom lip, lightly glossed the same shade as her nails. Her scalp itched slightly, but she let the sensation pass, not wanting to loosen a strand of neatly tucked auburn hair.
As she read the order, she grinned slightly. She expertly prepared and cooked her preselected ingredients in thirty minutes flat.
Five years ago, she’d regularly helped her sweet Mamm make meals for her four rambunctious sisters, six silly brothers, and bearded, stone-faced Daed. Plus, her silky locks were kept underneath a common black kapp or bonnet, not her current chef’s lemon-bright head wrap.
Away from barn and kitchen duties, Naomi stole every opportunity to scrutinize her Daed’s trading ledgers, scramble up white oaks like a squirrel, and splash through streams, happily carousing and laughing all the while.
“Half boy,” her Mamm used to chide, with a look both smile and frown.
Naomi took the gentle reproofs with as much good humor as possible, but she bristled nonetheless. Her Daed’s disapproval grew more strident as Naomi blossomed into her nascent womanhood.
During her eighteenth year, Jacob, a strapping and severe young man from the neighboring farm, showed up with maddening regularity. He’d steal furtive and unwelcome glances at Naomi between seemingly important discussions with her Daed.
Despite his judicious use of straw hats, freckles ran riot over Jacob’s milky skin. Nearly imperceptible brown dots, confined to the bridge of Naomi’s nose and cheeks, delicately sprinkled and complimented her old-lace complexion.
One day, Jacob brought her Daed a beautiful sorrel filly. Naomi’s heart filled with affection as the chestnut horse reared, galloped, and charged over the fern-green and fragrant late-summer grass.
That love instantly soured into revulsion as they corralled the horse in a pen.
The terrified foal whinnied piteously as Jacob brutally muzzled and saddled her. Naomi’s Daed blocked off any escape routes the filly could use to bolt free.
After three hours of breaking the will of that noble creature, Naomi’s disinterest in Jacob settled into a firm, abiding, and lifelong hatred.
The polar opposite feeling arose in Naomi’s heart for Anke, Jacob’s enchanting and playful elder sister. Naomi would roll the name around in her head, whispering it to herself on occasion like a mantra: Anke, with coal black tresses, strands of which would sometimes shake loose from her bun and dance around her cordate and ivory countenance; Anke, blessed with a wind-chime voice that would cheer and tease in the same breath, floating through the air from plum, Cupid’s-bow lips; Anke, possessed of a delightfully pert bosom, noticeable even neath her formless sapphire dress.
“What say you this fine day, my sister?” Anke intoned Naomi that fateful afternoon, breaking away from the monotony of yet another one of Jacob’s interminable consultations with Naomi’s father.
Naomi’s freckled cheeks flushed hot flamingo pink, her embarrassment making her look even lovelier. She slightly gulped before shyly giving her reply.
“I am well, my sister,” Naomi answered. “I hope you are in fine spirits, too.”
Anke and Naomi casually strolled barefoot around the farm. They discussed their large families, which relatives had recently married, the babies that were due, and who might be baptized. Gradually, Naomi’s passion for nature replaced small talk. She showed Anke the favorite white oak Naomi still climbed on occasion. They happily splashed through azure streams, shooing croaking eastern cricket frogs out of the way.
As they gamboled through the shallow water, Anke’s sapphire dressed billowed up slightly in the soft summer breeze, revealing shapely calves and ankles. Naomi turned an even deeper shade of pink than before, nearly lavender, and hoped Anke hadn’t noticed. Anke’s bell-like laughter gradually tapered off to silence and she smoothed her dress flat.
“Help me out, Naomi,” Anke implored her. She was easily a foot away from the bank, which was not steep. Anke could have leapt the distance on her own, but instead she held out her lovely, long-fingered hand.
Naomi sauntered towards Anke. Naomi’s chocolate-brown eyes met Anke’s hazel eyes in a prolonged, unblinking gaze. Wordlessly, their fingers entwined and they stepped out of the creek together.
They walked silently, palms pressed tightly, eyes downcast on their synchronized stride. They let go long before they approached the barn.
“Be well, my sister,” Anke said and hurried back to her brother’s side. Jacob frowned at Naomi as they departed.
It was only later that forlorn evening, after meals and chores and cleaning and everyone else had fallen asleep, that Naomi found Anke’s envelope mysteriously pinned inside her apron. Wondering how Anke pulled that off, she read the note concealed within.
After Sunday prayers, most of the older teens from neighboring communities would meet up after church to renew acquaintances. Naomi met Anke by the secluded white oak. Anke described that place in her note to Naomi as “a shelter for the very best of friends.”
As Anke was one year older than both Jacob and Naomi, all were well within their Rumspringa. It was understood by families that some degree of independence was expected before the overwhelming majority of them took the rites of baptism, courted, and married.
Both wore their black Sunday stockings and flat shoes this afternoon. They smiled nervously at each other as they sat in the shade of the old oak tree.
Anke grabbed a handful of grass and threw it at Naomi. It fluttered down above Naomi’s head like emerald snow, fine blades nesting about her kapp. Anke laughed low and heartily.
Naomi, grinning ever so slightly, maintained her composure, and brushed off the blades nonchalantly. She reached for a handful of damp grass, tore it out of the ground, and, without looking, tossed it Anke’s direction. The clump did not separate and smacked Anke’s cheek with a wet thwack.
Anke’s laughter bubbled up in mock outrage and only increased at Naomi’s surprise.
They kneeled facing each other. Naomi used the edge of her purple sleeve to wipe the stain from Anke’s ivory skin. Anke’s and Naomi’s laughter blended together as Naomi made tidy amends.
As she wiped, Naomi again noticed the plum shade of Anke’s dear mouth.
“There,” Naomi sighed and finished. “All better now.”
Naomi lowered her hands to her lap, which settled in Anke’s open palms.
Thunder rumbled in the distance.
They drew close enough to taste shared breath, to encircle waists and shoulders with trembling arms. Noses bumped with searching, increasing, tantalizing delight and, ultimately, naturally, they kissed. Full, slow, quivering splashes of audible delight echoed in their hearts. Those kisses tickled their toes and trembled through parts deemed accursed, parts now transformed at that forever moment from unmentionable secret to shared discovery.
“Anke,” the name whispered in the distance.
“Anke,” the name repeated, slightly louder, increasingly urgent.
“Anke!” the name sharply echoed over the farm, snapping Anke and Naomi out of their reverie.
They turned their heads to spot Jacob in the distance, an unblinking scarecrow staring in their direction.
“Oh, no!” Anke gasped, tore herself from Naomi’s tight embrace, and ran to her brother with alarming speed.
“Wait!” Naomi cried out from the depths of her shattered love, standing and stretching out one desperate, pleading arm. Jacob and Anke vanished over the cloudy horizon.
Naomi froze in that position, pelted by punishing raindrops that masked her overflowing tears, thunder drowning out her heart-wrenching sobs.
Naomi floated in a daze now. Food had no flavor. Sunlight didn’t gladden. Days passed monotonously in a dreary sameness.
One evening, Naomi’s Daed casually mentioned that Jacob had officially let it be known that he intended to court her. Today, her father’s stern face lit up with a smile of undeniable pleasure.
Naomi’s smile masked her true feelings as everyone turned in her direction. “I will consider his offer in due time, Daed,” she spoke, neither confirming affection nor distaste.
“Don’t dawdle, my dear,” her Daed playfully chided, considering the matter all but settled. Her Mamm pinched her Daed’s shoulder, slightly correcting him for the sin of pride.
It was Anke’s forthcoming marriage that truly sunk Naomi.
She wracked her brain wondering how this could possibly happen. The glorious afternoon of The Kiss was equally Naomi’s future happiness and current aching despair. Naomi knew Anke felt the same. Yet Anke’s actions contradicted this. Young women were expected to marry in Naomi’s world, but the speed of Anke’s decision confused and enraged her. Naomi understood that expressing her love publicly for Anke was an impossibility they both might never survive, but she expected at least some resistance from Anke, some acknowledgement of their secret truth, although she had no idea how that could ever come to pass.
He was a decent enough young man: tall, healthy, and even tempered. Their courtship was the talk of the community. Everyone else agreed it was a perfect match. Anke took the rites of baptism along with her beau and professed her faith publicly, now making their marriage all but inevitable. That day, from behind a fence, Naomi spied on them as they came outside.
Anke now possessed the drained and defeated demeanor of the broken filly.
One afternoon, Naomi went to town carrying a bag over her shoulder. She often went to retrieve items her family could not obtain anywhere else but the local department store, a good ten miles away. Although it was considered somewhat unseemly for a young woman to do this alone, her parents raised no strenuous objection as Naomi proved herself to be responsible in these matters. Truth be told, her Daed appreciated her newly subdued manner these days and agreed without complaint.
Jacob met her on the road outside her family’s farm.
“May I walk with you?” Jacob eagerly offered.
“In due time,” replied Naomi, eyes lowered.
Jacob started to follow her. Naomi wheeled around to face him.
“In due time, Jacob,” Naomi spoke with surprising firmness, meeting his gaze. “Do not follow me.”
Jacob stood awkwardly in the road as she retreated into the distance. Jacob thought about secretly following her anyway, but knew if word got back to Naomi that he had done this, it would decrease his chances with her. His father assured him that women, especially young women, sometimes put up a show of mock defiance before eventually succumbing. Jacob presumed that’s what Naomi was doing. If Jacob possessed any real experience with women, he would have correctly recognized Naomi’s fiery glare as contempt.
Day turned into night. Morning arose on the farm, Naomi nowhere to be seen. When day turned into night yet again, her Mamm thought about contacting the outsiders for help locating her wayward daughter.
She gathered her bedclothes for washing and found Naomi’s letter, neatly tucked into her pillowcase. As her Mamm sat down on the bed, she knew what she would read. Her sister Ruby, the only member of her community that she knew with certainty had successfully left, wrote such a letter to their Mamm twenty years ago.
As she read Naomi’s letter tearfully, her Mamm’s heart swelled with grief and pride at her strong-willed daughter’s determination.
“I wish you well, my dear,” Naomi’s Mamm whispered. She collapsed on the bed, moaning like a wounded animal.
Anke’s marriage solidified Naomi’s will to leave. Naomi vowed she would never be tamed.
Scrutinizing her Daed’s old business ledgers, she discovered Ruby’s phone number.
Naomi finished her chores without complaint now, making sure to remain outwardly obedient and submissive. Her siblings wondered aloud at the change in her demeanor, but their Mamm hinted this is what happened to women in love. Hearing of Jacob’s intent to court Naomi, they assumed that love was for him.
Naomi increased her walking trips to the department store, bringing back cleaning utensils and small tools. Her legs and back strengthened as her desperation increased. She reminded herself to wait, vowing to contact Ruby on a future trip. Naomi desperately wished to make that call right then.
While at the department store, she noticed how the outsiders stared at people from her community. The rude ones raised devices that made clicking sounds. Naomi knew these were phones, not like the landlines running into certain neighbors’ houses, but ones that you could carry.
She spoke to cashiers to find out how to obtain one of these phones. They directed her to the aisle where they carried what were called burners. These burners were not the same as the rectangles the outsiders carried, but were smaller plastic devices with lids that flipped up and down. The cashier assured Naomi that you could make calls with them just like the rectangles. With the money saved for what her family assumed was her upcoming wedding to Jacob, Naomi purchased a burner. The cashier showed her how to insert the subscriber identity module card, recharge and remove the battery, and activate the phone.
On Naomi's tenth trip to the department store, she put her plan into action. She went to a changing room, put her clothes into the sack, and donned the clothes she purchased earlier: violet rayon shorts, a black baseball cap, sunglasses, a pumpkin colored t-shirt, and Vans low-top sneakers.
Looking in the mirror was like looking at a completely different person. At first glance, she thought she would pass for one of the outsiders. She departed and asked the cashier to guard her bag.
Naomi took a real risk. People in her community could have spotted her. She hoped her disguise was convincing enough to fool them.
Naomi went to a charging station, assembled her phone, plugged it in and waited ten minutes, then made the call to Ruby.
“Hello,” a warm voice answered.
“Is this Ruby?” Naomi queried impatiently.
“Yes,” Ruby answered, slightly annoyed. “Who may I ask is calling?”
“Auntie Ruby,” Naomi answered, “this is your niece. My name’s Naomi.”
Ruby didn’t answer for what seemed like the longest time. Ruby asked for Naomi’s picture. Naomi didn’t know how to do that. Ruby instructed Naomi how to take a picture of herself and send it.
After she received the selfie, Ruby’s warm voice floated over the phone again.
“Naomi, you’re lovely,” she confessed.
Naomi’s cheeks burned and she imagined they were as pink as cotton candy. Ruby sent her selfie to Naomi. When Naomi opened it, she stared at a composed and mature woman. Ruby looked very much like an outsider in dress but not in deportment. Ruby was appropriately named, with a short, coppery mane and the smattering of freckles that were common in Naomi’s family.
Naomi spilled her story unashamedly now, keeping her cries and desperation as quiet as possible. Ruby’s heart leapt out to her niece. Naomi’s story was very much like Ruby’s so many years ago. They put in place the plan for Ruby to come retrieve Naomi on her eleventh trip to the department store. Naomi hung up, broke down her phone, retrieved her bag from the cashier, slipped on her old clothes in the changing room, placed her phone and new clothes in the sack, and headed back to the farm.
Jacob had almost ruined her plans that day, but Naomi kept her composure and sent him on his way. Naomi’s pace quickened almost to a jog.
She reached the store and ran for the changing room. She changed into her outsider’s uniform, assembled and charged up the phone, and called Ruby.
It seemed like the world stood still but only a few seconds later, Ruby answered.
“Please come get me,” Naomi begged.
“I’ll be right there,” Ruby assured her.
Naomi, holding her canvas bag, exited the store for the last time. A silver sedan pulled up front. An elegant red-haired woman emerged from the driver’s side.
“Naomi?” Ruby said, her warm smile flashing at the woman in the baseball cap and sunglasses.
Naomi nearly smothered Ruby with a bear hug.
“Are you sure you want to do this, dear?” Ruby asked Naomi, making sure this wasn’t simply a teenage tantrum.
“Let’s go,” Naomi exhaled. Ruby knew by the sound of Naomi’s voice that this was the decision of a confident young woman ready to walk the path anywhere her future life lead her.
Naomi tossed the canvas bag in a dumpster and hopped into the passenger side of the sedan.
In five days, they reached their eventual destination: Santa Monica, California.
Naomi sometimes couldn’t believe her escape was five years ago. She occasionally pinched herself as a reminder that her new life wasn’t a hallucination.
While staying with Ruby, Naomi obtained her general education diploma, driver’s license, and employment. However, she was determined to strike out on her own. Although Ruby loved that young woman like a daughter, she wished Naomi well.
Freshly independent, Naomi obtained her own apartment, learned to apply cosmetics correctly, styled her own hair (or went to salons for touch-ups), found jewelry that complimented her, got a job cooking for money, set her own schedule, bought sex toys that she (gasp!) thoroughly enjoyed, relaxed during her newly free weekends, and met Kendasha.
That day on the beach, Kendasha sported gorgeous brown ropes of dreadlocked hair that lovingly framed her deep-chocolate, heart-shaped face. Kendasha spoke in a seductive contralto. Neon-yellow polish adorned her fingertips and prettily sandaled toes. Her gold anklets and bracelets chimed when she walked. Her tangerine spaghetti-strap tank top and cream-colored booty shorts hugged her beautiful breasts and wondrous backside invitingly.
In her mulberry one-piece swimsuit and pale sun hat, Naomi lounged on her beach towel. Years removed from her former life, she still felt naked dressing like this. It was a nakedness no one noticed but her. She was lost in a novel as Kendasha approached her a few minutes later. Naomi’s cheeks flooded with long-forgotten heat and color.
Kendasha straight up invited Naomi to Pride. Aghast, Naomi looked around to see if anyone noticed, which no one did, and asked Kendasha how she knew.
Delightful laughter bubbled up between Kendasha’s full, nude-painted lips as she pointed at Naomi’s novel: Tipping the Velvet.
A week later, Naomi attended her first Pride parade with Kendasha. It was a whirlwind of discovery and recognition. So many thousands of people, different than Naomi yet the same as her, celebrated and affirmed their lives off the beaten path, their love without restrictions, their desire without fear.
“Happy Pride, Naomi!” Kendasha shouted over the crowd and handed her a gift box.
“You shouldn’t have!” Naomi yelled, pleasantly astonished.
Naomi ripped open the tiny package. Inside was a jade horse attached by its head to a black string necklace. It was posed as if rearing up on hind legs.
Naomi looked positively dumbfounded as Kendasha placed it around her delicate neck. Naomi looked deeply into Kendasha’s wondrous eyes and kissed her. Full, slow, quivering splashes of audible delight echoed in Naomi’s heart for the second time in her young life. The nearest thunderstorms were thousands of miles away.
At sunset, Naomi and Kendasha returned to the beach. The sun blazed a fiery red retreat into the ocean.
Kendasha and Naomi kissed and kissed again. Their eager hands stripped away each other’s clothes. A bracing evening wind slapped their bare bodies.
Naomi slowly kissed down Kendasha’s torso. She suckled her chocolatey nipples, stiffened not only by the approaching cool of night, but also by a deep well of desire. Naomi traced Kendasha’s belly button with the tip of her tongue. Eventually, Naomi lapped, kissed, stroked, and fingered the very center of her. Kendasha cried out Naomi’s name over and over again, shaking and trembling.
Kendasha returned the favor and pushed Naomi on her back. As Kendasha sucked Naomi’s strawberry-tipped breasts, she also fingered her slick, damp, tingling clit. Kendasha’s fingers scratched Naomi’s trimmed pubic hair. She euphorically noticed it was shaved into the shape of a valentine.
Kendasha went down on Naomi over and over, licking, slurping, tickling, and fondling her clit to shivering, life-altering, bountiful surrender.
The setting sun bathed them both with deep crimson light. At this second eternal moment in her life, Naomi knew deep in the core of her very being that she had finally found home.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.