The open road was a familiar sight to Nadie, and sometimes she felt as if she could drive forever toward the horizon, where the sun touched. Of course, she knew that wasn't possible, as gasoline was limited and cost money. Right now she was low on both, but she hoped she could obtain more of the latter quickly.
"Well, this looks like the place," she said to Ellis as she stopped the car in front of an abandoned house.
Ellis seemed unimpressed as she drew closer to Nadie. "Is there really treasure here?"
Nadie shrugged her shoulders. "That's what the rumors say." She held up an old, wrinkled map. "And that old lady gave us this, and it looks pretty legit."
"But if she had that, why wouldn't she have tried to find the treasure herself?"
"'Cause this place is also rumored to be haunted." Nadie let out a smirk. "If all that's standing between me and easy money are some ghosts, then I can deal with that no problem."
"And I'll protect Nadie from any ghosts!" Ellis' eyes shined with an odd sparkle. "Because I'm a 'witch.'"
Nadie put her arm around Ellis' shoulders and ruffled her hair. "Just be careful, okay? I won't forgive myself if you got hurt because of me."
Ellis smiled brightly. "Yes, sir!"
Nadie simply nodded in response, and she and Ellis got out of the car to stand before the house. It was about the size of a mansion, and had definitely seen better days. Nearly all the windows were broken and part of the roof had collapsed, and weeds and dead plants covered the yard. Perhaps this house had been beautiful once, but now it was just a forgotten monument far away from human settlement.
Nadie shivered as she pulled her cloak tighter around herself. The evening air was chill, even though it was still summer, and the sun was just about to touch the horizon. She had hoped to find the treasure before nightfall, but she had not expected this place to be so far away from the village.
Ellis gripped Nadie's hand, her fingers warm and protective. "Are you cold?" she asked.
"Nah, this breeze is actually pretty nice." Nadie laughed. "C'mon, let's find the treasure before the sun sets."
Ellis nodded, and she continued to hold Nadie's hand tightly as they entered the house.
As they stepped over the threshold, the first thing Nadie noticed was that the interior of the house was in better condition than the outside. Most of the furniture was intact, although covered in layers of thick dust, and it didn't appear as if anyone had been inside here for years. It was almost as if this place was frozen in time, and the absolute silence sent chills down her spine.
However, she tried to reassure herself that just meant it was even likelier that the treasure was still here, waiting for her to claim it.
"I wonder what the treasure could be," she mused aloud as she glanced around. "Money, or maybe loads and loads of precious gems…?"
"Could be memories," Ellis said.
"Hm." Nadie tapped her chin. "Yeah, I get what you mean, but that's not really the kind of treasure I'm looking for. "Can't sell memories, you know."
"Would you if you could?"
"Of course not." Nadie crossed her arms over her chest. "I wouldn't be who I am without my memories, and it'd be creepy to sell someone else's memories."
Ellis was silent a moment, as if mulling over Nadie's words, and then she smiled. "Yes, I agree completely."
Nadie laid her hand on Ellis' head. "So let's find ourselves some physical treasure, all right?"
Thus Nadie and Ellis began their search. Nadie tried to be thorough, searching underneath sheets and through any drawers she could open, and as she went from room to room, Ellis followed her closely, and while she wasn't exactly helping in the search, she didn't get in Nadie's way either. She was strangely silent as she watched Nadie, and more than once Nadie noticed an odd, dark shine in her pale eyes. She wondered if she should say something to Ellis, but unsure of what exactly to say, she instead focused her attention on this search.
She found a few things of interest, although not necessarily of monetary value; old faded photographs of an older woman and a young woman, the occasional old coin, worn dresses that had likely been beautiful once, and the like. Besides the layers of dust, this house was not particularly messy, and often Nadie found herself wondering just how long this house had been empty.
Soon she and Ellis came to the master bedroom, which was fairly sparse. "Well, this is the last room," Nadie muttered to herself, and her eyes fell upon a framed photograph on the dresser.
Ellis peered over Nadie's shoulder. "Another photograph?"
"Seems so." Nadie took the picture into her hands; it was of the same two women, only considerably older. "They look so lovely…"
"What do you think they were like?"
"Who knows? Not like we've found any diaries or letters. But this is a pretty nice house, so they probably lived a comfortable, mundane life together."
Ellis hesitated, her gaze focused on the photograph in Nadie's hands. "So you think they really were happy?"
"Can't say for sure, but I'd like to believe they were." Nadie carefully opened the frame and pulled out the photograph and flipped it over, and she gasped. "Whoa, this is dated from fifty years ago!"
"That's a really long time, isn't it?" Ellis' voice was hardly more than a whisper.
"Yeah, it really is." Nadie rubbed the back of her neck. "Sheesh, just how long has this house been empty?"
Ellis sat upon the edge of the bed, and she was silent a while. "It's so lonely," she finally said, her voice quiet.
Nadie glanced at the photograph in her hands. She had only found pictures of these two women, and if the older woman had passed away first, had the younger woman lived all alone in this house so far away from the village proper until her own death? Was that why this house was rumored to be haunted? Should she and Ellis be thankful they had not stumbled upon a corpse? She let out a heavy sigh and sat beside Ellis. "Why do you ask that, Ellis?" she asked, trying to keep her voice gentle.
Ellis tugged at the hem of her skirt. "Those two women… they might've passed away a long time ago, right? It was just the two of them for a very long time…"
"But if they had each other, they weren't lonely." Nadie put her arm around Ellis' shoulder to draw her closer. "In these photos they look happy together, and even if one of them was left all alone after the other passed away, she still had her memories of their time together."
"Memories…" Ellis repeated as she closed her eyes. "If you can remember someone you've lost, then they're not really gone, right?"
Nadie tried to smile. "Yeah, something like that."
Ellis finally met Nadie's gaze. "Then you'll always remember me?"
"Wha- is that what's been bothering you?" Nadie could not help but laugh. "You're right here with me, so of course I'll always remember you! We're both still young, you know, so our future together is a long, long way ahead of us!"
A faint smile came upon Ellis' lips. "Thank you, Nadie," she said as she rested her head against Nadie's shoulder. "I love you."
Nadie kissed Ellis' forehead; the kisses they shared were still few and far in-between. "Yeah, I love you too."
For a while the two of them sat in silence, and only a few dying rays of sunlight slipped in through the window. Nadie could not pinpoint the exact moment she and Ellis had realized their feelings, but eventually they had become something of a couple, and their relationship hadn't seem to change much at all. Nadie let out a quiet chuckle; perhaps the moment she had resolved to protect Ellis with her life had been when she had fallen in love.
Ellis glanced up at Nadie, and even in this dim light her bright eyes were clear. "Nadie?"
"Ah, it's nothing." Nadie ruffled Ellis' hair. "A little peace and quiet is nice once in a while, that's all."
"But what about the treasure?"
"Oh right, the treasure!" Nadie exclaimed as she shot to her feet. "We need to find the treasure!"
Thus Nadie resumed her search of the bedroom while Ellis simply watched from the bed. However, Nadie still found nothing of value, even as she searched the same drawers over and over, and she left no nook or corner untouched. Yet she repeatedly came up empty-handed, and soon she flopped down onto the bed, completely resigned to her fate, and Ellis patted her head in sympathy.
Eventually, so as not to waste the trip to this place and since this part of the house was in relatively decent condition and the master bedroom's ceiling was still intact, Nadie decided to she would enjoy sleeping in an actual bed, and thus she and Ellis had prepared themselves for sleep and pulled the bed sheets over themselves. The bed was actually quite soft and comfortable, but still agitation filled every fiber of Nadie's being.
"Damn it, should've figured those rumors were total baloney," she muttered. "Even if this house was haunted, real treasure wouldn't go unclaimed for so long…"
Ellis slid closer, laying her arm over Nadie. "But at least we got a bed for tonight, and you're always saying how much you prefer sleeping in actual beds."
"Yeah, that's true." Nadie sighed. "And since we're already here, it'd be a shame to let this bed go to waste."
Ellis was silent, and once more she seemed to avoid Nadie's gaze, and when she finally did speak, it was only a whisper. "Nadie, are you lonely?"
"Eh? What brought that on?"
Ellis' body tensed, and she chewed her bottom lip. "You've been traveling for a long time, haven't you? You were alone when we first met, and you didn't have a home to call your own, and… you still don't have a 'home' - neither of us do…"
"Hm." Nadie hesitated, wanting to choose her words carefully. "Say Ellis, what do you think a home is?"
"Huh?" Ellis blinked in surprise. "It's a place where you live."
"Then I guess by that definition, I don't really have a home." Yet Nadie could not help but smile. "And you're right, I was lonely for a long time, but not anymore, because I'm with you. I don't care where I go, as long as you're with me. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
A rare blush came upon Ellis' cheeks. "I just wanted to make sure…"
Nadie pulled Ellis closer to her, threading her fingers through Ellis' soft hair. "Maybe someday I'll want to settle down somewhere, and I'll want to share that home with you." She smirked. "And besides, didn't you say something about a certain sparkle in my eye?"
Ellis smiled brightly, and her own eyes sparkled as well. "Yes, of course, and that sparkle is like the sun!" she exclaimed as she cupped Nadie's face, and she pressed her lips against Nadie's.
They held the kiss for a while; the taste of Ellis' lips was still unfamiliar to Nadie, and she wanted to savor their warmth. Nadie was no stranger to romance, but their relationship felt oddly subtle somehow, and perhaps when they did find a true home for themselves, she could be more honest with her feelings.
When they finally broke the kiss, Nadie patted Ellis' head. "'Night, Ellis. When you wake up, I'll still be with you."
"Goodnight, Nadie." Ellis rested her head against Nadie's chest. "And thank you."
As sleep came over them, Nadie held Ellis tightly in her arms. Ellis fell asleep first, and she still smiled brightly. "I'll stay with you always, I promise," Nadie whispered as she brushed her lips against Ellis' forehead.
Even if the rumors of easy treasure had been false, this was still pretty nice, Nadie thought to herself.