"It's never too late to come back, you know." The words catch Kristine at the end of a long day, slipping into her ears just as she's sore and tired and her short dark hair is clinging to her scalp with sweat and she's attempting to wrangle seven grocery bags into the elevator with just two hands. She tries to pretend she doesn't hear them over the sound of the whining alert that serves to remind her that the door can't close until she gets her last sack of produce out of the way, but it's too late. The moment she knows who's talking, the warm familiar sensation of nostalgia steals over Kristine and makes her smile faintly before she can catch herself and convince her treacherous mouth to frown instead. It's not a good start to the encounter.
"Jessamyn," she sighs, working a little bit quicker in what she knows is an utterly futile attempt to get her things inside the elevator before the tall Caucasian woman in the dark red robes can get inside. It's hard to get upset, though, when Kristine's every instinct tells her that she's absolutely thrilled to see her old friend again. Despite everything she knows and everything she remembers, Kristine can't stop feeling that same warm rush of nostalgic bliss from flowing through her all over again when she sees that little lock of wayward blonde hair peeking out from Jessamyn's hood. It's... it's not good to run into Jessamyn right now, she tells herself. It's not good at all. But at the same time, it very much is.
"Here," the taller woman says, her voice filled with amused exasperation as she hefts two bags of groceries and hauls them into the elevator. "Let me help you with these. You know you wouldn't have to do this at home, don't you? You could just volunteer in the community kitchen and sneak all the extra bites you want while you make the food." Kristine's hit by a wave of memories so intense that it makes her eyelids flutter, and for an instant she doesn't even see the lobby of her apartment building or the inside of the elevator. She only sees a large, clean room filled with enough sinks and counters and ovens to cook for a thousand.
They were always laughing together then, Jessamyn's bright blue eyes sparkling with cheer and affection virtually nonstop as the two of them worked. Even when Kristine spent the whole day in the kitchen with Jessamyn, wearing nothing but an apron to keep from getting spattered with hot grease and washing dishes for hours at a time and falling into bed exhausted, Kristine was always happy volunteering. Every morning, she hopped to her feet before the sun rose, ignoring her aches and pains, jumping into the shower with Jessamyn and the others--
Kristine forces the memory away with an effort born of long practice, pulling the last bag free and finally allowing the door to shut. "I don't want to volunteer at the community kitchen," she snaps, filling her voice with an anger that she doesn't really feel. "I want to work at a job and earn my own money that I decide what I want to spend it on. I want to come home and put away my groceries and make food for myself and eat it in front of the television watching reruns of 'Friends', okay?" The tug of those memories is still there every time she closes her eyes, filling her with warm bliss every time she thinks of scrubbing up for the morning's chores. But she tells herself it's a lie.
Jessamyn squeezes her shoulder companionably. Kristine could have her kicked out of the building, but every time she thinks about it she feels a familiar rush of affection toward her old friend and she relents before she even reaches for her phone. "And if that's what you want," the blonde woman says, her voice dripping with understanding, "then of course we're happy to let you keep on with that course. You know that, Kris. I'm not here to take you back. That's not how the Church works. I'm just here to remind you that the door is always open for you whenever you want to return to us." She recites the words as though she's not aware of the deep, profound wave of joy Kristine feels whenever she thinks about walking through the big double doors and seeing the smiles on the faces of her family--her true family--when they see her. As though Jessamyn doesn't know exactly how bad she twists the knife every time she shows up.
It's a lie, Kristine reminds herself. It's a lie it's a lie it's a lie. The elevator bell dings for the fourth floor, and Kristine's pale arms glisten with summer sweat as she begins to unload the groceries.
Of course Jessamyn helps. Of course it stirs memories of the trucks pulling up to the loading dock at the back of the apartments on 28th Street, all the young women shimmying into the Church's red robes to hide their nudity as they work together to pull crates of food and supplies off the trailers. Of course Kristine feels a surge of nostalgic happiness at the way they all joined in as a community, united in a shared purpose and a shared vision. Of course Kristine loses herself in the memories multiple times before she can pull herself together and bring the bags down the hall to her tiny one-bedroom apartment that always smells musty no matter how many times she cleans it. And of course she lets Jessamyn inside.
Once the door is closed, Jessamyn shrugs off the robes to reveal a smooth, perfectly formed body with long legs and small, delectable breasts. "I know you don't mind," she says lightly, slipping out of her sandals and beginning to put away groceries with practiced ease. It's disconcerting to Kristine to notice that she still organizes her cupboards the same way she did back when she was with the Church. It's even more disconcerting to realize that she can't tear her eyes off of Jessamyn's beautiful tight butt as the blonde squats down, stretches up, and walks around the tiny kitchen.
Kristine's already wet--she's been wet ever since she saw her old friend back in the lobby and that first rush of nostalgia made her pussy surge with tight, hot pleasure--but she's getting wetter watching Jessamyn at work. She wants to strip off her clothes and join the other woman in blissful nudity, but she knows the memories it would stir and she knows it would make it even harder to resist the urges she's feeling. She'd only think about--
But of course, as soon as she thinks about what she'd think about, she's already thinking about it. Days in the springtime in the courtyard on the 28th Street block, every building owned by the church and all the sightlines rigidly controlled so the acolytes could wander naked in the sunshine and tend the communal gardens. Evenings in the dorms, visiting the church elders and showing their appreciation for the wonderful life of service and community with their lips and tongues. Nights sleeping blissfully with their roommates, wrapped up four to a bed and cuddling each other. Mornings spent working on the crafts they sold online to pay for the Church's operations, or volunteering to do chores. So much joy. So much happiness. It's almost overwhelming.
But only almost. "I, I'm just going to leave you to it," Kristine says, her voice strained. She stumbles into the living room, sitting down hard on the sofa and staring at the shirt in her hand as if she can't quite figure out how it got there. With a hard shake of her head, she fumbles for the remote and turns on the old television set she picked up at a thrift store, pulling up the dumbest and most perverse reality show she can find as an antidote to the constant pounding of memories against her brain. It took her years to rebuild her independence to the point where she had her own place and her own things. She's not going to go back. Not today.
That's what she tells herself. But then Jessamyn comes out, her skin glowing from the mild exertion, and plops herself down on the couch next to Kristine. "Oh, you look so cute!" she squeals, leaning over and giving Kristine a hug that triggers a thousand thousand sense memories all at once, each and every one of them filled with a delight so pure and perfect that Kristine's hazel eyes roll back in her head and her cunt clenches hard around imaginary fingers. "You've got love handles now," Jessamyn teases, squeezing Kristine's hip affectionately. "If you came back, I'd make sure you got plenty of exercise."
Kristine's tempted to remind Jessamyn that she could leave instead, but she clamps down hard on the impulse. She's worked very hard to ensure that there are no reminders of the Church of the Opened Consciousness anywhere in her life--not in her tiny apartment, not on her computer, not even on the carefully chosen route she takes to work every morning. Even if she could convince Jessamyn to leave the only family she had, spending time together like this would constantly remind each other of the life they'd left behind. And sooner or later, that would inexorably draw them both back into the Church's clutches.
Instead, Kristine carefully disengages herself from the other woman and rises to her feet. "You know why I can't come back," she says, her voice soft and sad and almost pleading. "You were there too, you saw all the same things I did. It's all a lie, Jessamyn. It's always been a lie. They didn't open our consciousness, they--" Kristine breaks off, choked into silence by emotion. The worst part is that even this memory brings her so much joy. Even the day she discovered the truth about the elders and the secret they hid, the awful things they saw up in the topmost attic, it all reminds her of the Church. And every thought of the Church of the Opened Consciousness is pleasure to her now.
Now and apparently forever, despite all her best efforts to the contrary.
"I know what they did," Jessamyn coos softly, reaching out to caress the small of Kristine's back with one hand and turning off the television with the other. Her fingers remember exactly how Kristine loves to be touched, all their time together giving her an expert's knowledge of everything that brings the smaller woman pleasure. "You're right, I was there. I saw the Devoted hard at work. They sacrificed so much of themselves for us, Kristine. They gave their entire lives over to service to the Church's ultimate vision. How can I not honor that sacrifice? How can I not embrace these feelings they gave to us knowing how much they gave up to provide them?"
Jessamyn's fingers slide lower, teasing at the waistband of Kristine's skirt, pushing it down a little further with every passing moment. "It's not real, though!" Kristine cries out, frustration almost pushing aside the waves of pleasure that only grow stronger at the memory of the blonde woman's touch. "They, they pushed into our heads and they forced us to feel this way! They took away our ability to feel sorrow, or anger, or pain! How can you live a life knowing that you don't have a choice in what you even think?"
Jessamyn only chuckles, her hands now stroking Kristine's bare ass. The skirt is on the floor, her soaking panties are around her thighs, but Kristine can't seem to make the other woman stop. Not when it feels so good. Not when it reminds her of all those good times they had together. "You can still choose, Kristine. You've proven that. You chose to walk away from all that joy and love and happiness, and you've got a surfeit of sorrows and angers and pains to show for it. Just because those feelings are imposed doesn't make them any less real. If you came back to us, you'd see that."
Kristine tries to take a step forward, but it comes off as an undignified waddle with her legs hobbled by her own underwear like this. It does nothing to prevent Jessamyn from reaching between the brunette's thighs and caressing her furry pussy. "I... I can't," she says, now on the verge of tears. "What I've made here is real. It matters to me. The joys might be tinier, they might be tempered with sorrow. But I made it. It wasn't forced on me." She wishes she could believe that she's getting through to Jessamyn, but they've had this same argument so many times now that they could almost recite each other's side of it.
"And if you returned," Jessamyn purrs, her voice every bit as seductive as the fingers that find Kristine's clit and lightly rub it in slow, sensuous circles, "it would be your choice then, too. You could embrace the happiness the Devoted gave to us. You could choose a life free from suffering, free from misery. Nothing but joy, Kristine. Nothing but joy forever in the embrace of your true and loving family."
It's almost enough. One day, Kristine knows, it will be. One day, she'll return home after a day with a few too many frustrations and her misery-packed heart will crack with the strain of resisting the unnatural, perverse joy that comes to her every time she thinks of the Church and everything associated with it. The power of the Devoted, trapped up there in the dusty attic with their surgically altered, chemically mutated brains that knew nothing but bliss and broadcast it to all the acolytes of the Church of the Opened Consciousness, will prove too strong for Kristine and she'll collapse back into ecstasy. She'll allow Jessamyn to finger her to orgasm and then the two of them will leave together and sink into the control of the Elders forever.
But not today. "I think you should leave," Kristine says, turning around and pulling up her panties. It's not easy. It's never easy. But Kristine looks around her tiny little apartment with its stupid couch scavenged off a street corner and her coffee table that's really just an old cable spool she found in an industrial dumpster and the deformed throw pillows she made herself after watching an online how-to video, and remembers that this is hers. Every last bit of it is hers. Every tiny scrap of joy in this room is here because she scratched and clawed and fought to make it happen, and she refuses to give a single goddamned one of them up. Her voice is cold and very very final.
As final as it can get, anyway. "Of course, beautiful," Jessamyn says, rising to her feet and heading for the door. "You know you always have a choice." It's another lie, and they both know it--Kristine can weigh up her choices all day and every day, but Jessamyn and the Church always have a finger on the scales. She's leaving because she knows she can come back tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, and the tomorrow after that. She's every bit as certain that she can wear her friend and lover down as Kristine is that she can resist.
She puts on her robe and sandals and opens the door. "But it's never too late to come back," she says, looking back one final time before she leaves. Kristine listens to her footsteps as they depart. She waits until there's nothing but silence in the apartment. Only then does she sit down at the couch and rub her pussy through one explosive orgasm after another to the memories of a lover she can never, ever forget.