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by Celeste Castro
Destiny “Dusty” Del Carmen is a bestselling author and much sought-after speaker. An invitation to the Northwest Urban Indian Federation’s annual conference brings Dusty back to her “home” state of Idaho—the one place she swore she would never return to. Dusty does what she does best—smothers the painful memories of her past and picks up the smoking hot bartender at the local lesbian hangout.
Professor Morgan West is eager to attend the Federation’s annual conference and to meet the famous Destiny Del Carmen. A chance encounter leaves them trapped in a rustic cabin and Dusty has nowhere to run from her past pain—or her present fears. Will this accident of fate finally lead her home?
Lambda Literary Review
Homecoming is a study in what can happen when a young lesbian is outed and subsequently left without support of family and friends. Castro has given us a good first effort, a romantic story showing us how Dusty and Morgan struggle to overcome their anxieties and their insecurities, making us hopeful for a happy ending with Dusty finally able to return home.
Rainbow Book Reviews
I love it when a book seems like it’s going to follow a formulaic storyline and then surprises me with something much deeper. At first glance ‘Homecoming’ appears to be that old classic—lesbian kicked out of home returns to home area and deals with all the old memories while falling in love. And it is that, on the surface, but it bites a little deeper and avoids a lot of the clichéd scenes that other similar stories tend to trot out. I loved both Dusty and Morgan, even when Dusty was being an *ss! I also loved how, while there were secondary characters whom each of Dusty and Morgan could confide in, it really was just all about the two main characters, and as such, the author gave me a great insight to their thoughts and feelings. Definitely recommended.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” said Dusty. “The workshop is in Idaho? Like Idaho state?” She sat bolt upright in her agent’s large leather chair, gearing up for combat.
“Yes, Dusty, like Idaho state, like Idaho famous potatoes, our neighbors to the…is there another Idaho that you want to tell me about?” Dusty saw Teggy brace herself for a duel of wits with her. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d tangled. Dusty, aka Destiny del Carmen, knew she was notoriously temperamental. She was also Teggy’s best-selling author, something she hoped would give her a fighting chance. “Look, I know it’s probably the last place you thought you would be going, but…”
“But? No, there is no but. I am not going to Idaho for that workshop. I’ll participate in any other workshop, in any other state, but not Idaho,” Dusty said. “Besides I just got back from three weeks in Manhattan doing what you said would be my last talk until the summer. I need some time to myself. I haven’t ridden my horses in ages. I need to start researching my next project. My barn needs a new roof.”
She took a deep, calming breath and stared at the ceiling, running her hands through her long wavy black hair. “Sorry, Teggy. Not gonna happen.”
“You said you would do it. They are expecting you to be the keynote speaker. Are you really going to back out?”
“That was before I knew it was in Idaho. Christ! Of all goddamn places.” She groaned.
Yes, the Northwest Urban Indian Federation’s annual conference was about issues important to her. But Idaho was the one place she swore she would never set foot in ever again. Even though it had been over fifteen years since she had left—was forced to leave.
“Hear me out, okay?”
“And let me finish,” said Teggy. Her voice took on an impatient edge. “This is a great opportunity for you. Your work has helped a lot of people, and it has the ability to help a whole lot more.” Teggy’s eyes met Dusty’s. “You know as well as I do progress can only be made if the community advocates can convince the legislature to support a bill or draft a lawsuit. You being at this workshop will help add fuel to the fire that is starting in that community.
“They need to hear your story from your mouth,” she continued. “These people—these families—need an extra push to jump-start the advocacy campaign. It is now or never. You want Native American families to have a chance at the justice they deserve? Give them that chance. Go to the workshop and be there for them.”
Dusty closed her eyes and sighed deeply and audibly. She knew Teggy was right. Her book had helped families not only in Washington, but also in neighboring Oregon, and now Idaho was pursuing its own solution. Her presence at such workshops and gatherings helped groups give their advocacy campaigns the kick start needed to get the attention of politicians.
No, she couldn’t turn her back on those who wanted to replicate her framework in their states. She couldn’t say no to her agent either. She owed Teggy in more ways than one. She didn’t want to let her down, she didn’t want to let the families down. But she wasn’t ready to face going back to her hometown.
“Look,” said Teggy as she moved from behind her desk to sit next to Dusty. She took Dusty’s hand in her own and met her eyes. “The workshop is only a week long.”
Dusty’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. “A week?” A week was a short stay somewhere when she was on a book tour or doing research. In Idaho, it would feel like a year. Teggy continued with the same amount of caution she would take in approaching a feral cat with the intention of trimming its nails.
“It is being held in the mountains at a place called McCaw.”
“You mean McCall?”
“Yeah, McCall, that’s what I said.”
“You said McCaw.”
“No, I said—” She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. “You’re stalling and it’s not working.”
“No,” said Teggy as she retrieved the folder on her desk. “I have the papers around here somewhere. Oh yes, like I said, McCall. It looks beautiful. There are all sorts of outdoor things to do. It’s being held at a resort-type place, Bear Creek Cabins, in the Payette National Forest. You won’t even have to be in the city for most of the trip.”
“Most of the trip?” said Dusty, eyebrows raised as she got up and moved to her agent’s sixteenth-floor window. She used two fingers to lift the mini-blinds open to look out onto the South Lake Union cityscape below, unable to really see anything save the peaks of several yellow construction cranes. The buildings were obscured by the Seattle gray.
“Hold on, let me finish. Take your hiking gear and make a personal retreat out of it. Simply deliver a stunning keynote address, participate in a couple of the moderated panel discussions, and the rest of the time is yours to relax, hike, watch a sunset—hell, watch a sunrise. What do you say?” Teggy paused. “Come on, give Idaho another chance. You’re an adult now, a successful writer with nothing more to prove.”
Dusty sighed deeply, biting the side of her cheek. Teggy had kept her busy lately—had been running her into the ground. Especially after the success of Reservations. The book had put her on the map as a serious writer. She scarcely had time to herself anymore. And time alone was what she craved. It was why she built her home on a large piece of remote acreage well outside Seattle. Her farmhouse, nestled against thick forested land, made it easy for her to enjoy complete solitude and disappear for days at a time with her horses. But lately she hadn’t been home long enough for such pleasures.
The more she thought about relaxing, the better a trip to the mountains felt. Her head had been clouded of late.
After a long and overly dramatic sigh, Dusty said, “Fine, I’ll do it. I’ll participate in the workshop. I’ll go to Idaho, and when the last panel discussion is over, I want to come home on the very next flight back to Seattle.”
“Of course, of course. You won’t have to stay there a minute more. Just stick to the schedule and you’ll be out of there, you have my word.”
“And,” Dusty said as she crossed her arms and fell back into the leather chair, “I am never going back, and I want that in my contract when it comes due.” Teggy laughed, and she looked up. “I’m serious.”
“Of course you are. It’s a funny demand, that’s all.”
Dusty said nothing, because she knew more was coming.
“There is one more thing,” Teggy said.
“What?” Dusty looked at the older woman, who was peering over reading glasses perched low on her nose.
“It’s just a silly little favor, really, but it’s important.”
“A friend from graduate school is a professor,” Teggy began. “Actually, she’s the chair of the Institute of Public Service at Boise State University. She singlehandedly started the department for the university. She’s brilliant, driven—a real grassroots organizer there in Idaho. In fact, she helped put BSU on the map because of her service learning projects and helped bring national attention to it for something other than its blue football turf.
“Well, it was in her class that this whole thing, the Idaho advocacy campaign, was born. One of her graduate students, a Native American from the Shoshone Bannock Tribe, designed the advocacy campaign as his senior thesis. He too had watched his family and friends suffer violence without consequences on the reservation. He read your book and it lit a fire in him, in all of them, her whole class. He, along with his classmates and the professor, invested a lot of time into the campaign. They were so effective with their design they got the attention of the nonprofits and successful community advocates. In fact, they are taking the lawsuit angle, claiming that justice is a basic civil right, treaty or no treaty.”
“Interesting angle,” said Dusty. She tapped her finger on her lip and looked up. “Very interesting. But to be honest, I really don’t feel like doing any more academic presentations on this one. The last one I did was a mess. Those kids were a hell of a lot smarter than me.” She laughed, remembering all the questions they had about the tone and style of her book.
“That’s not what I had in mind.”
“So what do you want me to do—go to their class and give them a motivational speech or something?” She laughed again.
“No way. Absolutely not. I won’t go into the city.”
“It won’t take you but two hours max and plus…you will really like her. She…” Teggy stumbled for appeasing words. “She likes outdoorsy types of things like you do.”
“Really?” Dusty smirked. “Outdoorsy things? And why do I have to like her anyway?”
“She’s attending the workshop in McCall too, so you won’t be alone. She can bring you up to speed on all the changes you missed in Idaho.” Dusty rolled her eyes.
“I know how to entertain myself.” Dusty sighed dramatically. “What’s her name? Is she hot?”
“Her name is Morgan West, and I am not going to humor you with how hot she may or may not be. She’s an old friend of mine. You and your one-track mind. Do me a favor: Give her a show, talk to her students, and be nice to her. Can you do that?”
“Fine,” she said, looking up into the air. “I’ll do it. I’ll meet her students, I’ll do the keynote, I’ll go to Idaho, and I’ll be nice, but I won’t like it.”
“Excellent, because I already told Professor West she could count on you.”
Dusty was not looking forward to returning to a place she hadn’t seen since she was sixteen and broken almost beyond repair. She hoped to God she didn’t run into anyone who might remember her. The idea made her physically sick.
She glanced out the plane’s window, seeing the last of the sunset fading into purple and then black. The Cascade mountain range had long been left behind and the patchwork farmland was fading into the black below.
“Fuck it,” she said and rang her call button. “I’ll have another one of these”—she motioned to her tequila and ice—“and another beer while you’re at it. Bring the whole bottle, if you would.” Her eyes were fixed on the flight attendant’s breasts. “Please.”
“Sure thing.” The flight attendant took the cup and purposely rubbed Dusty’s fingers with her own. Dusty caught her eyes. She knew when she was being hit on. She knew her effect on women. It never failed and she rarely let an opportunity go. But this time, she didn’t have the energy for it. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“No. The drinks are all I need right now, but thank you.” Her gaze returned to the black window. Perhaps the drink would dull the pain she felt, which was still strong and fresh in her heart. Or help ease the headache she had had all day from staying out too late last night, again, and waking up too early out of the arms of Amy, or Jamie, or whatever the hell her name was. Oh, she had been lovely in bed, and Dusty would have liked to have stayed a little while longer.
Dusty had spent the past two and a half weeks mentally preparing for her return to Idaho, meaning she drank way too much, didn’t eat and generally didn’t take good care of herself. Women, alcohol, writing and occasionally disappearing on her horses into the mountains—they were her way of coping.
The flight attendant returned with her drinks. “Of course, the beer is complimentary and the drink is on me.” She handed Dusty the plastic cup, swizzle stick and napkin that showed all of Alaska and Horizon’s flight paths. She placed the beer on Dusty’s tray. “Is this your first time to Boise? I haven’t seen you on my flight before.”
“I haven’t seen you on my flights before either.” It came out bitchier than she’d really meant to sound.
“Pity,” the other woman said, unfazed. “I am based in Boise if you ever want a guided tour of…the downtown.” She drew out each syllable. She handed a folded slip of paper to Dusty and left with a smile, eyes surveying Dusty’s body. “Let me know if you want anything.”
Goddamn, thought Dusty. She wasn’t surprised. She had better than good luck with women. She loved them, they loved her. She would go through them for her own pleasure, wherever she toured, on whatever trip. Sex was a big part of her life, like her writing. She looked at the slip of paper in her hand. Melody was the flight attendant’s name. Perhaps she would call Melody. Perhaps she would like a “guided tour” of the “downtown” tonight after all.
Not much looked familiar to Dusty as she drove out of the rental car lot later that night, passing more than a few parking lots dotted with the dirty dwindling remains of the piles of snow that had been scraped off them during the winter. Granted, she had spent the majority of her adolescence in neighboring Caldwell. She was awestruck at the changes as she made her way down Vista Road toward downtown. There were surprisingly few cars around. With all the new buildings in Boise, there had to have been a corresponding growth in population. Where was everybody?
She passed the Vista Pawn and Loan, rounded the bend down the hill passing the Boise Mission—she had watched fireworks from there as a child—and then zipped by Boise State University, where, to all appearances, everything was calm at the ten o’clock hour. She smiled, picturing the many drunken parties being hosted in neighboring houses at the very moment. She thought back to the kegger she had gone to her junior year of high school. She laughed to herself thinking back at how she and her friends had dominated at beer pong all night, shaming the older college students.
Before long, she was settled into her room at the historic Idanha Hotel, an old French-chateau style structure built at the turn of the twentieth century. She liked to stay in older buildings, places with sordid pasts and a ghost or two roaming the hallways. She forced herself to eat a light dinner of roasted salmon and asparagus, then fell onto her bed, her mind awhirl with memories, what-ifs and what-nows. She needed something to distract her. Or someone.
She reached into her pocket and found the slip of paper with Melody’s number. “What the hell,” she muttered as she flipped herself over on her stomach, fished her cell phone out of her bag and sent a text message.
I’ll take u up on a tour of the city if the offer still stands?
A few minutes passed by and her phone lit up. hb a drink, instead?
Even better, she texted back.
The Balcony, midnight. I need to change. I’ll look for u.
She took a quick shower and threw on a pair of well-worn dark blue jeans, a little snug but perfect for the occasion. Plus, she knew they made her ass look incredible. She chose a black V-neck, short-sleeved top—V-necks made her breasts look good—and grabbed her favorite long-sleeved flannel button-up because it was cold. She was after all a sensible lesbian. She laughed at her thought and surveyed herself in the mirror before heading out. She didn’t bother with makeup. Her Latina features, olive skin, dark eyelashes and full lips, covered for her in that regard. She looked tired and she felt tired, but she looked presentable enough. She buttoned herself into her green peacoat, pulled her wavy black hair from underneath the collar and headed out to hail a cab.