Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
They drove on south, talking quietly while Myleigh snored in back. Crystal gave Randy a detailed account of her adventures at OLTA, and told some stories from the earlier YMCA Adventure Camps, He told her stories about hunting in the woods around Spearfish Lake, about canoe trips as well, and some wrestling stories. She told him more about what it was like to grow up in Glen Ellyn, and he told her more about what it was like to grow up in Spearfish Lake. The stories got quieter and quieter, the pauses longer and longer, and somewhere on the ring road around Indianapolis, he realized that she'd fallen asleep, his hand still on her breast, and he hoped it gave her pleasant dreams.
An hour passed, then another; Cincinnati passed in the night, the road relatively quiet after midnight, except for the big trucks that were ever-present. By the time another hour had passed, they were drawing close to Lexington, and the needle on the gas gauge had dipped alarmingly low. Randy put off stopping as long as he dared, for fear of waking either of the two girls. Finally, there was no choice but to stop, so he took an exit with a lighted gas station close at hand, and pulled up to the pumps.
As he feared, the stop and the lights out by the pumps woke not one, but both of the girls, though Crystal was still pretty much out of it. As he filled the gas tank, both of the girls headed for the restroom; they were just coming out as he paid the cashier. Crystal went right on by, but Myleigh stopped to ask, "Would you like me to drive for a while?"
"Yeah, I could stand a break," he told her. "I can stay awake with you for a while if you'd like."
"It would be welcome," she told him. "My nap was refreshing, but I fear I may not last the night without some assistance. What would you think of a cup of coffee to take with us?"
"I'm buying," he offered. He had his wallet out, anyway.
"Then I shall go get it," she smiled. "How do you prefer yours?"
"Straight," he said. "I want as little as possible between me and the caffeine. But, I thought you were a tea drinker."
"In most cases I am," she told him. "But in circumstances like these I feel it best to do away with the niceties though it means I become something of a barbarian."
When they got back to the car, Crystal was already sleeping quietly in the back, and Randy didn't think they needed to worry about bothering her much. He took a sip of coffee as Myleigh started the gray Oldsmobile. Randy hadn't ridden with Myleigh driving before, but she said that she enjoyed it. It soon proved that she was a safe, careful driver, not one to run well past the speed limit like Crystal had a tendency to do.
Myleigh took her coffee cup from the cup holder on the floor, took a sip, and put it back. "Thank you for the coffee, Randy," she said. "I think that I shall need it."
"If you want to switch, I can drive some more," he told her. "But I'd just as soon have a break from it for a while."
"Oh, I shall be all right for an hour or two, I presume," she replied as the car got up to speed, and the lights around the exit faded behind them.
There was silence for a moment. Sometimes Randy had found it hard to get a conversation going with Myleigh, but in the past, they usually managed to come up with something. What would work? "You know, you and Crystal are two such different people, it surprises me how good friends the two of you are," he tried.
"To be honest, it amazes me, too," she replied. "When we first met, she distinctly frightened me. There I was, such a shy, bookish lass, frightened and relieved to be away from home for the first time, but concerned that my roommate might be such a mismatch we'd be in a constant state of hostilities. When we first met my impression was that all my fears were correct. However, it soon proved we were so different that we had little over which to be in conflict. Within hours, she had become the best friend I'd ever had." She sighed and went on, "I think we both needed a friend at that point badly enough that we were ready to overlook the differences between us."
"The two of you are a lot alike in several important ways," he said thoughtfully. "That had to have helped."
"How do you perceive us to be alike?"
"Oh, the biggest thing is that you both seem to know what you want to do, want it badly, and know how to get there," he said slowly, choosing his words with care. "Add to that, both of you are loners. You're not used to depending on other people, and neither of you is one to run with the crowd. You've never told me, but I rather doubt that you were the cheerleader, prom queen, Miss Popularity type in high school, and I know darn well she wasn't."
That broke the dam. "You are correct," she said, the ice distinct in her voice. "I was not a popular person in high school. I think it safe to say that I was hated and disdained. In fact, a concerted effort was made to deny me honors as valedictorian, but the teacher involved failed to mark me down enough to succeed in throwing the decision to the athlete he favored."
"That must have made you really angry," he replied. That had to be pretty bad, and the athlete involved must have been a real suck-up, he thought.
"Randy, I have never been so fucking pissed off in my life," she said, the anger showing through an effort to stay calm. Randy knew her well enough by now to know that if she'd said that she was fucking pissed off, instead of some flowery term, that mass murder was a distinct possibility. "I mean, I knew they hated me," she continued, "But I would have at least thought they'd be fair. They weren't, but at least I got in the last word."
There was no turning back now, he thought. "What was that?"
"It was my greatest memory from high school," she said with an evil, joyful sound of retribution and satisfaction evident in her slow-spoken words. "As the valedictorian, I had to give a speech, of course, but it had to receive prior approval by the administration, so I prepared a couple paragraphs of meaningless blather, and it was duly approved. But as I stood there at the podium with my diploma in my hand, it was not the speech that I delivered."
"A good one?" he asked, half expecting the reply.
"It is graven upon my heart," he could hear her smile. "'Students and staff of Franklin High School, I have a message to you from the bottom of my heart: fuck you!'"
Randy couldn't help but laugh at the vision of the reaction to that, even though the pain behind the statement was evident. "I'll bet that got their attention."
"Oh, yes it did," she gloated. "It was rather interesting for a while. My parents were livid, of course, but it was much too good an opportunity to pass up."
"Well, if it's any consolation, you're probably not the first smart kid who's had a tough time in high school and thought of doing that," he said with a grin, trying to keep his words light. "But, I have to admit, you're the first one I've heard of who actually did it."
"Oh, I would have liked to have said more, but the message was adequately succinct, I believe," she laughed at the memory, "And besides, the principal was lunging for the microphone as I ran for the door. I was asked then and afterward by several people to apologize, but after the treatment I had received for years, I utterly refused, of course."
"I'd guessed you had a tough time in high school," he said, trying to sound understanding. "I guess I was right."
"'Tough time' does not begin to describe it," she said bitterly. "Between the school, and my parents, I will admit to entertaining thoughts of self-destruction on occasion." She was silent for a moment, then continued, more conversationally. "Perhaps it was only my books that saved me, Oliver Twist in particular, but others as well, for they set the example for me that such times do pass."
"You must have really looked forward to going to college."
"Oh, yes, but I dreaded it as well. I mean, I hoped dearly that I would find an atmosphere in which learning might be appreciated, but I knew all too well that I might wind up again among people who do not appreciate it, and it might be high school all over again. I received no support from my parents, of course. I had no vehicle, and they could not even be prevailed upon to drive me to Marquette. Fortunately I had a distant cousin who was willing to assist me, the one with whom I had been forced to hide after my graduation speech. I had no idea of what I was walking into at school; I had sent several letters to Crystal to discuss living arrangements, but had received no reply. So, when I first met Crystal, I feared the same thing would happen again, and was extremely concerned."
"You're saying, scared shitless?"
"I do believe that may be a better choice of words," she laughed. "And then I met Crystal, to discover that she was a big, self-confident, muscular, athletic girl who in no way could be considered as 'bookish.' In fact, 'frightening' was more appropriate, especially in my unsettled mental state at the time. But she treated me as a friend and compatriot right from the start, and within minutes she was one."
"She's that kind of person," Randy agreed.
"Yes she is. It turned out she hadn't replied to my letters about our rooming arrangements because they had been collecting in a paper bag in Glen Ellyn while she had been at OLTA. She had returned so recently that she hadn't had time to open them. I had little with me besides my clothes, a few books, and Blue Beauty. She had little more, but her first words were, 'You got any ideas how we can make this joint halfway comfortable?' Since Crystal would be happy living in a tent on the lawn we had few differences, which helped me get over my fear of her."
"Well, I can see how you would have been scared of her at first," Randy said, remembering his own fears about how he would get along with Matt, who had become a fairly close friend after all. "She can be pretty imposing, especially physically. While you were asleep, I told her that both of you scare me in the same way. You both set such high standards that I know I can never measure up to them."
"That's true, I suppose," she said after thinking about it for a moment. "I cannot speak for Crystal, but on my part, it may come from the fact that I have to set high standards for myself, and always have had to, since no one else would do it for me. Randy, you know I dislike discussing my parents. There is reason for it. When Crystal was carrying on about her father's sexist attitude earlier tonight, it was all I could do to keep from laughing. Finally I felt it necessary to bring her up short lest she get sickening. The simple fact of the matter is that her father's attitude would be considered extremely liberated by my father. I think he truly believes that women are a lesser form of life, and they have proven it by making his only child a female, possibly as the result of some sort of evil plot. His attitude is that women exist to service men, and I do not mean to merely pleasure them."
"That's pretty Neolithic," Randy said, shaking his head. In the back of his mind, he realized that he tended to use bigger words around Myleigh, just as he tended to talk Yooper around Matt, and he smiled at himself for it as he continued, "Really, it's not all that surprising, though. I know plenty of people at home or elsewhere who would have the same attitude. Our class salutatorian got hooked up with a guy like that. God knows what she saw in him, but she had no interest in going to college. All she wants to do is be pregnant again. She was a sharper kid than I am, and her idea of a goal in life is to go back to work in a convenience store when the kids are finally in school. What a waste!"
"My mother and father would be thrilled had I such an attitude," she agreed from the darkness on the far side of the car. "He was utterly opposed to my attending college, although he grudgingly admits that teaching is an honorable profession for a woman, one that can bring more money into a household for a man to spend, which is the only reason he allowed it. It was clear to me very early on that I needed to escape the situation. Therefore, I realized early on that it was of extreme importance that my grades needed to be as high as possible in high school for the sake of scholarships. It was also very important that I not get involved with some boy who might be pushed upon me. Randy, I do not wish to die a virgin, but neither do I wish to be a slave to a penis."
"That doesn't surprise me in the slightest," he said. "And, it doesn't surprise me that you've tried to keep boys at a distance, so you don't have to run that risk."
"Well stated," she laughed. "Crystal is correct; the way I talk started as a defense mechanism, and quite intentionally just for that reason. Now I fear it has become a habit, mostly because I like it. Let us be honest -- we all like to feel special. Crystal has her way, and this is mine. Moreover, when I discovered that it angered my father, I let it build up more . . ." She snickered ". . . just to piss him off."
"And it works?"
"Oh, indeed," she said gaily. "I suppose it may be childish of me, but he really cannot be very negative about a person who wants to be an English teacher using good English habitually, so there's not a great deal he can say about it."
"I thought you said you wanted to get a doctorate."
"Oh, I do, and I shall," Myleigh replied with a grin he could see in the headlights of a passing car. "I am getting very limited support for attending school. I have had some help from my cousin, but she is elderly and poor, and I dare not ask much of her. Once I have a teaching certificate, I suspect even that support will cease, and I shall have to depend on scholarships, loans, and working to support my graduate work. That means that I need to have the best credentials available when I go to seek those scholarships."
"It takes a lot of guts and determination to make that work, but I think you've got what it takes."
"It doesn't take much of either. The only determination involved is that to avoid the kind of life my parents desire me to have, and my desire to somehow be able to make my books a part of that life. That levers my options into very narrow channels, with few choices but to stay with them. If I fail, I know the price I shall pay. It has been very hard, and there were times in high school that I only determined to live and excel by the valedictory speech I long determined to make. At least Crystal has made college considerably easier for me, just by lending me some support from time to time in practical things, not monetary, for she's on nearly as tight a budget as I am."
"You mean, like making excuses, fronting for you, things like that?"
"Most assuredly. I cannot afford a vehicle, for example, but Crystal has been quite willing to lend me hers as needed. However, that also gives me the excuse to visit home as infrequently as possible. I normally spend Christmas breaks with her family; her mother has been able to arrange short-term jobs for us while in Glen Ellyn, so there's a reason to limit our visits in Franklin. During the summers I have a job at the college, and spend the season there. Since Crystal is gone to her activities during the summer, I have no transportation, and thus cannot visit home, not that my parents could be bothered to come and visit me. They have never done so while I've been at Northern."
"They really don't approve, do they?"
"No, they do not. You may imagine how bad relations were after my valedictory speech from the fact that I had to hide with my cousin. In years since, relations have improved considerably. Now, they could be characterized as merely 'icy.'"
"And, that's not really any relief, is it?" he asked.
"No, if anything, worse. When they were not in contact with me, it may have actually been better, just because I did not have to endure their criticism and patronizing. Randy, do you remember our performance in the lounge a couple weeks ago, when the subject of my harp came up?"
"Yeah," he replied, remembering it clearly. "You said you didn't want to ruin a pleasant evening discussing it."
"That was and is correct. The genesis of the story is essentially correct, but it was not my parents who bought the harp, but my great-uncle, who is quite elderly and frail, and it was he who made the mistake. My parents implored him to return it, but he refused, saying that he'd bought it at a pawnbroker for fifteen dollars, so therefore it was not that big a thing. Consequently, I was allowed to keep it. I determined to learn to play it well, for I knew that the price he paid was closer to fifteen hundred dollars." She turned silent for a moment, then continued sadly, "I had to, Randy. It was the only proof I had that someone really cared for me."
"No wonder," he said, shaking his head in the dark. Randy had been pretty sure for a long time that Myleigh's relations with her parents were pretty bad, and now he'd learned the truth was even worse than he'd imagined. The poor kid! He wished that there was something he could do to help, and he resolved to do whatever he could. On the other hand, he'd found out more than he'd wanted to know about her parents, although maybe the talking it out had been good for her. At any rate, he wanted to draw the discussion away from that topic, mostly to keep it from getting more depressing. "So, what do you do in the summers?" he asked.
"I have a regular part-time job in the afternoons," she replied, more brightly, now that she had seen that Randy was trying to change away from such a depressing area. "It's in the institutional development office. I continue that in the summer, and have another part-time job working as a member of a cleaning crew. You would not believe how good I am with a floor buffer; it even surprised me when I discovered my capabilities. I also usually have part-time jobs in the evenings or on weekends, as well; often it adds up to sixty or seventy hours a week. If I'm frugal, it's enough to get me through the winter and leave me a little left over for my savings for graduate school. I would not even be able to go on this trip, were Crystal not subsidizing my share."
"Not all of it," Randy said immediately. "I've got half."
"She did not mention it to me," she said quizzically.
"That's because I haven't told her yet," Randy smiled. "I don't know what you know about my situation, but basically, I'm not hurting. Some people in Spearfish Lake think my folks are well off, but really, they're not. But, comfortable for Spearfish Lake. Dad has me on a budget, but it's enough. I don't spend a lot of money, and I've held down jobs, mostly to have something to do and to keep myself organized. But, I've got a few bucks in the bank. If it gets real tight sometime, Myleigh, ask. I'll do what I can to help. That's what friends are for."
"Randy, that's very nice of you to offer, but while I wish to keep you as a friend, I do not wish to become dependent upon you."
"I didn't think you would," he grinned. Myleigh took her independence seriously, and with good reason, as he'd learned in the last few minutes. "However, the offer is there if it's needed in an emergency. And, so you can have a little fun in your life, like this trip. Believe me, it's worth the money for me, just to have you along on this trip, so I can enjoy being with you and not feel sorry that you're sitting at home with your folks and despising it because you didn't have the money to come. And, if there's anything else I can do, just ask. Like I said, that's what friends are for."
"Randy, I am pleased and delighted that you would consider me a friend, and I feel that I've come to consider you one. Perhaps, indeed you are the closest thing to a boyfriend that I've ever had. I don't mind that I must share you with Crystal in that regard, in fact, I welcome it, since that limits the likelihood that I will find myself falling into a relationship that I really do not wish to have at this time. It gives me the best of both worlds, you see?"
"I understand. Crystal and I talked about it, too."
"We discussed it at great length prior to asking you to accompany us on this trip. Do not think that it was a spur-of-the-moment decision on our parts. I must admit that Crystal was more negative than I, mostly because she was concerned that my feelings might sooner or later be hurt. I repeatedly had to assure her that wouldn't happen. In any case, we feel that we can counterbalance each other to keep things from getting too serious, since neither of us wishes to have anything more serious than a casual relationship for some time to come."
"That's pretty obvious," he replied, seeing the potential for more complexity than he wanted if he let it happen. "I'll do my best not to play favorites."
"Ultimately, it would gain you nothing," she sighed. "As I said, neither Crystal nor I wish to have such a relationship at this point, anyway. We are hopeful we can manage to keep each other on the straight and narrow, especially if you are aware of our intentions."
"It should be easier for me, now that we have it out in the open."
"It will be difficult," she told him. "I know you and Crystal share an interest in physical activities that I do not, such as the wrestling, the kayaking, and now, most likely, the surfing. If you continue, you will no doubt find other things that you both enjoy. Please do not feel that you are leaving me out when you pursue them. You are not. If I had an interest in them, I would join you. Crystal has me about half ready to try out a surfboard, in benign conditions, at least, and I may take her up on it, just for the thrill."
"No reason you couldn't," he said.
"I am very unathletic, but it might be fun to play around with," she said, "If for no more excuse than to say I have done it. We have occasionally done other mild outdoor activities, just to get off the campus for a while. Last fall, we took a short canoe trip on the Au Train River, for example. However, we are digressing from the point I wished to lead up to. Crystal has an interest in another physical activity that you doubtless share. Do not be surprised if she approaches you."
Randy wondered just what else these two girls had been talking about before the trip. "If you're talking about what I think you're talking about, she, uh, well, opened the door a little earlier."
"Should it happen, do not feel you are slighting me or making me jealous if you should decide to take her up on it." She let out a big laugh and added. "In fact, I'm getting quite tired of hearing about how horny she is, and it would be a relief to have her shut up about it for a while."
He had to laugh along with her at that. When it died down, he asked, "You're dead sure on that? That, uh, activity can do strange things to the way people feel about each other, and about how friends feel about friends. I can keep my pants zipped if I need to."
"I am aware of the pitfalls," she said lightly. "However, it should not matter, so long as we can remain friends anyway. As I said before, I cannot risk getting trapped in a relationship and enslaved to a penis, at least not for some years to come. "
"Ever think about it?" he asked, curiously. "I'm not talking about sex, just having a boyfriend."
"At times, I've thought it would be nice," she replied. "There are many times in the past when it would have been nice to have been able to have a simple, casual relationship, but I could never allow it to happen at this stage of my life. Randy, do you realize that when I kissed you in the room the other day, that was the first time I ever kissed a boy? I could only do it because I feel safe with you, as long as Crystal is involved."
He was silent for a moment, thinking that one over. Finally, he said, "There's a rest stop up ahead. Pull in, and I'll drive."
"I'm not tired yet," she protested, "And you just quit driving."
"I'm just talking about keeping things even," he said as she let the car slow, puzzled at him. "If I'm going to be your shared boyfriend, then there are things that you should share in, too."
"I'm not sure I understand."
In a minute, the car was stopped, and they were switching sides. She got in the right door, and started to buckle the seat belt, but he told her, "Not over there. Come over and join me." He held out his arm to welcome her.
"Randy," she said icily, "I do not wish to go down that road."
"I am not talking about making you a slave to my penis," he told her firmly. "Not that I could, anyway. But, I think you need to feel cared for, and need to feel wanted. I think you need to feel that you can lean on a friend because he's a friend. In fact, I think you need a cuddle. I'm offering, and I'm not asking more than that." She could see him smile in the glow of the dome light as he said, more gently and warmly, "Now, slide over here, and let me put my arm around you."
Very tentatively, she did, and he rested his hand on her arm and put the car into motion. As they pulled out onto the Interstate, he could feel her lean over a little, and put herself closer to him. "You never did this before, huh?" he asked.
"Ever want to?"
"Then enjoy it."
He got the car back up to speed, and pulled out to pass a slow-moving truck that she'd passed a few minutes before. As he pulled back into the right lane, he felt her head come to rest on his shoulder, and heard her say, "Randy?"
They drove on south, her head resting on his shoulder. They talked of many things, mostly inconsequential -- the lousy food in the cafeteria, the lousy way the parking lots were plowed at NMU and how few there were of them, of music, of books, of people they knew -- friendly things. His arm grew stiff, and he had to move it around, and eventually, it wound up resting lightly on her breast, just touching. She squirmed a little, perhaps to feel it better, perhaps just to get a little more comfortable, and nothing was said. Presently, she grew silent, and he heard a slow, even breathing -- she was asleep, and not snoring, either.
So, he drove on toward the morning, one of his girlfriends at his side.