Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online



Dawnwalker

Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle


a novel by
Wes Boyd
2002, 2008




Chapter 36

The surf was roaring even louder when Randy awoke in the early morning light. There was a strong temptation to roll over and get some more sleep, but he got up, pulled on his shorts and thongs, went to the rickety old outhouse, then padded out across A1A to check out the surf.

The sun was barely up, hanging in a red ball not far above the horizon, but the surf looked nice -- it had the sweet, gentle curl of the waves he'd remembered from Au Train last fall, but there were more of those sweet waves, and they were bigger. This, he knew, was what he'd come for. Back at camp, he got a stove going and got some water heating, and went over to Crystal's tent. "Hey Crystal," he said, "Surf's up! I got some water heating for coffee."

"Good," she said sleepily but coming awake, "Anybody else up?"

"No, Myleigh's still sleeping. I didn't see Buddha or Giselle."

It was still a bit cool in the early morning, so while the water heated, Randy went over to the car, got in the trunk to find the bag with his surfing gear, and pulled out the springsuit. As he was doing it, he saw Crystal crawl out of her tent totally naked, and wander over to the outhouse, carrying a bikini in her hand. Randy wasn't sure if she was being casual or was showing off, but she was capable of either one. At least he stepped behind the car to pull off his shorts and pull on the bottom of the springsuit he'd bought down here last year. He slipped his thongs back on, then pulled on the top. He came out from behind the car to see Crystal sitting at the picnic table, just tying on her bikini top. "It's not really that cold, Randy," she told him.

"I get colder in the water than you do," he said.

"Yeah, it is a little cool," she said. "Maybe I'll wear the farmer john for a while this morning till it warms up."

"Sounds like the water's about hot," he said. "You want some coffee?"

"Yeah, sure," she told him. "Look, Randy, before Myleigh wakes up. I was thinking last night. Maybe we're a little premature to be talking about anything permanent. Let's put it on the shelf until she's gone, anyway, OK?"

"Funny," he said, opening a couple coffee packets and putting them into cups, "I was thinking the same thing."

Twenty minutes later, a cup of coffee and a couple Pop-Tarts apiece in them, they were paddling side by side out into the surf. The water felt comfortably warm; the last time they'd been surfing, at Agawa Bay, it had been bitingly cold. There had been only a limited amount of time they'd been able to stay out, wetsuits or no. This seemed like bathwater by comparison, and the waves were better. Finally, Randy saw a wave that he liked. For the first time in months, he paddled hard, hopped to his feet, and caught the shoulder with a shout of joy. It seemed a touch awkward at first, after the long layoff, but it came back in an instant. By the time he pulled out after a long ride, most of it had come back to him.

After the long winter and the months of looking at the slate gray or ice-bound lake, the ocean seemed warm and friendly, and they both gloried in it, making run after run. After a while, they were joined by both Buddha and Giselle; they didn't have to open the shop yet so they could get out together. Crystal and Randy were tired and a bit cold when their friends headed in, after inviting them up for a real breakfast, so they made another couple of runs and decided to take a break. They carried the boards back across the highway, then went back to their friends' house to discover Myleigh there. "Getting an early start, huh?" she asked.

"Have to get it while we can," Crystal told her. "It could go flat on us."

"Probably not today, maybe not tomorrow," Buddha told them. "I don't know what it is about you kids, but you always seem to bring surf with you. It's been dull around here for a couple weeks. Yesterday it started getting up a bit, and it was fun to go out and play around a little."

"How about your day, Myleigh?" Randy asked. "I presume you and Buddha settled your differences about Ann Rutledge."

"Actually, we spent more time discussing Jane Barker," Myleigh smiled. "I have always found her tirades about the value of chastity rather tedious. Perhaps she had a point, but she certainly belabored it excessively."

"She was a prude, even for those times," Buddha said. "But once you get past her proclivities, she wasn't a bad writer for the era."

"I know I shall have to be developing a thesis," Myleigh told them, "And Miss Barker is little known. Buddha suggested that she might prove to be a topic, although, on the whole, I believe I prefer Charlotte Lennox in that regard."

"Her female Quixote is probably the best known of her works today," Buddha commented. "But if you were able to find some of her earlier, more obscure works, there might be the possibility of demonstrating something original."

"Oh boy, it's getting deep around here already," Crystal said. "You two must have been going at it hot and heavy."

"It's not often I get an English lit major down here," Buddha laughed. "I have to get my fun when I can. You two looked like you were having fun out there this morning."

"Yeah, we want to get back out when we get warmed up a little," Randy told them.

"I'm glad I decided to wear the farmer john," Crystal added. "I think I'll keep it on till it gets uncomfortable."

"Better that than get cold and not be able to enjoy it," Giselle said carefully, setting plates of bacon and eggs and toast down in front of them.

"Thank you," Randy said. "You and Buddha have been most gracious hosts, as always."

"I get a lot of kids through here," Buddha smiled. "Not many like you, though. It's a pleasure to deal with you. Just remember, you have friends here."

It was fun to sit and talk with Buddha and Giselle; almost as much fun as the surfing, and if the surf had been flat, they would have sat there longer. Shortly after eating, Crystal and Randy were back out on the waves, whooping and hollering and having a memorable time. The sun got hotter, the day grew warmer, and the waves were good enough to make them want to stay out. Crystal was having a particularly good run up the beach, with Randy on the wave right behind her, when she heard him shout, "Hey, check that out!"

"What?" Crystal said, pulling out and dropping into the water, just as he wound up near her.

"On the beach," he shouted. "I don't believe it!"

Crystal swung around, and looked back, to see Myleigh, wearing her black string bikini, and Buddha, both carrying surfboards out into the water, while Giselle watched from the porch of the store. These weren't bellyboards they had, but honest-to-Pete surfboards. "I don't believe it either," she yelled back. "You don't suppose?"

"Sure looks like it to me," Randy laughed as he turned to paddle out again. "Let's get a little closer."

"They're probably just going to play around in the slop a little," Crystal said as she turned to follow him.

"Not with those boards, they're not," he said.

Being on their boards, they couldn't watch continuously as they paddled out, but they kept an eye on the two. Myleigh wasn't paddling out very fast, but she'd developed a duck-dive somewhere along the way, probably the day before, they realized. Soon Myleigh and Buddha were out in the outer breakers, while Crystal and Randy watched them talk for a moment. Then, Myleigh turned her board toward shore, glanced over her shoulder, and began to paddle hard. As the board began to rise under the oncoming wave, she got to her feet, a little unsteadily, then turned to catch the shoulder. It wasn't a long ride, only a few seconds; she didn't have the wave quite right and washed over the top taking a fall, but came up yelling with joy. She was too far away to hear the words, but they could hear the happiness.

"Son of a bitch," Crystal said, watching Myleigh crawl back up on the board again, and start to paddle out through the breakers. "I never thought I'd see that happen."

"Me either," Randy laughed. "Looks like I've got me another surfer girl."

Although they were well outside the breaker line now, there was no way they were going to take their eyes off the scene before them. They lay on their boards as one wave after another washed under them, and they watched Myleigh and Buddha paddle closer together and talk for a minute. Then, after a moment's discussion, Myleigh turned her board toward shore, again glanced over her shoulder, and started paddling to catch the next nice wave coming in. This time, she got a good one, got on the shoulder, and got a long ride out of it, before she pulled out quite a ways away and settled down into the water. "Not a thing wrong with that!" they could hear Buddha yell.

"Come on, let's catch one of these," Crystal said. "Maybe we can get a little closer."

They stayed out for another hour, mostly trying to stay out of Buddha and Myleigh's way. In that period, Myleigh tried about a dozen waves, and got good rides out of half of them, but they could see her confidence was growing as she progressed. Finally, they could hear Buddha tell her, "That's probably enough for now. You need a break, but you can go out with Giselle later if you want."

"I'd love to," they heard her say. "This is more fun than I thought."

"Let's head in, too," Crystal told Randy. "Damn, the next thing I know, she's gonna want to take one of the kayaks down the Ocoee."

"I don't think I'd put it past her, now," Randy laughed. "Hey, did you ever read, oh, The Journals of Lewis and Clark?"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Crystal asked, as she started paddling hard. "You know I don't read that stuff," she continued, starting to spring to her feet as the board rose under her. She got out of earshot rapidly, but Randy caught the next wave and stayed close. As it began to break, rather than pulling out, they turned toward shore, let the wave break around them, and let it wash them toward the beach. In a minute, they were up on shore, their surfboards lying in the sand, and there was a serious four-way group hug going on.

"Myleigh, you little twerp," Crystal grinned, "What got into you?"

"It was real good beginner waves yesterday," Buddha said. "I told her that if she was ever going to do it, there'd never be a better chance."

"We were out on them most of the afternoon," Myleigh said. "I was just as happy you weren't here to see how many times I fell in."

"I gotta admit, that's the softest egg I got," Buddha said. "But Myleigh, you did real well. I think you could handle something that turns a little better now."

"Buddha, that was great fun," Myleigh grinned. "I'm ever so glad you talked me into it."

"You could have said something," Crystal pouted.

"It was fun to surprise you," Myleigh protested meekly, but still with a huge grin.

"Yeah, I'll bet," Crystal said, reaching out to tousle her wet hair. "I didn't think you had it in you."

"Well, I didn't, either," she said. "But, we found out, didn't we? I just wish I'd had the courage to try it years ago."

"Aw, the point is that you did it, Myleigh," Randy said, still with a big grin. "Damn, I'm proud of you."

"You probably need to warm up and rest up a bit," Buddha said. "And as white as you are, you need to get a fresh coat of sun block. We'll try it again in an hour or so, and I think I'll let you try a little warmer board."

"Buddha, thank you," she said, turning to him. "You have taught me a great deal about myself the last couple of days, and I appreciate it."

"Would you believe that's what I'm here for?" he said. "The sea is very good about teaching you about yourself and what you can do and can't do, if you're willing to stop and listen. You remember what I said this morning about how you kids are different than most others I get down here? You kids are willing to listen to what the sea is telling you, not just use it to show off." He grinned at Myleigh and snickered, "I guess I can't call you 'Hodad' anymore, so I guess I'm going to have to call you 'Surfer Girl.'"

The four of them picked up their surfboards and began to carry them back across the beach. "Hey, Randy," Crystal asked. "What was that stuff you were spouting about Lewis and Clark's Journals while we were out there?"

Randy laughed. "Well, I didn't think you'd go for Jane Austen, but if Myleigh is poaching on your territory, maybe you ought to think about poaching on hers a little. That ought to be right down your alley."

"I have a copy of the DeVoto edition back at campus," Myleigh said. "It's period writing, of course, but it's so very real, because it is real, of course. The Journals are among the most fascinating things I've ever read outside pure English literature."

"Oh, all right," Crystal sniffed. "But no Jane Austen. I draw the line there!"

It was close to lunchtime when they got back to their camp; Randy and Crystal peeled out of their wetsuits and let the sun warm them. It was getting hot, now, especially to them, after getting used to a northern winter, but the warmth felt good. Crystal started in on lunch -- she'd spent so much time eating what had come off a camp stove that no one else even wanted to get in her way, so she was the designated camp cook. But, she made it quick, just macaroni and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches, and by the time they were done, they were all warmed up and ready to get out on the waves again.

They surfed on and off all afternoon, sometimes with Buddha or Giselle joining them, sometimes just the three of them. Buddha did give Myleigh a little more assertive board, and she'd learned enough that she was able to put it to good use. By the end of the afternoon, she was getting good rides two times out of three, and was still clearly improving.

It was late in the afternoon when they finally quit for the day, and the sun was hanging low as Giselle served another great grilled seafood dinner, sparkled up with some mysterious sauce. After it was over with, Buddha threw some wood on the coals, and they had a nice little fire.

As the flames burned up, Myleigh said, "Giselle, Buddha, that was once again a most fascinating meal. Now that you were so kind as to help me surprise my friends so much, Randy and I have a little surprise for you. Shall we go get the instruments, Randy?"

"Sure thing, Surfer Girl," he grinned, still tickled by the unexpected skill Myleigh had developed.

They were back with the harp and guitar a few minutes later, tuned the instruments up a little bit. "You want to start with Golden Apples?" he asked.

"There could be nothing finer to celebrate such a warm and sunny day," she laughed, and they swung into it. It was a favorite piece, and they could do it well, now, even cold.

"Hey," Buddha said as they brought it to a close, "You two have gotten pretty good."

"Randy has improved considerably in the past year," Myleigh said. "Of course, he had some help from a highly skilled professional."

"They won't tell you. The highly skilled professional was Jenny Easton's backman. Do Dawnwalker," Crystal suggested.

"All right," she said. If any piece had become Randy and Myleigh's signature piece in the informal lobby jam sessions at Northern, this was the one, and they were even better with it now than they had been at Thanksgiving.

"That is . . . something," Giselle said as they brought the piece to a close.

"Yeah, that really rips at you," Buddha said. "There's a lot of what the sea is all about in that piece. You guys ought to see about recording it."

Crystal grinned. "Well, they did, sort of. Sometime in the next year or two, there's going to be a new Jenny Easton album out. It's tentatively titled At Home With Jenny Easton. We've heard the cut, and it's even more awesome, with Jennifer singing and with Myleigh on her harp."

"I confess, Jennifer can do things to that song that I cannot even dream of," Myleigh grinned. "She and Blake were kind enough to loan us some of their other original pieces. Randy and I have been working them up, with the proviso that we can't actually record them. In fact, we're not supposed to say where they came from, but with you, we can, I think. Would you like to hear something else?"

By now, Randy and Myleigh had worked up most of the pieces that he'd gotten from Blake the previous summer, and they ran through several of them.

"You kids are good," Buddha ruled finally, shaking his head. "It's a shame you can't record them, but they're lovely to hear. Do you have anything else?"

"Well," Myleigh grinned. "I do have one solo piece I wrote last summer, and I cannot think of a more appropriate time or place to perform it."

Randy cringed and glanced at Crystal, to see that she was thinking the same thing, but there was no stopping it now. Myleigh picked up the harp, began to play the familiar music, and began to sing:

"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

of the surfers they call Crystal and Randy

The surfers, it is said, who go out of their heads

when the skies of November turn gloomy

Wearing their wetsuits, they waxed up their boards

on the shores of the lake Gitchee Gumee

With storms in the face, they knew t'was their place

when the gales of November came early

Eyes out of their head, people knew they were dead

As Crystal and Randy went surfing

Dodging the ice, they yelled 'Hey, this is nice'

As the witch of November was screaming

The surfers all know the surf's great when it blows

No matter to the freshmen out watching

Daring the cold, the surfers were bold

Through mountains of seas that were crashing

Randy glanced over at Crystal, who was just shaking her head and rolling her eyes. Myleigh had cut several verses out of The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald, and it was probably just as well as there was a limit to how far the joke could be taken.

Does anyone know where the love of school goes

when the waves turn the minutes to hours,

The hodads all say they'd have made class that day

if the waves hadn't been showing their power

But dodging the floes, and blue in the nose

They surfed in an ice-water shower

While safe upon shore the hodads all swore

That Crystal and Randy were crazy.

It really wasn't even a very good parody, but Buddha and Giselle were laughing, mostly at Crystal's and Randy's discomfort. Randy couldn't help it; he had to laugh along with them. At least the little twit hadn't done it in the lounge at NMU! As she brought the song to an end, he said with mock seriousness, "Myleigh, you know what I said I'd do if you ever sang that song."

"Yes," she grinned, putting the harp down, standing up, and walking over to where he was seated. "However, there are some things that are worth the price." She bent over, lay belly down across his lap, and grinned, "If you would dare do such a thing to a fellow surfer, you may spank me now."

~~~~~

Rather than flattening out, as Buddha had feared, the waves the next day were a little bigger, and the three surfers spent hours out on them. In spite of her newfound skills, Myleigh didn't have the endurance of Crystal and Randy, and the cold affected her more, so she spent some time sitting on the shore watching the two of them. Sometimes they all took their breaks together, sitting on the beach, letting the sun beat down hard on them, and watching the waves crash into the beach.

"I'm so very glad I allowed Buddha to talk me into this," Myleigh grinned as they sat in the sand above the water line on one of their breaks along in the late morning. "I really envied the two of you the fun you were having last year, and I confess, I did feel somewhat left out. Now, I wish I had taken courage in hand earlier, but at least I will be left with pleasant memories."

"Maybe we can do it again," Randy said hopefully. "Don't they have a spring break where you're going?"

"It appears that they do," Myleigh said, shaking her head mournfully. "But in perusing the schedule, it does not appear that I shall be able to take advantage of it. There's a special seminar that week that will be of use to me in my doctoral work."

"Maybe over Christmas," Crystal suggested. "They won't have classes then, special accelerated program, or not."

"It's a possibility, I suppose," Myleigh said, now seeming a little depressed. "Actually, it seems so far away now as to be nearly impossible to contemplate, and I shall have much distress between now and then."

"What now?" Randy asked. "I thought you had things pretty well together."

"Oh, for next fall, I do," Myleigh said brightly. "Buddha has been most generous in giving me some contacts in Ithaca, and we intend to plug a few holes and gaps while I'm here." Her attitude darkened as she went on, "But getting to next fall appears to be a problem. You see, I still have no desire to go home to my parents, but I have no other place to stay. I should like to avoid having to deal with them this summer, but I must work somewhere to build up funds for next year, and I dare not spend a cent more than necessary on living expenses. Going to them does appear to be my only option."

"Myleigh, you don't have to go home for the summer," Crystal said. "We can take a run back through Ducktown on the way back, and I can talk to Tom. You wouldn't work as a raft guide, but maybe he could come up with a job in the office."

Myleigh looked down and shook her head. "That won't work, for a number of reasons," she sighed. "Not the least of which is the fact that I'm not up to living in a tent for four months. It's difficult enough for me to do it for a week down here. No, I need to get myself mentally prepared for my master's work, and I don't see how I can do it at either my parents or in Ducktown. Worst of all, they would understand that I am intentionally avoiding them. We have been able to provide good excuses in the past, but the old excuses won't work this summer, once I have been graduated."

"I don't see why we can't come up with something," Crystal said, shaking her head. "It doesn't have to involve spending the summer living in a tent. We just need to work on it a little."

"Uh, excuse me," Randy said with a frown. He'd never heard any specifics about the difficulties that Myleigh had with her parents, but what he had heard had been more than enough for him. She was well out of that atmosphere, and it'd be better for her to not get back into it. "I don't see why you'd want to go to your parents at all. From what I understand, you owe them nothing, they haven't contributed anything to your going to college either in expenses or support, and they've stood in your way and tried to run your life whenever they had the chance."

"Myleigh, I haven't heard this before," Crystal frowned. "I thought they were backing off, at least a little bit."

"I wish I thought that were the case," she replied. "But the letters I have received, along with the none-too-subtle hints given by the copies of the job postings, lead me to believe that they want me back in the fold, if for no more reason than to attempt to run my life again. My mother still seeks to dandle a grandchild upon her knee, and I shall not give her the option. Even if I were to ever have a child, I shall not have a child polluted by their presence."

"Then say the hell with them," Randy said. "Don't give them the chance to work on you."

"I'm afraid I may have gotten you into a bit of trouble," she admitted. "I have said nothing in my letters to indicate that we have more than a casual relationship, but I have mentioned that you and I have gone to a couple of concerts, and she has somehow taken that to mean the hope of a prospective grandchild," she smiled. "I assure you, I shall not place that burden upon you."

"You could . . ." Crystal started, then looked at Randy, who was looking at her. "Same idea, right?" she asked.

"I think so," Randy said. "You remember the last time we came down here? Before we came, we were talking about how you could paint a vision of a little romance with me as a smokescreen for you to work on your master's?"

"Why, yes, I do," Myleigh said. "I confess, it has potential. But, I do not wish to burden you with something so distasteful as dealing with them."

Randy shook his head. "Myleigh, you know, you are one of the clearest and most articulate thinkers I've ever met, but when it comes to your parents you get the worst case of mental constipation I've ever seen. You're still pretty scared of them, aren't you?"

"After the treatment I received over the years, why should I not be?" she said. "Why do you think I've done my utter best to avoid them for the last four years?"

"Then why in hell are you even thinking about going to them?" Randy asked angrily. "You know what you'd be setting yourself up for. Why run the risk?"

"But Randy, I have no other options," she said sadly, shaking her head.

"Of course you have other options," Randy snorted. "The best one I can think of off of the top of my head is for you to come to Spearfish Lake with me for the summer."

"Randy, that won't work," she protested. "What would I do? I have no job. Where would I stay? I wouldn't mind if my parents thought I was living with you for the prospect of a future marriage; in fact, I would delight in it, for it would keep them from bothering me about it, but I don't want to rub your parents' noses in it for my sake. They are too nice."

"Myleigh, you're still not thinking it through, and are just being bullheaded," Randy said. "How much would you be willing to bet that I can walk over to the store, make one, or at the most, two phone calls, and have some sort of a job for you and a place to stay for the summer?"

"Randy, I couldn't ask your parents to put themselves out for me like that."

"No, but I can," he countered. "Or, if you like, I could ask Jennifer. I'll bet she'd be willing, but my folks would probably be willing, too. They like you, Myleigh. And, they know you have problems with your parents. Even if you can't call in the favor, I can. It solves a lot of problems. It gives you a place to stash your stuff indefinitely, gives you a rock-solid cover story that could last all the way through your doctorate if we help it along, even a little bit, and a job for the summer. Crystal or I could take you to Ithaca, even if we have to be a couple days late getting to class. Crystal, am I making sense?" he asked.

"Myleigh and I have talked about this before," she said. "Clear back to freshman year. It makes six times more sense than anything else we've been able to come up with."

"You work on her for a bit," Randy said as he got up. "I'll be right back."

"Randy, where are you going?" Myleigh asked, alarmed.

"To call Spearfish Lake, of course," he said. "Somebody's got to take the bull by the tail and look the situation in the face."

"Randy, please," Myleigh said anxiously. "I don't want to have to owe you for this!"

"Good God, Myleigh, what are friends for?" Randy said, frustrated with her intransigence. "For as much as you've given me in the last year, why can't I be allowed to do a favor for you if it's in my power to do it? Or would you rather give your parents the chance to work on you all summer? For God's sakes, you'd be better off living in a tent with Crystal."

"He's right," he heard Crystal tell Myleigh gently as he walked away. "Just this once, swallow your pride and let him help."

Buddha was standing behind the counter, talking to a guy and a gal looking at surfboards when Randy walked into the shop. "Can I use the phone for a minute?" he asked.

"Sure," Buddha told him. "Why don't you use the one back in the office?"

"Fine, thanks," he replied, heading for the back room. Randy had a little trouble finding the phone; it was on the desk, but the desk was stacked high with the accumulation of years' worth of brochures, folders, flyers, catalogues, junk mail, and half-eaten sandwiches. Buddha kept the front shop neat and clean, but the back part was a disaster area. Randy glanced at the clock on the wall; his dad was harder to find these days than he'd been when he was younger, but there was a good chance that he'd be at the plywood plant. He dialed the number, and his dad's extension, from memory.

A little to his surprise, his father was actually in his office at the plant. "So how's the surfing?" he asked when he heard Randy's voice. "I take it there's some sort of problem, or you'd be out in it. How much is it going to cost?"

"Nothing like that," Randy told him. "You remember Myleigh, one of the girls I brought home at Thanksgiving?"

"Of course I remember her," Ryan told him. "Nice kid. Impressive."

"I just found out she doesn't have any place to go for the summer," Randy told him. "She's desperate enough that she's thinking about going home to her parents, and that would be a major disaster for her. You remember, I told you about that?"

"Yeah, I remember. That'd be a damn shame."

"Do you think there's some way we could find a summer job and a place for her to stay?"

"I'm sure we can work out something," Ryan said. "In fact, I was just talking with Janine a few minutes ago. She's having her baby the end of June, and we were talking about moving Amber in from the reception desk to fill in for her as my secretary while she's gone. We're going to need a receptionist to take Amber's place. Myleigh would do wonderfully."

"I figured you could find something," Randy said, knowing his confidence had been well placed. "How about a place to stay?"

"Let me put you on hold," Ryan told his son. "I'll be back in a couple minutes."

Up till this point, Randy had been standing; now, he cleared a cat out of Buddha's desk chair, sat down, leaned back, and contemplated a tool calendar on the wall, while the cat crawled up in his lap and demanded petting. The calendar was three years old, but the girl in the photo was wearing the most radical one-piece swimsuit Randy had ever seen, snowboarding down some frozen slope. It was a hell of a thing to see in a surf shop, but it'd be fun to see Crystal or Myleigh wearing something like that just once, he was thinking when his dad came back on the line. "Problem solved," he said. "She can have either Rachel's room or Ruth's room."

"Thanks, Dad," Randy said. "She's been real upset about it, and this'll be a big relief. I want you to know that this isn't any sort of an affair or shack-up thing with us. It's just a friend helping a friend."

"I figured that," his dad said. "You wouldn't have asked me if there was. Anything else?"

"No," Randy admitted, "I'll give you a call when I get back to Northern."

Randy could hear his father grinning through the phone. "Hey, Steve and I have got to get back to this waferboard press problem. Have fun surfing. I'd rather be there with you than here."

God, he had a cool dad! Mom, too; his dad must have called her out of her fourth-grade class to discuss having Myleigh stay the summer, and that couldn't have taken any time to discuss, either. He shook his head, and hung up the phone. Why did such a neat girl as Myleigh have to be saddled with such buttholes for parents?

He headed back out to the front of the shop. "Buddha, I owe you a few bucks for the phone call," he said. "I'll get it to you the next time I get near my wallet."

"Not to worry," Buddha grinned. "Some kind of problem?"

"Nothing that couldn't be solved," Randy told him. "You just have to know the right person to call."

"Boy, ain't that the truth in this life," Buddha grinned. "How's the surf?"

"Rockin'. I've never seen it this good up on Superior."

"Don't mind him," Buddha told the customers. "He's crazy anyway. He'd almost as soon be dodging ice floes surfing Lake Superior as down here in the sun. At least down here, the water's warm."

Randy headed back across the road, to where Crystal and Myleigh sat waiting. "Well?" Myleigh asked as he picked up his surfboard.

"Problem solved," he said. "Let's go surfing."

"Wait a minute," she said. "What do you mean, 'problem solved?'"

"You mean you don't want to work at a desk as a receptionist full time all summer, drawing, I think, seven and a half bucks an hour from Clark Plywood, and with a place to stay for free?" he teased her with a huge grin on his face. "Like I said, one phone call. And, for the record, I didn't ask for that specifically. I told Dad I was looking for a summer job and a place to stay for you, and he came up with it on his own."

"Randy, I find that you can be most infuriating sometimes," Myleigh laughed. "But thank you. While I'm not seeking charity from you or your family, I must admit that this will solve many problems for me."

"I told you so," he grinned. "Crystal got through to you, huh?"

"No," she said shyly. "Well, yes."

"Good," he grinned. "Welcome to the Clark Family of Companies. We like to make sure our employees are well taken care of." He stopped for a second or two, thought, and let out a laugh. "I'd have to look it up to be sure, but you might even qualify for the Clark Educational Assistance Program."

Myleigh frowned. "Randy, you're not making sense again."

"In the Clark Family of Companies, we like to make sure that our employees have the means to advance their education," he said, as if quoting the employee handbook from memory. He dropped the pretense, and continued. "Usually, it's meant to help someone who wants to attend community college and pick up a skill, like typing or drafting," he said. "Like I said, I'd have to check. A master's in English lit at Cornell might be a little bit of a reach. But then, I know the guy who can bend the rules. On the other hand, it's a tax dodge, which is why CEAP is paying my tuition this year."

"My word," Myleigh said with an amazed grin. "Yes, I think I shall enjoy being an employee of the Clark Family of Companies."

"Look, there's one joker in the deck," Randy said seriously, setting down his surfboard. "I told Dad that this isn't any sort of an affair or shack-up thing. It's just a friend helping a friend. And, he said he thought I wouldn't have asked him if it was. So, I think we have to be honest and keep it straight. Do you have any problem with that?"

"It's off-limits on campus at Northern or nearby. We all agreed on that long ago," she said thoughtfully. "I don't see any reason why we shouldn't have the same policy in Spearfish Lake. However, we need not let my parents know of this policy, lest they have their forlorn hopes dashed."

"Good," he said, amused at the novelty of the idea of using the story of living together to cover up not doing it, rather than the other way around, like the kids Myleigh had sublet her summer apartment from the last three years. "That's all I'm asking. That's not saying we might not go to a concert, or surfing or something. As far as that goes, if we can work it out right, maybe we can get away long enough to visit Crystal down on the Ocoee."

"That'd be fun," Crystal grinned. "We'll have to get her out on a raft. Cowwwwabunga!"

"Don't mind her," Randy grinned. "She's crazy when she gets in a raft, anyway. Problem solved, now?"

"Yes," she said, getting to her feet. "Let's go surfing."

In a minute, all three of them were on their boards, paddling out into the break side by side. It was enough that they had to duck-dive through the oncoming breakers, but once outside, they turned and started to surf. Randy caught a nice one, and had a good ride, working the shoulder hard, feeling good about what he'd just done. If anyone deserved a break, it was Myleigh, considering her butthole parents, even if he'd have to force-feed it to her. The wave was starting to run out, and he pulled out.

As he sank to the board to begin to paddle out again, a sinking feeling came over him, as he realized that in solving one problem, he might well have created another. What would this do to his thinking about Crystal, and all the things they'd talked about yesterday? It couldn't help but complicate things. At least, he could talk to Myleigh about it; if there was one thing he'd learned, that was it. But did he want to talk to her about this one?

And, as far as that went, what would Nicole think if he brought Myleigh home for the summer? She probably wouldn't think that it was as above-board as he and Myleigh would have to be. But then, he and Nicole had agreed that they wouldn't make any promises they couldn't keep; if she showed up with some guy in tow, he'd be happy for her, and he hoped she would be for him in that situation. But, with women, you never knew.

On the other hand, it meant that he'd have Myleigh around for four months longer than he'd expected before she more or less disappeared from his life. He knew he'd better enjoy it while he could. He may have delayed the inevitable for a few months, but it was still there.



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