Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Just from eyeballing the Rand McNally road atlas that usually rode around under the front seat of the Dodge, Randy estimated that it was 700 or 800 miles as the crow flies from Spearfish Lake to Ithaca, New York, where Myleigh would be doing her Master's work. Unfortunately, Joe's pickup wasn't a crow; they had to drive around three Great Lakes, so that added to the distance considerably.
Back in the spring when Randy had made his offhand offer to drive Myleigh to grad school, he hadn't thoroughly thought out the schedule or the logistics, and now it was catching up with him. The problem was that Myleigh had to be at Cornell in roughly the same time frame that he needed to be getting back to Northern. Even if he dropped her off in the early part of the move-in schedule and spent part of the day hauling stuff up to her room, setting up bookshelves, and other such chores, he was still going to be facing a long weekend with a lot of driving.
The big overstuffed chair proved to be the problem that finally forced a rethinking of the whole project. There was enough stuff that had to go to the graduate student dorm in Ithaca that the Dodge would have been pretty full without it, but the chair was now repaired and recovered. Neither of them wanted to risk its new appearance with another ride on the roof rack, so Randy borrowed Joe's pickup for the trip. The load, including the chair, could all be stuffed under the pickup cap with considerable room to spare. The Dodge was left in Joe's driveway ready for the trip to Northern, with the kayak and Randy's surfboard already loaded. Randy planned to stay in Ithaca as long as he could, stop in Spearfish Lake only to change vehicles, and he hoped to slide into Northern while there was still some daylight for unloading on the day before classes started. There just didn't seem to be any other way to do it.
At least Myleigh had been able to make contact with her new roommate, another master's candidate by the name of Paula Ackerman. The two had never met, but on the phone she'd seemed a nice person who had at least visited the grad student dorm at Cornell. After several phone calls they were able to work out some arrangements of who was going to bring what.
Newer though the pickup was, it wasn't as comfortable to ride in as the Dodge, and it was a long hard day for Randy and Myleigh. He figured that even with taking a short cut through Canada, Buffalo was about as far as they were going to get the first day out of Spearfish Lake, so he'd reserved a motel room in Niagara Falls, just off the Interstate. They'd had about all the highway they wanted by the time they got there. They were tired, and in spite of the excitement of Myleigh heading off to her long-awaited graduate work, they were both a little dispirited, for both of them knew this could well be the last night they ever spent together.
They'd managed four such nights over the course of the last four months; two nights on a trip to Ducktown to see Crystal, and surfing trips in early June and early August. Those had been joyful and exciting, a pleasant break from having to be very careful around each other as was required in Spearfish Lake. They hadn't managed to spend as much time together as they'd hoped after kayaking died out with the falling water levels. Myleigh spent a lot of free evenings with Blake, Jennifer, and Shovelhead, and sometimes other musicians, usually in Jennifer and Blake's studio up the street, but a couple more times at the Spearfish Lake Inn. Randy hadn't paid close attention, but he knew that there had been several recordings made during those evenings, though he wasn't sure that meant anything. He knew that Blake and Jennifer had a huge collection of their recordings that would never see the light of day.
There had been some other times together, and some of them were sheer fun. After Nicole had gotten back from her stint at Mosquito Valley, the three of them had gotten together for an evening. The two girls had gotten friendly, even though Randy could tell that Nicole was a little awed by Myleigh. The topic got around to surfing stories, and one thing led to another; that weekend, the three made a camping and surfing trip over to Lake Michigan, where Nicole took Myleigh's surfboard out and actually managed to surf a bit, not bad for a beginner on her first real day. It wasn't terribly surprising for Randy, for he knew Nicole was good on a snowboard, and he made a mental note that it was something he could do with Nicole in future summers. Afterward, they sat around a campfire, where Randy played the guitar and they sang some songs, without the benefit of the harp, which had stayed behind this trip. It had been a good time, and the girls had gotten along, but it just made Randy more aware of the fact that things were going to be changing in another few days.
It was still light, but only barely, when they pulled into the motel, after a dinner and a quick but obligatory visit to Niagara Falls. It was a cheap motel, nothing special, with no pool or other diversions except those they made themselves. They had become fairly practiced at those, and wasted little time getting started, mostly because they faced a busy day in the morning.
Thus it was that little more than an hour after their arrival, they lay cuddled together naked under a thin sheet in their motel room, exhausted and sweaty and wishing that the moment could last forever. "You know, I'm going to miss this," Myleigh grinned as she rested her head on his strong arm, with its muscles built up to the strength of iron after a summer of concrete work.
"I am, too," he agreed, his hand caressing the silkiness of her body. "I just wish we could have done it more this summer."
"I'm glad we got to do it as much as we did," she said in a wistful tone. "But, it looks as if it worked out for the best. There's no doubt that it was a better summer than the alternative for me, and at least for a little while I could be with all my books again."
They'd made a trip down to Glen Ellyn a month before to pick up the things of Myleigh's that had accumulated there, so everything could be concentrated in the Clark's attic. The trip down took several hours, the last through heavy Chicago traffic that Randy hated. It was a little strange for either of them to be at the Chladek's house without Crystal around, but at least Randy had help from Pete and Jon to haul the things up out of the basement and load them into the Dodge. Karin asked them to stay for lunch; of course, they took her up on it, but in the early afternoon they were headed back to the north.
"It seems strange," Myleigh said. "As much as anything, the Chladeks have represented home to me for the last four years, and they have done so much for me. I hate to say it, but now it seems unlikely that I shall ever see them for any lengthy period again."
"Yeah, I know," Randy agreed softly. "I don't know them as well as you do, but I'd be surprised if I ever saw them very much again, either.
"You might, should you and Crystal eventually marry," she grinned.
"Not much chance of that," Randy shook his head as his hand continued to wander her body, and he felt the touch of hers. "I don't see Crystal getting married any time soon. I don't think she's ready for it, and she doesn't either. Maybe somewhere up the road, if we still know each other and don't get tired of waiting. I figure the odds are just about as good that I wind up marrying you."
"Yes," she agreed with a small smile. "Any talk of marriage on our parts is premature at best, and likely fruitless. As much as I've enjoyed being in Spearfish Lake the last months, I think I'd feel uncomfortable making a life there." She stopped, thought for a moment while her hands still caressed him, then asked, "Randy, I have a theoretical question for you."
"Sure," he said quietly, placing a little kiss on her forehead. "Just expect a theoretical answer."
"Tease," she snickered. "Assume for a moment that Crystal and I were equally willing and available to get married. Which one of us would you prefer marrying?"
"Myleigh, would you believe that's a tough one?" And, it was a hell of a question for her to ask while she was in bed with him, but he took a swing at it. "I've had it in the back of my mind for a year or more, and I can't make up my mind. I've always figured I'd never have to, since that 'equally willing and available' situation will probably never come up. I hope it never does. I suppose I'd be less than honest if I didn't say that when I'm with Crystal I prefer her, and when I'm with you I prefer you. Sometimes I just wish there were some way to marry the both of you, but I don't suppose it'll ever happen."
"I know we've made this difficult for you," she said quietly, "But perhaps the situation is changing now."
"Perhaps, but not yet. I'm in no rush. I can wait till it settles out, one way or another. I figure I've got two or three years before I even have to start thinking about it. In that time, you might find some English lit type you can sit around and happily discuss Jane Austen and Ann Rutledge with to your heart's content. Or, Crystal might find some OLTA instructor she can climb Mt. Everest with, or something. And, you know what? I'll come to the wedding and give you a toaster for a wedding present. I'll be perfectly happy to do it, and sincerely wish you the best of luck."
Myleigh shook her head. "Randy, I fear sometimes that you are too noble for your own good. I often wish things were just a little bit different, and that I might prove to be a good wife for you. However, sometimes I do wonder if I should be able to be a good wife for anyone."
"Things change," he said. "You aren't the same person you were four years ago, and I'd be willing to bet the process isn't completed. If things break our way, fine. If they don't, no hard feelings. That's sort of the agreement we've had from the beginning, and I see no need to change it at this point."
"As I said, too noble for your own good," she smiled. "Ah, but this is purely a theoretical discussion isn't it? I do believe that I'm happy that you're in no rush to marry, for I am not, either."
"Good," he laughed. "We can wait. There's no way we could do anything before you get your doctorate, anyway."
"If it doesn't work out for us," she said. "I shall not be hurt if we should each wind up with others in the end. But Randy, one thing."
"If you and I should end up marrying someone else, and you bring a toaster to my wedding, I shall be forced to bring one to yours."
"I'll accept it gratefully," he smiled. "But, maybe we're being too negative. This might not be the last time we get together, after all."
"Yes, but I cannot help but believe the opportunities will become rarer and the times shorter," she shook her head. "We may be worrying for nothing. There's a chance I'll be back in Spearfish Lake next summer, after all, and by then Crystal should not be an issue, as I expect she will be out hiking somewhere. On the other hand, I could be gone someplace quite distant, depending on where I get accepted for my doctoral work, and how the program is organized."
"There's no way of telling," he agreed. "I hope this isn't the last time, in any case. We ought to have a better idea of what happens with that by spring."
She lifted her head up and looked into his eyes. "There's no point in worrying about it tonight, for what the morrow brings, it brings, I fear. We do have things to do tonight, and let the morrow take its course."
"You know, you're right," he smiled, letting his hand slide down to the bare softness of her breast, which still felt strange to the touch, after a year of exploring it from time to time. It was familiar to him now, the full curve of it, the silken gentleness, the surprising contrast of the dark nipple against its field of white. "We do have some time left to talk, but not much for this."
"Yes, let us take advantage of it while we may," she said, raising her lips to kiss him.
They made love several times before finally falling into an exhausted sleep in each other's arms. Randy awoke once in the night, to find her asleep, using his arm for a pillow, cuddled close to him. It was a magical moment he wished could go on forever, with her laying close to him, snoring lightly for once. He lay awake for quite a while, just wishing things had worked out a little differently. Maybe someday, he thought.
In spite of an active night, they were up and on the road early, for there was much that needed to get done. On their way to the Thruway, they found a drive-through and had a quick hand-meal breakfast, then started out on the last lap to Ithaca. "I take it you slept all right?" she asked, once they'd gotten under way.
"Could have been better, considering what I've got facing me over the next two days," he shrugged. "But really, I don't mind."
"I was fearful that I might keep you awake," she admitted. "I have really enjoyed sleeping in your arms, but have often wondered if you haven't found it distracting."
"Myleigh, if you're saying what I think you're saying, I need to stop and take note of the time and place," he grinned.
She looked at him with an evil grin. "You mean, an admission that I snore?"
"Seven twenty-six AM, Grand Island, New York, outside of Buffalo. Make a note of it for me, would you, Surfer Girl?"
"You needn't make that much light of it," she smiled.
"After all the protests I've heard for the last year and a half about how you don't snore? Come on, get real!"
"I never thought it could be as bad as some people like to accuse me of," she admitted sheepishly. "For example, a particular concrete technician in whose arms I happen to enjoy sleeping. However, when Blake made a tape of me after I'd fallen asleep in their studio one evening recently, I had to admit that there might be some truth to the accusations."
"Just a little embarrassing, yaah?"
"Slightly," she grinned. "However, that was not the embarrassing part. That came later."
"I don't think I've heard this story."
She snickered. "I must admit that after I heard several minutes of the tape, thinking it must have been made of Shovelhead, but then have him take a flashlight and examine my mouth and nose. He asked, 'How long as it been since you've seen a doctor?' I told him it had been some years, so he told me to come by the office in the morning. I must admit, I was very confused."
Randy laughed, but said nothing. She wasn't the first person that had happened to; it was almost the routine initiation to reality in Spearfish Lake.
"Randy, it's not funny!" she said. "I always thought Shovelhead was a motorcycle mechanic. How was I to know he's the leading physician in Spearfish Lake?"
"You know you're becoming a local when you see him on the street wearing leathers, and you call him 'Shovelhead,' then go into his office, find he's changed into scrubs, and you call him 'Dr. Metarie,'" he laughed. "It's sort of like 'Jennifer' and 'Jenny.' I think that's part of the reason they get along so well, although he does play a helluva violin. You ever meet his wife, Lex?"
"Oh, my!" Myleigh said, laughing now. "All those tattoos! You'd think she just came out of a biker bar after breaking a pool cue over someone's head, but what gorgeous work she does at the easel."
"Someday I'd like to have enough money to afford one of her paintings," he grinned. "You have to come back to Spearfish Lake now; you're in on the gag. So, what did Dr. Metarie say?"
"He gave me a thorough physical, which I have not had in many years, including some special examinations of my nasal passages. He reports that I'm in generally good health, and that the snoring can eventually be largely fixed with some surgery. However, I do not have the money for the surgery at this time, but he assures me that it can be done in the future. If by chance you should eventually consider marrying me, that will not necessarily be a concern."
"That's good to know," he said. "Too bad we couldn't have had you at Clark Plywood for two more months, we could have had it done on the employee health plan."
"Yes, but there will be chances in the future," she grinned. "I confess, I did consider that option, but I'm much too anxious to begin work on my master's."
"Maybe you should have," he laughed. "Think about poor Paula."
"I did contact her after the taping, and warned her about it," she admitted. "She assured me that it will not be a problem. I take it as a good omen for the next year."
"It turns out that Paula is largely deaf and must use hearing aids in both ears," Myleigh laughed.
"Sounds like a perfect match to me," he laughed with her. "Think of all the people on the second floor of Spaulding who would have liked to have tuned you out over the last four years."
"Yes, now that I've heard that tape, sometimes I wonder how Crystal endured it," Myleigh grinned. "Of course, when Crystal takes it in her mind to sleep, a spike bed in a tornado wouldn't interfere with her slumber, but she can wake up in a second if there's anything amiss." She turned pensive. "You know, I shall miss Crystal. I shall envy you having the chance to be with her."
"No doubt," he laughed, making the turn onto the Thruway entry ramp and slowing for the toll booth. "You two worked out pretty well from an unlikely beginning."
"That we did," she said. "I do hope Paula and I can be half as good friends."
"Got some butterflies?"
"How could I not?" she said as he stopped at the toll booth, picked up a ticket, and started to accelerate again. "Of course, there are concerns. I am farther away from those I know than I was four years ago, and those I know I now love considerably more. I feel sure I can handle the work, but of course, there are unknowns. Yes, I have butterflies, but they are nearly nonexistent compared to four years ago."
"I'm sure that you're not the kid you were four years ago," he told her. "I don't think there's much need to worry."
"Yes, but I shall miss having my lions, though after this summer I do not feel I need them about me as badly. That's another thing this summer has done for me. For what was an unintended, nearly chance meeting, I feel that the connection I've had with Jennifer has been good for me."
"It has," he said. "You grew in some areas I couldn't help you with. I don't think they will hurt you. You're a much more self-confident, outgoing person than you were, even last spring, willing to try new things. I frankly think it's rather neat."
"I'll tell you a secret," she said. "I think so, too."
Two hours later, they turned off the New York State Thruway and headed south for another hour over two-lane roads to Ithaca, Myleigh's home for the next few months. Randy had always thought that Northern's campus was rather neat, but the old buildings and well-kept campus of Cornell was in another class entirely. "Wow, this place is really something," he said, eyes goggling as he picked his way through traffic on the narrow roads, on the way to find the graduate student housing complex.
"Paula's probably already here," Myleigh said as he found a place to park the truck, up on the grass, like they did at Northern for loading days.
"We'd better not waste a trip," he told her, cracking open the cap on the pickup. He handed Myleigh the harp case, and grabbed the nearest couple boxes.
The graduate student dorm was fairly new, not dissimilar to those at Northern. Myleigh and Paula's room proved to be partway down a hall on the third floor; the door was standing wide open. They walked in, to find a thin, frail-looking sandy-haired girl with hearing aids in both ears. "Hi, you must be Myleigh," she said, in an affected manner of speech that indicated to Randy that she must have learned to talk without benefit of being able to hear.
"I am," she said. "This is my boyfriend, Randy Clark. He came along to move me and help carry things."
"Are you going here, too?" Paula asked.
"No, Northern Michigan University," he said. "I'm a senior." He looked around; the room was nicer than those at Northern. The two girls didn't have to share a bathroom with suitemates, which he thought was an improvement. The rooms were also a little larger.
"Are you studying literature too?" she wondered, looking him over carefully; he was wearing a T-shirt that was a little too small, and he was very tan. His muscles bulged, and Randy frankly hoped he didn't look like a lit student.
"No," Myleigh answered for him with a grin. "He's into something more concrete."
"What's that?" Paula asked curiously.
"Concrete." Randy grinned. "I'm in business administration and construction management. Myleigh, I'll just go haul stuff while you two unpack and get acquainted."
An hour later, the hauling was complete, and the room stacked with boxes of books and clothes. Randy had already gotten Myleigh's computer put together and running, and was busy with a screwdriver, reassembling the bookshelves he'd taken apart four months ago at Northern, while the girls were getting the room organized. Myleigh found room on the wall for a couple of favorite posters that had been hanging in Marquette, and on her desk were some photos. Paula took a long look at each of them.
"Don't tell me you're a surfer?" Paula asked, appraising the first photo -- one that Giselle had taken last spring of the three of them with their surfboards; both the girls were wearing very brief string bikinis, and Randy was wearing his tight springsuit shorts.
"That was taken in Florida last spring," Myleigh said. "The other girl is Crystal, my undergraduate roommate. I wouldn't be surprised if she shows up here sometime."
"That doesn't look like Florida in the other picture," Paula commented, looking at the second photo, which was of Myleigh surfing in her borrowed wetsuit up at Au Train in the spring; though the lake was open, there was still ice along the shore.
"No," Myleigh admitted, "That's Lake Superior. The water wasn't very warm, perhaps forty degrees."
Randy stole a glance at Paula; her mouth was hanging open. Her eyes grew even wider when she saw the third picture, which Randy had taken of Jennifer, Blake, Shovelhead, and Myleigh at their second trial session at the Spearfish Lake Inn, along in July; he'd been warned for that one. In it, Jennifer and Myleigh were doing a duet into the same microphone. "Do I know her?" Paula asked.
"That's Jennifer Evachevski," Randy said conversationally. "She lives up the street from me."
Paula shook her head. "She sure looks like Jenny Easton."
"Yeah, she does," Randy said, noncommittally. "Mostly because she goes by that name sometimes."
Paula stared at Myleigh with a look that was more than a little indescribable, but "awe" would be a good place to start. Randy looked at Myleigh, too, with a grin and a headshake. Well, Myleigh was going to have to be the one to deal with it, he thought.
"Hey, look," he said after a moment. "I'm going to hit the head, and then I'm going to have to hit the road. I've got to be in Marquette tomorrow afternoon."
"I know," Myleigh sighed unhappily. "When you get done, I shall go downstairs and bid you farewell."
A few minutes later they were heading downstairs side by side. As soon as they were out of hearing distance of the room, Randy laughed, "Myleigh, you wicked little poser; you're evil, you know?"
"What do you mean?" she grinned. "Those are just photos of me and my friends."
"Yeah, right," he laughed at the innocent tone in her voice. "She was looking at you like you were the kind of wild Amazon that you thought Crystal was."
"With a muscled bronze Hercules of a boyfriend," she laughed. "But it's so nice to be on the other side of that coin for once," Myleigh grinned. "You're right. I guess I have come a long way."
A minute or so later, they were down next to the pickup truck. "Look, Myleigh, take care," he said. "You need help, call."
"I will," she promised quietly. "Call me when you get to Marquette, and let me know how Crystal is doing."
"Let's try to stay in touch, even just a little. I don't want us to drift apart."
"Me either. But we know it can happen, and Randy, if it does, rest assured that you'll always have a special place in my heart."
"Mine too, Myleigh," he said, taking her in his arms. "Mine too."
They kissed long and hard. It was a kiss that would have to last them for months, perhaps a lifetime, and both of them knew it. It was hard to break, though they finally had to. As Randy drove off the campus, he knew that whatever happened, for good or bad, he was leaving a special era of his life behind him, and he was sure things would never be the same again.