Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Crystal's last seven weeks at Northern dragged by like lead, and Randy felt the drag along with her. She and Randy still spent several hours together each day, but there were no more overnight trips. From what Randy could tell, Nanci stayed fairly well behaved, at least around Crystal, but he wasn't always aware of what was said one on one. A lot of the fun had gone out of Crystal, being tied down by her sister, and by the stories she and her friends continued to hear. It was clear that she was counting the hours till she could leave the place, and she spent a lot of time talking about and planning her hike up the Appalachian Trail.
Randy was a little morose about it, too. At least his time with Myleigh had ended on a high note, but his last weeks with Crystal were clearly going to be a downer.
At least they heard from Myleigh, a little. Randy only talked with her on the phone a couple of times, but they e-mailed each other every week or so. There really wasn't a lot of news to exchange; Myleigh mostly reported that they were working her buns off, and that Paula was doing OK, too. Randy's e-mails were a little more elaborate, but he tried to stay away from the hassles that Crystal was having with Nanci. He was sure Myleigh was hearing more than she wanted to about it, since she and Crystal talked on the phone often.
November was a nasty month, warm for Marquette, with a lot of wind and rain, but not much snow, and what there was soon melted. Over the course of the month Crystal reported good waves several times on her daily return from Munising, but either they were on days that Randy couldn't get free, or days just too cold and unappealing to go surfing. That meant their trip out there with Gary proved to be the last one of the fall. It was just as well, for they were all busy studying, Randy especially hard, so the good surf they were missing just added to the dismal atmosphere.
Finally, Thanksgiving break rolled around. Randy went home by himself this time, had a nice dinner with his folks -- wearing a suit and tie, too. After dinner, he called Myleigh, who reported that she'd had a nice dinner herself. It turned out that they didn't lock the grad student dorms up, like they did at Marquette. There were too many foreign students and students who couldn't get away. She said that they'd even put on a fairly decent Thanksgiving dinner for those staying behind, but in general the food was no better than it had been at Northern. She seemed bright and chipper, and Randy mentally explored the idea of hopping in the Dodge and making a fast trip to Ithaca to be with her for a few hours. With only three days remaining, over a day of which had to be spent driving each way, it didn't seem like it was worth the trouble.
The next day, Randy called up Nicole. The two of them went out for dinner and drinks at the Spearfish Lake Inn the next night, and sat around talking old times and snowboarding, listening to the Lazy River Band, and hoping that Jennifer and Blake might show up for a trial session, but it didn't happen. It helped to fill out a weekend that was far less memorable than the year before had been.
Crystal and Nanci returned on Sunday from Glen Ellyn, and Randy noted that they came back together in the Olds, for whatever that might have meant. Crystal didn't tell him much about the weekend, but Randy got the idea that it hadn't been pleasant. She did say she spent most of her time going through her old stuff from high school and before, throwing away a lot that had become meaningless after over four years, and packing up much of what remained.
With Thanksgiving break past, they were now down to only two weeks remaining. They were busy weeks. Randy had a lot of studying to get ready for finals, and that took most of his time, but he did manage to spend some time with Crystal. She was feeling the end now, and happy about that, but it was clear that their time together was about over.
And then, in the middle of December, the last day came.
It didn't take Crystal much packing to get ready to leave Northern for the last time; most of her stuff had been packed from the moment she'd arrived on campus at the tail end of August. On the final morning she and Randy drove over to the ad building to pick up her diploma; it was the only graduation ceremony she would have, and it was all that she wanted. "Congratulations, Crystal," he said as she held it in her hand.
"Yeah, thanks, Randy," she said, her dispirit showing. "I got it, for what it's worth. I'm just sorry it had to end like this. I wish the hell it had worked out so that I could have gotten out of here last spring with Myleigh."
"It couldn't be helped," he told her as they headed back out to the Olds.
"Yeah, it could have," she replied, "If they'd just listened to me. Look, I know we once had big plans for this semester. I'm sorry we couldn't do anything about it."
"I am, too," he admitted. "But it's water under the bridge, now."
There wasn't much more to say. For almost two years now, they'd been the best of friends, sharing their lives and sharing their dreams; now it was ending, and both of them knew it. They walked silently out to the car and got in, out of the biting cold wind and blowing rain that filled the air. The dismal day seemed fitting for their mood. "You about ready to go?" she asked as they pulled into the parking lot on the lower campus.
"Yeah," he told her. "All I've got to do is drop by the PEIF and pick up the board."
"What for?" she asked. "There's not going to be any surfing here before spring break."
"Yeah," he said. "But without you or Myleigh here, I probably won't be going on spring break, at least not any farther than Spearfish Lake. But I've got an awful dull month ahead of me and unless we get some snow, there's not even going to be any getting out on the slopes, at least around home. I've kicked around the idea of taking off to Florida for a few days after Christmas, just to get away. At least if I decide to, I'll have the board with me."
"Yeah, I'll be down in Florida before long," she said. "I think after Christmas, I may just head over to Ithaca and spend some time with Myleigh, and then head south when her break is over with."
"That'd be good for you," he said. "You haven't seen her since July, and I know she's been missing you."
"Shit, I've missed her. Randy, I don't want to take anything away from you, and I know you've tried to help, but it just hasn't been the same this fall without her around. She's been more of a sister to me than my sister has. I think that's at least part of the reason I've been so down all fall."
"I'm sure it is," he agreed. "It sure hasn't been the same. I'm glad I've only got one semester left here, myself. I get back from break, and it should be all downhill from there. With Myleigh gone, and now you gone, I'm about ready to get out of this place, too."
"I sure liked it when I came here," she replied. "I even liked it last spring. But now, it's worn awful damn thin; it's time to be moving on, and I'm not planning on coming back any time soon. All I've got to do is pick up Nanci, get the board out of the PEIF, and get the fuck out of here."
"I'll wait and follow you," he offered, as much to drag out the last minutes as anything.
A few minutes later, they were over in the parking lot of the PEIF. Crystal got out of the car but left it running for the heater on the chilly day. Since Nanci was sitting inside, Crystal locked the antitheft device, even for the short time they'd be inside. Randy wondered for a moment if she expected Nanci to go running off with the car even now, or whether it was just Crystal's way of showing her contempt for her sister.
They went inside, got the surfboards, hauled them out to the cars, and helped each other tie them down in the wind and the spitting rain. They'd had a lot of practice doing it, and it didn't take long. Finally, they came together between the two cars.
"Hey, I guess this is it," Crystal said. "Randy, it's been real."
"Yeah," he said, knowing that this was really the end. "Crystal, you take care. Drop me a card or two from the trail, will you?"
"I'll do that," she promised. She looked down for a moment, and said, "Hey, look, I hope this isn't forever."
"I hope not. Drop by if you ever get near Spearfish Lake, or something."
"Sure will. I don't know what I'm doing after next fall, but let's stay in touch. Maybe we can get together again sometime."
"I'd like that," he agreed sadly, doubting that it would happen.
"God damn it," she said, breaking down and throwing her arms around him. "This really is it, isn't it?"
"Yeah," he said, bringing his lips to hers. They stood there kissing for quite a while, as the wind blew and the rain spat on them. It was a goodbye kiss, one that both were sure was a final one, and it wasn't easy to let it come to an end. Finally, they broke, and he whispered in her ear, "Goodbye, Crystal. Have a good life. Say hi to Myleigh for me."
"I will. God, I'm going to miss you." She was silent for a moment, then continued. "Bye, Randy. See you around."
Crystal got back in her car, and Randy walked around to the door of the Dodge. They gave a little wave at each other, and then Randy followed the Olds out of the parking lot, his heart dragging. They stayed close together as they went through town, but once they got out on 41, he got caught by a light. When it changed, the gray Olds was nowhere to be seen.
By now, Randy had long since lost track of the number of trips he'd made between Marquette and Spearfish Lake in nearly four years. He guessed he could figure it out pretty close if he had to, but he wasn't in the mood, since he was sure that this was going to be the longest and saddest one.
When he'd left Myleigh at Ithaca in August, he'd felt like an era was ending in his life, and now, he knew it had. He'd been good friends, hell, lovers, with the two exceptional girls for nearly two years, and in that time he'd come to care for them a lot. Was he in love with them? There was no denying it; strange though the triangular relationship had been, he loved both of them, and had tried to keep it equal.
Now, it was over. He'd known it was going to come, nearly from the beginning, and he'd admitted it and gone on like it was never going to happen, but only since he'd taken Myleigh to Ithaca had he really admitted to himself that it was ending. Probably that realization had cast as much of a pall over this fall as anything Nanci could have done. It had been doomed from the start, doomed in many ways, but only now, heading home alone, could he really begin to admit it.
He, Crystal, and Myleigh had made a lot of good memories in two years. Oh, there were the big and important times, like Myleigh catching Crystal and him sharing the same sleeping bag, down at Buddha and Giselle's, surfing with Crystal up at Second Sand Beach that time, or Myleigh surfing for the first time -- or, for that matter, Myleigh shyly asking him to make love to her, back in her grubby upstairs apartment, up in Marquette. But there were other happy memories, less important but just as pleasant, such as the three of them happily sitting around the girls' room, talking, playing music, just being friends; or the long drives together. Oh, there were bad memories, too; the incident with Baughman in the cafeteria or the two kayakers down on the Ocoee had pretty well scabbed over, by now, pushed into the past by the unpleasantness with Nanci this last fall, as much as anything else.
The goodbye kiss he'd shared with Crystal in the rain-swept parking lot of the PEIF brought an end to some wonderful days, and some not so wonderful. But, it was an end, and that was the important part.
He expected that sooner or later he'd see one or the other or both of the girls again, if only for a short time. He was dead sure he'd be seeing Myleigh again, for there was still a stack of her books and some other things stashed in the Clark attic in Spearfish Lake. Crystal was likely to ramble by sooner or later, although probably not for months, and then probably wouldn't stay long. But, things would never, ever be the same as they'd been for those two wonderful years, no matter how much he might dream of recapturing it.
Now, he had to let it go, and it wasn't easy.
He'd already started the process, a little. It hadn't been quite a year since he'd spent the night with Nicole, in an agony of guilt no matter how much he rationalized things, for while his head had told him that it was all right, he couldn't help but feel in his heart that he was being unfaithful and disloyal to his two special girlfriends.
So, it was with a little relief he'd realized that with the girls going away from him and in their separate ways, he no longer had to worry about that. With Myleigh around Spearfish Lake, he hadn't seen much of Nicole over the summer, and a few times, they'd even made a threesome. Fortunately, as far as Randy could tell, Nicole apparently thought that his relationship with Myleigh was "friends-only" and they'd gone out of the way to avoid the appearance of being lovers. As much as anything, the feeling had been reinforced by the weekend camping and surfing trip the three of them had taken to Lake Michigan at the end of August.
Since the beginning, Randy had thought that when things ended with Myleigh and Crystal, he might wind up back with Nicole. Since Akinback Mountain almost a year before the feeling had been a little stronger -- not that he thought it was inevitable, but he wouldn't mind if that was what happened. That wasn't a done deal, either; he had another semester, and she had a year and a half. In that time, a lot of things could happen, and he knew it. But he realized a few steps in that direction would probably help him put Crystal and Myleigh behind him.
He'd called Nicole the day after Thanksgiving, and had gone out to the Spearfish Lake Inn with her -- just to find out if the engine was still running, so to speak. It had proved that she'd dated a few times over the fall down at Weatherford, but nothing serious, and they'd made plans to go snowboarding some over Christmas break. Nicole had indicated she wouldn't mind an overnighter or two if they could work it out somehow. Randy wasn't opposed to the idea, either.
And, if they were going to do any snowboarding, they'd have to do some overnighters. Snow Snake just didn't have the snowmaking equipment to even think about driving out there. Even in the snow belt around Marquette there wasn't enough snow to say so, and once inland there just wasn't any, which is why Randy had brought the surfboard. He hadn't breathed a word of his idea to Nicole -- it had only developed since he'd come back from Thanksgiving break, anyway -- but the idea of a winter trip down to Buddha and Giselle's was a strong possibility, if they could work out a way to take off from Spearfish Lake for that long without their families and the rest of Spearfish Lake getting too suspicious. He'd have to find a way to bring it up to her, but figured if she liked the idea, they could manage a way to pull it off somehow.
On the other hand, if they went down to Buddha and Giselle's, they stood a chance of running into Crystal there. Nicole had yet to meet Crystal, although she'd heard enough about her. Such a meeting could be a little awkward, although after Crystal's revelation about Gary back in the fall, it wasn't as if she had much room to complain if she should happen to run across him while he was with Nicole. Given the choice, Randy would just as soon avoid the situation, and Crystal's announcement earlier that she'd probably be with Myleigh until the end of the break at Ithaca made that almost a non-issue.
In any case, he had to get started putting Crystal and Myleigh behind him. Perhaps it was a little unfair to be saying, "Help me, Nicole, help, get them out of my heart." And, it wasn't as if Nicole was unappealing. Looked at objectively -- like he could, now -- she had some things going for her that neither Myleigh nor Crystal could claim. As Matt had observed long before, Myleigh appealed to his intellectual side, and Crystal to his physical side. Both were really pretty extreme when you got down to it, although Myleigh seemed to be edging toward the center a little since last spring. Nicole was smart, did have an intellectual side -- her minor was history, and they could both talk knowledgeably about that. She enjoyed snowboarding, and there was no reason to think she wouldn't enjoy surfing if she had the chance to get into it. She wasn't unattractive, and Randy knew she'd fit right into Spearfish Lake.
So as he headed toward home, with the windshield wipers slapping back and forth in the driving rain, things weren't quite as dismal as they'd seemed when he'd left the parking lot of the PEIF. At least, there was a chance he might be heading toward something, rather than away from it.