Alone Together

Part II of the Dawnwalker Cycle

"A Spearfish Lake Story"

a novel by
Wes Boyd
©2004, ©2009

Chapter 18

December, 1999

Jon and Tanisha had a day off on the Friday before Christmas, and they were planning to head up to Flagstaff on Saturday afternoon. That meant they had a day to themselves, and they could usually find something to do with time like that. During the morning, Tanisha found herself in a most enjoyable predicament. She was laying flat on her back on the bed, her arms and legs spread wide, her wrists and ankles tied by ropes to each corner of the bed. She was wearing little – a blindfold and a ball gag. Jon had spread honey in some very strategic spots, and he was in the process of very slowly and methodically licking it off. Part of the time the flood of sensation had her in a nearly overwhelming ecstasy, and the rest of the time it was well past mere overwhelming.

Mild bondage games had been part of their sexual bag of tricks since their first summer, although they didn’t do them often, just enough for flavoring. The gag was not to keep her from protesting, or even to keep her from begging for more – it had been her suggestion, long before, to keep her from bothering the neighbors with screams and moans of pure delight. If there was any negative feeling, it was because she couldn’t get Jon into the same level of delightful sensation – at least not right now, but sometime, maybe later today, maybe next week the roles would be reversed . . . but for now, it might go on for hours, and that might not be long enough . . .

Right in the middle of the whole damn show, the telephone rang. Sensitive as always to lying low, Jon didn’t answer it, but let the answering machine screen the call as always, even though few people had their number. "You have reached 448-8466," they heard the mechanical, computerized voice of the answering machine say. "You have thirty seconds to identify yourself, and leave a number where you can be reached."

"Hey, Bro, it’s Crystal," they heard the reply. "Either pick up the damn phone or give me a call back at the office in the next few minutes. I won’t be here long."

"Oh, shit," Tanisha heard Jon say, and felt him reach for the phone. "What’s up, Crystal?"

The touch of his hand on her breast felt sooo good too, that Tanisha only paid half attention to what she heard Jon say: "You’re kidding! That’ll be great! . . . No, we can do that . . . What was that flight again? . . . OK, got it. It’ll be great to see her again!"

Tanisha heard Jon set the phone down, and said, "Mmmuummpfffhh," which, translated, he took to mean, "What was that all about?"

"Gotta pick someone up at the airport," he announced, then continued in a voice that reeked of evil joy, "We’ve got a few hours before we have to leave, though."

"Mmmmmmm," Tanisha sighed in relief, then started making sounds that were far less intelligible as she felt his tongue on her in another very strategic spot.

Sometime later, when she was feeling very mellow and sated from all that had happened, he untied her and helped her to the shower to wash off the remnants of the honey, as if any could possibly remain. She was so weak from exhausted delight that he had to help her shower, and that led to even more thrills . . . it ranked as a pretty good few hours, no matter how you cut it. Only after yet another very enjoyable visit to the bed did the thought of the phone call cross her mind. "Who do we have to pick up at the airport?" she asked as she lay exhausted and naked beside him on the bed.

"Myleigh," Jon smiled. "It’ll be great to see her again."

"Who’s this? I don’t remember hearing about her before."

"Crystal’s roommate, from back when she was in college. They were best friends, all through college. She’s been on the outs with her family for a long time, and she used to spend Christmas with us. It must be at least five years since I’ve seen her. Crystal was going to pick her up, but she got busy with something and asked us to do it, since we’re going up tomorrow anyway."

"What’s she like?" Tanisha wondered – there was always a concern with someone new about how they were going to react to her.

Jon let out a big sigh. "Myleigh is . . . well, she’s like Myleigh, and there’s no one else like her. Another astonishing woman. Maybe I’d better not say anything more, since she’s so damn hard to describe."

* * *

As they stood in the airport waiting for the plane to arrive, Tanisha had no idea of what to expect Myleigh to be like. The only friends of Crystal that she knew about were the raft guides they’d visited in Flagstaff, so the odds seemed to favor another rough-hewn, boisterous woman like Crystal, like Scooter . . . and, well, yes, like Michelle. She was absolutely, not in any way prepared for the small, black-haired, shapely and extremely neat woman who walked off the plane in a tan business suit. She didn’t even notice her at first, until he heard Jon say with a smile, "Myleigh! Good to see you again!"

"Jon!" she said brightly, with a huge grin. "Crystal told me to expect you, but you look so good I hardly believed I recognized you!" She walked over to join them, and held out her hand.

Tanisha watched in amazement as Jon bent forward, raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. "As always, my dear, it is a pleasure to be in your company." This was Jon? Tanisha thought. What the hell? "I should like to beg the favor of introducing you to my wife, Tanisha. Tanisha, this is Myleigh Harris."

"Most delighted," Myleigh smiled, turning to her. "Jon, Crystal has told me you were married to a most remarkable woman, indeed. Tanisha, I’m pleased beyond belief to make your acquaintance."

With eyes bugging out, and at a loss for words, Tanisha could only watch as Myleigh took her hand, raised it and bent her head to kiss it. "Pleased to meet you," she finally managed to stammer.

"As am I, dear lass," Myleigh smiled. "After hearing Crystal complain for so many years that the chances Jon would marry were slim since he could not be torn from his computer long enough to find a woman to marry him, I’m delighted to meet the woman who proved her wrong."

"Things change," Jon observed. "Tanisha and I were married last spring, although we’ve been together for much longer. And, may I inquire what you’re doing these days?"

"I completed my doctorate last summer," Myleigh grinned, "And was fortunate enough to find a small sinecure at Marienthal College in Kansas City."

"Literature, I presume?" Jon said.

"Yes, of course. Unfortunately, much of it depends on convincing freshmen that great literature is not oppressively dull, but once in a while I can make one see the light. But Jon, shouldn’t we proceed to the baggage claim area? I find myself worried that Blue Beauty actually arrived with me."

"Yes, of course," he said. "May I carry your bag?"

"Why, of course, dear sir," Myleigh smiled. "Crystal informed me that she had arranged lodging with you for the night, and we’d proceed to Flagstaff tomorrow. I know Crystal can be a bit exuberant about such things, and if it is going to be any inconvenience, please feel free to assist me in making other arrangements."

"No, no problem," Tanisha said, amazed at the flood of polite, elegant language – and not only from Myleigh, "If you don’t mind sleeping on the sofa. We’ve got kind of a small place, and there’s only the one bed."

"It should not be a problem for me if it is not for you," Myleigh said. "Considering some of the hard ground Crystal had me sleeping on from time to time over the years, a sofa will be quite comfortable indeed. I shall much appreciate the opportunity to share your abode with you."

No wonder Jon hadn’t tried to describe her, Tanisha thought – polite to the point of being courtly, yet bubbling with happiness! And, the way she talked . . . Tanisha had known other English lit majors from time to time, but she’d never run across one who used the language quite as precisely and correctly as Myleigh. She was a delightful person, very much an individual, and obviously proud of it. Tanisha’s first response was that she couldn’t figure out how Myleigh and Crystal could share the same planet, let alone the same room, yet only a few seconds made her realize that such extreme individuals had a lot in common – and had to be pretty tolerant of differences in others.

"Are you going to be around long?" Jon asked.

"A few days," Myleigh smiled. "Around the middle of the week, I’m traveling with the procession to Spearfish Lake, to attend Randy and Nicole’s wedding, where I am to perform. Then, I shall be joining Crystal and a pair of her friends at our old haunts in Florida for a few days before returning to Kansas City. I confess, it will be good to be upon a wave again."

Tanisha remembered Crystal saying that she and Michelle and Scooter were going surfing – and somehow, it seemed unlikely that Myleigh fit into that trip, but by now she could believe almost anything. "Don’t tell me you’re a surfer, too?" she asked.

"I must admit, I do not have the skills of Crystal," Myleigh smiled, "And I’ve not had the chance to test them for several years, but still, I’m looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with the restless sea. But then, Crystal says it had been a while for her since the last time she did it, and she swears the skills are easily re-attained. But yes, I’m one of those people who were considered either demigods or certifiable lunatics for daring to surf on the ice-water mansions of Lake Superior."

Jon was right, Tanisha thought in awe. She’s indescribable . . . what else does she do? Somehow, it seemed unlikely that she’d learned everything already.

Down in the baggage claim area, Myleigh was quite joyful to spot a large, triangular black case riding around on the baggage carousel. "Thank goodness!" she said with obvious relief as she picked up the case. "Jon, Tanisha, every time I fly with Blue Beauty, I fear I shall never see her again. I have been searching for an alternate that I might not care as much about for those occasions I’m forced to use air travel. This is going to be an excruciating trip, with three more opportunities to be separated from her."

"Uh, Myleigh, do you have any more luggage?" Jon asked.

Myleigh looked a little stunned for a moment, and then replied, "Yes, of course, it almost slipped my mind with my relief to see Blue Beauty again." She turned and snagged a large black bag.

Jon took the bag from her, picked up the large triangular case, and said, "We managed to get a spot fairly close in, so we might as well walk."

"I shall enjoy the bit of exercise," Myleigh grinned.

In a few minutes, they had the bags in the car. "Myleigh, have you eaten yet?" Jon asked.

"I ate aboard the airliner," she replied from the back seat. "It was rather Spartan, and I wouldn’t object to another bite or two."

"You’re still a vegetarian, right?"

"Nominally," Myleigh said. "I find my principles being degraded as time passes."

"I can throw something together at home," Tanisha offered, "Or, we can find a restaurant."

"Whatever you desire," Myleigh said.

"Jon, let’s hit a restaurant. There’s that Italian place not far from home, they have a good salad bar."

The restaurant wasn’t really exceptional, although it was all right; Tanisha and Jon went in there occasionally, and it made a good place to have a late dinner. The salad bar looked good to Jon and Tanisha, too, so they all sat and talked. After a while, Jon commented. "I suppose Crystal told you about us."

"She mentioned that you were estranged from Pete and Nanci," Myleigh confirmed. "And, she said Tanisha is in a similar state of affairs with her whole family."

"That’s right," Tanisha said. "In fact, we’re lying pretty low from them. It was a real surprise to us to have Crystal walk into our lives, bringing Karin and Al with her."

"It came as something of a surprise to me when she announced it," Myleigh said. "I had not seen Karin for several years, although we did talk on the phone occasionally. It pained me considerably to see the family with which I had spent so many enjoyable holidays fall apart so thoroughly, so I confess I was extraordinarily happy to hear that it was being partly reassembled, and that I was invited to enjoy the Winterset celebration. But, if you’re asking if I’ll tell Jon’s father about you, the response is a negative. I have not talked to him in some time and have no desire to renew the acquaintance, from what I have heard."

"Well, we don’t want it shouted from the housetops, in any case," Jon said. "I doubt if Tanisha’s family would find out anything through you, but you never know."

"Oh, no problem," Myleigh smiled. "I shall be the soul of discretion."

"Are you still on the outs with your parents?" Jon asked.

"Yes, thankfully," Myleigh said. "I understand your position entirely, as mine is similar. My parents do not know I am in Kansas City, as far as I know, and I hope the situation will continue unchanged."

"You know how it works, then?" Tanisha asked.

"Yes, I do," Myleigh sighed. "Recently it appeared that my parents were attempting to reinsert themselves into my life once again, and I had to resort to desperate measures to quell them. Tanisha, my parents utterly objected to my even attending college, let alone pursuit of a doctorate. They are of the opinion that the only fit career for a woman is to produce babies, and possibly some small pittance of money for a man to spend."

"I think I can understand how you could object to that," Tanisha said, realizing it must really have been a battle with a woman with as strong a personality as Myleigh. "My parents were pretty much the same way."

"I managed to stay well out of their reach when I was at Northern, and later at Cornell," Myleigh explained. "Randy and I were able for some years to provide them with a false vision of a serious romance that might someday result in the grandchildren they so desire. But then, when I was doing my doctorate at Athens, not far from home, our masquerade fell apart, since we did not have the distance to maintain it. When things turned rather worse, I was forced to turn to my roommate for assistance in bringing the situation under control."

Tanisha sensed a story, and not an unhappy one, considering Myleigh’s huge grin. "How did you manage that?" she asked.

"Oh, it was quite simple," Myleigh laughed. "Olivia and I invited them to dinner. I should explain that Olivia and I were not the type of friends that Crystal and I were, and barely compatriots at that, but she was willing to assist me. She is an extremely active feminist, and enjoyed the opportunity to take a man, any man, down a notch. Since it was my father we were talking about, I was quite willing to cooperate with her idea."

"This had to be some dinner," Tanisha smiled.

"It was nothing fancy, just a small, intimate affair," Myleigh smiled. "I should possibly also explain that Olivia is a lesbian, and rather forward about it."

Jon laughed. "Myleigh, you didn’t!"

"I most certainly did," she laughed. "All it took was one long, deep, passionate kiss between Olivia and myself. When I opened my eyes, my parents were gone, and I have not heard from them since."

Tanisha could just imagine the scene as she laughed so hard the tears ran from her eyes. If only she could figure out a way to settle her brother that easily . . . and maybe they had. They’d never heard anything about her change of address from Georgia Tech, even though Jennlynn occasionally brought back mail from the alumni office, but that was something to think about some other time. "You really aren’t a lesbian, are you?" she asked.

"Oh, goodness, no," Myleigh grinned, "Although I find I can sympathize with people of Olivia’s persuasion after sharing space with her for so long."

Tanisha thought for a fleeting moment that they ought to recruit Myleigh into the business side of Lambdatron. Talk about a secret weapon! She found herself thoroughly enjoying their delightful visitor, and realized it would be a great deal of fun to get to know her better. And she wondered too, what that "Blue Beauty" was in the black triangular box.

She found out not long afterwards, in the quiet of their living room, when Myleigh asked if they would mind if she practiced a bit. It was fine with them – Jon had a huge grin on his face, and Tanisha was filled with curiosity. Myleigh opened the case, and pulled out a strange-looking harp, dark blue, about three feet high. "What is that?" Tanisha couldn’t help but ask.

"This is Blue Beauty," Myleigh said, holding the harp lovingly, almost as if it were a baby. "She’s a solid-body Celtic harp. She’s not terribly authentic as she was made in France. Normally I play her acoustically, but there’s a pickup to turn her into an electric instrument. Do not expect any heavy metal, as I did not bring an amp with me."

"It is a very pretty instrument," Tanisha said, thinking someone like Myleigh couldn’t be expected to play something ordinary, like say, a guitar.

"She has filled many lonely hours with happiness," Myleigh said solemnly, "And she has opened opportunities to me that I had never dreamed could exist." She swung the harp around to rest it on her shoulder, played a harp-like run of rich, toned music, tested the tune of a few strings, and made a few adjustments. "I might as well warm up a little," she added. Tanisha couldn’t imagine what she would play on it – probably something classical, she thought.

Myleigh smiled, and began to play – surprising Tanisha yet again. It sounded vaguely familiar, and it was classical, all right – classic rock, sounding right out of the sixties. She’d heard the piece, although she couldn’t name it, but somehow Myleigh was mixing several parts into one esoteric, exotic piece of music. With wide eyes, she watched their guest work her way through the exuberant music, and it sure didn’t sound like any harp she’d ever heard played.

"What . . . what was that?" she said in amazement as Myleigh finished.

"It’s an old surfing piece, called Pipeline," Myleigh explained. "It was originally written for guitars, but I think it makes an adequate warmup."

"I didn’t know you could do something like that with a harp," Tanisha protested.

"Yeah," Jon added, "That’s not the kind of music I remember you playing."

"I’ve learned a few things in the years since I’ve seen you," Myleigh laughed. "In fact, I’ve had some very interesting teachers. I should imagine you were expecting something like this." She began to play again.

Now this was more like they had been expecting, a Celtic ballad, about an Irish woman, walking the beach in the light of early morning, looking for some trace of her husband’s fishing boat . . . this was familiar, in fact, more than familiar. Tanisha was no expert on the music, but one of the engineers in Building 4 had a CD player. He often played music on it to help him concentrate, and she’d heard it there. It was a Jenny Easton piece, backed up with harp, like Myleigh was playing, named Dawnwalker. It sounded awfully good – Myleigh didn’t quite have the timbre of Jenny Easton’s voice, but she was an accomplished singer.

"That sounds every bit as good as the harp on Dawnwalker," Tanisha said, indicating she was familiar with the music.

"I should hope so," Myleigh smiled. She reached into the harp case, pulled out a CD jewel case, and handed it to Tanisha – who looked at it, and her eyes grew wide. She hadn’t seen the CD before, but it was titled, At Home With Jenny Easton – Songs I Play With Friends. Jenny sat on the floor, a guitar on her lap, leaning up against the legs of a really handsome guy, also with a guitar. Facing them, on a couch, were a big biker-looking guy in leathers, holding a violin – and Myleigh, holding Blue Beauty. Her jaw dropped, and she handed the CD to Jon.

"Myleigh, how did you get to know Jenny Easton?" he asked, equally amazed.

"It was almost an accident," Myleigh grinned. "Randy and Crystal and I were at Randy’s house for Thanksgiving a few years ago, while we were all still at NMU. Randy and I were playing Dawnwalker in the living room, and his mother invited some friends from up the street over to hear us. It was Jennifer, and her boyfriend, Blake. He’s the man on the right. The man on the left, with the violin, is Shovelhead."

"You and Randy wrote Dawnwalker?" Jon said in amazement.

"No, Jennifer and Blake wrote it," Myleigh explained. "They write considerably more than they publish, and loaned Randy some tapes of their rejects, that we might have some original music to play at college. Upon hearing us play that night, Jennifer and Blake unrejected it, and I then spent much of the next weekend playing with her, and considerable time since. I confess, during my doctorate program, my funds were running quite low, but a check arrived from Jennifer with my first share of At Home just in time to finance my spending last summer in England."

"You learned how to play that Pipeline from her?" Tanisha managed, in considerable amazement.

"And much more," Myleigh smiled. "Let us say that Jennifer and Blake have had considerable influence on my approach to the harp. While I’m in Spearfish Lake for Randy’s wedding, I look forward to playing with Jennifer again, and there is to be discussion of a future album."

Myleigh played on for an hour or so – and they discovered she had a huge range with Blue Beauty, and she was very good – no, terrifically good. And this is her hobby, Tanisha thought with unstilled amazement. What would it be like to take a lit class from her?

"I can see why you didn’t want to describe her," Tanisha whispered in Jon’s ear as he held her in his arms in bed a few hours later. "What an extraordinary woman."

"She’s changed some from what I remember," Jon said. "She’s much more outgoing than she used to be. She used to be pretty shy, and about all she played on the harp were old ballads. That rock and jazz stuff, she’s picked up since I last saw her."

"And, the way she talks," Tanisha whispered, shaking her head. "Does she talk like that all the time?"

"All the time," Jon said. "Well, not quite. Crystal says when she quits talking like that, it’s time to run for cover. She does have a temper, but she keeps it under control, most of the time." He sighed, "Look, you’ve told me you knew what it was like to be a smart kid in high school, and have all the jocks and cheerleader types putting you down. It was the same for me."

"You’re telling me it was worse for her?"

"So I’m told, and it’s easy to believe," Jon said. "She was her class valedictorian. I can quote her speech: ‘I have a message for you from the bottom of my heart: Fuck you!’"

Tanisha giggled. "Oh, God, I wanted to do that," she said, "But I could never have gotten away with it. What a woman!"

"She is pretty neat," Jon said. "I’d say even neater now than she used to be."

All of a sudden, a roaring noise erupted from downstairs. Tanisha knew that a neighbor had a motorcycle, and occasionally tuned it up – it made a similar sound, although it didn’t penetrate the apartment like this did. He wouldn’t do it at this hour anyway. "What in hell is that?" she said.

Jon sighed. "I guess I forgot to tell you one other thing about Myleigh. She snores."

"That’s Myleigh?"

"Uh, yeah," Jon said. "You get used to it."

"Guess we’re not going to get to sleep for a while," Tanisha said thoughtfully, "But I’ll bet we can come up with something to pass the time."

"Tanisha, you’re insatiable," he charged once again.

"Yes, I am," she laughed quietly. "But you taught me."

Tanisha and Jon did get to sleep sometime later, feeling quite relaxed and mellow, and woke up the next morning to the smell of strong coffee. They came downstairs to find Myleigh busily making breakfast. "Well, good morning," she said. "I was getting close to calling you, anyway."

"Myleigh, you didn’t have to do that," Tanisha protested.

"Nonsense, lass!" Myleigh smiled. "I feel honored to be allowed to repay your courtesy. Did you sleep well?"

"Better than I expected," Jon grinned. "How about you?"

"Your couch is quite comfortable," Myleigh grinned. "I confess I slept quite soundly."

"Yeah, we, uh, noticed," Jon said dryly, knowing what he was setting himself up for. He’d been around this block before.

But again, Myleigh surprised him. "You’re referring to my snoring, I presume?" she grinned as she poured coffee for the both of them.

"Uh, yeah." Over the years, Jon had heard some of the most outrageous excuses and defenses imaginable from Myleigh claiming that the accusations of her snoring were base and unfounded.

"I hope it was not a bother," she said. "But, should I stay with you in the future, I shall be pleased to announce that thanks to Blue Cross and Marienthal College, it will no longer be necessary to wear ear protection in order for you to get to sleep."

"You’re kidding!" Jon said. "I don’t believe it!"

"What?" Myleigh said, "That I shall no longer snore, as Crystal once put it, like someone trying to cut a steel spike with a chainsaw?"

"No," Jon grinned, "That you’ll admit that you snore in the first place. What’s this all about?"

"Some time ago, a session at Jennifer and Blake’s ran rather late, and during a break, I fell asleep. Upon awakening, Blake played a twelve-track of the sounds I was making. I was, of course, defensive, but then, Shovelhead took a light and examined my throat and nasal passages, making me wonder what was going on, to have them studied by this motorcycle mechanic like they were the inner workings of a carburetor. Finally, he asked how long it had been since I’d seen a doctor. I told him it had been some years; I was in good health, and with no insurance could not afford such services. He told me to drop by the office Monday morning, and he’d give me a more thorough exam." She stopped and shook her head. "I had been playing with Shovelhead off and on for months, over a year in fact, and in that time had not realized he was the leading physician in town."

"Shovelhead?" Tanisha frowned. "That big biker dude with the violin on the album?"

"The very same," Myleigh grinned. "He gave me a most thorough examination, and offered me the opportunity to be examined by a leading ear, nose, and throat specialist at no charge. I was informed that the snoring can be fixed with surgery, at no risk to my singing voice, but as the operation is expensive, I’ve had to wait until I had insurance coverage. It’s scheduled for spring break."

Jon headed off to the bathroom after breakfast. "Tanisha," Myleigh said quietly, "Now that it’s just the two of us, I need to have a word with you."

"Sure," she said, wondering what this was about – as much as she’d come to like Myleigh in the brief time she’d known her, it almost sounded like it was going to be trouble. "What’s up?"

"The last Christmas holiday that I spent at the Chladek’s," Myleigh grinned, "Crystal and I played a small practical joke on Nanci. It worked so well that we have determined to play the same joke on Scooter, whom I met briefly some years ago, but we felt you should be offered the opportunity of joining in, or at least be warned of it. I suspect it will work almost as well on Jon."

"What did you do?" Tanisha grinned.

"Nothing terribly special," Myleigh grinned. "Nanci at that time tended to dress extraordinarily sloppily around the house, although she would dress up for dates. So, the dither that evidenced when Crystal and I sat down at the dinner table in evening gowns was quite interesting to behold."

"I don’t have anything like that," Tanisha said. "I never get the chance to dress like that."

"Now, you have the chance," Myleigh grinned. "I should add that Jon’s eyes were rather bugged out, as well."

"I’d love to," Tanisha said, imagining the reaction she’d get from Jon. "What’s the use of making money if you can’t enjoy it?"

"Wonderful," Myleigh replied. "The problem will be for us to get the car and get out together, while leaving Jon here. Also, you should be aware we don’t have a great deal of time to shop."

"I’ll think of something," Tanisha said, already anticipating the look on Jon’s face. "I’ll have to call a friend who’s flying up and tip her off, but I’ll bet she has something in her closet."

Later that afternoon, they drove up to Al’s house in Flagstaff. There hadn’t been much time for Christmas decorations, and they only got a Christmas tree up that evening, since they did some serious reminiscing and storytelling while working their way through a couple bottles of wine.

The next day, Al and Karin did most of the Christmas dinner, and there were a few extra people present, like Dave and Mary Wells, also Canyon Tours guides, some other people from the company who didn’t have family in the area, and Jennlynn, who Karin and Al had invited to join them at Thanksgiving. Just before dinner, Crystal, Myleigh, Tanisha, Jennlynn, Mary, and Karin quietly snuck off to a bedroom and changed into "dinner clothes" as unobtrusively as they could. Tanisha thought Myleigh looked stunning in a white evening gown. Crystal, well, Myleigh said that Crystal looked almost like a woman. Myleigh and Tanisha had picked out Tanisha’s stunning floor-length red gown, with a halter top that left a lot of dark ebony skin exposed, and when she caught sight of herself in a mirror, she thought she’d never looked prettier.

Jon’s eyes bugged out when he saw her – he’d never seen her looking like that, even though he’d sort of suspected what was going on. Scooter was absolutely flabbergasted, of course, which was the point of the whole effort – but it felt good to dress up for once; it made the day even more special.

Dinner was excellent, even though it had gone together rather quickly, and it took a while to get through it. Afterwards, several of the raft guides attacked the dishes with professional vigor, and Tanisha joined in, trying to help, while Jon had a discussion with Myleigh. Once that was over with, they gathered around the Christmas tree, and Myleigh got out Blue Beauty. She played Pipeline and Dawnwalker, of course, some others they’d heard, and more they hadn’t.

Once Myleigh was well warmed up, she smiled at the people sitting around, and said, "I do have one special request, and this is a good time for it. After all, on Christmas, we should do some Christmas music." She began to play a song that went right to Tanisha’s heart – Go Tell It On The Mountain. It always had been a standard for the choir when she’d been a little girl, especially at Christmas, and she found herself singing along mentally, taking her back to a time when memories were pleasant, before her family had turned sour.

Myleigh played through the first verse, then said quietly, "Tanisha, would you join me?"

"Why, certainly," she said, realizing Jon had to have tipped Myleigh off; he’d heard her singing some of the old spirituals in the kitchen and in the shower often enough, and he sang some of them with her from time to time.

Myleigh picked up the music, and Tanisha began to sing . . . "Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born . . ." singing it the old way, the way it would have been sung in the Bethel African Baptist Church, back when her father was alive, back when her family still meant something to her. Tanisha was singing from the heart, from the memories of back then . . . and it felt wonderful to touch the past like that.

It was sad when the song came to an end – but there was applause around the living room. "Tanisha, you’re quite good," Myleigh smiled. "I’m afraid my stock of music of that genre is limited, but perhaps we should try something else. Do you know Swing Low, Sweet Chariot?"

"Of course," Tanisha smiled, so happy that there were tears nearly in her eyes. "Can you rock it a little?"

"I certainly can," Myleigh smiled, and began to play, and Tanisha sang along with her, in a deep, soulful voice, "I looked over Jordan, and what did I see, comin’ for to carry me home . . ." As she sang, she knew, of course, that the song was about going to Heaven. And, maybe she was there in Heaven, wearing a beautiful gown, with an angel in a white dress playing a harp as she sang, "Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home . . ."

She really was home, she thought, with tears in her eyes from happiness as she sang, surrounded by family and friends again. It was a new family, and new friends, and her husband, of course. While she knew she’d still be going through her life with her husband at her side, they would not be going through it totally alone anymore.

-- The End --

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