It was a couple hours before they got back on the river. It had been a long hike up there, difficult in spots, and some of the party didnít make it past the waterfall, although some went clear up to the arch. By the time everybody made it back, it was getting to be time for lunch, but the rocky shoreline wasnít a good place to set it up, so they cast off, and ran down river a short distance to a small beach. It was warm, now, and several people took the opportunity to swim in the chilly river. The stop wasnít a long one, and soon they were back on the water.
Several miles after lunch, they came on Al and Karinís raft sitting alongside the shore, with the two waiting for them under the shade of a tamarisk; they got in the raft and came out to meet them. "You still planning on stopping at Fossil Canyon?" Al asked.
"Yeah, below the rapids," Crystal told him. "Itís an interesting place to poke around, and I thought if we got in early enough we could do some poking."
"Good enough," Al said. "Weíll run Fossil with you, and if you can get in there, weíll run downstream a little and find a spot."
In about another half hour Fossil Rapids appeared. It was the other one today that theyíd agreed that Al and Karin should run with the rest of the party. It was fairly straightforward, although with some biggish waves that got people a little wet, but on this warm afternoon, no one minded too much. As it turned out, no one was in the river left campsite, so the main party pulled in. "Weíre going to drop down a mile or so to a little spot I know and camp river right," Al told Crystal. "Weíll wait for you to come by in the morning."
"You two have fun," Crystal grinned smugly.
Fossil Canyon was to be well named, with several interesting fossils of prehistoric creatures. Once the duffel line was complete and the boats unloaded, Crystal told the group that there was no real point in a major organized hike, but after a while maybe sheíd take people up the canyon a bit and theyíd see what they could find. On the other hand, if people wanted to poke around and explore on their own, this was a good place to do it.
* * *
While Crystal and Scooter were good friends, they did have a few minor differences in the way that they ran trips. One of the big differences was that Crystal didnít really believe in the formal organization of the campfires that Scooter preferred; she was a little more easy going, and just sort of liked to let matters take their own course. She did have a few stories that she used to get things going early in the trip, like her beautiful but harrowing ride through the Inside Passage on an Alaskan salmon boat. On this trip, though, everyone who knew her well Ė which was most of the party Ė had already heard that story, and the new boatmen who hadnít heard it would hear it again and again over the course of the summer until they could about tell it themselves.
Though Ben and Joy had been with the group a couple of days now, they were still pretty much strangers to the rest of the group Ė not surprising, for as Crystal had warned back up the river just before the wedding, most of the guests on the trip already knew each other to one degree or another, and it would be hard to avoid the newcomers being somewhat outsiders. Although everyone had been friendly enough, that was what was happening, and Crystal thought that throwing the firelight on the two of them might help to overcome that. She suspected that they must have a story or two somewhere, and this might be a good place to dig it out. She really only had one lead to go on, but as the flames began to grow in the fire pan, she decided to use it. "Ben, Joy," she said as she found a seat on a convenient rock, "back up at Bass, you told us that the two of you met online. What was that, a dating chat room or something?"
"Well, sort of," Ben nodded. "Thereís an online game that we both play a lot."
"More like weíre addicted to it," Joy explained. "Thereís a chat room that goes along with it, to talk about the game, and shoot the bull a little."
"Some sort of dungeons-and-dragons thing?" Jon asked. "I used to mess around on a couple of those, years ago."
"Pretty much," Ben agreed. "Itís actually an older game, been around several years, but thereís some serious people who play it."
"If itís been around a few years, I might have heard of it," Tanisha said. "I used to play those a bit, too."
"Itís called Dragonslayer," Joy told them. Both Jon and Tanisha shook their heads, and she went on, "Itís a little hard to explain if you donít know much about games. Itís set in a mythical medieval kingdom named Kithfenu, and you play it with assumed names, like mine is Portia. Itís pretty complicated, partly because the players design the complexities and add them to the game. Iíve been playing it for years, and I still donít know all the ins and outs." She sighed and went on, "There are some people who just about live on the game."
"A lot of it involves logic puzzles," Ben explained. "Thereís a real complex system of points in various categories, and you can trade points with other players in one category for points in others. Itís possible to just log on occasionally and make a few moves, but if you really want to get good at it, you have to spend some time at it."
"Beats the heck out of me," Crystal told them. "Iíve never been much of a computer user. I wrote papers on one, but not much else. I know I had an e-mail address when I went to NMU, but I never checked my e-mail in the four and a half years I was there."
"I spent one summer while I was in college pretty much online and playing all the time," Joy smiled. "I decided I wanted to get to Master level. I made it for a while, but when I got back to school, I couldnít play it enough to stay there. Youíve got to be real good or take a lot of time to play it at that level."
"I wonder," Randy said thoughtfully. "Did you ever hear of a player named Mithrian?"
"Mithrian?" Joy frowned. "I havenít . . . oh, yes I have, back when I was trying to get to Master level, he kicked my butt a few times. He isnít an active player anymore, but logs on once in a while and shows up in the chat room occasionally."
"Might be," Randy grinned. "Myleigh, if Mithrian is who I think she is, then thatís the same game Wendy Carter plays. You know anything about that?"
"She spent an hour or two showing me around the game, and the name does sound familiar," Myleigh replied. "I confess it was far beyond my understanding, although it would appear that there are some people on there who are thoroughly cognizant of the mythology involved. I must admit, she understands the game quite well."
"Do you remember a game name?" Ben asked.
Myleigh frowned for a moment. "Iím not sure," she said finally. "She said she was highly ranked in the game, if I remember correctly. I know it had something to do with the Andromeda myth, but . . . oh, of course. Silly me! Cassiopeia, that was it."
Crystal thought that both Ben and Joy had been poked with a high-voltage line, considering the way that their eyes went wide and their jaws dropped. "You know Cassiopeia?" Joy finally managed to stammer. "Sheís far and away the highest ranked player in the game."
"It might not be the same game," Randy said. "Iíve never messed around with that stuff, but I do know thereís a lot of them out there."
"Could be someone different," Ben agreed. "But Iíve picked up in the chat room that Mithrian and Cassiopeia are good friends in real life, and theyíre good real-life friends with another player, Falconswing. Heís another master level player, although theyíre at each otherís throats all the time in the game."
"I should think that should settle the matter," Myleigh grinned. "Wendy did introduce me to a young man one time, who she said played the game with that name. Randy, you must know him, heís another one of your martial arts friends. I believe his name was Jason, although I forget the last name."
"Jason Bailey," Randy agreed. "Yeah, Iíd say that settles it."
"Wow!" Joy grinned. "Cassiopeia, Mithrian and Falconswing. Theyíre like legends in the game! And you know them?"
"Not real well," Randy said. "But yeah, I know them. Assuming Mithrian and Falconswing are who we think they are, I helped with giving them some martial arts instruction."
"Wendy is very bright," Myleigh agreed. "She knows hardly less than I about English literature, and itís one of only several fields she knows well. Were it not for her affliction, I should think that she would have a doctorate or two of her own."
"Yeah, thatís a shame, but she does get along pretty well," Randy nodded. "She tends to operate on several levels at once. I donít know her real well, but we were in school together."
"I knew her a little when we were in school, even though she was a year behind us," Nicole reported. "Cheerleader, all-Aís. Then she had the accident and had to drop out."
"Accident?" Joy asked.
"Jet-ski accident," Randy explained. "Broke her neck, almost drowned. Sheís now quadriplegic."
"A well-equipped and quite busy one," Myleigh added. "She has this most interesting computerized support system. She handles much of Jennifer and Blakeís publicity from her, well, I cannot honestly call it a wheelchair. Support system, perhaps, most of it voice-activated."
Joy shook her head. "Iíll be damned," she said. "A quadriplegic? You never know, do you?"
"Especially on Dragonslayer," Ben agreed.
"I really donít know her very well," Randy said. "I know Brenda a little better, and Jason pretty well. Heís a little shit, makes me look big. Sharp as hell, too. He was the high school valedictorian last spring, headed off to Purdue to study math. Wouldnít be surprised to see him with a doctorate some day, either."
"Heís something of a legend on Dragonslayer, if heís Falconswing," Joy nodded.
"He and Brenda are something of a legend around home, too," Randy grinned. "One night, it was what, three years ago? The two of them came on three football players who were kicking the crap out of some kid and lit into them. It was all over in about five seconds, and one of the guys they tore into is still getting his face put back together." He let out a sigh. "Look, most of you know Iím pretty good at martial arts, and that I donít advocate the use of violence unless itís absolutely necessary. That time it was, and I think our little group managed to teach them a thing or two."
"Iíll be damned," Ben said. "Small darn world, isnít it? Hey, when you see them, tell them that Ragweed and Portia said hello, and that we wonít let what you told us get into the game or the chat room."
"Right," Joy agreed. "Itís considered impolite, maybe even a rules violation to try to crack someoneís player identity, although there are people in there who know others in real life."
"Ragweed?" Crystal asked, cocking her head. "I gotta ask, where did you come up with that game name?"
"Itís why I got involved in the game," Ben laughed. "Iíve got a violent allergy to it; itís put me in the hospital a couple times. I just couldnít go outside in the late summer and early fall back home, and I had to have something to do. That turned into playing online games. Dragonslayer, is, well, a little different, and I kind of got hooked on it. And, thatís why I wound up in Phoenix."
"No ragweed, huh?" Crystal said. "You wouldnít be the first."
"Darn straight," Ben grinned. "I made up my mind clear back in junior high that when I went to college, I was going to go to someplace out in the desert where it wasnít a problem. I wound up at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; then I moved to Phoenix after I graduated. I donít go back home now unless itís the dead of winter, and I still get the sniffles."
"Whereís home?" Crystal asked.
"Well, itís Phoenix, actually Tempe, now, but I grew up outside Cleveland, a place called Seven Hills. I like Phoenix better, partly because I can breathe, but, well, itís different."
"How about you, Joy? Are you from back east somewhere, too?"
"Way east," she laughed. "Vietnam, although I left there as a baby. I was only a few weeks old when I was taken out of one of the orphanages and brought to the US to be adopted, just days before Saigon fell, Iím told. I grew up in Tucson, thatís where my parents live."
"Hell, that just about makes you a native Arizonan," Jon snorted. "Everybody I meet here, and I mean everybody, seems to be from someplace else."
"Hey, be nice," Kevin snorted. "I actually was born in Flag."
"That makes you one of the weird ones, then," Crystal grinned, thinking that if Joy had been a baby when Saigon fell, sheíd have to be around twenty-six or so. That was a little surprising; sheíd have guessed a little younger, maybe twenty-one or twenty-two. And, it accounted for her not having any trace of an accent, although she seemed naturally soft spoken. "So, anyway, the two of you met in the chat room for this game, right?"
"More or less," Joy said. "I guess that is a little bit of a story. We were friendly on line for, oh, a couple years, I guess. I mean, neither of us knew whether the other was a guy or a girl, or where we lived, or anything."
"Iíd pretty well guessed you were a woman," Ben said. "Not for sure, but maybe eighty percent. Anyway, I had tickets for this Phil Coulter concert, and then something came up at work, and I couldnít go. I was bitching about it one night in the chat room, and said that if there was any Dragonslayer in the Phoenix area who wanted the tickets, well, they could have them."
"It sounded like fun," Joy told them. "Phil Coulter isnít exactly one of my most favorite musicians, but heís pretty good. So, I said I was interested. Now, the weird thing is that we were trying to avoid revealing our real identities, and not only for the game. There are some people online who are pretty cool, but you donít want to meet in real life."
"Yeah," Tanisha agreed. "Iíve had a few episodes like that myself, although I never messed around with games much, either."
"That wasnít the easiest thing to bring off," Ben said. "Getting the tickets from me to her without either one of us revealing our names or addresses. Finally, I agreed to leave the tickets in an envelope marked ĎPortiaí with the cashier of a restaurant that turned out to be not far from where she worked. It was easy when we figured it out, but it took a while to do."
"I went to the concert with a girl at my office," Joy reported. "It was pretty good, and the next night I got on the chat room and told Ragweed all about it. We wound up going private chat, and it ended up as sort of an online date. That went on for, oh, a couple months, and we did settle the fact that he was a guy and I was a girl, that we both lived in the Phoenix area, and were both about the same age and single. We finally decided to meet, and that was kind of interesting, too, since we still didnít want to reveal our addresses or like that. So, finally, we set up a deal to meet for dinner in that restaurant, and weíd bring friends."
"I got a guy from work to come with me," Ben explained. "I really hadnít been in Phoenix very long, and, well, I didnít know a lot of people." He sighed. "The ragweed again. I never got to go out and play much when I was a kid, and I had to miss a lot of school, so I guess I never really got the knack of making easy friends. But anyway, we met, and we sorta decided each other was OK."
"But we still didnít give each other our addresses," Joy added. "I think by then it was more habit, than anything else. We had one more date like that, and, well, it was inconvenient. So then, I had a chance to get some tickets for a Dayna Berkshire and Sandy Beach concert, but only two of them, so we couldnít double date."
"I told her that she was welcome to come by my place, if she didnít want me to know her address, and finally she decided it was all right," Ben said. "So, I gave her my address, and remember, this is all typing back and forth at each other online. She came right back at me and said, ĎRagweed, go out on your balcony.í I wondered what was going on, but stepped outside, and there right straight across on the far side of the court, she was out on her balcony, waving at me."
"You two lived in the same building?" Nanci laughed.
"Different buildings, but the same complex." Joy laughed. "We used different parking lots, so I guess we just never crossed tracks, even though we lived less than fifty yards from each other."
Crystal shook her head. "It can be really anonymous when you live in a city," she said. "I mean, Jon and Nanci and I grew up outside of Chicago, and Iíll bet none of us can tell you the names of the people who lived the third house down on either side." She sighed. "People say they want to come out here to a place like the Canyon to get away from people, but I actually think itís easier to get away from people in a city."
"You may be right," Ben said. "On a trip like this, you get to know people in a way you never would in a city. Sometimes you might not want to get to know them, but . . . well, you donít have to in a city."
"So, your big romance took off from there?" Nanci asked.
"Not really," Ben told her. "Oh, we got together once or twice a week, dated a bit for, well, itíll be two years in July. We still talked back and forth more online than we did face to face."
"It was just, well, what we were used to," Joy told them. "We never did get what youíd call heavily romantic, although we were good friends and liked each other a lot."
"Come on," Buddha grinned. "Lightning had to strike somewhere, and Iím waiting to hear the thunder."
"Thatís kind of weird, too," Ben said. "Back last summer, a guy at work came through the office, selling tickets for this raffle. His kids go to this Catholic school, and theyíre always having raffles, raising money. This was for a trip for two down the Grand Canyon on Canyon Tours, and tickets were twenty bucks a shot. I figured for twenty bucks, what the hell? I mean, I never win anything, but thereís a first time for everything, right?"
"And you won, right?" Crystal said. "I remember Michelle saying something about that raffle."
"Right," Ben said. "I mean, I all but sold them. I figured I could put an ad in the Sun or something. I didnít have three weeks to take off, and, well, I figured I could knock off a couple grand and still have five in my pocket. See, Iíve been listening to all of you, and youíre all outdoor people to one degree or another. I never got the chance to do this kind of thing, what with the allergy. Iím an indoor person, a computer geek. Thatís one of the reasons I like Phoenix, I donít have to go outside much in the summer. And, other than Joy, I didnít really know anyone Iíd want to take on a trip like this, anyway. So, well, I asked her to go."
"I told him it was something Iíd always wanted to do, even though Iím pretty much an indoor person and computer geek, too," she explained. "But, itís so damn expensive, thereís no way I could have afforded to do it anytime soon. So, we decided to do the trip, just as friends, not a boy-girl thing."
"We both had to wait till this spring to build up enough vacation time to take off," Ben added. "If weíd known we could have gone out of Flagstaff or Phoenix, weíd probably have done it that way, but I got cheap tickets to Las Vegas, and well, we figured we could catch a couple shows or something on Friday and Saturday nights. We got into the Hawthorne in time to catch Rita Rudner on Friday. You ever seen her?"
"Iíve seen her on TV a couple times," Buddha said. "Very droll sense of humor, low-key presentation. Makes her pretty different in an age where most comedians think they have to see how gross they can be."
"Right," Joy said. "You donít have to be gross to be funny. Anyway, her stuff is all girl-guy stuff, looking for a husband, getting married, being married. Very funny, we just about cracked up. Well, anyway, Ben dropped me off at my room, and the next morning we got together for breakfast, and we just kind of picked up talking about it from there." She let out a sigh. "I think we did the right thing. I mean, Ben and I were pretty good friends by then, and we both agreed that weíd sort of been thinking about getting married some time even if weíd never talked about it. We do get along pretty well together, and neither of us really knew anyone else weíd want to consider, anyway."
"One thing sort of led to another," Ben said. "And, well, we were in Las Vegas, and, I mean, well, why waste the opportunity?"
"Youíre saying you didnít plan to get married when you left Phoenix?" Noah asked quietly. Crystal could hear the frown in his voice, but wasnít sure that anyone else could.
"We didnít plan on getting married when we got up that morning," Joy said. "Six hours later, we were. That, uh, that night was the first one we spent together, and we had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to get on the bus."
"Cuts out a lot of the agony and the messing around that way," Buddha grinned.
Yeah, it did, Crystal thought, without saying anything. From what Mary had told her, sheíd imagined the two had some sort of romantic elopement, out from under the watchful eyes of rampaging parents, but then Mary obviously hadnít heard the whole story. And, then, after a start like that, to have to face jerks like that bunch from Laughlin Ė well, second thoughts had to have been running rampant.
"Probably," Ben agreed. "I donít think it was something that wouldnít have happened in due time, anyway. I mean, weíd been working our way in that direction, we just kind of jump-started things."
"You know," Jon said. "It sort of puts me in mind of Mom and Dad. Pete, I mean, not Al. They had kind of a whirlwind romance like that." He sighed and went on. "Really, you have to say that it worked out pretty well for them for a lot of years."
"Yeah," Crystal sighed. "It was only the last few years that Pete really started to get grumpy, and there was no way Mom could have seen that was going to happen. Up till I was, oh, fifteen or sixteen, he was really pretty decent. Square, set in his ways, not very adventurous, but decent. If I hadnít been involved, well, things might have turned out a lot different. Ben, Joy, you remember Mom talking about that?"
"I remember," Joy said. "Letís face it, our first few days of being married were pretty rocky, and I kept thinking, ĎMarry in haste, repent in leisure.í I hope we did the right thing."
"You never know whatís gonna happen," Jeff commented. "Marjorie and me, we got married about like that. I was in the Army, just a private, shipping out for what we thought was gonna be the invasion of Japan. And, well, I didnít want to die a boy, if you know what I mean. Marjorie and me, we was just friends, nothing more, but a few days before I had to leave, we decided to get married. I managed to scrounge some gas coupons, and we sort of borrowed my brotherís old Model A and eloped over to Las Vegas. Our folks was real upset when they found out, but it worked out. We had us some rocky times after I got home, but we worked íem out. We been together fifty-six years last month. You two strike me as a couple of pretty good kids, got some good things going for you. Maybe even better than Marjorie and I had."
"I think so," Tanisha agreed. "Jon and I decided to move in together when we didnít know each other as well, and we almost got married in the process. We wish now that weíd gone ahead and done it right then. So, what do your folks think?"
"We donít know," Joy said in a small voice. "We havenít told them yet."
"Things kind of happened quick," Ben explained. "And then we had to get on the bus early the next morning, we, well, we never got around to telling them. I think mine will be OK with it. Surprised, but all right."
"I think mine will be, too," Joy said. "They did meet Ben once when they came up to visit, and they seem to think heís all right. Iím just worried what theyíre going to think about me."
"Theyíll think youíre a damn fool, and just hope itíll work out for the best," Jeff told them. "Believe me, I know what Iím talking about."
"I sure hope youíre right," Joy said. "Like Ben said, things happened pretty quickly. I mean, we didnít have any kind of plans at all. Weíve worked out that weíre going to move into Benís apartment, since my lease is up for renewal at the end of the month, and heís got a few more months on his. Weíre probably going to have to look for something bigger after that."
"You need some help moving stuff," Tanisha said. "Give Jon and me a call. Weíre there in Phoenix, too. Well, actually, Tempe. Weíll be glad to pitch in."
"Youíre in Tempe?" Ben asked. "Weíre on Price, near Apache."
"Price Road Apartments?" Jon smiled. "Tanisha and I lived there one summer. Step out on your balcony."
"Huh?" Ben frowned.
"Weíre in the townhouses right across the street," Jon grinned. "You were the one who said it. Small darn world, isnít it?"
* * *
The moon was getting near full now, and after the singing and the guitar and harp playing around the campfire began to die down, instruments were put away and people began to drift off to their sleeping bags. Since Ben and Joy were the only honeymooners on the trip in camp, no one had any particular comment when, as the number around the fire dwindled, they headed off without flashlights in the bright light of a near full moon to the place they had set up well away from the others, upstream near the river, not far from the roar of the rapids.
It was a good spot; they were fifty yards or more from the nearest other members of the party, and the roar of the rapids dulled any other noise around, so no one could have heard them. They were hidden enough that no one else could have shared Benís view of Joy peeling out of the T-shirt and shorts sheíd worn all evening, stripping down to her bikini bottom in the bright moonlight. It was a view that heíd long dreamed of seeing, but now it was reality Ė one that had proven more uncomfortable than he or Joy had let on at the campfire.
Joy seemed to feel it, too. "Does this still seem strange to you?" she said as he slipped out of his clothes while she took off the bikini bottom.
"Yeah," he nodded, watching his wife throw back the top of the doubled sleeping bag and lay down. "When we come right out and say what happened, it sounds pretty impulsive."
"It was pretty impulsive," she said, rolling on her side, as he lay down beside her. "Iím still not sure why we did it. Weíre both pretty logical people. Weíre not that impulsive."
"We must be," he said softly. "Otherwise, we wouldnít have done it."
"You might be right," she said, lifting her head so she could rest it on his arm. "But damn it, I wish weíd done it the normal way, now."
"I suppose," he sighed. "But, whatís done is done, I guess. Jesus, Iím glad we never told that story with the other group."
"Yeah," she frowned. "Weíd never have heard the end of it from Vance and JeanAnn. Iím glad we made the move. Everybody here are friends, like Crystal said, but they seem to be trying to make us comfortable. This is a lot better group."
"They are," he agreed. "But, you know what? Nobody here whoís married seems to have been very conventional about getting married, either. Different stories, and like that, but the ones Iíve heard all sound just as off the wall in their way as we are in ours."
"Except for one thing," she said sorrowfully. "Everybody there seemed to fall in love before they started living with each other or getting married. It would have been nice if weíd done it."
"Damn it," he said, getting set for that frustrating conversation again. "I donít think you can even say that, at least not if the story I heard from Jeff is right. And theyíve lasted over half a century."
"I know," she sighed. "Maybe if we hadnít spent so damn much time being practical it would have been better."
"It would have happened anyway. At least, most likely it would have. Remember, our original plan was to come on this trip and see how well we got along with each other, and then see about getting serious."
"I know. And then, there in Las Vegas, it seemed like such a rationalization of the inevitable." She sighed again. "Damn it, Iím second guessing again, I guess. I know we agreed to give it a fair shake, but itís hard to not have second thoughts, considering everything thatís happened."
"Yeah," he said. "Believe me, Iím trying to look on the positive side. Really, we are a pretty good match, and damn it, Joy, I like you a lot. I know it sounds goofy to say, but I think I love you. I mean, if love is what I think love is, I love you."
"I know," she sighed. "And, I love you. Itís just that weíve had such downers the last few days that it sort of overcomes it."
"Letís just relax and enjoy the next few days," he told her. "This is a good group; theyíre not going to get on us."
"Thanks, Ben," she smiled Ė he could make it out in the light of the moon. "Youíve been very gentle and understanding, and I appreciate it."
She rolled onto her side, bringing her face close to his. Their lips touched, and there was a long, deep kiss that went on for some minutes, their bodies pressed close together, their hands running free. He felt her reach with her free hand down between them, felt it on his hardness. It felt Ė indescribably wonderful, and caused him to pull his lips from hers and say softly, "I canít wait until I can really make love to you."
"Me, either," she whispered back. "Ben, letís try it again."
"Are you sure?" he asked with concern. "Joy, I donít want to hurt you again. Weíll be back in civilization in a few days, and you can see a doctor."
"I know," she said uncertainly. "But Ben, weíve had several days. I think itís whatís dragging me down."
"Me too, baby," he agreed. Despite being married for nearly two weeks, both of them still considered themselves virgins. Not that they hadnít tried to make love, clear back on their wedding night in the hotel room in Las Vegas Ė but it hadnít been successful; his attempts to enter her had caused her a lot of pain, without getting anywhere. Their wedding had come off in such a hurry that they had made no preparations there, either. Fortunately, the bus had stopped at an all-night convenience store to stock up on beer and other last minute items, and theyíd managed to find a tube of lubricant. Upriver, theyíd tried twice on other occasions to make love, with little progress and about as much pain. Finally, theyíd agreed to quit trying, at least till she could visit a gynecologist. The last attempt had been at Nankoweap, over a week ago, and by then JeanAnn and Vance and the rest of the Laughlin group had become such a pain in the ass that they really hadnít felt much like making love, anyway. "But like I said, I donít want to hurt you. Iíve waited this long. I can wait a few more days."
"Damn it," she said, squeezing him hard. "If Iím going to be your wife, I want to be your lover. The real thing, not just our hands." She sighed. "Look, I can wait, too, if we have to, but Iím willing to try it again."
"Like I said, I donít want to hurt you more," he sighed. "I did have one idea, though. It might be worth looking into. You remember the introductions yesterday?"
"Yeah," she nodded. "Crystal ran through them pretty fast, I didnít get everybody."
"Do you remember her saying that Giselle is an OB-GYN nurse?" he said. "Letís not try it tonight, and maybe tomorrow you could get her off to the side, talk with her about it. Sheís got to know more about it than we do."