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

The Homestanders
Book Four of the Bradford Exiles
Wes Boyd
2005, 2011



Chapter 21

Wednesday, August 4, 1999

The General Hardware Retailers plant was air conditioned, and that was a relief on yet another hot summer day. While truck bay doors were often open, they had trucks up against them most of the time and curtains that kept the company from trying to cool all of Hawthorne County. Air conditioning could only do so much in the big open space of the huge building, and it made for a wearing day. Jason was glad to get home, into the air conditioning of the house, get out of his clothes, put on a lightweight kilt he often used around the house instead of shorts, grab a cold beer and just chill out.

Even though he’d lived alone for several years now, he still hadn’t mastered the trick of doing decent cooking for himself. It wasn’t that he was a bad cook, he was a good one though results were usually on the plain and wholesome side, but it was too damn much trouble to do it for just himself. Thus, dinners usually consisted of nuking some hot dogs or a TV dinner, or stopping off at the Chicago Inn. In recent months, if Vicky happened to show up before he got around to eating, she might cook something light for the both of them, or he’d do it himself, but he was pretty sure it wouldn’t happen tonight.

Since back in June, there’d usually been too much going on over the weekends for her to make her weekly Weight Watchers meeting on Saturday morning, so it had been switched to Wednesday evening – and there was no way she was going to eat anything before her weekly weigh-in. That meant he’d have to cook for himself tonight – no big deal; right now it didn’t seem important, for he could get around to it well before there was a chance Vicky would be back. For that matter she might want something when she got back, so it was no trick to put it off for a few hours.

That meant he had a few hours with nothing in particular to do. It wasn’t that Vicky was over at the house all evening, every evening, because she wasn’t, although she usually put her head in for a few minutes most nights. Almost every week there were several evenings that they’d spend a few hours together working on blades, taking rides around on the bikes, perhaps visiting with Kevin and Emily a little, or whatever. Vicky was easy to be around and he enjoyed it, but in the years of living alone, especially after Duane had left for college, he’d come to appreciate his alone and quiet time, too. A little to his wonder, Vicky respected that, even though he knew she usually preferred hanging around him to being alone herself or doing something else.

Not for the first time, or even the hundred and first he wondered just where this was going. He knew, of course, that Vicky was very reluctant to use the term “boyfriend” for him, just as he was reluctant to call her “girlfriend.” On the other hand, there it was – it was looking just like that to him, but what it meant was still not terribly clear. One of these days, he thought, they were going to have to sit down and talk it out, but that obviously carried with it unknown dimensions he wasn’t sure he wanted to investigate just yet.

Maybe, he thought as he let a swallow of cold beer slide down his throat, I can bring it up a little this weekend, not let it get too deep, let it seem natural. They’d had a series of busy weekends, mostly bike riding back in June, then preparing for the Maple Leaf, and then the four weekends attending the renaissance faire in July. Next weekend, the two of them were going to take off for a fast trip to the eastern tip of West Virginia to meet up with Duane for an afternoon and evening.

Kevin and Emily would be leaving on a trip the other direction at the same time; they were going to ride their Harleys out to Sturgis, South Dakota for the bike rally. The trip had been planned and promised to Emily ever since Christmas, but Kevin was still working overtime out at Macy Controls as usual, so he just about had to draw a line in the sand with the management to get the time off, and then only managed a week. The two weren’t going to do the whole rally, just take it in for two or three days and ride the back roads each way. It sounded like fun, and maybe something he and Vicky could do another summer – there was no chance of it this year; she didn’t have the vacation time built up. Though seeing Duane was sort of a father-son thing, taking Vicky at least gave her a little road trip. For a number of reasons, they were planning on taking her Stratus, rather than the bikes. It might make for a good chance to talk things out.

After thinking about heading out to the back shop and working with the forge, but rejecting the idea due to the heat, he finally settled on just making a ham sandwich and cracking a novel he’d been trying to work his way through for months, another W.E.B. Griffin thriller. Engrossed in the book, where Killer McCoy – he had to make a copy of that Baby Fairbairn sometime – was about to paddle ashore from a submarine into the occupied Philippines, he heard a light knocking at the door; it was Vicky from the sound of it. As he got up to let her in, he glanced at the clock; it was getting dark, and time for her to be back from her Weight Watchers meeting. As he opened the door, he could see Vicky was unhappy; indeed, close to tears. “Vicky!” he said instantly. “What’s the matter?”

“One fifty-seven,” she sobbed.

“Huh? I don’t understand.”

“I’ve barely eaten a damn thing this week and I’m up a whole fucking pound!” She let out a sob. “And it’s my fourth week over one fifty-five.”

“I don’t know how bad I want you to lose very much more,” he said slowly. “I think 150 would be fine, but you’re shooting for one twenty-five, aren’t you?”

“It’s what I was in high school,” she nodded, remembering being slim and slender – but still heavier than a lot of the skinny girls on the cheerleading squad – Emily had been one. “It seems like a good place to get back to.”

“Vicky, I hate to tell you this, but you’re not a high school girl anymore,” he replied with a wry headshake and a slight grin. “You haven’t been for a while. Your body has developed in other ways since you got out of high school, not just put on weight. With your bone structure, I think your goal is way too light. In theory, while I think you could lose a few more pounds if you really had to, I don’t think you’re very much too heavy.”

“I’d like to lose some more,” she persisted.

“Vicky,” he said, taking her hand gently. “Think it through. I think you’d be way too thin at one twenty-five.” He stopped for a moment. “Vicky, it’s just my opinion, but I’ve realized for a while now that I equate way too thin with sickly.”

In an instant she realized what he was talking about. Christine had always been very thin, almost emaciated; it had gotten even worse toward the end, when she couldn’t manage to keep weight on. “I’m sorry, Jason,” she said softly. “I never thought about that. You’re happy with me the way I am, right?”

“Like I said, a few pounds would be fine, but much more than that would be overdoing it. It’s just my opinion; you can do what you want to.”

“No, Jason,” she smiled. “I want what you want.”

“All right,” he said with a grin, then leaned over to put his arm around her. “Vicky, you’re all right, you really are. In the last few months, I’ve come to care for you an awful lot. Not that I didn’t care for you a lot before the last few months, because you’ve been a dear and true friend since you were a little girl. Maybe that’s what’s bothering me a little. I’m having trouble looking at you and realizing you aren’t the little girl who asked me to make her tricycle well.”

“I’m not,” she said, realizing perhaps they were moving off center a little. “I haven’t been that little girl for a long time, especially not for the last four years.”

“I know,” he sighed. “Vicky, where are we going?”

“I didn’t know we were going anywhere, I guess.”

“No, I mean, where are we going? You and I. I’ve thought about it a lot the last few months. I can see a lot of places where we could go, but where we’re heading for, where we want to head for, well, it’s not as clear.”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “There are times I think I know where I’d like us to go, but then there are times it doesn’t seem like a good idea, so no, I don’t know where we’re going.”

“Me either,” he said, “And I can make the same statement. About all I can say is sometimes people go places whether they want to or not. Vicky, circumstances have dragged me around an awful lot since before I was your age. While I think I know where I’d like to go, for once I’d like to be sure before I head down that road. But I can tell you this much: I think I want to keep on keeping on until I’m sure about what I want to do, and I think you do, too.”

“That’s a fair statement,” she said, realizing they’d just said a lot without really having said much at all. The dream was alive, they were still pushing toward each other, but it wasn’t the time to be making any rash decisions. And it wasn’t the time to push too hard, either. What happened, happened, and as long as there was progress, it was fine with her. On the other hand, maybe this was the time to break through some barriers.

“Jason, there’s one thing we’ve been dancing around for a long time. I love you Jason. I’ve loved you for years,” she grinned as threw her arms around him.

She turned her lips to his, and he to hers, and they kissed. There had been kisses before, kisses for a quarter century, little girl play kisses, kisses on the cheek – and then, a little older, brief kisses on the lips. Only in the last year had they become serious mouth-to-mouth kisses, occasionally a little more – and even those only a warm-up to the eager power this time as they pressed themselves on each other. Their hands were exploring too, at first just holding on to make sure the other was really there, but it grew stronger, more touching.

Finally she pulled her lips from his. “Jason,” she said. “Please make love to me. I can’t wait any longer.”

“Vicky, I shouldn’t,” he protested.

“Jason, please. I need you! Not later, not someday, but now!” The hows and the maneuvers didn’t matter much, but it went on a long time, a timeless time, a time both forever and not long enough. Sometime later . . . time ceased to have meaning . . . they lay resting together on the couch, face to face on their sides, her head resting on his shoulder as they just lay there, holding on to each other tightly, feeling the warmth of their sweaty bodies wonderfully upon each other.

“Jason,” she whispered in his ear. “Thank you. I needed that.”

“Vicky . . . I did, too. Thank you.”

There was silence for a moment. “Do you know how long it’s been?”

“A long time,” he whispered.

“Augie,” she whispered. “And it was never anywhere near that good.”

“It’s been longer for me.”

“Christine?”

“Yes,” he said. “I guess I’m a little rusty. It’s been too long.”

“It was wonderful,” she said. “Maybe the best ever. Thank you again, Jason.”

There wasn’t much to say for a while – their bodies were saying all that needed to be said to each other, more than their voices could have said. But there was one thing that came later, after more kissing and holding each other tight and touching and exploring of each other’s bodies: “Jason, please don’t make me go home tonight.”

His response was immediate, even though whispered in her ear: “I don’t want you to.”


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To be continued . . .

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