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 22

Saturday, August 7, 1999

It was barely getting light in the eastern sky when Jason’s phone rang. He’d been expecting the call; he walked over to the kitchen phone, picked it up, and said, “Good morning, Vicky.”

“You ready?” she replied softly – obviously to keep from waking her parents up in the house across the back yards.

“I’ll be over in a minute,” he replied, and hung up the phone. He threw a couple light switches and grabbed the small duffle bag that was all the gear he was taking on this trip. As he headed out the back across the dew-covered grass he saw her come out the back door and head for the white Stratus sitting in the driveway, carrying a couple of coffee mugs. He was about ready to offer to drive the first leg when he saw her open the left front door and get in, so he headed for the right side and got in as she was arranging the mugs in the cupholder.

Last night they’d helped Kevin and Emily pack gear for their long western trip – not that there was a lot to pack, since they could carry but little on the bikes, and Kevin was carrying more than half on his bigger one. The need to keep it down had led them to dig into the accumulation of backpacking gear lying around Jason’s house. The tiny tent Emily and Jason were taking had been on the Appalachian Trail with Duane for over a month this spring, and he’d be getting it back in a few more weeks after this interesting and unexpected side trip west. That really hadn’t taken much time, but some time was used sitting around and talking about their trips until it was later than it should have been, considering all four of them planned to get up with the birds this morning and head in their separate directions.

“Just so you know,” she said as she started the car, “My period started this morning.”

“Lovely timing to have to deal with it on a trip,” he smiled, not getting the implication.

“For once, I’m glad to see it,” she sighed as she backed out of the driveway. “I thought it was the wrong time of the month, but I took a big dose of estrogen as soon as I got home Thursday morning just to be on the safe side.”

Now, he got it, with relief. “I’m sorry,” he said as she put the car into “Drive” and headed down the street. “That came down pretty quick. I should have gotten out a condom, but I didn’t think of it. I’m not sure if there were any around the house anyway, unless Duane had some stashed away somewhere.”

“I should have thought about it, too,” she said seriously. “But when it happened Wednesday night it just never entered my mind. I went off the pill after I left Augie to try to do something about my weight, and I guess it worked a little. I got the estrogen just in case something like the other evening came up some time. At least I got that right. I was going to see the doctor about an IUD yesterday, but I couldn’t get free from work. Maybe next week.”

“Vicky,” he said softly. “Wednesday night was wonderful, but I’ve been wondering if we should have let it happen.”

“I’ve been wondering too,” she smiled. “The fact remains it did happen. I enjoyed it a lot, and I know you did too.” She turned and gave him a grin. “I won’t object if the right time should happen to come and it happens again. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.” A serious look came across her face as she continued. “Jason, whatever happens, I will not let myself present you with a Jody situation. Ever. We got away with it this time. In the future, we’re both going to be more careful, whatever else happens or doesn’t happen.”

“Thank you, Vicky,” he said, understanding her concern. “But that was sort of what I meant.”

“I realize that,” she said, slowing to make the turn onto Main Street. “Jason, one of several things I took out of Wednesday evening besides the pure joy of making love to you was the fact that I haven’t had anything approaching that good since John. Maybe not even then, since you and I care for each other while John and I were just fucking. What I’m saying is that I was reminded of what I’ve been missing. I deeply thank you for reminding me of that, and I’d find it hard to let go. Having said that, my understanding is it’s going to be a few days before an IUD can take hold. You were the one who taught me two layers of protection are better than one, so I won’t mind if we put the next time off that long.”

“Sounds fair to me,” he replied. “We probably need to back off and think about it anyway, but I’ll tell you, Vicky, it reminded me of what I’ve been missing, too. You may think it’s been a while for you, but it’s been longer for me.”

“Since Christine was well?” she asked quietly.

He was silent for a moment, phrasing his answer. “Christine was never well, at least never while I knew her,” he replied. “That didn’t keep her from being a warm and loving person who I cared for deeply. We could never be very physically active, but that didn’t keep us from enjoying it very late into her illness. It . . . it couldn’t heal her, but it could make her feel better for a while.”

Now it was her turn to be silent and phrase a comment as they sped out of the edge of town, past the Chicago, and made the turn onto the southbound on-ramp, not far behind a pair of bikers. They were going up the on-ramp before she managed to say, “I guess it was always my impression that the two of you weren’t very close.”

“I believe most people thought that,” he said. “You have to remember that, in addition to never being quite well, Christine was a rather shy and quiet person, not a very public person, especially about showing her feelings. That didn’t keep her from being a warm and loving person in private.” He let out a sigh and searched for words again as Vicky got up to speed, maybe a little faster than she needed to in order to catch up with the bikers – from a distance, it looked like they were on Harleys, carrying gear, and might be Kevin and Emily. “It was very good while it lasted.” He was silent for a moment more before he added, “Even right down to the end. I guess I must have reflected her desire to keep things private.”

“I’m sorry,” she replied, getting closer to the bikers ahead. “I guess I never quite realized that. I always liked her, but I know I never got real close to her.”

“No, probably not,” he replied, a little easier now. “Probably only Duane and I did. You wouldn’t have seen anything but the public side of her. I probably married her for the wrong reasons, looking for help in raising Duane, but it worked out. I was lucky to have her for the short time we had together.”

By now, they were drawing close enough to the bikers ahead of them to be sure they were Kevin and Emily. Vicky kept moving and pulled the Stratus up alongside them and got a little wave from each of them, then went on to pass and pull into the right lane in front of them. “Sure would be nice to be going along with them,” she said, changing the subject.

“It’s an awful long way on a bike,” he commented. “I only took a couple long trips like that, years and years ago, back before Jody. I’m afraid I’d have to take it pretty easy, but it’s not that bad if you take the back roads and stop fairly often.”

“I’d love to do it,” she smiled. “But that trip is for them, and there was no way I could have gotten off work that long this summer, anyway. Oh, well, maybe another year. I’d like to do a long trip like that at least once.”

“It won’t hurt for you to have another year of riding practice before we do something that far,” he grinned. “But yeah, I’d like to take a long one with you another year, too. Maybe Sturgis, or maybe somewhere else if we go with Kevin and Emily.”

Bradford lies only a mile or so north of the Indiana state line, and the interchange for the Indiana Turnpike is not very far south of it. In only a few minutes they were off of I-67 and heading down the ramp to the toll booths. There was a wide area for truck parking before reaching them; Vicky pulled the Stratus off into it, and the two Harleys pulled up alongside, one on each side as she rolled the windows down. “Hey, you two,” she yelled out her window into the rumbling of the idling bikes, “Have a good trip, now!”

Emily pulled up her face shield to reply from her side. “Same to you. Sure wish you were going with us.”

“We were just talking about doing it another year,” Vicky smiled.

“Sounds good,” Emily grinned. “Have a good trip and we’ll see you in a week.”

“Take plenty of pictures!” she replied. “We’ll see you then!” She rolled up the windows and headed up to the toll booths, as their friends got their face shields back down and accelerated after them. She made a brief stop at the toll booth to pick up a ticket; as they headed up the on-ramp for the eastbound lane, they could look back and see their friends take the turn for the trip to the west.

The traffic was heavier than it had been on I-67 – it almost always was – and it took a moment to get established in it, but once she did, she commented, “I take it you never did a trip like that with Christine.”

“No, never,” he said conversationally. “She rode around on the back of the ’56 with me a few times, just around town or out in the country a little, but that was early on. She was fragile, and it scared her, so we quit doing it. I didn’t ride much for years after that.”

“I guess I knew that,” she replied. She always seemed like a nice person, what I knew of her. How’d you wind up with her, anyway? I mean, I was just a little kid, I don’t remember.”

“Duane,” he shrugged. “I couldn’t leave him with my folks all the time, they were working too. That was back in the days when I had to work shifts all over the place, and there were times none of us could be home, so I went looking for someone to sit for him. She was a sister of a guy who used to work at the plant with me, and the three of us just grew closer. We never even dated much, we just fit together. To make a long story short, she knew she wasn’t healthy and suspected even then that she’d never be able to have kids, but Duane filled that hole in her life while she lasted. As far as he’s concerned, she’s his real mother, not Jody. He never knew anyone else. It was a shame we were never able to have kids, but it worked all the way around better than it had any right to. Like I said a few minutes ago, I married her for all the wrong reasons, but I guess I got lucky anyway.”

“You sure did,” she shrugged. “I guess I got married for all the wrong reasons too, but I got lucky that we didn’t have kids. It’d have been much worse when I left him.”

“What really happened, anyway?” he asked, tiring a little of talking about Christine and looking to change the course of the conversation again. “I mean, I always heard he beat you up, but I always had the impression it was a little more than that.”

“There was,” she said distantly. “He raped me in the ass.”

“Raped you?”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “Jason, I’ve never told anyone the whole story, not my folks, not even Emily, so let’s keep this between us, all right? Augie had trouble getting it up and keeping it. I knew some things that could have helped him, they’d worked with John, but the dumb shit thought he knew it all and wouldn’t listen to me. Somewhere in there he got the idea it’d turn him on if he could fuck my ass.”

She was silent for a moment, gathering her words before she continued. “I’d have been willing to let him if he would have listened to me about that, too. John and I had done it, but we did it the right way, preparation, stretching, plenty of lube, being gentle. I mean, it wasn’t something I’d do for the sake of doing it, but it was something kind of fun to do once in a while for the sake of something different.”

“You and John did a lot of that,” he snickered, trying to head off what looked like it could be a descent into a bitterness he hadn’t seen for a while.

“Yeah, we did,” she nodded. “We had several books and there weren’t many pages with stuff we didn’t try. Anyway, I knew Augie well enough to know there was no way he would listen to me even if it was my ass he wanted to ram his cock into, so I turned him down. Not once, a bunch of times over the course of a year or so.”

She stopped for a moment; it was clear to Jason that she was getting into the hard part. “Finally, one night, he wasn’t going to take no for an answer,” she said. “He caught me off guard and pasted me a good one, and that made him feel like such a man that he hit me a few more times while I was dazed. Then he just yanked my pants down and rammed it in, no prep, no lube, just jam it in as hard as he could, and oh, fuck, did it hurt!”

Again she stopped for a second, and he could see the anger gather on her face at the memory. “It seemed like it lasted forever, just pure pain. It fucking hurt, Jason!” She let out a sigh. “He finally finished his business and pulled out. It had made him feel like such a man that he pulled me up and hit me a few more times, just for good measure. I could barely stand up, and finally he hit me so hard I just collapsed on the floor, bleeding and crying and hurting. And then, just to show how much he loved me, he pissed on me.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t kill him,” he said.

“Oh, shit, I wanted to,” she said angrily. “I would have loved nothing better than to have taken the dirk and cut his heart out. But I was just too fucking dazed and hurting and bruised to do anything more than lay there and take it.”

They rode along silently for half a minute or more before she continued, “I guess I must have passed out, since I came to after a while and he was gone, I guess to go brag to his buddies about how big a man he was. I pulled myself upright, and sat there on the floor, knowing that was the last straw. Finally, I managed to get up, and the first thing I did was go get the dirk and stick it in my belt in case he came back. I was too goddamn embarrassed to let my folks know what had happened, how bad I was, how bad I’d fucked up by marrying that useless asshole in the first place. I probably wasn’t thinking too well anyway, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do but call Emily. She told me to get the hell out of there, go find a motel or something, and then call again when I was safe. So I did. There was one that wasn’t too far away. I called her back and she spent quite a bit of time trying to settle me down.”

“A true friend,” Jason nodded.

“She couldn’t have done better,” Vicky said softly. “I thought about calling you instead, and I have to say now I guess I’m just as glad I didn’t, because if you’d seen the way I looked I think you would have hunted him down and gutted him like a chicken. It was that bad, Jason, but I’ve since realized that it wouldn’t be worth going to jail for doing a public service like killing that asshole.”

“I have very good control of my temper,” he said slowly, “But if you were as bad as you say, I would have had trouble keeping it under control.”

“That’s what I mean,” she said. “But Emily kept her head screwed on. She told me to try and relax, she’d be there as quick as she could and she’d take care of things. I knew Emily well enough to know she would. Three hours later at two in the morning she knocked on my door. She had Kevin with her, and he had his shotgun in his hand, just to show me there was no way they were going to let me get hurt any more. I’d still been crying and bleeding all over the place, but she’d brought some bandages and some stuff, helped me get a shower – I mean, she had to get right in the shower with me to do it – and then patched me up. The first thing in the morning, my folks showed up. I hadn’t called them, but Emily had, and they were driving Kevin’s pickup. Somewhere in there she’d called the cops, and we had two cops with us when we went back over to the house to get my stuff out.”

“Where was Augie?”

“No idea,” she shrugged. “He should have been at work by then, but he might have come home the night before and found me gone and figured I’d called the cops, so he might have been laying low. At that point I didn’t know and didn’t care. Anyway, I swore out charges on the fucker, and Emily and my folks took me home. That same day I went to an attorney up in Hawthorne and filed for divorce, just so he’d have to come down here if he wanted to fight it.”

“I guess I knew Emily and Kevin were involved, but I never knew the details. I didn’t see much of you those couple days you were home, but I remember you didn’t look very good. But I always thought you went to Las Vegas to file your divorce.”

“No, that’s something Emily talked me out of. I’d planned to do it that way if he ever pushed me that far, but she said that if I filed in Michigan I could at least get my share of the value of the house, which made good sense when she pounded it through my thick skull. But shit, I didn’t want to be seen around Bradford all looking like I’d had the shit kicked out of me and advertising what a total idiot I’d been for marrying that fucker. Getting out of town while I healed up made good sense to me, and Vegas was far enough. Besides, I was afraid Augie might show up.”

“So he could hurt you some more?” he asked gently.

“Fuck no, I had the dirk with me-- if he’d showed up and started to throw his weight around I’d have given him the operation Eve had without the anesthetic,” she snorted, then sank into a distant voice, near tears. “No, I was afraid he’d come and try to apologize, and I might get stupid enough to forgive him. Christ knows I was that stupid in the first place, and I’d been stupid enough to stay with him that long.”

She drew a deep breath to pull herself together, and continued. “I knew a little about Vegas so it seemed like a place to go, and it was a hell of a long way away from Michigan. I was still hurting and bruised, I hurt for weeks. He’d ripped up my asshole so bad I had to wear a pad for days. I got a job as a maid in a motel; shit, I was the only one there who spoke English; everyone else was Mexican or Pakistani or some goddamn thing, and one thing you can say about Vegas is the booze is cheap, so I drank a lot. Well, one night I got busted for DUI, you know about that, and it was one of the better things that had ever happened to me because it made me realize how deep into the bottle I’d crawled. I haven’t had a drink since. I don’t think I’m an alcoholic, but I was for damn sure well on the way at that point.”

“I knew that story,” he said. “I know it’s been awkward at times for you, but I’m glad you pulled yourself together enough to do it.”

“It wasn’t easy, and really it took getting arrested to get my head together on that,” she shrugged. “By the time I got done with the court shit all my bruises had cleared up, so I came back to Bradford and got on with the divorce. Actually, I fucked up; if I’d stayed in Michigan I might have had his ass in jail, but I just wanted to be free of the fucker. He didn’t show up at the divorce hearing, it was all done through lawyers, maybe because he realized I still had a chance to have his ass thrown in jail if he showed up.”

“I knew it was bad,” he said slowly. “I guess I never realized the whole story was that bad. Vicky, I wish I could have done more to help.”

“You did just the right thing,” she smiled. “You were you, my good, stable friend who restored my faith in men, and I’m not talking about Wednesday night, I’m talking the last three years. You accepted me for who I was, didn’t push me, and let me go at my own pace. It’s taken me a while to get things back together, but you’ve done as much as anyone and more than most to help. You did something very important for me Wednesday evening, something I didn’t realize until just now.”

“What?”

“Jason, for the last three and a half years Augie was the last person I had sex with, and the last time sucked so bad I was ready to give up men forever. As of Wednesday night, that’s no longer true, and I didn’t realize how big a milestone it was until I started telling you all this. Jason, you made me feel like a whole woman again, and I deeply thank you for it.”


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