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

Pulling Even
Book Seven of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2004, 2009, 2011

Chapter 21

Sunday, December 16, 2001

Myleigh and Trey arrived at Randy and Nicole's very late on Saturday night. They'd run into a stretch of very bad weather that had lasted through more than half the trip, and it had slowed them by several hours. When they got in, they were both road-weary and exhausted. Thanks to cell phones, Randy and Nicole had known they were going to be late arriving, so weren't real worried, but were concerned about how fried-out they might be. It was getting near midnight when the two pulled in, and understandably they weren't ready for a long evening of catching up. Randy suggested that a dip in the hot tub might make them feel a little better, but they both rejected the idea – a bed sounded a lot better to them at the moment. Randy and Nicole promised they wouldn't wake their guests up in the morning and went to bed themselves.

The two weren't real late getting up the next morning; it was maybe nine or so before they both came downstairs, yawning and still headachy, though, as expected, Myleigh was a good bit perkier than Trey, who had done the majority of the driving, especially in the snowstorm. "Good," Nicole said. "Now that you're up I can throw some breakfast together for you."

"I fear I shan't need much," Myleigh replied as Trey headed straight for the coffeepot. "I rarely eat much breakfast in any case." Randy knew that was true – she ate like the proverbial bird, and he wasn't thinking about the sparrows and house finches that could clean out the bird feeders in the back yard in a matter of hours.

"It's no problem," Nicole protested. "We usually have a big breakfast on Sunday, and just have dinner along in the afternoon sometime."

"Well, if you insist," Myleigh said. "In fact, I rather suspect a more substantial meal might be appreciated after the horrors of the highway yesterday."

"I take it that it was pretty bad," Randy commented as Nicole headed for the stove, while the rest of them settled around the kitchen table.

"It really wasn't all that bad," Trey said, feeling a little better now that he had a cup of coffee in his hand. Even the smell seemed to revive him. "It's was just that pot-licking snow, and there was a limit to how hard I could push in the traffic. Next time, maybe I'll actually think to look at a weather report before I start on a drive like that. There's no reason we couldn't have put it off a day. I mean, it wasn't like we had to rush up here. We're going to be here for several days, after all."

"My hero, you're probably right," Myleigh admitted. "Yet, had we delayed, we might not have arrived in time for the closing on the house, which is to be Tuesday."

"So, we still had a day's worth of padding," he shrugged. "It would have been better than that mess we had to drive through yesterday."

"I suppose you're right," she sighed. "But I fear it's spilt milk in any case, and indeed behind us. Let us think of happier things, now that we're in our new home town and among friends."

"I can go along with that my love," Trey shrugged. "So, now that we're here, what's the plan for today?"

"I suppose the most pressing thing we could do is recover from yesterday the best we can," she replied. "I should think we ought to at least briefly visit Jennifer and Blake to make them aware of our arrival. I should not doubt that they may have something for us to do in the next few days."

"Maybe not," Randy shook his head. "The last time I saw Jennifer, she said she was about done with working until the baby gets here. She more or less wanted to put off any serious work until spring, when you could be here."

"I dare say that does not surprise me," Myleigh said. "However, I know Jennifer well enough to state with certainty that she won't be happy just sitting around. Doubtless she and Blake will have many projects at hand to keep their interest. In any case, we should plan on putting in an appearance. Would you think it's an appropriate time to telephone her?"

"As far as I know," Randy told her. "I haven't really seen a whole lot of either of them the last month or so. There's been no reason to head over there, and I've been busy."

"Work taking your time, Randy?" Trey asked. "I thought it was pretty slow for you this time of year."

"Usually it is, but often enough my work during the winter is in spurts getting ready for next year, and it's shaping up to be a busy one. I had to blow off the surfing trip again, but this is for a multi-million dollar project that looks like it's actually going to happen this time, so I really can't complain."

"Oh, dear," Myleigh said. "Another disappointment for you, Randy?"

"This one I can swallow," he shrugged. "I've said for years I don't dare plan things too far ahead since something can come along to blow them up, and that's what happened this time. The sailing trip for the end of next month is still on, though. But enough of that; Nicole and I have already beaten it to death. I take it that besides the wedding, you want to figure out what you're doing about the house?"

"Yes, that and unwind from the term," Myleigh said. "I fear it's been long. I am dearly looking forward to completing the next one and moving up here."

"We want to do what we can about getting the house ready," Trey explained. "I'm going to have to be up here several times over the winter, so I can do what I can on it then, but we really need to give it a good looking over and see what needs to be done. You know, figure out what your crew can do, and what I ought to do myself to save some cash."

"I can tell you there are some things that'll cost you a ton if we have our crew do them, but they really ought to be done," Randy said. "Someone needs to go over all that painted-over woodwork on the staircase with a few gallons of paint stripper, for example. I could get someone in to do it, but it's going to cost."

"Yuck, stripping paint," Trey wrinkled his nose. "Well, I suppose I could do it if I had to. Any alternatives, other than just leaving it painted?"

"I could find someone willing to do it," Randy told him. "But like I said, it's going to cost. That's the kind of decisions that need to be made in the next few days. I'm planning on having Don Bailey go through that punch list I know you saw. He's our best house guy, and built this house as a matter of fact. But you need to go through the place and see if there's anything you want to do before we bring him in. I can get him here about any time this week, though."

"It can't really be until after the closing," Trey said. "Although since we close Tuesday, that won't be all that long. Can you think of anything else that really sticks out?"

"Appliances," Randy said. "Stove, refrigerator, washer, and dryer, maybe dishwasher. They're all old, but seem to be in good shape. How long they'll stay that way is anybody's guess. But, right now, we're busy putting the finishing touches on the new Spearfish Lake Appliance building, they're going to be moving in along around the middle of the month, so the guy who owns it has everything marked down like you wouldn't believe. He gave me a hell of a deal on our new hot tub, and it wasn't just because Clark Construction is building his new store for him, either."

"That's right," Myleigh said. "I seem to recall you saying something last night about a new hot tub."

"It's about the smartest purchase we could have made," Randy said. "In the last month or so I've learned that nothing takes the sting out of a hard day like a glass of wine and a long soak."

"I've only rarely had the chance to use a hot tub," Myleigh said. "But I have thoroughly enjoyed the few I have. I confess, I hadn't thought about having one at our new abode, but I find the idea intriguing."

"No reason you can't try ours out," Nicole said. "I'm getting hooked, too."

"I don't remember if there's a suitable place for it or not," Trey frowned. "I wouldn't think an outdoor hot tub would work out all that well in this climate, anyway."

"It might be that something could be done," Randy told them. "You don't really want one inside anyway; it gets your humidity all wacky. Ours is on the porch, so we can ventilate it in the summer, and still not be up to our butts in snow in the winter. You might want to think in terms of an addition or something. I didn't really look at the place with that in mind when I was over there."

"It's nothing we need decide today," Myleigh smiled. "Our budget is not unlimited in any case, and there are a considerable number of other things we will need. Furniture, for example. Trey has nothing. I have a few things I bought when I first moved to Kansas City, and I confess I was pinching every penny when I purchased them. I now believe that much of it isn't worth moving."

"Honestly, you need to talk to Danny again," Randy said. "He's the guy at Spearfish Lake Appliance. When he opens his new store it's going to be Spearfish Lake Furniture and Appliance. He might give you a really good package deal on something. However, I'd suggest you don't get too carried away at first. That's really a small house and you don't want to overfill it."

"I fear you are correct when you say it is a small house. One of the things that Trey and I have talked about is not getting too permanently attached to it, as we may desire a more elaborate abode in the future. But that's neither here nor there at this point, and we would be unable to reach a permanent conclusion at this juncture in any case. But Randy, I confess I must say that I'm exceedingly happy to have you here to watch out for our interests."

"Service with a smile, ma'am," Randy mugged. "But like you said, there's not much that can be done until the closing except draw up job lists."

They talked on about the house for another few minutes while Nicole worked on breakfast. It was something to talk about, but they soon exhausted what they needed to say. Fortunately, about then Nicole called them to breakfast. It was good, even though it had been thrown together quickly – scrambled eggs, home fries, bacon, and toast. Myleigh may have said she wasn't very hungry, but she went through her plate in a hurry, without even a word about the bacon. That surprised Randy a little, although he didn't say anything – Myleigh had been a vegetarian when he first met her, but apparently that had fallen by the wayside, perhaps with Trey's influence. Even before their guests had shown up, Randy had been of the opinion that Myleigh had matured in many ways since getting involved with Trey, and this was probably just another example.

Randy helped Nicole clean up the dishes, then refilled everyone's coffee. "Oh, this is delightful," Myleigh exclaimed. "It has been much too long since I sat around with friends for an extra cup of coffee, Trey aside. Do we expect any more arrivals soon?"

"No," Randy said. "It's going to be just the four of us until the day after Christmas, then people are going to start to show up. I don't know if you've heard, but Scooter and Jim aren't planning on being here after all. I guess that means they're going to dump the Christmas dinner in Flagstaff, as well. Al, Karin, Preach, and Crystal are supposed to be in late on the 26th. Michelle is already here; she's staying with Duane out at Josh's dog lot and helping with the training."

"Michelle?" Myleigh exclaimed. "I find that a little surprising. And I think I remember Duane. Wasn't he on the first part of the wedding trip?"

"Yeah, he hiked out with Scooter," Randy confirmed. "He's quite a nice guy, and I get the feeling, he and Michelle are hitting it off a little."

"Oh, my," Myleigh giggled. "So they have a little love affair going, I take it?"

"I don't want to say anything about love, but the affair part is pretty obvious," Randy laughed. "We had them over here in the hot tub the other night and they had trouble keeping their hands off of each other. It's going to be interesting to see how that one works out. Michelle would be a handful for any guy, and I don't know if Duane is up to it."

"It sort of depends," Trey spoke up. "Most people would think of Myleigh as a handful. I know I once did, and I was right, too. But, somehow we get along."

"Trey, I hardly think that I'm a handful to you," Myleigh chided. "An armful perhaps, but I prefer it that way. So, Randy, is there any word on Crystal?"

"Not a peep since her wedding," he shrugged. "Apparently Al and Karin haven't heard that much, either. At least that was the impression I got, the one time I talked to them."

"I confess that I cannot help but wonder how that is progressing," Myleigh shook her head. "I was most incredulous to hear that she and Noah were doing such a thing. I literally cannot imagine such. Indeed, I was most astonished to hear that she and Noah were even getting married. He is a very nice person, and I will be the first to admit it, but it seems very out of character for her."

"I think that puts you with everyone else in the universe," Randy shook his head. "I almost hate to say it this way, but we've all changed since our days of running around in college. Crystal has changed some, too. We're seeing a part of her that we never saw before. It only stands out because neither of us has actually seen much of her in the last few years. I mean, you in Kansas, her in Arizona, and me here. Yeah, we get together once in a while, but we tend to fall back to seeing any person we don't see often as we last remember them. With you two moving up here, we're going to be seeing more of each other, but I suspect that we'll see less of Crystal. It's still going to be different from what we had in college since we're both going to be married, and not to each other like we once suspected might happen. Crystal is going to draw away from us, like it or not."

"I suppose you are correct," Myleigh sighed. "It seems a shame that we shall likely never recreate those idyllic college days, but life moves on, does it not? Yet, I hope that we shall still see her from time to time."

"Actually, we stand a better chance of it with both of us living here," Randy smiled. "It gives her double the reason to show up here."

*   *   *

It was early afternoon before the four of them made it over to Jennifer and Blake's house, mostly because Myleigh timed her phone call to Jennifer well and procured an invitation to dinner along with it. That was something to not be turned down, because Blake did most of the cooking around that house, and he was a professional-grade chef with a flair for the dramatic. Visitors might not know what he was serving but the taste was always exceptional, for Blake was one of those renaissance men who did almost everything superlatively well.

The dinner was marvelous, of course, and there was some time spent in sitting around catching up on things. Myleigh and Trey hadn't seen Jennifer and Blake for a while, so there was much to catch up on. Progress on the new studio was only one item on a long list of things to talk about; the new studio, with Trey's presence as a recording engineer, represented a new direction for Jennifer and Blake, and it held a lot of interesting potential for the future.

There were other things to talk about, and Jennifer's second pregnancy was one of them. It was admittedly of less interest to the guys than some of the other things they might have talked about, so no one complained when Blake spoke up and said, "Hey, Randy, Trey. Could you guys come down to the basement for a moment? I've got something I need your help with."

"Yeah, sure," Randy said, glad for the excuse to make an escape. He didn't know where Myleigh and Trey stood on the subject of children; he and Nicole had agreed that they wanted to have some, but had also decided to put it off for a few years.

"Good," Blake replied. "Ladies, this shouldn't take long." Since the women were immersed in the various feminine details of Jennifer's saga, they hardly noticed the departure of the men.

Blake led the three of them down the basement stairs. It was familiar to both Randy and Trey, for the basement was where Jennifer and Blake had done their recording for years. Randy had spent many hours playing a bass guitar down there, and Trey had spent a lot of time at the sound board there the previous summer, when they'd been recording Whispering Pines.

"What have you got in mind, Blake?" Randy asked as soon as they were at the bottom of the stairs.

"You mean beyond letting them get that subject out of their systems?" Blake grinned. "I don't know if Myleigh is going to come down here or what, but I thought maybe you guys could help me wrestle her wedding present into the furnace room to hide it."

"Holy shit!" Trey said softly as he looked around the room. "Is that the one I think it is?"

Randy also saw the huge brass concert harp standing in the middle of the room. "Yeah, holy shit," he agreed. "That's about what she's going to do when she sees that. Shit, I mean. Then she's going to kill you for giving her that expensive a present."

"It really wasn't expensive," Blake said. "In fact, I got a hell of a deal on it."

"Isn't that the one they had in the music department at Weatherford when we were there last fall?" Trey asked, a little suspiciously.

"Yes, it is," Blake said. "And I really did get a deal on it. The administration decided that, as long as they were having such a distinguished harpist joining the faculty, they needed something more appropriate than the old piece of junk they had, so they tapped one of their donors, and no, it wasn't us. I happened to hear about it and did a little horse trading. It was as bad of a mess as you said, and way out of tune, too. Besides, the strings were getting brittle. Jennifer and I have put hours into cleaning it up, polishing it, restringing it, and tuning it. I just piss around with the harp and what little I know Myleigh taught me, but it really plays sweetly. I honestly don't think Weatherford knew what they were letting go when they decided to get rid of it."

"Make sure you tell her that," Trey said flatly. "The personal attention will mean more to her than the money."

"We figured that," Blake said. "That was part of the reason I wanted this instrument, since she'll know what kind of shape it was in when you guys found it last fall. I know I haven't figured out everything about Myleigh, and I doubt you ever will either, but that one was pretty obvious."

"And you're going to give it to her at our wedding?" Trey shook his head. "You realize that means I'm going to have a hell of a time getting her out the door for the honeymoon, don't you?"

"Holy shit," Randy said quietly. He and Nicole had been wrestling with ideas for months and finding nothing that seemed to fit, and now the perfect idea had just dropped into place! Damn, was he glad he found out about this! He couldn't wait to tell Nicole, though under the circumstances, it would have to wait, maybe until they went to bed. It would involve a little collusion with Blake, but not much, and it might be better if Trey didn't know about it. Damn, it was going to be hard to keep his mouth shut!

*   *   *

"So, have you guys figured out what you're doing for a honeymoon yet?" Nicole asked from across the hot tub.

"I believe so," Myleigh replied, from where she was snuggled up next to her fiance. "But Trey won't tell me. We agreed that it should be a surprise. All he'll tell me is that it will be warm and on a beach."

Randy shook his head and grinned. As he pretty well expected, all of them were nude in the hot tub. Since he knew Myleigh pretty well, his prediction had been right on the mark. When Nicole hit Myleigh and Trey with the "naked in the hot tub" rule, Myleigh had dithered about how she should be most frightfully embarrassed to be with others in the hot tub in the altogether except for her engagement ring. But, she was peeling off her clothes as quickly as she could when she said it. It wasn't the first time he'd seen her in the nude, even with a bedroom not involved; one night down at Buddha and Giselle's there had been an outbreak of skinny-dipping in the ocean, followed by a nude beach campfire, and Myleigh had been right in the thick of it. "When you get right down to it," he grinned. "That's about all you need for a honeymoon, anyway."

"A bed and room service would be nice," Nicole snorted. Her disaster of a honeymoon hadn't featured either, but it also had been after she and Randy had been married for a few months. "Randy and I could have had that if we hadn't decided to be cute and get married on the dawn of the new millennium."

"Wasn't my idea," Randy shrugged. "For that matter, the only reason we went to Buddha and Giselle's was that we'd got washed out of our holiday surfing trip by having our wedding when we did. You want to blame someone, blame your mother."

"Oh, I have," Nicole sighed. "Not that it did any good. At least you guys are being a little more conventional about it. So, Trey, how did you decide on going wherever it is you're going."

"I'll be honest, I didn't have a clue," he said. "I finally got smart, found a travel agent that I thought might not have an agenda or sales quota, and put myself in her hands. If it turns out to be a disaster, I'll at least know who to strangle."

"So, how are you going to handle it?" Randy said. "I mean, schedule and like that?"

"The plan is to leave the wedding and reception fairly early, which shouldn't be any big trick since it's going to be at Blake and Jennifer's. We'll come back over here, change our clothes, and head out. We have a room reserved for that evening, and we'll fly out the next morning. Would you mind if we left some stuff here? We could put it in the house, but I don't think we want to with people in and out to work on it."

"Sure, no problem," Randy nodded. "It's easier for the crew to work on the place if they don't have to move something half a dozen times. Trey, you need to understand the place isn't going to be real livable for a while, so if you have to come up here while we're working on it, you're welcome to stay here. At least it will be warm here, and there will be furniture."

"I figured you'd say something like that," Trey said. "I really hope I don't have to take you up on it much. I plan to spend as much time with Myleigh as I can until we move here, though if you heard Blake and Jennifer correctly today, I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out I'll be here more than I want to be."

"Yeah, they have their own agenda, that's for sure," Randy agreed. "But you guys staying here is no skin off our fannies. You two are friends, and we want to stay friends. I'm not sure how it's going to play out when you two get up here to stay, since I'm sure our schedules are going to be pretty different. But I'm pretty sure we can have some good times, do things together, maybe go somewhere together once in a while."

"I'd appreciate that," Myleigh agreed. "I must confess that I'm ever so grateful to know that I'm moving some place where I know I shall have some friends. Except for Trey, it's often been lonely in Kansas City, for I have no other close friends there. I am very glad that it's going to be different in Spearfish Lake."

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To be continued . . .

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