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 26

Saturday, December 29, 2001

Trey didn't get along with his sister, Carolyn Trilby – not at all. He had never gotten along with her particularly well, but it had continually been getting worse since he left the Army and went to college. Her snide remarks, complaints and downright bitching at him had been so bad that he'd walked out of the family Christmas gathering the year before rather than have to put up with it any longer.

Since the wedding had been put together in a hurry, the process of sending out invitations had been personal and informal, but Trey had made a point of not sending his sister one. Even given the family connection, the blood was bad enough that Trey didn't want Carolyn showing up and screwing up the wedding with her mouthing off. Myleigh agreed wholeheartedly; after all, she hadn't invited her parents, who she hadn't seen for several years and didn't plan on renewing acquaintances with them at any time in the next century or so.

Somehow, Carolyn had failed to get the message that she wasn't welcome at the wedding, or if she had, she'd ignored it. In any case, when the subject came up, Carolyn more or less bullied her mother into letting her ride along. Complicating the situation was the difficulty for both Trey's father and mother to get off work on Friday, and it was a long haul from their central Indiana home to Spearfish Lake. The only real option was to drive all night Friday night, hoping they could take turns getting a little sleep along the way, attend the wedding, and get started back at least part way the same afternoon.

What this all added up to was the first hint Trey had of his sister coming to the wedding was when she walked in the door of Blake and Jennifer's house on Point Drive an hour or so before the ceremony was to start. His was totally predictable: "What in hell is she doing here!"

"Who?" Blake asked.

"My sister," Trey snorted.

"I thought you didn't invite her."

"I didn't," Trey answered. "She probably invited herself so she can criticize everything she can."

"Well, shit," Blake said. "We can't just throw her out or it would really make a scene."

"Yeah, no shit," Trey agreed. "The odds are she's here to make a pain in the ass of herself. Now what the hell am I going to do?"

Blake frowned for a moment, thinking hard. "I've got an idea. Look, go try to make nice to her. If it turns out she's willing to bury the hatchet for the wedding, we don't have to do anything. If she's here to be an asshole, then we'll have to deal with it. I'll go talk to a couple people."

There were not many people there, and this was a very informal wedding, so as people arrived, both Trey and Myleigh were circulating around, trying to talk to everyone at least a little. As Blake departed, Trey looked around and discovered he didn't really have an alternative. He walked over to the three and said genially, "Mom, Dad, good to see you here." Then after a brief pause nodded toward his sister and added curtly, "Carolyn."

"Good to see you, son," his father said. "How's Dr. Harris?" They'd met her briefly the previous fall, and had been very impressed with her.

"Just fine," Trey said. "She's around somewhere."

"This is a nice house," Carolyn said. "It isn't yours, is it?"

"No, it belongs to some friends," Trey said, trying to stay civil. "Our place is torn up right now. We won't be moving in till spring, so they offered to let us get married here."

"I don't see why you couldn't have had a church wedding," Carolyn sniped at him. "It would have been much more appropriate than getting married in some friend's parlor."

"We're not church people, and we're among friends here," Trey said, stiffening as he realized that nothing had changed with his sister: she planned on being her normal pain-in-the-ass self.

"It doesn't matter; you should be getting married in a church. And it could have been a little closer to home. That's an awful long drive to have us make."

"The alternative was to have it in Kansas City, and we have more friends here," Trey said defensively. "That's just about as long a drive."

"It's not out in the middle of nowhere," Carolyn sniffed. "At least it's a city, not some lost-in-the-woods place like this. I can't see why you can't be a little closer to home. It's like you're trying to avoid us."

Boy, you got that one right, Trey thought, although carefully didn't say. "We live here, have good jobs here. This is home for us, now."

"That's just the point," she said, her voice rising. "Your home isn't here, it's in Indiana, but you got it in your head that you had to go off to some hoity-toity college and marry some woman that's way out of your league. You think you're better than us, and this just goes to show it." Her voice rose even higher as she kept on, "If you had been willing to do the right thing you'd have stayed around home where we could be a family, but no, you left a good job to join the Army and then move a long ways away. You're just interested in what you can do for you. I don't know what it is with you that you have to think that you're all so high and mighty. If you'd stayed around home you could help take care of your family. My God, it's been hard. First you left, and then Aaron. I don't know how you think . . .

"Excuse me, Ma'am," Randy said from next to Trey, who hadn't seen him join them. "Are you feeling all right?"

"I feel fine," she ranted. "Except that I'm thoroughly disgusted with this . . ."

"You don't look fine," Randy said. "I'm an EMT, and you look like you're on the verge of a heart attack. Please, sit down. Let me get a closer look at you."

"Heart attack?" she protested loudly. "There's no way I could be having a heart attack."

"I didn't say you were having one, I said it looks like you were about to have one." Randy took her wrist to take her pulse. "Good grief," he said after a moment. "You've got all the classic symptoms. I can't tell what your blood pressure is without a cuff, but from all the signs I can see it seems very elevated. Please, sit down now, try to relax. I understand that you've been under a lot of stress, but this is life-threatening."

"Huh? Are you sure?"

"Sure enough that we need to find out more. Please, sit down. Trey, go find Dr. Metarie stat."

Trey almost didn't recognize Shovelhead, which is why it took a couple minutes to get him over to the scene. He was in a suit and tie and carrying a medical bag, not in the biker leathers he usually wore to rehearsals and recording sessions – in other words, he looked like the doctor he was, albeit one with a full red beard.

By now, Carolyn was visibly sweating and looking a little dazed. "Hi, I'm Doctor Metarie," he said to Carolyn. "Randy, what do we have?

"Incipient heart attack I think," Randy said professionally and reeled off a list of symptoms.

"Could be," Shovelhead replied. He pulled out a blood pressure cuff, then went through the mechanics to take her blood pressure, shielding the meter from her view. "Hmmm," he said, "I don't like the looks of that. Sweating, heart rate, blood pressure, you could be right. Ma'am, do you have any pain in the chest?" He pointed at the suspect area.

"Maybe a little," she replied.

"Dizzy? Lightheaded? Headache?"

"Yeah, a little of each," she said, getting more concerned.

"Well, you're probably all right for now," he told her. "I don't think it's on the verge of happening, but it could. Let's see if we can get you calmed down a little." He dug around in his bag, and said, "Randy, could you find her some water? I've got something here that will help her relax."

"On the way," Randy said, heading for the kitchen. He was back in seconds, carrying a glass of water.

"All right," Shovelhead said. "I'm going to give you this. It'll help you calm down and relax. I'll check you in a little while and see if it's taking hold. I'm glad we caught this in time. Now, Jennifer and Blake have a nice warm porch that's away from the crowd and confusion here. I think we'd better get you out there so you can lie down comfortably. Try to stay calm, take long slow breaths, and try to clear your mind. I think we caught this in time, but you're going to have to try and take it easy for a while. Let's get you out there. Randy, could you help me get her up?"

The two of them got Carolyn to her feet, and carefully supporting her, hauled her out to Jennifer and Blake's heated front porch. They put her in a chaise lounge, laid it back and put a blanket over her to help her stay warm. "Doctor?" she said plaintively. "Am I going to be all right?"

"Nothing's sure in these things," he repeated. "But we may have caught it in time. We'll know in a little while. You just concentrate on relaxing and clearing your mind. We'll leave you alone so there are no distractions. I'll check on you again in a little while, and we'll know more then."

"OK, thank you, doctor," she said softly.

Randy led the two out, then shut the door behind Shovelhead. Trey and his parents were waiting right there. "Is she going to be all right?" Trey's mother asked.

"She should be fine after that takes hold," Shovelhead told them. "Now you guys relax and enjoy the wedding and the reception."

Trey's mother turned to him. "Trey, I'm sorry," she said. "She said she wanted to be here for the wedding, and she said she'd try to be nice. I guess she didn't try too hard. She's been under a lot of stress lately, and I can't say as I blame her."

"What happened?" Trey said out of polite curiosity.

"The big thing is that Aaron left her," his mother replied. "It's had her very upset."

"Aaron left her?" Trey's eyes widened. "I never thought I'd see the day that happened."

"Me, either," his father said. "He said that he had all of her mouth that he could take, and I for one don't blame him. I about had my fill of it on the way up here. Right before she came in, she promised she'd stay quiet and not ruin your wedding, but you see how long that lasted."

"Yeah," Trey said. "That's about what her word is worth, I guess. I'm sorry if this has caused you problems."

"No more than we've been having," his father said. "I hope this doesn't ruin your wedding."

"It shouldn't," Shovelhead said. "That was a pretty strong sedative I gave her. She should be out like a light in minutes, and she should be out for hours. By the way, don't worry about her having heart problems. There's nothing that will make you think you're having a heart attack like hearing a physician say he thinks you could be having one."

"You mean she isn't?" Trey's father glanced at Shovelhead, a twinkle in his eye.

"Oh, she has some symptoms that might be indicative of it," Shovelhead smiled. "Some of which she thought herself into. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to have her visit a doctor when you get home, though. That blood pressure of hers is borderline hypertension, high enough to be of concern."

Trey's dad let out a chuckle. "Are you really a doctor?" he grinned.

"Yes, I am," Shovelhead smiled. "But I'm also Trey's friend, and I didn't want to see his wedding screwed up any more than he did."

*   *   *

The people watching were mostly friends from Spearfish Lake, from Flagstaff, and a couple from Marienthal. The only real family members of either Trey or Myleigh were Trey's father and mother; Carolyn was sound asleep on the porch, and when Shovelhead checked on her, he reported that she was snoring rather loudly. The closed door shut that out, distracting no one.

The wedding was rather informal, although Trey did wear a suit and tie, and most people there were similarly nicely dressed. Myleigh didn't do anything special for a wedding dress; one of the white evening gowns she used in her shows sufficed for the festivities. Trey stood in front of the Italianate marble fireplace, in which a cheery fire was crackling, and watched her come into the room. She walked up beside him, standing in front of Lex, who would perform the ceremony. Not far away, Blue Beauty stood on a stand, firelight glistening off of the high polish.

Trey thought that Myleigh had never looked prettier. He looked at her, seeing her warm, gentle smile. Across the room, Jennifer and Blake picked up their guitars and began to sing, He is now to be among you, at the calling of your hearts . .  Trey heard them play, but most of his attention was on the woman who in a few minutes would become his wife. She still awed him; she always would. She was talented, intense, quirky . . . and wonderful. A year ago, he'd wondered if any man could be man enough for her. There was still some question in his mind if he was up to it, but she thought he was and had told him so. That was all he needed.

She walked up and stood beside him, their backs to the fireplace as Lex stood in front of them, her back to the crowd. "In a sense," she began solemnly, "We are gathered together here today, not for a simple wedding or handfasting, but for something more than that. No ceremony that we could offer today could add to the strength of the bond between these two people. All we can do is recognize that it exists. Rather, our being here today is a celebration, of the existence of that bond, and a celebration of a determination of these two people to cast off the past and change the direction of their lives. It is a celebration of the decision to cease walking through life merely side by side, and to walk through it together, as one. By this celebration, they signify that they do not take the decision to become as one lightly, but in honor, and in a deep and enduring love."

"Myleigh," Lex continued, turning to her, "Do you take Trey to be your lawful wedded husband, from this day forth, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and cherish, from this day forth, till death do you part?"

"I do."

"Trey," the mayor said, turning to him, "Do you take Myleigh to be your lawful wedded wife, from this day forth, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and cherish, from this day forth, till death do you part?"

"I do."

"Randy," the mayor said, "Do you have a ring for Trey to present to Myleigh as a symbol of his oath?" Randy took the ring that had been clutched in his hand, and passed it to Trey, who placed it on Myleigh's finger. In a moment, Myleigh placed a ring that Crystal had been carrying on Trey's finger.

"I now pronounce you man and wife," Lex said. "You may kiss the bride."

Trey took Myleigh in his arms, and they had a brief kiss.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Lex said in a brighter, less solemn voice than she had been using, "I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Trey Hartwell."

*   *   *

One of the advantages of holding the wedding at Blake and Jennifer's house was that the reception could be – and was – held in the same place, and immediately afterward. In making the offer, the two had also taken on the responsibility of catering the meal that followed. Naturally, with Blake involved, it was good and memorable. It was a wet reception, but not terribly so; Myleigh was normally a little too proper for something like that to happen. Even so, after a while several people were feeling pretty good, although the newlyweds stayed away from the punch anticipating other things to do that evening.

Another advantage of having the reception at their house was the music. Blake and Jennifer provided the music, which was incredible, not that it was unexpected. Jennifer didn't sing a lot, and her claim that her pregnancy was affecting what little singing she did was poo-pooed as undetectable by everyone present. Myleigh got Blue Beauty off the stand and contributed some music herself, which was a special treat.

Since Blake couldn't be two places at once, Duane and Michelle had volunteered to do the serving – it was something they were used to doing in the Grand Canyon, and doing it in a place as nice as this was a new experience. Michelle wore her black cocktail dress, the only dress she'd brought from Flagstaff. In spite of a lot of needling on her part, Duane managed to avoid wearing a great kilt, but wore a suit he'd borrowed from Danny Evachevski.

Blake had also made the wedding cake, nothing terribly fancy or overdone, but appropriate for the occasion. As the dinner wound down and Carolyn continued to snore on the porch, the rest of the festivities got under way. Again they weren't very formal. Randy kicked off the proceedings by tapping a knife on a glass, then got up to make a brief best man speech: "I've known Myleigh for a lot of years, and Trey for a year now. I could tell you a few stories about both of them, and a few about each of them, but they're the kind of stories that most people here already know. Myleigh is, without a doubt, the most memorable woman I've ever met, and I don't think my wife is going to hit me for saying that. Trey is the only person I've ever met who could keep up with her. When you stop and think about it, they are an unlikely couple, but in this case it's pretty well been proved that opposites attract. I predict an interesting life for the two of them, and I hope I'm around to see some of it. Good luck to the both of you!"

There was a round of applause to that. When it died down, Randy went on. "My wife Nicole, Crystal Whittaker, Myleigh, and I have been close friends for years, and Nicole has something she'd like to say. Since she's my wife, I didn't get any choice about whether she was going to say it or not. Trey, that's something you should remember. Nicole?"

Nicole got up as Randy sat down. "Thanks, Randy. We'll talk about that when we get home." There was a round of laughter, and she continued, "As Randy said, the four of us have been friends for a good many years. We have shared good times and bad ones. One of the things we have shared has been a special little tradition, and now at Myleigh's wedding it's time to complete the cycle. At my wedding and at Crystal's, our husbands were presented with a special token of our marriage, and there's no way we were going to allow Myleigh to escape it. Myleigh, Trey, would you step up here, please."

Myleigh stood up with a resigned look on her face. She and Trey had several times discussed how to react if someone presented a pair of handcuffs to him as had happened with Nicole's and Crystal's husbands. Myleigh hoped she'd escape the honor, but she'd admitted to Trey that she hoped she didn't escape it, either. It was clear she wasn't going to escape it, for as the two of them stood up, Nicole presented Trey with a small, oblong box. He opened it, and sure enough, there was a pair of sturdy Soliel handcuffs inside.

"You're going to make me do it, aren't you, Trey?" she smiled, even before Crystal could shout something out. She stuck out her wrists and continued, "Very well, let's get on with it."

Once again, Randy had to give a quick lesson in the subtleties of locking the rather tricky handcuffs, but in a minute or two, Trey had them snugly fastened around her wrists. To avoid getting stuck with having to search through a bucket of keys like Crystal had to do, he quickly pocketed the key while Myleigh held her handcuffed hands aloft to show that the deed and been done.

"See, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Nicole smirked as Myleigh got a little red in the face. "Myleigh, like I told Crystal, this is a special experience for you. It's fun to spend your wedding night wearing only fifteen ounces of stainless steel."

"And a little more than that," Crystal snorted loudly enough to be heard.

Nicole ignored the interruption and continued. "Now, with that firmly established, Blake has something special for you. I'll even be nice and say that it isn't the bucket of keys someone else in this room received. Blake?"

"Thanks, Nicole," he said, standing up as Nicole sat down. "Actually, I thought what you guys did to Crystal was cute, and Myleigh being Myleigh, it's hard to top something like that. But I think we've managed. Duane, Michelle, if you would, please?"

Myleigh looked a little confused as the two got up and headed for a closet off of the living room, where a large gift-wrapped box sat precariously on a furniture dolly. As they rolled it into the middle of the room, Blake said. "I won't go into the background right now, but this is a special wedding gift that Jennifer and I decided to get for you two. It's especially for Myleigh, but I think Trey will find it rewarding, too. As a hint for unwrapping it, all you have to do is to pull that rope hanging down on the one side. Trey, you might want to help her with that."

Trey and Myleigh went over to the box, which Duane and Michelle were holding on to in order to stabilize it. "I have no idea what this could be," Myleigh said. "Something for the house, maybe?"

"Yank the cord and see," Blake suggested.

"All right," she smirked, taking the rope in both handcuffed hands and giving it a mighty heave. It turned out that the box was nothing more than a framework for the gift paper to hang on; once it fell away, the contents were revealed – a highly polished brass concert harp, standing quite a bit taller than she was. "Oh, my word!" she gasped. "Blake! Jennifer! My word!"

"I suspect you know what to do with it," Blake smirked as Duane and Michelle moved in, removed some ropes that tied the harp to the framework, and set it on the floor.

"My word," Myleigh shook her head. "Is this . . . is this the harp from the music department at Weatherford? It appears to be most beautifully restored!"

"The very same," Blake said. "The college decided to buy the music department a new one, so Jennifer and I bought the old one, cleaned it up, re-strung it and tuned it, knowing that you would like it."

"Oh, my word," she said again, dazed at the sight. When she'd first seen the harp the previous fall it had called to her, but she hadn't had time to do more than play a few notes on it and tell Trey that she wanted something like that someday. She turned to her new husband and said, "My hero, you were involved with this a little, weren't you?"

"A little," he said. "Not very much. It sure is beautiful, isn't it?"

"My word!" Myleigh repeated, apparently unable to come up with anything else to announce her amazement. With her eyes on the harp and her head in the clouds, she moved toward it to feel her fingers on its strings – until the chain of the handcuffs bashed up against the sound board of the harp. She looked at the handcuffs in confusion, then in frustration looked at her husband. "Trey, my dear," she said sweetly. "Would you be so good as to assist me?"

"Nope," he said flatly. "If you didn't have those handcuffs on you'd be messing with that thing half the night. Since there's other things that you and I both want to do, they stay on until we're far away from here. We'll be back in a week, and you can mess with it then."

"But Trey!" she protested. "That's cruel!"

"No, I'm not cruel, I'm practical," he smiled. "There's a difference sometimes."

"Oh, dear," she said, looking around at the wide grins around the assembled guests. "You all are just conspiring to frustrate me, aren't you?"

"Hey, it could be worse," Crystal piped up. "He could have given you a bucket of keys."

*   *   *

It was a couple more hours before the taillights of Trey's car disappeared down Point Drive. They had been frustrating hours for Myleigh; half a dozen times she went over to the harp and strummed it with the fingers of one hand, obviously longing to get started making friends with the instrument. Each time, Trey had to drag her back to their table, saying things like, "No, honey, not now."

"Well," Blake said as the remaining guests trooped back inside after waving the newlyweds off. "I'd say that came off pretty well. Anybody want any of the leftovers?"

"You mean there are leftovers?" Crystal asked. "Not me, I'm flying tomorrow and I've done my fair share to keep it out of your refrigerator. I will help you clean up, though."

"It would be appreciated," Blake said. "Actually, I've seen it worse. This was a pretty good crowd."

"Lots of raft guides who know how to keep work to a minimum, and, yeah, a fun time, Blake," Crystal said. "Hey, you ever feel like cooking on a raft trip, I've got the place for you."

"Jennifer and I have talked about wanting to do that trip sometime," Blake said. "It's not going to be for a year or two, but I'm looking forward to doing one."

"We'll be looking forward to having you," Crystal told him. "Just bring some guitars."

"Oh, we might be able to manage that," Blake said.

The cleanup work went quickly as virtually all the guests pitched in. Toward the end of the process, Trey's father and Shovelhead were hauling bags of trash out to the curb. "Hey," Trey's father said. "Do you think I could get some of those pills from you that you used on Carolyn?"

"Trouble sleeping?" Shovelhead asked.

"Hell no! I've got to ride back to Indiana with her and I'd rather hear her snoring than I would hear her bitch about missing the wedding. It's her own damn fault."

"Sure, no problem," Shovelhead grinned. "I suppose we'd better go in and wake her up."

Carolyn started to come around as Shovelhead took another blood pressure reading. It really had been somewhat elevated earlier, but now was reasonable. "All right," he said. "I think you're going to be all right to go home, but you've got a serious blood pressure problem that you need to see your family doctor about. I don't want to say that you were all that close to a heart attack but it's something that you need to be concerned with. I obviously couldn't do any lab tests but I'd be surprised if your cholesterol isn't elevated, too. On your way home, you need to avoid excitement and getting worked up. I'd given your father some medication for you. You should take one pill every six hours until you get home."

"I didn't have a heart attack?" she said.

"No, but you could have been very close. It's hard to tell without an EKG. In any case, I think you'll be able to get home all right."

"How much longer till the wedding?" she asked.

"About five hours ago," her mother said. "Trey and Myleigh are off on their honeymoon. You slept right through the wedding, a marvelous dinner and a really fun reception. Blake was nice enough to make up a tray for you to work on after we get heading back. You missed Jennifer singing, too. She's even better live than she is on recordings."


"Come on," her mother smiled. "Don't tell me you never heard of Jenny Easton?"

"Jenny Easton?" Carolyn said, her eyes opening wide. "You mean the Jenny Easton?"

"The very same. This is her house, and if you hadn't been such a jerk you would have had the chance to enjoy everything."

"Trey didn't say anything about that."

Carolyn's mother shook her head. "You never gave him a chance to. Now you've paid the price. Come on, let's go."

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To be continued . . .

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