Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
With Gingrich gone and the tensions gone with him, things slowed down for Susan quite a bit. She was still busy with her studies at Riverside and her work for the Record-Herald, but for the most part the hassles were behind her. Even though she knew she was still being carried on the books as a student at the high school, she didn’t think of herself as one. She agreed to help Mr. Delahayne out in first class perion on Friday mornings, strictly as a volunteer, as long as she didn’t have something else going on. He was glad of her assistance, and it allowed her to walk into the school and not have to think of herself as a student.
Almost two weeks after the pivotal school board meeting, she was invited out to Windmill Island to the open house the Newtons had planned. She went, of course; it was a beautiful day, a fall day as fine as the North Country around Spearfish Lake can manage. The house turned out just as spectacular as she had imagined when there to do the photo story back in the summer, and she thought the Newtons were going to have an adventure living on an island in the middle of a frozen lake come winter. She took the Nikon with her and shot a number of photos, which resulted in another full-page photo feature in the Record-Herald the following week, although this time without the front page teaser photo.
While she was there, she had another long talk with Randy Clark, whose company had built the house. There was some discussion of the whole school board mess, of course; it was still a main topic of discussion around Spearfish Lake, but they also talked about her college plans. Not unexpectedly, Mrs. Clark made a pitch for Weatherford, but Susan told them that while the possibility of going to school in Germany was still in the cards, right at the moment she was looking hard at Michigan State or Grand Valley State University. She told them she planned a campus visit trip in the near future.
The weather wasn’t anywhere as nice on the following Saturday; it was overcast, rainy, and rather chilly. It would have been tolerable outside in the hot tub in the nude, but it didn’t appeal to her. It all added up to a pretty slow day, so she used it to make sure she had all of her studies up to date, and also read ahead in her textbooks.
Even that got old after a while, so in the early afternoon she decided to call the Hauners in Germany. She hadn’t talked with them for a while, and she was curious about how Hans was doing at Albburg as there hadn’t been a word about it in the e-mails they’d exchanged back and forth. The e-mails she’d sent to Hans had gone unanswered, and that made her wonder a little, even though she knew he wasn’t real great about that kind of correspondence.
Elke answered the phone. “So, what’s happening in Regensburg?” Susan asked, in German, of course.
“It is not a happy time here,” Elke told her. “Things are all messed up. The folks are in Albburg, trying to buck Hans up a little to get him to stick out the term.”
“Stick out the term?” Susan replied, a little shocked. “Is something wrong?”
“According to him, a lot is wrong. It turns out, he hates the place, hates the classes, hates the professors, and especially hates the other students.”
“Wow,” Susan said at the revelation. “What brought this on?”
“It’s something he should have seen, we all should have seen,” Elke explained. “Albburg may be a very good school, but there apparently are a lot of pretty snooty types there who look down on students from families who actually have to earn their money. Nobility isn’t supposed to mean anything in Germany anymore, but apparently it still does there, and there are a lot of nobles there that like to look down their long noses at everyone else. According to Hans, he’s treated as the lowest of the low, even by the professors. It’s been all the folks can do to keep him from packing his bags and catching a train home, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he showed up with them when they return.”
“It’s that bad?” Susan asked. “I thought you guys liked the place.”
“Oh, we liked what we saw of it; we all did,” Elke admitted. “But we apparently did not see everything, or missed something important in the glamour of the Albburg name. All I can say is that if we missed things like that we must have been pretty blind. Whatever happens today, after this I’m just about sure than none of us will be going to Albburg next year. A lot of plans have been changing around here very quickly. I do not know what Hans will do. He has said a lot of things, but none of them make a great deal of sense. He’s just searching for something else to do and doesn’t know what it could be. I almost think it would be better if he did leave and spend the time figuring out something sensible to do.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Susan replied. “You know what happened with me; I left a school because of an intolerable situation, but I managed to land in something that’s probably going to be better for me.”
“Yes, you told us about that. The thing of it is that you had time to make other arrangements. Hans doesn’t. If he drops out now he may not be able to get into another uni in time to even start the winter term. It could be next fall before he could go again, and he could be doing something else by that time. Right now he is not very thrilled about uni at all.”
“God, that doesn’t sound like Hans,” Susan replied. “He was the one all excited about uni, and about Albburg.”
“Yes, but when your dreams fall far, they make a bigger splat on the ground,” Elke said. “I hate to say it, but that’s what he is, just a big splat on the ground right now. Once he has a chance to think clearly, he will probably do something sensible, and I have reminded him that something similar happened to you, but you came out of it well. But he isn’t seeing it right now.”
“So what are the rest of you going to do?” Susan asked, seeing her own dreams of Albburg splattered on the ground as widely as Hans’ had been. Fortunately she hadn’t been banking on them quite as much as Hans or in the same way. While it had been fun to think of the five of them reunited at Albburg, somehow it had never seemed like more than a distant possibility. Now it was gone, washed down the river of Hans’ disappointment.
“I do not know,” Elke replied. “Everything changes daily. Right now I’m thinking about Göppingen; that’s a much more modern uni with courses that are not as traditional, which is another problem that Hans has with Albburg. According to him, it seems like every class is either Latin or religion, or depends on them. He says the place is more to learn to be social in the upper class than it is to learn anything, and in that he may be right. Freya is talking about going to uni right here in Regensburg. It is not a bad school but it is a little too close to home for my taste. Lothar has another year so he can sit back to wait and see. I wouldn’t be surprised if what we all do will depend on what Hans does, but we still could all wind up going to different unis. Everything is changing very quickly, and we do not know from one day to the next.”
This was all one hell of a surprise to Susan; she had no inkling that anything like that was happening! Whatever else happened, her thoughts of going to Albburg with her friends next year were as dead as they could be; there was no question about that. If several of them wound up going to the same uni she still might be able to consider going there with them, but right at the moment it seemed unlikely as there weren’t many other unis in Germany with the same sort of appeal Albburg had seemed to present. Maybe a junior year abroad program out of an American college if she were in the right field, but then maybe not too – after all, she’d already sort of done it.
“I guess about all I can say is keep me informed on what’s happening,” she told Elke, trying to not reveal her disappointment at the dashing of that option of her plans. “The way things are going now I guess I’ll be going to college over here somewhere next year, although where is still up in the air for me, too.”
“I will do that,” Elke said. “Things are still very much up in the air for us, too. I miss you a great deal Susan, and hope that the bicycle trip next summer will still work out, but right at the moment things are so messed up that I cannot say whether we will be able to do that, either. I do not need to tell you that Mama and Papa are not any happier with this than the rest of us, and that could change a lot of things, too.”
The call went on for a while, but really there wasn’t much more to talk about. After the call finally ended, Susan lay back on her bed and stared at the ceiling, just trying to put things in perspective. They didn’t look good; Alles was not in Ordnung in the Hauner house, that was for sure. There was nothing she could do about it now, and probably nothing she could do about it at all, other than wait and see. Damn, what a disappointment that had to be for Hans! She wished she could take him in her arms and tell him it was all right, that something would work out, but she couldn’t do that, either, not from an ocean away.
Maybe Mizuki was right, she thought. Maybe she should focus on Asia rather than Europe, despite the languages she already knew. A lot of her interest in returning to Europe had hung on her friends and the thought of being together again, but right then it looked like it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, or for any great deal of time. Maybe it was like leaving Spearfish Lake High School; in one sense she hated leaving her friends there, but there were other things to do, too. But this was different, she knew it, and didn’t know what to make of it.
The situation in the Hauner household had not clarified a great deal when Susan called a week later. It appeared that after some negotiation, Hans had agreed to try and struggle through the term although he wouldn’t be going to Albburg the next one. What he would be doing when it rolled around was still up in the air. The options seemed to include spending several months playing video games while they tried for admission elsewhere; no one was sure, although apparently his father was trying to pull some strings at Universität Regensburg, which was not as appealing but would be at home. Elke had not made up her mind, except that she didn’t want to go there, and Freya was apparently leaning the same way. In one way, it didn’t matter; whatever happened, it seemed pretty clear that the five would not be reunited at uni in Germany. The bike trip was up in the air, too, and really couldn’t even be considered until after the end of the term and things had settled down.
That meant the campus visit trip with Mizuki had assumed even more importance, not that Susan didn’t already consider it important, and not just for the college visits. Instead of heading home after her last class on Tuesday, Susan followed Mizuki’s battered old Toyota as she drove it home, about twenty miles on the far side of Camden. The trip had been touch and go up until the last minute; Susan’s mother had stated early that she’d like to come along, and had only been talked out of it with difficulty. Then, during the day, Mizuki reported that her father had made much the same pitch over the weekend, and had only been dissuaded because the plans had already been made and it was difficult for him to get away.
Still, Mizuki didn’t waste any time when they pulled into her yard, which was at a nice suburban house on the south side of Camden. She tossed a couple bags into the back of the Cavalier in something approaching pit stop time. “Finally!” she said as she buckled her seat belt while Susan was backing out of the driveway. “There were times when I never thought we were going to be able to do this.”
“It was getting to the point where it had to be done, whether you came along or not,” Susan replied. “But I’m glad you’re coming.”
“Darn right,” Mizuki smiled. “We are going to have so much fun!”
“I sure hope so,” Susan said. “But remember, there’s honest work to be done, too.”
“I realize that, but still! I haven’t had a chance to be with a girl since Japan, only boys, and not that much.” She let out a sigh and added, “Susan, I have to say that I haven’t been with girls much either, and then only in Japan, but I liked what I did with them, and I hope you and I can have as good a time.”
“Well, I haven’t been with a girl since Germany,” Susan replied, thinking of Elke and what the current status of the hassle in the household must be. “Although it hasn’t been as long as for you.”
“Susan, look,” Mizuki said. “I don’t know how to say this, but maybe I came on a little strong to you. I’m not saying that I don’t want to do this, because I really do want to do it. I’m just saying that, well, maybe we ought to work up to it a little and try not to go crazy right from the beginning.”
“Works for me,” Susan agreed. “Don’t get me wrong, I like boys. In fact, I like them a lot, but there are times a girl has some appeal, too. I think we’re just going to have to remind ourselves that this is all in fun and we’re just friends, not lesbian lovers or something.”
“That’s fine with me,” Mizuki said. “God, it’s nice to be able to talk about this in the open where no one can overhear us, and not have to whisper or talk about it like we’ve had to do in the cafeteria. I know I’m not a lesbian either, but I’m certainly bi, there’s no doubt about it. But I keep thinking that I want to pretty much stay away from boys while I’m at Southern, since I don’t want to run the risk of getting serious about one.”
“Career is too important to you?” Susan laughed. “You know, that really sounds Japanese when you think about it.”
“There’s no doubt that’s in my thinking, whether it’s Japanese or not,” Mizuki replied. “But even the most serious Japanese salaryman likes to have his fun once in a while, and I don’t see why I should be any different.”
“Oh, I agree. I admit I don’t have my career figured out the way you do, but it’s clear that I want to stay loose and flexible. If that means staying away from boys, so be it.”
“I keep thinking I may have to be what they call a ‘lesbian until graduation,’” Mizuki smiled. “At least I wouldn’t mind being seen that way around campus. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t mind having a little fun with a boy far away from campus from time to time. Maybe even Roger, if he winds up going to school somewhere close.”
“Roger?” Susan said. “I don’t remember hearing about him. Is he a boyfriend or something?”
“I don’t think I ever mentioned him. He’s just an ‘or something,’ kind of an occasional fuck buddy. He’s the guy who got my virginity, back before I went to Japan. That was something else. He’s a little guy, like me, but when I got his pants off him, there was this huge hunk of meat, and I thought, ‘He’s going to stick that in me?’ I know it’s supposed to hurt a little, but I’m supposed to be able to stretch, so I figured what the hell.”
“And did it?” Susan asked, amused to hear such frank language out of her friend; usually they talked around the subject when they talked about it at all.
“Well, yeah. It felt real good, but I was glad when it was over, too. I mean, I was sore for days, but it was a good sore, you know? The guys I had in Japan were tiny by comparison, so I hunted Roger up for a little fun about as soon as I got back. That was maybe a little too far the other way, but we’ve gotten together a couple times since, just for fun, you know? I mean, it’s OK once in a while, but he’d batter my insides to mush if we did it as much as we both want to.”
“Sounds like he might be interesting,” Susan smiled. “Maybe you’ll have to introduce me to him sometime.”
“That would be fun,” Mizuki laughed. “Maybe we could even have a threesome.”
The talk in the car got progressively earthier as they headed on to the east. It was just about the same distance from Camden to Grand Valley, their first stop, by going either north or south of Lake Michigan, although going south involved driving through Chicago. Susan didn’t think she was experienced enough to be driving in the heavy city traffic, and Mizuki said the same about her own driving, so they’d decided to make the trip around the north, even though it would mean a longer drive back the last day.
It was several hours before they reached the Mackinac Bridge to Lower Michigan, and drove across it in the darkness to Mackinaw City. Due to their age, both girls were still seventeen, there had been some question whether some motels would accept their registration, so reservations had been made and paid in advance. That was fine; it just meant that they would have to keep to their schedule. The motel in Mackinaw City was a pretty nice one, although Susan noted when they pulled in well after dark that the parking lot was all but empty. Signing in didn’t prove to be a problem.
“Is the pool still open?” Mizuki asked the woman on duty when they signed in.
“Until nine, normally,” the woman said. “It’s getting close now, but you two are about the only two in the house, so if you want to use it late, go ahead and let me know when you’re done.”
The two girls had packed lightly, and hauled their bags up to their room. “I can hardly wait for what I want to do,” Mizuki smiled. “But we might as well use the pool. I mean, if there’s no one else there, we might get to have a little fun in the hot tub.”
“It sounds good to me,” Susan agreed. “I’ll bet with no one there we can get by with bikinis that are pretty scanty, too. I’ve got one I wore in Germany that I would never wear on the beach at home.”
They wasted little time getting changed into their bikinis. Susan’s was a thong that was pretty scanty and thin, although black so not much could be seen through it; it seemed appropriate for what they intended to do. Mizuki’s thong bikini was, if possible, even smaller, although since she was a much smaller girl, it could be. That didn’t mean that it covered much of anything though.
Both of them were modest enough to wear cover-ups down to the pool, but once they were off in the empty room Susan felt like she were more naked than if she were nude. That didn’t slow the two girls down any; they were soon in the pool, having fun. After swimming for a while, they moved to the hot tub and settled in for some serious soaking and some serious feeling up. The kissing got hotter and heavier, and so did the hands on each other’s bodies; finally Mizuki gave a little cry of delight, and Susan wasn’t very far behind her.
“That was very nice,” Mizuki whispered afterward. “Very nice indeed. But what do you say we head back up to our room, dry our hair, and get serious?”
“Sounds like the best idea I’ve heard all night.”
In spite of their exertions, which went on later than they intended, they were on the road very early for Grand Rapids and Grand Valley State. Since they had an appointment in mid-morning they had to hurry to make it, but once there they got a guided tour of the place, a pitch about being admitted, and a discussion of the financial aid package, which didn’t seem quite as liberal as had been expected. The departmental tour of the journalism department wasn’t quite what Susan expected, and the international studies department seemed all right, but the Chinese studies department just didn’t reach out and grab her for some reason – perhaps she had been listening to Mizuki too much about the Japanese attitude toward China. It was not enough to totally turn her off the place, but the idea of doing Chinese studies there slid down Susan’s list of possibilities a ways.
The campus was nice, if modern, and the few kids she talked to there seemed satisfied with the place. All in all, it felt like it could be a winner to Susan, although not the clear favorite it had been before they got there, so in that it was a little disappointing.
Doing what they wanted to do on campus took them most of the day, and they ate in one of the campus cafeterias before they got back on the road. The food was mediocre, and the price was steep for what they got, which was another point against the place – although Henry had reported from the two years he had lived in a dorm at Central that things were no different there, so Susan had expected it. In the end, Susan left a filled-out application at the office; she was told that it would be reviewed and she’d get the results in a few days.
With that, they got on the road for East Lansing, a little over an hour to the east. They had reservations in a motel not far from Michigan State, and again had no problems registering. The place was probably used to young students making campus visits, Susan thought. It was busy enough that they didn’t wear the very daring bikinis they’d used in the pool the other night, and there was no fooling around in the hot tub, but they made up for it when they got back up to their room.
The campus visit at Michigan State was very similar to what they’d done at Grand Valley the day before, but it was a much larger school and things were rather more impersonal. The campus tour and some other things were done in a large group, rather than just the two of them like yesterday. State had a good journalism program and Susan knew it – her father had gone through it, after all. The other departmental tours that Susan took were impressive, as she had been pretty sure they would be, and the financial aid package was just about what had been expected.
However, a problem arose when they had the admissions office interview. It may have just been personal friction, or the admissions officer might have been as much of a dunderhead as he seemed to Susan and Mizuki. The guy just couldn’t get through his head that the Abitur was a combination German high school graduation certificate and college examination. He couldn’t seem to understand that Susan had taken her junior year abroad without taking an extra year in high school at home, even if she would be getting a diploma in the spring. It almost seemed as if she were talking to Gingrich! The admissions officer simply couldn’t seem to understand that the relative lack of number of high school grades were the result of the year in Germany, either. Although Susan left an application when she left the office, she didn’t do it with a great deal of hope. It was a real disappointment; State had been at the top of her list since she’d had a list, but it just didn’t look like it was going to work.
“Shit,” she swore to Mizuki as soon as they were in the Cavalier again. “I’m probably screwed on that, and all the way around. Maybe if someone else reviews the application and reads what’s there I might get accepted, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
“I really got that impression, too,” Mizuki said. “He had one thing on his mind and couldn’t look past it.”
“Well, maybe there’s one good thing about it,” Susan sighed philosophically. “This place is awful damn big compared to, say, Grand Valley. It’s pretty impersonal, too. A person could really get lost here. That’s good, and it’s bad, but maybe I understand a little about how Hans felt, too.”
Mizuki had heard the story. “There is that,” she said. “Maybe it’s for the best. Southern is a lot smaller and much more personal. I think you’re going to like it.”