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Starting Late book cover

Starting Late
A Tale from Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©2011, ©2013

Chapter 8

The girls soon went to bed. It had been a big day, and they really were tired. Jackie noted the differences between the two even in bedclothes. Becca slept in a T-shirt and panties, and spurned doing anything special about pajamas, while Bree wore a loose, ankle-length flannel nightie.

Mark and Jackie were tired, too – it had been a very stressy couple of days, and they could see more of them to come, so they soon headed for bed too. The difference between them and the girls was that they usually slept in the nude, except for really cold nights in the winter when they sometimes resorted to wearing sweats to sleep. That wasn’t very comfortable, and they were usually happy when the weather warmed up so they could get back to normal.

It felt good to be in their own bed – the one in the motor home had been all right, but it wasn’t their own. But, while they were both tired it was the first opportunity they’d had in days to talk with only the two of them present. With the girls upstairs, it was about as private as they could be, which was a bit strange in that they’d pretty much been alone in the house for the last thirty years. It was going to take some getting used to.

“So,” Mark said as he turned out the light, “I think it’s going pretty well so far.”

“I guess,” Jackie sighed. “I think I sort of understand Becca, but Bree, well, every time I start to think that she’s another Cindy she surprises me with something. That kid is a little more complicated than Cindy, and a lot more complicated than Becca.”

“I’m right with you,” Mark agreed. “She seems real interested in the plane, which surprises me when you consider how scared she seems to be of everything else new. And for her to get turned on by your sign making, well, that one came right out of the woodwork.”

“I understand the interest in the sign work, at least a little, maybe, but I didn’t expect it till I saw it,” Jackie said slowly in a low tone. “I think Bree is a little more creative than her sister. I mean, she enjoys using her imagination from her reading, and I’ll bet she got really good grades for art. I have no idea what her skills must be like, but they’re probably pretty minimal.”

“You’d expect that out of a kid, I guess.”

“Well, yeah,” Jackie told him. “I didn’t have any great artistic skill at that age, and it took me a long time to develop it to where it is today. But I’m glad we may have found something that will allow us to connect with the kid. I was beginning to wonder if there was anything at all. Maybe you’ll have to take up painting again, just to give her another connection.”

“It’s possible,” Mark replied. He’d been a pretty good closet painter over the years, if just as a simple hobby. “It’s been years since I’ve done any of it, though. It’s something to try if we have to, like nothing else grabs her. What I can’t work out in my mind is why she seems so interested in flying. I mean, not that I’m complaining because it gives us a little connection with her, but at her age there isn’t much we can do but take her for a ride every now and then, and maybe let her handle the controls a bit. She’s only twelve, so it’ll be years before we can have her legally flying.”

“If she really does like it and wants to continue with it, I guess we’ll just have to do the best we can and hope it’ll be enough,” Jackie sighed, “and do what we can to interest her in other areas. I’ll tell you what, though, right now I’m sorry I was an only child at her age. There’s so much sister-versus-sister dynamic I don’t understand going on between the two of them. If I’d gone through it, maybe I would understand her better.”

“That’s part of it, for sure. Let’s face it, not only is Becca older, but she’s the more outgoing, and draws more attention because of her interest in sports. Just guessing, maybe Bree feels a little slighted by that and is trying to even things up a little.”

“You might have something there. It would account at least a little for why Bree isn’t interested very much in anything Becca likes.”

“That would make sense,” Mark agreed, “and maybe Becca dumps on Bree because Becca isn’t interested in what Bree does.”

“Except that I haven’t seen Becca dump on Bree very much. Oh, she teases her a little when the time is right, but Bree throws ten zingers at Becca for every one she gets back. To me, that’s playing catch-up.”

“Yes, and it’s one of the things I find irritating about Bree, too. You’re right, she seems very intolerant of new and different ideas. Almost like a young Cindy, in fact, although I can’t recall knowing Cindy at that age.”

“Me either,” Jackie yawned. “Cindy had to have been in high school before Henry introduced her to us, and she didn’t seem bad then, as I recall. It’s just that the older she gets, the more she seems to take after her mother.”

“She hasn’t caught up with her mother yet, not by a long shot. But then everybody was being pretty careful around her while we were down in Decatur, mostly because we didn’t want her blowing up and upsetting the girls. God, I don’t know why Henry puts up with it.”

“It’s probably because he’s gotten used to it. It’s sort of like that old story about putting a live frog in a pot and turning up the heat slowly. The frog doesn’t notice he’s being boiled because the heat goes up so gradually.”

“You could be right, but I could never put up with that kind of thing,” Mark sighed, “and I’m afraid Bree is heading that way. It would be nice to be able to break her of that intolerance, but I don’t know how we’re going to do it. I’m not looking forward to what happens with Bree when the subject of a soak in the hot tub comes up.”

“Me, either. It’s not going to be pretty. But, damn it, we’ve been doing buff in the hot tub with Mike and Kirsten for years, and I’m not ready to change now. I’m thinking that’s one thing the kids are just going to have to get used to if they want to use it, like it or not.”

“You mean that Bree is going to have to get used to,” he snickered. “I’m guessing if we tell Becca the rule is nude in the hot tub, she’ll have her clothes off so quick it won’t be funny. Bree, though – we might as well tell her to bring some moon rocks with her when she comes back down.”

“Oh, yes, she’s going to go crazy,” Jackie sighed. “And to tell the truth, if someone had dropped something like that on me at her age, I probably would have blown up pretty high, too. It wasn’t until we were on our honeymoon that my opinion on that changed a bit, and I never was really comfortable being nude with anyone but you until we got to hanging out with Mike and Kirsten.”

“Yeah, it took you a while, and we still have never spent much time out at the West Turtle Lake Club or become members there, mostly because it’s never been important enough to us. But the tub on the deck or over at Mike and Kirsten’s isn’t exactly the Club, either, and like you said, I’m not ready to change what we’ve been doing for decades just because a twelve year old threatens to go sub-orbital on us. She’s just going to have to learn to take it or leave it, and I think the sooner, the better.”

“Well, I agree with you on that,” Jackie sighed. “Hell, I missed being able to soak away my case of road butt this evening. But I don’t want it to be too traumatic for her, either. She’s had enough trauma the last few days to hold her for a while, and I’m of the opinion we’re getting off to a good start with her. This could ruin it. Do you have any ideas about how we could make it a little less stressful for her?”

“The only thing I can think of is to make it clear that it’s her option whether she wants to participate or not. She doesn’t have to do it, and she doesn’t even have to be around. If she wants to join us, she can wear a swimsuit, but she’ll have to understand that other people may not be wearing one. After all, we’ve never really had a rule of no swimsuits in the hot tub.”

“It’s just that neither we, Mike, or Kirsten or their kids have ever bothered with them,” Jackie snickered. “I’m sure neither of the girls have swimsuits. Kirsten and I never even thought about it when we were shopping today. As far as that goes, I don’t think Kirsten even owns a swimsuit. I can’t tell you the last time I saw her wearing one, if I ever have.”

“Well, maybe one of the things you need to do tomorrow is to take the girls into town and buy swimsuits for both of them. That’ll give Becca the option to side with Bree if she feels she needs to. I doubt Harrelson’s has a big selection, but there might be something they can wear to get by.”

“To tell you the truth, I doubt we’ll see a hair of Bree when we’re in the tub. She’ll probably hide upstairs with a book in her hand.”

“You’re probably right,” Mark sighed. “I’ll bet Becca will be with us, though, and Becca might be able to loosen her sister up after a while by making her feel left out.”

“And she might not. It might be months before Bree is willing to join us, even wearing a swimsuit, and I’d be willing to put good money on never.”

“I don’t know if I’d be willing to take that bet. I wish we could put this off for a bit, but I don’t think it’s the smart thing to do. I’m thinking we need to get our cards on the table about this up front, since the longer we wait the harder it’s going to be to do it. Damn it, I’m willing to put out a lot for these kids, but we have to draw the line somewhere. And maybe Bree might learn that her way isn’t the only way.”

“Don’t bet on it. But, we have to at least try to teach her that other people are not automatically wrong just because they happen to like something different. This might be a way to do it, or at least take a step in that direction. It may work, and it may not. I’m just afraid that if it doesn’t, the next few years could be long ones.”

“Damn,” Mark sighed, “I wish we knew if we’re doing the right thing on that. Part of the problem is that considering everything the girls have been through, we may not be seeing their true colors. We could be reading them totally wrong.”

“I doubt it. We obviously haven’t got them all the way figured out yet, and that could take a while. But I think we’ve seen the general direction. I suspect Becca will adapt pretty quickly, although all her sports and stuff could get to be a pain in the butt from all the bleacher time. Bree, well, I can see her being a lot more trouble, at least on the nerves.”

“Are you sorry we did this?”

“No, I’m not,” Jackie replied. “I’ve often wondered what it would be like if we had a family, and now we get to find out. This isn’t quite the way I would have liked to do it, but I guess it’s better than nothing.”

“Yeah, I wish it hadn’t happened, because it’s going to be hard on everyone. But it did happen, so I don’t see that we have a big choice in the matter, and I think we’re going to have to make the best of it.”

“That’s about where I’m at,” Jackie agreed. “In a way, I wish it was Mike and Kirsten, since they’ve had kids and know what to do when some of this stuff comes up. We’re flying blind and we may not be able to get their input when something goofy comes up. I guess we’re just going to have to do the best we can and hope it works out.”

“A lot of kids don’t have that going for them” Mark agreed. “We at least know we’re going to be trying to do what we think is the right thing. It’s going to have to do.”

“On the subject of doing the right thing,” Jackie changed the subject, “Have you thought at all about what you’re going to do with Marlin.com?”

“Actually, quite a bit, although there hasn’t been time to talk about it, and I want to think about it a little when I’m not being preoccupied with the girls. Mike and I had a pretty good discussion when you were in shopping this morning, and to make a long story short, right at the moment I’m leaning heavily toward accepting the offer. The economy is going good, but I’m not convinced it’s going to stay that way. I haven’t got anything in particular to point at, but I can see it going to hell. In a year or two or ten, it may not be worth as much money, because of the way the business is changing. Some changes need to be made, and I don’t want to throw as much money at it as it’s going to take to make the necessary changes.”

“How about Marlin Computer?”

“Still up in the air on that one,” Mark replied. “I could stay with it, I suppose, but it’s getting too easy to buy a discount computer online, and we can’t meet that price even offering a good deal on service. There’s still going to be the repair business and networking and the special stuff, but I’m not sure I have that much to contribute to it anymore. On the other hand, it’s not something I have to make my mind up about right away, but I can’t sit on the Marlin.com offer forever. Thirty days from a couple days ago is my deadline.”

“But what are you going to do if you sell out? Especially both the companies? You’ll drive me nuts if you’re hanging around here without anything to do!”

“Do something,” Mark told her. “I just don’t know what yet. I’d still have Marlin Computer, at least for a while, and the money from Marlin.com would be sitting in the bank until a good idea comes along. Mike sort of pointed out that it’s a question I don’t have to answer right away. I really haven’t thought about it that much because I haven’t had the need to deal with it.”

“Well, yeah,” she said slowly. “When you left the phone company you already more or less had Marlin Computer set up to jump into, and it worked out pretty well.”

“It was the right move at the right time,” he conceded. “I don’t know if it would have worked as well if it had been a couple years sooner or a couple years later.”

“But you don’t see an opportunity like that now, I take it.”

“Not yet. There may be something there, but I just haven’t figured out what it is, either. You remember Mike and I talking about his idea of buying a boat in a few years and going down the Mississippi with it. It sounded like a good idea until I realized I don’t know a thing about boats. He doesn’t either. We kicked around the idea of buying a smaller one to fool around with and learn. Maybe I could buy one that needed some work and fix it up. I have no idea what the economics of that might be, since I haven’t researched it at all, but that might be a way to eat up some time while I’m figuring out what to do next.”

“Well, maybe,” she replied dubiously. “I don’t know what to tell you about selling Marlin.com, but you might be right that it’s a good time to move on from it. It’s the ‘move to what’ part of the question that concerns me.”

“Hell, it concerns me, too. In fact, it’s the biggest argument for keeping it. I’ll tell you what, Jackie, with the big six-oh not all that far off we need to start thinking about what we’re going to do when we retire, and I don’t think either of us are very comfortable about sitting on our butts and watching daytime television.”

“I know I wouldn’t be,” she replied. “Hell, when I have slow days now I can usually find something to do without turning on the idiot eye, and I suspect now that we have the girls with us it’s going to be even less of a problem. But about the time they’re out of college, it’s going to hit us all at once.”

“Right, and we need to be working toward it now. Assuming Bree goes to college and gets through it normally, that gives us just about ten years before we have to answer that question, and it’s not going to be an easy one. That boat deal sounds like a pretty good idea for a year or two, but I think we’d get tired of it in the long run. A short-term distraction we could do anywhere in that time period if needed. Fortunately it’s not anything we have to make up our minds about right away, but I think we ought to be ready for it when the time comes. Ten years sounds like a long time, but it’ll be here quicker than we want it to be.”

“Let’s not try to answer it tonight,” she yawned. “It’s been a long day, I’m tired, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a long one tomorrow.”

“Fine with me.”

There was silence for a moment before Mark heard her voice again. “I keep thinking about the hot tub thing,” she said. “Maybe it ought to be just the four of us, without Mike and Kirsten here, at least the first time.”

“Yeah, I think so, too,” he said. “No point in complicating things by having them here, at least for now. After all, the family is going to have to be the four of us, not the six of us.”

“You know, it’s going to take me a while to remember that our family is going to be four of us, not just us two.”

“After all this time, it feels a little strange,” he agreed, “but you know, I’m actually looking forward to it. Whatever happens, the next few years ought to be interesting. I don’t think we have to worry about being bored.”

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