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Hiding Patty
A Tale From Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©2012, ©2014

Chapter 33

“I have to admit,” Henry said as soon as they were in the car heading back toward Las Vegas, “I wasn’t expecting that. I don’t know what I was expecting, but whatever it was, that wasn’t it.”

“Like I said, I thought you needed to know the whole story, or at least the outline of it,” Tricia replied from behind the wheel.

“In a way, I wish you could be more open about it, but I understand why you wouldn’t want to be.”

“It wasn’t easy to admit, even to you,” she shrugged. “I’m not Jennlynn. I don’t have that kind of personal independence or personal wealth, and certainly not her career goals. It would be nice to be more open about it to show women who work in those places that they don’t have to accept other people’s limitations just because they’ve worked there. It’s sort of like Heather, who could get past the shame of having a baby at fourteen and grow up into a person who has made a success of their life. But I’m in a tough position. I can’t do it, at least not and live in Spearfish Lake.”

“I see what you mean. Still, the newspaperman in me says it would be a hell of a story.”

She drove along silently for more than a mile, each of them thinking their own thoughts. Although Henry had seemed pretty positive about it, she still had no idea what was going to happen between them.

“You know,” he said finally, “maybe I shouldn’t ask this question, but I can’t help but wonder. Two years of working there? How many men does that represent?”

“Henry, I can’t tell you, simply because I don’t know. I could probably give you an estimate if I sat down and thought about it, but to be honest, I wasn’t counting men. I was counting dollars, and I counted them pretty damn closely.”

“If you earned enough to get through undergrad school and most of the way through med school, it was no small piece of change.”

“No, it was over four hundred thousand, totaling all the time I worked there,” she agreed. “At least before the Internal Revenue Service got to me. That was one of the downsides of being a legal professional. I had to pay taxes, and I paid a hell of a lot. It would have been enough to make it the rest of the way through UCLA and med school, except my mother got sick as I was finishing up my longest stint back there, which ran almost sixteen months.”

She sighed and went on. “It would have been enough if I had been hard-hearted enough to turn my back on my mother, but I couldn’t do that. I spent a lot of money making her last months comfortable. She never knew I was working there, by the way. She thought I’d been working as a hostess in one of the big Las Vegas hotels and wasn’t pleased about that. It would have literally killed her if she’d known the truth. But spending some of that money on her made it impossible for me to get all the way through med school. By then I’d reached the point where I was old enough that I could have applied for federal grants and loans on my own, but I didn’t,”

“Why not?”

“I’m afraid I was rather hard-headed and vindictive,” she said. “I mean, my attitude was, ‘Where the hell were you when I needed you? I got this far on my own, and I had to work on my back to do it. I can finish up becoming a doctor without your fucking useless help, thank you.’”

“Understandable, and I guess I can’t blame you.”

“I even thought about taking a semester off and going back there,” she nodded over her shoulder back toward the Redlite Ranch, which was now several miles behind them. “But in many ways I’d put that place behind me, and I didn’t want to go back to those days. And, on top of that, in practice it would have cost me a year, and perhaps more, and gotten me out of sequence in my training. I was in the process of applying for a student loan when the Spearfish Lake contract notice came up, and I wound up applying for it and getting it. With that and the rest of my Peppermint Patty money, it was enough to make it through, although things got a little slim at times. But I made it.”

“I have to say I’m pretty impressed,” he said slowly. “You wanted it very badly, and as far as I can see you managed to do it. And, as you pointed out, you did it legally, although I’m sure there are people who would debate the morality.”

That sounded like a pretty positive statement to her, at least considering the mood she was in just then. But she wasn’t quite in a mood to push him on what was going to happen to them. “I don’t disagree,” she replied, “which is why all this has to remain a secret. Henry, parts of me are not proud of the things I had to do in order to become a physician, but I am proud of the fact that I did them so I could become one. It’s a fine distinction, and one I have to live with, but I’m of the opinion that it was worth it. But what I was and who I had to be to get where I am is not the person I’ve become.”

“I understand that,” he said. “And I can see why you’d want to put it behind you.”

“I’m happy I have it behind me,” she smiled. “But at the same time, it was by no means all bad. In fact, most of the time it was pretty good, so long as I could overlook the reality of what I was doing. I have many pleasant memories of my time as Peppermint Patty at the Redlite Ranch, and I met some people who had a very positive influence on me in the process. Even if you ignore the money, I feel like I took some useful and positive things out of the experience.”

“Like some of the things you’ve shown me in bed?”

“Yes, but not just that, either.” She shook her head. “Maybe you didn’t pick up on the fact that there were limits on what I did there, both from custom, and from house rules, and in some cases Nevada law. Henry, just to give you an example, when we made love the first time a month ago it was the first time I’d ever made love, period. I’ve had sex a lot, more times than I can count. But making love is a good deal different, and not just because it was the first time I’ve ever, and I repeat ever, had sex without a condom involved. There are not many ways in which I’m a virgin, Henry, but you managed to take that one from me, and I’m grateful for it.”

“You weren’t kidding when you said you’d picked up a few things here and there,” he grinned. “It’s made life interesting.”

“It has for me, too,” she replied with a smile. “Henry, in reflecting about this you may come to think that all my experience has made me jaded with sex. It has not, at least if it’s with you. I find I’ve reached a new plateau, and I’m enjoying exploring it. As I was saying, there are things we would not do at the Redlite Ranch, mostly because it involved trusting the one you’re with more than most girls are willing to trust their customers. If you ignore the legalities, that extends to condoms, of course, but it also extends into other areas. I actually have a fairly strong sex drive, Henry. In recent years it’s been hard for me to sublimate it, but now I find you’re bringing it out again, and I welcome having it back.”

“I’ll admit, I was wondering about that part of it a little bit,” he said. “I guess I’ll just have to take your word for it.”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to let you be disappointed,” she grinned. “Henry, that’s another thing that must be said. When I was Peppermint Patty, I learned how to fake my reactions if necessary. I’ve never had to fake them with you. In fact, if the truth is known, you should be glad I’m a doctor.”

“And why is that?”

“If it weren’t for the fact that I have to keep my nails short for the sake of surgical gloves, there have been times when I’d have left scratches on your back so bad you’d have needed sutures.”

“I haven’t looked in a mirror, but I think there are a couple places where bruises are showing. When you go off, Tricia, it’s like a land mine going off under me.”

“I like going off like a land mine under you, but it takes you to make me do it,” she laughed, then got serious again. “Henry, there are probably details I haven’t gotten into, but you pretty much have the broad picture of the person I’ve been now. As I told you, I’m not the angel you seem to think I am, and now you know why I say that. We can get into details if you want, now or later, but I think now you’ve seen what I wanted you to see. What I need to know is if you think you can live with it.”

“Tricia,” he said. “The traffic out here isn’t so thick you can’t pull off to the side of the road. Why don’t you do it?”

“I can if you want, but why?”

“Because I don’t want to have you driving when I kiss you.”

“That I can manage,” she said, letting up on the gas and stepping on the brake. Even now she wasn’t totally sure what he was going to say, but at least she finally had a good feeling about it.

Reaching over the arm rest of the rental car didn’t make for the most comfortable kiss the world had ever seen, but it was a long and heartfelt one that said about what needed to be said. Finally, they broke apart, and just held onto each other, faces only a couple inches apart. “Henry,” she said after a moment of silence, “if after what you’ve just seen, your offer remains intact, the answer is yes.”

“I wasn’t planning on withdrawing it, at least over that,” he smiled. “I realize now that you felt you had to show me what you had to do rather than tell me, and I’m glad you did. One of the things I admire about you, Tricia, is the dedication you show to being a doctor. It comes first with you, and I realize that it always pretty much will.”

“After what I’ve had to go through, you’re probably right. It’s not something I’d give up very easily.”

“Right,” he nodded. “And now I have a better idea of just how deep that dedication is and why it got that way. Tricia, I think it’s pretty damn awesome. Granted, you say you think you tend to be a bit obsessive, and you’re probably right, but that kind of determination is one of the things that makes me love you. I just hope you’ll be able to find room in your life for me.”

“It’s not going to be easy,” she sighed. “But one of the things I’ve learned in the past year or so is that there are more things in my life than just being a doctor. There are other things out there too. Henry, I’m going to need to have help getting my life back into balance, but I think with your help I can do it. In fact, it may be a bigger problem than the one I’ve just shown you. But Henry, if you still want me, the answer is yes.”

That initiated another kiss, one that went on for a long time as the rental car’s motor idled, powering the air conditioner to offset the brunt of the hot Nevada summer sun. When they pulled apart, she was aware that he was reaching into his pants pocket. “Tricia, when I was down in Decatur earlier this week, I told you I had a few other things I needed to do. This is one of them,” he said, opening his hand to reveal a small foam envelope. He had to free his other arm to get it open, but when he did it proved to be an engagement ring with a nice stone.

She put out her hand, and he slipped it on the ring finger of her left hand. It looked perfect to her. “I hadn’t realized you’d done that,” she finally managed to say.

“I had the time to get it then, so I did,” he said. “One of the things I worried about a lot on the way back from Decatur was whether the timing was right. I didn’t want you to think that I was offering to marry you as some sort of defense against Cindy. I still don’t want you thinking that. I bought it at least partly to celebrate my freedom from something that’s been dogging me for years. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it was an uncomfortable thing. Now, I want you to accept that as a token that you’ve freed yourself from a past that’s been dogging you for what I would guess has been about as long. Tricia, that ring celebrates both of us freeing ourselves from the past and moving toward the future.”

“Henry, did you know? I mean, about Peppermint Patty, and all of that? How could you have known?”

“I had no idea what it was, except that I knew it was something that was bothering you, and that you had to work it out in your own way. I’ll admit, I’m much more comfortable now knowing what it was. I, well, I don’t quite know how to say this, but I think you were right in wanting to show me that part of you, and I’m glad to know it wasn’t quite the dark things I might have imagined.”

“What did you imagine?

“Oh, hell, I don’t know, like you might have been a Mafia hit woman or something. I didn’t have any clear ideas, and all I knew was that I was going to have to wait and see. Tricia, your having been Peppermint Patty is something I can live with. Maybe sometime we can role-play that a little, so I can have a better idea of what it was like.”

“Perhaps on the role playing,” she smiled. “But not as Peppermint Patty. Henry, she’s someone who belongs back there at the Redlite Ranch. She was named there and she deserves to stay there. That’s not who I am anymore.”

“Fine with me,” he grinned. “I’d much rather call you Tricialicious.”

“That’s a goofy name but I’d rather you called me that than Peppermint Patty. You can call me that in bed any time you want. Call it my new work name.”

“Not your work name,” he said. “I don’t know if you still want your work name to be Dr. Tricia York or what, but your real name is going to be Tricia McMahon as far as I’m concerned.”

“I can live with that,” she smiled. “But maybe I’d better be Dr. Tricia McMahon.”

“Your choice. I know that female professionals sometimes separate their work name and their married name. It’s up to you to do it how you want to, but maybe getting rid of the ‘York’ will help you get Peppermint Patty a little farther behind you.”

“You know, you’re probably right on that. ‘York’ was my father’s name and I’ve always been stuck with it, as much as I came to detest him for indirectly sending me to work at the Redlite. I don’t think I’ll mind leaving it behind. A name change for a professional is a little more complicated than it is for a regular marriage, but it’d probably be worth the effort.”

“You don’t have to decide right now,” he smiled. “But maybe we’d better get moving again.”

“You’re probably right,” she sighed. “There are other things we need to talk about, and some plans to make, like when and where we’re going to do this and where we’re going to live.”

“No Las Vegas weddings,” he said as she put the rental car back into drive and stepped on the gas. “I have too many relatives that would be extremely pissed with me if we did. You know the old jokes about the Jewish mothers who want to marry their daughters off to a doctor?”

“Of course.”

“Well, think of how Mom is going to feel, especially after she worried for years she was going to wind up with Cindy as a daughter-in-law. I don’t want to miss watching her just about pee her panties.”

“You’re right, that’s going to be fun,” she grinned. “Look, Henry, we can talk about this all the way back to Las Vegas, but we really need to have your folks involved before we can finalize anything.”

“I don’t disagree, but what do you have in mind?”

“We have a room for the night in one of the big Las Vegas hotels,” she smiled. “Let’s spend a little time celebrating in it, then have dinner and maybe catch a show, and then go back to our room and celebrate some more. There are still some things I learned in my time as Peppermint Patty and I might as well get started teaching them to you.”

*   *   *

Even though she’d already married off one daughter, Henry’s mother was still excited at the announcement. It had been more than a dozen years since she’d married off her oldest daughter, and as far as she had been concerned that one had not been a wedding to write home about. It had been out on the top of Turtle Hill, where the local kids went at night to make out, and it had been, well, informal wasn’t the word to use. There had been a legendary fight between mother and daughter about whether the bride would wear a dress. Not necessarily a wedding dress; Kirsten would have settled for a denim skirt, but Tiffany had prevailed and had gotten married in blue jeans, with her favorite lead dog, George, as the bridesmaid. And he was a male.

Most people who knew Henry’s younger sister, Susan, figured it would be a long time before she got married, and it was likely to be in Timbuktu or some such place if she ever got married at all. With that being the case, Kirsten figured rightly that this was her one last chance to do the job right.

The one thing that kept Kirsten from going way overboard was that the decision was made early on to not put it off too long. The Saturday of Labor Day weekend was settled on because it gave the newlyweds a chance at a brief honeymoon before they had to be at work on Tuesday. They planned a real honeymoon at some point over the winter, but no decisions had been made about where to take it; besides, other things were happening in their lives at the moment, too.

Since neither Henry nor Tricia were church people, they also decided it would be hypocritical to be married in a church, but where the wedding was to be held became a subject of contention. Several locations were thrown around, and Tiffany held out for the top of Turtle Hill again, pointing out it was family tradition. Kirsten didn’t like that idea and didn’t plan on losing that fight. In the end, she didn’t; they settled on the beach off the end of Oak Street on Lakeshore, with the downtown community center an alternate in case of inclement weather. It was still pretty informal as far as Kirsten was concerned, but she also knew it was about the best deal she was going to get.

As it turned out, the weather was beautiful; one of those crisp, clear early fall days, after the heat of summer had broken, but before the cooler weather of autumn set in. This time the bride wore a dress, and an honest wedding dress at that; the groom actually wore a suit. No one made mention of the fact that both of them were barefoot; it was a beach, after all, and there was no point in ruining good shoes, not even for a wedding.

Still, it wasn’t a small wedding; a lot of people showed up, a list too long to name everyone, except for a few special things. Wendy Clark was there, in her powered wheelchair; a special runner had been laid so she could get down to where the ceremony was being held, because she was the Maid of Honor. Heather and Molly were bridesmaids, too.

Danny and Debbie Evachevski were there; in fact, in her position as a tribal religious leader, Debbie wound up doing the ceremony. By now, with Danny’s permission, Henry had been let into that part of his bride’s secret, but they were the only three who knew it, and that was part of the reason Danny stood in for Tricia’s father to give the bride away. Ryan Clark, an old family friend, had agreed to be the best man, and a couple of Henry’s friends from high school filled out the wedding party.

The music was nothing short of awesome – and it had every right to be, since the Boreal String Band did the honors, with Blake and Jennifer Walworth, Dr. Gene Metarie, Randy Clark and Dr. Myleigh Hartwell-Harris playing. The music was more or less traditional, but very well presented.

Debbie Elkstalker – she used her tribal maiden name for such things – put on an excellent service. Since she was both a Presbyterian and a tribal katara, it was a little non-traditional though appropriate for a couple who were not terribly religious, but who had a deep love for each other and for being part of the community. The high point of the service, of course, came when she said to the audience, “I now introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Henry McMahon.”

The wedding reception was a little more conventional; it was held at the community center, the fall-back point in case of rain. The couple spent most of their time talking with the various guests and friends, of course.

One of the people they talked to was Binky, who only now admitted she’d had a little more to do with bringing the two together than they’d thought. It turned out she’d had the other side of the duplex all but rented when she heard Henry was coming back to town, so rather than renting it to the interested parties, Binky offered him an awesome deal on a rental instead. She’d known that Tricia was a little lonely and had known Henry since he was a small boy, and she had figured that putting the two of them next to each other might allow nature to take its course – which it had.

But there were many other friends there, many others who had taken a part in their stories, and had helped them with their making two into one-- too many to name. In the end, as the festivities wound down, the happy couple went back to her apartment, where they would live until they could find a house of their own somewhere in town, hopefully in the next few months. They were in no rush; one side of the duplex would be adequate for them for a while.

After they changed clothes, the couple took off for a quick weekend trip on Mackinac Island, the best place they could come up with for a short weekend getaway. It wasn’t perfect, but in the time they had available, they agreed it would do.

Six weeks later there was another gathering at which Tricia played an important part, and, for that matter, so did Henry – but this time he was the one behind the Nikon, instead of in front of it.

“Darn it,” he said out loud to the group. “You know I hate grip and grin lineup shots like this.”

“We know it,” Tricia said. “But what else can we do?”

“I know it,” he sighed. “But still!”

Thus it was he wound up taking a picture of Dr. Gene Metarie and Dr. Tricia McMahon as they took a pair of golden scissors in their hands. With a number of important members of the community looking on, they cut a ribbon to officially open the new Spearfish Lake Medical Center.

The past was past; now a new future stretched ahead of them.

-- The End --

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