Enduring on the Lake

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chapter 4


I had my keys out when Zane Slowthower walked over and said like it cost him a pound of flesh, “I’m … I’m looking for work.  You … got anything you need doing?” 

It was a question I hadn’t expected and it must have showed on my face because he turned with a jerk and said, “Uh, never mind.  I …” 

“Wait.  Look, I’m coming into town on Friday to meet my dad.  He’s supposed to be here by noon so we can go over to the bank and open an account.  They wouldn’t let me open one by myself for some reason.” 

“How old are you?” 

“Old enough that I’m legal to sign a contract if that’s what you’re wondering.” 

“But not twenty-one if I had to hazard a guess.”  I just looked at him and let him know in the nicest way possible that one way or the other it was none of his business.  He grinned anyway and said, “Harmon Bank is small, private … and small and private … and on top of that private and small.  They don’t cash out of town checks and you have to have ten different proof of IDs before they will even accept a money transfer for you.  Don’t’ take it personally, anyone under twenty-one is required to have a second name on the account, preferably a parent or some other related and highly responsible adult.” 

“Uh huh, so my impression of the Bank Manager was on the money.” 

“Stiff necked, old money, and suspicious of anyone under the age of fifty?” 

“Yep.” 

“That would be Mr. Tennyson.  He claims to be some kind of kin to some world famous poet … some Lord or other … and loves for people to ask if he is.” 

“Do tell.” 

He grinned.  “Just tell him who you are.  Your family has been around here a long time even if it is just as a vacation family these days.” 

“I did.  He allowed as how then it might be alright assuming my father was willing to vouch for me.” 

Zane shook his head.  “Small towns are like that.” 

“You’re local … but … not.” 

“I was out for a while, came back.  It gives you a different perspective.” 

“Military?” 

His face closed off.  I told him, “It isn’t the limp … well yeah it is.  It’s just … when you grinned just now I think I remember that you have an older brother too don’t you.  He would be about the age my brother would have been if he’d lived.” 

“Wait … Sam’s dead?  When?  I knew I hadn’t seen him around but … but I just thought …” 

It didn’t hurt like it used to but I still didn’t talk about it too much.  “Yeah.  We just put a ten year anniversary wreath on his stone at the cemetery.  He was one of the ones killed at Ft. Campbell when those terrorists infiltrated the base.” 

“God,” he said in a horse whisper.  “I …” 

“Don’t.  I didn’t tell you to upset you.  I just remembered who you were all of a sudden.  I don’t think I ever knew your last name and if I did I’ve forgotten it.  Sam and I never exactly had the same set of friends.” 

“Sam.  My God.  Your … your parents …” 

“Yep.  Pretty much.  Which is why they always kept me so close when all you backwoods boys were around.  They weren’t being standoffish or snobby … just … protective.  I just wanted you to understand.” 

He was silent for a moment.  “Josh … he still talks about your brother every once in a while.” 

“So he’s around?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Let me guess.  Running tourists down the river.” 

“Right on the first try.” 

I smiled kinda sad.  “I haven’t been rafting since Sam took me the last time.” 

“Why?” 

I shrugged.  “Don’t know exactly.  Just seemed … safer I guess to stick to the lake.  Besides, I’m not sure Dad would have even let me go had I brought it up.” 

“I find it hard to believe he’s letting you stay up here by yourself.” 

“Well, I’m not the child I was. Certainly he’d never let me stay up here if he wasn’t sure I could take care of myself.” 

“And that’s the message you want to get around is it?” 

I half grinned at how well he understood.  “Yep.  I’d rather educate with a message than for me to have to prove it and someone wind up … educated … more forcefully.  ‘Cause you know, sometimes lessons in life hurt.” 

He grinned, then chuckled, then outright laughed. “Girl, they ain’t gonna know what to make of you.” 

“I’m not looking for attention, not really in the mood for any … at least not right now.   I just want people to stay out of my business so I can stay out of theirs.” 

“Your dad really have you staying up here?” 

“He really does.  Like I said … Friday about noon.  Let me give him a call and if you are so inclined I do believe we will be having a bologna sandwich and a frosty freeze at the Bait n’ Tackle before we head over to the bank.  Consider this an invitation if you are so inclined.” 

He gave me a considering look like it was actually him that didn’t know what to make of me and then said, “Let me check my calendar and I’ll get back with you on that.” 

I nodded then got in my car and headed out of town having accomplished only about half of what I had meant to.  But then again I might just have accomplished one of the biggest things on my to do list.  It all depended on Daddy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chapter 3

I tapped the shoulder of a boy that must have been about ten or twelve and said, “Excuse me, I’m looking for Mr. Slowthower.” 

He jumped and ripped the earbuds out of his ears. “Yeah.  What do you want?” 

I blinked as he pointed to his name tag and then asked, “An older Mr. Slowthower?” 

He looked over his shoulder and then bellowed in a voice that was way too big for his frame, “Junior!!  There’s a chick out here to see you!” 

I heard a sigh mixed with a growl and a guy came around the corner snapping, “Listen you little … I don’t have time for …”  He skidded to a stop when he saw me.  “Oh … uh …” 

Feeling some unwilling sympathy for the guy I said, “Ricky Slowthower or am I looking for another one?” 

The boy said, “Call him Junior.  The rest of us do.” 

“I suspect you do it just to hack him off too,” I told the boy who suddenly tried to look a lot more innocent than he obviously was.  I looked at the guy who was about my age and said, “Mrs. June from down at the Quilting Shoppe said you take consignments.” 

“We do.  But they have to meet my grandmother’s standards and they are pretty high.” 

“May I speak to her?” 

“She isn’t here.  She laid up with a turned ankle.  You’ll have to come back some other time.” 

“That’s not what Mrs. June said.” 

“Yeah … wellllll …” 

“Deep subject.  Look, I’m not talking about junk.  You see what I’m wearing?” 

“Yeah.” 

“I made this … or should I say I made it over.  Your shop is called Trash to Treasure.  Well, I make over old clothes.  I don’t charge an arm and leg for them either but I won’t give them away if you’re going to charge an arm and a leg.  But, I don’t expect you not to make a decent profit either.” 

He was walking around me like I was a car he was thinking of buying.  “You did this?” 

“Yeap.  It started as a hobby in middle school and has grown like Topsy ever since.” 

“What’s that mean?” 

“Heck if I know, just something my father says and seems to suit this situation.  So are you considering or am I wasting my time?” 

“I’m considering.  Let me get my girlfriend.  This looks like something her and her friends will wear but let me check before I put my foot in it.”  He texted something on his cellphone and not a minute later this girl in a barely there tank top sauntered in.  “Geez Pattie, put a shirt on will ya?”

“Like what you see?” 

“Yeah and I don’t want anyone else seeing it.” 

“But you’ve got her in here.” 

“Who’s her?  Oh you mean her her.  She’s just looking to place some things in consignment and I want your opinion on ‘em.  You know what the customers like, you think they’d go for stuff like she’s wearing?” 

She turned to me and really looked for the first time and then I saw a spark of interest.  “Your mom or something make these?” 

“No,” I told her to be polite since apparently her opinion mattered.  “I did.  Mr. Slowthower thought you’d be able to tell him whether customers would go for it.  If they won’t maybe you could tell me what they will go for.” 

She chewed her bottom lip for a minute caught between left over jealousy – of what I had no idea – and her ego at being asked her opinion.  “Well, I won’t lie.  I know a lot of girls around here would think that’s cute but there ain’t a lot of local money right now as things are tight.  And most of the tourists are either those crazy health and nature nuts that hike the local trails or raft the Chattooga.  Those that aren’t are usually older or kinda stick in the mud family types that go more for cheap t-shirts or shot glasses or spoons.”  She tapped her chin then looked at Junior/Ricky.  “You know who might go for this stuff are those auction people we get through here once a month when Moose Harper’s dad has the warehouse gigs.” 

A gravelly voice from behind us said, “Gran used to pay Mr. Harper a fee to let her set up a booth every time he had an auction scheduled.” 

Ricky glowered at the new comer and asked, “Zane!  What are you doing here?  Who’s looking after Gran?” 

“Relax little brother, Aunt Nina showed up in full sail and insisted on taking Gran out to have her hair and nails done while I was to head to the store and pick up some nibbles.” 

Ricky rolled his eyes.  “Oh my Lord, tonight’s game night isn’t it?” 

The newcomer grinned, “Yep.  And you get to ‘fotch and carry’ for all the nice old ladies.” 

In disgust Ricky snapped, “No wonder you were laughing at me this morning.” 

“Not laughing Junior, just … just enjoying the moment for a change.”  The guy stepped out of the shadows and I realized he walked with a strange roll to his gate.  I didn’t get a chance to notice anything else because he looked me over and said, “I know you from someplace.  You own one of the vacation cabins around here?” 

I shrugged.  “It’s been in the family for a couple of generations but yeah, I guess I qualify except it’s my parents who own it.  I’m going to be living there as the caretaker for a while.” 

“Which place?” 

“Why?” I asked showing my cautious streak. 

Instead of being offended his face suddenly cleared and he said, “You’re Mr. Z’s daughter.  He always kept you on a tight leash.” 

Ricky and Pattie said, “Who?” 

I grinned and said, “Zitterbarth.  Don’t bother trying to say it, your tongue will just get tied up.  Call me Syd … short for Sydney.  It’ll be easier on all of us.” 

Before anyone could say anything else the bell over the door rang and in came Mrs. June from the Quilt Shoppe.  “Oh good, you’re still here.  I thought that was your car.  I was wondering if you had taken my advice and come see if they’d be interested.  Ricky, now I know you’re cautious and with reason but three ladies stopped to enquire about that outfit she’s wearing and she was only in the shop long enough to order some muslin and empty my clearance bin.”  She turned to me with a wink and said, “Got a lead for you if you’re interested Honey; don’t know why I didn’t think about it while you were in the store except that bus from the retirement community over in Littleton had just pulled in.  There’s a thrift store heading back towards the lake that is going out of business.  Given your haggling skills I bet you’d make out well as I know they’ve only got till tomorrow at noon to clear things out before the bank’s people comes in and takes the rest.” 

I took out my notepad and had her give me the directions, vaguely recalling the sad strip of stores that I thought had been closed since several had been boarded over.  It sat back from the highway on a steep bank that wouldn’t be easy to drive in anything less than a four wheel drive.  I turned to the others in the store and told them, “Well, I’ll give you time to think it over.  I’ve got a cooler of groceries calling my name.  It’s been nice to meet you.  I’ll …” 

Ricky interrupted with, “You got anything else besides what you’re wearing?” 

I stopped and eyed his interest but had to admit, “Not with me.  You only want clothes or crafty kind of stuff too?” 

“Bring a sampling next time you’re in town.  I’ll look things over and we’ll see if we can’t come to a meeting of the minds.” 

“I’ll be in town on Friday.  I’ll stop by then if you’re not busy.” 

The youngest Slowthower snorted and said, “We’re never busy.” 

I shook my head and left with a grin after Junior Slowthower decided that if his little brother Max didn’t feel busy that he’d rectify that problem.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chapter 2



It took almost an hour to get rid of Belinda … my newest ex-best friend.  I wonder what is wrong with me that I can just let people go like that.  Maybe there isn’t anything wrong and I’m worrying for nothing.  Right now I don’t have time for self-analysis and philosophizing.  I’m on a mission and I’ve got a list of things that need doing.   

Actually I’ve got a lot of lists.  Mom has had her hands full with Aunt Rhonda and Patrice which has left me to help Dad more than they had originally envisioned.  I think this whole world-coming-to-an-end thing was supposed to happen when I was little and they haven’t quite known how to incorporate me into their plans now that I’m old enough to seriously contribute to the overall success of what they’ve been doing.  It was supposed to be Sam doing it.  My older brother … ten years older.  Only not anymore.  He’ll be the one forever nineteen.  I was eight when he joined the Army.  I was nine when the guy in the uniform came to the door to inform my family my brother had been killed when the helicopter he’d been in had been sabotaged while on training maneuvers.  He’d never even left the country and the enemy had still managed to kill him just as dead as if he had been fighting overseas.  It devastated my parents … and me … and for a while we all kind of wondered what the point of anything was.  My parents looked at all their plans and for a while they had trouble deciding what they were going to do about them when suddenly a big chunk of their plans had suddenly just disappeared. 

To be honest these days I think I’m more serious about all the prepping than Mom.  It isn’t that she isn’t serious; more like she only has so much time and energy and has to prioritize most of it in the day to day living and caring for the family.  She used to be absolutely certifiable about her “preps” but lately life has taken her time and energy away … stolen it away from her if you look at it a certain way.   

Dad had always left the homemaking side of the plans and prepping to Mom while he dealt with “security” and coming up with ways to finance things.  It was only after he’d finally gotten around to doing an up to date inventory here at the cabin that he’d realized great big freaking holes had been eaten away in their plan.  They’ve been rotating food stuff out so it didn’t spoil and go to waste, or taken things as they needed them, but never seem to get around to filling things back in.  Equipment had sat on the shelf and not been used regularly and as a result no longer worked well or at all.  Paper goods and linens were dry rotting … or in the case of two plastic bins had been gotten into by the flying squirrels that sometimes found their way into the storage shed.  That was a fun mess to clean up … and the squirrels weren’t too happy about it either.  Squirrels are nothing but flying rodents and flying squirrels are too small to eat and so cute it hurt to “dispose” of them. 

The day after he’d inventoried and we’d cleaned up what we could we both had the mullygrubs.  Dad and I both have strange sleep habits.  His are a remnant of his time in the military and then doing shift work for so many years at the desalination plant.  I’m not sure what mine are from except maybe I absorbed his by osmosis or something.  Either way we both wound up unable to sleep and by 3:30 in the morning we were both haunting the kitchen.  We were at the cabin to try and recharge before Aunt Rhonda and Patrice came out of the hospital after their latest round of surgeries but the last thing we’d been doing was relaxing.  We were sitting at the kitchen table trying to decide between an early pot of coffee or a late night saucepan of warm milk.  The coffee won and I asked him why he was so twitchy the day before.  He’d snapped at me a couple of times for no reason that I could figure out and I was concerned something was going on. 

“Sister, you don’t need to worry about anything.” 

“Who says I’m worried?”  I asked him.  “We always make a plan and come out smelling … usually like roses but …” 

“You better not finish that,” he said with a half guilty grin.  “Your mom won’t be too happy if she finds out.” 

“What’s to find out?” I answered with a naughty grin. 

He shook his head and we talked of other things – mostly repairs and stuff that are needed at the cabin and at home and where the money and stuff is going to come for it – but eventually it came back around to what he’d tried to avoid and I found out about how “the plan” seemed to be falling apart. 

“What can I do to help?” 

“Sister now I told you Daddy will take care of things.” 

“Yeah I know,” I told him with absolute confidence.  “And one of those ways you can take care of things is by delegating.  So give.  What can I do to do my part?  I’ve been listening to you and Mom talk about this stuff almost my whole life … or at least as long as I can remember … and don’t you think it is about time that you let me in on it?  If I’m going to share in the benefit I sure should be sharing in the responsibility.  I’m not a little kid anymore Daddy.” 

I’m hoping I didn’t imagine that I rose a little in his estimation that morning.  It felt like I did.  He took me seriously in a way he hadn’t before and until they left to return home he showed me all the stuff at the cabin and made sure that I knew how it all worked, where it all was, how to turn it on and off, and a lot of other stuff I could have figured out on my own but was glad that he walked me through so I wouldn’t have to guess.  He even had me start a notebook of directions, instructions, notes, and lots of other useful this and that, plus he gave me copies of the cabin and house inventories.  The other thing he mentioned that I hadn’t shared with Belinda or anyone else because I still wasn’t sure how I felt about it was that he asked me to think about changing my class load to online courses and living at the cabin this fall and spring. 

“Sister, I’m not throwing you out of the house.  Don’t think that.” 

“I don’t Daddy, don’t worry about that.  I never would think it even.  But I know it is a real pain the way Patrice acts anytime I am around.  And other stuff … um, Dan and things like that.” 

“Patrice is a guest in your home.  She shouldn’t …”  He stopped and shook his head sorrowfully.  “As for Dan, the boy has most definitely picked himself a hard row to hoe.  It’s Christian duty and that is about all it is that keeps me from …”  He growled the only way a real Daddy can growl.   

I told him, “Daddy … seriously … I understand.  I sometimes don’t want to but most of the time I do.  And Aunt Rhonda has her own set of problems and one of them she thinks is partly my fault because I’m the one that ratted Kevin out about his drinking to Uncle Herschel in the first place.  I used to tend towards being a tattle tale and we both know it.  But Uncle Herschel believed me, and because he did Aunt Rhonda refused to.  She let their marital problems get in the way of her being a mom.  I know she can’t hear it right now but in my opinion I don’t know if her saying anything would have stopped Kevin. It’s all just a big mess and I’ve made the decision to not take any of it personally and to keep myself to myself from here on out.  Maybe some things just do no good to get involved in no matter the best of intentions behind it.”  I looked down at my hands and finally told him how I’d decided to look at things.  “Dan and Kevin made their choices.  Aunt Rhonda is just in a really bad place right now … the divorce, Kevin, Patrice, and her fibroids being more than just fibroids. Patrice is about the only really innocent person in this whole mess and she still has to live with and accept that she made the choice to get in that car with her brother even though she knew he had been drinking.  I just don’t feel …”  Now it was my place to shake my head.  “Do you remember what the sermon was that Sunday right after Dan … Dan was arrested?” 

“No Sister, can’t say that I do.  We went to church because it was where we needed to be but I’m not ashamed to say we were all in shock and nothing particular sticks in my memory of what was said that day.” 

“Well I do.  It was the story of Job.  And a lot of people kept looking over at us.  Some of them were sympathetic but I saw a lot of people … some that I thought were my friends … wondering how I couldn’t have known; some of them with guilty looks on their faces like they had known and not said anything.  I was getting so angry … not at Dan as I’d already been there and done that and … and shelved it for lack of a better word.  Nor at Jaycee – at least that moment - even though I knew how big a hot mess she is and how she likely wasn’t completely innocent though her folks were trying to make it out that way.  I was angry at all those staring eyes.  Then the preacher got to the part of the story where God tells Job he wasn’t going to get any of his life back – not his old life but a new life – until he forgave those people that had been so mean to him.  God told Job – maybe not in so many words but in a way he understood – that he was forgiving those people not for their sake but for his own and because God forgave him.  And if Job didn’t forgive then Job wouldn’t be forgiven the bad things he’d done in life, even if the bad things were out of good intentions or fear or whatever.  That poked a hole right through me.  I didn’t want to forgive everyone I was angry with but after a while I finally realized it would be the only way to lay the luggage down that I was packing with more and more crap and carrying around with me everywhere I went.” 

“Aw Baby Girl …” 

“Daddy, I still have bad days but not nearly as bad as people seem to expect or maybe even want me to have.  Maybe … maybe that is what Mom is not quite understanding about the way I’m acting.  I don’t want her to think that I don’t have feelings or that I’m bottling them up.  I’m just trying to keep things in perspective and let God take care of all the … the rest of it.” 

“Let me talk to her Sister.  She has been worried about it.  But now that you’ve explained it … well not to put too fine a point on it I think I need to pull out my own copy of the story of Job and sit down and give it another read.” 

We hugged and I feel closer to Daddy than I have in a long time and it’s a good feeling.  I admit I had been feeling lonely and a little shunted to the side as my parents dealt with trying to keep the family together, healthy, and afloat.  But I also realized while my parents might have a little trouble with me growing up they also needed me to grow up; they couldn’t do everything themselves.  At my age they shouldn’t have to.  And I have no business developing any resentment because it is time for my childhood to be over with and to take on adult responsibilities; not just for myself but as a member of my family. 

Which is about the time I remembered that I was wasting time reminiscing and needed to deal with the tasks my parents had set for me.  I needed to call my old bosses and turn in my notice because commuting was out of the question.  I’d miss the job – and the income – but changes were coming and it looked like that was going to be one of them.  And I needed to see if there was a job – any job including community poop scooper – that I could find to keep bringing in enough money that I could save up for my next semester’s tuition and books.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chapter 1


“Syd this is just plain crazy,” Belinda said looking over my shoulder at the list that Dad and Mom had texted me that morning. 

I didn’t want to tell her this was just an addendum and that the real list was pages and pages long or I’d go from “plain” crazy to whacked-out-fruity-belongs-in-the-nuthouse crazy.  “It isn’t crazy, it’s a shopping list from my parents.  They want to make sure that everything is ready for them to bring Aunt Rhonda and Patrice up here this fall,” I told her using the cover story my parents had developed.  “There’s going to be a lot of us using the cabin which means a lot of food and supplies.  They’ll bring some but stores aren’t exactly close by around here – the bait and tackle shop doesn’t count – and with Patrice being so bad and Aunt Rhonda still going to be in the recovery phase of her treatment they aren’t going to want to risk exposing them to germs by going out in public too much.  Besides, what are you complaining about? You love to shop.” 

“For shoes, jewelry, and the clearance rack at Neiman Marcus … groceries and the kind of stuff on this list do nothing for me.  Who wants to traipse through hardware stores getting stared at by a bunch of rednecks?” 

It took a moment to decide whether she was making a joke or just being rude.  I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and just let it go.  “Wow, you used to love being stared out by the guys up here.” 

“The guys around the lake … most of whom know how to shave and cover their butt crack and don’t have a beer gut that makes them look pregnant.” 

I sighed and wondered for the eleventy-dozenth time why Belinda had even asked to come to the cabin with me.  Getting fed up with her attitude I told her, “Look, why don’t you just hang out down by the lake.  I’ll run into town and do the errands.  They’re my parental units so their orders are my responsibility.  This way you can work on your tan or whatever.” 

Belinda looked guilty for about a half second before agreeing saying she had a headache and just needed some time to get rid of it then she would help with the end of summer clean up and maintenance.  “I still don’t know why your parents didn’t do this while they were up here.  You aren’t their slave.  They boss you around like you are still a little kid and worse.  And even when you have days off you hardly make the time to have fun anymore.” 

I shrugged and told her honestly, “Your definition of fun and mine aren’t exactly the same thing these days.” 

Defensively she snapped, “Oh yeah?  Pardon me for wanting to enjoy life with a little party every now and then.  What’s your definition?” 

It only took me a second to come up with an answer for her.  “Being able to sleep at night because I know I’ve got all the money to pay for my books and tuition, car insurance, gas, and a little extra for emergencies before the begin of term starts.” 

“Oh my lord Syd, you sound like an old woman.  We’re nineteen, not ninety.  You can still go to school and have a life you know.  Look at me.  Do you see me sweating the small stuff like that?  Why the hell you won’t take out a student loan and stop killing yourself is beyond me.  The government is practically handing them out like candy so long as you sign up for one of their volunteer programs. Your parents’ income would certainly qualify you for one.”  She rolled her eyes and then continued.  “If we don’t have fun now we will never have fun.  Why everyone has to be so serious all the time I don’t know.  Stop being so damned responsible … and boring.  It’s not your fault that Kevin chose stupid, got drunk, and wrecked his car.” 

Now she was just playing dirty.  “Leave my cousin out of this.” 

“So you’re saying that your aunt getting divorced after Kevin killed those kids, put his sister in a wheelchair, and then your family moving her and Patrice into your house has nothing to do with all the financial mess you guys are in?  Get real.  That was your parents’ choice, not yours.  You have a right to your own life.  For god’s sake girl, move out and escape while you have the chance.  You know I will just as soon as I’m able.” 

I shook my head and wondered when my best friend had turned into whatever it was she was now.  The changes in both of us happened so fast I’m not even sure when they started.  Carefully, hoping she would finally get the message, I told her, “This is my life Bel and while I’ll admit it isn’t great all the time it isn’t the horror story you keep trying to make it out to be.  Things aren’t perfect but I’ve got it better than a lot of people we graduated with do.  A bunch of them had to drop out or not get to go to college at all because of finances and family crap.  So what if I have to sleep on the pull out in the basement.  It isn’t killing me, at least I have a bed to call my own.  And using the basement door means I don’t have to worry about waking people up when I come in late from work.  And so what if I have to work, it’s a rent free roof over my head.  I take that back … I’m actually glad I have a job where I can get as many hours as I need; a lot of people don’t.  What makes me lucky is that the place was down for renovation for the end summer and the owners were just happy that I didn’t leave them to get transferred to a different franchise and that I didn’t mind working odd shifts to help out moving things into storage.  They’ve been decent to me when most people our age get crap for jobs … assuming they can find a job.  As for the rest of it my parents are good people in a rough spot … we’re just trying to take care of our family by everyone pitching in where they can.  If you want to save someone from the life they’re living go save your sister who has screwed her way through County High’s football team – JV and Varsity – and is now working on all the other teams too … and from what I hear not just the boys.” 

In total outrage Belinda snapped, “Jaycee is bisexual and you know it.  I can’t believe you of all people would be so judgmental.  That’s real Christian right there.  The Guidance Counselor and Jaycee’s therapist warned us about people like you and said …” 

Stopping her from drawing me into an argument I wasn’t in the mood for I told her, “I’m not talking about her sexual orientation – that’s her business – I’m talking about the rest of it.  She is barely sixteen and she acts like a slut and dresses like one too; and if she isn’t careful it is going to get her hurt or dead or maybe worse.  I can’t believe your parents even put up with it.  How she is acting is dangerous and just nasty.” 

“You don’t know what you are talking about.  Jaycee is just trying to find herself … exploring her options.  Everyone says so.” 

“Yeah well she’s looked just about under every bed and in every backseat anyone will let her crawl into.  Don’t you think it’s time for you and your parents to kinda … I don’t know … help her or guide her into a search process that is less personally destructive?  Your parents would have killed you if they’d known half the stuff you did when we were in high school.  Why they let Jaycee get away with stuff ten times as awful is beyond me.” 

“She takes special handling and you know why.” 

“Because she got molested?  Don’t you think that is even more reason to help her find some boundaries?  Not to mention those so-called therapists she’s seen have only helped her to get worse.  Let’s see … false memories, drugs by the bucket full, validating the princess behavior rather than being honest she’s on track for some serious STDs …” 

“That’s cruel, even for you.  You … you just don’t get it.” 

I shook my head.  “Oh I get it all right or don’t you remember that your step brother tried to get me the same way he got to Jaycee?  In fact I’m the one that swung that golf club right up between Darin’s legs when we got to your house to tell on him only found him having at your little sister just to get back at your dad.  Your step brother was and is a complete freak and now your dad feels so guilty and messed up for what his spawn did that he can’t find his way through and your mom is so worried about hurting Jaycee more that she’s just making things worse by being ineffectual.  And Jaycee knows it and she’s manipulating the hell out of everyone around her to empower herself or something.  Only not everyone buys into the guilt trip anymore do they?  She’s going too far down the wrong road.” 

Belinda shook her head and I couldn’t tell if she hated me for it or wish she’d had the nerve to do it herself.  “I still can’t believe you slapped her.  It wasn’t her fault that Dan decided to find some comfort with my sister because you are so hooked on your virginal act and refused to put out.” 

I was on the ragged edge of blowing up and decided it was time for a few home truths and a few answers.  “You know what Belinda?  Yeah, I can fault her for it because she was a willing participant.  Just as much as I fault Dan if you want to know the truth of it.  Dan knew where I drew the line.  He chose to cross it.  Jaycee knew that Dan and I were in a relationship, she just wanted to hurt me because I refused to say how she’s been acting is justified and all ok.  Well it’s not and she got her pound of flesh.  But I haven’t taken it out on you and I don’t blame your parents.  Jaycee is responsible for her actions… she’s old enough to know it too.  So tell me, if you feel like this why did you want to come up to the cabin?” 

“I didn’t … uh …” 

I was beginning to realize my own suspicions were justified.  “You didn’t want to did you.  Ooookay.  So who asked you to make the sacrifice?” 

“I never …” 

“Knock it off Bel.  You are a rotten liar and always have been.  It is the only reason I believed you when you said you didn’t know about Dan and Jaycee even though everyone else thinks that you did.  Now I repeat, what’s going on?” 

In a rush Belinda confessed, “Jaycee is pregnant … and she is saying it is Dan’s.  Dad told me that I had to … be a friend and … and soften the blow and be the one to tell you.” 

I just stood there waiting for the pain to hit … but realized I felt nothing.  Dan and I had dated for over three years, even talked about getting engaged with my parents’ blessing but then decided to put it off until we were both further along in college.  It wasn’t too long after that I found out he was fooling around … and with more than Jaycee though the girl didn’t want to believe it when I told her.  Whatever it was he broke in me, he broke it permanently and left nothing to feel behind. 

I sighed but then after thinking for a moment there was a huge hole in the story I was being fed.  I told Belinda, “This is going to sound really bad and you are going to think I’m lying, I’m being mean on purpose, or both … but I’m really not.  First off, Dan is still in a lot of trouble because of the pending statutory rape charges and there is nothing your parents can do to stop it because it is the state that has brought the charges against him.  He’s on house arrest and since you probably don’t know he has one of those new implants that monitors his location and sobriety at all times.  His house and yard is also being visually monitored 24/7.  There is no way that Dan is the father of any baby that she’s pregnant with now.  It has been over six months since his arrest and the monitoring started almost immediately.” 

“Huh?” 

“Yeah.  His sister can’t even have her friends over.  She tried that once and all of the monitoring systems lit up like the fourth of July.  The only reason they didn’t throw him right back in jail is because the cameras caught him screaming at his sister to get the girl away and then he got on the phone and was crying to his parole officer to come save him.” 

“No way do you know this for a fact.” 

“Yes way.  His parents and mine are still … I guess not friends exactly but trying to do the right thing and be civil.  It was a Wednesday when it happened and that night Dan’s mom broke down in the ladies room at church and my mom … well how do you walk away from someone that messed up, scared, and sad all at the same time?  Dan … he … he got hurt pretty bad in jail and is terrified of being sent back.  Just like him doing what he did broke something in me, him going to jail broke something in him … only between the two of us I think Dan got it much worse and the shame of it is he did it to himself.” 

Shocked Belinda said in disgust, “You have to be the coldest bitch I have ever met.  First my sister, now Dan.  God, you’re sick.” 

I shook my head.  “Stop trying to make me feel guilty for something that isn’t my responsibility or problem.  That’s called deflecting and you’ve been doing it a lot lately.  Too much.  You’re going to need a therapist yourself if you keep this up.  Tell you what, since you really don’t want to be here why don’t you go ahead and pack and leave.  You go back to that life you think is just so bloody ok and I’ll do what I have to do to live mine with a clear conscience.” 

“But …” 

“No Bel, I’m done.  You come up here, use me to have some free fun, and lead me on that you’re here because you want to be my friend.” 

Back pedaling as she realizes how everything is making her looked she cried, “It isn’t like that.” 

“Yeah … yeah it is.  You could have told me a couple of days ago instead of me having to force it out of you.  And what’s just as sad is that that makes me sadder than the possibility that Dan is the father of Jaycee’s baby.  Assuming that she is even pregnant.  She’s lied about that before … or wait, she was just a scared little girl and made a mistake.  Yeah right … and we both know she knew exactly what she was doing at the time.  If she’s pregnant for real this time … the mess is going to be monumental, including the civil case your parents are putting together against Dan.” 

“What?  How do you know about that?” 

Shaking my head at some people’s naiveté I reminded her, “Like I said, these days not everyone thinks Jaycee is a little, broken-winged angel.  Yes, she’s messed up but she’s also has some responsibility for the results of the choices she is making now.” 

Suddenly changing tacts Belinda snapped, “I don’t have to put up with this.  I’m leaving.” 

I shrugged.  “You were already leaving, or don’t you remember that I’d already decided that for you.” 

“You bitch.” 

All her snarl got her was another shrug from me.  “Maybe, but you’re turning out to be a toxic hot mess and I’ve decided that I’m not going to willingly deal with that particular personality trait anymore.  Tell your dad thank you for trying to be nice.  I appreciate it.  But if I were you I would also tell him to stop trying to clean up Jaycee’s messes … what his son did is not his fault.  He’d sent him to live with his mother and her new husband when he refused to get a job when he wouldn’t stay in school.  It was Jaycee that was letting him back into the house without your father’s approval or knowledge.  Sucks what happened but Darwin Award winners come in all ages.” 

“Oh my gawd.  You’re worse than a bitch.  I hate you.” 

Beginning to seriously tire of her judge and jury act I told her, “Get in line.  Jaycee has tried to prove how much she hates me on every social media known to man and even tried to get some of her less than intelligent friends to fight me too.  Dan sent me a letter telling me how much he hated me … and then apologized and said he’d gotten help and realized he had to take responsibility for things and what happened wasn’t my fault.  Not that I needed to hear it from him to know that is the truth but still, it gives me hope that Dan might come out the other side of this disaster a better person.  Patrice hates me because she is in a wheelchair and I’m not.  There’s probably other people too but I’m not too worried about it right now.  Right now you need to leave.  You pack and I’ll call your dad and thank him myself for trying to be nice and let him know your job has been accomplished and you are heading home.”