Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter 29

June 22nd – OK, no more feeling sorry for myself. I did what I did. There were some things I could have done different but I can’t go back and change that. Time to grow up and no more pity parties. There is work to be done.

I had to scrub the barn down something fierce. Between Hatchet and Pretty Boy there wasn’t much place you could put a boot without stepping in something gross. And not all of it would come up with the shovel so I had to drag buckets and buckets of water in there to get everything clean.

Daddy built the “barn” to be more like a giant shed and workshop. It has a concrete floor like a garage because Daddy didn’t want to have to put more gravel in there ever couple of years when the tractor pushed it down. It is really nice, but isn’t all that great as a barn because animal pee and poo just sits there. Nasty.

Pretty Boy enjoyed being out in the yard and strutting around. He caught a locust almost as big as he is and mangled it all to pieces while eating it. He hung out where the cantaloupe vines are starting to spread. I’m glad too because the more bugs he eats the less bugs there are to eat my plants. The ones in the containers aren’t being bothered but the ‘lope vines in the ground look like they are getting gnawed on a little bit.

I think Fraidy and Pretty Boy have come to an understanding of some kind. I was sitting on the porch taking a break and eating the last few blueberries I scrounged off the bushes as well as some blackberries and a couple of plums for lunch. Fraidy was lying at my feet in a sunbeam and then Pretty Boy struts over and jumps up in my lap to see what I’m eating. He likes fruit. Fraidy looks up and jumps in my lap. I thought I was going to have a face off right there but then Fraidy looked at Pretty Boy and sniffs him and sprawls across my lap which forced Pretty Boy up on the arm of the lawn chair. Fraidy purred while I scratched her chin and Pretty Boy liked the blackberries I fed him. I felt pretty special … until Pretty Boy took a dump and Fraidy started using her claws to knead my leg. I like animals … I think … but boy do they know how to give you a reality check and put you in your place. So much for being the top of the food chain.

It also made me wonder if I was going to turn into an eccentric old lady like in some of the books I’ve read. Lots of animal friends but no human ones.

Watching Pretty Boy scratch around reminded me that I need to figure out how I’m going to grow a garden. There is no way I’m going to live off of black eyed peas, egg plant, cantaloupe and okra for the rest of my life. I still haven’t asked Momma O if she has other seeds that she’ll trade for. I figure I need to move quickly before other people start getting the same idea. I’ve got some plums left and I don’t think she lives too far away. It’s worth the chance. I might also be able to entice her with some of the pie cherries that are going to make. All three little trees are loaded with green ones so I’ll have tons more than I need … I think … and surely a bucket of cherries ought to be worth something to her.

June 23rd – Met the rest of Momma O’s family. I’m not sure I’ve ever been in lust before but looking at Momma O’s garden must feel something like that. It’s all green and frilly and I could have just wallowed in it. When I told her so Momma O laughed herself into a coughing fit and told me to come up to the porch and “sit a spell.”

I’m leaning more to the liking her side than I was before. She’s nicer than she lets on but nosy. Man is she nosy; she just about had my life story out of me before I could get a breath to think to not tell her so much. She was real interested in the solar dehydrator that Rand built and told me to tell him to come explain it to her grandson Paulie. I found out later “Paulie” is six foot three and built like two football players put together … and that Momma O is the only person that calls him Paulie. Everyone else calls him Paul or Jr.

Like I said, Momma O is nosy. I got up to leave with some watermelon seeds she said I could plant next month and some pole beans and squash seeds that she said I could plant in August and with the agreement that if I can provide her family with some fruit … all she has is a fig and a pear tree … that she’d start putting back some more seeds for me. She told me again to tell Rand to come see Paulie about the dehydrator so I told her she would probably see him first. She wanted to know why I thought that and I just shrugged not wanting to get into it. What she said next though leads me to believe that woman must have a crystal ball hidden under the big apron she always wears.

“So, Julia has him convinced that the baby is his.”

Before I thought I said, “No!”

She just kind of looked at me and then laughed at my expression. “Child, Julia and that mother of hers aren’t as wiley as they think they are. They’s some of us that know somethins goin’ on. Girl is built like a skinny post and she suddenly starts eating like a field hand and gots a glow, what else are people gonna think? Now you sit back down here and tell me what’s what so we can keep that boy from falling into their trap.”

So I sat because even if Rand isn’t my friend any more I wouldn’t wish a fate like that on my worst enemy. I told her all the things that I hadn’t told her before and she said, “Well, you’re right. There might have been a better way of handling things but then again, I weren’t there. Julia weren’t always like she is now. She was just the nicest young thing; spoiled but not bad enough you could hold it against her. When Rand left to go to Gainesville instead of staying and going to the community college like Julia wanted him to she got upset; most of us figured she couldn’t be doing nothing but acting a little wild and what Rand didn’t know about wouldn’t hurt him none. When Rand was around she was the sweet thing she’d always been and we figured he’d graduate and move back and everything would be all right again. Looks like Julia went wilder than I gave her credit for and overplayed her hand this time. Getting out from under her thumb wasn’t a bad thing for that boy all in all. Rand’s done some growing up the last couple of years too which has probably made him less susceptible to little Julia’s pouts which likely hasn’t suited her too keenly. And as for you losing his friendship … you might be surprised. The boy’s got some sense and he’ll likely figure things out given enough time. Just let things be child and try and accept whatever His will is. I’m sitting here to tell you that fighting that doesn’t do a hill of beans worth of good. He’s mysterious and will only reveal His will for things when He is good and ready. Seems like the less patient we are the longer He takes to let us in on things.”

She gave me a lot to think about but I still don’t see how Rand can forgive me for making things so hard for him at his home. I was thinking so much that I didn’t notice the stupid snake until I nearly stepped on it. If there is any creature that I can come close to saying I hate it is snakes. I tolerate them but that’s about it. I usually do everything I can to avoid them although the whip snake out in the orchard and I have learned to co-exist. So long as he eats the things out there that will eat my fruit I won’t chop his head off with a hoe.

I didn’t move and it finally settled down and slithered off to the other side of the road; coral snakes may be small but they scare me to pieces. It wasn’t until I unfroze that I saw the dog down in the ditch. Its sides were heaving and it was whining like it was in pain. It puked and I figured the dog had tangled with the snake before I did. I know dogs don’t always die from snake bites so I didn’t put it down right away. But once the poor thing went into convulsions and went all stiff I decided it was more merciful.

I was shaking so bad it took me a while to aim. I didn’t want to miss and cause it more pain. I didn’t get a chance though.

“Move girl, I’m a better shot.”

Mr. Henderson took care of the dog and then started lecturing me for being out in the open just standing around day dreaming. I told him I wasn’t standing around, that I had been avoiding a snake and then waited to see if the dog needed some mercy or not. The men Hoss and Bradley were with him and were trying not to smile because Mr. Henderson threatened to paddle my behind if I didn’t get it on home. He told me no more wandering around, people were getting desperate and there was no telling what could happen over the next couple of weeks.

So I came home (and not because he told me to either but because that is where I had been going in the first place), put my seeds in a cool, dark, and dry place like Momma O told me to and then started cleaning house. I got most everything done that was worth doing and then sat down to look at Momma’s gardening books.

I was trying to picture doing a garden of any size turning the dirt over by hand like the books explained when I looked outside to see that the sky had darkened up. I went downstairs and the wind nearly jerked the door out of my hand. Fraidy skittered in and stalked over to the hearth rug and gave me a look that said, “About time!” I was looking all over for Pretty Boy because it was time for him to go back in his run for the night but when I finally saw him he wouldn’t go, he kept running over to the barn door. Well, I’m dense but not dumb. I opened the barn door and he ran inside and hopped up on the pile of small branches in there and started to preen his feathers back in place. Crazy bird.

I grabbed some kindling for my wood box and right as I stepped up on the porch the first fat drops of rain came down. I’ve been sitting up here in the dormer room listening to it for over two hours now. I’ve had to close the window ‘cause it was blowing so hard that even with the shutters closed the rain was coming in. It's dark and now it is stuffy and hot so I’m going to bed to see if I can actually get any sleep. It’s awful noisy up here on top of everything else.

June 24th – The only laundry I was able to do today was my under things and that still made a mess. I had to hang them on the retractable line in the summer kitchen. It’s been raining off and on all day, actually since last night.

The house is still all stuffy and hot. I haven’t been able to open a window because of the rain blowing in. The few times it has stopped I’ve done what I could by opening the door to the lanai but that hasn’t helped much. Fraidy has stayed on the lanai except for a few times when the rain got really hard then she would come and run up on the door so hard it shook. I still don’t understand how a cat that small can do stuff like that; she must be all muscle or something. She certainly knows how to get her way. I was worried that she would starve so I rehydrated some freeze dried chicken for her. She liked it well enough; at least I haven’t found any hair balls today.

I went to the barn to check on Pretty Boy and I know it’s just a symptom of me being crazy but I swear he’s lonesome. I don’t know where he came from in the first place or how he escaped getting eat up by the dogs, coyote, foxes, and cats all around before he showed up in the yard. I wonder if there are any more where he came from. Momma O had some chickens but none of them were small like Pretty Boy. The way Mr. Henderson talked about my rooster and calling him a runt I don’t think he has any like him either. I think my poor rooster needs a girlfriend but I’m not sure where to get one. Poor thing.

I’m trying not to think about me being lonely. It’s my own fault and even though I know Momma O said that maybe … I can’t count on maybe. My great grandmother used to say “a hive of bees in May is worth a load of hay” every time anyone would answer a question with “maybe.” I still don’t know what that means. It makes about as much sense as how I feel right now.

June 25th – It is Sunday … Laurabeth and Jonathon have been married one week. Whether I had intended keeping the Sabbath of not, God made sure that I kept it today. It’s done nothing but rain all day and now the wind has picked up too. The sky looks too scary to think about. I used to like storms – they made my inside and my outside feel the same – but not today. Today I’ve felt like crawling the walls. Fraidy didn’t help; we keep giving each of static cling shocks. I’m going to bed and I hope it finally stops raining tomorrow.

June 26th – This started out being the worst day and ended up … well, I’m not quite sure how to describe it if you want to know the truth.

In the middle of last night the storm suddenly got a lot worse. I thought bombs were falling until I figured out it was thunder and lightning rattling the whole house. Fraidy jumped on my head with claws out and I had to unhook her from the top of my ear.

It was so bad upstairs that I couldn’t hear myself think so I ran downstairs and then WHAM!!! I’ve never been close to where a big bolt of lightning hit before but apparently when it happens you just know. That was the worst one. About an hour later the thunder and lightning let up but not the rain and I fell asleep on the sofa.

The next morning I woke up at my usual daybreak and was relieved not to hear rain for a change, especially after last night. Then I remembered the bolt of lightning and ran upstairs real quick and turned on the switch for the solar lights. They were dim from not charging the last couple of days but they did come on. I turned them off and was relieved and didn’t think much more about it.

I came back downstairs and was rolling up the door to the lanai when I realized I couldn’t make it go up more than a few inches. Normally Fraidy would have been out anyway but she tried to poke her head out twice only to draw back in, sit down and look at me. I didn’t want to but I got down on the floor and looked out. The only thing I could see were leaves.

My heart started beating a million miles an hour. I unrolled the front door and still in my jammies I ran outside and around back.

In case I’ve never described the lanai it is actually a great big porch built under the house roof. It’s twenty feet wide and runs nearly the entire length of the back of the house, not stopping until the big three-sided window set up where the breakfast nook bumps out from the house. The outside supports for the lanai roof are steel posts wrapped in white aluminum and there are white aluminum kick plates that run around the entire bottom area of the lanai. The screened areas are wide and tall and I remember my dad having to special order the screen because they hadn’t thought about measuring for the screens before they actually built it.

What I saw when I came around to the back of the house would have made me lose my breakfast if I had actually eaten anything yet. The roof was OK but some of the soffit and fascia had been torn free. None of the supports were messed up but two of the kick plates and four screens were demolished. There was a tree, or a half of a tree anyway, in the lanai and the topmost branches were what was keeping the roll-down from going up.

I followed the part of the tree that was still outside the lanai and saw that the tree I used to think of as “Fraidy’s Tree” was split in half … looked like it had actually exploded from the inside out. The part of the tree still standing had burn marks on it and still smoked a little bit. That scared me near to death and I ran and got buckets and buckets of water until it stopped that.

My jammies are ruined … or they would be if I had anything else that I could wear to bed. I finally went back inside and changed and tried to decide what to do. I had a glass of milk and a handful of granola after I realized the tree had taken out the grill on the lanai and was covering both of my firepits.

Knowing nobody was going to ride to the rescue I started with the easiest thing for me to do. I got the limb lopper and started cutting the branches away from the roll-down. It took me most of the morning just to get most of the small stuff off – the stuff that was as thick as my thumb. I had seven wheelbarrow loads and all I could do was dump it in piles out beside the barn; it looked like a bunch of misshapen beaver houses.

Then I went to work using the saw. I sawed and sawed and sawed. I got most of the branches that were as big as my wrist but I was hot, sweaty and tired of getting scratched by the tree and bitten by the mosquitoes. I filled the wheelbarrow up three times and it still didn’t look like I was getting anywhere.

Next I tried the ax. What a joke, all I was doing was making toothpicks and I couldn’t seem to hit the same place twice in a row no matter how much I tried. So I tried going at the tree from the other end. I was able to saw off a good sized splinter – heck, the “splinter” was half as tall as I was and nearly as big around on one end. I couldn’t lift it up into the wheelbarrow because every time I would have it up there the barrow would turn over before I could get around to the handles; Rand hadn’t been that much trouble.

I had no choice but to try moving it by hand. I pushed, pulled, and dragged it and was doing OK … not great, but OK … until I hit a soft patch of bare sand. The sand would build up in the direction I wanted to the log to go and cause such a drag I couldn’t go backward or forward. I knew I would have to change tactics when I nearly dropped it on my toe. I thought back to my world history lessons and remembered that men used to move big logs and stones by using crowbars. Daddy had a crowbar, a long one that we found on the property after we bought it. Daddy said it probably belonged to the lumber company that had taken out the trees for the utility easement.

I got the crowbar and tried and tried … I even added a fulcrum … but the sand was too soft and I was too weak. I even tried standing on the crowbar but I couldn’t stand on the crowbar and push the log at the same time. The last straw was when my sweaty hands slipped and the crowbar bounced up and caught me a glancing blow under my chin.

I was so mad I screamed, threw the crowbar like a spear and shouted, “I can’t do this by myself!!!”

“Whew! Something you finally need help with. You know a guy likes to know he is needed for something.”

I whipped around and Rand stood there with Brendon and Mick. I started seeing spots and my rear bumper met the ground.

“Hey! You OK?!” Rand asked as he limped over.

Mick said, “What did you do Rand? You made her faint!!” He looked like he couldn’t decide if he was going to cry or get mad.

Brendon saved me some embarrassment by joking, “Naw bro, she’s just overcome with the sight of us good-looking men.”

That did it, “Kiss my left big toe Meathead.”

Brendon acted like I’d shot him in the heart which got Mick smiling. Rand on the other hand still had serious on his face and bent down to where I was still sitting. “You OK?”

“Yeah, I just … after … I mean … why are you here?!”

“We’re gonna talk about that after Mick and … Meathead … leave. Look, I’ve got a favor to ask and no matter what you don’t have to say yes. Understand?”

I said yes because I think I would have said yes no matter what he asked right then.

“Can I camp out here for a while? I can’t even tell you for how long. Things are just … The house is too full and it’s not just the Winstons being there. Sawyer and Missy showed up and got married without Uncle George knowing about it and things are … “

Brendon, his normally oh so helpful self said, “What Rand is trying to say is that Dad is off his rocker and the house is busting at the seams. Things are getting worked out but … Mr. Winston and JR are actually not too bad but Julia and her mother are damn near … “

“Watch your mouth!”

“Well pardon me St. Rand of Joiner. ‘Scuse me milady,” he added with a stupid bow. “Things are unsettled and Rand is odd man out so we want to know if we can store him here for a while to get him out from under foot.”

Brendon really is a handful. I don’t care if Rand says that Alicia is taming him. I stepped in before he and Rand really starting going at it. “Of course! As long as you want but … you aren’t serious about ‘camping’ are you? The skeeters will eat you alive.”

“I tried telling him that too,” Mick piped up.

Brendon snickered and I wasn’t sure what the joke was but Rand wanted to know if it was really OK and I told him not to be a dork which made Brendon laugh even harder. I just don’t understand Brendon sometimes and I hope that Alicia knows what she is getting into. I think he’s three fries shy of a Happy Meal most of the time.

Mick ran to get Hatchet and two mules. Rand said the mules were his. He raised them for an FHA project when he was in highschool. Brendon unloaded feed from the wagon and came running out of the barn with Pretty Boy on his heels shouting, “Call this crazy bird off already!” I was honestly tempted not to when I saw Rand was finally smiling a real smile.

The mules and wagon both were loaded down with stuff and it was set on and around the front porch. Rand looked a little embarrassed as he pointed to all the stuff lying around and said, “It’s not just me … one of the things that they’re doing is converting the attic to a room for the boys. They needed the space. I understand if you don’t … most of this stuff was my parents’ …”

I told him he was being a dork again and that there was plenty of room and he could do whatever he wanted to. Brendon snickered and Rand nearly punched him. I’m not sure what that was all about but I guarantee that if Brendon doesn’t knock it off Rand is going to knock his head off sometime in the near future.

Then all three went at the tree and got it cut back out of the lanai. I noticed Brendon doing most of the heavy work with Rand giving him a dirty look every once in a while. I kept them supplied with lemonade because I wasn’t allowed to “get in the way.” It gave me a chance to wash out my jammie bottoms and try and get them dried out and take care of the cuts all over my feet and ankles where I had forgotten to put on shoes for a while.

When they were finished all that was left was the half of tree trunk. Brendon said, “In a few days, after we get the roads cleared and take care of the trees over near our place I’ll bring Dad’s cross cut and we’ll cut this down into more manageable pieces.”

Rand just nodded as he sat in a chair, his eyes barely open. Brendon then said, “Kiri, can I have some more to drink?” as he nodded his head towards the front of the house where I had put the pitcher in a cooler.

He hurried me around front and started whispering and I finally got a look at the new-improved version, “He’s not going to give me any time to tell you so listen fast. He’s still banged up pretty good. Dad wasn’t happy about him making the trip so soon but it really will help things to calm down at the house. We found out about Julia. Don’t you worry about that part of it any more. Mr. Winston has been a lot cooler than any of us expected but things are still … Look, just don’t let him try too much … Man! This is good lemonade. It doesn’t taste out of a can.”

Figuring Rand must be coming I said, “I made it with those little packets of TruLemon I showed you instead of the other stuff. It tastes more like the real deal … and I used honey instead of white sugar.”

Rand was walking our way with a grumpy face on that cleared up when he heard us talking lemonade. Brendon even asked if he could fill up his canteen with it and take some back for Alicia, Janet, and Tommy and I said sure. No wonder Brendon was able to hide how he felt about Alicia for so long, he gave an Oscar-winning performance and it was only about lemonade.

Brendon and Mick left and Rand and I were alone. He did look tired so I started carrying his stuff into the house. “Wait on that. I want to talk.”

I thought maybe he needed more rest so I told him I’d work for a while and he could figure out what he wanted to do. “What I want is for you to sit down here. With me. And talk. About why you left the way you did.”

So we sat, him in the rocker and me on the edge of the porch, and we talked. I figured I owed him some hollering time but I apologized first. “Rand, I’m sorry. If I had stayed I would have made a mess of things. You’ve seen my temper. I’m not nice to be around some times.”

“You said that in your note. Why couldn’t you have told me that in person?”

“Because you were really in pain and … I … Rand I tried, I just chickened out.”


“Why did I chicken out? Because I didn’t want to get you upset and I knew you would try and talk me out of it and I was afraid that I would stay just because you asked me to … and I’m pretty sure that would have been a mistake.”

“You made me mad. You …”

“I’m really sorry Rand … “

“You talked. Now it’s my turn.”

I was positive I wasn’t going to like hearing what he had to say but I shut up. “I was mad. And my feelings were hurt.” That made me feel about two inches tall. “But what hurt more than you leaving was the fact that you didn’t tell me to my face. To me that was the worst part. I couldn’t tell if what you wrote was what you meant or if you were just trying to pacify me.”

I didn’t know what to say to that but I know I felt like crying. I didn’t want him to see my eyes watering so I turned my face away.

“Kiri, next time, have more faith in me. OK? That’s all I’m asking.”

I couldn’t believe it. “Aren’t you still mad?” I forgot and looked at him and he must have seen my face. I swear I’ve never done so much crying before in my life. Every time I turn around I’m crying in front of this guy like I’m some kind of baby.

He came over and sat by me on the porch. “Maybe a little. But mostly because you didn’t even tell me how you were being treated, I had to find out from Alicia. She’s the only one that even seemed to notice what was going on. You also didn’t tell me the whole story about how bad it was for you to get to the house and then the next day. I assumed that … that Mitch shot all those men … you could have told me.”

“What was there to tell? It just happened the way it happened.”

“We’re going to have to agree to disagree about that and when I ask about how things go from now on … I mean all of it Kiri.”

“What?! And have you see just how weird I am? Don’t you get it? I … “

“Kiri, I don’t think you’re weird.”

“You’ve got to be the only one left on the planet that doesn’t.”

He shook his head and said, “OK. This next … Kiri, I’ve been confused as heck. I thought maybe it’s just that … I keep forgetting your age and I shouldn’t. I probably don’t have any business … at least that’s what Mrs. Winston … “

“Whatever she says, don’t listen to her. She’s a mean woman Rand. Even if you hadn’t wanted to be my friend any more I still wouldn’t have let her and Julia trap you into anything.”

“Thank you. But about this ‘friend’ thing. Alicia told me some stuff that cleared a few things up for me but before I think I’ve got the answers I think I do I want to ask you a couple of things and I want a straight answer. OK?”

When he said “friend thing” I got worried but his eyes didn’t say that he wasn’t mad at me. “OK.”

“Alicia said that when you two were getting to know one another you talked about … guys.”

OK, this was weirding me out but I promised him straight answers. “Yeah. So?”

“She also said that it came up that you’ve never … dated. Was … was .. that because of something your aunt and uncle …”

“No. But Aunt Wilma was cool about it and told me I didn’t have to if I didn’t want to.”

“Soooooo … you never dated because you didn’t want to?”

“Sort of.”

Rand looked like he was getting a little frustrated but I didn’t know what to do to help him because I had no idea what he was talking about.

“You sure don’t make it easy on a guy. What I’m trying to ask is … look … have you ever had a … a … guy friend?”

“Sure … I had friends; I’m not a complete social outcast. Us weird kids stuck together … mostly anyway.”

“I don’t mean a friend who was a guy, I mean … dang it Kiri have you ever had a boyfriend?”

When I didn’t answer him he said, “Kiri?”

“No. I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’m nearly seventeen years old and I’ve never … never … never anything … never had a date, never been to a dance, never even come close. I may be weird but I’m not stupid OK? I don’t know what Julia has been saying but … “

“Easy, easy. I’ve learned my lesson with Julia and her mom. It’s nothing bad and how many times do I need to tell you I don’t think you’re weird. It’s just I didn’t know … look, sometimes I didn’t know if it was just me or whether things were … flying over your head. You didn’t seem to get things and then some of the things you would say just confused me.”

I thought I had it figured out. “Rand, I promise I’ll never embarrass you. I know it’s got to be hard on you being my friend and … “

“See, there you go again. It’s not hard on me being your friend. You drive me crazy. You confuse the heck out of me. But I’m finding I like that. At first I thought maybe you were like Julia and … Whoa! Where are you going?!”

“I AM NOT LIKE JULIA!!!” I was so mad. Thinking I was weird was one thing but thinking I was like his old girlfriend was something else all together.

“No kidding. Come on, come sit back down. I’m … I’m too tired and sore to chase you.”

He said that the way that Brendon would have so I wasn’t for sure whether he meant it or was play acting to get his way but since I knew he really was hurt and sore I sat back down, just not next to him.

“Look Rand, I’m … I’m sorry I yelled at you. Just … I don’t do so well with the 20-question game. If there is something you want to know then ask. If I’m able to answer you I will. Just … just … trying to …”

“OK, fair enough but don’t blame me if this comes out all callywumpus. I’m worried about losing your friendship too you know. And don’t look so surprised, guys think of that kind of thing too. I’m used to … look, there is no way to explain this without bringing Julia into so don’t get mad. Julia always handled all this … this emotional stuff. I never had to think about it much. She always told me how I was supposed to show her affection, how she expected to be treated. She let me know what she expected and when and why. With Julia I never had to guess because she made sure to tell me every little detail … and I went along with it like that because frankly my mom and Aunt Rachel were the same way. You’re different. Boy are you different.”

I was getting more confused by the minute, “I already told you I’m … “

“Don’t. Don’t say you’re weird. Different. Eccentric. I personally like to call it unique … don’t say weird.”

I was getting embarrassed and didn’t know where to look. I just wanted him to get to the point.

“Kiri, I like you. I more than like you but I liked you first and still do enough that I don’t want to mess the friendship part up either. And if that is all there is I can learn to live with that … but I need to know where I stand. I like knowing where I stand with people. I don’t like being confused about this. It’s driving me crazy; making me cranky and hard to get along with … and that isn’t a good thing right now. I need to know if you have a problem with me more than liking you or if you feel the same way.”


“No what? No you don’t have a problem with it or no you don’t feel the same way?”

I couldn’t even look at him. “No, I don’t mind if you more than like me.”

“What about the part about whether you feel the same?”

“I … I … I more than like you too. But … Rand I don’t know how … I … this is …“

“Hey. Whoa. I didn’t mean to scare you. Relax. I just needed to know. We don’t have to do anything about it. We’ve been doing OK so far, right?”

I was scared and nervous but I knew the answer to that question, “Yes.”

“Well, we’ll go slow. You’re … sometimes I wonder if Mrs. Winston was right. No, don’t fly off the handle. Just let me finish. You’re sixteen and I’m twenty. You might be the oldest sixteen year old I’ve ever met but that doesn’t change that you’re still sixteen. And you’ve never had a boyfriend before. We don’t want to mess that up do we?”

I didn’t know how to answer that and Rand didn’t seem to need an answer. He scooted over close to me and we just kind of sat shoulder to shoulder the way we have so many times before and after a little while I realized I wasn’t scared anymore. The whole “boyfriend” thing was big … huge … but if things aren’t going to change too much I think I can handle it. I just hope I don’t mess it up. I wonder what his family thinks of this? I can’t do this if people are going to give Rand a hard time about it.

I had to help Rand stand up because he had gotten stiff sitting down on the porch edge. We spent the rest of the afternoon bringing his stuff in and putting it in one of the spare bedrooms. We set one of the bedrooms up for him. Rand wanted to make sure that I understood he wasn’t asking for … “benefits” … or anything like that. Now that was embarrassing but Rand insisted that I needed to understand that he wasn’t out to take advantage of me or anything. To be honest I’m glad. It’s like something I never really thought about to have a boyfriend much less it be someone like Rand … I’m not ready to think about any “benefits.” Just thinking about that makes me sick to my stomach. But how long will a guy like Rand be satisfied with things being that way?

Things are changing so quickly. I’m changing so quickly in ways I don’t know if I like or not. There were people who didn’t like me before but I’ve never had anyone try and kill me on purpose. I certainly never imagined that I’d have kill someone to survive … much less all the … I still have a hard time thinking about some of the things I’ve had to do. I know it was me or them but I don’t know what to do with how that makes me feel. I’ve got to live with it; I just don’t know where to stick it in my head.

Dinner was pretty awful but Rand ate it anyway. I just heated up some canned soup because both firepits are still closed and the grill is mangled beyond all repair and quite frankly I was just too tired to get creative. Two things are at the top of my “to do” list tomorrow; go to the salvage houses and see if there is an old charcoal grill at one of those places and dig two new fire pits. I also have to rake up all the little baby fruits that have fallen in the orchard … Rand said it would be OK, that there actually wasn’t as much on the ground as he had expected, probably because the orchard is fairly protected on all four sides. In fact, I’ve got to take some time just to sit down and make a list of things that I need to do. My head is all in a swirl.

After we ate … I refuse to call that sorry excuse a real dinner … I was cleaning up the dishes when Rand stopped talking in mid-sentence. I peeped around the corner and he’d fallen asleep. It’s only once he’d fallen asleep that I really got a good look at his face. He looks pretty awful, like he’s running on the ragged edge. I’ll have to see if maybe from here on out I can feed him better. I’m not sure if food will help, but it sure can’t hurt.

After Rand fell asleep I went up to the bonus room and did my best to sew up the tears in my jammie bottoms. It looks like a weed whacker got a hold of the pants but I guess that is appropriate, that matches the legs underneath. The sun is low in the sky and I know Rand is going to want to take care of the animals before it gets dark so I’m putting this journal away for now. I hope he lets me help. Maybe if I tell him it is because I want to learn how to take care Hatchet and the mules.

Momma O was right. God does seem to let us in on things in His own good time. It sure would be nice though if He would send a script down every once in a while so I could peek a couple of pages ahead.

A couple of months ago things were so much simpler. It was the end of the world and all I needed to do was make it from Tampa to here. I wasn’t looking any more into the future than that. Now, looking to the future seems to be about all I think about. I can’t just live in the here and now. I heard a guy on the news once calling the 21st century the era of the just in time life. But that era is dead and buried. Now I wonder if we are going backward or forward and how long is it going to take us to get there?

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