Monday, February 22, 2010

Chapter Eighty-Three

Chapter 83

March 8th – It’s been a retched few days. A mole hill that turned into a mountain and yet more of our fears realized. It started out innocently enough though, wish it could have continued that way.

You know, there are days that just make me wonder. It can only be my luck that the one day I decide to wear a skirt would just happen to be one of the windiest days we’ve seen in a long time. It wasn’t constant; it was more one of those tricky winds. You’d have everything battened down and laid out and then WHOOSH! And let me tell you, I did not look like that old poster of Marilyn Monroe. I’m not sure what I looked like but I felt really silly … and irritated … and embarrassed.

I knew when we got up on Saturday that it was breezy. It wasn’t cold thank goodness but it was cool enough that I made sure everyone had a jacket and I threw three ponchos and a collapsible umbrella in the picnic basket in case it decided to rain. No biggie really. What I hadn’t bargained for is that the trees surrounding the home site protected us from the worst of it; by the time we got to the end of the road we’d had to stop twice. Finally Rand and Austin sat on their hats rather than wear them and I’d had to sit the picnic basket on top of mine to keep it from blowing away. I also laid the picnic blanket across the hay to keep it from blowing in my face.

When we got to the park it was still pretty early and not too many people were out and about. Those that were setting up tables were busy doing that and there wasn’t too many folks just wandering around. Lucky for me. Rand having to help haul me out of the wagon bed while I tried to hold onto my dignity couldn’t have been a pretty sight. I had to give up just jumping out of the wagon a while back. But was I to be spared completely? Of course not.

“Oh Rand! You didn’t hurt your back did you? You should have gotten a couple of other men to help you.”

Not recognizing the voice but feeling that my luck was pretty well holding true to form I turned to find this gorgeous blonde woman standing by Rand, holding his arm, and giving him a concerned yet conspiratorial look. Rand’s face on the other hand had turned to granite.

I sighed and said, “Let me guess, SueLinda Adcock?”

She looked a little surprised but recovered almost too quick for me to have seen it. “Why yes. Rand … mentioned me?” Boy did she do coy well.

“Of course.”

“Surely he didn’t tell you … well … I mean…everything,” and then she opened her eyes real wide.

“Actually I heard about you from other people. By the way, you do that really well.”

“Excuse me?” I’d caught her off guard. Point for me.

“Oh the … what do you call it? The butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth look while trying to look guilty for something that you didn’t do,” I told her with a condescending laugh. I perfected the rebuttal technique when I had to have too much to do with certain girls at my highschool.

“Oh, well, you can think what you want if it makes you feel better,” she said with a condescending smile of her own.

I laughed out loud at that like she was just too cute and I was having fun sparing with her and then shot back, “Now really, aren’t you a little old to be playing games like this? Face it, Rand is the one-that-got-away. Why you should care I don’t even know. From the sound of things you’ve already got so many notches in your headboard that it is mostly just a toothpick these days.”

That hit the target but wasn’t anywhere near a bulls eye; still, I had forced her to drop the smile and glare at me with a bit of a snarl. I pressed the little advantage I had and said in my best fake-helpful voice, “I’d watch that if I were you Sweety. You’ll cake your make up in those creases and your wrinkles will show up even more.”

If she could make comments about my weight I figured I was free to make comments about her age. Thing is I hadn’t realized it but we had more of an audience than I had intended and several of the people were trying real hard not to laugh; but not Missy who surprised me by being there. She bellowed out a loud laugh and said, “Score!” Then she turned to SueLinda and I realized that maybe those two had met before. “Hi Suelee. Been hearing lots of … real interesting … hmmm … stuff … from up and down the river. You are making quite a reputation for yourself. But then again you always did seem to enjoying flaunting your … advertising degree. Heard you are doing pretty well selling your … hmmm … puppies. Might not find people quite as gullible around here though. They like to … well, get more for their money if you know what I mean. We don’t need or want your ‘girls and gambling’ flotilla.”

After that Miss Adcock stalked off causing her well padded rear bumper to swish in the tight jeans she was wearing. You could hear them go scritch-scritch-scritch-scritch as she stomped away. Missy had really hit the bulls eye and then some; I hope she doesn’t have any trouble over it. I later found out – bad, bad Kiri for listening to gossip – that Missy hadn’t been exaggerating. I mean I know there are women out there like that but to me that kind of life would create more problems than it would solve, not to mention it seems just plain gross. I had enough trouble getting comfortable with Rand in the beginning; I just can’t imagine trying to deal with what amounts to a whole herd of guys. Why would you even want to? One is enough trouble and responsibility.

Poor Rand; looking back and forth between Missy and me I thought he was going to have a coronary right there. He was breathing hard like one of Uncle George’s bulls right before they charge. I looked at Missy and Missy looked at me and we were both trying so hard not to smile that we wound up laughing. Poor Rand. He popped his cap out of his back pocket tugged it down over his head, crossed his arms and said, “Dang it!” That only made it worse. Looking back if I had known what it would cause I would have kept my mouth shut but as seems to happen from time to time my mouth got way out in front of my brain.

Austin was just standing there, looking back and forth at us, trying to figure out what was going on. Rand wasn’t really angry but he was uncomfortable. I tried really hard to get myself under control; Rand finally gave up and just shook his head. “Missy, please don’t drag Kiri into one of your feuds.”

Missy got this real innocent look on her face and said, “A feud. Who? Me? I just thought I’d help things along a bit although Kiri did sound like she was doing fine on her ownsome.”

“Missy … “ Rand growled warningly.

Missy winked and then went to where Bill was standing there holding the baby. Bill was smiling and kissed the top of Missy’s head before handing the baby over and picking up a laundry basket of odds and ends. I thought no time like the present so I sang out, “Oh Bill, you dropped this one.”

He was looking around trying to figure out what he had dropped when I put the bag with the pre-orders I had made as well as the mixes on top of what he had in his arms. “Hmmm. Dropped this did I? Thanks. I’m sure Missy would have had my head if I’d somehow misplaced this stuff.” Bill just smiled and nodded at Rand who all but groaned in frustration at Missy’s teasing.

With that they went off towards their trailer to unlock it and finish setting up. I went over to Rand who was still grumping. About the second I had opened my mouth to say something a gust of breeze came and flipped my skirt up a bit. It’s not that it flipped the skirt up very high – I didn’t flash anyone – but there was just enough cool in the breeze that it tickled places that weren’t used to being uncovered very often and I squealed just a bit.

Of course that made Rand laugh and put him back in a good mood. “Serves you right. Bill might be able to live with Missy’s brand of crazy but I don’t know how he does it and still keeps his hair.” Then he took a breath and said real serious, “I wish you’d stay away from SueLinda. No, I’m not worried about you believing her … thank you for trusting me … it’s that she can be a real piece of work and right now … you know … the baby and all …”

“I won’t go out of my way to antagonize her if that is what you are worried about despite the way I just acted, but I’m not going to just turn tail every time I see her either. You’re my husband, this is our home, our community, and I’m not going to let her rule it just because she comes to town on occasion. Maybe I could have acted a little more … ummm … gracious. OK, no maybes about it, I could have acted a whole lot less catty; I just got carried away. But I refuse to be pushed into a corner by the likes of her. Period.”

Rand just snorted, “Between you and Missy it isn’t likely that she’ll have the chance to rule around here. Just don’t antagonize her. She can be vengeful.”

“I imagine she can. Girls like her are used to getting their way and don’t like it much when they don’t. Although I would have thought she had outgrown those kind of games at her age. And is Missy serious? SueLinda is a … whatchamacallit … a madam? And she has girls on boats?”

Rand just went “Mmmm” and then nodded at Gator and Junior – two of Mr. Henderson’s men – who were watching our “parking lot” for trouble makers and horse thieves. I grabbed my basket that I had some knitted socks and some seeds in for trade from the back of the wagon and followed Rand and Austin as they headed into the roped off area being used for tables.

Rand slowed down so that we were side by side while Austin walked ahead heading towards where he saw Tommy. He said quietly, “Babe, I know this is going to sound unfair but … look, I know SueLinda can be a pain and I know that it sits bad with you to ignore someone that is intentionally baiting you but I’m asking you to ignore her the best you can. She’s going to try and draw you into a fight with her now that she thinks she can. She’s just that kind of person and good at twisting and turning things to make herself look good. We don’t need any more trouble, not here at the swap meets. So please, just … you know what I’m trying to say, right?”

“Yeah, and you’re right, it isn’t fair.”

“Babe … “

“Let me finish. It isn’t fair and it isn’t what I’d do if I could get away with it. But I’m not stupid and I know we do need the contacts and stuff from these swap meets and that we don’t need any more trouble … at least not outright.”

A little cautiously Rand said, “Then you understand.”

“I understand that you aren’t saying it to hurt my feelings. I don’t agree with letting her get away with being the way she is and doing the things she is doing but like Momma always said, there is more than one way to skin a cat.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that little Miss Thang is going to find out that the weather might be warming up but if she tries to pull her stuff around here she is going to be experiencing winter weather year round. Missy and I can’t be the only females around here that don’t want that kind of crud around.”

Rand got the hint. He dropped it and steered clear of the topic after that. That settled I looked around as we walked. You could see right away that there were a lot of non-locals mixed up with the people we knew, but they were a different flavor than we’d had at the last swap meet. These folks were just like us, just wanting to do a little business in peace. There was even an area set aside for adult beverages again but it was roped off and set well away from the main circle of tables and trailers and it was a different crowd from the ones that had been doing it last time. They had tables and benches set up and they were also selling food. Looked more like an abarroteria or a bodega or even a tienda, like a small store that sells food you can eat there and a beer to wash it down with. The smells coming from their cooking area were so good and reminded me of the truck vendors you’d see around Tampa.

Rand pointed to where Clyde set up his trailer. “Brendon’s here and I see Austin has found Tommy. Do you see Uncle George anywhere?”

I told him I didn’t so we made our way over to the trailer, said hello, and found out that Uncle George was staying home to keep an eye on things. “Dad is tired. I mean really tired. It wasn’t that hard to talk him into staying home so he could whittle some wooden pegs for an extension we are putting onto the hay barn. That’ll keep him sitting in one spot for a while anyway. Alicia and Melly are home watching the kids and Ron is there to keep an eye on things too.”

Rand got a worried look on his face but it cleared up when Clyde said, “We’ve started a neighborhood patrol. It’s nothing like Henderson has … yet … but we are looking at a couple of the younger couples spreading out into the empty houses that are still standing and in good repair. We’re going to start pulling down everything else so there is less for raiders to hide in or take over. More control for us that way too, not just anyone will be able to move in. If you’ve got the time maybe you could help with those big mules of yours.”

“Pulling down the houses?”

“No. We are going to salvage everything we can, even the concrete blocks and chunks of broken concrete for walls. What we need is something or someone to grade the area after we’ve pulled the houses down. You think your team is up to it?”

“I’d have to see each location to tell you for sure but mostly likely yes so long as all of the debris has been picked out and the ground reasonably tamped down.”

“Good deal Lucille … that’s what I wanted to hear. I’ll relay the message and we’ll work out a trade for the work.”

While Rand and Clyde nattered on about some ammo and junk, I asked Brendon how Alicia was doing. For the first time I saw him perk up like life was worth living. Brendon likes being a Daddy, hates changing diapers, and hates to be puked on even worse but wouldn’t trade his wife and son for anything. I’m glad for him. I wanted to ask about Laurabeth but didn’t know how to start and Brendon kept talking around her like he wanted to avoid the subject so I let it go.

Rand is a popular guy, whether it’s for his personality or for the mules depends on who you are talking to, either way it wasn’t long before we weren’t moving at all. I don’t do the little quiet wifey thing well but didn’t want to interrupt or side track the business he was conducting so I just kept moving slowly around the tables making notes of things as I passed them (and trying to keep my skirt from doing a Marilyn Monroe). I didn’t get far before Tommy and Austin came to flank me on either side.

“Let me guess, Rand noticed I slipped my leash.”

Both boys laughed … but they didn’t leave my side until I’d made my first circuit of all the tables. Coming abreast of Rand again I pushed them back in Rand’s direction to tell him that I was fine and staying out of trouble and that I didn’t need a babysitter.

Not five minutes later as I was in the middle of talking to a lady that has turned her hobby of spinning and weaving into a lucrative trade Rand was there beside me. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I deserve a little of it but having him acting like I was going to talk out of both sides of my mouth by telling him I would be careful and behave and then acting the exact opposite was beginning to get on my nerves real fast. He expected me to just trust his word that there was nothing between him and SueLinda but he wasn’t trusting mine that I wasn’t going to cause trouble.

“Forget it. I’m just going to go sit in the wagon.”

“Why? Aren’t you feeling OK? Do I need to find Ken?”

“I’m fine.”

“Then did someone say something to upset you?”

“Rand … ,” Then I stopped. I realized that the middle of the swap meet wasn’t any place to have the conversation. “Never mind. I’m going to go sit in the wagon.”

“Hey. Wait! What’s going on?”

“If I go to the wagon and sit then you can conduct your business.”

“What has my business got to do with anything?” Rand asked as I continued to thread my way through the crowd to get back to swap meet entrance.

“If I’m walking around you can’t do your business. If I’m standing next to you the men don’t feel free to talk so you can’t do your business. Lose-lose. I’m just going back to the wagon assuming of course you think that I can sit there without getting into trouble. Gator and Junior will be there.”

“What the …?” Rand started but several men intercepted him and I just kept walking until I got to the wagon. Getting in was a bit of a trip but I made it and then got as comfortable as my snit would let me. Good thing that I had stuck a pencil and notepad in my basket or I would have been bored out of my skull on top of being angry; never a good combination for me, in fact one to be avoided at all cost. I was working steadily, making plans for what was due to be ready to harvest in the next couple of weeks, when Lucretia Gilkins came to the side of the wagon and got in my face.

For some reason at that very moment I had a memory come back as clear as if I was experiencing it there. I remember my great grandmother warning us kids to be careful what I prayed for or we just might get it. She said, “Virtues are like muscles; to develop them you have to exercise them and train them. When you pray for a particular virtue, don’t be surprised when God sends you into situations where you have to use that virtue you want so bad.”

I had prayed for patience, which I’m sadly lacking. I know I need it for Austin and the baby. My mom seemed to have an endless supply of the stuff and I want to be like that for my kid. And what does God do? He puts me where I have to learn to use patience more than I want to. I guess kind of like practice makes perfect.

“So, he finally wised up to what an embarrassment you are and sent you to the wagon to get you out from under foot,” she said with a nasty sneer.

Boy did I want to unload on her but instead I just ignored her, tuned her out and concentrated on my work. Eventually she left. I don’t know how long it was after that, probably about thirty minutes, Rand comes stomping out to the wagon. “Where in the Sam Hill do you get off telling Lucretia that I sent you to the wagon?! I … “

“Excuse me? I didn’t say a word to that woman and two where do you get off assuming I’d do anything like that in the first place?”

I gave him ice face. I don’t know if I’d ever done that to him before but I know it hadn’t been often if I had ‘cause he pulled back real fast. “Oh. Then why would she be saying … “

“Why would I know why that woman does anything? I’m sitting her minding my own business. She came over and tried to start trouble and I ignored her exactly how I promised you I would. End of story. What she did or said after she left here is beyond my control.”

“You didn’t say anything to her?”

“Isn’t that what I just said? Just go on back in and do your business. I’m fine where I’m at. If you don’t believe that I’ve been behaving go ask Gator and Junior, they’ve been eyeballing me the entire time I’ve been out here.”

“And what is that supposed to mean? That if I don’t believe you?”

“Just what I said.”

“No, it means something else, I can tell.”

“Rand, I’m not fighting about this. I’m not causing a scene. You said you wanted me to behave and I agreed to behave and that is all there is to it.”

“Then why are you out here?”

“Because regardless of what is coming out of your mouth your actions are saying the exact opposite. Just like with Lucretia, you automatically assumed that I was the one at fault for whatever ruckus she is creating. I promised that I wouldn’t cause a scene but you still thought you better dog my heels, first with the boys and then you did it yourself. You said that we need the contacts here at the swap meets, the work that you can generate, and I agree with you. But you can’t do it if you feel you have to dog me all the time so I decided it was just better to go to the wagon. You’ve made your opinion perfectly clear and this is my response. The end … and I’m not discussing it anymore.”

“Kiri … “

“I mean it Rand, I’m not talking about it. I’m done.”

Now he was mad but at the time I didn’t care. “Fine. Be that way. Act like a spoiled brat. Thanks for making my day so much less stressful.”

He left and I stayed exactly where I had been and things finally quieted back down so that I could go back to planning though I felt even less like doing it than before.

“Well at least you aren’t a cry baby. Julia always turned into a sprinkler system to get her way.”

I jumped as I hadn’t heard Missy come up. “Don’t start Missy.”

“Wasn’t going to, sometimes a girl has got to stand her ground. But if you were asking my advice, not that you are, I would let Rand apologize as soon as he figures out what a donkey’s backside he is being.”

“He doesn’t need to apologize. He’s entitled to his opinion just as much as I’m entitled to mine.”

“Wrong. Not about the opinion part but about him not needing to apologize. If you let him start thinking that he doesn’t need to apologize for stuff then pretty soon he won’t think he needs to apologize for stuff.”

More than a little irritated I asked her, “Missy, why do you think this is any of your business?”

She laughed, “You know, one of the reasons I’ve liked you from the start is because there isn’t much back up in you. You look like this sweet and innocent little thing but then you open your mouth. Look, Rand will figure it out. And if he doesn’t you can explain it to him. Don’t let this fester, it’s not worth it and Rand needs to know that he hurt your feelings.”

“And why would you think he hurt my feelings? Did I say he did? Did I say anything to anyone?”

“Let’s put it this way … been there, done that. Not with Bill but with someone else. I tried to be all that guy wanted me to be instead of being what I wanted to be. Compromise is good … giving in all the time isn’t.”

“Missy … “

“Look, I get it. And Rand isn’t stupid he’ll get it too … eventually.”

“Fine. Whatever. Did the pre-orders fit? Did they all get picked up?”

“OK, we’ll change the subject, just remember what I said. Yeah, everything fit and I have another dozen orders. Those soup mixes you make are a hit as well. Everyone keeps asking where the stuff is coming from. Sure you don’t want me to say anything?”

“No, absolutely not. More notoriety I don’t need.”

Just then Bill came up. “Hey beautiful, sorry I kept you waiting. You ready to go let Concha and Marta take a break?”

“Yup … see you later Kiri. And remember what I said.”

The morning passed with me determinedly working on my notes and trying to forget about everything else and then with the sound like a herd of elephants a bunch of boys led by Austin and Tommy ran up to the wagon. Luckily the mules are used to ruckus and the boys were smart enough to avoid getting too close to them.

“Kiri, can I take my lunch and go eat under that tree with Tommy? Please? Leo Jones found a snake and his dad said he could take it home.”

“A snake?!”

“Easy Babe, it’s just an old grass snake. Leo’s dad was with animal control and checked it out first.” Rand wasn’t far behind the boys. In fact a lot of people had started coming out to their wagons to have their own picnics.

Why Austin felt like he had to ask my permission with Rand standing right there is beyond me but they were all waiting for my answer so I said, “As long as Rand doesn’t need you and you promise to eat all of your food then it’s fine with me.”

I gave Austin his BLT wrap that I’d made with some canned bacon, lettuce from the garden, and canned diced tomatoes that I drained. I also put a couple of churros in a napkin for him for dessert. Then I filled his water bottle with the apple juice that was still cold enough to make your teeth hurt since I had put it straight into a big insulated canteen after letting it sit in the cooler for two days. Then all the boys trooped off and I watched them go to the tree and promptly start splitting everything into pieces to share it around.

“He’ll be fine. Leo’s dad was a scout master and eating his lunch just on the other side there. See him?”

“Yeah. Do you want your lunch?”

“Actually … Kiri … I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions like that.”

“Did Missy say something to you?” I asked indignantly.

“No. About what?”

“Nothing, never mind. She was over here a little while ago sticking her nose in.”

“Sounds like something she would do. So, will you tell me why I’m catching heck?”

“You aren’t catching anything. I haven’t been around to give you any. I haven’t said anything about …”

“Yeah, I know. Look … just pretend I’m a complete idiot and explain it to me in words of one or two syllables and slow down if you start losing me.”

“That’s not funny. And I’ve already told you that … “

“I know what you said I don’t know why you feel you had to say it.”

I was getting angry again and I didn’t want to be, my stomach was only just getting out of all the knots it had been in. But unless I wanted to act like the spoiled brat that Rand had called me I didn’t see anything else to do.

“Rand, short answer. You asked me to not get into trouble and I promised I wouldn’t. I promised. Then you turn around and act like I’m not to be trusted to keep my word. I cut through all the crap and decided it was just simpler to go to the wagon. I can’t make the concept any simpler than that for you.”

Rand just looked at me. I know he was dying to say something. I could see him all but chewing on the words to keep them in his mouth. He opened his mouth but never got a chance to because a military patrol rode up hard and they had several wounded men with them. “Is Pastor Ken around?! We need a medic or a doctor or something!!”

The boys, who had heard the call for a medic, scattered to hunt up Ken while the men ran over to help the injured. I slithered out of the wagon without much dignity but I did make it to the ground in one piece, bringing the sheet I had covered the hay with. The blood was coming from some place and I figured Ken would need something to tie it up until the military medics arrived.

Ken arrived about the same time I managed to. I went to give him the sheet and Rand grabbed my arm and snatched me backwards. Before I could bark at Rand Ken said, “Thanks Kiri, come around here, your hands are smaller and I need someone to hold this bandage while I tie it.”

I heard the men reporting by radio that they’d been ambushed. They’d killed several of their attackers but some had still escaped.

After it was over with Ken said, “I didn’t know you had first aid training. If I would have know that … “

“You would have what?” I asked with a small smile. “Signed me up to be your nurse? You know good and well you wouldn’t have. Besides, the only instruction I’ve gotten would be called on-the-job training. They always stuck me with the terminal patients at the warehouse and I helped Aunt Wilma patch up the boys when they’d get into fights and stuff. No one seemed to complain too much.”

“Ha! Don’t listen to her Ken.” Ram had been talking with the soldiers. “We didn’t dare say anything. We were too afraid of her. It gives me nightmares just to remember her coming at me with that first aid kit of her aunt’s.”

“Shut up Ram.” Great, all I needed on top of everything else was Ram’s mouth.

“Of course Chica. Anything you say chica.” The act he was putting on got a few laughs from the other men.

Ignoring Ram is easier said than done but I managed it that time. I tried to stand up by myself but found Rand right behind me giving me a boost. I walked away and was trying to get back in the wagon when Rand was right there, “Come back to the swap meet.”

“No. You have business and … “

“Ok. I get it. I shouldn’t have shadowed you like that. Come back into the swap meet.”

“Rand, this goes beyond the swap meet. You just flat out don’t trust me to be reasonable in public. You don’t. I can see it in your face even now. You’re thinking, give into her to stop the fight then just keep an eye on her some other way. So no, I’d rather just stay here.”

“You’re really going to be a hard head about this aren’t you.”

“If that’s what you want to call it then yes. You acted like my promise wasn’t worth the breath it took to make it and treated me like I have no honor.”

“Now you’re exaggerating. I … I … “

I wasn’t bending on this one. He either trusted me or he didn’t and from where I was standing he didn’t. Rather than have that hurt eating at me while he showed me again and again exactly what he was thinking I was going to stay in the wagon.

“Come into the swap meet now. It’s embarrassing me to have people wondering why you are sitting out here. I’m tired of telling people that Lucretia is crazy and that I’m not making you sit out here.”

“Yeah well how do you think it makes me feel to have people seeing you hovering on top of me like my mouth needs to be locked up with a chastity belt? Besides, what do you care what Lucretia or anyone else thinks or says if you are so sure you are right?”

I had put my foot on the wagon tongue to climb up when Rand put an arm around my middle and the other on the side of the wagon. “Don’t do this Kiri, don’t make this into more than I meant it to be.”

“What you meant? I understood exactly what you meant and I’m making it out to be exactly that.”

“What do you want from me? You do get in trouble and you know it.”

“I never get into trouble on purpose. Are you going to hold it against me because … forget it, that’s exactly what you are doing. Perhaps it would have been more comfortable for you if I would have just been some helpless princess type. Fine, you want that, you’ll get it. Anything to just have this over with.” I climbed back off the wagon and stood there.

“Fine. Two can play this game. We’re going back to the swap meet and you are going to stay and help Missy and Bill and you’ll stay there until I pick you up.”

We walked back to the meet and over to the Shack trailer. Rand said for all to hear, “Stay here and don’t leave. I’ll come pick you up when I’m ready to go.”

Missy sighed and said, “There goes my cousin, Idiot Extraordinaire. Bill go say something to him.”

“No. Leave it alone Missy,” I told her. “It isn’t anything.”

“You sure? Because your face and what is coming out of your mouth aren’t in sync.”

I put on my best waitress face and said, “Everything’s just fine. What do you need me to help with?”

I wound up folding incoming items and bagging outgoing items, pretty mindless stuff which was fine by me. I finally registered that Missy kept bringing me stuff instead of me coming to get it from her and really looked up for the first time. I wish I hadn’t. Rand was standing around with what were obviously friends from his past, laughing and carrying on … and SueLinda was there too, all but hanging on him. I just went back to what I was doing.

Missy said, “Kiri … I …”

“Forget it Missy. It is his choice and he’s made it abundantly clear. Is that next pile of stuff ready?”

“You’re just going to let this go?”

“Rand doesn’t trust me not to make a scene. He’s trying to push me into making one so he can prove his point that I’m not capable of controlling myself. I’m not going to give him a scene.”

“That’s my girl. Prove you’re right,” Missy said relieved.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with me being right. In the past I cared enough to make a scene when forced into the situation. I refuse to care about it anymore. I refuse to be forced one way or the other.”

“Kiri! Don’t say that,” Missy begged.

“Missy, Rand cares more about being right than he cares about trusting me. He cares so much more that he is willing to risk everything by taking up with that SueLinda woman just to try and get me to have a snit out here in public after he warned me away from her just this morning. Fine. That’s his choice. And this is mine.”

I kept working until Rand came over and just stood there. SueLinda came over with him and looked at me with a grin, “Oh Kiri, I didn’t see you standing there. You missed some fun.”

“I saw. I had work to do,” I answered her calmly and politely.

“You saw? Really? Oh dear. Rand maybe we shouldn’t have …”

Rand started looking uncomfortable. “Knock it off SueLinda.”

“But Rand, I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea,” she laughed.

I looked at her and said, “No one got the wrong idea SueLinda. They know Rand and by now they know you. There will be a few to think the worst but there always are. Either way, Rand can do what he wants. I’m not his boss.”

“That’s right … you’re just his what? Oh yeah, just his wife.”

“SueLinda that … is … enough.” Rand snapped.

“But darling … “

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” she laughed. “See you soon. Don’t forget … you promised.”

Missy said in a dull voice, “Rand, I’ve said it before but I’ve never meant it as much as I do right now; you’re an idiot. Kiri, you want to come home with us? It looks like things are pretty much over anyway.”

“No. I need to get home and piece out this next set of pre-orders. And I’ve got the garden that needs tending to. I’ve also got that shirt that I need to finish for Austin.”

Missy hugged me and whispered in my ear, “I mean it, you need a break from him you come to us first, you hear?”

I just shrugged and followed Rand out to the wagon; we collected Austin along the way and he chattered enough to fill the silence between us. I got into the back of the wagon before there was a question of who was sitting where and we left. The trip home seemed to last forever.

After we made it home we went on about our business the same as always. Or maybe not the same as always, the chores got finished, we went through the motions, I cooked dinner, and we cleaned up from the day. Rand and I were very careful to say nothing but that said everything. I guess we play acted well enough since Austin didn’t seem to notice and went off to bed a little earlier than usual from the excitement from the day. Now came the time I was dreading.

Rand and I just sat and said more nothing but the day caught up with me too and I must have fallen asleep in the chair. I didn’t wake up until Rand came over and said quietly, “Kiri. Kiri. Come on. Let’s go to bed. It’s been … it’s been a long day.”

I stood up only to fall down and hit my knees when it felt like someone shoved a white hot poker into my side. I shook off Rand’s arm when he went to grab me and leaned over and breathed through the pain.

“Kiri? Are you … do you need me to go get Ken?” Rand asked anxiously.

“I’m fine. Same old thing. I just moved the wrong way. It’ll go away. I shouldn’t have fallen asleep in the chair.” Then I walked to the bathroom and shut the door and got ready for bed, came out, climbed in bed and tried to go back to sleep. Amazingly enough I did. I don’t even remember Rand coming to bed.

Next day was the same. All we did was go through the motions. We got up, tended the animals, ate breakfast and I cleaned up; there was no church service so the day was supposed to be fairly quiet. I decided to continue working on my notes out in the orchard where it was quiet and I could try and get outside of the pain I was in; pain not from the scar tissue, though that was there and dull, but from everything else.

Lunch was a large salad of things that needed to be eaten out of the garden and I crumbled up some of the canned bacon. Austin plowed through his and then asked to be excused to go play with Woofer. As soon as he left I gave up pretending to eat and took my plate over to the sideboard and raked it into the slop pail then left to go back to the orchard. I was several yards from the house when I heard something smashed. I kept walking and thinking, “If he expects me to clean up after his temper tantrum he has another think coming.”

Not long after that I heard Rand tell Austin to stay near the house because he was going hunting. Two hours later I still hadn’t heard a single shot. I just thought hunting hadn’t been very good or that “hunting” had just been a story he told to Austin because he needed to get away or go visiting or something (or someone). I went inside and started dinner. It was just a potluck stew but it took all my concentration to mix it and cook it without burning it; all my brains seemed to be leaking out of my ears.

I was putting dinner on the table when Rand came in. Maybe if I had looked at him I would have had some warning of what was to come but I was putting food on Austin’s plate and didn’t look up. After dinner was over with we settled down for the evening. The days are finally getting longer which means more can be done in the evening without the lamps. I had been looking forward to it but at that point all I wanted was for the day to end so that I could slip into oblivion. I didn’t want to think anymore. I didn’t want to feel anymore. I just wanted to stop and get off the merry go round before I puked.

The daylight might have been getting longer but that didn’t mean that we had any more energy. Austin was nodding off and he and Woofer went off to bed without a squeak. I was done. As soon as Austin headed off to bed I went to change and go to bed myself. When I came out of the bedroom Rand was standing right there.

“Come up to the dormer room with me,” he said in a quiet voice.

I really didn’t feel like it but I felt even less like dealing with the ruckus of a scene so I followed him upstairs. It was the beginning of March but it still got cool at night and there wasn’t any heat up there. I shivered in my nightgown and bare feet.

“Here, sit beside me.” That I didn’t want to do either but Rand seemed determined to say something and I was pretty cold by that point.

“Look, this has gotten way out of hand. You aren’t talking to me. You aren’t … “

“Rand, just spit it out. Stop telling me what my faults are, I’m well aware of what they are. Just jump ahead to the part where you tell me what you want.”

Rand put his head in his hands and said, “That’s not what I mean. Look, I went out to hunt but you know what I did? Do you?”

I just looked at him.

He sighed. “I fielded questions from over a dozen people. How were you feeling? Had you accepted my apology? Was I sleeping on the sofa or in the dog house? Had you kicked me out all together?”

“Rand, I’m too tired for jokes. Just spit out what you … “

“You think I’m joking?! I got reamed out by just about every biddy in the Ladies’ Auxiliary. Mrs. Withrow had Uncle George drive her out special. Momma O was out driving with some of her women friends. Henderson said things must be OK because he hadn’t heard any explosions out our way and then the worst one was your blasted brother who threatened to beat the crap out of me if I didn’t fix this. No … no actually the worst was when Missy finally explained to me just how bad I had messed up.”

“Just ignore them.”

“Ignore them? Are you kidding?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Yeah. Like you could ignore all of that.”

“Rand, here’s a clue, I spent years ignoring people’s opinion of me. Years ignoring people telling me what was wrong with me. When that’s all you hear, hearing it once is enough and you just ignore the repetition. Look, I’m tired. I’m going to bed.”

“What? Wait!”

“For what Rand? You told me about what people are saying. I can’t stop them from talking; I can’t do anything at all about it. Trying to do something about it will only cause them to talk more. People always talk. Sometimes it seems like that is all people do … talk, talk, talk. Well, let ‘em. And then you ignore them. What else is there?”

I was struggling to get up off of the low mattress, my fat belly throwing my center of gravity way off. It didn’t take much of a tug for Rand to keep me down.

“Kiri, I’m sorry. I over reacted. I should have given you a chance.”

“To do what? Prove myself to you again? How many times do I have to do that Rand? I don’t have a problem with that exactly but what’s the goal here? I just want to know so I can get on with it. How many tests are there? How many times do I have to pass? How many more tests get added to the list if I fail once? Is the goal to get to a point where I’m not me anymore? I’d appreciate the chance to still be able to stand the person in the mirror; I spent too many years despising her to want to go back to that. So whoever it is you want me to be I still need to be able to tolerate her.”

When he took too long to answer I started to get up and this time I managed it with at least some grace; and he didn’t stop me. I’m not too sure I would have let him stop me at that point. I was tired. I was done. And I was hurting. I got down the stairs and went and crawled in bed. I just shut my eyes and I was out which surprised me.

But I didn’t get to sleep long. Rand jerked away hard enough to wake me up from my own sound sleep. “Dang it Woofer, what the … ? Austin? What’s wrong Buddy?”

“Rand I heard something outside.”

“You sure it wasn’t just the wind?”

“I waited for it to be just the wind. I wanted it to be just the wind. But I don’t think it is. It … it doesn’t sound like people but I don’t know what it is.”

Rand and I were both up and grabbing for our rifles then Rand slung his rifle and picked up his shotgun as well. Woofer was whining and that wasn’t like him. Rand went up to the dormer and then came running down fast and coughing.

“There’s a fire off to the NW. Still on the other side of US90 I think. I don’t know how big it is but it’s a smoky one. Austin, put Woofer on a leash and keep him inside. We can’t let him run off in the dark. Kiri …”

“Just like we talked about. BOBs for each of us, and prepare to load the wagon with what is on the list we made.”

He walked up to me and pulled me in for a hug. “We never got to finish fixing things, no matter what happens I just want you to know I … “

“Don’t Rand. Let’s just get through this.”

“This” took the rest of the night to get through. The noise that woke Austin and Woofer was animals … all of them escaping the big fire, panicked, occasionally running into things in the dark. Lucky for us the fire didn’t come near as close as we had thought, it was just that it smoked so heavily. I wound up breaking into some of the stuff that I had salvaged back at Itchetucknee to get to some paper face masks; the ones that you could wear to keep dust out of your lungs while mowing or cleaning or stuff like that. Even with wearing those masks most of the night I still taste smoke on the back of my throat.

Rand road Hatchet up to the end of the road at first light. He was up there only a moment before Hoss, Bradley, and Mitch came out of the thick smog along with four military guys. He brought them back to our place so that they could fill their canteens and wash their faces, all black except where bandanas had covered their nose and mouths. I kept busy refilling the pitcher used to fill their canteens and making corncakes they smeared with butter or sorghum. Even the military guys ate and acted very appreciative. I hope they don’t get in trouble for accepting something from a civilian. I just figured they worked to help save our community it sure as heck doesn’t bother me to feed them.

They left out after saying that it looked like a still set up in a section of planted pines exploded and caused the fire. A survivor of the explosion was found stumbling out of the smoke. The explosion itself was heard by several night patrols – one of them from the Henderson ranch, two from the military, and various neighborhood patrols – and they all converged and cooperated to do what they could. Trees were felled and dragged away and lots of shovels dug a temporary fire break. On one side a back fire was lit to keep the fire from spreading into a populated area.

We were lucky. There were only two deaths and both of them were directly attributable to the original still explosion. Lots of small injuries and some smoke inhalation but nothing major. One horse was lost when it panicked and ran into the fire instead of away from it. There was some property damage but nothing where anyone was currently living. A one lane bridge over a creek on a logging road has burnt down but it wasn’t being used too much and had a wash out on one corner that could have taken it down at any moment anyway. So, while it could have been better there is no doubt that it could have been much worse.

At lunch we were all just exhausted. Austin fell asleep on the rug in the living room with Woofer beside him to keep him warm. I put a cover over him and then went to the kitchen in search of some caffeine. I knew I wasn’t supposed to have it but I was desperate; I was practically walking into walls I was so tired. I found Rand with his head on his arm on the kitchen table. I found a quilt and draped it over his shoulders; he never even moved just started snoring. I washed my face and then went out to the porch and sat in the rocker and tried to stay awake, not all of us could sleep during the day at the same time with the animals out and raiders in the area. I set my rifle next to me and then took my notes and continued to work for about two hours. When I started to nod off I would get up and walk around the house or check on the livestock then I’d come sit back down for a while longer.

I was just coming back from refilling the water trough in the corral when I saw Rand walking towards me fast. “Have you slept?”

“”What? No, of course not. I know we need to have someone … “

He sighed, “I didn’t mean it like that Kiri. I meant you need to rest even more than I do. You shouldn’t have let me sleep.”

“It’s too close to chore time and for me to get dinner started.”

He looked like he wanted to object but instead he said, “OK, then come sit with me on the porch.”

“Rand … “

“What’s it gonna hurt to sit down? Unless it is sitting down with me?”

Now it was my turn to sigh but rather than answer I just went up to the porch with him following close behind. I tried to sit in the rocker but he swung me around and I landed in the two-seater porch swing with him sitting right beside me.

“Kiri, just how badly have I messed things up? Give me some hope that this can be fixed.”

“Rand don’t start, OK? I’m just not able to do … whatever it is you want from me with a straight head.”

“I’m sorry Kiri. I know you aren’t in any shape for this but … I just can’t keep on this way. That stuff … the stuff with SueLinda at the swap meet … I never meant it to go as far as it did. I was just hacked and angry that you wouldn’t see things my way. I wanted to make a point only you didn’t … you wouldn’t … God what a mess this has turned into.”

Suddenly I couldn’t seem to find my righteous indignation, all I knew is that I was tired of what was happening too. “Just forget about it Rand. I was showing my backside too. I just … just … I don’t know Rand. Just let it go.”

“I wish I could Kiri, I really do but something is really messed up. Look at you. I’ve never seen you like this. You’ve always reared right back at anyone, including me, that crossed the line. It’s like you are just going through the motions. Like … like you don’t care anymore.”

“What do you want from me Rand?! I said you could forget about it. I said I was at fault too. Why talk it to death? You want it to go away, that’s the only way I can figure to let it just go away.”

“I don’t want to just sweep it under the rug. I want to fix it.”

“Argh!!! Great big gobs of gopher guts! Rumplestilskin! Aunt Fanny’s fanny! Jumped up Jehosephat!!” I was grinding my teeth and all but yelling.

Rand nearly choked and said, “What are you doing?!”

“I’m trying not to swear OK. That stupid booklet says that the baby can hear things even before it is born. I don’t want the first thing my kid hears is its mother cussing a blue streak no matter if that is what I feel like doing right now.”

Rand raked his fingers through his hair and then he sighed. “I’m going to be bald as a cue ball before I’m thirty. I’m sitting here trying to fix things and you’re … you’re … Argh!”

“Fix what? There is no fixing the fact that I’m never going to be able to be who you want me to be. Get it through your head already. I’ll try but I’ll never be Julia or your mother or whoever it is you are trying to mold me into. You’ll either have to accept what I can do and let that be enough or tell me up front that it isn’t going to be good enough and let’s just get all of this over with. You know it isn’t exactly easy changing myself to be … “

“I don’t want you to change. I never asked you to change. I want you to be you.”

“Bull. Total bull. If you didn’t have a problem with me being me then you would have accepted that I was going to try and stay out of trouble at the swap meet. You would have trusted that I would follow through on my promise. But you don’t and you didn’t. It hurt but I accepted it and I’m not letting it hurt me anymore. You want … I don’t know what to call what you want but I’ll try and be that. I’m tired of fighting too you know. But I keep my promises and no few of them I made when we got married. I promised to honor and obey and stick it out through good times and bad. I’ll do what it takes to keep my promises even if you … if no one … believes I’m capable of it. Because my promises mean something to me, that’s why I don’t make many of them and those I do make I don’t make lightly. I may only be seventeen and an orphan with no family but I was raised right, I was raised that your honor and your word mean more than anything else you might own and that keeping your word is what determines what kind of person you are.”

“I never said … “

“Don’t even Rand … just don’t even. Actions speak louder than words. Your actions have been screaming at me for a long while now, I just didn’t want to hear what they were saying.”

Rand was getting angry again too but we both turned when Austin came around the house and asked, “Is everything OK?”

I felt bad. I told the little guy that Rand and I were going to make things better for him; that he could feel safe here. He’s been through so much and I don’t want him to worry. “Yeah. Don’t worry about it. I’m just tired and cranky. I need to get up and go fix dinner so why don’t you help Rand get the animals taken care of. OK?”

“Sure Kiri! I’m not tired at all!” I was glad someone’s world was still upright.

Dinner and evening chores went off without a hitch and I was finally able to find my quiet space inside myself. I wrapped myself up in it and could at least pretend like I was calm, cool, and collected. It also made it easier not to feel much of what I had been feeling out on the porch.

Despite Austin having said he wasn’t tired he nearly fell asleep in the warm milk that I made for him. I checked after he went to go get ready for bed to find he’d fallen across the mattress still dressed in everything but his boots and belt. Woofer was curled up beside him.

I walked into the living room and said, “Austin is already out. Didn’t even make it into his PJs.”

“Let him sleep.”

“OK, I’m going to …”

“The dormer room with me. We aren’t finished talking.”

I was outraged … or as outraged as my fatigue would let me get. “You’ve got to be kidding me! Rand I’m tired. I’m not in a real good place to talk anymore. I need to go to bed.”

“We both do but not until we work this out.”

“I already told you … “

“I know what you already told me and I didn’t like it.”

“Well that’s just too bad. I’m tired and I’m … going … to … bed.”

Well, that didn’t work. He hefted me up and said, “Don’t fight me. I don’t want to drop you or fall down the stairs.”

“Are you crazy?! Put me down before you hurt your back. I’m the size of an elephant!”

“No you’re not. And don’t think you are going to be able to get away from me either. I’ll flaming tie you down if I have to and hang the consequences. We are talking this out and I mean now!”

I was so tired I nearly cried in frustration but I wasn’t going to let him see that. When he finally put me down I sat in the chair. Or I should I say tried to sit in the chair. My backside had no sooner hit the seat cushion that he picked me up and sat me on the bed and then sat down beside me, put his leg over mine and grabbed my hand. “Don’t run away Kiri.”

“I’m not running away Rand. Have I left the house? Have I gone anywhere? I’m right here despite the fact that I want to be down in the bedroom sleeping.”

“Actually yeah. Yeah you have run away. Your body might be here in body but you aren’t, not really.”

“God Rand … don’t go all philosophical on me. Just spit it out so I can agree to whatever it is you want and then go to bed.”

“See? That’s what I mean. You automatically say that you’ll agree to what I say, no questions asked, just to pacify me. You don’t even want to discuss this.”

“Frankly Rand I don’t. I’m trying to keep the peace. I promised no more scenes, no more arguments. I won’t be an embarrassment. I’m tired of worrying about it. I’m tired of having it thrown in my face that …”

“Kiri stop. Stop. Please just stop.”

“Will you make up your mind?! First you pester the heck out of me to talk and now when I’m talking and telling you that I’m capitulating you want me to shut up. What is it you want?!”

“I want you back!”

“No you don’t. You don’t trust who I was. I was an embarrassment every time we went out in public.”

“I never said that!”

“You didn’t have to. Constantly dogging me. Constantly checking up on me. Making sure I hadn’t started any fights. Making sure I wasn’t acting like a fool. And no … you never said it like that but that’s what it amounts to. I didn’t want to see it though it’s something I’ve been afraid of from the very beginning. It just finally came out at the swap meet. You don’t trust me to act like I ought to. Now it is time for me to deal with it. I don’t like being an embarrassment and a problem for you so I’m going to change. Like I told you, I doubt I’ll ever measure up to … up to …“ I was seeing spots … why was I seeing spots? Then I felt something wet on my upper lip and when I wiped at it I came away with a smear of red. I kept looking at it trying to put two and two together only I’d forgotten how to do basic math.

The next thing I remember hearing is, “If her blood pressure is back to normal then why is she still unconscious and so pale? And I still don’t understand what the bloody nose was about.”

“Pregnant women’s blood volume increases right along with their pregnancy. Hormones increase as well causing changes within the body. Bloody noses are common for many pregnant women. And with the fluctuation in blood pressure a bloody nose is to be expected. However, that is something that needs to be watched to make sure it isn’t a precursor to something more serious. As for the rest of it, you said she kept complaining of being tired and wasn’t acting like herself. I know you two had a disagreement and that could be responsible for … “

“Are you saying that I caused this?”

“No. I am saying however that stress and fatigue are a bad combination, especially for Kiri. She has a … unique way of dealing with her stress. We both know she is action oriented, she also tends to internalize a lot rather than letting people see what she is really thinking. If she is trying to change how she responds to certain stimuli then perhaps it is causing her more stress rather than less. Frankly Rand there aren’t too many women I know that would not have been able to act as unaffected by the displays going on Saturday as she did. And we both know she had to have been dying to … to … God only knows what. Everyone kept expecting a major blow up and thought you were crazy … or cruel … to be egging her on like that. What were you thinking? Especially in her condition.”

“Yeah, I know I messed up. But it was more than that she’s just … shut me out. She hasn’t acted like herself at all. She won’t …”

“Rand, let me tell you something that few people know. You remember my wife?”

“Yeah.”

“You remember how calm and patient she always was?”

“Yeah, she was real soft spoken and …”

“It was all a lie.”

“Huh? I mean what?”

“Tessa was …” and he laughed sadly. “She chose to act like that because that is what she thought I needed for my ministry. She didn’t want to embarrass me. But the truth? When our doors were closed and she could be sure that no one was listening she used to say what she really felt about some people and I mean tell it in graphic detail and technicolor. She had very little tolerance for some of the things that I saw yet she didn’t express that outside of our house because she didn’t want to cause problems. She tried to be supportive of my calling but she had a hard time fitting into the stereotypical role of minister’s wife. And when Kenny got old enough to start repeating things he heard at home she stopped letting herself go except late at night when our bedroom door closed. And after a while not even then.”

“I … I don’t know what to say.”

“There isn’t anything that can be said. I let Tessa make that choice even though I knew it was a bad one because it was easier on me, it was more comfortable. But the truth was that it was taking a toll on Tessa, on me, and on our marriage. It got to be that Tessa didn’t feel like she could be herself about anything and we eventually stopped talking to each other about anything meaningful. Our marriage was floundering and I was at a loss as to what to do about it … I mean I knew, but I was too afraid of what people would say if she really let loose. I felt it was all or nothing and Tessa picked up on that. And because she did still love me, despite our problems, she tried to be what she thought I needed no matter how badly it hurt her. Then the flu came and … and I’ll never get the chance to fix things. I’ll have to go to my grave knowing that I missed out on … on something that could have been better, deeper, more meaningful.”

“I’m not asking Kiri to change!”

“If what you are saying is what is happening then she’s gotten the idea from some place. Maybe no one said it outright but … “

I’d had enough, even if I did feel like crud and wanted to go back to sleep. “I swear you people are too nosy to be believed. I didn’t ask for your help. I didn’t ask for anyone to take up a cause on my behalf. Just … “

Ken came over and started checking my pulse. I wanted to rip my arm out of his grip but I didn’t seem to have the energy. “Hmmm. Better but I want you to stay in bed the rest of the day, sleeping preferably. And no more pushing your body to the limits. You’re growing a baby and your body needs everything it can get for a while longer yet. No skimping on meals either. Eat smaller meals more often if you are having trouble eating a full meal three times a day. Eat the high iron foods we’ve discussed before but keep your diet balanced as well; not too much sugar, watch the fats and to process all the protein you are eating I want you to drink as much water as you can stand and then a little more on top of that.”

“Oh, go away,” I can remember groaning. “Just once it would be nice if you came by and didn’t leave me with a list of do’s and don’ts a yard long.”

“Sorry,” he said in a voice that said even louder that he really wasn’t as he and Rand left the room.

I rolled on my side and then blinked them all the way open when I saw two sets of eyes peering over the mattress edge. Austin and Woofer both looked worried. “I’m fine. If you want I’ll fix pancakes for breakfast in just a minute.”

“It’s way passed breakfast. It’s almost dinner.”

“What?! “ I said as I tried to sit up. That’s when Rand walked back in.

“Ken’s gone and … Whoa! No getting up until tomorrow. Remember?”

Austin said anxiously, “We didn’t wake her up Rand, honest! She just opened her eyes and … “

“I know Buddy. Look, there’s some dinner on the table. Why don’t you take Woofer and grab something to eat. We’ll pop some popcorn in a little while.”

The boy and dog both scrambled to the kitchen leaving Rand and I looking at each other. I sighed and rolled over, still tired.

Rand sat on the bed. “I never wanted you to change Kiri. I just … I just want to keep you - you and the baby - safe. That’s my job.”

“I don’t want to be anyone’s job Rand.”

“I know, I’m not saying this right. Look, maybe I didn’t handle it very well but you took it the wrong way too. I don’t want you to change. I want you to be careful. I didn’t mean to make you feel like I didn’t trust you. I do trust you, it’s everybody else I don’t trust.”

I sighed and said, “Fine.”

“No, it’s not fine. Things really got messed up this time. Too many bad things are happening too often and too fast. They are starting to bleed into how we … I don’t know … work together, work things out, whatever you want to call it.”

“Just let it go Rand. We’re both just tired. And now look at this. I’m stuck in this stupid bed with so much to do. I messed up again.”

“No. Don’t think that. Ken says it is stress related on top of exhaustion. He’s seen some other women doing this too. And he says that you’re young so that only complicates things.”

“What does that have to do with anything for Pete’s sake? There were plenty of pregnant girls in highschool and none of them got laid up on bed rest like this.”

“Really? Highschools down in Tampa must have been … never mind … Ken says that technically you’re still … you’re still growing. Your body is still a kid somewhat and … “

“Bull snot … I’ve been this same height since I was twelve. And I’m about as blossomed out as I’m going to get.”

“Hey, if you think it makes me feel too good for Ken to tell me you’re still basically a growing kid it doesn’t. But I get what he means. Bottom line is you need … I need to help you get … more rest. You can’t keep going the way you’ve been going. You have to stay in the best shape you can from here on out because you are going to need it as the baby gets bigger and you get closer to … to … going into labor and stuff. Most of all though you need me to … “

“Rand, it’s fine just let me … “

“No. It’s not fine. I didn’t mean to make you feel like I didn’t trust you. I have to get you to understand that.”

“You said that all ready. Just let it …”

“I’m not going to just let it go. I need to know Kiri. When did it start going bad? When did you start feeling that you embarrassed me and that I didn’t trust you?”

“Why do you have to be so pig headed about this?!”

“I could say that’s the pot calling the kettle black but I won’t. Listen real careful to what I’m saying. The reason why I won’t let this go is because it means too much to me … you mean too much to me.”

And with that, doggone it, the flood gates opened. They weren’t big noisy tears but they were tears I couldn’t stop and it would have made me mad if I’d had the energy.

“Aw Babe. OK, I won’t bother you about this anymore tonight but this isn’t over. We are going to get this taken care of.”

I think I slept for a little while again. I woke up and everything was real quiet. I looked over to see Rand with the headphones on listening to the radio. He jumped a little bit when he looked over and saw me awake and then two other heads popped up over the end of the bed. The inseparable duo were camped out at Rand’s feet … literally camped out with a sleeping bag, flashlight, the whole nine yards.

“I said they could sleep in here tonight,” Rand said as he raised his eyebrows asking me silently if it was OK.

“So long as they don’t expect me to haul my fat belly to sleep down there too. And no singing Kumbayah or The Bear Went Over the Mountain. And the latrines are thata way. Got it?”

That got a laugh from Austin and the two heads disappeared again. “Anything on the radio?” I asked.

“Same old mess only more of it. You want to listen?”

“Not really. Not tonight. I think … I think I’m just want to write for a while.”

Rand brought over my traveling desk and Austin brought the wind up lamp while I sat up and tried to arrange the pillows. Everyone eventually went back to what they were doing and I’ve been writing ever since. Austin went to sleep fairly quickly and Rand is asleep in the chair with the headphones still on. And there isn’t much ink left in the bottom of the bottle so it looks like I’m going to have to give it up too.

I know things happen so that we can learn things and be better people but I have to say that the last few days are going on my list of days that I would never want to live over, not even in my dreams.

7 comments:

  1. Great story! keep up the good work.

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  2. this brought tears. why did you do that? lol thanx for the chapters

    Gen

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  3. refresh, refresh, refresh...

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  4. Bonus! Thanks again. I hope things are getting back to normal at home.

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  5. I'm such a softy, i'm weeping over my keyboard (not really), but a great piece on their relationship struggles. Hard being young and married and pregnant. Not really knowing how to get across what you are really trying to say. Hmm, may have said to much about myself. anyway, another great chapter, and looking anxiously towards the next one. For now, back to work.

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  6. uh, has it really been 9 days since I read the latest chapter. How time fly's, sure glad you have a lot of projects going. It gives me plenty to do while i'm at work. Still sitting here waiting patiently for the next update. Just out of curiosity though, how do u find the time to write all these stories. Does each one have a designated day of the week to work on it. Hey, thats kind of like the chores in the story, laundry on monday, gardening on tuesday, baking bread on wednesday yada yada yada.

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  7. why does 10 days seem like a month? guess cuz the story is so good! LOL hey Kathy, I hear its cold and rainy down there, good time for some story posting huh? ya think? LOL ;-)

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