Doing It All Over
10-20-2012, 11:30 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
Our conversation lasted for nearly an hour. Dad listened to me with rapt attention, interrupting me only to ask questions when something I'd said required qualification. He didn't seem to have any problem believing my tale, leading me to believe that he'd suspected some vague version of the truth the whole time. When I got to the part about Tracy dying in the car accident and fate continually trying to reclaim her, his face paled. He picked up the roach and held out his hand for the lighter. I handed it to him and he took a mighty hit.
Dad was strangely not offended by the fact that I'd gone on a minor rampage among the high school girls. "I can see how the temptation to do that would be overwhelming," he told me knowingly. "You're over that phase now? Except for Nina?"
"Yes," I said. "Believe me, I've learned my lesson. Being dropped off in the middle of the hood will do that for you. And Nina's different. I love her. She may be seventeen but she's got the maturity of someone much older. Like I told you, I plan to marry her someday."
He was however, like Tracy, strangely offended by my affair with Anita.
"I can't believe you would do something like that," he told me, shaking his head. "And I can't believe she would do something like that."
"Dad," I said, "at the time I started the relationship with her I was 32. Who else should I be sleeping with? And don't blame Anita for anything. I found her weakness and exploited it in order to seduce her. Remember, in my first life she never tried anything with me. Only when I pushed her buttons in the right way did she act."
"And she fell in love with you," he said. "So much in love that she didn't meet and marry her intended husband."
"Like I said, Dad," I told him, "I've learned a lot since I came back. One of the things I learned was that I was not quite as mature as I thought I was. And that I didn't know nearly as much about love as I thought. But I'm learning."
"And Anita?" he asked. "What of her?"
"Hopefully," I said, "my little commando raid on her car did the trick. If not, I'll just have to come up with something else. Like I said, fate wants Anita and Jack to be together so my little nudge probably worked."
He nodded, looking at me. "And you told Tracy all of this?"
"Do you think that was wise?" he asked me cautiously. "Tracy is only eighteen. Are you sure she fully understands the consequences of not keeping her mouth shut about this?"
"I think so," I told him. "Tracy is pretty smart in case you haven't noticed."
"Oh I have."
"And like she pointed out, she had a right to the information. My most important goal from the very start was Tracy's survival. That remains my most important goal. I thought that she would probably heed my warnings a little better if she knew exactly what she was dealing with. That meant telling her. I still shudder when I think of her almost getting into a car with her boyfriend that night. She almost did that because she didn't know the source of the information I was giving her. I couldn't take the chance that would happen again. She needed to be told for her own protection."
Dad nodded soberly. "I guess you're right," he said, rubbing his temples again. "This is all pretty 'mind-blowing', as you promised. It's hard to imagine that in some alternate time-line I've lost my daughter and I'm a victim's rights advocate. And what about that, Bill?" he suddenly asked. "Is anybody going to suffer because I'm not doing that? Is any good that I did in the other life going to be left undone?"
I looked at him, knowing what he was going through. It was the same thing I went through when I first got back to 1982. Your mind tried to deal with all of the possible ramifications for your actions. Sometimes you had to make unpleasant decisions or conclusions. The loss of my daughter Becky was one such thing.
"I don't really know, Dad," I answered. "After Tracy died and after the asshole that killed her was given a suspended sentence so he could play football, you and Mom turned your grief and anger into a full scale assault. The group you joined helped increase the penalty for first time drunk driving, it helped raise the drinking age to 21 nationwide, and it helped pass mandatory sentencing laws in cases of vehicular manslaughter. Will all of that still get done without you?" I shrugged. "Probably. Like I told you, fate seems to try to keep things in line based on whatever pattern has been determined."
"But what if doesn't?" he asked. "What if somewhere down the line someone dies because I haven't been a part of something that I was supposed to be part of? What if those laws don't get passed or they don't get passed at the same time and some drunk driver who otherwise would have chosen a different path or would have been in jail goes out and kills someone?"
"That might happen, Dad," I admitted. "And if it does, there is absolutely nothing that you can do about it. Nor should you blame yourself or me for it. If it's any comfort to you, you will probably never even know if such a thing does happen."
"But maybe I should join this group anyway," he said. "Maybe since I'm meant to do that I should go ahead and do it."
"Maybe," I agreed. "But it won't be the same. Being an advocate was a frustrating, agonizing process for you and Mom. Trying to get anything done was like trying to erode a rock by spitting on it. The only thing that kept you going year after year was your grief and anger over Tracy's death. Tracy is not dead, Dad, and hopefully she won't be dead anytime soon. I doubt you can duplicate the drive you had without that factor thrown in."
"Dad," I said, "I've learned that you can't change the world with this gift. All you can do is try to change a few things around you and even that is difficult and sometimes impossible. Our destiny has been altered because of my interference and we have Tracy when she should be dead. Fate will hopefully accept the consequences of that and adjust itself accordingly. I'm confident that that will happen, okay? If there are some minor changes from this interference there's nothing that you or I could do about them. I couldn't very well have let Tracy die just because there was a possibility that someone else down the road would get hurt or killed.
"I told Tracy not too long ago that I was not the type of person to carelessly hurt someone in my own self-interest just because I didn't know the person getting hurt. I stand by that statement but, unfortunately, you sometimes have to take that risk anyway. It's the lesser of two evils, do you understand?"
"Yeah," he said hesitantly. "I think so."
"Look at it this way," I told him. "Remember the story I told you about the kid that was choking on the hot dog?"
He nodded. "The one that Nina wrote you up for saving."
"Right," I said. "I saved that kid's life in that timeline. He hasn't even been born yet but I'm scheduled to save his life. What is going to happen when that kid chokes on that hot dog and Bill, paramedic extraordinaire, is not there to save him because Bill never became a paramedic in the first place?"
"I suppose some other paramedic will show up at the call," he said.
"Right. Now modesty aside, I was a pretty damn good paramedic. There were others at the company who were not as good at it. There were some who were damn incompetent in fact. Suppose one of them shows up? Suppose he or she does not clue in to the fact that the kid is choking and doesn't clear his airway in time?"
"Then he'll die," Dad answered.
"Maybe," I said. "But you see, I'm inclined to believe that this kid will live. No matter how incompetent the medic who shows up is, he or she will attempt to put in a breathing tube. When someone is not breathing, that is what you do. So even if the rest of the clues don't inform him or her that they are dealing with an airway obstruction they will still put a laryngoscope into the kid's mouth at some point and try to put a tube down. At that point they will not be able to help but see that there is a large piece of hot dog in his trachea and they will remove it.
"Now it is possible that the extra minute or so that this might take will mean the difference between life and death for the kid, but I doubt it. This kid is meant to live and he probably will. Those drunk driving laws were meant to get passed and they probably will. And if either of those things don't work out this way, all I can say is that I was acting as I thought was best. And that's what you should say too."
We sat quietly for a few minutes while Dad digested all of this. Finally he looked up at me.
"You were right about my opinion of you changing," he told me. "I'll be forced to think of you as an adult now. An adult with opinions and ethics based on years of learning. I'm not sure how to feel about that. I'm going to have to stop thinking of you as a son and start thinking of you as an equal. I don't have anything else to teach you."
"Dad," I said, "I still am your son. Everything that I am, everything that I was is based on the way you raised me. My moral code, my ethics, all of that is from you and Mom. Sure, some of it took place in an alternate time-line but it was still you and Mom and the part that really counted was the part I learned long before I was even a teenager. You're still my dad and you always will be."
"I never thought I'd have a son," he told me, "who was only six years younger than me."
I laughed. "And I never thought I'd sit down and smoke a joint with my dad either. But there you have it."
"There you have it," he repeated.
"What about Mom?" I asked next.
"What about her?"
"Are you going to tell her all of this? Or would you like me to tell her?"
He took a deep breath. "What do you think?" he asked.
"To be honest, Dad, I really don't know. I'm not sure Mom would care too much for the knowledge that her son is only three years younger than she is. She especially wouldn't care for the part about the teenaged girls or Anita."
"Oh she knows about the teenaged girls," Dad assured me. "You didn't really think you were putting one over on anybody, did you?"
"No," I said with a sigh. "I gradually came to the realization that my actions were not as secret as I thought they were. What I meant was that she wouldn't care for the knowledge that her 32 year old son was doing those things."
"You're probably right," he said. "And I imagine she had more than just a simple suspicion about Anita and you. She probably didn't want to face up to it, but I'm sure she knew what was going on."
I nodded, feeling shame and embarrassment at the thought that my mother knew about my sexual exploits.
"How about this?" Dad said. "Why don't we keep your secret between us for the time being? I don't see any good that could come of telling her and I can think of several bads that could come of it. If, at some point in the future, a reason to tell her develops then we'll sit down and have a talk with her."
"Sounds good, Dad," I told him and then smiled. "Did Mom used to smoke pot with you back in college?"
He chuckled. "You know your Uncle Dave, Mom's brother?"
"Of course," I said.
"The Uncle Dave who is the conservative republican lobbyist for the insurance industry?"
Dad smiled. "He used to sell us the pot back in college. Pretty good shit for that time too."
10-20-2012, 11:30 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
I did not hear from Nina over the next two days. She didn't call me, come over, send a carrier pigeon, or send up smoke signals. I had no way of knowing if she was making any headway with her parents.
The Saturday afternoon before the start of school Tracy flew back to California. We all gave her hugs and she was admonished by my mother to keep in touch. Dad and I had discussed Tracy and had seen no real reason to tell her that Dad was in on my secret. As her plane climbed into the sky she still thought she was alone in her knowledge of her brother's special difference.
First thing Monday morning, the first day of school of 1984, I took up position near the front of the school where Nina's mother dropped her off. It was snowing once again, a light flurry with little wind, and I stood unobtrusively near some parked cars, my hood pulled tightly over my head. Kids, dejected to be back at school so soon, walked to and fro providing me with camouflage. Ten minutes before class started Mrs. Blackmore pulled her car to the curb and Nina, dressed in the same down jacket she wore on the night of our first kiss, hopped out. She gave a half-hearted wave to her mother and began heading up the walkway where Richie Fairview and I had met so long ago.
When Mrs. Blackmore pulled away from the curb I broke into a run, catching up with Nina in less than ten seconds, just as she entered the quad.
"Nina," I called, feeling nervous at the reception I was going to receive. Was she mad at me? Had her parents talked her into abandoning me?
She turned at the sound of her name and I slowed to a walk, my eyes searching her face.
"Bill!" she said happily, rushing to me. She threw her arms around me and we embraced tightly, right there on the quad, right in front of hundreds of students. More than a few of them gave us some strange looks but I didn't care.
"Oh God, Bill," she told me, kissing my cheek and hugging me tighter, "I missed you so much. I'm so sorry for what happened. I'm so embarrassed that my dad came over there."
"It's okay," I told her. "I'm just glad you still like me."
"Of course I like you, Bill. I love you. Nothing is going to change that."
"I thought your parents might have, you know, soured you against me."
She snorted. "They tried, believe me. I got even more speeches and lectures about 'guys like you'. To tell you the truth, I've been fighting with both of them since that day. Things aren't cheery in the Blackmore house, let me tell you."
We finally broke our embrace and began walking towards the lockers. "So am I to assume," I asked, "that you weren't able to make much headway with them?"
"Not an inch," she told me. "I talked to them until I was blue in the face. I told them that you're different now, that you've changed, that I'm in love with you, that you're in love with me, but they are completely irrational on the subject. They think you're Lucifer Himself. " She shook her head in puzzlement and frustration. "And I have no idea why they're acting like that. It is so unlike them. They're usually the calmest, most understanding people."
"So what happens now?" I asked her. "Will we be able to see each other at all? Except for school that is?"
"They've grounded me, Bill," she said. "Grounded. Me! I've never been grounded in my life. I didn't even know they knew how to ground someone! But I'm not allowed to leave the house after school at all. For anything!"
"Hmm," I said thoughtfully. "That does present a problem."
"During one of our arguments," she went on, "I told them that they could keep me in the house until I graduated if they wanted but that wouldn't matter. I told them I'd be eighteen soon and heading off to college. Then I could see anybody I wanted!"
"And they said?"
"They said you'd lose interest in me by then so it didn't matter. But if you hadn't, if I still tried to see you that they would not pay for any college outside of Spokane! And that they would only pay for that if I came home promptly each day." She shook her head. "Bill, that's absolutely nuts! I can't believe they'd say something like that. I can't go to college in Spokane! There's no medical school here!"
This last statement brought home just how strongly Mr. and Mrs. Blackmore felt about this subject. Like Nina had said, it was nuts. It was not the outpouring of minds that were working a problem through rationally. Nina was their pride and joy, all that they lived for. To threaten to take away all she hoped for just to keep her away from a certain boy, a certain boy they'd once liked immensely, was mad.
"Nina?" I asked. "You said they developed this, uh, strong attitude about me right after you told them about my, uh, transgressions, right?"
She nodded. "Right."
"And they've never acted this strongly about anything before?"
"Never," she assured me. "This is completely wacko behavior for them."
We had reached Nina's locker and I stood behind her as she opened it and stowed some of her books inside. My mind was reeling with something that was right on the tip of it. Some explanation for this problem that was simply eluding me.
"What year did your parents get married?" I asked as some vestige of it finally broke free.
"1951," she told me. "Why do you ask?"
"Your dad told me once, back before he hated me anyway, that he and your mom were high school sweethearts."
"They were," she said. "They dated all through high school. And then Dad dropped out to go to the war. They got married when he got back."
"But the war ended in 1945," I reminded her. "What happened in the six years after?"
She shrugged. "They told me that they kind of broke apart for a while and then found each other again. They never really explained it any further than that. I never really asked. Why?"
"But your dad did come home right away after the war, right?"
"Yeah," she said with a nod. "I'm pretty sure he did." She searched her memory banks for a moment and then nodded more firmly. "Yes," she told me, "he did. I remember him saying that he worked construction for a while right after the war. He told me that once when we were driving by some of those ghetto houses on the south side. He told me he'd helped build them in '47 and that they were nice back then." She looked over at me. "What does all of this have to do with anything?"
"I don't think your parents really hate me, " I told her. "They hate people like me. More than hate, they detest, they're disgusted by."
"What are you saying, Bill?" she asked uncomfortably.
"There's something in their past," I said. "Something in those six years after the war. I'll bet anything that's it."
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"Neither am I," I said. "Neither am I. Your old man's a mailman now, right?"
"Yes," she said. "He's been doing that since just after he and mom got married. He's getting ready to retire soon."
"So he's probably got a pretty cushy route, right?"
She nodded. "Yeah. He does those nice houses out by the river."
"What time does he usually get home?"
"Why?" she asked suspiciously. "You're not thinking of talking to him are you? That would be a very bad idea, Bill."
"What time Nina?" I asked.
"Bill," she shook her head, "don't do it. Daddy will kill you if he sees your face. He won't listen to a thing you say."
"Nina," I told her, "I intend to marry you some day."
She froze in her tracks, staring at me. "Marry?"
"Yes," I said. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I think you want to spend the rest of your life with me. Am I wrong?"
She swallowed nervously. "No," she said simply.
"I'd rather do it with your dad's blessing. I need to talk to him. Don't worry about me, I can take care of myself. And don't worry about your dad, I won't hit him." I chuckled. "He'd probably kick my ass anyway. But we need to talk."
"Bill," she shook her head vehemently, "you don't know..."
"No I don't," I said. "But all the same, this is something that is going to need to be addressed. I need to talk to him. What office does he work from and what time does he get off work?"
She saw the determination in my eyes. To this day I don't know if she gave in because she had faith in me or simply because of blind hope. But finally she said, "The office on North Grant Avenue in River View. He's usually done around two o'clock and home by 2:30."
"Thank you, Nina," I said. "I'd better get to class before I'm late."
"Bill?" she said as I turned from her.
I paused. "Yeah?"
"I'll need it," I assured her. "And I love you."
"I love you too."
10-20-2012, 11:31 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
My hand was now completely healed up and I was cleared to return to full work duties. That included ROP. On the way to the trauma center I made a brief stop at home. I pulled something from my closet and took it downstairs, depositing it in a closed, cool place. I then drove to the hospital.
"Hi, Mindy," I told my supervisor when I walked through the door.
"Bill!" she greeted me happily, even going so far as to give me a brief hug. "I'm glad you're back." She lowered her voice and whispered, "Now maybe we can get some damn work done around here."
"Thanks, Mindy," I told her.
"How's the hand? All better?"
I held it up for her perusal. It bore a clean, sharp scar that is still with me to this day.
"Poor baby," she cooed. "I've reassigned you with Kelly. Hope you don't mind. I had a little talk with your instructor about the incident with Brett, as well as some others, and she agreed that maybe he would be happier in shipping."
"I see," I said, feeling a minor pang of sorrow for Brett. He'd really wanted to get hired. "Listen, Mindy," I started.
"Oh," she said, smiling, "by the way."
"I've put your name at the top of the list for students I recommend for hiring at semester break," she told me. "And my recommendations are always followed. Congratulations."
"Thanks, Mindy," I told her happily. "I don't know what to say."
"You already said it," she said. "And it's not in your interest, it's in mine. You're a damn good worker."
"That's nice to hear. But..."
"But?" she asked, glaring at me. "I don't like to hear buts."
"Well," I said, "I do need to ask a brief favor."
"And what might that be?"
"I need to cut out at 1:30 today. Today only. I hate to ask on my first day back but..."
She scoffed. "Is that all? You've got it, Bill. Cut out whenever you want."
"Thanks again," I told her.
"Welcome aboard, Bill," she said as I headed off to the sterilization area.
I decided to take my hiring as a good omen for my later task.
10-20-2012, 11:31 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
The River View area of Spokane was and is one of the more exclusive parts of town. The streets here were lined with trees and had center dividers with grass growing on them; grass that was lovingly maintained by an army of city-paid gardeners. Streets that did not have any liquor stores, pawn shops, K-Marts, or, God forbid, apartment complexes. It was where the elite of Spokane lived; the lawyers, the real estate developers, the movers and shakers. It was a part of town where I had to be genuinely worried that I would be pulled over by a Spokane police officer, a high seniority officer of course, on general principals when my Datsun was spotted cruising the streets. It was a part of town I'd rarely responded into as a paramedic. Rich people simply didn't call for ambulances very often.
Even the post office was a miracle of modern architecture. It was a single story building with Spanish tile on the roof, tucked unobtrusively away behind a commercial complex. The snow was still drifting down as I pulled in at twenty minutes to two that afternoon and found a parking spot in view of Mr. Blackmore's car.
I waited, chewing on my fingernails in anticipation.
At five minutes to two I spotted Mr. Blackmore heading from the main building out into the parking lot. He was walking hunched over against the wind, his postal uniform upon his body. I opened my car door and stepped out, taking a final deep breath to gather my courage. I headed towards him on an intercept course.
"Mr. Blackmore," I hailed when he was less than ten feet from me.
He looked up, his face showing his age, his gray hair tucked beneath his cap. I was struck by the strong resemblance between him and Nina. It took him a moment to recognize me. When he did his eyes burned.
"You," he spat, glaring.
"Me," I agreed.
"Get away from me, you slime," he told me. "How dare you come here..."
"We need to talk, sir," I told him firmly.
"I have nothing to talk to you about," he said. "Get away from me right now or I'll call the cops."
"I don't think we need to involve the police in this," I said. "I don't think they'd be very interested. I just want to talk to you about your daughter."
"My daughter has been forbidden to see you."
"I know," I answered. "She told me that when I talked to her this morning."
"You stay away from her!" he yelled. "Do I need to call the school and talk to the principal about keeping you apart?"
"You could do that," I allowed. "And he might go so far as to separate our classes. But that won't help. Your daughter and I are in love, Mr. Blackmore. No matter what you do, no matter what precautions you take, we will find some way to see each other."
"Not if I have anything to say about it," he proclaimed, heading for his car once more. "Stay away from her!"
"I can't, Mr. Blackmore," I told him simply.
He turned back towards me, his face red, his hands balled into fists. I was forced to wonder if the flippant comment I'd made to Nina about him kicking my ass hadn't been so flippant after all. "You will!" he ordered.
"Come over to my house," I said, holding my ground, using my adult voice.
"Talk with me," I offered. "Sit down with me and tell me why you think I should stay away from your daughter. Why you think you know better than she does what's good for her. There has to be a reason. You can tell me what it is."
"I can tell you the reason right now," he said. "It's because you are a lowlife scumbag who is only after one thing."
I held his gaze. "No," I said, "I'm not."
"You are," he insisted. "She told us how you were. About the girls at school. Well you are not going to add her to your list. You are not going to destroy her life."
"So you thought you would do it for her?" I asked.
"How dare you..."
"Did you tell her that you would only pay for college if she stays in Spokane?" I asked him.
"If that's what it takes to keep her away from you," he said.
"Think about that, Mr. Blackmore," I said. "Step outside yourself and think about what you're saying. Nina wants to be a doctor. She's geared her entire high school curriculum towards getting into college and med school. There is no med school in Spokane. You are talking about taking away her dream just to keep her away from me. Does that sound like a person who is acting in his daughter's best interests? Does that sound like the workings of a rational mind?"
"You will lose interest in her by then," he said. "Once you don't get what you want from her..."
"I already have what I want from her," I said. "I have her love. And I will not lose interest in her."
"You don't have the slightest idea what love is," he spat. "And neither does she. You're just trying to make her think you love her so she'll give in to you."
"Believe me, Mr. Blackmore," I assured him, "I know what love is. Your daughter has shown me. We're not ordinary teenagers and I am not the way you think I am. Look at me. Do I seem like a typical teenager to you?"
He stared for a moment, his face showing the first signs of confusion, his mouth open to make a reply. Finally he said, "No. You don't."
"Come over to my house," I offered again. "Talk to me like one adult talks to another. You're not afraid to do that, are you? You're not afraid that you might be wrong?"
"Afraid?" he asked. "Boy, there is absolutely nothing about you that can scare me."
"Then prove it," I challenged. "Come over to my house. We'll have ourselves a little talk, like men, and if you can convince me that I'm hurting Nina in any way, then I'll leave her alone."
"And why should I believe you about that?" he wanted to know.
I shrugged. "What have you got to lose?"
He continued to look at me for a long time as his mind worked over what I'd said. Finally he nodded. "Okay son," he said. "I'll meet you at your house and we'll talk. And when we're done talking I expect you to keep your slimy self away from my family."
I smiled. "Well that's a start, Mr. Blackmore. I trust you know where my house is?"
10-20-2012, 11:31 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
When we arrived at my house it was of course empty. I sat Mr. Blackmore down on the couch and excused myself for a moment, going into the kitchen. I opened the refrigerator and took out two of the beers from the twelve-pack Tracy had bought for me. They had been in just long enough to be of the proper drinking temperature.
I carried them into the living room and handed one to Nina's dad. He looked at me strangely.
"As I recall from the days when you liked me," I told him, "you're partial to a cold brew when you get home from work."
"You think I'm going to be impressed by your possession of beer?" he asked.
"I'm not trying to impress you," I replied. "Just talk to you, one adult to another. I've found that adults talk better, looser, over a few beers. Don't you agree?"
He looked at me, a full-blown version of The Look. "You don't seem like a teenager at all," he whispered.
"Let's pretend there's no age here, Mr. Blackmore," I said. "We're having a serious discussion with long-term ramifications." I popped open my beer and sat down in my dad's favorite chair. "So for now, let's just be Bill and Jack, two adults talking over an important subject."
Mr. Blackmore seemed confused by my words. I sensed a softening of the barrier he'd thrown up and felt I'd finally broken through. And then his expression returned to one of angry determination. He shook his head violently. "You're good, son," he told me, accused me. "That's what I need to keep reminding myself about people like you. You can seem so damn nice, so damn reasonable, so damn adult." He stood back up, setting the beer down on the coffee table. "You took me in once when you first started hanging around my daughter. Shame on you. But you almost took me in twice just now. That's shame on me." He began heading for the door.
"Mr. Blackmore," I said reasonably.
"You're not going to nice your way back into our house," he said. "Stay away from Nina."
"There's someone like me in your past, isn't there?" I asked him.
He stopped suddenly, jerking his head towards me. "What?"
"Tell me what happened," I said. "Why do you feel so strongly about me? It has something to do with the reason you came home right after the war but didn't marry your wife, who was your high school sweetheart, until 1951, doesn't it?"
He was now staring at me, agape.
"Doesn't it?" I prodded.
"Who have you been talking to?" he asked me, horrified.
"Just my own common sense," I assured him. "Nina supplied me with the dates and I was able to draw conclusions on my own. Your reaction to me is irrational, Mr. Blackmore. You've focused on an aspect of my personality, my success with girls, and you won't hear anything else, won't listen to your own daughter even. Something happened to you and your wife after the war but before you got married, didn't it? Something to do with a womanizer who talked sweet?"
He continued to stare in disbelief.
"Tell me about it," I repeated. "Like I said, if you can convince me that I'm hurting your daughter, I'll leave her alone."
"You want to hear about it?" he asked me, glaring.
"Yes," I told him. "Sit down, open your beer and tell me about it. I'm a good listener."
"All right, son," he said. "You want to hear why I don't like you, why I won't let you near my daughter, I'll tell you." He sat down on the couch again, making no move to pick up the beer.
10-20-2012, 11:31 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
"Mary and I were high school sweethearts, as you said. We met when I was a junior and she was a freshman. That was in 1942 right here in Spokane. Mary was the most beautiful, sweetest, most desirable girl I'd ever met in my life. I could talk to her about things I couldn't talk to anyone else about. I fell in love with her right away, maybe even before our first date. And she fell in love with me too."
I nodded, not speaking, picturing Mary, a.k.a. Mrs. Blackmore, as she must have been back then. She'd probably looked and acted a lot like Nina.
"By the time I started my senior year we were an "item" as we said back then. Oh, how I loved her, young man. I couldn't wait until the day when we were finally married. We were going to have a church wedding with hundreds of guests and then buy a house near the falls." He shook his head sadly. "Things didn't quite work out that way. I have my share of blame to take for the way things turned out. If not for me going off to fight in that stupid war..." He trailed off.
"Something happened while you were at war?" I asked.
He glanced up at me for a second, not answering my question. He sighed and finally picked up the beer bottle. He twisted the top off and took an enormous drink. "Everyone wanted to go to war back then," he told me. "The soldiers were gods. They were fighting for this great arsenal of democracy we live in. Whenever you went to the movies and saw the newsreels you saw our fabled soldiers fighting those godless Krauts and Japs. You can't imagine how glorious they made war look."
I nodded. I could well remember how it had been during the Gulf War (or how it was going to be). You tell people enough that this war is worth fighting and that the soldiers are gods, they start to believe it. If it worked in the cynical nineties I could imagine how well it worked in the comparatively naïve forties.
"Even when people I knew," Mr. Blackmore went on, "started coming back crippled or burned, with arms or legs missing, even when I'd hear they had been killed and buried over there, it still didn't dissuade me. I wanted to go. I thought I wanted to go more than I wanted to stay and start my life with Mary. After all, Mary would still be waiting for me when I got back, wouldn't she?
10-20-2012, 11:31 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
"When I was a senior all of my buddies started enlisting. You could do that at seventeen if you had your parent's permission. So I asked my dad if I could go and he let me." He shook his head. "To this day I still don't understand it. He let me drop out of school and go to war. I'd never seen him as proud of me as he was the day I asked him if I could. We went down to the recruiting office together and we signed the papers. I went through all of the induction physicals and testing and finally they gave me my ship off date. I raised my hand and swore an oath and I was a soldier.
"I wanted to get married before I left but Mary's parents wouldn't let her. They gave me all kinds of reasons why she couldn't. All kinds of reasons but the real one. Mary's dad had been in World War I, a combat soldier. He knew what I was in for. He didn't want his daughter being a war widow at fifteen or sixteen.
"So we promised we'd marry as soon as I got back home. We promised we'd write to each other. We promised." He sighed. "And off I went. Of course merely being in the war wasn't enough for me. Oh no, I had to volunteer for the most dangerous job I could think of; the airborne infantry. Here was a division that had been known to lose more people in routine training than some regular infantry divisions lost in combat. That was for me. After all, when you're seventeen, you don't think you can die, right?"
I nodded solemnly at his words, remembering my own youth the first time around and remembering my feelings of immortality when I'd returned. Feelings that Richard Fairview had ended with a sweep of his knife.
"They took me of course," he went on. "I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. By my nineteenth birthday in late April of 1944, I was at a base in Southern England, training for the invasion of France."
"D-Day," I said, looking at him. I knew that the 82nd had been pummeled on D-Day and on many operations after it. This man had lived through all of that somehow.
He nodded. "Yeah, I was there. I'm coming to that."
"All the time I was in basic and in airborne training, Mary and I wrote letters back and forth. We told each other we loved one another. We promised to be true. I even wrote her love poems and put them at the bottom of each letter. I told her that I missed her and that I couldn't wait to get back so we could have that church wedding. Her letters said the same; she even used to tell me whom she was going to invite to the wedding and who she wasn't. You know how women are?"
Before I could answer that he looked at me sharply. "Oh yeah. You do."
I decided silence was the best answer to that comment. After a moment he went on.
"The rumors about losses in training turned out to be true," he said. "We lost a lot of people before I ever left United States soil. Parachute technology wasn't quite what it is today back then. People would go down and splat when their chutes didn't open for whatever reason. That's what we called it: a splat. Once an entire plane crashed on take-off during a training exercise killing the whole damn platoon inside. Forty airborne troops killed in an instant before they ever got near the war. Gradually I began to realize that I wasn't immortal. If Joe Hecklemeyer, another seventeen year old in my company and a good friend of mine, could die in something so stupid as a training accident, then so could I. I guess I was lucky in a way. I came to the realization that I was in a dangerous business long before D-Day. Those poor slobs in the regular infantry didn't come to that conclusion until the ramps of their landing craft dropped down on the beach.
"The letters from Mary made my day every time I got them. I would read them and they would make me feel better about what I was in for. I was fighting for Mary, for Mary's parents, for the children that Mary and I would someday have. It gave me something to live for, something to hope for. Mary was my reason for coming home, do you understand?"
"Yes," I said. "I do."
He looked at me suspiciously for a moment, not wanting to believe me. But he could see in my eyes that I was not putting him on. "Somehow I think you do," he said.
"The letters from Mary followed me to England when I went, although they'd sometimes take a little longer to reach me. But when late May rolled around I suddenly stopped hearing from her. I didn't know why. I thought at first that it was a screw-up with the mail but other guys were getting letters from home. Some of them were even from Eastern Washington. If they were getting their letters, why wasn't I?
"Before I had a chance to become seriously concerned about this the rumors began to fly through the division. We would be invading France soon and the 82nd and the 101st were slated to be the first in. I began to sense that the time to earn my money was coming soon.
"In the late hours of June 5, we were ordered to assemble. We were told that Eisenhower had given the order and the invasion was on for the next morning. We were a little surprised by this since it had been raining and windy for the past three days and was raining even then, but we were assured that a brief break in the weather would give us a window. My platoon, the forty men I'd trained with since my assignment, a mixed group of combat veterans and green soldiers like me, were assigned as part of a battalion tasked to take a bridge and hold it until the regular infantry, invading from the Normandy coast, could advance to us.
"At 12:30 AM, the morning of June 6th, we were loaded into the C-47s and off we went. I was in the front of the plane, near the pilots, and therefore would be one of the last to jump. I was loaded down with my pack, my rifle, my parachute and a picture of Mary I carried with me for good luck. I simply stood there with the rest of them, waiting for the signal. Finally it came. One by one we walked to the rear of the plane and jumped out, our static lines pulling open our chutes for us. Just before I went I took one last look at Mary's face, gave the picture a kiss, and then stowed it in my pack. Out I went into the night.
"There were five planes in our group and we were supposed to be dropped five miles from our objective. Our rally point was a clearing along the river. From there we were supposed to march in and assault the bridge, taking it by surprise." He snorted in disgust. "Apparently the lead pilot of our group was a little too good at his job. He dropped us right over the bridge itself. A bridge that was guarded by anti-aircraft guns and spotlights, a couple of tanks, and a company of German infantry with heavy and light machine guns."
"Jesus," I whispered.
"Jesus is right," he answered, drinking from his beer again. "They slaughtered most of us before we even hit the ground. People I knew intimately, people I'd trained with, my commanding officers, other greenies like me, were shot out of the air by flak shells and machine guns as we floated down. The spotlights would hit a group as they descended and tracers would arc up, blowing them to pieces. As I came down, near the rear of the group, I was forced to watch this in horror, knowing there was nothing I could do about it. I saw hundreds of flashes from the ground as they shot us out of the sky like clay pigeons at a skeet range. Well over half of us were dead by the time our feet hit the earth. Most of our company that lived through this came down around the bridge. They were shot as soon as they landed, most of them before they could even get a shot off. Some of them drowned when they landed in the river. Some got hung up in the trestles of the bridge and were picked off there.
"I landed in a swampy area about three hundred yards from the bridge. It was dark where I came down and I got out of my parachute as quick as I could. Five other soldiers, others that had jumped with me from the fronts of the planes, joined me. Only one of us had combat experience, a sergeant from one of the other planes. He ordered us towards the bridge although even then he must have known it was hopeless. The machine gun fire had died down and had been replaced by the sound of rifles firing single shots. German rifles.
"By the time we got there the Germans had already killed everybody who'd landed near them. There were bodies everywhere, nearly all of them connected to the black parachute harness. German soldiers were walking around putting bullets in the bodies of those that were still moving. As I watched, a German soldier, obviously an officer, gave an order and a platoon of them began moving towards us.
"We bugged out as fast as we could, heading for our rally point since there was nowhere else to go. When we got there we found that well over half of our battalion had met a similar fate. Some were dropped in a swamp and drowned, some had been dropped in the middle of a town near the bridge and had been massacred as my company had. We had a mixed group of people from six or seven different companies with the task of taking a bridge that had already been alerted to our presence.
"The new commander of the battalion, a captain who was the most senior officer there, ordered us to begin marching. We did.
"On the march to it all I could think about was Mary. I had love waiting for me when I got home. All I had to do was live through this war and I could claim what was mine. We hit the bridge at about 3:00 AM, going up against soldiers that were waiting for us. It was a vicious fight that lasted nearly an hour. The machine guns and the tanks cut down scores of us. Finally we pushed them away from the bridge and destroyed the tanks. When we finally stood on that bridge and started to dig in we were less than a quarter of what was originally tasked to take it. Somehow through all of that I'd lived. I didn't even have a scratch on me. I was years older than I'd been a few hours before, but I was alive.
"We were counter-attacked twice that night by German reinforcements. We fought them off each time but lost more and more people each time. We held that bridge for three days, all the time not knowing if we were fighting a hopeless battle, not knowing if the invasion had gone forward as planned or if it had been thrown back into the sea by Rommel's beach defenses. We held on and I thought of Mary and what was waiting for me when I got home; love and marriage and a family. I had to live, I simply had to.
"Finally, on June 9th at about three o'clock, our relief came. Regular infantry pushed forward from the beach and I'm ashamed to say that we actually fought a ten-minute battle with them before the both of us figured out what was going on. Ten people were killed in that friendly battle. But we were relieved. They took charge of the bridge and we, those of us who were left, were escorted back to safety. I was alive, for the time being anyway.
"The beachhead expanded and our troops finally broke out of Normandy. Understandably the mail was a little slow getting to us but as I waited at base camp day after day I figured that when the mail finally did get through, there would have to be a letter from Mary in it. She'd never gone this long without writing before.
"When it finally got there I was handed three letters. Two of them were from my parents but one had Mary's handwriting on the front. I ripped it open before I even left the mail line. It was dated May 28th, 1944."
He gazed meaningfully at me. "To this day I still have the entire text of that letter memorized."
"A Dear John letter?" I asked.
He sighed. "Dear Jack," he recited. "This is the hardest letter I've ever had to write in my life but I feel that I owe you an explanation. I know that we said we would love each other forever and that we would be married when you returned from the war. But we've been apart for a long time and I have grown up since you've left. I've grown up enough to realize that what I thought I wanted when I was fifteen is not really what I wanted. You're one of the sweetest, most understanding men I've ever met in my life but, unfortunately I've found true love in another while you've been gone. Bob Simpson and I have been spending a lot of time together lately and I've realized that it is he that I am in love with. I hate to give you this news while you are away at the war and it seems so impersonal to write it in a letter instead of telling you face to face but the fact is that I must tell you. Bob and I are in love and I feel that we will be getting married soon. When you return from wherever you are Bob and I will most likely be wed. I felt that I owed you this letter and I am truly sorry that I led you on before you left. Hoping you understand and with sincerest apologies, Mary."
He stared at me angrily. "You," he said, "are Bob Simpson. And this time you're after my daughter instead of my wife. But this time you won't have her."
I licked my lips and took a deep breath. "Tell me about Bob Simpson," I said.
"What's to tell?" he asked. "He's you. Why should I have to tell you about the kind of person you are?"
"Obviously," I said, ignoring his categorization of me, "Mr. Simpson didn't marry your wife."
"Of course he didn't!" Mr. Blackmore yelled. "Mary was a good-looking, confused girl who's intended was away fighting the war. He wasn't interested in Mary's love. He was interested in her body!"
"Tell me about him," I repeated.
He swallowed the last of his beer and set the empty down on the table. "Do you have another?" he asked.
Wordlessly I got up, retrieved the empties and carried them to the kitchen. I tossed them into the garbage can and retrieved two more from the refrigerator. I carried them back to the living room and handed one to Mr. Blackmore. He popped it open and took a drink.
"Tell me about him," I said again, opening my own beer.
He sighed. "Bob Simpson was one of those kids that was real popular in school. He always said the right thing to whoever was talking to him, always said whatever that person wanted to hear. He was like a commission salesman. In fact that's what he was, selling used cars down at Zed Viermore's car lot. Did real well at it too.
"He was two years ahead of me in school. He graduated in 1942, when the war was really gearing up but he didn't enlist in the service. Oh no, not Bob. He stayed at home and took over the jobs that those who left to fight had vacated. He seemed to have no interest in going off to fight and the men in the town used to make fun of him, call him names about this but Bob paid them no heed. Bob had a high lottery number in the draft and just counted on the fact that the war would probably be over before they ever got around to sending him off.
"Bob you see, had discovered a situation that he could take to his advantage. He'd found that with the war going on there was a distinct shortage of men his age around while there was a distinct advantage to the amount of women that were lonely and scared. He used to make friends with them and eventually seduce them, leaving them like yesterday's trash once he got what he wanted from them. The same thing that you apparently discovered."
I had nothing to say to him. I couldn't deny what he was accusing me of.
"To tell you the truth, I used to envy Bob before I shipped off. It never occurred to me that he would one day be after my girl and you couldn't help but be impressed by someone who could have the experiences that he was having. He never told anyone what he was doing, mind you, he was very discreet about it, but we all knew all the same. He did it with married women twice his age whose husbands were off in Europe or Japan. He did it with the fiancées of younger men or even their wives after their husband's had shipped out. God knows how many he did but it was a lot. Some of them, usually the older ones, knew it was just a physical thing, a replacement until their husbands came home, but the younger ones sometimes fell in love with him. And he never tried to convince them that was a bad thing either. He broke more hearts than can probably be counted during World War II, marking off those he'd conquered on a little list somewhere."
"While I was off in England preparing to drop into France and witness the majority of my company getting slaughtered, Bob turned his attention to Mary. And why not? She was a beautiful, auburn-haired girl in the prime of her life. He worked on her for nearly a month, at first befriending her and then finally making her fall in love with him, all the time pretending he was in love with her. That was the thing back then you see. A girl would never consent to sex before marriage if she didn't think the guy was in love with her. There was no casual sex like there is these days. If you did the unthinkable and had sex before marriage, it damn sure meant you were going to get married soon. So that was Bob's scheme, he would turn on the charm and make them think he intended to marry him, he would make them think they were so in love that sex wouldn't seem like a big deal since they were going to get married eventually anyway.
"That's what he did to Mary. He seduced her over the space of about a month and finally got what he wanted from her. He took her virginity from her one night in his apartment building after telling her he loved her and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
"The next day, thinking that she was in love, thinking that she'd found what she wanted from him, she wrote me that letter.
"Bob continued to have sex with her for about a month, as much as he could get away with. When she finally started trying to pin down a date for the wedding, when she started asking too much about when she could tell her parents about the announcement, he dumped her. Of course being the person he was he had a speech already pre-planned. He gave it to her, telling her that he'd thought he'd been in love with her but that it had been simple youthful exuberance. She left his apartment that day knowing she'd been destroyed, knowing that she'd lost everything. She never even wrote me again after that. We never even communicated through the rest of the war.
"I jumped out of airplanes time and time again before Germany finally surrendered in April of 1945. I helped take bridgeheads, railheads, and every other kind of head in advance of the infantry troops. Friends were shot down left and right until I stopped making friends. I even jumped across the Rhine itself just before the end of the war. I didn't care whether I lived or died anymore. Mary was gone. What more did I have to live for?
"Somehow I made it to the end. A bullet or an artillery fragment never had my name on it. I came home in October of 1945 to Spokane to find my life destroyed, my hopes shattered by Bob Simpson."
He grinned a little. "Sometimes there is justice in the world. When I got home I found that someone like me had been there before me. A young man my age by the name of Jeff Zand had received a similar letter while he was fighting the Japanese. Jeff got himself a million dollar wound on Okinawa, shot in the knee, and they sent him home. His first act upon getting back was to find himself a pistol and shoot Bob Simpson to death in his apartment. He shot him twelve times, having to reload his pistol once in order to do it. Jeff was given the electric chair of course and he sat in it less than a year later. His last words were to the effect that it had been worth it."
"Not too many people turned out for Bob's funeral I heard, but there was damn near a thousand at Jeff's. I was one of 'em. I gave his coffin a sharp salute before they lowered it into the ground."
"But you and your wife did eventually marry," I said.
10-20-2012, 11:32 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
"Eventually," he told me, nodding. "I knew what Bob was like so I knew long before I got back that she wasn't gonna be Mrs. Simpson. But she was tainted. I couldn't take her back and she couldn't ask. Both of our lives were destroyed by what Bob had done to her. You see, despite his discretion, everyone knew what he was doing and everyone knew whom he was doing it to. It amazed me how so many women fell for him with the reputation he had; hell, even Mary had to have heard the rumors before she started up with him. He must've been one smooth talker indeed.
"Back then it was unthinkable for a woman to get caught having sex without benefit of the clergy. Once people knew she'd done such a thing, Mary was little more than a slut in everyone's eyes." He swallowed. "Mine included. An unfair way to think I agree, but that's the way it was. I couldn't have anything to do with her after that. I still loved her and I still thought about her, especially late at night when my hand found my organ, but I couldn't be with her because of what she'd done.
"The same applied to everyone else. Oh, men approached her all of the time but not with marriage in their minds. Mary learned her lesson from the first time and always sent them away but the damage, as they say, had been done. She got older and older and remained a maiden; a miserable maiden, living with her mom and dad.
"Myself, I tried to date some other girls and more than one of them hinted that marriage might be in the cards if I played them right, but none of them ever made me feel the way Mary had. None of them could compare to the way I'd felt when I was with Mary.
"The solution to the problem was so simple. It was staring me in the face the whole time but the thinking I'd been raised with kept me from seeing it. Instead of finding a replacement for Mary, I needed Mary. In late 1950 I finally came to my senses. I decided to throw all of the unkind words, all of the nasty talk about her to the side. I went and found her and asked her if she would go out with me.
"She did and it was less than two weeks before we were talking about marriage. Of course everyone I knew told me I was making a mistake. My own parents told me to stay away from that slut. But for the first time in my life I stopped listening to what other people said and listened to what my heart said. The happiest day of my life was the day that Mary and I went down to the courthouse and said our vows to each other."
"As it turned out, I made the right decision back then. Mary and I have been happy together ever since. Many of the same friends who shunned me for marrying "a slut" ended up divorced from the "respectable women" that they married. To this day I still love her deeply and she still loves me and I sometimes still curse myself for wasting all those years.
"The only sour spot in our marriage was our inability to have children. We tried and tried and nothing happened. When we finally went to see the doctor he found that I had an unnaturally low sperm count. We were told that conception was damn near impossible and that we might want to consider adoption.
"Well, we decided against adoption for various reasons and just went about our lives. And then in 1966, long after we'd given up any hope for kids, Mary got pregnant." He snorted. "That brought back all of the slut talk of course. If there's one thing people love to do more than have sex it's talk about where everyone else is getting theirs. They figured Mary's "true colors" had come out once again. How else could she be pregnant? There was never any doubt in my mind about Nina's paternity. I live with Mary and I know her better than anyone on Earth. She could no more cheat on me than she could sprout a set of wings and fly.
"So you can see two things from this conversation young man," he told me. "One, why I dislike you so much and why I won't let you around my daughter. Two, why I care so much for my daughter and what happens to her. Nina's led a sheltered life with us, I'll be the first to admit it. It wasn't helped that she had a lisp as a child. Kids used to make fun of her, call her ugly, treat her like dirt because she was a little different." He shook his head sadly. "Kids can be mighty cruel you know. We sent her to speech therapy and got rid of the lisp but, like with her mother, the damage had been done.
"That's why we were so taken with you when you first started to come over. You seemed such a nice young man, intelligent, and you seemed to like Nina for who she was. You took us right in boy, right in."
"I do like Nina for who she is," I told him slowly. "You're wrong about me."
He raised his eyebrows. "Oh? Are you saying that you were not taking advantage of young girls at school? Are you saying that you didn't sleep with an engaged girl right before Nina saw you for who you were?"
I shook my head. "No, I'm not saying that at all. I did all of that and more. I discovered a near foolproof way to get girls into bed with me and I abused it. I didn't realize that there were consequences to my actions, I was selfish and self-centered, and my behavior was, in fact, despicable."
"I appreciate your honesty," he told me, somewhat taken aback by my words, "but how can you sit there, after telling me what you just did, and try to say that you are not like Bob Simpson? Maybe I'm missing something here."
"You are," I said. "You're missing something big, Mr. Blackmore. You're missing the fact that I've never treated Nina like that. I've never tried anything with Nina, not even once. Nina is my friend. That was what she started out being and that was what our relationship has always been based upon. Your daughter is the best friend I've ever had in my life and that friendship has evolved into love. When we had our fight and she stopped seeing me, what did she tell you was the reason?"
"Because you were sleeping with every girl at school!" he almost yelled. "I thought we'd established that."
"Did she tell you that she loved me?" I asked next.
"Of course," he answered, exasperated. "That's what guys like you do to..."
"No, Mr. Blackmore," I cut in. "That's where you're getting locked up. You're comparing what happened between Nina and me to what happened between your wife and this Simpson guy. But that's not what happened at all."
"Because she came to her senses before it could," he said.
"No," I said, shaking my head. "She stopped seeing me because she loved me and I wasn't returning her love. She was in love with me during the period I was sleeping with all of these girls and I was in love with her but I didn't realize it. I didn't know that you could love someone you were friends with. By the time I realized it she had gotten fed up with my other activities. She'd gotten fed up with the pain that comes with watching someone you love play with someone else. She left because she figured that I would never love her and she would never have a relationship with me, not because I was trying to sleep with her.
"Once she was gone I realized my mistake. I realized how much I loved her and I felt physical pain that she wasn't with me anymore. When she ignored me at school it hurt, Mr. Blackmore, more than I ever would have thought possible. I stopped my activities with other girls and I started concentrating on getting Nina back." I held up my hand so he could see it. "You see this? I drove a car with a stickshift all the way across town with this hand bleeding from a scalpel wound just so I could have a chance to talk to her, to say my piece to her. Does that sound like the sort of thing Mr. Simpson would have done? I love her, Mr. Blackmore, I want to be with her always, do you understand? I feel the way about her that you felt about your wife when you went off to the war."
This comparison upset him. "You have no idea how I felt about my wife!" he yelled. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh really?" I asked calmly. "And why is that? Is it because I'm so young?"
He didn't answer, simply looked at me.
"You were sixteen when you fell in love with your wife, weren't you?" I asked him.
"About the same age that I am now, right? And your wife was only what? Fourteen, fifteen? A little younger than Nina is now? Why is it so hard for you to accept that your daughter might know what love is? Or me?"
"I just can't accept this!" he told me. "I can't accept your story that you're really a nice young man who's merely trying to court my daughter in the old fashioned way. You have a gift, young man. Like you told me, you're a good listener and you give off a vibe that tells people you can be trusted. You do this so well that I came in here and told you a story that I've never told anyone before. Me, who hated your guts, told you this story." He shook his head. "I can see why the girls go for you and I can see why Nina fancies herself to be in love with you. But you're a scoundrel all the same. You use your gift for your own pleasure and I don't want my daughter to be one of your playthings."
I took a sip of beer again, trying to think my way through what he'd just said. Finally I asked him, "Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager?"
"What?" he asked.
"Do you remember what it was like to be sixteen years old and to have hormones surging through you day and night? Do you remember being able to think of nothing but sex? What it felt like? When you'd get it? Who you'd get it with?"
He swallowed nervously and then nodded. "Yes, I do."
"That's what I'm going through right now," I told him. "About two years ago I figured out a way to seduce girls easily. Never mind how I did it, but I did. I found that I could have sex pretty much with whatever girl I wanted to. Now put yourself into the shoes of a fifteen year old and ask yourself if you would be able to disregard that gift if you had it."
"Of course not," he admitted. "But..."
"Nina was never a part of that," I told him again. "I never tried to use this on Nina. Nina is my friend, do you understand? Even now, when I'm deeply in love with her, I do not use this gift on her. To do so would cheapen the relationship, would make it less than it really is. I have done nothing more than kiss your daughter, Mr. Blackmore and I've only done that at her initiation.
"But that's not all. I've given up this gift for Nina. I don't do it anymore. I have the same hormones surging through my body, I have the same desires as any other sixteen going on seventeen-year-old. I could pick up that phone right now and in less than an hour I could have some girl over here that would fuck my brains out. But I don't do it. Do you know why?"
"Because of Nina," I said. "I love her, Mr. Blackmore. I feel about her the same way you felt about your wife. I want to marry her some day, do you understand? I don't know how to make this any more plain to you than that, but that is the fact."
He set his empty beer bottle down on the table and sighed. "Like I said, young man," he told me, "you sound very convincing. But how can I take the chance that you are what you say you are? How can I gamble with my daughter's life?"
"You're not really doing that," I said, finishing off the last of my own beer. "Nina is seventeen. She's an adult in all but legal status. She's decided that I am the boy for her. She loves me as much as I love her. One way or the other we're going to be together. One way or the other I'm going to marry her someday, and someday soon I'd imagine. You can try to keep us apart but it would be futile. Once she turns eighteen, and that happens in five more months, she can do whatever she wants to do. You can threaten her and try to intimidate her to stay away from me if you want. If you do that, one of two things will happen. She'll either listen to you and dump me or listen to me and dump you. Either way she is going to be filled with resentment. If she goes with me, she'll resent me for taking her away from her parents, if she goes with you she's going to resent you for taking her away from me. With either equation she loses.
"I'm not asking you to open your arms to me and welcome me into your family just yet. All I'm asking is that you acknowledge that Nina has a say in this matter. Right now she's saying she wants to be with me. The same equation holds true here. If you allow it, or at least accept it, one of two things will happen. One, I'll dump her at some point in the future and break her heart. That's something I can do with or without your consent however. If it's with your consent, at least you'll have the luxury of saying, "I told you so" to her, right? At least you won't lose your daughter in the process. Or we can continue our relationship to the point where I know it's heading. We can get married someday, Nina can get her medical degree and I can get my business degree and we can have a pleasant relationship with our in-laws on both sides. That's what I want, Mr. Blackmore.
"Nina's a big girl, let her make her own decision, for better or for worse, on her own."
He stared for a long time, his brain working over what I'd said. I hoped I'd given him the logic he needed to make the right decision. I had every intention of pursuing Nina to the conclusion of our relationship but, as I'd pointed out, the road would be much bumpier if decided to keep up the resistance.
"I'll let her see you," he finally said quietly.
It took a minute for that to sink in. When it did, a grin spread across my face. "Thank you," I told him.
"I don't know what I'm going to tell Mary, but I find you make a good argument." He smiled a little. "I guess my little girl is growing up some and I guess it's time to let her spread her wings, for better or for worse as you say."
"I agree," I told him.
"But if you hurt her," he warned, pointing a finger at me, "I'll make what Jeff Zand did to Bob Simpson look like a mother's kiss compared to what I'll do to you."
I chuckled. "I'll consider myself duly warned," I answered.
10-20-2012, 11:32 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
Dad came home shortly after Mr. Blackmore left. I'd cleaned up the beer bottles and carried the remainder of the twelve-pack back up to my room and re-stashed it in my closet. I thought about telling Dad that I'd received tentative permission to resume my relationship with Nina but eventually decided to keep silent about it. After all, he might change his mind. People did that. I figured I'd give it a few days and see how things went before I made any mention.
I considered calling in sick for my job at the pizza joint that night. I'd been up most of the night worrying about the reunion with Nina and the beer I'd drank with Mr. Blackmore certainly hadn't helped my fatigue. But in the end my work ethic wouldn't allow me to call in on my first scheduled day back after my injury. I showered up and drug myself in.
My manager was very pleased to see me return and offered some of the same comments that Mindy had earlier that day. He became very displeased however when I told him that I'd been recommended for hiring at the hospital and that, in all likelihood, January 25 would be my last day working for him.
"That's really too bad, Bill," he said sadly. "You're one of the best workers I've ever had here. Like you said when I originally interviewed you, you're not a typical teenager. I'd even offer to give you a raise if I thought it would help keep you but unfortunately I can't afford to match six dollars an hour."
I told him I understood and that I appreciated him hiring me and giving me a chance to prove myself and blah, blah, blah. I kept my amusement at his pathetic attempt to lure me to stay longer to myself. In truth I had never much liked the man. He was a shameless exploiter of teenaged labor and he'd never bothered to offer me a raise before. But I also believed in not burning my bridges behind me. If things didn't work out at the hospital for whatever bizarre reason, I knew he'd hire me back in an instant. If I went in and wrote my resignation in urine on his wall, he might not be so inclined.
I was exhausted by the time I got off that night. When I got home I barely was able to remove my clothes before I fell into bed. Less than a minute later I was fast asleep; the first good night of sleep I'd had in a while.
The next morning I waited near the front of the school again. This day the sky had cleared of snow clouds and the wind had returned. The air temperature was a chilling eleven degrees at that time of the morning. The wind chill factor was probably somewhere below zero. You gotta love Spokane in the winter. I shivered and shook and felt the tears that were streaming from my eyes freezing on my cheeks. Finally I spotted Mrs. Blackmore pulling to the curb. Nina hopped out and headed for the school while her mother pulled quickly away and headed off.
Nina was looking around immediately, braving putting her face into the wind to search for me. I raised my hand and she rushed to me, colliding with me so hard that both of us nearly went down into the snow bank. As always the feel of her body against mine, even through multiple layers of winter clothing, made me feel warm all over.
"I can't believe it!" she yelled, kissing my face and my lips. "How did you do it? What did you say?"
"What are you talking about?" I asked nonchalantly.
"You know what I'm talking about," she said, smiling broadly. "I couldn't believe it. Daddy sat me down last night and told me that if I insisted on seeing you that he wouldn't stop me." The smile faded a little. "He said he still didn't particularly care for you or trust you, but that he saw no advantage to trying to keep us apart."
"Well," I said, "it's not exactly a dowry of a kingdom just yet. But it's a start. And your mom?"
"Mom wasn't too happy about his decision," she admitted. "In fact, I heard them arguing about it. They were actually yelling at each other when he told her. Finally they started whispering back and forth, so I couldn't hear what was being said. She didn't seem too happy this morning but she didn't tell me to stay away from you like she did yesterday."
"So I guess I won't be coming over for any family dinners in the near future?" I asked.
She kissed me again, a long, luxuriant kiss. "Not just yet," she said. "But give it time."
We started walking into the school. "So what did you say to Daddy anyway?" she asked. "He wouldn't tell me."
"I don't think your dad would really like it if I told you what we talked about," I answered. "It was kind of personal."
"Did it have to do with the years after the war like you thought?" she asked, her curiosity plain on her face.
"Nina, I really don't think he would want you to know what he said. Sorry."
She frowned. "You must have some sort of gift, Bill. How you got Dad to open up to you, how you convinced him to let us be together." She shook her head. "Will you tell me someday? Someday in a few years?"
"I'll consider it," I told her. "In the meantime, I have the night off. I was wondering if you would do me the honor of accompanying me to dinner and a movie tonight?"
She gave me another kiss, again in front of everyone on the quad. "I suppose," she said. "Unless something better comes along of course."
10-20-2012, 11:32 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
We decided it would be a good idea to establish with her parents that we would in fact be seeing each other. With that in mind I agreed to pick Nina up for our date at her house, just like a normal teenager would do. It had seemed like a good idea when we discussed it but as I pulled my car up to the curb that night I felt that maybe it hadn't been such a hot plan after all. My body was tensed up with nervous tension and I hesitated before I was able to pull myself out of my Datsun and trudge up to the curb. There was another long hesitation before I could bring myself to ring the doorbell.
My nervousness turned out to be unfounded. Nina answered the door and quickly stepped out of it onto the porch. The reason for my nervousness however, was not so unfounded. Nina, dressed in a nice pair of slacks, her hair styled attractively (the mark of Tracy and Cindy), looked a little upset.
"What's wrong?" I asked her.
"Let's go," she replied, heading down the porch for my car.
After a brief moment I followed her.
As we drove downtown towards the restaurant where I'd made reservations she told me what had happened.
"Mom is not very keen on Dad's decision to allow us to date," she told me.
"No?" I asked, not terribly surprised after the story that Mr. Blackmore had told me. It was Mrs. Blackmore, after all, that had born the brunt of the Bob Simpson episode.
"No," she agreed. "They've been arguing and fighting pretty much since you first talked to him. When I told Dad that you and I were going out tonight he kind of grunted at me but didn't say anything. But when I told Mom..." She shook her head. "Mom started in right away about how she didn't agree with Dad, about how she thought you were a lowdown slimebag, and how she didn't think I should be going out with you. She told me I would be staying home and that despite what my father had said, that I was not to see you anymore."
"Wow," I commented.
"I appealed to Dad and they had another argument, a pretty nasty one. Dad finally told me I could go out with you tonight. Mom stayed in her room and wouldn't come out."
"I'm sorry," I told her, not really sure what I was apologizing for.
"Bill, I almost didn't go tonight. Mom and Dad have never fought like this. Never! The most they've ever done in front of me is have little squabbles over money or housework or something. This is tearing them apart! Do you know how that makes me feel? I almost cancelled my date with you just to keep them from fighting."
"But you didn't," I said softly.
"I couldn't, Bill," she told me. "I need to be with you. I couldn't bear to call you up and tell you I wouldn't come tonight. I couldn't bear not seeing you. Oh Christ, why does all of this have to be so damn complicated? Is this going to happen every time we go out?"
I let my hand drop to her knee where I patted it. "Nina," I told her, "I don't think it's going to happen every time."
"There's one thing I learned while I was talking to your dad," I explained. "That is that your parents love each other deeply. They always have. They have the kind of love that you and I have and believe me, that kind of love is rare among married couples. This won't break them apart. And I believe it's one of those things that starts off as bad as it's going to get and then gradually gets better as time goes by. Your mom and your dad are waiting for me to break you heart. They think that's what my purpose is due to various things in their past. Do you remember the day I came to the emergency room?"
"Of course," she answered. "I remember everything about that day."
"I told you that you would be taking a gamble by returning to me, that you were gambling with the possibility that I might break your heart again. Remember?"
"Your parents are trying to contemplate that same gamble," I told her. "Only they don't have much to lose in it. You have the possibility of love to lose. They really don't have anything. No matter what happens, they'll still have you. They don't realize that they're gambling with your happiness of course. They just perceive that I'm an asshole and that you'd be better off without me. Now I've managed to change your dad's views on me a little with the talk we had, but I haven't managed to change your mom's views. As time goes on however, and when I don't break your heart, and when they see that you are happy, I think they'll come around. Just remember, this is probably as bad as it's going to get."
She nodded and put her hand on top of mine. I gave her knee another squeeze. "You do have a way of making people feel better, Bill," she told me.
"I do my best," I replied. "Now let's forget about your parents for a while and go out and have a good time. That's what people in love are supposed to do, right?"
She picked up my hand and put it to her lips, kissing it briefly. "Right," she answered.
A good time we had. We went to dinner at a steakhouse restaurant, both of us having the prime rib. Afterwards we drove to the movie theater, just in time to catch a showing of War Games. The movie had been out long enough that not too many people were in the theater. We sat in the back row, in the lover's section.
I had seen War Games before of course, way back when. I found it not terribly interesting since the computer technology was completely antiquated from my point of view and because it's main pretense was something I knew was never going to happen. After all, the Soviet Union was going to fall in seven more years taking with it the threat of sudden nuclear annihilation. But I enjoyed it all the same because Nina was there with me.
We held hands and cuddled up together through the first part of the movie. By the time the FBI agents were taking our hero into custody our lips had drifted together and the movie was all but forgotten as we slid our tongues into each other's mouths contentedly. Our kisses became more heated, more frantic as the minutes ticked past. My erection throbbed in my pants, eventually bringing a dull ache with it, an ache that I knew would be pleasantly agonizing by the time this evening was over and would only be relieved in my bedroom.
Nina was similarly aroused. She clung harshly to me, pressing herself to me, her hands trailing up and down my body. She had removed her coat when we'd sat down and even with the dim lighting I could see that her nipples were protruding outward, visible through the material of her sweater. The sight of them nearly made me crazy and I longed to place my hand upon them, to slide my fingers under the hem of the sweater, to force my way into her bra. I could imagine what her flesh would feel like against my palm and the very thought almost made me have an accident in my pants.
Nina's lips left my mouth and slowly trailed down to my neck. She began kissing and sucking lightly, nipping at my earlobes. This made me tremble with desire and it took every ounce of my willpower to keep from trying to push her a little farther.
Near the end of the movie she pulled her lips from my neck. She was panting and her voice sounded frustrated. "Bill," she whispered in my ear, "are my boobs too small?"
"What?" I panted back, shifting myself in my seat, trying to reposition my painful erection.
"Don't you like them?" she asked. "Are they too small for you?"
"No, Nina," I told her. "They're beautiful. Really. But why..."
"Then why won't you touch them?" she asked.
"What?" I couldn't have been more surprised if she'd asked why I couldn't concentrate real hard and levitate my body into the air.
"I've been trying to push them into you for the past twenty minutes," she told me. "All my life I've heard about girls getting felt up at the movies. I want to get felt up, Bill. So put your damn hands on my tits!"
I looked at her, feeling an extra burst of blood going to my wang. This was Nina talking like this! Nina! Her words almost made me lose control of myself.
"I didn't think..."
"No you didn't," she breathed. "Now touch me. Show me how much you like them."
She leaned forward and kissed me again, her right hand taking my left. She placed it on the swell of her breast and I felt the softness, the firmness that I'd fantasized so much about. Even through the sweater I felt the hardness of the nipple pushing into my hand. I groaned and began to softly squeeze her. She moaned back into my mouth.
It was less than five minutes before my hand slid down to the hem of her sweater and found it's way underneath. Nina offered no protest, in fact she arched her back to give me freer access. I felt the soft, smooth skin of her stomach as my palm worked its way upward. I felt the ribs beneath the flesh and finally the wire and cotton of her bra. With a practiced push of my fingers, my hand was beneath and her breast was against palm, her nipple pushing into it.
Her breathing became frantic as I caressed her, her tongue plunging deeper and deeper into my mouth. Her own hand slid beneath my sweater, feeling my flesh, caressing it. Finally it slid back down, her fingers hesitating at the waist of my pants. They pushed on and her hand found the bulge at my crotch. She gave it an experimental squeeze; a squeeze which almost made me come right there.
"Oh, Bill," she whispered, breaking the kiss for an instant.
"Uhhh," was all I could say in reply.
She continued to caress me through my pants while I continued to feel her bare breasts beneath her bra. I switched from one to the other, comparing them, touching them, relishing them. All too soon the music from the speakers picked up a notch and we looked up to see the credits rolling across the screen. Around us other people were standing and heading for the exits. Reluctantly we broke apart, extricating our hands from each other.
She gave me one final kiss. "Good movie," she commented breathlessly.
"Yeah," I agreed. "The best I've seen to this point."
It was well before ten o'clock when I dropped her off in front of her house. Our kiss goodnight was sedate and brief in deference to the fact that one or both of her parents were probably watching through the curtains. We told each other 'I love you' and she stepped out of the Datsun. She paused at the front door, giving me one last wave. A second later she was safely inside.
I drove home slowly, my balls aching desperately, the pain increasing with each bump my sub-standard shock absorbers didn't absorb. The house was dark when I let myself in. I took myself upstairs and undressed. Ten seconds later I had myself in hand. Twenty seconds after that it was over. I rolled over and fell asleep.
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