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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Book One - Chapter 13

Chapter  13

He had flown into LAX the night before. She picked him up at the airport, waiting in front at the unloading zone, with her hair tucked under a floppy brimmed hat and sunglasses so she wouldn’t be recognized. (She owned a black Ferrari but she drove her pearl Cadillac Escalade or the gold BMW more often so as not to draw attention to herself.) He didn’t have to go to luggage pick up. He had enough clothes at her place that he never had to pack. They made love and that seemed all right but he could tell she was restless and jittery about something.
The next morning, she still couldn’t settle down. They were drinking orange juice at the table by the pool. She twisted in her seat and turned her glass around and round.
“Jesus, Ree, you’re driving me nuts. Let’s have it, whatever it is.”
She took a deep breath. “I haven’t always been totally up front with you, Rafe. I mean, I’ve never lied to you but I haven’t told the whole truth either.”  Her voice took on a note of desolation. “Oh, God, Rafe, I hope you don’t think I’ve been dishonest and feel differently about me when I tell you what I have to say.”
“I can’t imagine anything that would make me feel differently about you, Ree.”
“Yes, Rafe, but this is about sex.”
“Ah, sex,” he said, nodding, “go on.”
“Remember me telling you about how brutal it always was in West Virginia and then how I sold myself for the first few years when I came here?”
“I remember.”
“Well, that part was all true. I hated sex, Rafe, and I guess I thought all girls did. I know me and all my cousins dreaded it when the men came around. Our house was small enough that when Pap screwed our Mom, we knew it and it seemed like a vicious thing he did to her. She always cried after.  Sometimes she begged him to take one of us instead…and sometimes he did. When he pointed at me and said, ‘you, Pearl Ann’, I just forced myself to go cold inside so I could endure it. I was so grateful when it was one of my sisters instead.
And then it was the same out here. We just did it because it was the only way we could live. We joked about how stupid men were, that you could pretend, and how easy it was to fool them because they wanted to believe they were macho studs who could actually make you like it. I can remember counting when it was going on, just praying for it to be over. Do you know it takes the average John 212 seconds to ejaculate, Rafe?”
“No, Honey, I didn’t know that,” he told her softly.
“I pretended with the men who took me in after I got off the street too because, you know, it was how I earned my keep and got them to help me climb the ladder. I had to keep them feeling good abut themselves so they’d want to do that. And remember, Rafe, when I told you that once I made it and could support myself, I vowed I’d never fuck another man unless it was my idea?”
“Well, what I really meant was that I didn’t think I’d ever do it, not ever again, because I didn’t think I ever would want to fuck another man. As far as I was concerned, sex was only just ugly. I didn’t even know that it could be good for women too,” tears were running down her face, “no one ever told me that, Rafe, or if they did I didn’t believe them.  So I got this big femme fatale reputation. Rhiannon, the sex pot, all the posed pictures with low cut tops and skirts slit to the thigh. But it was never me. It was all just a big act. I didn’t have sex with anyone until that day on the set when I met you. I knew when you took my hand and smiled at me that I had this weird feeling in my stomach. I’d never felt anything like it before, like, you know, anticipation that something wonderful was about to happen. And then when you did what you did and something really wonderful did happen, well, the tears were good for the part, but they were really because I couldn’t believe it. I never knew it could be like that, Rafe.”
“And why would you think any of this would upset me, Ree?” he asked quizzically. “Men are usually proud of being able to satisfy their woman, especially if it’s for the first time.”
“Because, you see, I was such a phony. I figured you were attracted to Rhiannon, the sophisticated sex goddess, and here I was just ignorant little Pearl Ann Mosier from Blister Springs, West Virginia.”
“Come here,” he said, “and sit on my lap.
He drew her close, with her face against his shoulder, rubbing her back while he talked.
“Did you really think you were fooling me, Ree? It was easy enough for me to tell you weren’t the worldly person you were pretending to be. I could sense you working through it, finding your way. I knew fucking for pleasure and going down on me because you wanted to, and having the same things done to you, were new experiences for you, not that you hadn’t done both things lots of times before, but in the feelings you had about them. I wondered why you were handling it that way, Ree, and why you thought you couldn’t confide in me but I figured you had your reasons and I’d let you tell me when you were ready. I didn’t fall in love with either Rhiannon or Pearl Ann, Honey, I just fell in love with you.”
She buried her head in his neck. “I’m ashamed of myself though, Rafe. I gave you that sermon about trust and made you let me tie you up and all the time, I didn’t really trust you because I was so afraid if you knew the truth, you would change your mind about me.”
“Well, I didn’t.” He kissed her. “So have we got all this squared away then, Ree?”
“I may as well go all the way while I’ve got my nerve up. There’s one more thing, Rafe, that I want to ask you about. Something I want more than anything in the world but only if you want it too.”
His mind did a quick run-through of possibilities. Marriage? (Answer: no). A movie?  (Answer: maybe).
“You’re starting to make me nervous, Ree. Like I’m about to be led down the garden path. What is this thing you want more than anything in the world?”
“I want to have a baby, Rafe.”
His face went blank. “What did you say?”
“I said I want us to have a baby. Honest, Rafe, it would hardly change your life at all,” she pleaded, “I’m not asking you marry me. I don’t want to use it to try to domesticate you. You don’t have to come anymore often than you would anyway. You sort of raised a baby once and you did great except that one thing…”
He grinned, “you mean that one tiny detail that society calls incest, Ree?”
She brushed him off. “You’d be a great father, Rafe, you know you would. Your nieces and nephews all adore you. Please, Rafe? I’d never trick you into it if you said flatly no but I will be ecstatically happy if you agree. I never even thought about wanting to have children until I visited you at Heron Point and saw what real families could be like and then, it just made me long to have your baby, Rafe, it’s almost all I’ve been able to think about ever since.”   
“Christ, Ree, you’ve totally blindsided me here. You’re going to have to give me a little time to think about this.”
“I won’t nag you about it, Rafe. Just let me know whenever you decide.”

He thought about it that night as she lay curled up beside him sleeping. Sharing her secrets seemed to make a big difference. Like she’d given up a burden, making her more relaxed and eager than she’d ever been. He thought it was because she knew now she didn’t have to perform for him, but just be herself. With all the pain and insecurity she’d suffered in her early life though, she was still a work in progress. You just didn’t give up those kinds of deep-seated traumas overnight.  But no one could be more patient than Rafe and in time, he’d teach her to offer herself to him as completely and wholeheartedly as Laney did. It would be an interesting project to bring her to that point.
Ideally, he’d have them both together, one on either side.  He gave himself over to imagining for a few minutes what it would be like to have blonde hair falling over his face as Laney kissed him while dark hair tickled his groin as Ree went down on him, or vice versa, of course – either way.
Well, he may as well give that fantasy up. He thought both Lane and Rhiannon were too traditional in their thinking to consider that idea. Ree thought of herself as being like him and she was closer than anyone else had ever come. What she’d been through had made her tough and hard and determined when she needed to be but it was a toughness that had been born of harsh circumstances while his was innate. And love had softened her rough edges. So, in reality, it was no contest. He could outdo her in toughness or hardness or determination with one hand tied behind his back. He even thought she was starting to realize that as their power dynamic gradually shifted from equality to one that gave him the edge.
In all the years since he was seven, he considered now and then if Miss Dee had been right about him. Was he really a sociopath? He hadn’t turned out to be a serial killer. He didn’t even think of himself as being an especially cruel person, at least, not deliberately, although Professor Barnes had called him amoral and he might have to own up to that.  But he even loved some people and he thought sociopaths were characterized by an inability to love. He’d always loved Laney and now he loved Ree. And he loved Chas and Vic and maybe his Dad, although he wasn’t sure he loved him so much as looked up to him. But, whatever he was, he knew it wasn’t exactly average on the scale of human emotion. So did he want to take a chance on passing whatever was aberrant in his personality on to a poor, defenseless baby?
In the morning, he awoke early and watched her as she slept. It was warm. The doors were open to the terrace and a flower-fragrant breeze ruffled the curtains. She lay on her back. For all the times she’d been mistreated, she’d emerged without scar or blemish. His eyes travelled the length of her creamy body wondering that a malnourished backwoods childhood could have produced such perfection, from slender delicate feet, up long golden legs to a flat stomach and those beautiful firm breasts with their pinkish-tan aureoles and on to a heart-shaped face surrounded by a mass of sable curls. With her eyes closed, her thick lashes lay curled against her cheek, her full mouth was parted in a little half smile, a small beauty mark near her top lip. One arm was stretched out, her hand lying against his shoulder. He’d noticed that no matter where she moved in the bed or in what position, she managed to stay touching some part of him, as if reassuring herself that he was there.
“What the fuck?” he thought, if all the billions of other people on the planet concerned themselves with whether they were fit to reproduce, the species would die out. It was always a toss of the dice, hoping the positive genes would dominate.
He woke her up kissing her belly.
“Okay,” he said.
Her eyes opened wide. “Do you mean….?
“Yes, if it’s what you really want.”
She threw herself on top of him. “Oh, I do! God, Rafe, I love you so much! Thank you! Thank you!” kissing his forehead and eyebrows and eyes and nose and mouth. “I don’t think I was ever happy ‘til I met you and now I’m happy all the time!”
“So,” he said, “do you want to try to make this baby right now?”

Later. “Do you hear this sound, Rafe, do you know what it is?”
“The garbage disposal?”
“Yes, it’s the sound of my birth control pills being ground up and carried off to the sewage treatment plant!”
He chuckled, “pop me another bagel in the toaster, will you, Sweetie and pour me another cup of coffee?”
She brought his coffee and sat down.
“I hope I get pregnant before you leave this time. I looked it up on the internet and some women get pregnant almost immediately after they quit taking the pill. I hope I’m like that. Would you rather have a boy or a girl, Rafe? Do you have any favorite names?”
“Hold on, Ree. I only just agreed to this an hour ago. I haven’t even quite adjusted to the idea of being a father yet and you’ve already got me choosing sexes and names?”
“I’m sorry, I’ve been thinking about this so much and hoping you’d let me do it that I forget I only sprung it on you last night.”
“Let’s just let it happen in its own time, Honey.”

Their schedules for the next few months were hectic. She was shooting her next film, partly in Paris. He was following NASCAR’s schedule.  Once they managed to mesh their travel plans long enough to meet in Atlanta for 24 hours, getting a room in a generic hotel near the airport, before they both flew off again in opposite directions.
She hadn’t had a period since his visit to Los Angeles but she didn’t say anything even though the over-the-counter pregnancy test came out positive. She wanted to go to the doctor first to be absolutely sure. He assumed nothing had happened yet so when she called him, elated, to tell him they were three months into becoming the parents of twins, he was in shock.
“Good Lord, Boy, you’ve gone completely pale. Are you sick?” Chet asked him when he punched the End button on his cell.
“No, it’s not that. I just found out I’m going to be the father of twins.”
“Oh, well, congratulations, I guess. Who’s the lucky mother?”
He grinned, if a little weakly. “Rhiannon.”
“Hmmm. I thought maybe having a beautiful movie star girlfriend would slow your ass down a little, Rafe, as far as women were concerned, but it didn’t appear to have much affect. I wonder if being a Dad will make any difference?”
“Why should it?” he asked curiously.

The media went nuts when it was finally obvious. She tried to play it low-key, just telling them that yes, she was pregnant and yes, Rafe was the father and yes, they’d planned it and were happy about it. Screaming headlines around the globe said, “RHIANNON PREGNANT WITH RAFE’S BABY!”

Lane told him she thought he would make a wonderful father.
“I probably know more you than anyone, Rafe. I don’t know what would have happened to me if you hadn’t loved me and taken care of me. I remember you getting me dressed and brushing my hair and how patient you were when you taught me the alphabet and how you got up in the middle of the night so I didn’t have to go to class without without cupcakes on Refreshment Day.”
“I’m glad you feel that way, Lane, because everyone else seems to think imagining me as a father is beyond their comprehension. I guess they’ve forgotten what it was like for us. Hell, I was changing shitty diapers when I was just a baby myself.”

His parents suggested Rhiannon come to Heron Point for the last couple of months. After all, he’d told them she didn’t have any family in California and that way they could watch out for her and the babies could come home from the hospital to Heron Point. She started crying when he told her.
“Jesus, Rafe, my body must be pumping hormones like a fire hose. I’m a big glob of sloppy sentiment these days. You won’t mind, will you, if I come out there?”
“Of course, I won’t. I think it’s where you need to be, Ree, and I like to think of my kids starting their lives at Heron Point.”

He went to Los Angeles for a few days in September in between Dover (8th) and Kansas (1st). She was 7 months along by then. She’d worked to keep her weight down but her belly was definitely swelling.
She showed him the two bedrooms next to hers (or theirs, he guessed) that she’d turned into a nursery. She’d had a famous designer come in and do the remodeling. It was all over pastel walls painted with rainbows and ducks splashing in puddles and lambs gamboling in meadows and white cribs and dressers, with drawers filled with small outfits and a closet of diapers and a little built-in combination bath and kitchen with a sink for washing the babies and another for washing whatever else and a microwave for warming bottles and babyfood and a pantry that would eventually be full of boxes of cereal and minced lamb and blueberry buckle or whatever the hell it was that babies ate.
And she showed him how she’d had a door cut between the nursery and the next bedroom so the nurse, (she had told him she was going to hire a full-time nurse, hadn’t she?) could leave it open and have instant access. He tried to be appropriately enthusiastic although he thought he’d probably had his fill of nurseries, having lived in one himself until he was almost twelve.
He did have to admit to a small thrill of awe when he had his hand on her tummy and felt the babies, his babies, moving around inside.
“Do you think your Dad felt that way about you?” she asked, having by now romanticized his home and family to the point of ridiculousness.
He smiled. “Maybe with the first few but by the time I came along, I think the feeling was probably more like, ‘oh, fuck, no, not another one’.”

When she came to Maryland in October, his mother suggested that maybe it was time to move them into Morgan’s room. His room, the old nurse’s sitting room, was so small there was barely room for one cradle, much less two, but he refused.
“No, I don’t want to move, Mom. We’ll be fine.” Looking to the time when Ree wouldn’t be here but Lane would.

She blossomed in the environment of Heron Point and the attention of his parents, both of whom had taken her into their hearts. She felt loved and protected here and for her, feeling safe and cherished was the most wonderful thing in the world.
She even looked forward going to church every Sunday.  Attending church services was something she’d never done before. Church was something he mostly escaped now since the NASCAR races all took place on the weekend and he was rarely home until after church on Sunday.
“I know you don’t believe, Rafe, but are you still technically considered a Catholic?”
“I suppose so, Ree. I was baptized in the church and as far as I know, I don’t think there’s any way to actually renounce your membership.”
“Have you always belonged to St James’? Has it always been the Vincennes pew?”
“One of my greats donated most of the money to build the church, Ree, so yes, we’ve been a part of St James since the beginning.”
“I talked to your mom about it, Rafe. I think when I go back home, I’m going to start taking instruction to become a Catholic. What would you think about raising our children in the church?”
“I think if you believe doing that gives you comfort, Ree, then it’s what you ought to do. Just don’t become some maniacal convert and start sermonizing to me about it because I think it’s all bullshit.”
“I wouldn’t do that to you, Rafe.”
“It wouldn’t do you any good if you did.”

Thanksgiving came, and even though it wasn’t as inviolate as the Vincennes family Christmas, there were still 19 of them there for turkey and ham and mashed potates and sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie and more other side dishes and desserts than she could remember. She looked around the long cherry table, seeing them all beautifully dressed and confident, laughing and telling jokes on each other and reminiscing about all their fun times at school and together, on boats and at dances and at barbeques. She saw their healthy, happy, gorgeous children running through the house. She saw how Renny led them all with a kind of quiet authority and how much affection they had for Magdelene.
She couldn’t help comparing it to Blister Springs where she didn’t ever remember having a Thanksgiving dinner and if they had, it would have been venison stew, because food had to be stretched to its breaking point to feed them all. Even if there had been such a novel concept as Thanksgiving in the Mosier family (what did any Mosier ever have to give thanks about?), no one who didn’t have to be there would have ever come. Anyone who managed to escape the old West fucking Virginia homestead never had the slightest desire to return. She remembered how grubby they all were. She was the third daughter so most of her clothes were faded and patched by the time they ever got to her. She didn’t ever remember getting a single new piece of clothing in her whole childhood. She never knew there was such a thing as deodorant until she got to California or God knows, soap that actually smelled good. There was no shower in their old house, just a scummy, dirty tub that didn’t make you feel much cleaner after you’d been in it and besides, when you were a girl, you bathed as quickly as possible, hoping none of the boys came in through the unlockable door to bother you.
Mentally, she stood her father and mother, the esteemed Mr and Mrs Frank and May Mosier, beside Renny and Magdelene. She finally had to wipe away the image. It just didn’t even compute.

Rafe mostly just stood back and watched quietly. His view of his family wasn’t quite so reverent as hers but if she needed to believe in the portrait she’d painted in her head, he couldn’t see any harm in it. Mostly he’d be glad when the babies were born. He didn’t think he’d ever want to spend so much time with a pregnant woman again. For one thing, she was right about the hormones. She wore her heart on her sleeve these days. High emotion and drama had always made him want to back up and head the other direction. For another, sexually, he didn’t find the end stages of pregnancy appealing. And, lastly, he liked to keep his life compartmentalized. It was one thing for Ree to visit Heron Point for a week or so but two months was too long.  It was wearing on him. It wasn’t where she belonged.

The timing had worked out perfectly although they hadn’t planned it that way. The Busch series’ last race of the season was in November, then he was off until February so he’d had this time to spend with her during the last of her pregnancy and to be with her and the babies for a while after they were born before he had to go back to the constant travel demanded by NASCAR. He’d been named Rookie of the Year in his first full year. That was pretty exciting to Chester and Jeri, his team and sponsors and the fan club but to his family, that was a minor achievement compared to producing two new Vincennes (and incidently, two new little Catholics).
He took her to the hospital early in the morning. They induced labor and shortly after noon, the twins were born. First, Cameron Pierce Vincennes, 5 lbs and 5 oz, with a faint layer of blond hair and misty gray eyes. Then Ciara Renee, 5 lbs exactly, dark eyes and a head full of inky hair. A blonde boy and a dark girl. Leave it to Rafe to be the opposite of everyone else. It was an easy delivery and within three days, they were home. And he didn’t mind the baby stuff at all. They laughed because he was better and faster at changing a diaper than she was.  And when they cried in the night and wouldn’t quiet down for her, he could always take them and they’d snuggle right into his arms and go to sleep.
“God, Rafe, how do you do that?”
“I’ve always had a way with kids and animals,” he said.
Finally, she said she thought it was time for her to go back to California. The new live-in nurse was already staying at the house. The new nursery was waiting to take up its duties. They made reservations to fly out on December 14. He accompanied her and stayed until a few days before Christmas, until she and the twins were settled in.
“I’ve booked my reservation back to Maryland, Ree. I’m leaving tomorrow. I’m not coming back for Christmas. Are you okay with that?”
She put her arms around him and hugged him tight.
“Yes, I’m fine. I was grateful to be at Heron Point these last few weeks but I know I over-stayed my welcome and pushed you past your limit of coping with familial responsibility.”
“You know I love you, Honey, and I love Cam and CeeCee too but….”
“Shhh, I know, Baby. You don’t have to explain. Just come back and see us when you’re ready. We’ll be here waiting whenever that is. You can come when you like and go when you like.”
“Do you wish I was different, Ree?”
            “No, Rafe, I wouldn’t trade you for anyone else in the world, even for a man who came home right after work every night.

He got home on the 22nd and Lane came in on the 23rd. The cradles were back in the nursery. It was just him and her in bed together.
“God, Rafe,” she panted, “you act like you haven’t had sex in a month! Not that I’m complaining.”
“I almost haven’t had sex in a month, Lane.”
“Poor Baby,” she mocked, taking hold of him, “was it awful for you?”
He grinned, “awful enough.” He could feel himself getting hard again. “Are you going to try to make it up to me, Sweetie?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” she promised.

And so it went. Chet’s faith in him was confirmed. He moved to the Cup side of NASCAR the following year and was again, Rookie of the Year, with 3 wins and 10 top tens. He won the Championship in his third year. The fan club was still going strong, including now both racing fans and movie fans. Of course, only the inner circle was aware of the sex part, and Jeri was pretty selective about adding anyone new. Still, it happened often enough to keep his need for variety satisfied, along with what he found on his own, of course.
He made one more movie with Rhiannon in which they played a pair of glamorous assassins. Like No Winners, the new one, Deuces Wild, set a record for ticket sales. Once again, he had to endure the media frenzy he hated so much but he felt like he owed her for how generously she loved him without expecting more from him than he was able to give.
She brought Cam and CeeCee to stay a couple weeks at Heron Point two or three times a year, always leaving before she sensed that he was getting restless.  He thought he was good at being both a lover and a father, he just wasn’t good at it for very long at a time.
He tried to go to California at least once a month. Whenever he arrived, she was happy to see him and his kids wrapped their arms around his legs, yelling, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy’s home!”  He’d scoop them up in his arms and enjoy the feel of their little faces snuggled against his neck. He’d kiss them good night and it did make him feel great to hear them say, “I love you, Daddy” in their sweet little voices and he’d rub his bristly cheek against their soft ones and tell them he loved them too. Then he’d take her to bed and by now, he’d overcome all her reservations, so there was no holding back.
For her and the kids, it was like a huge, vibrantly colored rainbow arched across their sky when he was there.  They reveled in his presence. She loved having him next to her in the night and sitting at the kitchen table with her in the morning. She took a picture of him watching football in his recliner with a sleeping toddler cuddled in each arm. Like everyone else in Rafe’s life, his family never got as much of him as they wanted and it made them crave his attention all the more.
But it wasn’t like life turned miserable when he left, anymore than life becomes miserable when a rainbow fades. It’s what you expect to happen, knowing rainbows come and go.
She still had her work. Everyone was telling her, she was bound to be nominated for an Academy Award for her latest role.  The Benchmark p.r. team tried to drum up a little publicity for the movie by pushing a rumor that she was having an affair with her co-star, Cooley Shepherd, but it never went anywhere. Even the gossip-loving industry media was pretty well convinced that her heart was with Rafe and her babies. The truth was, she’d never felt the slightest attraction for any other man.
Ree had made good on her promise to join the church and Rafe flew to California to be present at the his twins’ christenings at St Alban’s, a little bemused that Pearl Ann Mosier was turning out to be a more dedicated Vincennes than he himself had ever been.
Cam and CeeCee attended the most exclusive and expensive pre-school in Beverly Hills. Rafe had watched both children closely for any sign that they’d inherited his, okay, call it anti-social personality, but they both seemed like typically adorable, happy, smiling babies. They both giggled when you tickled their tummies or wiggled their toes. They both raised their little arms when he leaned over their beds, begging, “hold me, Daddy,” something he didn’t think he’d ever done (actually, he didn’t remember anyone ever leaning over his bed but surely, they must have).
Their oppositeness grew more noticeable as they got older. Cam was taller and slender and fair, with flaxen hair as straight as Rafe’s and gray eyes, clearer and lighter than Ree’s smoky ones. CeeCee’s black hair fell in curls around her mother’s heart-shaped face. Her tiny, dainty body was the color of the purest honey and her eyes were dark like her father’s but there was no sense of that closed-offness Rafe knew his own eyes contained.

Laney graduated from Skidmore with her degree in library science and, irony of ironies, ended up working at the library at Princeton. He thought she’d always want to be some place where she’d be surrounded by crowds of people.  They got together a few times during the year, always in February for sure. She had a steady boyfriend and Rafe was glad. Mike, a professor of Economics, was a super good guy and treated Laney like a queen. She’d even discussed the possibility of getting married and Rafe encouraged her. He thought she was the kind of woman who would flourish in the everyday security of a having a loving man at home.
“But what about you and me, Rafe?”
“What about you and me? I’ll always be around so you can use me for what you need me for.”
“God, you make it sound so mercenary.”
“I can give you that and not much else, Lane,” he said, moving his mouth down her belly. “He can give you everything but that. We both play our part. What’s so wrong with that?”
She sighed. “For you, Rafe, probably nothing.”

By the time everyone was done, Renny and Magdelene had seventeen grandchildren. Even Gabe, a late bloomer in the marriage sweepstakes, finally married (not an Oriental or a Muslim as Rafe had once suggested, but Rachel was Jewish so he did add to the family diversity) and had three daughters. Laney was so beautiful and so warm and caring, no one could understand why she was the only one still single and childless.

Chas and Vic retired, spending their winters in New Jersey and their summers in Provincetown. He visited them at least twice a year and they travelled to wherever he was racing two or three times a season too. Life was strange, he thought. What Ree thought she’d found with his family, he himself had actually found with Vic and Chas. He still carried the little gold bar everywhere he went. (His parents had never been to any of his races and so far as he knew, hadn’t seen either of his movies).

Linda Dee became even more obsessed with him than she already was. She had her computer set up so that Google alerted her at any new mention of his name on the world wide web. Between the movie media and the race media, that was a lot of alerts. She read about Rhiannon and the twins and about Deuces Wild becoming a runaway hit and about being number one in NASCAR. She kept waiting for him to have to pay some penalty for being the evil person she thought he was but he just kept on being awarded the brass ring every time he went around.

Rhonda Fisher paid attention too and although she wouldn’t have told her friend, she was thrilled at each new achievement. Ex-professor Barnes noticed (she and Kaddie owned three  fitness centers in Florida now) and grimaced  bitterly each time she saw his name. If she still had hard feelings though, Kaddie didn’t. She thought happily of her times in bed with Rafe. He got a fan letter from Bobby Kelly, forgiving him for what he did and asking if they couldn’t have a drink together sometime, seeing as they were old school pals and all. He would have chuckled if he’d read it but, of course, he never did read his fan mail. And there were lots of women with whom he’d been involved at one time or another, all of them feeling pretty much like Kaddie, treasuring that moment, brief though it might have been.

Gil kept up with Rafe’s exploits through Renny.
“Magdelene has given me fits wanting me to pin him down about his intentions toward Rhiannon but I flatly refuse to do it. I told her if she wanted to try to confront him about it, be my guest. She’s beside herself because Rafe is the only one of our kids who has refused to make his children legitimate. Of course, he claims them and gave them his name and I know he’s made them the beneficiaries of his trust fund but, you know, that doesn’t satisfy Mag. She thinks he ought to marry Rhiannon. I know Rafe enough well enough to know that‘s never going to happen, at least not unless it’s his own idea, and it doesn’t appear it ever will be his own idea. Still, they have some kind of semi-stable relationship that looks like it might be lasting. That’s probably as good as it gets with Rafe.”
“You know, Ren, I always figured that boy would end up doing something totally unconventional. I guess I was right about that, huh?
“Yeah, unconventional is probably as good a word as any to describe Rafe.”

And as for Rafe himself, as always, he would have been surprised to know how many people cared about what was going on in his life because unless it affected him personally, he never gave much thought to them at all.

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