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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Book One - Chapter 3

Chapter Three

He called his parents together.  They were at the long rosewood table in the dining room with cups of coffee in front of them. Rafe, looking at Renny and Magdelene, hoped he’d inherited his parents’ genes. They were in their late 50’s now but it seemed to Rafe, they’d barely changed from his first memories of them. Renny, dressed in an immaculately tailored chalk gray suit, was still lean and flat-bellied, much like Rafe himself. His black, perfectly razor cut hair was the same except for some silvering around the temples. His dark eyes could still twinkle or spark depending on his mood. His smile was easygoing but it could sometimes lull you into a false sense of security. All Renny’s kids knew that trying to take on their dad was a lost cause. He’d let you go ahead and make your argument, let you think you just might be winning, then demolish you with a few well-chosen words. Rafe didn’t respect too many people, in fact, he couldn’t really think of anyone else besides his father but he definitely looked up to Renny, in the same way a young lion cub acknowledges the superiority of the leader of the pride.
As for Magdelene, she was still as beautiful as ever. If she’d been taller, she might have been a model with her slender, stylish figure and the pale blonde hair that curled softly around a face like a cameo – ivory skin and lapis lazuli eyes. Of course, she never would have been a model because being a model is hard work and Magdelene had never had to work. Her own family was wealthy and then she’d married Renny who was even richer so she’d never known anything but abundance. Rafe figured the hardest thing she’d ever done was give birth to nine children, of course, that was probably no picnic….
“I’ve got a proposition for you,” he told them. “Let me talk first, okay, and then if there are flaws in my argument, you can point them out.”
Renny wondered what this most interesting of his kids was going to come up with now. Magdelene was noting how strong and brown and handsome he looked. She reached over and brushed a stray swatch of dark hair off his forehead.
“First, I want to put off going to Princeton for a year. I’d still only be 17 when I start. I’m tired of going to school and reading books and taking tests and pleasing teachers. I just want to take life easy and be a bum for a year. I want to spend my time doing physical stuff, stuff you do outside in the sun like boating and riding and skiing. I think I earned the time by graduating at 16.
There’s a second reason. If I went to college this fall, Laney would only be 14. I know, Dad, that you’ve gone into sort of semi-retirement and you and Mom have things planned like more cruises. You deserve it after raising all nine of us but it leaves Lane alone a lot in a 32-room house except for the staff. It’s hard to think about her wandering around in this place by herself like a lonesome little ghost. If it was me, I could do it but, you know, she doesn’t have my, my…”
“Self-sufficiency, Rafe?” His father supplied the words.
“Yes. So, I’d be living here for at least another year to watch out for her. Beyond that, I wish you’d think of just turning over some extra money to me for what she needs.” A smile flickered across his face. “I usually always have to remind you anyway when her lunch fees are due or her class is going on a field trip and she has to have a check. You know, she made the Cheer Squad for next year and there will be outfits to buy for that. I’m not bitching about any of this, I’m just trying to be practical. This way she can come to me and instead of being the middle man, I can just take her shopping or write a check or take her out to eat or whatever. It’s not that I’m trying to cadge more money out of you, Dad. Out of the $500 a month allowance you started giving me in high school plus other money I’ve gotten, I have almost $10,000 in the bank but I may have to spend that this next year if I want to play without having to get a job. And I don’t want a job because I don’t want to be on a schedule. I’m scheduled out for a while. So, that’s it. That’s what I have to say.”
Renny looked at Magdelene. “What do you think, Maggie?”
“It okay with me if that’s what he wants to do. I’d feel better about us going off if I knew Rafe was here with Lane. And he’s right, he’s the one she goes to when she needs anything so it would probably be more convenient for all of us if he handled it directly. One thing though, Rafie, next year, you absolutely, positively enter Princeton. No more trying to talk us into putting it off.”
Rafe nodded. “No, I won’t do that, Mom.”
 Renny shook his head slowly. “I’m going to agree to give you your year, Rafe. It’s against my better judgment but it would seem rather hypocritical of me to go all concerned father on you at this late date.  I’ll up your allowance to $750 a month. That will give you a little more spending money while you’re out there “finding yourself”.  Lane will start getting her own allowance next year since she’ll be in high school. And I’ll give you another $1,000 a month for her. You buy her whatever she wants and needs and if there’s any left over, you can keep it for your trouble.”
“You know I’d never slack on Laney to keep extra money for myself, don’t you, Dad?”
“No, I’d never think of your doing that, Rafe. But, let me be crystal clear, Son. As your mother said, this won’t happen again. Next year at this time, you’ll be getting ready to go to Princeton, sick of school or not. And your sister is just going to have to learn to be less dependent on you. Just to focus your mind, I want you to remember one thing. That Corvette sitting out in the garage is titled in my name. I bought it and I can sell it and that will be the deal – no college, no car. Have you got that straight, Rafe?”
“Yes, sir, loud and clear.”

“Okay, Lane, I bought you another year but that’s all it will be. Dad wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about it.”
“Oh, thank God, Rafe!” She kissed him all over his face. “I’m so happy!”
“I know you are, Honey. And you know what else? They put me in charge of the money to buy you what you need so, Lane,” he gave her a mock evil look, “that means I control the purse strings and you’ll have to give me a blow job whenever you want me to write a check.”
She giggled. “Oh, Rafe, you know, I’d give you a blow job any time you wanted me to anyway!”
He was running his finger tip around her nipple. She had definitely sprouted this last year. He splayed out his fingers across her breast. Not quite a handful but getting close.
He turned serious. “Lane, you’re going to have to start psyching yourself up for life without me. Next year I’ll be leaving for sure, Dad made that plain. You’ll be almost 15 by then, almost grown up. You’ll need to start thinking about dating and boyfriends. You know, Sweetie, what we have might always be a part of our lives but it can’t be our whole life.” He ran his hand down her long blonde hair. “Do you know you’re getting beautiful, Lane? By next year, you’re going to have the boys swarming you.”
“No, Rafe,” she was almost breathless. “No, I don’t want to go with any other boys. I love you!”
“Think about this, Lane. What are you going to do when it comes time for the Harvest Ball or the Prom? You’ll want to do those things and you can’t take your brother as your date.”
She buried her face in his chest. “Let’s not talk about it, Rafe, please!”
“Okay, we’ll forget it for now.” He kissed her. “Mom and Dad said they have several trips planned. They’ll probably be gone about half the time and it will just be you and me here so we’ll have us a high old time in our final year together.”
Inwardly, he sighed. He knew he was going to have to start weaning her away from him. That would sometimes hurt her and he’d really hate it, but it was going to be up to him to make sure she was ready to make it on her own when the time came.

Rafe lay on the raft soaking up the sun’s benevolent rays. In the beginning, he’d asked for this limbo year off mostly for Laney’s sake. It hadn’t really mattered to him one way or the other. He actually could have just as easily gone to Princeton from the get-go and got a year under his belt but since he’d done it this way, he’d decided to just enjoy it and he was. Besides spending lots of time on the boats (he’d entered and won the Regatta this summer), he had a couple of other things going that he was finding pretty entertaining.
First, since he had his own car now and could go where he pleased, he’d gravitated to the auto races. The dirt track at Pequin, about 30 miles west of Benedict, wasn’t anything special in the scheme of big-time auto racing – just a quarter of a mile of clay but watching the small winged cars barely missing walls and each other, sliding through the curves at high speed excited him. He knew he could drive as well or better than anyone out there so he asked around about how you got to get behind the wheel and was told to go talk to Chester Hughes. A former racer himself, Chester owned three Sprint cars. He mostly competed at the smaller tracks in the area. He could introduce Rafe to driving, if he would.
Chester Hughes was in his middle 50’s. His once-red hair was mostly gray now. His once- trim body now sported an older man’s belly, his belt almost unseen below it.  He walked with a noticeable hitch in his stride. Still, the blue eyes were as shrewd as they’d ever been.
“What makes you think it would be smart for me to risk an expensive vehicle on a total beginner? I’ve never even seen you here before and you think I ought to hand over a car to you? You must think I’m fucking nuts, Kid.”
“I can win for you, Mr Hughes. Just give me a shot. You won’t regret it, I promise.”
“I don’t think that’s a promise you’re in a position to make.”
“Try me.” It wasn’t a dare, just a statement of complete self-assurance.
Chester looked at him with narrowed eyes. There was something about the boy, maybe it was his supreme self-confidence, but something, that inclined Chester to go along with him. Maybe the kid was full of shit and maybe he himself was buying into a con job but what the hell, nothing ventured nothing gained.
“I’ll give you one shot. I don’t necessarily expect you to win your first time out but you’ve got to show me something or that’s it.”
Rafe’s smile went flashing across his face. “Deal,” he said, like it was all over but the shouting.
 He loved the car from the moment he maneuvered his way into the cockpit and the car seemed to feel the same way about him. Getting into a sprint car is no easy task since the driver has to work his way past the wings, the chassis bars, the steering box, the torque tube….and when that’s done, he (or possibly, she), is braced into an upright position, hard against the seat, by a five-point harness, from which he can barely see thanks to the high bonnet, the front wing, a rock screen (to keep debris from entering the cockpit) and on top of all that, he has almost no peripheral vision due to wrap-around seats and neck restraint devices. Add to the rest, the “tearaways” on helmet visors so they can be torn off to be replaced by a fresh one when the visor becomes muddy and driving a sprint car turns out to require a kind of extra sensory communication between man, track and machine.
Starting one doesn’t even require a key. First the driver must ensure that a) the car is in gear since sprint cars don’t have gearboxes and b) that the fuel is turned on. When those two things are done, a “push car” pushes against the rear crash bar until the car fires.
Being direct drive, once the wheels begin turning, the engine is also turning over. Now the driver waits until he has the proper oil pressure (around 80 psi), then a few more seconds until he knows that all eight cylinders have enough fuel. Only then, does he hit the ignition switch, bringing his engine roaring to life.
All this Chester showed Rafe prior to the race. “You can see it’s not even close to just getting in that Corvette of yours, turning a key and driving off.”
“Don’t worry, Mr Hughes, I’m a quick study. I’ve got it.”
And he did.  Chester had started him out in one of the novice runs where he so out-classed his competition, it wasn’t even close.
  
“Well, that was a waste of both our time, Son, except to show me your potential. How did you get so good at driving?”
Rafe shrugged. “I don’t know, I just have a kind of a sixth sense about it.”
“We’ll try you with something a little more challenging, next week. Don’t get cocky, Son, just because you did so well this time. You were only up against the babies.”
“I never get cocky in advance, Mr Hughes, only after it’s over and I’ve earned it.”
The result was the same the following week and then the next when he was pitted against even more experienced drivers. He really did seem to have an uncanny feel for how to position his car for maximum advantage, how to maneuver it around the turns, how to avoid trouble.
Chester Hughes began to follow him with interested eyes. He thought this boy might have real possibilities. And, Jesus H Christ, he made the race groupies cream their panties! They looked at him like he was candy and they wanted to eat him all up. Chester was not only an expert in cars but in marketing as well. He knew that a winning driver was great for business but a winning driver with sex appeal was a hundred times better.
“You might could start to be a little cocky now, Son.”
Rafe nodded and his smile went gleaming across his face. He probably knew as much about marketing as Chester Hughes.

His second year-off diversion was completely different although some of the results were the same. A friend of his brother, Gabe, had contacted him at Gabe’s suggestion. The two had jammed a lot together when Gabe was going through his guitar phase. Now, the friend, Duke, had a rock and roll band, Balmer Strut, that played mostly in Baltimore and DC, and sometimes, Philly. It was highly acclaimed and in great demand for country club dances and the private parties of representatives and senators and other government bigwigs. Their rhythm guitarist had just quit and Duke had asked Gabe if he’d be interested in filling in until they could find a permanent replacement. Gabe wasn’t, being fully engaged with the concert piano now and besides, he had a girlfriend living with him in his apartment in Arlington and she’d throw ten kinds of fit if he told her he was going out on the rock and roll circuit. When Gabe mentioned his brother, Rafe, Duke was doubtful.
“A 16-year-old kid, Gabe?”
“Just try him out, Duke. Trust me, he’s not your average 16-year-old.”
“Does he play as well as you?”
Gabe answered with a rueful smile, “probably even better although if he knows it, I don’t think he cares.”
So Duke called him and the idea piqued Rafe’s interest. He met them at Duke’s studio in Baltimore.  He brought along one of the guitars Gabe had left at Heron Point, not owning one of his own.
“Tell us some songs you can play, Rafe. We’ll find some we all know and see how we sound together.”
Rafe reeled off a list of titles. Duke nodded. There were several the band was familiar with.
“I’ve never played with a group before,” Rafe warned, “only for myself, so I’m not sure how I’ll do with that part of it.”
“Well, let’s just make a run at it and see how it turns out.” He named an old ZZ Top tune, When the House is Rockin’. It was like most of what the band played, down and dirty bluesy rock.
He did fumble around for a while, trying to get the hang of coordinating his playing with band mates but then, he hit his stride and he was off and running, fingers flashing over the strings, in perfect rhythm with the rest.
“I think you’ll do, Rafe, if you’re interested. We usually play most weekends.”
“Sounds like fun, at least for a while until you can find someone permanent. I’ve only got this year and then I’ll be heading off to college.”
“We’ll have to help you with the songs you don’t know but we can add them back into the mix as you learn them.”
“Have you got them all on cds so I can listen to them?”
“Yeah.”
“Give’em to me. I’ll teach them to myself. I’ll be ready by next week.”
Duke found the cds although he thought the kid was blowing’ smoke to say he could learn that many songs in a week.
But, he wasn’t, blowing smoke, that is. Duke ran him through every tune on the list. He was letter perfect.
They had their first gig that weekend, a senator’s daughter’s Sweet Sixteen party out in Falls Church. The band was a hit and their new guitar player fit in like he’d been playing with them all along. Duke, who paid attention to every detail about his band (he was a lot like Chester Hughes in that way), watched the interaction between Rafe and the audience. He wore tight black jeans, a long-sleeved black turtleneck and black cowboy boots with silver kicks on the toes. His too-long black hair kept falling down so that he had to shake his head while he played to throw it back out of his eyes. Slender hips and long legs rolled in sexy time to the music. He was one of those natural showmen who could look across an audience and make every girl there think the midnight eyes and the flashing smile were focused right on her.
At the break, he told Todd to move back farther so as to be sure Rafe was front and center.
“Why’s that, Duke?”
“Aren’t you watching, Todd? The teenies haven fallen in collective love with The Kid. When word about him gets around, we’ll be so hot, we’ll be able to double our prices.”
After it was over and the instruments had been loaded into the van, Duke called Rafe over to the side.
“I forgot to tell you about the rules of the band, Rafe. There are only a very few.”
“What are those, Duke?”
“One, never miss a performance unless you’re on your deathbed. Two, no drugs and in your case, no alcohol either. Three, and this might be the one you’ll want to keep in mind, Rafe, no messing with the babies. I don’t care if you fuck their old ladies or their big sisters. They’re adults and that’s on them but there’s nothing that makes a Senator more upset than somebody taking advantage of his little girl. Are you straight with all that?”
Rafe nodded. “I can live with those things, Duke.”

“Well,” Gabe asked Duke, “how’s it going with my baby brother?”
“He’s a rather awesome kid, Gabe.”
“So, I’ve always been told.”
“Were you two not close when you were at home?”
“No, nobody’s close to Rafe. Besides, there’s eight years difference in our ages so I mostly remember him as a little boy. All of us used to call him Injun because Mom and Dad were always forgetting to get his hair cut so it was long and black, and he was so quiet, we never heard him come or go. He’d just be there one minute and gone the next.”
“Are you the one who taught him to play?”
Gabe laughed. “I guess you could say that. In fact, it’s the most vivid recollection I have of us together. He came down to the basement one day when I was practicing. He never made a sound, just sat in the chair in front of me and watched my hands. To tell you the truth, he was so intense, it made me kind of nervous. When I was done, he asked me if he could try it once. I went through my spiel about how you couldn’t just sit down and play a guitar. You had to learn a lot of things first and practice until you got good, etc., etc. He just said, “please, Gabe.” I handed the guitar over to him just to placate him and prove a point. I was astonished when he played the damn thing, almost perfectly.  I know he didn’t know about reading music or chording or anything then. I don’t know if he does now or not. I tried to talk him into taking an interest in some music classes but he never would.  I told him when someone was as naturally gifted in an area like music as he was, he should concentrate on it. You know what the little shit told me, Duke, just as matter-of-fact as could be?”
“What?”
“He said he didn’t have enough time to concentrate on everything he was good at. He’s some kind of fucking savant, Duke.”
“If you saw him work the women in a crowd, Gabe, you say he’s some kind of fucking cocksman too.”

So on this bright sunny day as Rafe lay out on that raft in back of the house, he was thinking that although he was having lots of fun, his restful year was turning out not to be so restful, in fact, he might be burning his candle at both ends. He sometimes had to hustle to get from race meets to band gigs. And then there was the sex. Between the race car groupies and the rock and roll groupies (not to mention, Laney wanting attention at home) he thought he might be pushing himself beyond his endurance, which he had always thought before was pretty well limitless. It wasn’t the first time he’d had the thought that he needed to start pacing himself but he wasn’t sure how to do it. The girls at school had known how to let him know they were interested but they’d been bound by certain restrictions. Those same limitations didn’t apply to either the race fans or the music fans who felt free to express themselves in more direct ways. He’d never had so many breasts thrust into his face, so many eager hands on his ass, so many pussies pressed against his groin as he had this summer. School girls tended to be note writers and he’d gotten plenty of written offers detailing what he could expect if he took out this one or that one and he still did get some of those passed up onto the stage or thrown into the window of his car. But most of them just came out and told him in graphic terms what they wanted and what they would do for him in return. He accepted as many of those offers as he could handle, maybe a few more than he could comfortably handle.
Duke had ordered him off the young ones at the dances and for the most part, he’d abided by that. There was just that one time when the two beautiful twin daughters of the head of the Congressional Black Caucus said they wanted to play Oreo with him, him being the white icing in the middle. “Sorry, Duke,” he’d said to himself, “this is where me and the rules part ways.” Those girls had turned him every way but loose and when finally, at dawn, he half fell down the hanging stairs from their treehouse (yes, treehouse, which they seemed to use much as he used the cabin on Mount Vincennes only there were mats instead of a bed), he wasn’t sure he’d even have the strength to push the accelerator down on the Corvette. When he got home and Laney approached him, he’d told her, “not now, Lane, I just need a shower and some sleep”.
One nice thing about the band chasers was that, because of their following with Washington government types, there was lots of diversity and diversity was something that Rafe got off on. It was like having access to an ever-changing international sexual smorgasbord.
By contrast, the race track devotees tended to be more all-American, mostly white, some of them a little on the redneck-y side, although not all by any means.  Not that it mattered - tight jeans, high cut tee-shirts and bleached blonde hair was fine with him too. And he liked southern drawls almost as well as British accents.
“Speed and sex and rock and roll,” he thought to himself right before he fell asleep in the sun, “my fucking cup runneth over.”

Laney was not so happy with the way things were going. The high hopes she’d had for this year were not panning out exactly as she planned. It seemed to her Rafe was gone almost as much as he would be if he had gone to Princeton what with the racing and the band. For sure, he wasn’t there on Friday and Saturday nights. He was home most week days but she was at school and half the time, he went off somewhere on week nights too. He offered to take her to the races whenever she wanted to go and she had gone with him a few times. She liked it okay, she guessed, but it wasn’t her favorite thing and he didn’t get to spend all that much time with her even when she was there. She’d also gone to dances with him twice but she discovered she hated that. He’d asked a group of girls if they cared if she sat with them and of course, they were thrilled to have her. Not because of her though but because they thought it would bring Rafe to their table more often, which it did, but that was almost the worst part. She hated seeing them fall all over him, touching him and cooing in his ear. She even saw one girl put her hand on his crotch under the table and he didn’t act like he minded either.
Just about the only good period was when her folks spent a week in Las Vegas. He had stayed home that whole time except just to do the races and one dance he had to do. He took her to the mall and bought her some new clothes and the next evening he told her to dress up nice and they went out to eat at Bridenthal’s, which wasn’t a fast food place, but an elegant restaurant near the harbor. They went to a movie and he lounged beside her the whole time, his hand on her upper thigh, with her thinking she just wished the damn film would get over with so they could go home and go to bed. He let her spend every night that week with him. She thought it was the closest she’d ever get to heaven – going to bed with him every night and waking up with him every morning, knowing as soon as he roused up, he’d start kissing her and touching her. All that week she went to school so happy, people asked her if she’d snagged some Valiums or something. 
She thought he was probably doing part of it on purpose, staying away as much as he did. He kept bringing up how she needed to be prepared for when he wasn’t around at all. People probably thought she was lucky, living in the mansion she lived in, with the pool and the tennis courts and the horses and the boats. They didn’t have the faintest idea how lonesome, and sometimes, scary it was to live in a house so big, where bedrooms stretched down the hall for about a mile. It was probably different when all the big kids were still home and there were brothers and sisters behind every door but now all those bedrooms were empty. And the master bedroom where her folks slept was downstairs, at the other end of the house, so far away they probably wouldn’t even hear her if she screamed her head off. She still had nightmares some times and if Rafe wasn’t there to come and calm her down, the nightmare usually escalated into a panic attack. When that happened, she had to jump out of bed, turn on the light and watch something boring on t.v. until her heart stopped racing and her breathing returned to normal. The kids whose families weren’t as rich as hers might envy her but she’d give anything to live in a snug little ranch house where everyone was practically on top of everyone else.
She really tried to take what Rafe said to heart. Sometimes she’d look around at the boys in school and think, “would I like to go on a date with this one?” or “how would it feel to be in bed with that one?” and just the very thought just made a shiver of revulsion go down her spine. She could not even conceive of having sex with anyone but Rafe.

He was having lunch at the marina. He’d noticed in an off-hand kind of way that his waitress was attractive (he’d have to be on his deathbed not to at least notice). Probably in her mid to late thirties with a trim figure in her uniform and short black hair, beautiful brown eyes and a generous smile. He certainly wouldn’t have given her a second thought though. Another woman was the last thing he needed right now. But then she asked him if he wasn’t Rafe Vincennes and when he told her yes, she said her daughter, Misty, went to school with his sister, Lane, and her name was Pam Madison.
And then he instantly flashed back to the conversation he and Laney had had about the girls talking sex in gym class and he especially remembered that Misty’s mother had said most women faked it and that she had never been brought to a climax by a man. And suddenly, it was a whole new ballgame. Now he saw her, not just as any other appealing woman, but as a challenge. He thought he would have to play this one very, very carefully. Misty’s Mom seemed like the type who would be horrified at the very thought of taking up with her daughter’s friend’s 16-year-old brother.
So that first day, they just chit-chatted a little whenever she came to ask him if he wanted more coffee or a piece a pie (which he ordered although he didn’t want it) or was he ready for his check - about the girls and how he’d be going off to school next year. He didn’t attempt even the subtlest pick up line. Just left a tip, neither too big nor too small, and went on his way.
Rafe was nothing, if not patient about something he wanted badly. He didn’t eat at the Marina every day, just now and then, and each time they became a little friendlier and talked a little longer. He felt like he was making progress the day she agreed to sit and have a cup of coffee with him when her shift was over. He confided in her then about the way it had been with him and Laney.
“Mom and Dad just basically called it quits on being parents after the first seven so I feel like I practically raised her although,” he smiled his fleeting smile, “I’m pretty young to be a Dad.”
That was another little opening to discuss barely teenage girls and the problems they presented. Fortunately, he wasn’t lying so he really did know about things like the logistics of getting them back and forth to cheer practice and how much it cost to outfit them for the Squad and how all the middle school girls thought, Mr. Schmidt, their Biology teacher, was creepy and called him Frog Freak.
After a month, he got her to open up a little about her personal life. She was dating a guy named Joe. It wasn’t a great love match but Joe was solid and reliable and she could count on him for things like taking the car to have the tires rotated and getting under the sink to fix a leak. And he was good to Misty and to her and her first two husbands hadn’t been. Misty’s dad was an alcoholic and she’d caught the second one cheating with her next door neighbor.
“I can’t see why any man would want to cheat when he had a wife as pretty as you, Pam.”
And then he changed the subject.
By the end of the next two weeks, he was flirting, just a little, and she was flirting back, just a little. To be fair, most women would have found it pretty hard to resist Rafe when he was putting on the full court press.
He calculated the timing, figured it would take him two more weeks to get the job done.
“Pam, would you consider going for a drive with me?”
“Are you crazy, Rafe? You’re a 16-year-old kid!”
“It wouldn’t be a date or anything. I just enjoy being with you. I like talking to you. I like looking at you.” The smile gleamed in his dark face. “Just a ride in the car, Pam, that’s all. It’s a beautiful night. I’ll put the sunroof back. I’ll take you anywhere you want to go and bring you back whenever you say.”
            “Just a ride, Rafe, that’s all, and you’ll bring me back when I’m ready? Do you swear?”
            “I swear, Pam.”
            It was a beautiful night, balmy and star-filled. The trees rustled in the light breeze. The bay glistened in the moonlight. He parked the Corvette in a spot he knew by the water where it was always private. They just talked. He didn’t try to touch her, not until the very end, when he put his hand behind her neck and leaned down to kiss her. Not a long kiss but a definite one, enough that he felt her lips opening under his.
            “We’d better go back, Rafe.”
            One more week, he thought.
 “Let me spend one night with you, Pam, just that. I don’t want to muck up your life. I just want to spend a night with you. Then you can go off and marry Joe and live your stable, solid life. Just one little fling, Pam, before you get back on the straight and narrow for good.”
“Rafe, my God, if anyone ever found out, I’d die of embarrassment.”
            “Yes!” he thought triumphantly, “done!”
            “No one will find out, Pam. We’ll go into D.C. I’ll take you to one of the best hotels in the city. We’ll have a great meal. We’ll have a wonderful time. And then I’ll kiss you good bye and leave you alone, I promise.”
            She looked at him across the table. Her mind said, “you have lost your marbles to even be thinking about this.” Her voice said, “I’m off Thursday. I could go Wednesday night.  I’ll let Misty stay at her Grandma’s house.”
            He nodded. “Wednesday night, it is. Park your car on the second floor of the hospital parking garage. I’ll pick you up there.” The smile came and went. “You won’t get cold feet and stand me up, will you, Pam?”
            “No, I’ll be there.”

            And she was. He found the car where she was waiting and pulled up beside her. She slipped quickly into the ‘Vette. She did have cold feet. In fact, she’d tossed and turned all night thinking about the stupidity of what she was doing and who she was doing it with but it didn’t matter. When the time came to leave to meet him, she was pulling out of her driveway. She thought she looked pretty good for 37. She’d paid extra attention to her make up and her hair. He’d said they’d go to an up-scale restaurant so she was wearing her black silk dress with the vee-neck and the skirt that swirled around her legs and strappy fuck-me heels.
            When she got into his car, he’d just looked at her for a minute and said, “you’re beautiful, Pam,” and kissed her lightly.
            And she almost didn’t recognize him. She’d never seen him in anything but blue jeans or shorts but tonight he was wearing black dressy jeans and a blazingly white shirt, open at the throat, that showed off his tan, and a casual black sport coat. He’d obviously been to a hair stylist. His usually too-long hair with the lock that tumbled across his eyes was sleekly razor trimmed.
            “What do you think?” he asked her, running his hand across his head, “I usually don’t pay too much attention to hair until I can’t see but I didn’t think the old hair went with the outfit.”
            “From Rafe the Beach Bum to Rafe the Dashing Man About Town – it’s sort of a startling switch but I like it.”
            “I figured this way I’ll look older and you won’t have to be so stressed about what people are thinking.”
            He took her to the Regnier Hotel in downtown Washington, a suite no less. She knew it must have cost at least a month of her tips at the Marina. She guessed this was how the other half lived. He’d had a dozen red roses sent to their room in advance with a card that said, “Thanks, Rafe.”
They ate at the hotel dining room where he ordered the shrimp scampi and she had filet mignon, baked potato, a salad and two glasses of Merlot (which she needed for her nerves), asking him self-consciously, “is Merlot okay to have with a filet?” To which he replied with amusement, “anything you like is fine.”
She noticed that if you were wanting to keep a low profile, Rafe Vincennes was not the person to be with. Every woman in the room seemed drawn to look in his direction. She could tell he was aware of it but he didn’t so much as glance back.
            The closer it came time to go to the room, the more anxious she got.
            He took her hand. “Pam, just relax. I’ll make it all right. I promise.”
            She thought it was ironic that the 16-year-old had to reassure the 37-year-old that it was okay to have sex.
            He didn’t rush her. They just sat and talked until finally she was the one who said, “well, I think I’m ready to leave if you are.”
            He  grinned. “I’ve been ready all evening.”
           
            Just inside the room, he put his arms around her and kissed her, softly and sweetly.
            “Just let me lead the way. I’ll make it easy for you,” he told her.
            She felt the zipper go down at the back of her dress. He lifted it over her head and laid it across the chair so it wouldn’t get wrinkled, then turned back to her and unfastened her bra. He slipped it over her arms before carrying her to the king-sized bed where he carefully stripped off her panty hose until she lie naked. He ran one hand lightly across her breasts and down her belly, his fingertips trailed across her mound and along her thighs. Just that, but she felt like little tongues of heat flared up where his hand had been.
She watched him undress himself. Shoes and socks, then coat and shirt, pants and underwear. She saw his lean brown torso moving toward her and she closed her eyes. She felt the bed give as he lay down beside her.
“Open your eyes, Pam. It’s more fun when you watch. I like seeing you. I want you enjoy seeing me too.”
She looked up to glimpse the black hair, the dark eyes, the gleaming smile, coming down over her. He kissed her softly on the lips, his tongue probing the inside of her mouth. And then he kissed her forehead, her eyebrows, her cheeks, her chin.
“You don’t know how much I’ve wanted to do this,” he whispered in her ear.
He kissed her throat and shoulders and above her breasts and then he moved to each breast, kissing and licking and lightly sucking, his tongue tickling across her nipples.
She started to lift her hands to put them on his shoulders.
“No, just lie there. I want to do this for you. You can get involved the next time.”
So she just lay, with her head spinning, as she felt his mouth move down her belly and to her inner thighs, leaving hot wet tongue lines in its wake. She felt him hold her open with his fingers, then felt his tongue investigating her, lingeringly, and then on her sweet spot, tickling and massaging, but slowly, gently, tenderly, as he had known he would have to be with this woman.
Until, in time, she felt orgasm beginning to stir, like it had been put to sleep by an evil witch’s spell until the Prince’s kiss aroused it from its slumber. It lifted its head, then began to move, finally leaping into full joyous wakefulness.
“Oh, Rafe, oh, Rafe,” she panted, “that feels so good, oh, please don’t stop!”
Mentally, he made a small tick beside her name in his sexual memory book. If that sounds cold, it really wasn’t. He had his own reasons for seducing her but he also thought that he was giving full value for what he got.
He moved back up beside her. “Now,” he told her, “you can join in.”
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him, pressed herself against him, sucked his nipples, ran her hand down his hard, flat belly, down the thin line of dark hair that went from his navel to his groin, to where his cock was standing at full attention. Meanwhile his hands and mouth were all over her too. His finger circled her nipple, his mouth nuzzled her neck and gave her tiny little love bites on her shoulder. He ran his finger into her vagina. It was wet and creamy.
“I want to fuck you now,” he said, “are you ready?”
“Yes,” she said, spreading her legs, “do it, do it!”
He mounted her and she felt him slide inside, then begin to move in and out, slow smooth strokes.
“There’s no hurry,” he told her, “just let it happen, Sweetheart. I won’t go ahead of you. I can give you all the time you need.”
He felt her breathing quicken and her hands clutching at his back. Her legs went up and around him. Her hips reached up to meet his.
He practically sang in her ear. “Ah, Pam, it feels so sweet to be here. God, I’ve wanted to do this since the first day I met you. Let’s do it together, Baby.”
And they did. Her back arched, she let out a huge sigh of satisfaction and he felt himself exploding inside her.
“Mmmm,” she said, “that was great, Rafe.”
She fell asleep with his arms around her. When she woke up, she was snuggled up against his back with her crotch pressed against his butt and her face against his shoulder. She lay for a moment without moving, luxuriating in the hard body stretched out beside her.
“I’ve been waiting for you to wake up.”
“How did you know I was awake?”
“I felt it.” He turned to face her. “One more time before we have to leave?”
“Let me go to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.”
White teeth flashed. “I won’t go anywhere.”
She peed, brushed her teeth and ran a quick comb through her hair. When she returned, he pulled her hand over onto his cock, saying, “this time you get on top.”
“No,” she said, “I’m not an on top kind of person. I’d be too nervous thinking you’re looking at me.”
“But I want to look at you. I want to see the look on your face when you make yourself happy. Come on, Pam, just climb on over here and sit down on it. You don’t have to do anything else at first. If you do that and you still feel more comfortable the other way, we’ll change positions.” He lifted her until she was straddling him. “Just come down on it until it’s clear inside you.” She felt the head of it at the entryway to her pussy, felt herself slipping down onto it until it filled her up, “Just be still for a while. Can you feel how anxious it is for you to make it come?” he whispered.
And it seemed like she could feel it throbbing inside her or maybe it was her vagina, throbbing around it, excited by the foreign object trapped within it.
“Now move around a little, play with it, use it for what you need.”
Desire overcame her reticence. It was as if her whole being was focused on the place between her legs. She did as he said, rotating her hips to feel it pushing inside her, looking for release. She began to feel small, slow waves of pleasure breaking against the shore of her consciousness.
“Ride me, Pam. Here, let me get you started.”
His hands came around her hips as he guided her to help her find the right rhythm. She was panting now, moaning a little in her throat. As she rode him harder and faster, the small slow waves grew until they were great rolling breakers, carrying her onto a blissful beach, leaving her sensuously content and completely emptied of stress.  She collapsed onto his chest. She realized she’d forgotten all about him.
“Rafe, I’m sorry, did you…?”
He grinned. “It’s okay, Baby, I hitched a ride with you.”

“What shall I do about the flowers? How would I explain them if I took them with me?”
He shrugged. “Leave them for the maid. I don’t care. I only wanted them to be here when you first arrived.”
She left the roses but pocketed the small card that came with them.
(He had deliberately planned that card. He knew the female penchant for saving souvenirs so he made the message as innocuous as possible, enabling her to explain it away later if she needed to).

“So, Pam, are you glad you let me talk you into this?”
            She hesitated. “Rafe, you’re like a sumptuous hot fudge sundae, sinfully rich and decadent, but not very nutritious for every day fare. Joe is meat and potatoes, bland but filling. The question is, should you eat the hot fudge sundae if you know you’re just setting yourself up to yearn for something you’re not going to have again or would you be better off never to know what you’re missing?
            “Tasting everything is always better,” he answered. “In the end, all we are as people is the sum total of our experiences.”
             “If I was your age, Rafe, I could imagine letting myself fall seriously in love with you and getting my heart broken for my efforts but I have to remember I’m a single 37-year-old mother with a shitty little job as a waitress that barely let’s me make ends meet and a boyfriend who’ll crawl under the sink to fix the leak.”
            “I don’t know how long I’ll end up living,” he mused, “but I expect I could go however long that is without ever getting under a sink.”
            She laughed. “Exactly.”
            “But, Pam, couldn’t you show him what makes you happy?”
            “First, Rafe, I don’t think he’s an old dog who is going to be up for learning any new tricks and second, he already thinks he makes me happy. I’m in a Catch 22. Kind of hard at this late date to say, ‘oh, by the way…’”
            “If it was me, I’d want a woman to tell me,” he said, “so I could fix it.”
            She laid her hand on his cheek. “I don’t think it’s a problem you’re ever going to have to worry about, Rafe.”

            He dropped her off at her car, giving her a last kiss.
            “The answer to your question, Rafe, is yes. I’m glad you talked me into going with you. You’ll always have a special place in my memory, one I’ll probably drag out from time to time when I need an uplift.  But, Rafe, don’t come to the marina to eat anymore, okay, and if you see me at one of the girls’ games, just say hi and keep on going?”
            He shook his head in agreement. “I know.”
            As she was walking to her car, he called out, “hey, Pam…”
            “What?”
            “If you ever get a craving for hot fudge, just call me.”
            She blew him a kiss. “That won’t happen, Rafe, I’m running back to the straight and narrow as fast as my legs will take me - but thanks.”

            He drove away thinking, “mission accomplished.”

            She put the thank you card in her Bible where she thought Misty would never find it but she did.
            “Mom, what did you ever do for Rafe Vincennes that he would thank you for?”
            “What do you mean?”
            “I found a card in your Bible that said – ‘thanks, Rafe’ – I assumed it was Rafe Vincennes, he’s the only Rafe we know.”
            “Oh, he used to come into the marina for lunch sometimes and we talked. One time he sat and confided in me about the situation with his parents and Laney. The card was in my purse and I used it for a bookmark. ”
            “What about Laney and her parents?”
            “That’s none of your business, Misty. It was a confidential conversation.”
            “I never remember Laney’s folks one time at school or at our games. She hates being alone so much in that huge house. She said if it wasn’t for Rafe, it would be terrible. We’re poor but I’d rather live here with you than be rich like the Vincennes.”
            “Yes, sometimes, we envy people without knowing the whole story, Miss.”
            “Mom?”
            “What?”
            “Do you think Rafe Vincennes is hot?”
            “I probably would if I was your age, why?” (God, she hoped she wasn’t blushing!)
            Misty giggled. “We passed around a poll at school and he was voted the hottest boy by the middle school girls. Do you think Rafe would ever go out with someone like me, Mom?”
            “No! You’re too young for him.”
            “He’s 16 and I’m 14, that’s only two years. Wasn’t Dad five years older than you?”
            “He’s going to be leaving for Princeton next year and be hanging around with college girls. I don’t think he’ll be interested in kids your age and now do you think we could change the subject to something else besides Rafe Vincennes?”
            “Gawd, Mom, why are you so grouchy?”
            “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to snap at you, Miss. I think I’m getting ready to start my period. I must have PMS.”
            “Do you think if Joe comes this weekend, he’ll fix my closet door where it keeps getting off the track?”
            “I’m sure he will, Honey.”
            “I like Joe, Mom. He’s nice.”
            Gratefully, “yes, Misty, he is nice, isn’t he?”

            “Have you ever cried, Rafe?”
            “I don’t know, Lane, I suppose I must have at some time, when I was a baby.”
            “I’ve never seen you cry. Even when the dog attacked me and you got bitten, you didn’t cry.”
            He smiled faintly. “Well, if I did, Honey, I probably learned quickly enough that it wasn’t going to do me any good. You know, there was no Rafe around when I was little, like you had me. Maybe I just stopped doin’ it when I found out it was a waste of time.”

            “Well, this is the last meet, Rafe. Are you still determined to go off to college next year?”
            “No question about it. My dad made it clear – no college, no Corvette. I love three things in this world, Chet  – my sister, my dog and my car. Besides, it’s the way it is, Vincennes sons go to Princeton. It’s like the law.” He grinned.
            “I never expected when you first came to me as a snot-nosed kid you’d have the talent for driving you turned out to have, Rafe. I could see you going all the way with it, if that’s what you decided to do.”
            “I still might, but I have to get this out of the way first.”
            Chester held out his hand. “You’re welcome back any time, Rafe. You come to me, you’ll always have a car to drive.”
            “Thanks. It’s been awesome.”
            Chester sighed. He really hated to lose this boy. It was true what he said about Rafe’s driving but you could always find drivers. Finding great drivers with the kid’s charisma was something else again.
             

             Magdelene always went all out for Christmas, decorating the house to within an inch of its life. Huge swags of evergreens with giant red and green plaid bows draped the golden oak staircase. Enormous wreaths hung on every door. Lights shone from every window. Banks of poinsettias filled the fireplace hearths and extravagant red and white flower arrangements bedecked every mantel and table. Out in the front courtyard was a flood-lit, life-sized manger scene, imported from Italy, that put to shame anything found in any church yard.
             There were trees throughout the downstairs – blue ones and white ones and green ones, decorated in various themes but the piece de resistance was the 15-foot tree in the left tower that opened into the living room. It was covered with white lights and red bulbs and golden bows, along with ornaments made by nine artistic young Vincennes’ throughout the years. Presents spilled out into the floor in all directions. Christmas was the one time Renny and Magdelene expected their entire family to return home. Their children could spend Easter or Thanksgiving with in-laws or friends or off on backpack journeys through Tibet or what the hell ever but by God, they would drop whatever they were doing and come home for Christmas day. When they were young, the tradition was opening presents, followed by waffles for breakfast. When they got older, they flipped that schedule and ate first, then repaired to the living room for gifts. After that, they were all free to nap or visit or watch television. The late afternoon was turkey and ham with all the trimmings, followed by evening mass.
            Rafe had warned Duke early on. “If you schedule a Christmas night dance, you’ll have to find a substitute for me. My parents don’t excuse an absence at Christmas for any reason except intensive care.”
            So all the siblings were arriving. The garage was full and the bedrooms were full, just like back in the old days when they all lived at home. Morgan was 35 now. He came with his wife, Jessica, and their two children (a dark boy, 10, and blonde girl, 7), Logan and Jennifer. They lived on an estate in Connecticut, Amber Hill. He was a partner in his law firm in New York City. He still stayed in shape playing a cutthroat game of racquet ball.
            Wyatt was the only one who might have been allowed off the hook for not showing up but fortunately, he was able to get leave from the military. Wyatt was married too, to an Air Force lieutenant, a lovely Mexican girl named Belen. They joked and said one reason they got along so well was that they hardly ever saw one another.
Mariel was the third to bring an in-law into the Vincennes family. Her husband was British, Sir Reginald Dunstan, Seventh Earl of Stancroft. (No one was surprised when Mariel married a title). Actually, Reg was a heck of a nice guy who didn’t put on airs like you might expect from an Earl, in fact, if anyone put on airs, it was Mariel herself. They had two sons, both black-haired, Reggie Jr and Hugh, 5 and 3 years old. They had teasingly called her Lady Mariel even before she married into royalty.
 Denis was also there from New York, along with his partner, Jeff. Denis was a full-time artist and Jeff was an actor. They seemed to make a pretty good living in their two unpredictable professions (not that any Vincennes ever had to worry about making a living). Denis had never had a problem acknowledging his sexual orientation because he knew none of his family cared, all of them being totally non-homophobic. 
Ditto, Jocelyn with her African-American boyfriend, Edgar. They were engaged and would be married next June. Together, they owned a psychiatric clinic in Boston and both had about a hundred initials behind their names, which no one else in the family could ever decipher. She was slender and platinum; he was ebony and had the physique of a linebacker. Their colleagues in psychiatry referred to them as Day and Night.
Gabe, of course, was playing piano on the concert circuit. He and his girlfriend had broken up. She hadn’t been as understanding about spending time apart as Wyatt’s wife.
Annecy had completed her degree in veterinary science and had just been hired at an animal clinic on Cape Cod.   
            By the time everyone arrived with their packages, the presents filled up half the living room floor. Their socks all hung on the intricately carved mantel. You had to be a sibling or a spouse to get a sock because Magdelene said the girlfriends and boyfriends came and went too fast. She made an exception for Jeff, of course. She figured he and Denis would be married if the country ever became enlightened enough to allow gays to wed in every state. There were usually no big surprises about socks. They were filled with various kinds of expensive candy and contained, in addition, a check for $1,000. (Morgan could remember back to when it was only $500). There were other small things tucked into the velvet stockings (a different color for each individual Vincennes) – a gift card to a book or art store, a pair of earrings, a miniature pewter Civil war soldier for Denis’ collection, a Waterford crystal animal for Annecy’s. The $1,000 checks were one reason they all almost always made it home. Renny’s rule was that it was only good for Christmas Day. If you weren’t there then, the check disappeared.
            Laney thought it was exciting when everyone was at Heron Point. She imagined what it must have been like when they all lived here – all the noise and activity and people running up and down the stairs and doors opening and closing and laughing and music playing. Rafe said he could remember when Annecy and Gabe and Jocey lived at home and when the others still spent their college vacations here but by the time Lane was 5, even Annecy was a teenager and the older ones were gone for good.
            “So, Rafe,” Gabe asked him, “you’re racing cars and playing guitar for a year before you go to Princeton, huh?”
            “Yeah.”
            “I can’t believe Dad let you get away with that. None of the rest of us would have been allowed to postpone college to play around for a year. Or to have a Corvette for our first car. He must have mellowed in his old age.”
            Rafe’s dark eyes captured Gabe’s, a slight smile drifted across his face. “Think back, Gabe. Do you seriously think I’ve had it better than you older ones?”
            Gabe remembered Injun, the serious little boy who always seemed to be charged with caring for his baby sister, the silent little boy who was mostly ignored, even by their parents. His eyes dropped, “no, Rafe, I don’t guess you did.”
           
            Another Vincennes tradition was the Christmas List. The kids had always looked forward to making out their wish lists. Sometimes they worked on them for weeks, adding and revising. It wasn’t unusual for them to carry over to the second page. With great fanfare, they handed them in to Magdelene on Thanksgiving. She wanted plenty of time to do all her shopping.  Unless they got completely crazy, they always got everything they asked for – over the years that had meant bikes and games and puppies and ponies and musical instruments and leather coats and tennis bracelets and IPods.
 Rafe was the hardest one of all to buy for because there were very few things he seemed to want. Usually, his list contained two items at most. The only gifts Magdelene could ever remember that he seemed to feel passionate about were his German Shepherd puppy, Raven, and the year he made a point of asking to go to ski camp when he was nine and then to ask for a ski weekend every year after that. He never even had a pony of his own but simply took whichever one was standing in the barn when he wanted to ride, before switching to Destiny. Rafe seemed to lack a sense of possession, never craving stuff of his own like the other kids but satisfied to make do with whatever was around. He liked to fish but there were fishing poles galore at Heron Point and he’d just take one that was there. He was still using Gabe’s old guitar in the band and seemed content to continue doing so. If he wanted to shoot, he got one of the guns out of the gun safe in Renny’s study. Magdelene sometimes bought him clothes but he never asked for anything special so she mostly got him jeans and shirts and underwear and used her own judgment about the rest, like his leather jacket.  He wore whatever she bought him (she had excellent taste in clothes if she did say so herself) but she thought if she took something out of his closet and replaced it with something else, he’d simply wear the new thing without comment. He didn’t wear jewelry and he didn’t collect anything. His room was spartan, without the bulletin board of souvenirs and memorabilia and team pictures her other kids had highlighted. There were no banners or posters on the walls. He never displayed the plaques or trophies or blue ribbons he’d won. He’d never wanted a letter jacket or a class ring and she didn’t think he’d bought any of his school yearbooks, although his picture probably appeared in them more than anyone else’s. She thought she should probably make an effort to buy them herself. Everyone else’s were on a special shelf in the library. (The idea would disappear from her head by the time the holiday was over). He’d won the Regatta this year, and that was a big deal in this part of the country, but she didn’t even know what happened to the big silver bowl he was awarded for that triumph.
She asked him – “By the way, Rafe, what did you do with the Regatta award?”
“It’s up in the attic with all the other stuff like that.”
So every year was a challenge to know what to buy him. Whoever got his name in the annual Christmas drawing always groaned in despair.
Surprisingly, he was an excellent gift-giver himself, invariably coming up with something unique that delighted its recipient.  Last year, for instance, he’d given her an Irish Claddaugh ring, handcrafted in and imported from Ireland, with her birthstone emerald held by the two hands with a crown above. Everyone in the family mostly thought of themselves as Vincennes’, hardly remembering that her side, the Morgans, could proudly trace their Irish heritage back for many generations. Getting the ring from Rafe almost made her cry, thinking that the child she understood the least was the most perceptive about her.
This year he’d gotten Denis an intricately carved collection of miniature Civil War weapons, every gun and saber, perfectly replicated in wood and metal.
Denis was blown away. “My God, Rafe, I’ve never had anything so wonderful. Jesus – oops, sorry, Mom - they’re exquisite.” He ran his fingers over the details on the tiny pieces.
“I found out about a guy who does them. I’ve had them for two years,” he smiled his quick smile, “I’d decided if I didn’t draw your name this Christmas, I was just going to give them to you for the hell of it.”

When everyone else gathered up their kids and their clothes and their gifts and moved out, Renny and Magdelene went with them. They were going to Monte Carlo for two weeks to celebrate their 36th anniversary (Magdelene had been pregnant with Morgan when they wed, despite Renny pulling out at the crucial moment – it seemed like all it ever took was for his sperm and her egg to breathe the same air to make a baby).

It seemed strange, after all the people and activity, for the house to be so quiet.
Lane was on the computer, doing research for the paper she had to have done by the time she went back to school after Christmas break. Rafe was lying on the sofa in front of the wide-screen t.v. watching a football game.
“Come here, Honey. Sit down and let me put my head on your lap.”
He lifted his head long enough for her to slip beneath him, then laid it back down.
She began running her fingers through his black hair, something she knew he loved. It made him feel like purring, he said.
“Mmmm, that feels good. Guess what, Lane?”
“What?”
“The band is trying out a new guitar player.  They want to make sure they have someone ready by the time I leave. He’s going to sit in with them for the next week. Duke said I could either tag along or take the time off.”
She held her breath. “What did you tell them, Rafe?”
“Why, I told him my baby sister was going to be home all alone and she’d probably want me to stay here with her and make love to her twenty times a day so I guessed I’d better take the time off.”
“Truly, Rafe, are you really going to just be home the whole time?”
“Truly, Sweetie.
He rolled over on his stomach. “Do the back now,” he told her, burying his face between her legs. She could feel his warm breath making a damp spot on the crotch of her jeans, sending shivers up into her belly.
“Take your pants off, Lane.”
When she was naked on the bottom, he told her to straddle him, putting her knees on either side of his face. He held her butt in his hands, bringing her down over him where he could reach her. She braced herself on the arm of the sofa as his tongue slowly traveled everywhere but the spot she wanted it most. It went inside and up and down and around. He teased her until she felt her body quivering.
“Rafe,” it was all she could say, just his name,”Rafe.”
Until finally he went where she needed him to go and for a few minutes, it seemed to her that the world just stopped turning on its axis.
He pulled her down until she was lying on top of him. She could feel him hard beneath her.
“Just stay here until I see who wins this ballgame, then you can do me.”

 She thought it was impossible to be in bed with Rafe and him not know you were awake. He could seem to be sound asleep but the minute you came to consciousness, even if you didn’t make a move or even open your eyes, he sensed it and said, “Mornin’, Honey.”  Most often, he woke up first and then she aroused to his lips on hers or his mouth on her breast or his hands between her legs. She would think, “another wonderful day” and try not to let herself count how many were left before it was over.
If she was washing their supper dishes (she never used the dishwasher when it was just their few dishes), he would press up close behind her with his crotch against her rear, then he’d slide his hands up under her shirt and bra and fondle her breasts.
“Keep goin’, Girl,” he’d tease. “Get your dishes washed and when you’re done, we’ll do something else,” with his hard cock pushing into her butt and his finger circling her nipple.
“They can wait, Rafe, I’ll finish them later.”
“Oh, no, Lane, duty before pleasure, you know.”
And she’d keep washing as he kissed her neck and breathed warm breath into her ear until finally she was done and she could turn around and put her arms around him. Then he’d pull her pants down and tell her to lean over the chair and she’d feel him enter her from behind. She’d be so anxious by then, that’s all it took the first time and then she’d have another orgasm a little later when she could feel him getting ready.
As much as she loved it, when he did it to her, she loved just as much doing it to him, feeling him need her. When she had him in her mouth and his hands were wrapped in her hair, moving her, when she felt his urgency, until he spilled himself into her mouth, her heart did flip-flops.
When he crooned in her ear, begging her to make him come, or when it was over and he murmured, “oh, God, Laney, that was so good, you make me feel so good, Honey,” she almost didn’t think anyone could hold so much happiness.

“We could run away, Rafe.”
“Why would we want to do that, Lane?”
“So we could be together all the time. We could move to another country and become other people. No one would know. We don’t look anything alike.”
He laughed. “That’s a total fantasy, Sweetie, and you know it. You wouldn’t want to give up everything you have and everyone you know just to be with me.”
She knew he didn’t love her in the same way she loved him, had always known it. She didn’t think if he was here and she didn’t come home, he’d be almost sick thinking about her empty bed like she was when it was him. She thought she would give up everything she had and everyone she knew to be able to be with him. She thought she’d do it without a second thought.

Oh, Lord Jesus, how could she have done such a thing?  Rafe would be so furious, he’d kill her, he’d probably just kill her.
Ever since Laney could remember she’d had a secret yearning to ride Destiny. She thought they all did at one time or another, probably because he was like the forbidden fruit. She knew it had been a sore spot with the others that Rafe was the only one ever allowed to ride him besides Renny. She’d heard Annecy muttering resentfully more than once about why Renny trusted Rafe and only Rafe to take his precious stallion when she rode just as well.  Lane felt the same way. Rafe made it seem so easy and so exhilarating to go tearing across the field on Des. Rafe himself had taught her to ride starting when she was only about three and she knew she was good, he told her she was good.
If she was honest with herself, she guessed she’d have to admit that there was a little bit of revenge involved too. She was upset when he told her he’d be gone most of the day, their last day together before he had an engagement with the band and he’d probably start to be away a lot again, probably with girls he met at the dances.
So she supposed her hair-brained scheme to take Des out for a ride was partially to get back at him and prove a point although she never meant for him to know. She usually wasn’t that brave about acting out her rebellions so what on God’s green earth had possessed her this time?
The stallion bucked her off almost the minute she settled into the saddle. Now he was still out in the pasture, saddled, with his reins hanging down and she thought she had a broken wrist. She was stationed in the kitchen watching out the back window when she heard the Corvette come roaring down the drive and the garage door open.
Her head and heart were both pounding as she saw him swinging down the flagstone walk toward the back door in that graceful way he had. His hair had grown out from that one time he had it razor cut shorter than normal and that stray lock was, as usual, hanging down over his forehead. He looked pretty happy but that wasn’t going to last long. About ten seconds after he came through the door, she figured.
She was crying by the time he walked into the kitchen.
“What’s the matter, Honey?”
“Rafe, please, I’m so sorry, I know you’re going to be so mad….”
His eyes darkened. “What am I going to be mad about, Lane?”
“I took Destiny out and….”
He grabbed her by the upper arm so tightly she knew she’d have a bruise. “You did fucking what?” His quiet voice was even scarier than if he’d yelled.
“I took him out and he threw me. He’s out in the field. He wouldn’t let me catch him and put him away,” she sobbed. “I think I broke my wrist.”
She’d never seen his eyes look so black. “I’m going to go take care of Des. In the meantime, I want you to sit down on that fucking chair and don’t even move a goddam muscle until I get back, do you understand me, Lane?”
“My wrist….”
“The horse comes first. You’ll just have to suffer, then we’ll deal with your wrist.”
He turned and left. She could see him from the window, opening the pasture gate. Saw him whistling and Destiny coming right to him. Then she saw him leading the stallion into the barn. She figured she had about ten minutes until he got back. She thought one of the best weeks of her life was about to be followed by one of the worst.
When he got back from the stable, he got the Corvette and pulled it as close to the back door as he could get it.
“Get your coat and come on. I’m taking you to the emergency room.”
“Rafe, I…”
“Shut up, Lane, just shut up. I don’t want to talk to you right now.”
He hustled her into E.R. and lounged silently in a chair in her room while they sent her for x-rays that confirmed the break and then wrapped her wrist and put it in a cast. He put the release instructions and the prescription for pain pills the doctor had given her in his coat pocket. Then he drove to the drugstore and had her prescription filled.
When they got home, he told her to go take a pill and come back, now he wanted to talk to her.
She sat in the chair he pointed her to. He stood in front of her. “Don’t even think about getting up, Lane, until I’ve said all I have to say.” She shivered a little just looking at the harsh twist to his mouth and the eyes that were like storm clouds.
“Do you remember, Lane, the time you went to the basement and got lost and I had to come and find you even though I’d left instructions telling you not to leave the nursery while I was gone?”
“Yes, Rafe, I remember.”
“And do you remember me telling you that you always had to obey me?”
“Yes.”
“Well, I guess, technically, you didn’t disobey me this time because I never actually told you not to ever take Destiny out and do you know why I never told you that, Lane?” he asked in a voice that was deceptively casual.
She was gulping and wiping the tears from her eyes and snot from her nose with her sleeve because he’d told her not to move and she didn’t have a tissue within reach.
“W-w-why?”
“It never occurred to me that I had to, because I never thought you’d be stupid enough to pull such a fucking idiotic trick. But, I expect you knew, didn’t you, Laney, even without me telling you, it was an order just the same? ”
“Yes, I knew, Rafe.”
“Quit crying, Lane. I don’t want to see it or hear it. You did this yourself and now, you can sit here and take your goddam punishment without whining.”
She struggled to choke down her sobs.
“So, what were you planning? If it had all worked out for you, you were just going to put him back and I’d never be the wiser?”
“Y-y-yes.”
“But it didn’t work out for you, did it, Lane?”
“N-n-no.”
“Why do you think I got so angry with you when you went to the basement when you were three?”
“I d-d-on’t know, Rafe.”
“Because I didn’t want you to get hurt. And why do you think I wouldn’t have wanted you riding Destiny?”
“For the s-s-same reason?”
“Yes. Christ, can you imagine how I’d have felt if I’d had to call the folks to come home because you had a fucking broken neck or something when they made me responsible for you, Lane? Do you think that would have been a very pleasant phone call to make?”
“I’m s-s-sorry, Rafe, please….”
“Too late for ‘I’m sorry’. Now, here’s the deal. If you’d been hurt some other way, a way you couldn’t help, I’d probably have been all helpful brother. I expect you’re going to have a little bit of a tough time fastening your pants and your bra and washing your hair and brushing it and probably several other things, one-handed. But, you know what, I don’t care much. You wanted to do your little dance and now you’re going to have to pay the fiddler on your own.  So don’t come to me for assistance, just figure it out the best way you can.”
He walked closer to her and tipped her chin up with his finger. In a low tone, he told her, “And by the way, Lane, my bedroom door will be closed until further notice. Don’t open it, don’t even knock on it. Do you understand everything I’ve told you?”
“Rafe…”
“Do you understand?”
“Y-y-yes,” no matter what he said, she was bawling in earnest now.
“Good, then why don’t you go on up to your room now? Why don’t you just stay there until tomorrow?”
She stumbled up the stairs and fell on her bed, crying. Eventually, she cried herself to sleep. She woke up when she heard him taking a shower. When she got up to get undressed, she discovered he was right. She had a hard time unbuttoning her buttons and her jeans with one hand. Her bra was even worse. She had to pull the straps down, then work it around so the fasteners were in the front, struggling to undo them left-handed. Finally, she had to lie on her bed and pull her jeans down, little by little, one leg at a time. She was panting by the time she was completely undressed.
She heard him leave the bathroom and heard his door shut. She crept in and went to the bathroom herself and then went back to bed without even washing her face or putting on her gown. Her wrist throbbed but her pain pills were down in the kitchen and she was afraid to leave her room and afraid to knock and ask him if it would be all right if she went and got them.
He came through her door wearing his pajamas bottoms. “Your pills,” he said, setting them on top of her dresser.
“Rafe?”
“What?”
“I’m so thirsty. Can I go down to the kitchen long enough to get a Coke?”
“No, there’s water in the bathroom.”
And then he was gone.
            She started crying again.

            Listening to her from his own room, Rafe grinned to himself. “Just cry, Little Girl,” he thought. He was pretty mad. She could hardly have done anything worse in his eyes than taking the gray stallion. On the other hand, he wasn’t quite as angry as he’d let her think. It was like Rafe’s Times Ten Rule. If you expected someone to obey you and they didn’t, then if you punished them times ten, they’d think long and fucking hard before they bucked up against you again. It was sort of like his version of Shock and Awe.
            He reached for his hard penis. If he’d known this was going to happen, he would have made alternate arrangements for something to do with it. As it was, he guessed he was going to have to handle it himself.

            He was gone when she got up the next morning and he hardly came home the whole next week.  When he was there, he just went about his business, never speaking to her. She wanted to beg him to forgive her but his eyes were so cold when he looked at her that she was afraid to even try to talk to him. He did come home some nights but it was so late, all she heard was the stool flushing, the shower running and his bedroom door closing.
            She laid in bed thinking, “please, please, please, please,” over and over again, hoping her door would open and she’d hear him tell her she could come over with him but he never did. She’d think in great detail about what they might be doing if only she hadn’t done what she’d done. If he’d let her tell him how sorry she was, she’d swear by the Virgin Mary (the ultimate guarantee in the Vincennes family) that she’d never do anything she knew he wouldn’t want her to do ever again.

            It was lucky she was still on Christmas break because all she could manage to get on were sweats and sweatshirts and no bra. On the other hand, she wished it was time for school again because at least she’d be around people and have things to do instead of wandering around this enormous, lonely house feeling so dejected and depressed she couldn’t stand it. And being by herself and one-handed so she had nothing much to do but think.

            He waited until Renny and Magdelene were due to get home the next evening before he opened her door.
            “Come on over, Lane, and get in bed with me.”
            She didn’t come running but practically tip-toed over to his bed, sliding in like she was trying to be as unnoticeable as possible. She didn’t even touch him until he gave her permission.
            “You can come up close, Honey.”
            At that, she moved over and pressed herself tightly against him.
            “Please don’t be mad at me any more, Rafe. I hate it more than anything when you’re mad. I’ll be so good, I promise.”
            “It’s not that hard, is it, Sweetie? I’m not a dictator. There aren’t too many things that would really upset me but you had to know you picked one that would.”
            “I know. I was jealous because you were going back with the band and I knew you’d start staying out with girls again. I wanted to hurt you even though you’d never know about it.”
            He smiled. “You fucked that up, didn’t you, Lane?”
            She nodded. “Yes.”
            “Well, live and learn. You did learn, didn’t you, Laney, that although I don’t have too many rules, I won’t tolerate the ones I do have being broken?”
            “I swear, Rafe, I swear, I’ll never do anything like that again.”
            “We’re square then, Honey. So what do you want to do now? From the amount of bawling you’ve been doing, I don’t think you’ve been getting much sleep. Do you just want me to hold you while you go to sleep or do you want me to do some other stuff first?”
            “I want you to do other stuff first, Rafe.”
            “Then tell me, Lane. Tell me exactly what you want me to do.”
            So she did, and he did every one of those things before she finally fell sleep with his arms around her.

            “Rafe, remember the Farewell to Middle School dance?”
            “Yes, I took Mindy Hardesty when I went. What about it?”
            “Well, Cal Burke asked me if I would go with him.”
            “And you said?”
            “I said I would, Rafe, because all the other popular girls are going to have dates and you told me I needed to start thinking about boys.”
            He nodded. “That’s right, Lane. You’re going to have four years of high school to look forward to with lots of fun stuff going on and you’ll want to be a part of all of it.”
            She sighed. “Well, I guess I’ll do it then since that’s what you want.”
            “It’s what I want, Lane. I don’t want to go to Princeton thinking about you back here making yourself a wallflower because of me.”
            “There’s one more thing, Rafe.”
            “What’s that, Honey?”
            They gave us a paper at school, asking if we had anyone who would volunteer to be a chaperone. Of course, I suppose they’re thinking of parents but you know Mom and Dad would never do it. So can I put your name down, Rafe?”
            He laughed right out loud, a full-throated laugh, completely unlike his usual ironic chuckle.
            “Laney, do you have any idea of the consternation it would cause if I walked into that dance as a chaperone? Half of the teachers think I’m evil incarnate the way it is. They’d see me as the fox in a whole fucking henhouse of little chickens.”
            “I don’t care what they think. The kids would love it, especially the girls. Will you do it, Rafe?”
            “Sure, Honey. Sign me up. It will be worth it in entertainment value alone.”
            “You’ll have to dress up a little. Even the chaperones dress up.”
            “I remember, Lane. Don’t worry, I’ll fit in.”

            Rafe was accepted as a chaperone, probably because the new middle school counselor didn’t know his reputation, only that he was a Vincennes and she had been around long enough to know that was a name to be reckoned with in Benedict. Certainly, there were people who would have tried to blackball him if they’d known in advance.
            But, they didn’t know in advance. They didn’t know until that night when Linda Dee clutched Jeb Kroner’s arm and said, “oh, my, God, look at the door and tell me that’s not who I think it is!”
            “Holy shit, what’s he doing here?”
            He’d borrowed Renny’s Mercedes to bring Laney and Cal to the dance, the Corvette’s single seat being too small for all of them. He thought Laney looked gorgeous. He’d taken her shopping and helped her pick out the long pink Empire dress, then to the stylist to have her pale blonde hair done up on top of her head with a beaded ribbon entwined in the curls. Cal was a good-looking kid too and seemed nice. He’d brought Lane a corsage of pink rosebuds. Being here with them made Rafe feel all warm and fatherly. He grinned inwardly at the thought.
            To the teachers watching in horror, he seemed anything but fatherly. He was wearing bespoke charcoal gray suit with a faint pinstripe along with a dove gray silk shirt and a pewter tie with red stripes. (Renny insisted that all his sons have suits custom tailored, even if, like Rafe, they seldom wore them.  He didn’t intend to be embarrassed by poorly dressed children if the need for a suit arose.)
            Rafe had spent so much of the summer in the sun, he still maintained his deep gypsy tan. His black hair was combed back right now but Rhonda Fisher knew it was only a matter of time until that sexy lock would be dangling over his forehead. The kids crowded around him. Rafe Vincennes was like, well, like a Benedict hero. The boys looked up to him because of his athletic prowess. The girls admired him because he was so freakin’ handsome. Everyone had heard the Bobby Kelly story so there was that element of daring danger that drew them as well.
            “Well, the little son-of-a-bitch certainly knows how to make a grand entrance,” Linda Dee fumed in disgust. “You’d think we’d been honored by the presence of Prince Fucking William or something.”
            After he finished saying his hellos to the students, he walked directly to the teachers’ table, giving them the benefit of that devastating smile.
            “Hi, Miss Dee, Mr Kroner, Mrs Fisher, Miss Britt. I bet you probably didn’t think you’d be seeing me so soon again, did you?” a hint of mockery in his voice.
            “No, Rafe, we didn’t, but have a seat,” Jeb Kroner told him. Well, what the hell else could they do? He was here and that was that.  They’d just have to live with it. He hoped Dee could live with it.
            “How have you been, Miss Dee? You probably don’t even remember me, do you? I was in your second grade class.” He knew damned good and well that she remembered him. Her daughter, Chelsea, had told him her Mom hated Rafe with a passion. He wondered if Chelsea had ever confided in her mother about what a good time they’d had together. He recalled a 69 episode that was especially fun. He grinned down at Miss Dee. His smile was innocent but his chilling black eyes told her another story.
            “Don’t even speak to me, Rafe. Not after what you did to my daughter.” (Well, that answered that question.)
            “It was mutual with me and Chels, Miss Dee. I didn’t do anything she didn’t want me to do.”
            Mr Kroner tried to change the subject. He hoped Dee wasn’t getting ready to stroke out. She seemed to be gasping for breath at the moment.
            “So, Rafe, we thought you’d be off to Princeton by now. Why are you still in Benedict?”
            “I took a year off first. Since I graduated so early, I thought it would be nice to take it easy for a while. I’ll be going next year for sure. I’ve been racing sprint cars, playing in a band, just fun stuff, you know?”
            “I read in the Sentinal about you winning the Regatta, Rafe,” Miss Britt told him. She had no personal experience with him. She taught Marriage and Parenting Skills. Every Benedict student was supposed to take her course but Rafe had managed somehow to avoid it. He wasn’t up for being in charge of a pretend baby that cried at 2:00 a.m. and crapped its diapers. He’d already been through that movie for real.
            He shrugged off the Regatta win. “I’ve been handling boats since I was a little boy and I had some good luck.”
            He didn’t shrug her off though. He’d certainly taken note of Miss Britt’s auburn curls and green eyes and bee-stung smile and of the voluptuous shape beneath the jade chiffon she wore.
            Linda Dee was watching them with narrowed eyes. It was obvious to her that Melanie Britt, who was only 24 years old, was far from immune to the Rafe Vincennes charm.
            The dee-jay had started now with a slow song.  He could see Laney dancing with Cal. She looked comfortable on the dance floor. He’d taught her well.
            “Would you like to dance, Miss Britt?” he asked her.
            She got up. “Call me Melanie,” she said. “You’re not a student anymore, Rafe.”
            By the time, he brought her back to the table, they could see the stars in her eyes. “Another one bites the dust,” thought Jeb Kroner.
            “I’ll warn her, but I know it won’t do any good,” thought Rhonda Fisher.
            “I wonder how long it will be before he has her pants down?” thought Linda Dee.
            They danced the next song too, a fast one.
            When the next romantic tune came along, he asked Rhonda Fisher if she cared to take a turn on the floor. The answer was no, she positively did not want to dance with Rafe Vincennes but she didn’t know how to get out of it without being rude so she got up and took his hand.
            And, Lord, she had to admit the boy was a wonderful dancer, holding her just close enough but not too close, to lead her smoothly through the steps.
            He smiled his gleaming white smile at her, “don’t worry, Mrs Fisher, I’m not going to cause any trouble here tonight.”
            “Not here tonight maybe, Rafe, but you’re going to break Melanie Britt’s heart before it’s over, you know you are.”
            His dark eyes caught hers for a moment and he nodded, “well, maybe that,” he agreed.

            From then on, the kids took over. There wasn’t one eighth grade girl who didn’t want to be able to say she danced with Rafe Vincennes at the Farewell to Middle School Dance. He was unfailingly gracious, dancing with them all, paying them the same attention – tall ones, short ones, fat ones and thin ones. There wasn’t one who didn’t take her seat afterwards thinking he’d smiled on her a little more brightly than the others.

            “You’re so lucky he’s your brother, Laney,” Kim Leedy told her.
            “No, she’s not,” Heather Dunsmore replied. “She can’t dream of going to bed with him like the rest of us can.”

            He danced the last slow dance with Miss Britt. “Will you go out with me, Melanie?” he whispered in her ear.
            “I’m in the book. I’m free all week.”
            “I have to check the band’s schedule but as soon as I know, I’ll give you a call.”

            Rhonda Fisher did try to talk her out of it.
            “For God’s sake, Mel, you’re a teacher. Don’t forget that even though he’s out of school, he graduated at 16. How would it look? What would the administration think? Besides, you don’t know what Rafe Vincennes is really like.”
            Melanie Britt’s full lips turned pouty. “I don’t care. We’ll be discreet. Even if he is young, he’s the most exciting male around. You can’t change my mind so don’t even try.”
            Rhonda shrugged. She’d given it her best shot.
           
            They were on their way home after dropping Cal off.
            “So did you have a good time, Laney?”
            “Oh, yes, it was fun!”
            “Are you starting to trust me when I tell you that there will be life after Rafe?”
            She turned serious. “I don’t have any choice, do I?” 
            “No, Honey, you don’t.” He grinned at her. “Did he kiss you, Lane? I tried not to look in the rearview mirror to give you your privacy.”
            “Yes, he did.”
            “Did you enjoy it?”
            “It was okay. I didn’t feel like when you do it though.”
            “No, you probably never will, but it can still be good, Sweetie.”
            “If you say so, Rafe.”
            He gave her shoulder a squeeze. “I do say so, Lane.”
            “Rafe?”
            “Yeah?”
            “Are you going to go out with Miss Britt?”
            “Probably.”
            She was silent for the rest of the way and he let her be.

            Duke was realistic. He finally hired another guitar player because he didn’t want to be stuck without one when the summer was over and Rafe went off to college. This guy was an okay musician too but he sure didn’t have the same magnetism that Rafe had. He guessed they’d been lucky to have him for a year, a year in which both their bookings and prices had increased. Rafe himself was glad. He was looking forward to a lazy summer, spent mostly on the water, before he went off to school in the fall. He wasn’t even going to drive for Chester.

            He’d had a few dates with Melanie Britt. In the kick-back mood he was in, at first, he’d thought he might just settle in with her for the next few months. In a way, it would be sort of pleasant to have a regular woman and always know where your sex was coming from without having to be on the prowl all the time. It was pretty convenient that she had her own house and she’d given him a key so he could just hang out whether she was home or not. She fixed dinner every night he was there (after all, her class was Marriage and Parenting Skills), not that Rafe really cared much about regular meals. He ate when he was hungry but food had never been a big priority for him. And Mel was always up for energetic and adventuresome sex. She had one drawback though. It had seemed like a small drawback at first but it was looming larger as time went on.
            She was one of those girls he’d told Laney about who had to be in love, and what was worse, think her partner was in love with her too, before she could justify having sex to herself. Rafe wasn’t above telling a girl he loved her if that’s what she needed to hear to take her clothes off, but Jesus, he didn’t want to hear it or say it every fucking 15 minutes and that was beginning to be what Mel wanted. He was starting to recognize those nesting qualities some girls got too. She’d taken a picture of him with her digital camera and had it enlarged and framed and now it had the featured spot on her fireplace mantel.
When he saw that, warning bells started going off in his head. When she bought him a toothbrush to put in her bathroom, the bells got louder and when she told him to bring his dirty laundry over and she’d wash it for him, they got louder yet. Next thing you knew, she’d want him to move in with her and that was flatly never going to happen. So, all in all, he’d just about reached the conclusion that it was time for one more for the road and Sweetheart, it’s been fun.
Mel hadn’t been discreet as she’d told Rhonda Fisher she’d been going to be. It was pretty hard to be discreet with an ice-blue Corvette parked in your driveway over night.
At Jeb Kroner’s annual summer barbeque, some of the Benedict teachers had made up a pool. Ten bucks a piece bought you a number, starting with two and going up to 12 (the number of weeks left before Rafe went to college). They put the numbers in one of Jeb’s Baltimore Orioles hats and drew. The one who came closest to the number of weeks Rafe Vincennes stayed with Melanie Britt collected the money.
“Shit,” said Jeb, “I got 12 but I don’t think there’s any way in hell she’s going to hang on to him that long.”
“I got 2,” Rhonda Fisher told them, “ and I hope that’s right, not because I want to win so badly but because the longer it goes, the worse it’s going to be for her when it’s over. I think the girl actually thinks he’s going to give her an engagement ring before he goes off to Princeton.”
They all rolled their eyes at their colleague’s foolishness.

It was exactly two weeks and two days when Rafe finally bailed. They’d just had a rollicking time on her waterbed. Not too many people had waterbeds anymore but she said she loved hers and wouldn’t part with it until she had to. He thought the bouncing wave action added an extra element of fun to fucking.
When it was over and she was completely and thoroughly satisfied, she said, “Rafe, why don’t you stay here tonight and every night? Why don’t you just move in? I love you so much, Rafe, and I know you love me too.”
And what little bit was left of his hard on just shriveled into nothingness.
He rolled off of her and off the water bed and slipped into his jeans. He always liked to have his groin protected before he pissed them off, especially the redheads. He was putting on his shirt, when she asked, “what are you doing, Rafe?”
“Listen, Sweetheart, this just isn’t working for me. You’re a great girl but I guess I’m just too restless to settle down. I’ve enjoyed it but I’m leaving now and I’m not coming back.”
She was stunned. “But, Rafe, what about how much we love each other?”
“Mel,” he asked her, “didn’t anyone try to warn you about me? I bet Mrs Fisher did, didn’t she, or Miss Dee? They’ve always had their little posse out after me.”
“Well, yes, but….”
He flashed his gleaming smile. “You probably should have listened, Sweetheart.” He slipped on his shoes. “Oh, and Mel, tell Mrs Fisher, they’ll never get me. I’m too quick for’em.”
He snagged his picture off the mantel before he left.

Tears were running down her cheeks. “He said I should have listened to you and to tell you you’d never get him.”
“What?” a startled Rhonda Fisher asked her. “What did he mean, Melanie?”
“He said he bet you’d tried to warn me and I should have listened to you, then he said you and Miss Dee had formed an anti-Rafe posse but he said to tell you, you’d never get him because he’s too quick for you.”
Rhonda Fisher thumped down in her chair and started to laugh.
“I’m sorry, Mel. I know you’re hurting but I just can’t help it. He’s right, you know, you have to give him credit, he’s out-witted us every step of the way.”

A few days later, she got a card addressed in an angular, back-handed writing she recognized. There was a cartoon of race cars on the front. The one in the lead had fire coming from its tailpipe. In a balloon above, it said – “see ya’ around”.  Inside were the handwritten words:
            Mrs. Fisher:
                        Thanks for the memories.
                                                Best wishes,
                                                RAFE

She smiled and tucked it under her desk blotter. She would never have dared to let Linda Dee see how much affection was in that smile.

           


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