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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Book One - Chapter 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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