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View Full Version : Call Girl Cheerleaders Ch. 40 to the End.



hawk9934
08-11-2007, 03:28 PM
Call Girl Cheerleaders


CHAPTER FORTY

I wasn't sure what to say to this revelation, so I let her go on.
"You've probably noticed, huh?”
"Yeah. Not just last night.”
"No. Not just last night. Last night was when I finally admitted it to myself.”
I squared myself on my rock and took her hand.
"What exactly are you feeling? Let's be clear here.”
She took a slow breath.
"I love her more than anything. Well...I don't mean more than you, but as much. And in a different way.”
"It's all right. Go on.”
"Hayley and I have always been really close. We've never really fought that much. I know it was because our folks were always caught up in their own problems. We needed each other too much to let any stupid rivalries get in the way. She's always looked up to me, and I've always tried to look after her, because Mom wasn't always doing it. I know I like to talk about Tiffany and Giselle being my best friends, but the truth is, Hayley really is. She understands me better than anyone else. We've shared so many of the same things.”
"All of which is perfectly normal.”
She nodded.
"I know. So when I started seeing you, and she started coming over too, it didn't bother me to share you with her, because we had shared so much already. But...” She sighed.
“I don't know if I can put this into words effectively. It's just that...the first time she and I slept with you, together, something clicked inside me. It was like I had known her all this time, and then I suddenly saw something completely new in her. Like I realized that she was more than just my sister. She was a person, a girl, a very pretty one, with her own needs and sexuality. You have to understand that I had never thought about that at all before that first afternoon.”
"Okay.”
"And, with the other girls, when I really realized that I was bisexual, I also realized that I was attracted to her too, not just as my sister but as a person. I didn't know what to do about it. I guess I just suppressed it, telling myself that we were just having fun, you know. That it didn't mean anything to touch her when the three of us were ****** love. That she was my sister, that I loved her, and that there wasn't anything wrong with wanting to make her feel good.”
"I don't know that there is, necessarily, considering everything else that we've been doing.”
"Let me finish.”
"Okay.”
"But that night that Tiffany came over and did her slave bit for the three of us, when Hayley came out of the back wearing that dildo...when she started fucking Tiffany right above me...you don't know how much I wanted to push Tiffany aside and...” She paused, not quite able to say the words she meant.
“- -and make love to her. But I just couldn't. Because I knew the rest of you would have freaked.”
She paused a moment to catch her breath.
"Afterward, I told myself that it was a momentary impulse, that I had just gotten all caught up in the sex. I didn't think about it at all until last night.”
"When we brought out the dildo again.”
"Right. And ****** love with the two of you, having you inside me while I was pressed against her, while you were ****** love to her too, was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced. I don't know what it was. I came so hard, and so deep, and it felt so right and so...”
Her voice caught in her throat, and I put my arm around her. She leaned against me, sniffling and wiping her eyes.
"I just loved the two of you *so* much that I felt like I was going to explode. I wanted to cry afterwards. I couldn't let go of her. And when you were ****** love to her later on, I just had to get as close to the two of you as I could. I didn't even think about...about what I was doing to her. I just did it.”
I pulled her closer to me, hugging her, and she took another ragged breath.
"It's all right. Nothing is wrong.”
"You don't think I'm a nut case because of this?”
"No.”
"But Hayley must.”
"I don't think so. She didn't act weird at all this morning. We even made love when we woke up. She told me how much she enjoyed last night and how she wished we could do it more often.”
Marianne sniffled.
"She did?”
"Yes.”
"She didn't seem grossed out?”
"No.”
"Really?”
"Really.”
She withdrew from me a few inches and looked up. Her eyes were red and damp, and I brushed the tears from her cheeks.
"I love you," I said.
“I love her. Whatever it is we do together cannot be wrong.”
"It's not like I could get her pregnant.”
"No.”
"No one is going to end up deformed from this.”
"No.”
She leaned against my chest.
"I'm sorry.”
I laughed softly.
"For what?”
"For dumping all of this on you at once.”
"You haven't said anything to her about this yet?”
"How could I?”
"I don't know.”
"Could...” I felt her swallow hard against me.
“Could you?”
I looked down into her eyes.
“Could I ask her about it, you mean?”
"Yes. I have to know what she's feeling, but I just can't ask her myself. Not to her face.”
"I can try. That's all I can promise.”
She squeezed me tightly.
"Thanks.”
A few uneventful days went by. Although I thought frequently about Marianne's revelation (which, to be perfectly honest, was not much of a revelation...as I told her, I had seen this coming, at least in the back of my mind), I did nothing about it yet. I wasn't sure how to approach Hayley about this, and I didn't want to create a crisis where none yet existed.
Meanwhile, the Giselle-Ashley situation was rapidly deteriorating. The rest of us did our best to stay out of it, but I was growing weary of hearing them shouting at each other from the rear wing of the house. I kept telling myself that I couldn't have a cathouse without a few catfights, but I would then feel juvenile and chauvinistic for thinking something that male.
A week after my encounter with Giselle, Ashley presented herself in my study. I didn't notice the suitcases in the foyer behind her for a couple of seconds. She was trying to be resolute, but the redness of her eyes betrayed her mood.
"Hey.”
"Hi. Um, I'm here to tell you that I'm moving out. You're a great guy and this is a great place, but I just can't live here anymore.”
I sighed.
"I'm sorry.”
"I was hoping Giselle would come with me, but she won't. So I'm going back home for the rest of the summer.”
"It's all right. No one's trying to keep you here if you want to leave. I wish we could have made it work, but I understand.”
"Thanks. I, um, I need to ask you a big favor.”
"Anything. Shoot.”
"I have no car and no *****, and basically no way of getting back. I was hoping I could bum a few bucks for a bus ticket. I'll pay you back when I can.”
I got up out of my chair and went to my desk.
"Absolutely. And forget about paying it back. You wouldn't be here except for me.”
"Are you sure?”
"Yes. Don't worry about it.”
I dug around in my desk for a few minutes and gave her all the cash I had, which was about two hundred dollars.
"That should be enough.”
"Thanks.”
She gave me a brief hug, and I noticed that a taxi had already pulled up in front of the house. I took one of her bags and followed her out.
"You'll be missed. I'm sorry we couldn't make it work.”
She nodded weakly.
"Me too.”
She climbed into the cab and left. When they drove out of sight, I went to back to Giselle's room. She lay on her bed, staring blankly at the ceiling.
"Is she gone?”
"Yeah. I gave her some ***** for the bus. She left a couple of minutes ago. I'm sorry.”
"I'll live. It's not the first break-up I've gone through.”
"If you need anything...”
She nodded. I patted her shoulder and went toward the back of the house to see what the others were doing.
I found Elizabeth in the kitchen ****** some sandwiches. She wore a trim red bikini, and when I looked out the back window, I could see that she had been sunbathing with her daughters. Marianne, Hayley, and Tiffany were out by the pool, each wearing nothing but a thong. Elizabeth's outfit was more modest, but she still had quite a body on her, and she wasn't too shy about displaying it.
If I narrowed my eyes a little and let the image before me blur, the years melted away, and she became the seventeen-year-old cheerleader I had once lusted after. But thinking like that sent a wave of guilt washing over me, so I stopped. Dear God, was I never going to shed the shackles of that long-ago experience?
"Hey.”
She turned around.
"Hi. Is Ashley gone?”
"Yeah. You knew?”
"She came out back to say goodbye to the girls.”
I looked out the window again, seeing that the three of them did not appear very happy. They were talking about something, most likely the departure.
"She and Giselle just couldn't make it work," I said.
Elizabeth nodded.
"I understand, but from one perspective, I'm a little jealous of them. I wish I had had the freedom to go through what they're going through now when I was their age. My life might have been a lot different. I don't think they realize just how fortunate they are.”
"No. But try telling them that.”
She laughed softly.
"I won't waste my breath.”
I thought for a moment about what she had said.
"You wouldn't have gotten married, would you?”
"I doubt it. Which of course means I wouldn't have had Marianne and Hayley. So I think about them whenever I get like this, and then I don't feel bad.”
I looked back out to the pool, wondering if she knew what was going on between her daughters.
"I notice you're not quite as brave as they are.”
She laughed.
"Well, gravity has not yet struck the three of them the way it has me. So I suppose they'd best enjoy it while they can. But frankly, I'm more concerned about not exposing myself to the caretaker.”
I grinned.
"He's harmless. I almost feel like calling him Uncle Tony.”
"He is. But that doesn't mean I want to show him my breasts.”
I laughed. Elizabeth finished the sandwiches and piled them on a plate.
"Why don't you come outside, and we can all have lunch?”
I followed her out, and we sat around the pool for a while. Giselle emerged from the house and commiserated with the girls for about twenty minutes. The pool phone rang in the midst of this, and I grabbed it before it had a chance to interrupt them.
"Hello?”
"Hey, Steve, it's Brian.”
"Hey. What's up?”
"How are you guys settling in? Everything going all right?”
"Great. How about you?”
"Busy, which is why I haven't called since you left. But something came up that I thought you should know about.”
"What?”
"You know what happened with Randy after the hearing, right?”
The last I had heard, Haywood was so pissed at the way things had turned out that she was looking into prosecuting Randy for perjury. I wanted to put all that behind us, so I had ignored it as best I could.
I lowered my voice before answering him.
"Are they going to need any of us to testify?”
"Well, no, which is actually why I'm calling. You see, Randy has apparently jumped bail. He disappeared right after his arraignment. Haywood called me about it so I could let you know.”
"Oh, shit.”
"Right. No one seems to know what he's up to, but you might want to watch your backs for the near future.”
"Damn. I guess so.”
When I got off the phone with him a few minutes after that, I could tell the girls hadn't been paying attention. I didn't want to worry them for now, so I kept my mouth shut. I dozed off in the sun listening to them, and when I woke up an hour later, only Hayley was still there with me.
She lay on her stomach reading a magazine, and I spent a few moments admiring her trim physique, from her tanned toned legs, to her tight little butt, to the long blonde hair splayed all over her smooth back. She wasn't a kid anymore, that was for damn sure, no matter what her driver's license might say.
She saw me looking over and smiled, pulling her hair around the far side of her head.
"Have a nice nap?”
"Yeah. Where is everyone?”
"Mom went back to the guest house. Marianne and Tiff went shopping, I think. Giselle is inside. I think she just needs to be alone right now.”
"Yeah.”
"Do you want to do anything?”
"I think I'm going to stay right here. A clear sky and a pretty girl to admire is all a man can ask out of life.”
Her smile broadened, and something deeper came into her eyes.
"Do you want to know one of the reasons I love you?”
"Go for it.”
"You make me feel special. When you look at me like that, I know I'm the most important thing in the world to you.”
"You are.”
"I know. Me and Marianne.”
She sat up, reaching back to gather up her hair. Then she stretched her arms up straight, cracking her knuckles above her head. What the action did to her bare breasts, to the rest of her, could not be put into words, so I didn't try.
"I was thinking," she said.
"What about?”
"Could we get a dog? Maybe a couple of them?”
"Horses aren't enough?”
"I just thought it would be neat. I've never had a dog.”
"I suppose we could.”
"From the animal shelter, right? Not some designer dog.”
"Of course.”
"Could we go now?”
I laughed.
"Some of the others might want to help pick them out.”
"I asked. They didn't seem to care. So can we?”
"I guess so. Go get dressed, and we can go.”
She went inside, returning a few minutes later in denim shorts and a spaghetti- strap T-shirt. While she was dressing, I was looking in the phone book to find the nearest shelter. When she reappeared, we went out to the garage and climbed into the Ferrari.
The shelter was not too far away, and I imagined that it had to be a long way out of town to avoid complaints about barking animals. We drove back down the highway faster than we needed to, and I savored the way the Ferrari hugged the curves and burned up the few straightaways.
I noticed Hayley watching me in amusement as I downshifted coming out of a bend in the road.
"You really love this car, don't you?”
"Yeah.”
She laughed.
"You're like a little kid whenever you get in it. It's so funny.”
We reached the shelter in about fifteen minutes, and Hayley hopped out to look at the dogs. They had at least fifty, and most of them were barking their lungs out at each other.
"What kind of dog are you thinking of?”
"I don't know," she said.
“I guess I'll know when I see it.”
We walked around for a few minutes. Some dogs ran right up to the gate of their pen to greet us. Others barked at us, and still others hid, cowering in the back. Hayley's face grew more concerned the longer we were there.
"This is so sad. I wish we could take all of them.”
Then she stopped at the cage of a little smooth-coated brown dog that stood nervously in the center of its pen. She crouched down, poking her fingers through the chain links, ****** kissing noises.
The dog whined and took a few steps toward her. Then a few more, then it was at the gate licking her hand. I looked at the card on the cage, which described it as a dachshund-terrier mix, about two years old.
"Isn't he cute?”
"She.”
"It's a girl?”
"Yeah.”
She continued trying to play with it through the fence, and the dog now had its paws up on the gate trying to get to her.
I found one of the shelter officials and had her open the gate so we could get a better look. Hayley picked up the dog, hugging it and laughing as it frantically licked her face.
"What do you think?” I asked.
"I want to get her.”
"Dog number one?”
"Can we get two?”
"Yeah.”
"You should try to get one about the same size," the woman said.
“I think I know another one that might be good.”
She led us to the other end of the cages, where we found a shaggy blondish mutt that resembled a dust mop more than anything else. It immediately jumped up against the cage door to greet us, wagging its tail furiously.
Hayley handed me the other dog and crouched down to examine the new one. The woman opened the cage door, and the dog jumped into Hayley's arms. She laughed, trying to hold it off.
"This one is also a female," the woman said, "so you should get fewer pack structure problems than with multiple males.”
"I love her," Hayley said.
“She's so fluffy.” She picked it up.
"Can we see how they are together?”
"Sure.”
The woman led us out of the cage area to a grassy dog run in the back. Hayley and I set the dogs down. They immediately began sniffing each other's butts, then ran around the grass together biting at each other's ears.
"They seem all right," Hayley said.
"Got any names in mind?”
She smiled at me.
"Two girls. How about Britney and Cristina?”
The shelter woman and I laughed hard for several seconds.
"A blonde and a brunette," the woman said.
“Works for me.”
It took about twenty minutes to process the adoption, and I bought some various dog supplies from their pet store in the front. Hayley got both dogs on leashes and walked them around outside while I filled out the forms and wrote a check for the fee. She came back inside just as we were finishing up.
"Thanks so much," she said.
"Thank you. I told your dad all about what you need to do as far as shots and vet stuff go, so you're all set.”
Hayley and I exchanged a nervous look, then she forced a smile onto her face.
"Thanks. Bye.”
We piled into the car, and the dogs climbed into Hayley's lap, sticking their heads into the breeze as we drove away. She stared out at the road for a few seconds before turning to me and putting her hand on my thigh.
"Did that hurt?” she asked.
"A little.”
"Don't let it get to you. She knows nothing about us at all. What does it matter what she thinks?”
"Nothing, I guess.”
"I could have said something about it, but what would that have accomplished besides ****** us all feel awkward? It's none of her damn business. I bet she has her own secrets. Maybe she has some personal reasons for wanting to work in a dog pound that we don't know about.”
I laughed so hard that the dogs turned around to see what the commotion was.
"Ugh. Don't make me think things like that.”
She giggled and leaned over to hug me.
"Get my point, though?”
"Yes. Yes.”
We turned the dogs loose in the back pasture when we got home, and they ran excitedly around, jumping through the grass and sniffing everything in range. Hayley and I sat on the fence watching them.
"They look so happy. It must have been so awful in those cages.”
I nodded.
"Little Kit, I need to ask you about something. Marianne asked me to do this because she can't do it herself.”
She looked at me, eyebrows creasing.
"Something bad?”
"Something serious. Bad depends on your perspective, I guess.”
"What is it?”
I had spent a week trying to think of the best way to present this, and I still wasn't sure how to do it.
"She's concerned about some of the things that have gone on when the three of us make love. Between the two of you. Things that, from one perspective, may have crossed a certain line.”
Her face wilted, and her jaw began to vibrate.
"She's upset about it?”
"No. Quite the contrary. Well, she is, but not because she feels bad about it. She's concerned about what you're thinking.”
"I don't understand.”
"Okay. Let me try this from another tack. You know what I'm referring to, right?”
"Yes.”
"Marianne loves you very much. More than anything in the world. More than me, I think, which I have no problem with, because it's a different type of love. I think she wants to express that love in ways that she's not sure you're comfortable with.”
Her eyes went unfocused for a second.
"She wants to do it with me.”
"I don't know about that, exactly, but...”
"Well, what have we been doing? We've...we've done a lot. She's not comfortable with it?”
"She is. She's concerned that you aren't.”
"I love her; I love you. Why wouldn't I be?”
The matter-of-factness of that reply took me aback for a second. I chose my words very carefully.
"Some people...might find it unusual.”
"Some people would find what you and I have unusual. Like that woman at the pound. If one of us was a guy, yeah, I could see some major problems, but we're not. I thought incest was just male-female, not girl-girl.”
I thought about that for a moment.
"I think it still is.”
"Well, fuck it. It's illegal for you and me to make love. How is this any worse?”
"I don't know.”
"I mean, I'm not saying I want to run in there and jump her bones, but I don't have any problems with what we've been doing. It's been great, hasn't it? What we all have is really special.”
"It is.”
"So don't go putting unnecessary labels on it.”
"I'm not. Marianne is the one who's worried about you.”
"Okay. Well, I'll go talk to her then.”
I put my arm around her and hugged her. She leaned against me, returning the hug.
"So what if we're a little perverted? A little healthy perversion is good for you.”
I laughed.
"No argument there.”
"Do you want me to pretend to be your daughter sometime? Would that turn you on?”
I laughed again, then told her about Marianne's retort to one of my ex- classmates at the reunion the previous fall. She laughed so hard she almost fell off the fence.
"Would you like that?”
"I think it might exceed my tolerance for weirdness.”
"I'll do it if you want.”
"Don't worry about it.”
She pretended to pout, then hopped off the fence.
"Let's go find Marianne.”
We gathered up the dogs and brought them inside the backyard fence, where they couldn't go running off into the woods. I was concerned about Marianne being busy with Tiffany, but Tiffany proved to be parked in front of the television in the den, watching MTV.
When we reached the master suite, we found Marianne in her closet, putting away a couple of new outfits. When she saw who it was, her face creased in concern, but Hayley didn't say anything. She just sat on the end of the bed, bouncing a little on the mattress, smiling at us.
I went to Marianne and hugged her.
"False alarm, it looks like," I said quietly.
“She's fine.”
She glanced at her sister, then back to me.
"She's fine?”
I nodded. Marianne pulled away from me slowly and returned to the bedroom. She didn't seem to know what to make of the grin on Hayley's face.
"Uh...so.”
"So," Hayley said. Marianne looked back at me again, not sure what to do. Hayley broke the tension after a moment or two.
"Wanna fuck?”
Marianne burst into nervous laughter, then went to her sister. They hugged each other, giggling.
I joined them on the bed, and the three of us rolled around, laughing and pulling each other's clothes off. They both went after my cock as soon as it was exposed, and I completed the disrobing by pulling off their panties in turn as they sucked on me. Marianne lost her balance trying to help me get her drawers past her knees and fell back on her butt, laughing again.
Hayley withdrew from my cock, stroking it and watching her sister. Marianne met her gaze, and then crawled slowly across my body, pushing Hayley onto her back beside me. I took Hayley in my arms as Marianne bent to kiss her breasts. Hayley's eyes rolled back to look at me, and I kissed her. She reached up to hold my head as we frenched deeply.
When we broke the kiss, I looked down to see Marianne suckling Hayley's full breasts. I sat up beside her and caressed her gently, reaching under her to fondle her tits. Hayley slid back further on the bed, and Marianne followed her. I knelt behind Marianne, feeling up between her legs, finding her wetness, then slipping gently into her.
She pushed back at me, and I moved slowly in and out of her tight butt, watching the two of them. Hayley's eyes were closed, and she held Marianne's head. Marianne brought her right hand in between Hayley's legs, and began caressing her sex gently. Hayley let out a little noise and arched her back.
Marianne began sliding down further, and realizing what was coming, I withdrew and lay down beside Hayley. She tensed up as Marianne descended between her thighs and reached for me. I held her closely, hugging her head, and when her hand bumped against my erection, still slick with Marianne's fluids, she wrapped her fist around it and began stroking.
Marianne looked up at me, eyes nervous but filled with love. She glanced at Hayley, who was rigid in anticipation. Then she lowered her head and began to make love to her sister.
Hayley gasped at the first contact, and her hand gripped my cock tightly. I watched Marianne licking her slowly, moving her tongue in easy circles around Hayley's clitoris. Hayley's breath came in rapid gulps, and her chest was rising and falling so fast that her breasts quivered. I bent to kiss her, and she embraced me tightly. I took a firm breast in my hand and caressed it.
All of us were too excited for this to last very long. Hayley's gasps for breath soon turned into impassioned cries, and she groped at me next to her. Then she was shuddering in orgasm, biting at my shoulder and thrashing around under her sister's attentions. Marianne kept it up well after Hayley's orgasm peaked and subsided, but finally crawled up to kiss us. The two girls embraced and held each other closely.
Hayley came back to life in a few moments, and pushed Marianne on her back. When she began kissing Marianne's breasts, she pulled me down with her, wanting my help. I complied, taking the breast she wasn't engaged with into my mouth. After a minute or two of this, she descended further, still holding my arm tightly. I went with her, and she pulled my head down next to hers as we settled between Marianne's thighs.
Laying our heads opposite one another, we began licking Marianne together, one tongue on either side. She stayed snuggled close to me, holding my hand, as she ate her sister. Marianne put her hands on both our heads, writhing on the bed in sweet agony. Hayley and I were kissing each other as much as we were licking Marianne, and the emotions of this encounter seemed to be overwhelming her. She needed me beside her, holding her, however much I knew she wanted this. So I did.
When Marianne finally came, she came with a shriek, clawing at my hair and Hayley's. Her hips bucked at us, and when it peaked, she had to push us away. Hayley curled against me, pressing her face against my neck.
"Are you okay?”
She nodded rapidly.
"I love you.”
We rejoined Marianne at the top of the bed, and the three of us held each other for a few minutes. Marianne retrieved the strap-on from the dresser, and she and Hayley helped me into it. We replayed the three- way encounter of the other night, except today Hayley was on top and I was inside her as I made love to both of them. This time they held each other without reservation, kissing and fondling and rubbing themselves together. I lost myself in the two of them, holding them as closely as I could. The three of us came as one, shuddering and gasping as my seed finally passed into Hayley.
We lay quietly together afterward, Hayley on one side of me, Marianne on the other, heads on my shoulders, holding hands, faces pressed tightly against my neck. Through the window, I watched the sun going down over the ocean, still fifteen or twenty degrees above the horizon, but beginning to color the sky. The rose and gold hues of sunset played across the clouds and the glass of the window, sending amber beams of light through the bedroom.
I watched a few motes of dust dancing in the light, then looked back at the beautiful girls beside me. I hugged them, one last time, as we drifted, warm in the sun and our mutual love, into contented sleep.

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

The Fourth of July came and went. We had a barbecue around the pool and went down to the Boardwalk to watch the fireworks afterward. My forty-second birthday was a week after that, and the four girls combined to give me a present I would not soon forget. I celebrated myself by buying a green four-door Hummer to replace the Grand Cherokee. I briefly considered trading in the Jeep, then realized that we could use another car around the ranch, so I just gave the keys to the girls.
Hayley spent about one night out of every three with Marianne and me, and what went on, if you weren't inclined to label it, was something special to all of us. We didn't talk about it anymore, since there no longer seemed to be anything that needed saying.
Britney and Christina proved to be an instant hit around the ranch, much as their namesakes were in the music business. Though at night they slept in Hayley's room, in a big dog bed together, they were very much a part of the family. The other girls often played with them, and Britney took to sleeping on the ottoman in the library when I was in there reading or working. The horses adjusted to their presence quickly enough, and the dogs often came along when we went out riding.
Giselle recovered from her break-up with Ashley after a few weeks. I often saw her hanging out with Hayley, and the two of them took to riding their horses together in the afternoons.
As the summer stretched on, I found myself becoming more and more inclined to take an active hand in managing the ranch, and I was soon getting up early in the mornings to help Tony take care of things. He was a good-natured guy and did his best to show me what I needed to know, though he liked to joke about my finally learning the meaning of real work after a career of pushing paper around on my desk. After spending a few weeks nursing a collection of blisters, I wasn't going to argue with him
One morning in July, we were cleaning the stables when Hayley came out, wanting to take Belle for a ride. We helped her saddle up, and I stood in the doorway of the barn watching her ride off.
"That's got to be the sweetest girl I've ever met," Tony said, "and I've met quite a few.”
"Yeah.”
"You're a pretty lucky guy, you know that?”
My head spun around in surprise, but he just laughed.
"You think I haven't figured out what you've got going on here? With that sign you've got over the front gate?” He laughed again.
“I may be getting old, but I'm not stupid.”
"Uh.”
"It's not a problem. I'm not a man to judge other people's lifestyles. I can tell all these girls are crazy about you, and that's about all that matters to me.”
"Okay.”
He leaned against his pitchfork, propping his arms up on the end of the handle.
"I lived in a place like this for a few years, a commune of sorts, after I came back from Vietnam. I wasn't ready to rejoin conventional society. Wasn't for a long time.”
"You were in Vietnam?”
He nodded.
"Not something I enjoy talking about, but I was. One thing I learned was that you have to appreciate what you have when you have it, because you won't have it forever. Friends and family especially. If this is what you and those girls want out of your lives, then you should take it. You shouldn't let anyone else stop you from enjoying something special, even if it might be pretty unorthodox.”
It took me a moment or two to answer him.
"Thanks.”
He shrugged.
"Don't mention it. Just be happy.”
That afternoon, I went walking with Britney through the redwoods around the perimeter of the property. She would run ahead of me, then back, then ahead again, stopping to sniff one thing or another as she ran around, or pausing to stick her nose into a gopher hole. The gophers had thus far been too smart for her to catch, but she hadn't stopped trying.
We reached the spot where the creek ran under the fence onto the next property, and Britney ran up to the water to take a drink. We walked up the creek bank toward the waterfall, and I began to hear giggles and female conversation through the trees.
I stopped when we got in sight of the waterfall. The sight that greeted my eyes was more of a surprise than it should have been. Up ahead, Hayley and Giselle were lying on a blanket beside the water, ****** love. Their limbs were intertwined, arms entangled with thighs as they moved slowly against each other, oblivious to everything around them.
So this, I thought, was where they were riding to every afternoon, and maybe why Giselle seemed to have gotten over Ashley so quickly. I didn't mind. Marianne had Tiffany, and it looked like Hayley now had Giselle. The symmetry of it was pretty darned neat when you gave it some thought.
Britney tried to run up to them, but I grabbed her collar in time to stop her. This wasn't something I wanted to interrupt, and even watching seemed improper. I picked up the dog and carried her back into the trees, leaving the girls to each other.
When Britney and I got back to the house, I found Marianne and Tiffany sunbathing by the pool. Two pairs of oily pink nipples pointed toward the sun. I changed into my swim shorts and dove into the pool to cool off. When I swam up to the edge, Marianne had come up to her elbows to watch me.
"Where did you go?”
"Just took the dog for a walk.”
She looked around the pasture behind us.
"It's a nice day.”
"It's hot," Tiffany said.
"Have you noticed that Hayley and Giselle are spending a lot of time together lately?”
The two of them looked at each other in disbelief and then burst out laughing.
"You've only just figured this out?” Marianne asked.
"I guess I haven't been paying attention.”
They laughed again, and Marianne grinned at me.
"I ran into Giselle coming out of Hayley's bedroom one morning about two weeks ago," she said.
“I pretty much knew after that. So yeah, they're an item now.”
"Like you two.”
Another exchange of sly looks, then another laugh.
We stayed around the pool for a while. Hayley and Giselle returned not long afterward and joined us, and...now that I knew what was going on...I could see definite signs of attraction between the two of them. Little giggles, shared looks, sparks in their eyes, although helping each other with the suntan lotion was a pretty big tip-off too.
I felt like grilling some steaks for dinner. While I was working in the kitchen, Hayley came inside and gave me a hug from behind. She was still in poolside attire, which meant nothing but string bikini bottoms, and I could feel her naked breasts through the fabric of my shirt.
"Hey.”
She giggled.
"Marianne said you only just figured out what Giselle and I have been up to.”
"I saw you by the waterfall this afternoon, by accident. Britney and I were taking a walk.”
"We've been going out there a lot.”
"I noticed. Just didn't make the connection until today.”
"You're okay with it?”
"Yes. This is the Kitten Ranch. Goes with the territory, I think.”
"I still love you just as much.”
"I know. Don't sweat it.”
She lifted up on her tiptoes and kissed me.
"Thanks.”
After dinner, I sat out by the pool smoking a cigar. It was a bad habit I had been indulging more often now that I had the leisure time to do it, though the girls unanimously refused to let me smoke them inside.
I heard one of the French doors open, and I turned to see Elizabeth coming out of the house. She took the chair next to me and leaned back, looking up at the stars.
"Nice night.”
"Yep.”
She reached for the cigar, and, a little surprised, I passed it to her. She took a small drag and passed it back.
"I wouldn't have pegged you as a cigar smoker," I said.
"My uncle smoked them. I've always liked the smell.”
I offered her the snifter of Hennessey XO I was drinking, and she took a sip.
"How's summer school?”
"Going well. I should get my degree next spring.”
"Still thinking of law school?”
"I'm taking the LSAT in October.”
"Good luck.”
"Thanks. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you.”
I laughed softly.
"Don't give me the credit. You're the one doing the work.”
"But I couldn't be doing the work without your help with the girls.”
"I don't mind it.”
We were quiet for a few minutes, passing the cigar back and forth.
"You know," she said after a while, "we've never much talked about high school. We just had that one shocking revelation at lunch that day. Since then, we've kind of ignored the issue.”
My heart beat faster, and I had to steady myself for a moment.
"Water under the bridge," I lied.
"You think?”
"It all happened a long time ago.”
She smiled at me.
"I won't pretend that I thought about you much in the intervening years, if at all. But I've thought about it a lot this year.”
"What have you thought?”
"How come you never got married?”
"Never met the right girl. Came close a couple of times, but it just didn't happen.”
She looked into my eyes for a few seconds, then glanced down at the cement.
"Then you meet my daughter, and less than a year later, the two of you are already talking marriage. You must know that that makes me wonder about a few things.”
I swallowed hard.
"It's not because I really want to marry you.”
"I know that. I know it's Marianne you love. But you understand what I'm saying?”
I did, but it still took me a few seconds to say so.
"Yeah.”
She sat up, taking a deep breath.
"Could you come out to the house for a second?”
"What for?”
She smiled.
"Don't panic. I just want to show you something.”
"Okay.”
She stood, and I followed her out across the backyard. The guesthouse was fairly modest, probably about 1500 square feet, one-story, and just two bedrooms, a den, and a kitchen. It was furnished in the same ranch style as the main house, though Elizabeth had put her own spin on it, giving it somewhat more of a Southwestern flavor. She had hung several Navajo blankets and sand paintings on the walls and (with my blessing) replaced the carpet with sandstone tile throughout the house.
She let me in and stepped toward the bedroom.
"Have a seat. I'll be right back.”
I sat on the couch, wondering what was going on. I got my answer in about five minutes.
Deja vu was far too weak a description for what I felt when Elizabeth finally walked out of the back. I felt as if someone had slugged me in the stomach, knocking me clear back to 1974. In a split-second, I went from forty-two to seventeen, and believe me, it was not a pleasant experience.
She smiled at me warmly.
"I don't know what surprised me more, that I actually found this thing when I moved up here or that it actually still fits.”
I gasped for breath, unable to answer her. It did fit, by the way. Her All Saints cheerleading outfit, I mean.
The polyester was a little faded, and the creases from twenty-five years of storage would probably never come out, but Elizabeth Mulcahey was gone. Before me stood Beth Dunbar. She had even ironed her hair the way she always had in high school.
She took a few steps toward me.
“Are you all right?”
I gulped.
"Are you?”
She laughed softly.
"You think I've lost my mind, don't you?”
"I don't know.”
She smiled at me wearily for a few seconds.
"Steve, I'm not stupid. I see the way you look at me now and then, however much I try to stay out of the way. I can still see some of the same things in your eyes that I saw twenty-five years ago, and I don't want that. I don't want to be in bed with you, in your head, when you're with Marianne. Both of you deserve more than that. I don't want to be your adolescent obsession anymore. You need to get this out of your system, and I don't see any other way to do it. You need to see that there isn't as much here for you as you might think.”
I realized what she was really saying.
"You're talking about...” But I couldn't say it.
She nodded.
"Yes. Just for tonight, but yes.”
"I thought you had...come out, I mean. As a lesbian.”
"I have. But you know I've had sex with men. It's not a repulsive experience for me; it's just not how I want to live my life. If you're worried about that, don't be. I'm sure I'll enjoy it. And I'm offering this out of more than just frustration. I really have been trying to articulate my gratitude to you for a long time, but I've just not been able to do it in a way that would do justice to all you've done for me and the girls. I'm not good enough with words. I just want you to think of where we would be without you. I might be on welfare right now. Marianne would have no chance of going to college. God knows what Hayley would have done. Instead we all have a bright future ahead of us, and it's largely due to you.”
"You don't have to do this.”
"I know. And believe me, I don't mean what I just said as a cliche, man saves woman, woman pays him back with sex. I think that really demeans everyone involved. You and I are not teenagers anymore. We know, I think, that one little roll in the hay isn't worth all that much in the great scheme of things.”
"No.”
"I'm ****** this offer because I know it does mean something to you, because I think you do need it on some level. Maybe I still feel a little guilty about what happened between us all those years ago. I know you wanted this back then.”
I managed a weak laugh.
"More than you could ever imagine.”
"So...what do you say?”
I closed my eyes. Seventeen-year-old Steve had passed out with shock, but I could still feel the tidal pull of what I had gone through back then. Dear God, how many times had I masturbated thinking about this moment, even years afterward when I was in college? For so many years, Beth Dunbar had occupied that Holiest of Holies in my fantasies, the unattainable goddess. And here she finally was, ready to surrender to me.
I let out a long, tired sigh.
"I'm sorry. You don't know what this means to me. I just can't do it to Marianne. Or to Hayley.”
I wasn't sure what her reaction would be, but when I finally mustered up the courage to open my eyes, Elizabeth was smiling.
"No, Steve. You need to do it <I>because</I> of them. I think you know that, but you can't admit it to yourself because it would mean you've been holding on to something else all this time you've been with them.”
"It would kill them if they knew.”
"And they never will. No one ever will. I'll take it to my grave. I could never hurt them like that.”
She stepped up to me slowly and reached for my hand. It rose of its own accord, and she helped me to my feet. I followed her, dazed, back to the bedroom, where she had already turned down the bed. I was shaking by the time we reached it, and she put her hand on my cheek. She caressed me tenderly, reaching up to play with the hair behind my ear. Then she leaned in, pressing her lips against mine, and I was finally kissing her after all those years of wanting.
I don't mean to make it sound as if I suddenly became seventeen again. I didn't have the body or the exuberance that I did in those days, but neither did she. She undressed me slowly, running her fingers though my chest hair. I couldn't bring myself to touch her breasts, even over the polyester of her uniform, for several minutes, but when I did, she felt much like her daughters.
She removed my pants, leaving me naked, and dropped slowly to her knees. She took me into her mouth. I gasped at the feel of it, looking down in stunned amazement as she sucked on me gently. A giggle rose in my throat, though I managed to suppress it. Beth Dunbar is sucking my cock, I thought. How many times had I fantasized about this?
Except...she wasn't as good as Marianne, or even Hayley, though it was still enjoyable. I couldn't put a finger on why, but there it was.
I held her head in my hands as she bobbed up and down slowly. I tried to picture myself at seventeen, experiencing this back then, but it didn't quite work. Another face kept forcing itself into my mind.
Elizabeth stopped and rose to her feet. She took the hem of her top in her hands and smiled.
"On or off?”
"On.”
She laughed softly.
"Good. I'm not sure you'd enjoy seeing me topless, not after Marianne.”
"I'm sure you're just as beautiful.”
"Maybe. Just not as firm.”
She pulled me to the bed and lay back, spreading her legs. I lay beside her, running a hand up her thigh. She was being uncharitable to herself...she was still in good shape, never mind her age. I reached the hem of her skirt, discovering that she had nothing under it.
Her pubic hair was shaved, and she smiled when my eyebrows rose.
"It's a lesbian thing too. I've been doing it for years. And I'm not as blonde down there as I used to be, so I prefer it this way.”
She reached for me, and I moved between her thighs. She guided me into her, and though she was somewhat dry at first, she lubricated quickly. I bottomed out, moaning softly as she laid her hands on my waist.
"Don't worry about me," she said.
“This is for you.”
I began to move in her slowly, looking down at the forty-one-year-old cheerleader under me. I thought of Beth Dunbar, and all the years I had dreamed of this moment, all the times I had masturbated wanting her. I kept trying to tell myself that this was living up to the fantasies, but the lie of that was so bald-faced that I started laughing.
Elizabeth laughed with me.
"What's funny?”
"I'm thinking of Carl Prendergast.”
He had been her boyfriend in high school, a linebacker on the football team. She laughed again, and it felt good around me.
"Do you know what happened to him?” she asked.
"No.”
"He went to work for his father's company for about six months after graduation, then joined the Marines. He didn't even make it through Boot Camp. The last time I saw him, and my God, this must have been twenty years ago, he was stocking at that hardware store on Canal Street.”
We laughed again together, and I leaned back away from her.
"Take that thing off. This is silly.”
"Are you sure?”
"Yes.”
I withdrew from her for a moment, and she sat up, pulling the uniform over her head. Her big breasts rolled around on her chest, and if they were no longer as hard and firm as her daughters' were, they were still quite beautiful.
We recoupled, and I lay against her naked body. She slid her arms around my back, and we began moving again. She remained largely still under me, only rolling her hips slowly with my thrusts. But her breathing began to accelerate, and she hugged me close at one moment. As I grew closer to orgasm, she moved faster, trying to meet me halfway each time. I knew she wanted me to be selfish, but I couldn't stop myself from trying to carry her along. Her nails dug into my lower back, and a little whimper escaped her lips. I grunted, driving faster, and she responded instantly, humping herself against me. Finally, I let out a groan, losing control at last, but when I began to convulse in orgasm, I felt her shuddering under me, squeezing my back tightly. My cum raced out of me in sweetly painful spurts. Her hands opened and closed rapidly at the small of my back, and I felt the tremors of her climax around my erection.
As I drifted down from my release, Elizabeth exhaled slowly, relaxing under me. I rolled off of her, staring blankly up at the ceiling. I felt...empty was the word, not empty of emotion, but of something else I had carried around for a long time.
"Thank you.”
Elizabeth laughed softly.
"Thank you.” She reached for my hand and squeezed it.
“It's been about three years since I made love with a man. Charles and I stopped sleeping together several years before we got divorced. I don't know that anything would be enough to make me go back to men, but...that was nicer than anything I had with him for a long time.”
The smell of my semen in the air suddenly made me think of something else.
"I feel like a teenager in more ways than one. I didn't to ask if you...”
"I have my diaphragm in. It hasn't gotten much use lately, but I still had it. I didn't expect you to think of that. I knew you would be in too much shock. It's all right.”
"Okay.”
She rolled over and kissed me tenderly on the cheek.
"Go to bed. I'm going to burn that uniform when you're gone. I have no use for it anymore.”
I laughed.
"Good.”
I walked back to the main house in a daze. When I reached the gate into the backyard, a dark form emerged from a corner of the patio, moving toward me. The patio light was off, and I couldn't tell who it was as he approached, but I could tell immediately that something was very wrong, for this person was extending their arm toward me, and in his hand was a gun.
"Freeze, man. Don't fucking move.”
Then he stepped into the light streaming out from the den, and I finally recognized him.
"Randy.”
He laughed.
"Yeah, man. You're fucked now, you got that? Your ass is mine.”

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

Randy and I stared at each other for a few seconds. The look of desperation in his eyes frightened me a lot more than his gun.
For a moment, I considered trying to wrestle him for it, to stop him before he got into the house and did something I didn't want to think about. But if I liked to think I was in good shape for forty-one, I wasn't eighteen anymore either. Randy was about my height, but he had a good twenty pounds of linebacker muscle on me. Plus the gun. And I could tell from the way he glared at me that he was just itching for an excuse to use it.
He waved it toward the house.
"Get in there. Go.”
I obeyed reluctantly, not taking my eyes off him. When we reached the doors to the den, I saw Tiffany and Giselle watching some movie on the big-screen TV. They looked over when I came in, and a second later they both shrieked in surprise. Tiffany jumped to her feet, putting her hands over her mouth.
"Shut up!” Randy growled. He pointed the gun back at me.
“Get over there. Stand with them.”
I backed away from him, and both girls huddled behind me, clutching my arms in terror. Randy glanced around, obviously looking for Marianne and Hayley.
"Where are the rest of them? I know they're in here. I've been watching.”
"Upstairs," Tiffany squeaked.
"Go get them.”
Tiffany let out a quiet cry of fright and didn't move.
"I'll go," I said.
"No. You keep your fucking ass right there. She's going. And if she does anything funny, I'll blow your brains out, you got that? Both of you.”
I pried Tiffany's hand from my arm.
"Just go. It will be all right.”
She whimpered, backing away from us. Randy shook the gun at her.
"Go!”
She scampered out of the room toward the stairs.
"Randy," I said as levelly as I could, "whatever you have in mind here, this isn't a solution.”
"Shut up! I'm not here to listen to your shit. You're here to listen to me.”
"All right. Say what you want to say, then.”
"I will. When you're all down here.”
I fought to still my pounding heart, wondering whether he knew about Elizabeth and Tony. He wasn't acting like he did, or at least he wasn't acting as if he were worried about them. But we were too far away from the other houses for them to hear anything, unless Randy started shooting...by which point it would probably be too late.
Tony generally went to bed early, and I had a feeling that Elizabeth had gone to bed herself after what we had just done. She had no reason to come to the main house tonight. Which meant we were probably stuck.
There were no weapons in the house beyond kitchen knives. I had never been much for guns...and this experience was not altering my aversion to them...but I wondered now if maybe there was something to all that "home defense" propaganda the NRA liked to trumpet. Too late now, in any case.
I heard the other girls coming down the stairs, Marianne saying something like "what the hell is going on?” and then they came down the hallway into the den.
Marianne saw Randy first and let out a shriek of horror. Hayley looked as if she had just been introduced to Satan himself. All three of them ran behind me.
"Okay," I said.
“We're here. Say what you have to say.”
His face twisted into a mask of pure hatred, and he pointed the gun directly at my face.
"Just shut the fuck up! Stop acting like you're so much better than me!”
My knees weakened, and it took me a moment to regain control of myself. The girls whimpered, and the hands on my arm tightened.
"I'm not saying that, Randy.”
"So you've got a shitload of *****. That doesn't make you better than me!”
"No, it doesn't.”
"You bought your way out of jail. You and all of them got up there in court and lied your fucking asses off. Now I'm the one they're after.”
"You were lying too, Randy," Marianne said.
"Not about what really mattered! He's been fucking all of you! I know it! He belongs in jail, not me!”
"The judge said he was innocent.”
"Because you fucking lied! I care more about your sister than you do.”
Hayley suddenly pushed her way past me.
"Oh, fuck you! Fuck you! You try to rape me, and then you tell me you care about me? Fuck you!”
Randy's resolve wavered for a moment. I grabbed Hayley's arm, trying to pull her back, but she struggled against my grip.
"I wasn't going to rape you," Randy muttered.
"Oh, right! What the fuck were you going to do, then?”
I finally succeeded in pulling Hayley back, but I hadn't been paying attention to Marianne, who had now stepped up beside me.
"You tried to rape my sister?” she snarled.
Randy stepped back a foot or two.
"It wasn't like that.”
She looked at Hayley, who was still panting against her agitation.
"He did. Back in April. I didn't tell anyone because I was afraid of what would happen.”
Marianne stepped toward Randy, all fear replaced by loathing. I grabbed her arm to stop her, but she jerked her wrist out of my hand. Now Randy swung the gun around at her.
"Get back. Stay where you are.”
Marianne stopped, still glaring at him.
"You'd better shoot me then, because otherwise you're dead.”
I grabbed at her arm again, and this time I was able to pull her back to us.
"Randy, you're only ****** things worse here. If you leave, I promise I will not call the police.”
"Oh, fuck that!” Marianne yelled.
“He's going down! Not after what he did to Hayley.”
Randy's agitation had reached epic proportions now, and he swung the gun back and forth over us.
"Shut up! All of you, shut up!”
"Randy, please try to calm down," I said.
“Tell me what you want here. We can still get out of this without anyone getting hurt.”
His breath whistled through his nostrils for a few seconds, and he leveled the gun at me.
"You don't even know what you did to me, do you? You took away the only girl I ever loved just so you could have someone to fuck!”
Marianne scoffed at him.
"Oh, God! Not this shit again!”
I inhaled slowly.
"Randy, I want to tell you something, a little story.”
"No! I'm not listening to you.”
"It might help you understand.”
He breathed hard for a moment or two but said nothing.
"When I was your age, I fell in love with a beautiful cheerleader like Marianne. I was nuts about her. I thought everything in my life would be perfect if only I had her. But I never even got as far as you did. I never even got to date her. She toyed with my emotions for a couple of months before getting the football team to beat me up. And you know what I did? Nothing. I hated her for a while, but eventually I put it behind me. I let it go. I went on with my life. I didn't hold onto what had happened until I destroyed myself.”
I paused to catch my breath.
"Randy, you still have a chance to do that. You can leave, now, and nothing will happen.”
He stared hard at me for a few seconds, and for a moment I thought I had gotten through to him. Then the rage flew back into his face, and he shook the gun at me.
"No! I don't fucking care what you did! You don't understand a fucking thing!”
He glanced around the room in agitation and continued.
"You're going to give me all your *****. Whatever you have to do, sign it over, write me a check or whatever. I want all your *****, then I want you to get out. I'm taking all this. It's mine now.”
Marianne laughed in disbelief.
"You're fucking nuts.”
"Randy, I don't know what you want me to do here. Most of my ***** is tied up in the stock market. I can't just sign it over to you.”
"Yes, you can! You can go ****** or something, to e*trade. You can do it now.”
"It's ten-thirty at night. All the markets are closed. Nothing will happen until tomorrow morning.”
"So write me a check then. Sign some kind of paper that says everything is mine.”
"And then what? Something like that, signed under duress, would not be valid. As soon as I left, I could call the police.”
"No, you won't. 'Cause I'll kill all of them if you do.”
"You have to sleep some time, Randy," Marianne said.
“You can't watch all four of us twenty-four/seven.”
"Shut up! Just do it! I don't care what you say! Just do it!”
"How about this? I can write you a check for twenty thousand dollars. That's about all I have liquid right now. It would be good. But you have to let the girls go first.”
"No! I'm giving the fucking orders here! I want everything.”
He waved his gun around the den and the kitchen.
"Go to your office. Get some paper and a pen. Now! If you do anything funny like call the police, I'll start shooting.”
I pried myself free from the girls and walked up the hall to my office. I pulled a few sheets of paper out of the printer and returned to the den. Randy gestured toward the coffee table with the gun.
"Now sit down and write what I tell you to write.”
I sat at the couch and set the paper in front of me.
"'I, Steve Chandler,'" he began, "'hereby give everything I own to Randy Donahue. All my *****, my house, and my cars.'"
I started to write, and Marianne squeaked in concern.
"Steve, no! Don't do it!”
"It's not going to be enforceable," I said.
"Yes it fucking will!” Randy shouted.
“Just do it!”
I wrote what he said to write, then looked up at him again.
"'Everything I own now belongs to him because of all the bad stuff I've done to him. I'm not doing this under duress and this is enforceable.'"
I wrote it all down dutifully.
"Now sign it.”
I did, and he rushed over and picked it up, laughing giddily.
"There. Now get out. This is my house now!”
"Sorry, kid, it's not.”
All of us jumped in surprise. I spun around, looking behind me. There, in the back doorway, stood Tony, pointing a hunting rifle directly at Randy's head. None of us had seen him or even heard him come in.
"I'm going to count to three," he said calmly, "and when I do, that gun is going to hit the floor. The only option you have is whether your brains hit the wall behind you in the process.”
Randy was frozen to his spot on the floor, unmoving. But his face began to twist in grief.
"No! You drop it! Drop it or I'll shoot them!”
"One.”
Randy panted in agitation, starting to cry.
"Two.”
"Go ahead and shoot me," he bawled.
“I've got nothing to live for now. I lost my scholarship because they all lied in court. The only girl I ever loved hates my guts now. I don't fucking care!”
Tony took a slow breath.
"You think you've got it bad because some girl dumped you? Because you might be facing a perjury charge that, at worst, will get you probation? Because you might have to pay for your college education?”
He laughed weakly.
"Son, you want bad, try wiping your best friend's brains off your face because your squad walked into a VC ambush. Try living with that for thirty years. Try visiting a monument that does nothing but tell you how many of your friends died for nothing. A monument that's just a pretty slab of granite to most people.”
He shook his head.
"You're pathetic. You're not even worth wasting a bullet on.”
Randy began to sob, and the gun slipped unnoticed from his fingers, clattering to the floor. Tony motioned to me, and I stepped up carefully toward it. Randy ignored me as I picked it up.
"Marianne, go call 911," Tony said.
“Tell them we have the situation under control, but they need to get out here pronto.”
Marianne darted toward the kitchen and grabbed the phone. She dialed the numbers rapidly and then gushed into the receiver when the operator answered.
Randy dropped to the floor, sitting cross-legged and putting his face into his hands, sobbing uncontrollably. The other three girls backed away from him and came over to me. I hugged all of them tightly. Marianne returned to us, then tried to hug Tony. He let her, though he kept his gaze on Randy.
"Thank you," she sobbed.
"How did you know?” I asked.
“Did you see something?”
"Nope. I was out cold, asleep, but I woke up realizing something was wrong. Just a feeling I got. So I grabbed my gun and came up here to see what was going on.”
I blinked in disbelief.
"You must be psychic.”
He laughed softly.
"Some other time. I'll explain it.”
We heard sirens approaching, and I sent Marianne to the front door to let the police into the house. They came rushing into the den a few moments later. Tony set his gun down and let them take over.
The officers rapidly handcuffed Randy and took him outside. The rest of us sat on the couch to try to catch our breath. Then Marianne suddenly shot to her feet, looking out the back window.
"Oh, my God! Mom!”
I turned to see Elizabeth coming across the backyard in her robe. Marianne ran to let her inside, and we quickly filled her in on what had happened.
Another car with a pair of detectives arrived a bit later, and they spent about half an hour questioning us and inspecting the house. The information about Randy's attempted rape of Hayley drew almost as much interest as his home invasion. Hayley at first insisted she didn't want to press charges, but Marianne and Elizabeth talked her out of it. It would mean another round in court, but after tonight, the girls were adamant about getting Randy out of their lives for good.
First thing the next morning, I called a local alarm company about installing a security system. I didn't know what other threats we might be facing with Randy in jail, but I was not about to take any more chances. I considered buying a gun, but decided against it. It wouldn't have much helped that night away, since Randy had surprised all of us.
Things did not go back to normal right away. Everyone was jumpy for quite a while, especially at night. No one wanted to sleep alone at first, and a fair amount of "musical beds" went on for a week or two.
One afternoon, about two weeks later, I came down to the den and saw Marianne sitting out by the pool, dressed in street clothes but sitting on one of the lounge chairs with her knees pulled up to her chest.
I opened the back door and went out sit next to her.
"How you doing, Kitten?”
She turned slowly to look at me.
"Baby, tell me something.”
"Anything.”
"That story you told Randy that night, about the cheerleader. Was that true?”
My stomach churned for a moment in shock.
"Yes.”
"Who was she?”
I lost my breath for a second, struggling for something to tell her. But I couldn't make myself lie...and something I saw in her eyes told me she suspected the truth anyway.
"Your mother.”
Her eyes closed slowly, and her head turned back toward the pool.
"I thought so. It didn't occur to me until this morning. Mom told me a story like that once, how she had done something like that. It was when I was first starting cheerleading, and she was trying to, I guess, convince me not to be a bitch about it. I had completely forgotten about it until a few days ago.”
She took a ragged breath.
"But I knew you guys must have known each other back then. I knew last Christmas, when we were helping Mom move out. I found a box of her high school junk in the attic, her old cheerleading uniform and her yearbooks. And I realized that the name and the colors and the logo were same as what I had seen that night at the reunion you took me too. And I found your picture in the yearbook.”
With God as my witness, I had no idea what to say to her.
"I wondered if you two even knew about it, if you just hadn't recognized each other. I almost mentioned it. But then I realized that if you did know, you must have had some reason for not telling me, me and Hayley. And now I think I know what it was.”
"Yes," I gasped.
She looked back at me now, and she stared as hard at me as I had ever seen her do.
"Did you know who my mom was when we first met?”
"No. I didn't. I didn't realize it until after you told her about us. We finally recognized each other when I went to lunch with her that day, when we made peace over you and Hayley. I told her that story as a means of explaining part of why I was attracted to you.”
As soon as that last sentence was out of my mouth, I wanted to snatch it away, to kill it, to do anything to get it back. But it was too late.
Marianne's face began to melt, and her eyes filled with tears. Then she began to sob in front of me. She put her hands in her face and shrunk in on herself.
I tried to put my arms around her, but she pushed me away. She sat there sobbing quietly, rocking back and forth, as I struggled for some way to undo this blunder. But somehow, everything I thought of seemed pathetically inadequate.
Finally she lifted her head, gasping for breath.
"Go away. Just go away. I need to be alone right now.”
"I'm sorry.”
She turned away from me, and I trudged wearily up to the master bedroom. I lay on the bed wondering what I had just done.
When I gathered the courage to go out on the deck a while later and look for her, she was gone. I went downstairs, looking for the other girls. Giselle was watching television; Tiffany was listening to music in her room. But I couldn't find Hayley.
In a panic, I went outside looking for her. I found her in the barn brushing down Belle.
"Hi.”
"Hey. Have you seen Marianne?”
"I saw her walking around the pasture a while ago. Why? Is something wrong?”
"No. I was just curious.”
I walked around the back of the property, around toward the waterfall, thinking she might be hiding there again. But I found nothing.
I considered whether to tell Elizabeth about this, though I wasn't sure what that would accomplish. I had a feeling that Marianne was just as upset at her right now, or least close to it. So after fidgeting around the backyard for a few minutes, I went back inside.
I lay in bed for a long time staring at the ceiling. If Marianne left, the rest of them would probably go with her. They would have no reason to stay. I would be alone at the Kittenless Ranch with nothing but my *****. Fitting, I thought, since it had been instrumental in bringing a lot of this about.
"Did you find Marianne?”
I looked over to see Hayley standing in the doorway in her riding clothes. The thought of losing her sent a stab through my gut.
"No.”
"I haven't see her. She might have gone out somewhere.”
"I don't know.”
She came over and flopped onto the bed beside me.
"What's up? You don't look so good.”
"I'm feeling a little under the weather.”
For a moment, I almost told her everything. She deserved to know, from one perspective...but I couldn't make myself do it, couldn't make her as upset as Marianne was. Her forehead creased as she looked at me.
"What?”
"Nothing. I love you.”
She smiled.
"I love you too.”
It was ironic, I thought, that what had happened with Beth Dunbar was causing all this trouble. Because as I looked up at Hayley, I realized that for the first time in twenty-five years, Beth Dunbar was gone from my mind. In her place was this beautiful girl, her and her sister.
She sat back on her feet.
"I'll let you get some rest. I hope you feel better.”
"Thanks.”
I don't know how much longer I lay there spacing out, trying to deny that anything had happened. I didn't come back to earth until I heard the knocking on the bedroom door.
I looked up. Tony was standing there, looking concerned. I was less surprised at his concern than the fact that he was up here at all, since he almost never came in the house.
"Hey.”
"I, um, I've been talking to Marianne. She wants you to come out to the cottage.”
My head spun for a moment. Of all the people I expected her to go to, Tony would not have topped the list.
I sat up.
“What did she say?”
He shrugged.
"Enough. Come on.”
I followed him downstairs and out to the back pasture. His cottage was about thirty yards behind the barn, and I saw Marianne sitting in a chair around the side, where he had some patio furniture set up.
He stopped as we reached the barn and patted me on the shoulder.
"Go on. I'll stay here. I've got some stuff to do anyway.”
I approached slowly, too emotionally drained at this point to feel nervous, even if I was. Marianne looked up, eyes red and puffy, without saying anything, and I took one of the chairs in front of her.
"Hi," she said wearily.
I managed a weak smile.
"I'm not sure what to tell you.”
She nodded.
"There isn't anything to say, really. I've been talking with Tony. I guess he's helped me a little with that perspective we've talked about.”
"Okay.”
"It just freaked me out, you know, to know you once wanted to boink my mother. How did you expect me to react to that?”
"It was a long time ago.”
"I know. And what Tony explained to me, I guess, is that everyone is a bundle of experiences, that all sorts of things can mold the person you are, lots of things you have no control over. And that I can't blame you for something that happened before I was even born.”
She paused.
"But what I have to know...is that you are here for me. Not because you wanted something from Mom and couldn't get it.”
"What do you think?”
"Part of me hates even thinking about it. And I remember that you didn't exactly jump at the idea of having her move in with us. And that you guys have been totally normal the whole time we've been up here. So I guess I do know that, sort of. I just need to hear you say it.”
I leaned forward, taking her face in my hands. I brushed the hair back from her forehead and stared into her eyes. I wasn't going to say this just to say it. I had to know I meant it, that it was the truth. So I gave myself a moment to reflect on it, to dig deep down to the bowels of those adolescent memories. And when I reached for it, tried to grasp that lead weight that had lain in the pit of my mind for so many years, all I caught was mist. And that was when I knew... whatever the unmentionable reasons for it were...that it was finally over.
"I am here for you. Not your mother. I don't love her, and I never did. No more than Randy ever loved you. It was nothing but a teenage infatuation. I didn't really know her back then. The Beth Dunbar I thought I loved didn't really exist. I know that now. Whatever was there is gone.”
She smiled tenderly at me for a second or two, then hugged me, climbing into my lap and holding me tightly. We held each other for a long time, rocking back and forth. I opened my eyes and looked over her shoulder, seeing Tony waiting by the barn. He gave me a thumbs up and turned back to his work.
"Why did you come to Tony?”
She released her grip on my neck and looked down at me.
"Well, I couldn't talk to Mom about it, could I? I didn't want to dump it on Hayley. And I don't think Tiffany and Giselle could deal with something like this. But I'm glad I did. He really seems to understand things. It's like he could look into my heart and show me the stuff I needed to really think about.”
"I'm glad. Come on. Let's go back to the house.”
We went up to the master bedroom and lay down together. I was so drained by what had happened that I dozed off with her beside me. When I woke up, it was almost seven o'clock. Across the room, I saw Marianne sitting in front of her computer with Hayley beside her.
"What are you doing?”
They turned around, smiling at me.
"I just posted the last chapter of our story," Marianne said.
“I think it's done now, don't you?”
I got off the bed and hugged them both from behind.
"All depends on your perspective. Come here.”
We crawled into bed, and I took them both in my arms. They laid their heads on my chest, one on either side, smiling at me and each other.
"I love you. Both of you.”
I kissed them. Then I made love to them. Afterward, we went out to the deck and lay in the hammock together watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. We had come a long way to get here, but we had oh so much further yet to go. College. Marriage one day, or maybe just some joint domestic partnership, however we worked it out. Kids, perhaps. So many possibilities.
All that was for the future, though. For now, we had each other.
And that was enough.
* * *





EPILOGUE

Brian straightened my tie and shook his head.
"I still can't believe you're doing this.”
"Me neither.”
I could see the guests waiting in the back pasture, more of them than I might have once expected given what we were about to do. Most of them were friends of Elizabeth's or the girls, including a few friends of Hayley's from her high school. Not too many friends of mine, which hadn't surprised me; this was just too unorthodox an undertaking for the stock traders and investment bankers I knew. But a few of them had come up anyway and wished us well.
“For what it's worth, though, I think you're doing the right thing.”
"Thanks.”
"I can't say I know anyone else who got married by their gardener.”
I laughed.
"He's a lot more than that.”
I had discovered, not long after the home invasion and the Beth Dunbar issue, that in addition to being an able caretaker and ex-Green Beret, Tony was also a Wiccan priest, having gravitated to it during his tenure in the commune. He suggested the form of this ceremony when we began discussing it, and the girls had wholeheartedly embraced the idea.
A few seconds later, he came through the back door into the den.
"I think we're ready to go.”
"You've got everything you need?”
He laughed and slapped my shoulder.
"Yes. Relax.”
The three of us stepped out into the back yard, Tony in front, Brian and me a step behind. Brian and I wore simple summer suits, while Tony wore an embroidered white robe and carried a woven bag over his shoulder. I carried only a bottle of red wine from a local winery.
We paused at the gate to the back pasture and turned back toward the house. One by one, the women emerged from the door to the rear wing.
Elizabeth appeared first, followed by Marianne, Hayley, Giselle, and Tiffany. All of them wore plain white cotton dresses, with garlands of flowers in their hair and shawls over their shoulders. Each of the younger women carried one fourth of a loaf of bread they had baked together.
Tiffany had wanted to do this nude, but we had talked her out of it... that would simply have been too much, though the idea had intrigued me. The only unusual element of her attire was a long gold chain that ran from under her dress to Marianne's hand. The two of them were joined together in that fashion instead of holding hands as Hayley and Giselle did.
I looked to the guests for any reactions to Tiffany's unusual accessory, and I saw a few eyebrows going up. Only a few, though...this was Santa Cruz, after all, and most of the guests knew Marianne and Tiffany well enough to know what that chain was attached to, and what it meant.
I looked back at the procession of prospective brides, looking from one woman to the next, drinking in the radiant happiness that every one of them was exuding. Marianne cried ever so subtly; Hayley seemed as nervous as she was happy. Giselle and Tiffany just smiled at me.
With Tony leading the way, we crossed the back pasture through the thirty or forty guests, who fell in behind us. He led us back through trees and up to the pool at the base of the waterfall. I had suggested using the backyard, but he insisted that this was a better spot "spiritually," since it allowed us to bring together all four basic elements: air, earth, water, and fire. The girls were smitten with the whole idea of this ceremony, so whatever he wanted to do, they went happily along with.
Tony stopped in front of a large boulder at the edge of the pool and began his preparations. The guest circled around the pond as best they could. Tiffany's parents were here along with her younger sister (they had proved to be far more open-minded than I might have expected), but Giselle's were not. Her brother Phillip *was* here, however, having gone through a similar confrontation and break from their father over both Giselle's lifestyle and his non-future in football.
Tony drew several small fetish items from his bag and arranged them carefully on top of the boulder. Next came a silver incense burner, which he filled with incense and lit a moment later. Then he drew a short wood-handled broom from his bag and set it beside the rock. The last items were a silver goblet, a long woven cord, and the rings we would be using for the ceremony. He set those on top of the boulder as well.
He motioned to Elizabeth. She stepped forward, and when she stood in front of him, Tony touched her forehead and spoke aloud, his rich baritone carrying through the trees.
"Awake, Dear Lady Divine. Let your mind and awareness be with us through this vessel, your daughter.” He touched her eyelids and went on, "May you see as your daughter sees and may all be pleasing in your sight.” Then her lips: "May you speak as your daughter speaks and may your words be full of wisdom for us all.” And her chest: "May your heart fill with joy and love as your daughter's heart beats with joy and love.” Finally, he took both her hands and said, "May you bestow Blessings on all you touch through these, your daughter's hands.”
When we told Elizabeth what we wanted to do, she had spent some time discussing it with Tony. One thing he had mentioned to her was that, in recognition of the duality of nature, the ceremony was often performed by both a priest and a priestess. He then suggested that she assume that role, and she had happily agreed. The two of them had been working together on the form of the wedding for the last month.
Elizabeth took the broom from beside the rock and began ceremoniously sweeping the air around Tony's altar. When she was done, he produced a fistful of salt from his bag and poured it in a thin line on the ground, creating a circle about twelve feet across. Elizabeth followed behind him, setting four candles around the circle, one for each cardinal direction. When all four candles were lit, she stood and faced the five of us.
"You who have come to this sacred place this day for joining one to another, approach.”
With Giselle in the lead, we walked completely around the circle. She held Hayley's hand; Hayley held mine; I held Marianne's, and she held Tiffany's. When we had completed the circuit, we stopped again in front of Elizabeth and Tony.
Elizabeth spoke first.
"You stand on the threshold of a great decision, one not to be made lightly or frivolously. Are you certain this is what you wish to do?”
Then Tony spoke.
"You are about to take a step that will mark and bind you to each other forever- -not just physically and emotionally, and not just for the heat of the moment. It will tie your very souls and spirits together. Are you certain this is what you wish to do?”
"I am," I said, and each of the four girls answered in turn.
"Shed the robes of your past," Elizabeth responded, "and enter of your own free will.”
The girls all dropped their shawls to the ground, and I removed my coat, tie, and Italian wing-tips, handing them all to Brian. The others had initially objected to my wanting to do this wearing a suit, but Tony had explained that it actually fit this part of the ceremony. In recognition of our commitment, this step symbolized the abandonment of our old roles, which in my case was quite accurate. I had left the conventional world behind in more ways than one.
With two girls on either side of me, holding hands, we stepped into the circle. I handed the wine to Tony, and Elizabeth took the four pieces of bread from the girls. Tony poured the wine into the silver goblet as Elizabeth set the bread around it.
When we first began seriously discussing the possibility of a five-way union, one of the biggest issues we had to resolve was that of the rings. Although we meant for everyone to be equal, the emotional reality of it was that I was marrying Marianne and Hayley, and they were marrying Tiffany, and Giselle, respectively. That meant we had to design the rings to respect that arrangement. After a few days of random ideas, it was Hayley who came up with the solution. I had come to see that she had the deepest creatively sentimental streak of anyone I had ever met, and her idea was about as close to perfect as I could have conceived.
What we had done was have a jeweler near the University custom-design ten interlocking rings. Each of us designed two rings, one for each person we were marrying. I would give mine to Marianne and Hayley, and they would give theirs to me, and to Tiffany and Giselle. The twist was that the two rings I would give to them interlocked with the ones they got from the other two girls. Tiffany and Giselle would likewise exchange rings to close the circle.
Tony took each of the rings and passed it through the smoke of the incense and the flame of the candle, dipped it into the wine and then the dish of salt, and then handed it to Elizabeth. When he was done, she passed two of the rings to me.
Taking the first, I turned to Marianne. I took her left hand and slipped the ring on her ring finger. She looked up at me, trying not to cry.
"I give you this ring as a sign of my love, as a sign of my respect, as a sign of your place in my heart and my home.”
I turned to Hayley, taking her hand and slipping the other ring on her finger as the tears ran down her cheek.
"I give you this ring as a sign of my love, as a sign of my respect, as a sign of your place in my heart and my home.”
Elizabeth handed the next pair to Marianne. She turned to me first, taking my hand and slipping the ring on my finger.
"I give you this ring as a sign of my love, as a sign of our bond, in hopes for the future and in recognition of all that we share.”
She turned to Tiffany and repeated the vow. Hayley was next, and she forced her ring onto my finger. It slipped neatly together with the one already there, forming one ring with Marianne's. The two rings were a pair of golden cats with sapphire eyes (kittens to the girls, though I had prevailed upon the jeweler to make them look more like panthers, not wanting the result to be too feminine), seeming to leap over one another, tails entwined.
Hayley took a deep breath and began her vows in a nervous, quavering voice.
"I give you this ring as a sign of my love, the first love I have known, in thanks for...” Her voice broke at this point, ****** guests laugh softly in sympathy. She took another breath and finished the vow.
“In thanks everything you have done for me and given me, and in hopes I can be worthy of my place at your side.”
Then she turned to Giselle, slipping her other ring on Giselle's finger.
"I give you this ring as a sign of my love, the first love I have known, in thanks for everything you have taught me and shown me, and in hopes I can be worthy of my place at your side.”
Elizabeth handed the next pair to Tiffany, who turned first to Marianne.
"I give you this ring as a sign of my love, as a sign of everything we have shared, as a sign of your bond to my soul.”
The ring Tiffany gave to Marianne had a tiny clip on the underside, and when she had slipped it onto Marianne's finger, she took the gold leash and attached it to the ring. Then she turned to Giselle.
"I give you this ring as a sign of our love, as a sign of everything we share, as a sign of our bond in this family.”
Finally it was Giselle's turn, and she slipped her ring on Hayley's finger.
"I give you this ring as a sign of my love, as a sign of everything we have shared, rejoicing in my place at your side and our fellowship in this family.”
The last ring was for Tiffany, and Giselle placed it on her finger as she spoke the final vow.
"I give you this ring as a sign of our love, as a sign of everything we have shared, rejoicing in our fellowship in this family.”
We joined hands and turned back to Tony and Elizabeth. She took the braided cord from the altar and stepped forward. The cord was nearly fifteen feet long, with seven separate colored cords (one for each of us, plus Tony and Elizabeth) braided together. Only about nine feet was actually braided, and each cord continued for another five feet after the braid ended.
As Elizabeth held the braided portion, Tony took the green cord and very loosely tied my hands together. Then he took the blue cord, Marianne's, and tied her hands in the same fashion. He tied the red cord around Hayley's hands, the yellow around Tiffany's, and the brown around Giselle's. Two cords remained, silver for Tony and white for Elizabeth.
Tony held the braided portion near the end as Elizabeth tied a slipknot into it.
"I tie the knot of Love," she said. She tied another saying, "I tie the knot of Trust.” She followed that with Sharing, Understanding, Respect, and Devotion. She passed the last knot through the last loop and pulled them all tight.
Still holding the end of the cord, Elizabeth and Tony held it towards the East, and the five of us turned with them as Tony spoke.
"We present to you, O Creatures of the Air, Steve and Marianne and Hayley and Tiffany and Giselle, who have handfasted and pledged themselves to each other as Partners in Family.”
We repeated the presentation in each cardinal direction until we were again facing the altar. Elizabeth removed the cord from each of our hands without untying it and coiled it slowly. Then she presented it to us, handing it to Marianne in recognition of her place at the head of the household.
"Take this and keep it safe. It is a reminder of your promises and commitments to each other. Remember also that you are each bound only so long as you wish to be. If your single cord is untied, you are no longer bound to the rest.”
Marianne took it reverently, glancing at the rest of us and trying to smile through her tears.
Now Tony took the wine and bread from the altar. He broke a piece from the loaf and passed it to me with the wine.
"As you have chosen to be Partners, so will you provide for, share with and nourish each other in the future.”
I dipped the bread in the wine and held it to Marianne's lips. She took it and chewed slowly. I handed the goblet to her as Tony handed her another chunk of bread. She fed it to me, and one by one we repeated the ritual with the others until all of us had exchanged bread and wine.
Elizabeth now picked up the broom again and laid it on the ground along the back of the circle. This was a symbol, Tony had explained, of many things: fertility, a sweeping clean (thus a fresh start), and domestic bliss. Holding hands, the five of us stepped up to it and jumped over in unison. Elizabeth and Tony followed, and the seven of us embraced as the guests applauded.
Still holding hands, we led everyone back to the pasture and into the backyard, where the caterers had set up the reception. Everything spun together after that, so many handshakes and hugs and congratulations. I had to down a quick glass of scotch to calm my nerves, and that seemed to help.
Once everyone had gone through the receiving line, Brian gathered us up.
"Ready to do the paperwork?”
I laughed nervously, glancing around at the girls.
"Yeah. Let's do it.”
We followed him into the house, with Tony and Elizabeth coming up the rear. On the big table in the dining room were the domestic partnership papers Brian had drawn up, a joint will, powers of attorney, and the property agreement that would simulate a legal marriage.
"This will be quite a bit less mystical and sentimental," he said grinning, "but in certain ways it's just as important and symbolic.”
He sat down and passed the documents around, indicating where we had to sign. I gave Hayley a one-armed hug as Marianne was putting her signature in the various blocks.
"Still sure you want to do this? You know there's no rush.”
Hayley smiled.
"I've waited two-and-a-half years. I don't want to wait any longer. This is as good a time as any.”
"Enjoying your birthday so far?”
Another grin, and deep in her pretty blue eyes, I saw something else I couldn't quite identify.
"Yep. This is the best birthday I've ever had.”
Although the rest of us were willing to wait until later in the spring, Hayley had insisted on doing this the moment she was legally capable, which was the day of her eighteenth birthday...and that was today. When Marianne was done, she sat down and signed everything.
"That's it," Brian said when everyone had signed.
“The five of you may not be legally married, but you've gotten as close as you can now. Congratulations.”
I hugged Marianne and Hayley tightly, then Giselle and Tiffany. We filed back out to the yard and rejoined the reception.
As I mingled with the guests, I reflected on everything that had happened over the last two years. Marianne and Tiffany were in their sophomore years at UCSC and doing well. Giselle had applied for a transfer from Cal State and been accepted, and she would start her junior year with the other two girls this fall.
Marianne had ditched the cheerleader lifestyle altogether, however much she still looked like one, and she and Tiffany had made a lot of friends among the more free-spirited students around campus, many of whom were here tonight. They hadn't yet found the "sex-slave sorority" they had joked about, but I suspected they might someday start one of their own.
Hayley was about to graduate from high school, and she had her pick of several colleges already. UCSC seemed to be the first choice, and though we weren't leaning on her, we all pretty much expected her to follow both her sister and her mother, who now was completing her first year in law school at UC Hastings in San Francisco.
Elizabeth had moved out of the guesthouse to be closer to school, but she still came back down here on the weekends. She had just found a job for the summer, clerking for a friend of Brian's who lived up here. She had recently begun expressing an interest in doing child advocacy, which surprised none of us.
As for me, I was happily enjoying my retirement, working around the ranch or playing with my stocks. We hadn't yet begun shopping for any baby clothes, but I had lately been hoping...secretly...that I might have to soon. It was a hope I kept to myself, though. I knew the girls had enough on their minds right now.
The caterers began serving the dinner at six, and when they had poured the champagne, I stood up and got everyone's attention.
"I don't want to impose on your good mood by giving a long speech, but there are a few things I want to say. I think that most people would be happy to have found one person to spend their life with; to have found four people is more than I can really express effectively. That these four wonderful young women are willing to tether themselves to this old fart makes me feel pretty darned special.”
Everyone laughed, and Marianne, who was sitting next to me, playfully slapped my arm in mock indignation.
"Seriously though, we all have to recognize how lucky we've been to find each other. It takes a lot of love and understanding to make this work, and that we've survived two years so well gives me a lot of hope for the future. We have lot to look forward to, both collectively and individually, and I'm proud of what these women have chosen to do with their lives. Thank you all for joining us, and I'm thrilled to have the *********** to share this with you.”
I raised my glass in a toast and everyone cheered. When the applause died down, Marianne stood up. She rubbed my shoulder briefly and began her speech.
"There's not much I can add to that except that I want you all to know that I am not marrying an old fart.” The guests exploded in laughter, and she continued.
“Steve and I, and the rest of us, are a lot closer in age than you might think, at least in the things that are really important. I like to think that we help him maintain his perspective, and he's supported and guided us more than I can ever express. Most of you know that today is Hayley's birthday, but what you don't know is that she's really turning twenty-five, not eighteen. She's certainly stopped letting me treat her like a younger sister.”
More laughter.
"I also want to thank my mom, for being so understanding and supportive these past few years. We've all had to go through a lot, and I know she loves us more than anything.”
Elizabeth beamed at us from the end of the table. Marianne paused and put her hand on Tiffany's shoulder.
"Finally, I want to say something about the other person I'm marrying today, my best friend Tiffany. As Steve said, it's a lot to find even one person you want to spend your life with. To have found both him and Tiffany makes me feel really, really fortunate. Though we play a lot of games with each other, we've never lost sight of what's really important.”
She bent down, and they hugged each other quickly. Then she raised her glass.
"So, thanks to all of you for coming today. It means a lot to all of us.”
Everyone applauded again, and Hayley reached over for the mike. She stood up and took a deep breath.
"Well, this has been a hell of a birthday, I have to say that.” Laughter rolled across the yard, and she continued.
“I know I may be pretty young to be doing this, but I don't feel insecure about it at all. The love I have for Steve and Marianne and Giselle and Tiffany is so strong that I know this is what I'm meant to be doing with my life. As Steve and Marianne both said, I feel so happy and grateful to have found these people to spend my life with. I'm really looking forward to our future together, and I know we have many, many happy years ahead.”
She paused, taking a nervous breath, and everyone laughed.
"Um. I don't know what else to say except thanks for everything. I love you all.”
Giselle and Tiffany both got up after that, and then Elizabeth, Tony, and Brian all made toasts. The dinner went on under the stars for several hours afterward, and if this still felt a bit surreal to me, everyone was definitely having a great time. We danced after cutting the cake, and when I had danced with all four girls, I found Elizabeth and pulled her onto the floor.
"Congratulations.”
"Thanks.”
"You do remember my request about this?”
"About not being my mother-in-law? Yes.”
She smiled.
"Thanks.”
"Legally, you're not anyway. So don't worry about it.”
"I'm not. I'm just teasing. Even if I have to say that I never quite pictured my daughters' weddings like this.”
"I imagine not.”
She smiled again.
"You think I'm referring to your arrangement with all four of them, but that's not all I mean.”
"What else do you mean?”
"I meant that at one time, I was afraid they would make the mistake I did, marrying someone because of who he was and because everyone else thought it was a good idea, not because they really loved the men they were marrying.”
"You mean like you and Charles?”
"Right. You know about all that. When I saw the sort of boys Marianne was dating, I could see her heading down the same path. Falling into the whole cheerleader stereotype. Randy was the worst, all the more so because I knew she didn't really care much about him.”
"Then I came along.”
She laughed softly.
"Yes. And as shocked as I was at first, what changed my mind was seeing the difference in her, and Hayley. I could see that they really loved you. And I decided that I couldn't bring myself to stand in the way of their happiness, however unorthodox it might be.”
I leaned forward and kissed her forehead.
"Thanks.”
"Any time.”
When the dancing began to wind down, I found Marianne by the bar, talking to some friends of hers from college. She saw me approaching and gave me a big hug.
"How are you doing, Mrs. Chandler?”
"Just great, Mr. Chandler.”
I got another drink, and we walked across the yard to where the band was playing. She sat on the wall and I leaned back against her. She put her arms around my neck and set her chin on my shoulder.
"Do you feel any different?” she asked.
"I think it will take a while to sink in.”
She giggled.
"What I've been doing is thinking of the things we can do now, that would have been more difficult before.”
"Like what?”
"Well...” She lowered her voice.
“It's probably safe to knock me up now.”
I half-turned in her arms to face her. We had talked about this, sort of, off and on for two years. She knew I wanted kids, but I had always been clear that it wouldn't happen until she was ready.
"You think so?”
She pretended to shrug it off.
"Why not?”
"I think the gods of Depo-Provera might have something to say about that.”
She grinned and licked her lips lasciviously.
"I let it run out a month ago. I might even be pregnant right now.”
I gasped.
"You didn't.”
"I did.”
She hugged me tightly.
"I'm teasing you a little," she whispered into my ear.
“I don't think I'm pregnant yet. But if you want it, I'm ready.”
I took a deep breath, trying to steady my nerves.
"You're sure about this?”
A serious look came into her eyes.
"Steve, think about something. Even with all we've done today, we're not legally married. I could reverse all this, the legal stuff anyway, with a few hours in a law office if I really wanted to. But if we have a child together, I'll be bonded to you forever, bonded more securely than any piece of paper could ever do. I want that bond. I want to make a baby with you.”
I pulled her to me and kissed her nose.
"Okay. We'll talk about it. We should probably bounce it off Hayley first too.”
Something passed across her eyes, and her jaw suddenly tightened as if she were trying to hide it.
"What?”
Her hand squeezed my arm tightly, and her eyes closed.
"Nothing. I didn't say anything. Please, Steve, she'll kill me. I didn't say anything, okay?”
"What? What's wrong?”
"Nothing. Just...you might want to have a chat with her tonight about this issue.”
My heart stuttered, and my brain went momentarily blank.
"Why?”
"Just do it.”
She pushed me away from her, and I turned back toward the reception, looking for Hayley. I saw her across the yard talking with Giselle and some of their friends.
I went to her, and she gave me a quick peck on the lips.
"Hi.”
"Little Kit. How you doing?”
She held up her hand and wiggled her ring at me.
"Married.”
"I can see that.”
I kissed her again.
"I've been getting the feeling all day that there's something you want to tell me.”
I saw it again...whatever it was I had seen that afternoon...in her eyes immediately. Her expression softened, and she took my hand.
"Not out here. Come inside.”
She led me into the house and through it, finally taking me out the front porch. Then she took my hands and looked up at me. Her eyes started to water, and her throat seemed to tighten.
"Baby, what is it?”
She took a deep breath.
"You're going to be a daddy.”
My legs weakened suddenly and I had to sit down on the railing. She sniffed and squeezed my hands tightly.
"It wasn't deliberate. I think I messed up my pills last month. But I'm pregnant.”
"You're sure?” I gasped.
"Unless four different tests are wrong. I think it was that afternoon a couple of weeks ago, when I dragged you into my room after school.”
"Oh, my God.”
I hugged her for about ten seconds before letting her go. She beamed up at me.
"Are you in shock?”
"Completely. Who else knows?”
"Just Marianne. I told her because I didn't know what to do.”
"When?”
"Last week. I wanted to wait until today to tell you. I didn't want it to interfere with the wedding.”
"What about college?”
"I can take a semester off if I have to. It's no big deal.”
I hugged her again.
"And Marianne wants to get pregnant now too.”
She giggled.
"Uh-huh. I think she was a little pissed I beat her to it. But like I said, I didn't mean to.”
"You're okay with it?”
"Absolutely. I can't wait.”
"You should go tell your mother.”
"Come with me. Let's tell her together.”
Laughing, we returned to the house. Elizabeth was in the kitchen. She broke down crying when we told her.
Eventually things began to wind down. The limo arrived to take us to the airport, where we would be boarding a flight to New Zealand (the result of several collective discussions). The girls changed out of their wedding dresses and into their travel attire while I waited on the front porch with Brian and Tony.
"Don't let them kill you tonight," Brian said, laughing.
"I'll do my best.”
"Good luck," Tony said shaking my hand.
“I know you like to joke about my being psychic, but I have a good feeling about this. I've yet to preside over a failed marriage, and I don't want start with you guys.”
"Thanks.”
The girls finally emerged, and we went out to the limo as the guests threw bird seed at us (Hayley had insisted we not use rice because she had heard it was dangerous for the birds). Elizabeth came with them and gave me a final hug beside the car.
"You take care of my girls, you hear?”
"I will.”
Then we were riding away from the ranch, up toward San Francisco airport. There was a bottle of champagne in the limo, which I opened and passed around. Hayley demurred, being pregnant now, but the other girls all took some. Marianne snuggled against me as the other three chattered and giggled about Hayley's revelation tonight.
"Are you happy?” she asked me.
"Life could be a hell of a lot worse.”
"I'm coming home from our honeymoon pregnant, whatever I have to do.”
I laughed.
"The timing might not be right.”
"It should be. And I asked Tony for a little blessing to help. I told him about that dream I had a long time ago. Remember? He said that meant it would happen.”
"You're not upset that Hayley got there first?”
"Maybe a little part of me is sad about it. But I'm really happy for her. Don't worry. I meant to do this even before she told me.”
"This kid will have one dad and four mothers.”
She looked around the limo at the other girls, smiling.
"You can't have too much love.”
"No," I said hugging her, "you can't.”
THE END
Richard Bissell August 25-November 23, 1999
* * *

Deputy Duffy
08-11-2007, 04:39 PM
Did you preview this before you posted it?

hawk9934
08-13-2007, 06:29 PM
Yea, that was the sad part.

White Sorrow
08-14-2007, 04:20 AM
Wait i'm confused what was the sad part? :confused:

Badlybent
08-14-2007, 04:28 AM
Thanks Hawk now it's complete.

Orlando26
08-14-2007, 03:56 PM
Thanks for the ending Hawk... now we just need the place from 31-39... you can see it stops in the middle of a sentence... not your post though. All-in-all this was a great story though and thank you for bringing it to us.

hawk9934
08-15-2007, 07:43 PM
White Sorrow was kind enough to post 31-39 since I was gone for a week. The sad part is I reviewed it and it still ended up like this