Callie primped in front of her mirror. She was breaking all the rules tonight. She had moments where she stopped and asked herself what she was doing, but her life was spinning out of control and she couldn't get a tight grasp on any ring, much less the gold one.
This was the third night she'd gone out to the Blue Moon. The third night she'd met Karl Straihan in a bar, somewhere her father would never approve. He'd been a gentleman, sort of, not going too far and in doing so, giving her a sense of power over him. He made her feel like he was putty in her hands. So what if he got a little too frisky so she'd had to slap him. Callie had always been able to handle boys.
She'd never "borrowed" her mom's car before. She had on way too much make-up and way too little clothing. She'd heard about the Blue Moon, but before Wednesday night, she'd never been there. She was going again tonight, looking for Karl Straihan. She was sure of her ability to control any man. She just wanted to show Wesley how much other men wanted her. She'd found out the hard way that nothing around her was as it seemed. What she had seen in the cave had skewed her; had turned her world upside down. She'd always been so sure about Wesley; that he'd love her one day. She'd always trusted her brother, Cole, to look out for her. All that was gone now. Neither one of them cared about her at all. They were selfish. She'd show them. She'd show Wesley that, if he didn't want her, another Straihan did.
Sneaking out the back door, creeping down the long tree-lined drive in her mom's Volvo with the lights off, she felt a moment of regret and a prickling of the hair on the back of her neck, but it was too late to back out now. Checking her blood-red lipstick in the rearview mirror, she bowed her full lips into a pout. 'Here I come, Karl Straihan, ready or not.'
Callie pulled up into the parking lot out front of the Blue Moon. Loud raucous noise blared out the doors and she could hear people voices yelling over the music. Otis had never replaced the blown out florescent tube in the crescent moon above the door and the weirdly shaped fingernail shape just blinked on and off, on and off like it had for the last four years.
The lot smelled of vomit, piss and unwashed bodies. Callie's nose curled up as she smelled the night air. One leg out of the car, one foot touching the asphalt .... Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.
"Lookee! Lookee! What have we got here?" She glanced over to see Terry Collom ambling toward her from the shadows of the front porch. "You lookin' for Karl, little darlin'? I'll take you on if he don't want you." He grabbed the crotch of his dirty baggy jeans and shoved his hips at her.
"No, thank you," Callie replied, in her princess voice, "I'm looking for Karl. Do you know where he is?"
"Hey, Karl," he called in the front door, "Wait'll you see what's waitin' for you out here. C'mon, little darlin', I know right where he is."
Callie's eyes wide, she let herself be led in the front door and past a sad group of solitary drunks leaning on the bar. She saw Karl back at one of the pool tables, cue in hand, lining up a shot. He looked up from the green felt long enough to give her the once over and raise one eyebrow. Terry shoved a beer bottle in her hand and, her throat dry, she automatically took a few deep swallows.
A big man, Karl took after Father, with a heavy frame and a scowl that made him look constantly angry. He had his mother's olive skin, same as Wesley, and piercing brown eyes. His shaved head and prison-inked tats added the look of danger. If he hadn't been half insane, he would have made a fine-looking man, but there was a look in his eyes; an 'I don't give a shit what the world thinks' look. And, here, like a present at fuckin' Christmas, was Callie Hewett, just for him. He wasn't about to turn Santa down. He had played her like a fish on a line for two nights now. It was time to get a little action.
When he looked at her, Callie felt that tickling, buzzing feeling in the pit of her stomach again. He was a bad boy. She'd never tangled with a bad boy before. Thing was, Karl Straihan wasn't a bad boy. He was a very very bad man.
Making the shot and shoving his winnings in his pocket, Karl grabbed up a bottle and sidled over to Callie sliding his arm around her, pulling her in close. He smelled of beer and sweat and some sweet smell Callie didn't recognize. "Glad to see you, Princess. I'm gonna play a few more games. You can be my good luck charm. Stay right here on this stool and keep drinking Get caught up with me. Terry, bring her more beer." An hour later, Callie was laughing too loud and couldn't feel her feet.
Let's go find somewhere we can talk," Karl whispered in her ear. He took her arm in a tight hold and walked toward the front door, "Terry, I'm gonna take the truck for while."
"I think I prefer to stay here, if you don't mind," Callie said, her bravado fading as the lights grew brighter and the music louder.
"Oh, but I do mind, Princess. You came here to find me. Well, here I am. I may not be the Straihan you want, but I'm the Straihan you got. I think you'll find that, when it comes to women, I'm twice the man my little brother is."
Callie felt her anger build again. Wes! Wes and Cole! They betrayed her. She'd show them! She slid off the stool, swaying as she tried to walk. She'd show them! "C'mon then, Karl, Let's go for a ride in that big truck." Karl grabbed up four more cold longnecks, winked at Terry and laughed as he walked Miss High and Mighty Callie Hewett out into the parking lot.
By 3:00 AM, Cole knew he wasn't gonna sleep. He had tried and tried to make Wes listen, but he couldn't make a dent in him. Why, all of a sudden, did he have to leave? Why drag Mercy away from her job? Why was he acting as if leaving Cole was no big fuckin' deal? He'd promised to try to wait til graduation ... what difference did a few weeks make? Cole had wanted to shout, "Wes, your mother is either dead or doesn't give a rat's ass about you", but he couldn't say it. Cole knew that Wes loved him. He had never doubted that and he wasn't starting now, so why, all of a sudden, walk away from him?
He could just go with Wes. They could just leave McLaren and go looking for Mrs. Straihan. Cole knew it was a lost cause, but if Wes needed to do it to move on with his life, then so be it. He'd just stay out of school for a year.
His dad would have a fit, but Cole would not let Wes just walk away from him. He had heard the tone in Wes' voice, as if he was promising to come back, but he wasn't going to. And that was not gonna happen.
Not able to even close his eyes, he got out of bed and walked down the hall into the family room to stand looking out the big picture window. The cold glass felt good against the heat of his forehead. The moon was hanging low in the snow sky and the light was reflecting off the stark whiteness.
Headlights caught the corner of his eye. Two sets of headlights driving too fast down the main road. Watching, Cole saw the two vehicles, the second a truck, stop just inside the long drive to the house. A dark figure jumped out of the car and ran to climb in the truck. Skidding and fishtailing, the truck headed back the way it had come down Route 16.
Cole pulled on jeans and his work boots, a heavy parka and his ball cap. Grabbing a heavy duty flashlight and a shotgun, he walked quickly down the driveway. As he got closer, he recognized his mother's light blue Volvo. What the fuck was it doing out? No one would be out at this time of night ..... not his mom or his dad. That only left .....................
Running now, Cole skidded to a stop by the car. My God! Callie lay sprawled across the front seat. She reeked of beer and cigarettes. Her hair was a tangled mess and her shirt was buttoned wrong. She was also out like a light. 'God Damn, Callie, what have you done?'
The keys were in the ignition. Cole turned off the lights and rolled the car quietly into the garage. Callie was breathing steadily and didn't seem hurt anywhere. Cole lifted her up in his arms and carried her to her room, laying her gently on the bed.
"Callie? Cal? Wake up. Wake up." He stripped her down to her underwear and carried her into her bathroom, leaning her against the tiled shower wall. Throwing off his outer clothes, Cole turned the water on warm and held his sister under the water, smoothing her hair back out of her face.
He felt her begin to come out from under and held her tightly. As she began to struggle, Cole knelt and they sat down on the bathtub floor. "Whoa, Callie. It's me, Cole. I've got you. Settle down."
"Gonna hurl," she gasped one second before vomiting all over their feet. Holding her wet hair back out of her face, he soothed, "It's okay, Cal. I've got you."
Drying her off, he got her into dry pajamas and into her bed. A soft blue towel wrapped around her hair, her face white as a sheet, Callie lay still with her eyes closed tight.
"Where were you, Callie? Where have you been? Who was that in the truck? My God, Callie, what will Mom and Dad say? How much did you have to drink?"
Callie turned her face away, tears straggling down her cheeks. She stared out the window, not seeing. "Let me sleep, Coley. I need to sleep."
"We'll talk in the morning. I want to know what you did tonight."
"Don't tell Mom and Dad. Please, Coley."
Cole was stuck. They needed to know, but he'd wait til he heard Callie's story first. Was she okay? Who had she been with? "Okay, but we are gonna talk.
Get some sleep. I'll be right here." He smoothed a lock of her wet hair from her forehead and tucked the quilt around her snugly. Turning out the light, he sat in the chair by the window and watched his twin sister sleep. He didn't know her anymore. He was terrified of what she had done and where she had been. Why didn't he know what she was doing? When had they lost each other?
Staring out the window at the moonlight, he grieved for Callie, for Wes, for himself. Life was falling apart around them. What was happening?
The weak early morning sun found Cole staring at his sister. He was sprawled out in her comfy chair, his feet stretched out onto the ottoman, his hands, fingers linked, resting on his chest. He was going back over the last few years, trying to see where they had lost their way. He knew he had neglected her for Wes. Sitting there in the cold morning hours, he knew there was no going back to fix it, but they needed to talk. He needed to keep his sister closer. Maybe this was his fault. Wherever she'd been last night, she wasn't going there again. Cole would make this right.
Callie mumbled in her sleep, then scrubbed at her nose with the back of her hand. Slowly opening one blue eye, Callie groaned, "Is this Hell?"
"No, but Hell might be safer if Mom and Dad find out about last night," Cole replied, stretching and walking over to sit on the side of her bed.
"Don't start," she moaned, "My head will explode."
"Where were you, Cal? What were you drinking? Who were you ......"
She cut him off. "Not now. I just want to lie here until my head shrinks back to normal size."
Cole reached over and thumped her on the forehead with his fingers. "No, you're gonna tell me what was going on last night."
"Oww! I don't have to tell you anything."
"Callie, it's your choice .... me or Mom and Dad." He glared at her.
"Can I just promise not to go there anymore?"
"That's a start, and I really kind of want to know why more than where," he said, hurt in his voice. "I know I've kinda been neglecting you lately. Maybe if I had been around more, you wouldn't ......................"
Callie stared at Cole. He was taking this whole mess on his shoulders. How like him to do that. She couldn't just blurt out that it was his fault, his and Wes', for doing what they did that day; that he had stolen Wes from her in the only way she couldn't fight. She blinked as she realized that he was talking and she had no idea what he had been saying.
"........ okay? I mean, you know. Did you have sex last night? Do you even remember?" The look in his eyes made her feel ashamed.
She wasn't sure. She remembered getting to the Blue Moon, going into the bar and watching Karl play pool. She remembered her head spinning from too much beer and then not much else. Suddenly panicked, she climbed out of bed and headed for the bathroom. Closing the door, she touched herself and her hand came away with dried semen. Dear God! This wasn't what was supposed to happen. Hurrying into the shower, Callie scrubbed everywhere she could, washing away any remains of her forgotten night. Sliding to the floor of the shower, she sat, knees pressed to her breasts, and cried. She had only wanted to show Wesley she could have anyone she wanted. She sure didn't want sex with Karl Straihan. If he had used a condom, why was there dried cum on her? Sweet Mary, this was all wrong.
Cole tapped on the door. "Cal, I'm gonna open the door. We really need to talk.....Now!"
"No, I'll come out," she replied, her voice strained and raspy; her head still muzzy from last night. Struggling up, Callie dragged her pajamas back on and wrapped her long hair in a towel.
Cole had realized, when his sister was in the shower, that nothing would be gained by yelling at her. Her took her hand and led her to the comfy chair by the window, sitting down and pulling her into his lap. "Talk to me, Cal. I want to help."
Now was the time to tell him what she had done. Right now, she needed to confess how she had lied to Wes. How she had tried to seduce Wes' brother to pay him back and how it had all backfired on her.
"I know I've shut you out," Cole sighed. "I didn't realize how much until now."
"You took your love away from me," Callie said, her voice breaking. "You gave it to Wesley. It's been that way since we first saw him all those years ago. I used to think it was the three of us, but I've known for a long time that it's you and Wes with me somewhere left out."
"Is that why you want Wes so much?"
Now was the time to say it; to tell him what she'd seen and what she knew. She felt so stupid for not knowing before. It was so obvious once you knew. All the love Cole should have shared with her; all the affection twins should share, he'd given to Wesley. As she lay there, cuddled in his lap, Callie felt the now familiar blaze of anger at them both.
"I thought that, if I married Wes and you married someone nice, we could all be happy," she began to sniffle. "I just want us all to be happy, especially you and me, Coley." She curled her arms around his neck. "I couldn't bear it if I lost you. Don't you want me to be happy?" She cut her eyes, identical to his but, at this moment, filled with spite.
"Of course, you know I do, Cal," Cole soothed, "I never knew you felt this way. Wes is my .... my best friend. I never knew you felt left out. I'd never do that to you on purpose."
"I know that, Coley. When you and I go to the university, it will all be better, right? I know you'll miss Wes, but we'll meet new people and make bunches of new friends, won't we?" She waited, feeling Cole's pulse speed up as her words hit him. She could practically hear his thoughts wheeling.
Slowly, he said, "Wes is leaving, Callie. He and Mercy are going to try to find their mother."
Frowning, she asked, "Is he coming back?"
"I don't know. I'm so confused. I wanted him to go to school with me .... with us. He says this is something he has to do."
"Well, I can understand that," she murmured. "They'll be okay. Don't worry about Wes."
"I always do," Cole whispered. Callie ignored him. He cleared his throat and said again, "Now, where were you last night and what happened?"
"I was at the Blue Moon and I got wasted. I went there with some friends and they brought me home. That's all that happened; just friends having fun."
"Some fun, you looked like you were drunk out of your skull. Don't do that again, please Cal. I won't tell Mom and Dad this time since you're okay. But don't do it again. It would just about kill them to see you this way."
Like she ever wanted to go there again! Like she ever wanted to see Karl Straihan again! Her mind had blanked out whatever had gone on and she wasn't about to repeat it. At least she was home and safe and she could just put all that behind her. Cole would try real hard now to be closer to her and that would drive another wedge between Wes and him. Everything was working out. She smiled, "I promise, Coley. I won't do that again. I've got my brother to protect me, right?"
"Damn right you do," Cole said, hugging her tightly.
Ever since Mercy had sadly and hesitantly told Craig she couldn't go on a walk with him, she'd expected him to leave her alone, but he just kept coming by the doughnut shop every afternoon. He'd buy one chocolate topped doughnut and a cup of coffee. He'd sit at the same little table over by the window and read a paperback book or just watch the people walk by. He'd smile at Mercy and hand her a single lavender rose. "I can see in your eyes that you would have liked that walk," Craig said softly. "I've got lots of time to wait until you're ready."
Mercy had never had anyone care enough about her to bide their time. Only Wes had loved her in her whole life. She smiled a shy half-smile and hoped Craig meant what he said.
At the house, she crept up the back stairs and opened the dusty attic door. Father didn't allow anyone up here, but he was gone to a revival today. Mercy wanted a big book to press the lavender roses into the pages. The cobwebs were thick and the rustle of tiny feet let her know there were mice living up here amongst the old musty relics of long ago times. Seeing a pile of old books, she hurried over and dusting off an old trunk with the hem of her skirt, she sat down to go through the stack.
The book on the bottom of the pile was an old mouse-chewed bible. Mercy opened the front cover and found, to her joy, that this had been her mother's bible. The title page read:
This Bible belongs to: Katherine Violet Lucas
Age: 13 - Today is my birthday !!!
Happy Birthday to ME!!!
Year of Our Lord: May 21, 1980 - Provo, Utah
Mercy clasped the bible tightly. Her mother's bible! Katherine Violet Lucas! Mercy realized she had never even known her mother's maiden name. Lucas!
Her mother had only been thirteen when she'd held this bible in her hands and gone to church. She hadn't been married to Father and she had probably been happy. Mercy thumbed through the pages, seeing what had to be her mother's handwriting scribbled along the edges. In the center of the bible there were maps of the Holy Lands. On the map of Jerusalem, Mother had written a name several times in her childish hand:
Billy Billy Billy Billy and the i's were all dotted with little hearts. Mother had had a boyfriend or a crush on someone when she was thirteen. Mercy found herself smiling at the image of her mother as a happy little girl. How did she ever end up with Father?
Mercy had a sudden thought. William is Wesley's middle name. Had Mother done that on purpose? Remembered her old crush all those years later? She skimmed through the rest of the bible looking for any more writing, but only found underlined passages and Sunday school notes. Standing up, brushing off her long skirt, Mercy flipped the top of the old trunk open.
It was empty except for a faded handsewn Wedding Ring quilt and a jumble of cheap tarnished jewelry. She reached in and lifted out the quilt, holding it to her face. It smelled of something Mercy vaguely recognized. It was like the powder Mrs. Harris had always worn when Mercy was in Kindergarten. What had she called it? Lilac, that's right. This had been Mother's quilt. It smelled of lilacs. Lilacs are lavender. Mercy remembered this quilt hanging on the clothesline in the breeze.
Folding the quilt carefully, Mercy sat down on the floor and laid the small pile of jewelry out in her lap; a broken silver chain, two little charms, one a cat and the other a moon. A pair of earrings made out of feathers, the feathers crushed and broken, a funny plastic ring in the shape of a purple flower.
The last tiny object that slid through her fingers was a single twisted pierced earring, silver, no tarnish. When Mercy rubbed it on her skirt, the little star shone brightly. This piece wasn't junk jewelry. This was real silver. Mercy dropped the jewelry into her jacket pocket, picked herself up, and carrying the quilt and the bible, she went to her room. She hid the quilt on her closet shelf. The jewelry went into the top drawer of her little dresser. The bible she took to her bed and, wrapping each lavender rose in wax paper she had brought home from the shop, she pressed them carefully between the pages.
As she did, she turned to the maps again and ran her fingers over the name:
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