by Grasshopper

Chapter 18

"You're only young once, but you live with your mistakes forever."

As Cole had ridden home last night from the cave, his emotions twisted around and around like pasta in boiling water. At first angry as all hell, then hurt because Callie had not trusted him; frustrated with the weight of everything going haywire at the same time and thankful that he had Wes.

By the time he got to his house, he had decided not to approach Callie tonight. His feelings were too raw and he'd say words in anger that couldn't be taken back.

His dream was as scattered and frantic as his mind had been when he fell asleep. As the huge funnel cloud struck down on the home that he and Wes had built together, he could hear Wes crying out, "Cole, help me! Everything is blowing away! The dogs and the cat and the flowers .... Help me, Cole! Grab the boy! Don't let him go! Cole, help me!" Wes's voice grew fainter and fainter as the tornado spun up into the air and the flying monkeys laughed.

Waking as suddenly as the dream had fled, Cole lay still, tears of longing and sadness wet on his cheeks. He had let Wes down. His promises couldn't be held true. As he dressed and brushed his teeth, he looked at his reflection in the mirror. He had always dreamed in the abstract about their future together. They'd go to college, come back here to work on the ranch and live happily ever after.

They would live here; this land was their home, but it wouldn't be as happily ever after as the fairy tales told. There would be people who would never even try to understand. They would have to live watching each other's backs, but then, they always had.

He remembered parts of that dream. Wes calling, "Help me!" and saying, "Grab the boy!" What boy? The rest he understood, but that part he did not.

All right, he was awake now. The problem, as much as he'd like to pretend it was all a dream, wasn't. He had to talk to Callie. Cole felt like he didn't even know his twin sister anymore. How the hell had she gotten close with Karl Straihan without him knowing it? Karl Straihan, of all fuckin' people! This was such a mess. As much as he loved Wes; he didn't know what to do about Callie being pregnant with his brother's child. He had to hear Callie's story before he thought about it anymore.

"Callie," he called as he knocked on her bedroom door. He heard sounds of her moving quickly around the room. "Callie, let me in. We need to talk." The door opened a crack and Callie's tear stained eyes met his. She turned and dove for her bed, crawling under the fluffy pink comforter. Cole walked in slowly, then sat in the big chair by the window. "Talk to me, Cal."

Hugging a fat old teddy bear she'd named Oscar years ago, Callie, rather like all the self-involved selfish girls before her, decided to maneuver as much as possible to her advantage. She's already come this far, another mile wouldn't hurt her now. It would all work out. "Something horrible happened to me, Coley and I don't know what to do."

Cole moved to the edge of the bed and held out his arms, "Come here, darlin' girl. Tell me, so I can fix it for you."

"Remember the night you found me in the Mom's car and asked me what had happened and where I'd been?"


"I had gone out to the Blue Moon with friends and someone put something bad in my soda. Something like that Rohypnol, you know, the date rape drug. I was only drinking diet sodas ... I swear. I started feeling funny and went to the restroom. Then, Oh, Coley ...................," she clung to her brother. "He grabbed me and pulled me outside. He .... He ....hurt me, Coley."

"Who hurt you, Cal? Tell me."

Here goes, she smiled to herself. "It ... it was Karl Straihan, Wes' brother.

Oh, Coley, he was so rough and mean, laughing at me."

"Are you sure? Are you sure that's what happened, Cal?"

"Are you doubting me? Do you think I'm lying? That I'd make something like that up?" She slapped his chest.

"No, Sweetie, I just want to be sure. We'll have to tell the sheriff and Mom and Dad."

"Oh, No!!! No, Cole. He's dead. He can't hurt me now. No one needs to know. Please don't tell Mom and Daddy."

"But Cal, it's not something you can hide for very long."

"I want to get rid of it. I don't want a baby. Not now, Coley. I'm just going to college. Who'd want to date a girl with a baby? Help me, Coley."

His mind shattering into millions of pieces, Cole just wanted to run away from all this mess; grab Wes and run, as far as possible. "Let's think about all this. I need to talk to Wes; to tell him what you told me." Cole wondered why Callie didn't tell him right then that Wes already knew. He was so confused.

Autopsies performed on both Karl Straihan Senior and Junior, the bodies were released to the family. "The family" stared at each other at Rossum's Funeral Home. "There will be no viewing," Wes said quietly to Mr. Rossum. "We want both bodies cremated. We'll take care of the rest ourselves."

"But, surely you want ...................," Mr. Rossum tried one last time to make a profit from this double death.

"No! Just cremate them. I'll be back in the morning."

"I'm going back to work," Mercy told him as they drove away.

"You okay with all this?" Wes asked. "People might stare or say something mean."

"And how would that be any different from every other day?" Mercy sighed.

"Yeah, I see what you mean; just be careful and don't pay any attention."

"Besides," she smiled, "Craig said he'd come by and take me to lunch."

"You and Craig ..... it makes you happy?"

"Oh, yes and I really think he actually cares about me."

"Why wouldn't he? You're beautiful, Mercy." She blushed and climbed out of the car in front of the doughnut shop. "Take care, Wesley. Craig said he'd drive me home tonight; don't worry."

It was about time to meet Cole and Callie at the cave. Wes headed the Camaro up into the foothills.

He could see Whistler and Firefly standing patiently at the top of the rise by the cave entrance. Climbing up the steep track, Wes yelled out, "Yo, Cole!"

Cole walked quickly out the opening and met Wes on the path grabbing his hand. "Yo yourself. God, I've missed you." Stopping for a second, they kissed gently and Cole nuzzled his nose into Wes's warm neck. "C'mon, Callie's here and it's time to figure this out."

Wes tried to pull his hand away, but Cole held tight. "It's time to stop hiding. Callie needs to understand." The first thing Callie saw when they walked in the cave was the way they held tightly to each other's hands. She felt the heat of jealousy well up inside her heart again.

"So, you are like together?" she said, her voice tight and controlled.

"We didn't know how to tell you, Cal. It was pretty much our private thing, you know." She didn't reply, just turned her face away.

"Okay, we need to figure out how to solve this mess," Cole said, a frown on his face.

"It's my mess," Callie spoke up, "You didn't have anything to do with this. Wes either."

"Yes, we did," Wes murmured. "Let's not argue about who did what. Let's try to decide how to help Callie."

Lots of ideas were tossed around with the loudest one being abortion. "We can take you to a clinic in Laredo," Cole said softly.

"I have to say something," Wes murmured. "I hate what my brother did to you, Callie, but I can't hate him. You don't know what all Father did to him to make him the way he was."

They sat quietly around the fire, deep in thought. "I have an idea," Cole finally blurted out. "I'm the least involved in this, but I'm thinking really selfishly."


He looked directly into Wes's eyes. "We'll never have children. You want children. This is the only child that will ever come from a mix of Straihan/Hewett blood." He turned his head toward Callie, "I guess what I'm saying is that Karl never had a chance. It wasn't his fault the way his life turned out. Maybe his child deserves to be loved."

"You want me to have it?" Callie gasped, "But, Coley .........."

Wes watched the twins, brother and sister, as they struggled over his brother's child. Cole was doing this for him. When Wes heard Cole's idea, his heart had soared; Karl's child; a second chance for his lonely older brother.

He sat quietly and waited. This was not his decision.

"But, what would I tell people? What would I tell Mom and Daddy? People would hate me, be mean to me. I'd miss college. I'd be stuck with a baby. I don't want to get fat and ugly all by myself. I don't want this baby!!" she sobbed.

"But we do," Cole looked at Wes.

Callie turned her wet eyes toward Wes, "Wesley? What should I do?"

Wes tried to think about what would be fair. Callie hadn't asked for this. She needed to be protected. "If," he said slowly, his grip on Cole's hand tightening, "You married me, the baby would have a name."

"What the fuck?" Cole exploded. "I don't think so. She's the wrong Hewett."

"Think about it, Cole," Wes said softly, "It would be in name only and we could have it annulled as soon as the baby is born, right Callie?"

"Of course, Wesley," she smiled.

"NO!" Cole cried out.

Callie was struggling to keep the grin off her face. This was exactly what she had envisioned happening. Men are so predictable. She would have Wesley and she'd never let him go. In a quiet voice, she said, "I don't know, Wes, I think an abortion would probably be best. Cole's right."

"Now, don't go dumping the abortion thing in my lap," Cole growled. "I want what's best for everyone. Don't forget, we're talking about a little life."

Callie shouted inside. She had them and they had no clue. This was too easy.

Sheriff Nolan leaned back against the hood of his patrol car watching the deputies lifting the black bag out of the pit. Jackie had been right. There had been a second body in the ground, deeper than Elizabeth Straihan. It would take at least three weeks for the DNA identification, but he knew in his gut that this would be the body of Will Carver, the missing art teacher. That crazy Reverend Straihan had tossed these bodies down in that pit years ago and then, to top it all off, he had made his child sit down in there as if he was sitting in an open grave. He shivered at the thought.

A check with the local dentist would give them tentative identification and they could find the poor man's family in Utah. Such a waste. Old Straihan must have found out and punished them both. So, she didn't run off and desert her kids after all.

He drove out to the Straihan place to talk to Wes and Mercy; poor kids, losing everyone at the same time. Course they'd lost their mother seventeen years ago, but he knew they had suffered for her all these years.

That night, Wes and Mercy watched Sheriff Nolan drive off down the road. Sitting down on the rickety porch steps, they leaned into each other for warmth.

"Wesley, if Mother was having an affair with this man, Will Carver, back when you were born, maybe you ..................."

"Shush, Mercy, I know. I've thought of that myself. Don't you think there would be some hint about him somewhere? A note? A picture? Something?"

"She would have hidden anything like that from Father."


"Let's go look in her room." Mercy had told Wesley many times how Mother had her own small bedroom at the back of the house unless Father wanted her to sleep in his room. Mercy never got to see Mother when she had to do that because Father would lock the door and even if Mercy cried, he would not open it.

The room had been locked ever since Mother 'left' all those years ago. There was no key that they knew of. Wes ran his hand over the dusty wood of the door and suddenly, backed up, raised his foot and kicked the door in.

Walking into Mother's room, both of them felt as if she might speak to them at any moment. "Wesley, I can feel her in here. I can smell her lilac perfume."

"Mercy, it's been eighteen years."

"I know, but it's like she's here right now." They looked around and saw a small dresser, a single bed with a plain white chenille spread, and a rocker.

No rug on the cold floor or pictures on the walls. "Poor Mother, he was punishing her, wasn't he, Wesley?"

"Yes, I guess for trying to be happy."

They checked the dresser and the bed, but found nothing. The rocking chair held no secrets. "You check the floor boards and I'll look at the wall baseboards." They found nothing.

"I guess we'll never know," Mercy sighed, leaning her forehead against the window glass. She ran her fingers down the glass and onto the sill. It wobbled just a bit and she looked down. "Wes, come here. This piece of wood is loose on the window sill."

Wes poked his finger under the edge and pried the wood up enough to let it pop off the two nails that were holding it steady. It slid out and they could see some hidden objects in the dusty space.

"I think this is what we've been looking for," Mercy whispered.

"Why are you whispering? There's no one here but us."

She blushed, "I feel like she's here, right here in the room right now. We're touching her most private things."

"I know she'd want us to have them," Wes said seriously, "Why else would she have saved them?" He reached in carefully and lifted out a bundle of letters addressed simply to My Kat. Handing them to Mercy as if they were made of gold, he looked back in the space and brought out several small treasures.

One by one, Wes laid them in Mercy's outstretched hands: a tiny crystal hummingbird no bigger than Wes' thumb, a ceramic paisley-painted egg, a fading photograph of a tall lanky boy with brown hair flopping in his eyes and Wes' lopsided grin, a bunch of dried wildflowers pressed in wax paper, a worn furry monkey wearing a red hat and a little clay pig no bigger than the palm of Mercy's hand.

"Oh, Wesley, look at him," Mercy murmured as she studied the photo. "I think it's true."

"Let's read the first letter," Wes said, his mind trying to bend around what he was seeing.

Mercy carefully untied the lavender ribbon and opened the first letter.

Kat ~

Okay, you won! I couldn't do it after all. Never seeing you again was more than I could live with. I thought I could go on after they made you do it, but my heart just broke into a million pieces. I need you to put it together again.

I know you saw me in town. I saw you put your hand over your heart. I hope it was joy you were feeling. I'll hide this letter like we used to do at home. If you come looking for it, I'll know you still love me too.

All my love ~


Oh ......I can see your house from my window. Blink your light at 9:00 when you find this letter. B

Mercy read it aloud three times, each time with more happiness in her voice. "Wesley, she was happy. In spite of Father, Billy found her."

"I wonder where he hid the letters? How did she know where to look? And what does he mean that he could see her house, this house, from his window? There's only one house that's that close." Wes looked out the window and saw the roof of the Harrelson's place above the trees. "Seventeen years ago, those trees wouldn't have been so tall, but what would he have been doing at the Harrelson's?"

"Was Billy's real name William and was Billy Will Carver and, most of all, was Will Carver your father?"

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