by Grasshopper

Chapter 19

Cole stood watching Wes sleep. He was gonna have to get used to seeing Wes in places other than the cave or the hut by the pond. Just walking into the Straihan house and up the stairs seemed wrong somehow. The house held so many bad vibes and the echoes of the pain and misery endured by three young children hung heavy in the air.

Cole's fingers played with the hematite beads that he had kept in his pocket since the night Karl Jr had died. There had been 16 beads; obsidian, tiger's eye, fire opal, onyx and others. When he had bought them, they had all stood for the protection he felt that Wes needed. The silvery hematite stood for the love and devotion he felt for Wes.

Cole had gathered all the beads from the bloody floor of the garage where Karl's body hung, impaled on the hay spear. He had taken them to the pond by the old cottonwood trees and flung them into the dark water; all but two. He had kept two of the hematites just because .... because he loved Wes so much and he didn't care what Wes had done. Cole knew that anything Wes had been driven to was justified, even murder.

Wes had been the last person to see Karl alive and the last person to enter the garage. Reverend Straihan had never come right out and said he killed his son; he had only said Karl needed to be punished and then the sheriff had shot him before he could stab Mercy.

This was another promise Cole would keep for Wesley. It didn't change the way he felt; nothing could ever do that. He would never repeat the final words to come from Karl Straihan:

"Wes .... Killed .... Tell .... Wes". Cole shuddered as the words flowed over him. He knew that, as long as he kept Wes' secret, there was no evidence to show he'd killed his brother.

"You're staring," Wes' sleep gritty voice sighed.

"You're beautiful," Cole replied.

"Ummm," Wes slurred, his voice heavy with sleep. He held up his arms and Cole stretched out on top of him., his cheek resting in the hollow of Wes' shoulder.

"Cole, we need to talk."

"Damn, and me thinking what a perfect time for not talking." He rolled over and curved his body against the hard strength of Wes'. "Okay, talk."

Wes absently twisted a blond curl around his finger. "What are we gonna do about Callie? I was thinking that, if we're gonna stay here in McLaren, I could marry her and give the baby a name, as long as she totally understands that its you I love and you I will share my life with."

"I hate that idea, but if we want to save the baby, it's the only way she'll keep it. It is her choice. I don't know, but, No, I don't want you to stay married to her. It would just be til the baby comes and then we're leaving.

I want to live somewhere we can be together openly and be happy. There's no chance of that in McLaren. We'll talk to her today and decide."

"We'll have to tell your parents what's going on. It's gonna be hard, but they deserve to know what's happening, especially if we can convince Callie to keep the baby."

"Yeah, I know you're right, but it's all gonna hurt them so much."

"Your mom and dad love you and Callie too much to do anything horrible. You know they'll support whatever you two decide. That's what I've always envied about you. The unconditional love you had at your fingertips."

"I'm gonna make up for all the love you didn't get by loving you so much for the rest of your life," Cole whispered.

"I know. I can't wait." Wes pulled Cole into a soft kiss. "Cole," he murmured, "You know I still have to go to Provo. I want to find out about my real father and what happened."

"I know. I want to go with you. I don't like the idea of you going alone if there's a chance you might get hurt by what you find out."

"I'll be okay. Mercy is torn between going now and staying here with Craig. I don't think I'm gonna mention it much and maybe by the time I go, she'll be okay with staying. She just doesn't want me going alone."

"That's what I just said," Cole rolled his eyes. "I know there's no use arguing, but I'll go if you need me. You know that."

"Yeah, I do and I love you for it, but I'll be fine. I want to know why Will Carver and my mother weren't together and why she ended up with Father, or should I call him the Reverend Straihan?"

"He'll always be Father in your memories. That's the saddest part of all."

Cole kissed the palm of Wes' hand, thinking how hard it must be for Wes to keep his secret inside. Cole would never ask, and Wesley would harbor the fact that he killed his brother alone in his heart. Maybe, one day, when they were older, Cole would tell Wes what Karl had said, but for now, it was Wes' secret.

Callie had the video and the pictures. She scattered them out on her bed and looked at each one. "This is exactly the one I want," she muttered, choosing one where Cole was spread eagled on the bed and the other boy, face nuzzled down into Cole's crotch appeared to be giving her brother the greatest blowjob of his life. Cole's eyes were dilated and his mouth was open in a heaving pant. It looked for all the world as if they were in the middle of mind-blowing sex. She knew they were posed, but it sure looked real. She'd know Cole's blond curls anywhere, and most importantly, so would Wesley. She tucked everything back in the backpack, shoving it onto the top shelf of her closet, just that one picture she kept out, sliding it in between two of her Johnny Depp DVDs for safe keeping.

Wesley walked the distance from his house to the Harrelson's place in long strides. He smiled, remembering how far this seemed when he and Cole were little and he would walk this long way to wait for Cole at the fence. So many memories ..... Sitting on the Harrison's barn roof, kissing boyish kisses at the split rail fence, asking them for help the night he hit father with the Louisville Slugger. . Now, he was going to them to find out how his mother could have seen a light from the attic window from Will Carver. He knocked on the kitchen door.

"Well, if it isn't Wesley," Mrs. Harrelson smiled and welcomed him into the warm kitchen. "I was just baking some bread. Would you like a nice hot end piece with fresh butter?"

Wes grinned. "Yes Ma'am, you know I love your bread and thank you again for all the food you cooked for Mercy and me after ..... After the accidents."

"You're more than welcome. What brings you over here this morning?"

"I'd like to talk to you and Mr. Harrelson if I could." He bit into the delicious bread, butter running down his chin. Laughing, Mrs. Harrelson handed him a napkin.

"I'll go call Samuel."

Mr. and Mrs. Harrelson settled themselves at the kitchen table. Mabel Harrelson was as short and round as Samuel Harrelson was tall and rangy.

They both had smile creases on their faces and happy eyes. Wesley had always thought how great it would have been to have them for parents.

"I need to ask you a couple of questions," he said softly. He pulled the photo of Billy out of his shirt pocket. "Do you recognize this boy?"

"Well, sure Wesley, that's you ............ no, wait, there's something about the set of the ears. Sure could be you though."

"Have you ever had anyone living in this house with you?"

They both looked puzzled. "Only that one time when the wheat had a bad season. We needed extra money for the land payment. We had a boarder."

"Who was it?" Wes asked excitedly. "Could it have been this boy, grownup?"

Mrs. Harrelson looked more closely at the photo. "Now that you say it, this would have been how Will looked when he was younger, except for the scars."

"Will Carver, the teacher?" Wesley nearly yelled. "Wait, what scars?"

"Poor boy, he was such a good artist, so quiet and shy. I know those scars made him very self-conscious. He never would say how he got them. He just went to the high school to teach his classes and came here. We had fixed up the attic and he spent all his time up there, listening to music and drawing. It was odd, he only used black and white. He spent his time drawing and sitting in the hayloft doors, staring off. Actually, now that I think of it, he stared toward your house. Sometimes, he would come in the back door and I swear, there were tears in his eyes. I always figured he was thinking about his accident."

Thanking the Harrelsons, Wes walked over to the barn, climbed the ladder and sat with his long legs hanging over the ledge of the hayloft doors. From here, he could see Mother's bedroom window.

My mother! My father! How sad! How did she end up with Father? How did he get scarred? Did they meet here in this barn? Was I made here? He looked back into the hayloft and smiled a slight smile. If they loved like he felt like they did, then this was a good place. Wes made up his mind. He was going to Provo to find out the truth.

"No, you will not make Wesley marry you so he can have his brother's child."

The conversation with their parents was not going the way Callie had expected. She'd thought they would be so embarrassed and heart broken that they'd agree to just about anything. Instead, they were angry with her ..... with HER ! Like any of this was HER fault.

"But, he and Cole want this baby and I don't. I was raped. Do you hear me, Mommie ... Daddy? He hurt me and I don't want this baby. It will be an ugly monster baby because of how it was made. Don't you hear me? If they want it, then great. Just agree to Wesley marrying me and it will all go away."

Sarah and Albert had both been overwhelmed and horrified when they sat down with the three young people an hour earlier. Their first reaction had been an abortion, the faster the better, but then they listened to what Cole and Wesley wanted and they also listened to Callie. Something was off about the extreme way Callie was carrying on. She seemed to be more interested in marrying Wesley than anything at all about the little baby she was growing inside her body.

"Callie, go to room for a while. We want to talk to Cole and Wesley."

"But .... But, this has to do with me. I want to stay."

"Callie, please, we just want to hear Cole." Callie sulked off down the hall muttering to herself.

"Cole, tell us again what's in your thoughts; yours and Wesley's."

"Mom, Dad, I know this is so hard for you. I've loved," he reached for Wes' hand and squeezed it tightly, "I've loved Wes all my life. You know it in your hearts. I want to be with him."

Sarah's eyes misted and Albert dragged in a sharp deep breath. "We understand and don't love you any less. I suppose I watched it grow all these years and just didn't let myself see it," Albert sighed. "I wouldn't wish this for you, either of you, but I love you and support you both."

"You are very young. What about this child? What if it has Karl's blood running through it and it ....................," Sarah started.

"Mrs. Hewett," Wes interrupted her, "I know what you're gonna say, but if you'd seen the pain and suffering Karl lived through when he was growing up, you'd know he wasn't born the way he turned out. He was beaten and beaten until the bits of love he felt were just beaten away. I want to raise his child to know only love and kindness. Maybe it will give a little back to Karl. He deserves it."

Sarah couldn't keep the tears from flowing. "I'm just glad you and Mercy were able to live through it."

"We had each other and I had Cole. Karl had no one."

Cole watched Wes' eyes as he talked about his brother. How awful it must have been to kill someone when you knew they were broken beyond repair.

Wes must have been at the end of his rope. Cole understood that Wes was begging for the child in part to pay back for taking the life of its father.

"Mom, Dad, how can we do this? I don't want Callie to suffer because of something that wasn't her fault."

"I always find that honesty is the very best path. We may have to fudge just a little, but I have feeling that after I talk to your sister, we'll come up with an answer," Albert said, standing and walking down the hall to Callie's room.

Forty-five minutes later, Callie and Albert walked back to the living room. Callie was red eyed and sniffling. Albert had new pain lines etched around his eyes. "Callie will carry this child. She will give it to you Cole and to you Wesley. She will then go to college and begin to live her life. If asked, she will say that the father is Karl Straihan and the name on the birth certificate will read Hewett-Straihan. All we'll say about this is that Callie and I shared a few plain truths and she will accept responsibility for what really happened."

Wesley lowered his head, pictured his brother's face, and whispered, "Okay then ..... Okay."

The prom came and went. Graduation came and went. Wes wanted to leave for Provo, but Mercy had him doing so many jobs around the house and he so loved the happiness in her eyes that he couldn't deny her anything. Her freedom from fear plus her new happiness with Craig was changing her into the pretty girl that had always been hidden away.

The summer months flew by. Cole was still fighting going to college, but Wes threatened to leave if he didn't start making his plans. "You need that degree, Cole. We can't go to a city to live and both work as waiters or car washers if we have a child. I'll never be able to, but you can and you will. I'll be here. The baby will be here. You just come home every time you can. There's no talking about it."

Cole understood the words. He knew they couldn't live on air and love. He just had this foreboding feeling that if he left, Wes wouldn't be here when he came back.

Cole practically lived at Wes' house now. Craig had asked Mercy to marry him and she was trying to make herself believe this was all happening to her.

Sarah sat down with the boys one evening. "We need to talk about the baby.

"I'll be very happy to take care of it right at first. I raised Cole pretty well and I think you can trust me," she smiled. "My grandchild."

Callie was calm on the outside, but inside she was steaming. This wasn't over by a long shot; because of Wesley Straihan, she was getting fatter than a pig, she wasn't married, no one would want her now, and Cole didn't even talk to her unless he had to. Everything had gone to shit. Ever since that night talking to Daddy, when he made her admit that it hadn't been rape and she had gone there looking for Karl Straihan, nothing had gone her way. She had no feelings for this lump growing inside her and just wanted it out. She thought of the night Karl died and wanted to scream, "Are you satisfied now, you creep?" Somewhere, wherever he was, he was laughing. She could almost hear the sound. Sometimes she dreamed that he was still here and they all ganged up and made her marry him.

The day Cole drove away promising to come home that Friday was the loneliest day of Wes' life. He'd never ever really been apart from his best friend and the silence was like a roaring in his ears. It was only for five days but it seemed like a lifetime. They had talked about Wes going with him and getting a job, but he was making good money now at the grain silos and wanted to save every penny he could. Wes knew he'd never amount to very much and wanted, at least, to contribute as much as much money as he could.

The night before Cole left that first time, Wes had another dream. They had loved each other til they were exhausted and fallen into a restless sleep both dreading the coming day. Cole woke to Wes thrashing around in the rumpled bed, tears on his face as he choked out the words, "Don't, Oh Karl, no. Mother, I'll help." Cole shook him awake and held him until the crying turned to soft sobs.

"Hey," he whispered as he wiped the tears from Wes' cheeks with the back of his fingers. "Bad one this time, huh?"

"Mother was falling, falling. I couldn't help her. She fell on the spike. Karl was trying to pull her off."

"Oh Jesus, it was just a dream, Wes. She didn't die like that. Karl wasn't there remember. He was only a little kid."

Wes huffed out a deep breath, "She flew, like the red-tailed hawk. She flew out into the wind. Like I know she wanted to do when she was alive. Cole, think how sad and lonely she was and how she must have wished to just fly away."

"I hate what happened to her, but it's better this than that she left you there with him."

"She would never have done that. She whispers to me now, in my dreams. She told me the baby's name. We have to watch him carefully. He's going to be special."

Cole frowned. When Wes got like this, it scared him. He always felt like there was more going on behind Wes' silver eyes and he ever let Cole see. "Are you going to Provo soon?"

"Yes. It's past time for me to go."

"Will you come back?"

Time for the truth. Time to say what his mother kept whispering. "If I can, Cole."

Callie watched Cole drive away and she saw Wesley hugging himself tightly. Just a few weeks then she could separate them forever. If she couldn't have him, then neither could Cole.

Cole drove the miles back and forth for all the weekends of the fall. He watched the leaves changing, the cows putting on their winter coats, the animals scurrying readying for the cold that was coming. Wes was always waiting, tall and silent, growing a scruff of a beard on that beautiful face. His hair was getting longer and his eyes always seemed tired. He held Cole with all his strength and when they loved, it was as if it was for the last time. Cole had decided he wasn't going back after Christmas break, but he wasn't going to tell Wes, not til it was done. They would work everything out, but they would do it together. All their lives Cole Hewett had watched out after Wesley Straihan and something in Cole told him that this was the most important time of all.

Cole called home on Thursday night the first week in December with a feeling that something was wrong. His mother was her usual cheerful self and said that Wes had been by to spend some time with Callie and that Callie was doing fine. The baby was due in four weeks, right on schedule. No, she hadn't seen Wes before he left. She had told Cole to drive safely and they'd have his favorite pot roast tomorrow night.

Cole drove recklessly, trying to beat the snow clouds that were threatening. He skidded out on the ice several times and spun his truck into a road sign.

Finally, the lights of the Hewett's ranch house shone thru the falling snow.

He drove down the long driveway, jumped from the truck and ran toward the house, not stopping for his duffle. He just needed to see Wes.

He found his mother and dad sitting at the kitchen table. Sarah was holding an envelope pressed to her chest. Cole looked from one to the other and, without a word, he took the envelope and walked out to the barn, tears already choking his eyes.

Cole ~

I have to go. Some things just aren't meant to happen. Please watch over Mercy for me. I know you'll take good care of our child. His name is Lucas William Hewett-Straihan. Big name for such a little one. Call him Luc and love him with all your heart. Hold onto him when the wind blows. I'll love you til the day I die, but this is the better way.

~ Wes

Cole read it and read until he couldn't see the words for the tears. This wasn't a note meaning Wes was driving to Provo for a few days; this note said goodbye. Why now? What had happened between last Sunday and today? He stormed back into the house, "What happened? How did you get this? What did he say?"

Albert held up his hand, "Whoa, calm down now, Cole. Wes came by this morning early and handed that envelope to your mom. She could see how broken up he was and, well, let her tell you."


"He came in the kitchen door. I was making coffee and asked if he wanted some. He said No, and something in his voice made me look at him closer. Cole, he was broken. I don't know how else to describe it. It was like he'd been crushed and his eyes, oh Cole, his eyes ... they were black. The beautiful silver was gone. I tried to get him to stay while I called Albert, but he wouldn't sit down. He just said to give you this letter and to take care of you and the baby. Where is Wesley? What happened?""

Cole was standing frozen, his mind numb. He couldn't think of anything that would make Wes do this. He had come over here yesterday, visited with Callie and .... Callie! He tore off down the hall, slamming the flat of his hand against her bedroom door shoving it open. "What did you say to Wesley? Tell me."

Callie looked up from the latest copy of Marie Claire she'd been looking through and widened her blue eyes. "What are you talking about? Said to Wesley? What would I have said to Wesley? What's going on?"

"He's gone. He left and I know something happened. Someone said something to him that hurt him so badly that he's gone. Did you, Callie? Did you hurt Wes?"

"Me? Why would I want to hurt Wesley? He came by yesterday and we had a nice visit. We talked about the baby and my plans for college. Heck, we even looked at some old photos I had found. He left right after that. I have no idea what upset him."

Cole wheeled around and ran out the back door heading for the Straihan place. Pulling up to the front porch, he ran up the steps and then took the stairs three at a time. He looked around Wes' room, seeing the closet empty of the few good clothes Wes had. Looking out the window, he saw that the Camaro was missing from its usual parking spot by the barn. He was truly gone.

The last place he could go was to find Mercy. Taking the 35 MPH zone at 80, he slid the truck in a spot in front of the bakery shop and ran inside. "Mercy," he called as the bell over the door rang out. She hurried from the back and, one look at Cole's face and she knew something was wrong with Wes.

"Wes?" she sobbed. "It's Wes, isn't it?"

"He's gone. He left me a letter, but he's just gone."

"Maybe he decided to go to Provo," Mercy said out loud, not believing it herself.

"No, this was a goodbye letter. What happened, Mercy? Why did he go?"

"Let me see the letter," she said, reaching out her hand. Taking it with shaking fingers, she read it several times.

"You're right, Cole. This is goodbye. He didn't say anything last night at dinner. He was very quiet, but that's not unusual for Wesley. I thought he was just thinking about Mother or you. What can we do?"

Cole rested both hands on the counter edge, his head lowered. Finally, raising his blue eyes to meet Mercy's, he said "I'm going to Provo."

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