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At dinner, Carla looked scrubbed after a shower. Her hair was slightly wet and tied in a pony tail. She wore a simple white, flowery sundress that came just above her knees and was cut low, revealing her tan shoulders, bare arms and a little cleavage. She looked angelic with tiny silver earrings and a bracelet on her wrist. I noticed she was barefooted when she walked in from the kitchen carrying a bowl of mashed potatoes in one hand and a smaller bowl of peas. Her grandmother, wearing the same long gray dress she had on earlier, followed and carried a large platter with sliced roast beef in one hand and a pitcher of water in the other. A vase of zinnias and cosmos sat in the center of the table.
I had showered under a hose in back of the barn and changed into a clean pair of faded jeans and an old green t-shirt. Her grandfather wore the same bib overalls he had on at lunch and a washed out white undershirt. I noticed the white stubble on his chin and his gnarled fingers gripping a bottle of beer. I glanced at the bottle and he saw where I was looking. He picked up the bottle and poured some of his beer into my water glass but didn’t offer me a bottle.
“Thanks,” I said and nodded. Stingy bastard, I thought as I took a sip.
“So, where you heading, Josh,” he asked, leaning back in his chair. “Not that it’s any of my business.”
“Not sure. I’ll just stay on Route Sixty-six and see where I end up tomorrow. I always find a job doing something.”
I glanced over at Carla as she helped herself to the mashed potatoes and a slice of roast beef.
Her grandmother sat down next to her husband but was staring at me. I could feel her eyes trying to size me up. I smiled at her.
“This all looks delicious,” I said to her. “I really worked up an appetite today and haven’t had roast beef since I don’t know when.”
Carla was quiet as she sliced her meat into small pieces and poured gravy over the potatoes.
We were all quiet, eating. The only sound was the clicking of our forks on the plates. I looked down at my food, then glanced up and saw her grandmother still staring at me. Wonder why she’s looking at me like that.
“Beautiful flowers,” I said, breaking the silence.
“I brought them in,” Carla said. “I love flowers.”
“I do too.” I glanced at her then back at the flowers.
I wanted to say something more to get a conversation going. I looked at her grandfather chewing a piece of roast beef, not looking up.
Her grandmother moved a few peas with her fork. Carla lifted a forkful of mashed potatoes to her mouth, then surprised me when she faced me and opened her mouth and moved her tongue slowly over her upper lip and her lower lip. I don’t believe she did that.
I glanced at her grandmother, her eyebrows raised.
“Damn, she saw that. I wonder what’s she’s thinking,” I thought.
I saw the shock on her grandmother’s face, then watched Carla place the mashed potatoes in her mouth and look away as if nothing had happened.
Not knowing what to think or do, I swallowed and turned to see her grandfather poking at another piece of meat with his fork and lift it to his mouth, oblivious to what just happened.
“So, George, did you always want to be a rancher?” I asked, wanting to break the awkward silence.
He looked up, chewing his roast beef, and shook his head as if remembering something.
“No, I wanted to get as far from this ranch as I could, even though I knew my father had other plans. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronomer.”
“Really,” Carla said.”I didn’t know that.”
“Yep, I studied the stars, had a telescope I got when I was twelve and I read books about it and was going to go to college after high school, then Vietnam came along and I went and signed up with a couple of my friends. I mean, that was the thing to do in those days, fighting the Communists. I was lucky not to lose a leg or something like my friend, Caleb and I made it through in one piece. I still wanted to be an astronomer, but my father had a heart attack and needed me, then he passed on and now I’ve been a god damn rancher going on forty-three years.”
I listened, not sure what to say.
“Then I met this pretty woman, here. She lived down the road and we got married–what’s it been, Lilian, forty-seven years.” He glanced at is wife. “And we had Charles. He’d be forty-five if it weren’t for Iraq, but he brought this beautiful granddaughter into our lives.”
I glanced over at Carla staring at him and knew she was trying to absorb anything she could about her father.
“Carla kind of looks like Charles,” he continued. “Anyways, my wanting to be an astronomer got shoved aside and that was that and now I don’t know what’s going to happen to this ranch when I’m not able to keep it up. It was my grandfather’s during the dust bowl day. Do you know about that, the thirties when Oklahoma got buried in dust?” He paused, shook his head, not waiting for an answer. “I heard all the stories…it was hell, I’m told and we got güvenilir bahis pictures where you could hardly see cause it was so windy and the sky was all dark. My grandfather held on somehow, but had to sell off a lot of land. Lots of people left for California and other places.”
“I read Steinbeck’s, ‘Grapes of Wrath,'” I said.
“Never read it but saw that Henry Fonda movie.”
“I saw the movie too,” I said and glanced at Lilian and Carla, not sure if I should bring up the topic of climate change. “I know it was a tough time in those days, but it’s getting tough now with all the droughts in the Midwest and lots of farms are losing their crops and cattle are dying.”
“Yeah, it’s been dry here for three years now. I hear all this talk about the climate changing and another dust bowl coming…who knows? I was lucky to get as much hay as I did, but it ain’t enough. That barn used to be filled to the rafters. Now I have to buy more and I’ll be broke again.”
“It will get better,” Lilian said. “We just have to have faith.”
He didn’t say anything, but shook his head at her, then turned to Carla, “You make sure you don’t give up your dream to be an accountant.”
“Gramps, being an accountant isn’t my dream. It’s a job and that’s all it will be.”
“Well, its security,” her grandmother said.
“I know,” Carla responded. “Good old security. That’s all I hear from my stepfather and my mom…security.”
Her grandparents looked at her and I could tell they were shocked by her sarcasm.
“What’s wrong with security,” her grandfather said.
“There’s more to life than security. And maybe I’ll have that when and if I get a job and that’s a big if.”
She turned to me. “Josh, do you have security?”
I was surprised by her question. “No, not really, I guess I live on the edge and pay as I go. What I earn after a day or two of work, I spend to get me through the day. I live one day at a time. All I have is my truck, my tools, two pair of jeans and few old shirts, a sleeping bag and a wool blanket when I sleep in the truck.”
“But your life is exciting. You’re traveling. You’re seeing the country and meeting different people. I’d like that.”
“Carla, you can’t live like that,” her grandmother said. “What do you mean you’d like to live like he’s living?”
“His name’s Josh, Granny.” Carla turned and glared at her.
“Yes, I know, but what’s getting into you, Carla?”
“Nothing is getting into me. Can we change the subject?”
A hush came over the table with her grandparents staring at her, then at me. I was suddenly caught in the middle after describing how I live and Carla’s saying she’d like to live like that.
Her grandfather took a deep breath. “You seem different. I was surprised when you asked for a beer.”
“Did she do that?” her grandmother asked, raising her eyebrows. “George, did you give her a beer.”
“Yes, he gave me a beer. I drink beer and I do other things.” Carla leaned forward.
“Other things?” her grandmother asked.
“Nothing you would approve of. Please, can we change the subject?”
“Of course,” her grandmother said. She seemed stunned and stared at Carla, then at her husband.
I swallowed, disturbed by the sudden tension.
“I have some peach cobbler. Would y’all like some with a little vanilla ice cream?”
“You’ll love Lilian’s peach cobbler,” George said, facing me, then looked at Carla. “Calm down, darlin’. This ain’t nothing to get so riled up about. We’re just interested in your welfare.”
“I know,” she sighed.”It’s just me. I’m sorry, but I’m not a little girl and you talk to me like I’m still twelve. I love you Gramps,” she said, then turned to her grandmother. “I love coming to visit and helping with the hay and I don’t mean to upset you, but I feel like you don’t really know me.”
“Of course we know you. We’ve seen you grow up when you lived here with your mom before she got married again and moved back to Jay. We know what a smart and pretty young woman you’ve become and we’re proud of you, don’t you know that?”
Carla glanced at me and knew I understood how caught she was.
“You’re proud of who you think I am and who you want me to be.”
Her grandparents looked at her then at each other. Her grandmother glanced at me then faced Carla. “What’s come over you? I’ve never heard you talk like this.”
“That’s because I keep everything bottled in and go along with how I am supposed to be, but you don’t have a clue about what I think and feel. I’m a lot more than the sweet, good girl who goes to church and sings in the choir and gets good grades in college and works at a youth center. That’s not all I am and I’m sick of pretending I’m that person when I’m not.”
“Carla!” her grandmother said.What’s gotten into you?” She looked at me and took a deep breath. “The only person who knows me is Josh.”
They both looked at me. I didn’t know where to look, so I took a sip of my beer. I couldn’t believe she said that.
Her grandmother narrowed türkçe bahis her eyes. “What’s going on with you two?”
I looked down at the food on my plate, stunned that Carla brought me into this situation.
“Did he get you to ask for a beer?” Her grandmother glared at me then looked at her husband. “Why did you get her a beer?”
He looked at me, then at Carla, then back at Lilian. He shrugged his shoulders indicating he didn’t know what to say.
“I told you I’ve had beer plenty of times. That’s what I mean. You think I’m still a little girl. I’m thirty-four and I’m sick of all of this pretending I’m who everyone wants me to be.”
“What do you mean he knows you? How could that be? He just showed up here.”
“He just does because he knew I was hiding?”
“Hiding?” her grandfather said. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Carla leaned back in her chair and looked at me, then closed her eyes. She sighed deeply and looked at her grandmother then back at her grandfather. Both of them stared at her. I didn’t know where to look or what to do. Silence hung over the table like a dark cloud before a storm.
After a minute of tense silence, Lilian stood up. “Well, let me get this cobbler. Maybe some sweet peach cobbler will make a difference.”
I could tell this was a family that avoided confrontations and conflict and swallowed a lot of their thoughts and feelings.
“You’re leaving in the morning, aren’t you?” Her grandfather turned to me, then glanced up at his wife who stopped and waited for my answer.
“Yes, I’ll be on my way pretty early, probably before breakfast.”
After hearing my plan, Lilian went into the kitchen. I noticed her glance at Carla before she left the room and could tell she was relieved to hear I was leaving in the morning.
“I’ll get some breakfast on the road.”
When I said that, Carla looked at me and I could see she was wondering about me taking her with me.
“Where are you heading?” Her grandfather asked.
I glanced at her grandmother coming back to the table with the peach cobbler. She placed it on the table and sat down.
“That sure looks good,” I said, leaning forward and sniffing the sweet aroma.
“Peaches come from our own peach trees,” he said.
Carla also leaned forward, “Granny makes the best peach cobbler ever.”
I was relieved that the previous tension had left and sensed Carla was trying to distract her grandparents from the previous incident. There was no way they could suspect she was wanting to meet up with me. I hadn’t agreed to take her with me because our talking about it got interrupted.
Carla served me a plate of peach cobbler and smiled. Here you go, Mister.”
When she said that both her grandparents looked at her, then at me and I tried to pretend it was Carla being friendly and not flirty. “Well, thank you Miss,” I said and took the plate from her.
I was certain they suspected something because of our playfulness and how she told them I was the only one who knew her. “They know something’s going on,” I thought.
“This is delicious, Lilian,” I said, after taking a bite. “You sure know how to make a great peach cobbler.” I turned to George. “You’re a lucky man to have her.”
“Thank you. I know how lucky I am,” he said and smiled at Lilian.
Still, underneath my attempt to keep their suspicions about Carla and me out of the picture, I knew that if she suddenly did not return home, they would suspect I had lured her away. I watched everyone taking bites of the peach cobbler while I wondered what I should do. Am I asking for trouble? It would be nuts to take her with me?
When I finished eating I looked up. No one had spoken while we ate. I watched Carla bring the fork to her mouth for her final bite. I looked at her lips and liked how she closed her eyes as she savored the taste and saw how sensual she was. When she opened her eyes, she turned to me and smiled. I noticed her dimples, her blue eyes, her radiant smooth skin, the swell of her breasts and wondered what it would be like to have her traveling with me, running away from the secure world she knows to face the unknown with a drifter who never knew what the next day would bring.
“How about if I do the dishes in exchange for such a delicious meal?”
I was hoping my offer would ease their wariness about me, but I also knew they saw Carla smiling at me.
Lilian narrowed her suspicious eyes. She looked at Carla, then at George, then back at me. “Thank you but that’s not necessary,” she said and stood up. “Carla and I can do them.” “Well, then maybe I’ll take a little walk and head back to the barn. I’ve got a little battery powered lantern and I’ve been keeping a journal about my travels I might turn into a book.”
“I didn’t know you wrote,” Carla said.
“Yeah, I like writing. Something I’ve been doing since I was a kid.”
“So you’re taking off in the morning,” George asked.
“At the crack of dawn.” I stood up.
“Well, let me güvenilir bahis siteleri pay you for your work now. You and Carla got that hay in just in time today. You worked fast and hard. Wish I could afford to keep you on here.”
“That would be good. You have a good place here, but I know how hard it is to keep things going with the way things are and you seem like good people.”
Carla listened while she cleared the table.
“Money’s in the parlor. I’ll be right back,” he said as he pushed his chair aside and stood up.
When her grandfather went into the other room to get my pay and her grandmother went into the kitchen, Carla came over to me. Holding several dirty dishes in both hands, she glanced at the kitchen to make sure her grandmother couldn’t see.
“I know what you’re thinking,” she whispered.
“You’re afraid they know something is up and if I run off with you they will suspect you.”
“That’s right. It’s risky.”
“Let’s do it.”
“I don’t know. I don’t want trouble.”
“Please, take me. I need this. I want to go with you. You won’t be sorry.”
Just then her grandfather came in the room with the money and saw Carla talking to me.
“Well, good luck, Josh. It was nice working with you.” She put one of the dishes on the table and shook my hand.
“Good luck with your course and I hope you get to work with your Uncle Charley.”
“Thanks,” she smiled, then picked up the dish.
“Here you go,” her grandfather said, handing me the folded up bills.
“Thanks.” I put the money in my pocket without counting.
Carla stood next to her grandfather. I stood there in the awkward silence. “And thanks for the work. I appreciate it.”
“Where you heading?” he asked again.
“Not sure. Where ever I can find the next job, I guess.”
I didn’t want to say much in case Carla actually came with me.
When I opened the screen door, I looked at Carla and could feel her eyes gazing into mine. I could feel her intensity, her yearning, her need to know if I would take her with me. In that split second, not knowing what to say or do, I reached for George’s hand to shake. “Maybe I’ll stop by in the spring if I come this way.”
“That would be good. Maybe I’ll have work for you. Who knows?”
I glanced back at Carla holding the dirty dishes and looking at me. At that moment, I wished her grandfather wasn’t there so I could hug her and let her know I understood her pain and desire, but I was equally uncertain what I wanted to do.
I opened the screen door and waved goodbye to George and Carla. I heard the door slam. It was just getting dark. After a few steps, I glanced back at the house and saw George turning on a lamp in the living room and remembered how he called it the parlor. “How quaint,” I thought. I could see Carla putting dishes into the kitchen sink, standing next to her grandmother and wondered what she was thinking.
I remembered how passionate and wild she became after I broke through her shyness and that what started out as lust was now a lot more—what that was I didn’t know. And now she wanted to burst free and go with me after knowing me for one day. I had no idea how that would happen since I would be leaving first thing in the morning and everything was left unresolved.
I continued walking up to the barn and wondered what it would be like taking Carla into my drifting life. I didn’t know. It was dark in the barn, but there was enough remaining twilight so that I could see the ladder. In the loft I looked at the stacks of hay we had gathered, then turned on my lamp and laid down on my sleeping back. I propped my head against my backpack and looked up at rough boards of the roof. I remembered Carla’s wildness, her unleashed passion and wondered, despite the risk and uncertainty, if I decided to take her with me, how that would happen? Everything was in the air. ***** “Wake up, wake up.”
Startled, I opened my eyes and felt Carla’s hand on my shoulder. She was leaning over me. At first I didn’t know where I was, but saw the pale glow of her flashlight and heard her voice. I was sleeping on my stomach on top of my sleeping bag with my wool blanket over me. Through my grogginess, I heard her say, “It’s me. Wake up.”
“What time is it?” I lifted my head and looked up at her.
“Twelve-thirty. We have to talk.” She put her hand over the light so it wasn’t glaring in my eyes.
I rolled onto my back and in the dim light saw she was wearing a white short, satiny nightgown that barely covered her thighs and an old unbuttoned blue flannel shirt that didn’t do much to cover her cleavage as she leaned over me. She sat on her knees next to me.
“Are you going to take me with you?”
“You’re really serious.” I knew she was by the pleading look in her eyes.
“Yes, very. I need to do this.”
“It’s risky. Your grandparents already suspect something is going on.”
“I know, but I already called my best friend Hannah and I told my grandparents that’s where I’m going.”
“But what about your classes and your mom and step-father?”
“I’ll call my mom in the morning. You’ll already be gone. Hannah will cover for me and by the time they realize I’m not coming home, we’ll be far away.”
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