PLEASE DO NOT READ IF: You want sex; or, you want a professionally edited work; or, if you do not like detail. This has very little sex. I have proofread each chapter a minimum of three times and there will still be some mistakes. I write about people and that sometimes requires detail. Relationships are often minute to minute, day to day. If you enjoy reading how lives can change in unimaginable ways, I hope you will enjoy.
“I think it’s time we went to bed,” Regie stood. Madie was asleep so I lifted her and carried her to their bed. Regie covered her with a sheet and I turned out the light.
“I think I’ll shower,” Regie said. I stepped into the hall; she followed. She touched my arm. I turned to her. “Scott, I want to thank you again. I really think you have literally saved our lives.” I placed my hand over hers.
“I’m glad I came along. And I’m happy you’re here.” I smiled at her. “You may have to let me adjust to the two of you being around. This is new to me.”
“It’s new to us that a man could be kind and caring.” She kissed me again on the lips and turned toward the bathroom.
I went into my room, closed the door, and showered. I decided to wear boxers to bed just in case I had any late night company again. I turned out the light, but I laid in the darkness for a while considering what to do. I knew we had to make a trip to Arizona. Before then I needed to contact someone who could give me some advice on how to deal with this situation. I certainly didn’t want to break the law as far as these two were concerned. When Regie turned eighteen there would be no problem. What might be the regulations concerning a child the age of Madie I did not know.
I began to develop my op order. Rather than call the Family Services office on Tuesday, I would call a lawyer friend who handled the closing on my property. He could at least refer me to someone who could help if he couldn’t. I would wait until we returned from Arizona since I had no idea what might happen there. That would give us a few more days to adjust to being at the ranch. I went to sleep feeling a bit more confident that I was making the right decision.
I woke up to find myself in the bed alone. I gave a sigh of relief. I got up, showered again just to get more awake. I dressed in jeans and a work shirt and headed for the kitchen. I was surprised to see that it was already six-thirty a.m. I followed my usual routine with juice and coffee. This morning I added a banana. I was watching the news channel, sipping my coffee. It was Labor Day. I knew the weather would begin changing soon and I needed to get more feed stored for the winter. I was looking at my calendar when Regie walked into the den. She was not wearing her usual T-shirt. I swallowed hard when I looked at her. She was wearing a short, spaghetti strap top. It was a shade of brown and was almost see-through. I could see the outline of her areola and the bumps made by her nipples. It was long enough to cover her butt and pubic area but just barely. I prayed that she had on panties.
She saw me looking at her. “You like?” she asked.
“Where did that come from?”
“It was in that bag of clothes. I rinsed it out when we washed clothes.” “So, do you like?”
I sipped my coffee, not sure how to answer the question. “Regie, sit down a minute.” I said it before I realized what that would reveal. She sat in the overstuffed chair. As she did, I noticed she was wearing a pair of matching panties. I was relieved at that. “I think we need to talk a minute.” She looked at me waiting for me to continue. “I’m used to living by myself. You know that. And I have on occasion walked around the house in my boxers and sometimes completely naked.” She smiled. “But I’m not going to be doing that now that you two are here.”
“I understand.” She smiled again.
“Well, I think maybe you need to be a bit more conscious of what you wear, too.” She looked at her gown. “Let me see if I can put it this way. I’m a man. Okay? And I think like a man.” She nodded. “Now, I am not like the men your mom was with, but I am still a man. And the sight of a pretty, young woman is always a pleasant thing. But the sight of a pretty, young woman dressed the way you are right now, sitting in my den, is a bit much for me to handle.”
“So, you want me to be less...what?” She sat back in the chair which only enhanced her breasts pushing against the fabric.
“Are you trying to bait me?” I decided to be blunt. “I almost get the feeling that you are testing me to see if I will come after you like those men your mom brought home.” She looked hurt. The smile on her face disappeared. “Look. I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m just trying to put your being here in perspective.” Her eyes looked teary. “Okay, I’ll just lay it out for you. I don’t remember the last time I was with a woman. It was at least several years ago, maybe five, when I was dating a woman from Stoner for about six months. We had sex twice I think.” I paused, hoping I was saying this right. “Do you know what seeing you does to me?” I paused again. “Okay, you aren’t trying to tease me or bait me. I accept that. But Regie, you are a temptation I can’t afford to give in to. You’re like honey to a bear.” I looked at her. “Am I getting the message across?”
She wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry.” Another tear rolled down her cheek. “I guess I have felt that the only value a girl like me has to a man is to be sexy. That is all I ever saw.” I felt like an idiot. I had assumed something. I had accused her of something that she was not guilty of.
“Regie, I really like you. I like both of you. But please understand, I’m not used to being around a young woman that looks like you, let alone when you wear something as sexy as that.” I paused. “What I’m trying to do is say that I need you to understand that you are getting pretty close to turning me on and I can’t let that happen.”
“Well, for one thing, you’re only seventeen. That I’m forty just adds to the issue that you are underage.”
“I’ll be eighteen soon. My birthday is in October.”
“That’s not the point. The point is that you could be thirty-five. But dressed like that, walking around the house, makes it hard for me to resist you. And please believe me. I do not want to act like the animals your mom brought home.” She looked at me. “I am doing my best to act like an officer and a gentleman. And I need some help from you to do that.”
“You are not like those men. You could never be like them.” She stood. “I’ll go change.” She walked toward her bedroom but stopped. She turned and came back to me. She sat on the arm of my chair. “I’m not trying to be a tease or bait you. I guess I was just trying to tell you that I like you very much. So you’re forty years old. You are still the nicest man I’ve ever known. And in spite of your age, you’re sexy as hell.” She kissed me on the lips. “I’m sorry I did it wrong. I mean, thinking that by dressing sexy I could make you like me. I apologize for my stunt the first night we were here. I guess I was testing you then. I think I have learned what kind of man you are. And I like that kind of man.”
I took her hand in mine and kissed it. “I like you, too, very much. But please understand, I’ve been living out here alone in the middle of nowhere for two years. I have friends. Some of them are women who are just friends. It’s gonna’ take some gettin’ used to having you around.” I squeezed her hand gently. “Can you understand that?”
She nodded with a smile. “Yeah, I think I can. I’ll try not to be so enticing.” She stood again.
“Can I just say one more thing?” She looked down at me. “You may have a hard time doing that. You see, I think you could wear a burlap sack for a dress and put a bag over your head and I would still be tempted.” She smiled and walked away.
“My word,” I said to myself. “What is happening to me?”
Regie put on jeans and one of the shirts she purchased. I was in the kitchen preparing breakfast when she walked in with Madie in tow. The younger sister had her bunny again. She sat down. Regie poured her some juice. “I’m making an omelet this morning. If you want to freshen up and get dressed, I’ll have it ready when you finish.” Madie yawned and walked toward the bedroom. Regie stood beside me.
“Can I help?” she asked.
For some reason, probably a stupid one, I turned to her, leaned over, and kissed her on the cheek. “You already have.” She leaned into me as I handed her a knife, a cutting board, and some mushrooms. “Here, chop these.” Madie came into the kitchen as I was putting the omelet on a large plate. Regie cut it into three pieces and served the plates as I put toast on the plates. As we ate, I explained about the trip to Arizona. The girls stated they wanted to see their mom and say “good-bye.” The trip was at least a six-hour drive and would require an overnight stay. We decided to leave early Wednesday morning. When we finished eating Regie and Madie took care of the dishes while I watched. I felt a little strange. After being a loner for so long, I was actually beginning to enjoy having someone else in the house.
The morning was beautiful. I asked Madie and Regie if they would like to learn more about riding a horse. They were excited at the prospects. We went to the corral and I showed them how put a saddle on a horse. I cautioned them to never walk up to a horse from the rear. If it were startled, it could kick. “I’ve been there and done that,” I said. “I got no T-shirt but I do have scars.” For Regie I saddled Smoke. He was a good stock horse and fairly gentle. Before she mounted, I introduced them. I told her to pat him, rub his head. I gave her an apple to feed him. He ate from her hand which made her nervous but she seemed to relax with him after a few minutes. I told her to speak to him and let him learn her voice. I then turned my attention to Lady. Madie sat on the rail of the fence and patted Lady. She talked to her, fed her an apple, and became very relaxed quickly with the big animal. She climbed into the saddle from the railing. I adjusted the stirrups and gave both girls instructions about holding and using the reins. They walked around the corral for a bit. I then took hold of Smoke’s bridle and began to trot. He followed me, picking up his pace. I told Regie how to sit in the saddle to keep her butt from bouncing so much. I then did the same for Madie. It was amazing to see how this little girl took to riding a horse. There was a smile on her face. When she reined Lady to a stop she leaned over on her neck and patted her. Madie had found her a friend.
We returned to the house with Madie talking excitedly about what it was like to ride a horse. The phone rang. I answered. It was Mitch, the mechanic. He told me he had to stop by his shop and saw the car. He decided to take a look at it since he was there. He explained the situation. The engine was blown and the cost of repairs would be more than the value of the car. He suggested I tow it to Ralph Brown who had the local junk yard, or as Ralph called it, his selection of previously owned vehicles. Mitch asked me about the Labor Day picnic. I had forgotten about it since my attention had been focused on other things the past two days. I told him I would see him there. Before I was able to hang up, he said, “By the way. I found a metal box in the trunk. It has some papers in it. Some of them look important. I’ll bring it to the picnic.” I told him I would see him later.
“Hey, guys,” I said as I returned to the den. “I forgot that there is a Labor Day picnic in town today. I think we ought to go.” I knew it would not keep the girls from feeling for their mom but I felt it would be good for them to be around more people who would welcome them. The people in their past were not the people of Valencia. They needed to learn that there are good and caring people in the world. I told Regie she could wear some of those fancy jeans she had purchased. Madie asked if she could wear shorts. I told them we would leave in an hour.
We pulled up to the picnic area in my SUV. As soon as we stepped out of it, I heard one from the crowd of ranchers yell, “Hey, Scott, we see you found your car.” There was laughter. I just waved. The smell of meat being smoked filled the air. I escorted Regie and Madie toward the table where the town folk and ranch wives were arranging food on a large table. I believe every eye at the picnic was on the two of them. Regie looked both sexy and mature in her new jeans and western style shirt. Madie was cute with her hair pulled back. I had no doubts everyone was asking themselves who these two lovely girls were and why they were with me.
“Hey, Scott,” I heard a female voice say. It was Rose Adams, the local postmaster and owner of what would best be described as a General Store.
“Hi there, Rose.” I motioned to the girls. “Rose, let me introduce you to Regina and Madison, also known and Regie and Madie.” Rose greeted them with a handshake.
“What pretty, young ladies,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you.” She then looked at me with a questioning expression that said, “And just who are they to you?”
I looked at her and said quietly, “I’ll explain later.” I knew that if I explained to Rose, within the next hour everyone in town and the surrounding ranches would know what I told her. She seemed to accept that and walked away.
I introduced Madie to one of the ranch wives who had several children. A couple were in Madie’s age range. She called toward the kids playing around the pavilion. Two came running. “Billy, Janie, this is Madison. Why don’t you introduce her to your friends?” Madie looked at me.
“It’ll be okay. I think you’ll enjoy meeting some of the folks who live around here.” She walked off with Janie holding her hand. As I watched her walk away, the thought crossed my mind, “How different her life has been from that of these other kids.”
Regie and I walked around the gatherings of people. I introduced her by her first name without explaining how she happened to be with me. I knew that information would be all over town soon enough. I did notice a few teenage boys gathered near a pickup. It was obvious that they had taken notice of Regie. I smiled to myself because I knew what their thoughts were. The man who was smoking the brisket and grilling an assortment of meat rang the dinner bell. Everyone began to form a line as several men and women sliced meat and prepared to serve the food. As Regie and I got into line, I looked for Madie. She was already in line with Janie and several other girls. She was smiling, which made me feel relieved.
“Hello Scott.” I turned to look at the voice. It was Brad Hendricks, the son of a rancher who lived closer to Stoner. He was a football player at the high school in Stoner, a pretty good one from what I had heard.
“Hello Brad.” We shook hands. “Has the season started yet?”
He nodded. “Yeah. We beat Eldon pretty badly. We have a good team this year. Could go to state.”
“Sounds good.” I purposely did not introduce Regie although he kept eyeing her.
“Who’s your friend?” he finally asked.
“This is Regina, or Regie to her friends.” I paused as he shook put his hand out. Regie extended hers reluctantly. I knew she was still dealing with some trust issues as far as men were concerned. “She’s out at my place.” I did not elaborate and allowed him to make of my statement what he wanted to make of it.
“Are you in high-school here?” he asked. Valencia had a small school. There was a total of twenty-four students covering all twelve grades and three teachers. Actually, there was another teacher who also served as the principal.
“I’m not sure yet,” Regie said. It was an awkward moment for her since we had not really determined what her status was as a student. Brad seemed to accept that. We continued toward the food, took our filled plates, and found a table.
“I’m not sure what I was to say,” Regie whispered to me.
“I know. Don’t worry about it.” I elbowed her. “I doubt he was very interested in your education status.” She blushed. “The way you look today, I can’t say as I blame him.” She smiled and blushed. So did I.
The day went well. There was horseshoe tossing for all ages. Several of the older ranchers were playing checkers. The kids were playing games. Off toward the edge of town was the target shooting contest. This was my third Labor Day picnic. I had won the contest the two previous years. I thought it best not to enter this year. There were some good shots among the ranchers, but none had the training or experience that I had.
“Good afternoon, Scott,” I heard a female voice say. I looked up to see Ellen Banks, the principal at the school.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Banks.” She sat down across from Regie and me. “I told you to call me Ellen,” she said, waving her hand. “You make me sound like an old woman.” I did not know her age. I had been told she taught school for years. She had been a superintendent of schools somewhere in the state before retiring. She found herself in Valencia where there was a need for a teacher and principal. She was the only applicant for the position. And the town loved her, especially the students. There were more than a few young boys who got to know her more personally than they wanted. She held the bar pretty high when it came to behavior.
“Ellen, this is Regie Allen.” They shook hands.
Regie was obviously nervous. She leaned toward me and whispered in my ear. “Is there a bathroom around here?” I pointed her toward a service station that was open. She got up. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she said as she walked away.
“A nice young girl,” Ellen said. “Is she going to enroll here?” Ellen seemed to assume that Regie was living with me and still in high school. As quickly as I could, I explained how Regie and her sister came to be at my house. Ellen listened intently without interrupting. When I finished the story, she spoke. “Do you know the last place the two of them were in school?”
“I’ve talked to them about it. It’s all pretty sketchy. I’m not sure what to do.” I pointed toward where Madie was playing. “That one certainly needs to be in school.” Ellen agreed.
“When you find out more, let me know. I’ll do what I can to help.” She rose to go as Regie walked back to the table.
“What did she say?” she asked. I explained to Regie what I had shared with Ellen. “I know I haven’t graduated. I don’t know what I need to do.” I took her hand and assured her we would get whatever information we needed. As we talked, Mitch walked up carrying a metal box that was larger than a safe deposit drawer.
“Here, I found this. You probably want it.” I thanked him and he left.
I opened the box. It was filled with all sorts of papers and envelopes with more papers. Regie and I looked through it and to our amazement found several important documents. There were school records for both girls. There were birth certificates and a Social Security card for Regie. There were a number of documents related to drug arrests for their mom.
“We’ll look through all of this tonight, okay?” Regie agreed. I tucked the box under my arm and we walked around the park, greeting people. Regie was still the focus of attention. I saw Ralph, the junk dealer. I told him about the car and he said he would take a look at it. He also offered to haul it on my trailer to his lot if I wanted him to do that. I agreed quickly. I told him I would get the trailer later in the week.
As people began to leave, Madie ran up to me with several other girls and a couple of boys. “Mr. Macland, can I go to school here?” There was excitement in her eyes. She was jittery for a positive answer.
“Madie, right now I’m not sure, but I think it will work out that you can.” All the kids yelled out in their excitement. I told her we would be leaving within a few minutes. She acknowledged that and ran off with her new friends.
“I’ve never seen her like this before,” Regie said. She looked at me. “I’ve never seen me like this before either.” She leaned into me. “This was nice, but I’m very nervous. I’ve never been with people like this.” I put my arm around her and gave her a hug as we walked toward the SUV.
“Maybe you can learn to get used to it,” I told her. “Most folks are pretty good, you know.” She took my hand and held it. I happened to look around and saw that several of the high school boys were watching us. For some reason I felt a bit of an ego boost. Madie joined us and we got into the truck. Madie could not stop talking about the picnic. Regie sat quietly. I reached over and took her hand. “It’ll be okay,” Regie.” She looked at me and forced a smile. She was sitting in the truck, but her mind was miles away.
Regie and I looked through the box. Madie grabbed some apples and went out to the corral to be with the horses. We laid aside anything that pertained to the girls. We placed any papers that related to their mom in another stack. I looked through that stack first. The legal papers provided some idea of where Judy had taken her girls as they went from town to town. The stack with information about the girls was most helpful. We learned where they had last been in school and the grade levels. Madie was in fifth grade. Regie had been a senior at one school for a few months. Her grades had been more than just decent. She was a good student in spite of the moving around.
“We’ll take these and show them to Mrs. Banks,” I assured Regie. “She’ll know what to do.” I gave her the social security card. “You probably need to keep this with you. And don’t lose it.” I thought for a minute. “Also, I think we need to see about getting you a driver’s license. That will be helpful.” I looked at their birth certificates. They were both born in Pittsburgh. Their names were Regina Lynn and Madison Lee. Allen was their mother’s name. No name was written in the space for “Father.” I looked at Regie. There were tears in her eyes.
“I guess it’s nice to know who we are and where we are from,” she said as tears flowed down her cheeks.
I hugged her. “I think it’s more important to know who you are and where you are right now.” I held her for a few minutes until Madie came running into the room. Regie got up and went to the bathroom as Madie told me about the horses. Her eyes were bright and there was excitement in her voice.
“I think Lady likes me,” she said. Her face was beaming.
“I’m sure she does.” I drew her to me and gave her a hug. “I’ll tell you what. I’m going to make Lady your responsibility. I’ll show you how to rub her down. You can take care of her. Okay?”
“That would be great, Mr. Macland.” She hugged me.
“Hey. Why don’t you call me Scott? I don’t mind and I will know you’re talking to me.” She smiled and hugged me again.
“I’ll go tell Regie.” She ran down the hall, yelling what I told her.
I sat back in my chair. “Life surely does take some strange turns,” I thought to myself. “Last week I was a happy bachelor, no responsibilities for anyone but myself. This week I’m still a bachelor.” I thought for a moment. “And, I have to admit, I’m still happy. But, my responsibilities have changed, at least for the moment.” I went into the kitchen to get a drink.
That evening the three of us watched tv. I talked to them about going into Valencia the next day and visiting the school. We would take all the papers we had found. Madie was excited. Regie showed more concern. I assured them that no decisions could be made until our trip to Arizona. They said they understood.
We made our plans for bed. Each girl took a shower. I did the same. I was in the bed reading when there was a light knock on the door. “Come in,” I said. The door opened and Madie walked in. She was wearing her T-shirt with animals on it. She walked over to me as I sat up. “Anything wrong?”
“No,” she said. “I just wanted to tell you something.” She reached out and put her arms around me as I leaned toward her. “If we had to break down, I’m glad it was here. And I’m glad you are the one who stopped to help us.” I hugged her and kissed her on the top of the head.
“Madie, I’m glad I am the one who stopped to help you.” I touched her face. “I’m sorry about your mom.”
“I know. I am, too. But I know she had a problem. And I really think she left us here because she knew we would be better here than with her.” This young girl had a wisdom that did not match her age. The life she lived with insecurity and fear had made her resilient. She would be okay. I could see that in her. And I would do my best to help her. She left, closing the door behind her. I continued reading. I was about to turn off the light when there was another knock at the door. Before I could answer, it opened slowly.
“Scott.” It was Regie. “Can I come in?”
“Sure. Come in.” I sat up. I was wearing boxers. That was a new habit I picked up quickly. Regie climbed into bed with me, surprising me a bit. She was actually wearing pajamas. I was grateful for that.
“Are you okay?” I asked her as she nestled in next to me.
“Not really. I’m scared.” I placed my arm under her head as she rested it on my shoulder. “I don’t know what to do.”
“What do you mean? What do you think you should be doing?”
“Nothing in particular. It’s just that before, when mama went away or was in jail, I knew what to do. I took care of us.” She paused. “Now, I feel like I should be doing something and I don’t know what it is.”
“I think I understand, Regie. I’ve been in situations like this before.” She looked up at me. “When I was in combat, I knew what had to be done. But once my team was at base camp, and the danger was lessened, I often felt lost. We sometimes get so accustomed to living with fear and tension that we don’t know how to live without it.”
“Yes, I guess that’s it. We’ve never been in a place like this.” She looked at me again. “Right now I feel safe and secure.” She thought for a moment. “Well, about some things. I’m still not so sure about school. I should have graduated from high school a year ago. I know I am going to be the oldest one in school.” She nestled closer, placing her leg over mine. “I don’t want to be the class freak.”
“Regie, I believe you will be just fine. I really don’t know how many you will have in your class. Valencia is so small the school only has a couple a dozen students and three teachers. They have more than one grade in each classroom.” We were silent for a moment. “ Mrs. Banks will be helpful to you.” Regie nodded and put her arm over my chest.
“Can I sleep with you tonight?” She looked at me. “And I’m not asking for anything. I just need to be close to you.”
“Okay.” I turned so we would both be more comfortable. I cut out the light. I laid in the dark with Regie beside me. I felt the warmth of her body. I mentally began to convince myself that she was young, too young for me. I reasoned in my mind that I could be more of a big brother or an uncle to her. But the feelings that were developing were not big brother or uncle feelings. She was beautiful. She seemed smart. Her courage was as great as the men I was with in combat. She was older in her experience than her age would indicate. But there was more. I had once been in love. Although it had been years, I could remember the feelings that were there when I married my wife. I knew how special the love making had been. I could still feel what it was like to come home and find her there. Even though that all ended, I could still feel what life was like when I shared it with another. Until three days before, I assumed those feelings would only be memories. With this young body laying beside me, the desire for those feelings was beginning to stir deep within me. As odd as it might be, as unnatural as it might be considered by others, there was welling up inside me the realization that I had a void in my life that I was wanting to have filled. And after all these years, this young girl, no this young woman, was the only woman I had met that I wanted to fill it.
Regie was asleep. Her breathing was steady and deep. She was relaxed. She was safe. She was secure. Laying with her in the dark, I wanted something else for her. I wanted her to be loved in a way she has never known. Sleep came as I wondered if I would be the one to offer her that love.