***Baby on the road again***
Abby woke slowly. She was more than a bit disoriented. And still tired. It took her a moment for her eyes to focus. As she looked around, it came to her. She was on the mattress in the back of Baby, Jack’s fully restored VW van. They were on the road back to Sebida. But she was not certain what time it was. Jack must have closed the curtains after she fell asleep.
“Hey, baby girl, you awake back there?” His voice came from the front somewhere, but it was little more than a whisper as if he did not want to disturb her, just in case.
“Yeah, I just woke up. What time is it? Where are we?”
“It’s almost eight, and we’ll be in Albuquerque in another half an hour or so. How about we stop for dinner there? We got a later start than I wanted, but it was worth it. My breakfast was….”
Abby blushed; something told her Jack was not talking about the colossal brunch buffet they had eaten at the Bigalow before they left. She rolled over and sat up, stretching. This mattress in the back of his van held fond memories and was surprisingly comfortable, but it was time to get moving.
“Do we have time to stop, or should we just get drive-thru?” She felt guilty even as she suggested it. Jack had barely gotten any sleep since Monday.
“And it was completely worth it, sweetheart. Besides, the Army trained me to operate on very little sleep. So, I’m good to get us home. But we’re spending the whole weekend in bed. Though how much of sleep we’ll get is another matter,” he smiled at her as she crawled closer so they could see one another.
She frowned as she realized, “Are you reading my mind?”
Jack half-turned to look at her, “Am I? You were worried because I haven’t slept since… Shitpissdamncockcuntmotherfuckinsonsofbitches, I am, aren’t I?”
She had to laugh, “You better watch it, Jack. Keep talking like that, and maybe I’ll use the soap on you.”
“Damn it, woman. It was easier when you were asleep. Now, I’m….”
“Hard as a rock?”
“Are you doing it, too?”
“I’m not sure. It isn’t like I hear your thoughts or anything….”
“It’s more like you just know?”
“Abby Jean, no cussing. And no, that’s not misogynistic or a double standard. You’re my light….”
“And you do enough cussing for us both?”
“Fuck, fuck, fuckity, fuck, this is just….”
“That’s twenty bare-handed. But probably not until after the wedding.”
“The wedding! We’ll make it back in time, right, Jack?” She bit her bottom lip. How did she explain to Jack about no wanting to tell anyone….
“Nope, not happening. You’re mine, baby girl. And we ain’t hiding that shit from anyone. I’ve watched how that shit tore my grandfather apart. I’m not being another dirty little Monroe secret….”
“Okay, before you get me really riled up. First of all, I only meant until after Mercy and Laura’s wedding. It ain’t right to go stealing their thunder. And what the hell are you talking about ‘another dirty little Monroe secret?’”
“Our grandparents. Your grandmother strung Joe along their whole fucking lives. The upstanding Baptist deaconess ashamed of her Native American lover….”
“I don’t know where the fuck you’re getting these screwed up ideas,” in all her fantasies, Abby had never once imagined herself so angry with Jack. But right now, she could throttle him. “But in case it fucking missed your notice, they loved one another. For close to six decades.”
“Not enough for her to stand by his side. Not enough for her to marry him,” Jack raised his voice too.
“That had nothing to do with loving Joe. My grandmother did not believe in marriage. She said it was a misogynistic institution that enslaved women….”
“Are we fucking talking about the same goddamned woman? The upstanding teacher, high school principal, and Baptist church deaconess?”
Abby broke down into tears. Jack had put his finger on the pulse of what bothered her most about the woman she idolized. Her grandmother had lived a double life. Something that Abby had never understood or been able to forgive her for. Even at the end, it had stood as some kind of wall between them. And she had absolutely no idea why or how to answer her husband’s question.
“Yeah, I know the feeling.”
Jack lowered his voice and pulled the van off the road. Before Abby knew what was happening, he was out the door and beside her, gathering her into his arms. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. It doesn’t matter. I keep trying to tell myself that. That we are not them. But damn, I’ve spent most of my life hating….”
“My grandmother? Me? Is that why I was the only woman in Sebida…” She could not even finish the sentence. But at least, she did not need to worry about that, it seemed.
Jack held her tighter while she cried. It was strange, but she supposed no weirder than anything that had happened to them. On the one hand, she wanted to pummel him. How dare he judge them? He had not been there. He had not seen how those two were with one another.
“You’re wrong. I knew about them before you even came to live with her. And I’ll never forget the day we put up that damned swing. It was the only time in his life that I saw my grandfather drink. Because of her. Your grandmother.”
She heard the pain in his voice and felt it in her own soul. Though she did not understand any of it. How could they have such different views on the same thing? “Why? What happened?”
He lifted her hand to his lips and pressed a kiss to the ring. “It was the only time I ever saw this and why I knew that it was the only ring I wanted to give you.” She brushed tears from his cheeks, and Jack seemed surprised by them. “I was pushing you on the swing. Do you remember, darling?”
She nodded; it was the very moment she knew she loved him, even though she had no idea what that even meant then. Just that he was her destiny. “And I always will be. To answer your question, yes, I hated your grandmother. But no, I never hated you.”
“But she was the reason I didn’t make your wife hunting list?”
“Only part of it. I thought you were too young, too innocent, too pure for a sick, foul-mouthed bastard like me. You still are. But I don’t care anymore. If that makes me a selfish son of a bitch, what’s new?”
She caressed his cheek, “Andrew Jackson Greywolf, you are the least selfish person I know. But what else do you remember from that day? Why did you hate her so much?”
“I guess you don’t remember, but my grandfather came storming out of the house, screaming for me to get in the truck. He drove like every demon in hell was chasing us all the way to the casino. It was the only time in my life I feared him, so I just sat quietly. When we got home, he stormed into the trailer, cussing your grandmother as a heartless witch. He put this ring in an old jar and grabbed a bottle of booze. The only time he ever got drunk.”
“No, he got drunk after her funeral. A lot, actually.”
“You’re saying he became an alcoholic like my mother?”
She heard the guilt in his voice, “I don’t think there was anything you could have done. I tried as much as I could. But you saw them, Jack. No matter what you think or your memories of that one day, I promise you, my grandmother loved Joe. Do you know she died in his arms? He held her and cried. The corner had to practically pull her body from your grandfather’s arms.”
“Then why? Why keep it such a secret? Why was she ashamed to recognize him before that whole fucking town? If she loved him so fucking much, why didn’t she say yes? If it wasn’t shame, why wouldn’t she marry the man she supposedly loved?”
“I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t. I never understood my grandmother. It was like she led this double life, and it wasn’t just Joe. You know, when he called her a witch, that wasn’t a cuss. It was the truth. My grandmother, the Baptist deaconess as you keep calling her, was pagan. A Wiccan priestess who studied all those ancient mysteries she talked about.”
“I’m gonna have to keep a bar of soap handy, aren’t I?”
“Don’t you dare,” he smiled and kissed her.
No matter their differences, when his lips touched hers, there was a completeness that Abby had never left in her whole life. She could get lost in it.
“Except we really do need to get back on the road. We might have to do that drive-thru like you suggested. If we keep to my schedule, we should get back to Sebida early tomorrow morning. I’ll drop you at the ranch so you can get some sleep. I need to meet the elders and straighten some stuff out.”
Abby felt as if a knife had pierced her soul and not merely her heart at the reminder. She wanted to believe, hell, on some level, she knew that this was so much more than that damned will. But his words…
“Damn straight, this is more than the old man’s will. That should be a hundred for even thinking that. But I don’t think that sweet bottom could take it. So I’ll have to come up with another punishment. Maybe orgasm denial?”
“Don’t try my patience, baby girl.”
He lifted her hand and pressed another kiss over the ring that symbolized so much more than just a piece of paper. “Jack, I don’t know the full story of our grandparents. We probably never will.”
“But one thing I want you to know was whatever it was that made Myrtle tell Joe no that day, it was not shame of their love. It was an open secret in Sebida. And no one judged them. And just so you know, she cried all night. I remember lying in bed; I was afraid that I was going to lose her too. That I was….”
“You will never be alone again, baby girl. I promise you that. As for my business with the elders, I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do or tell them. I never wanted that damned casino.”
“I’ve seen enough of the nasty things that alcohol, drugs, and gambling can do. Not just to my people but to anyone, everyone. I have debated this one ever since I came home, and I still don’t have the answer. It would be easy to just sign the damned place over to the council and let it be on their shoulders. But is that the right thing?”
“Well, just so you know, we might need that place to call home. The ranch could be foreclosed on any day.”
He frowned, “How much? How far behind? I’ll go to the bank on Monday and take care of it. Don’t worry; even if we decide to sign the casino over, I have my savings. I’m not rich, but I’ve invested most of what I earned in the Army. It wasn’t like I had much to pay for rent or food. And obviously, I wasn’t going to spend it on booze or prosti….”
She put her finger over his lips as the pain of that word bombarded her mind. “Neither of us can forget the pain of our past, but we can build a better future. I believe that. Whether that is at the ranch, the casino, or somewhere all our own.”
“I do, too, Mrs. Greywolf.”
“I like the sound of that. A lot. You know, the one time my grandmother got called to my school, it was because the teacher found me writing that on my desk. I had written it dozens of times. Mrs. Jack Greywolf. Mrs. Andrew Jackson Greywolf. Mrs. A. J. Greywolf. Mrs. Abigail Greywolf. I couldn’t decide which I liked better.”
“Have you now?”
“Yes, I think Mrs. Abigail Greywolf sounds pretty good.”
“Me, too.” He tenderly brushed the hair off her cheek, “I never want you to lose yourself in me. We may be two-halves, but we’re different and unique. I’ve always been kinda partial to Abigail.”
“You could have fooled me. The night….”
“You were sixteen years old. I was twenty-three, almost twenty-four. And you scared the ever-loving shit out of me. More like, I scared myself. What that kiss did to me… But I’m sorry. I didn’t handle it very well. I should have let you down easier. Or manned up and told you the truth about my feelings. But….”
“Yeah, but you’re right. We don’t know their story, but I need to put that shit behind me. I get what you’re saying about Mercy’s wedding. But if it comes up, no lying, understood?”
“Agreed, but how would it possibly come up? So did you two disappear to Vegas and get married by Elvis or something?”
He laughed and pressed her back towards the mattress. “Something like that, Mrs. Abigail Greywolf. How about I have a quick snack now, and we do drive-thru in Albuquerque?”
She ran her tongue across her lips, “Only if I get a snack, too, hubby.”
“Fuck, yeah, that can be arranged.”