Daddy Crosses the Rubicon Ch. 4

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Chapter 4: The Calm before the Storms

“Whew,” he gulped, pulling into the driveway. “I need a change of scene.” Entering the house, he threw his keys on the kitchen table, next to a pile of unopened bills, and called out to Laura. He found her in the den, watching TV and painting her toenails.

“Hey, baby, you ready to go?” he asked.

“Will be in a minute,” she answered. Her chin was resting on her knee and she was concentrating on the nail painting.

“Where’s Barb and Bonnie?” he asked, looking around the den and seeing no evidence of the presence of the twins who were supposed to accompany them to the lake.

“Oh, they’re not coming. Something came up with their mom, and they had to cancel,” Laura answered without looking up.

“Darn,” he replied. Disappointment was evident in his voice. “That’s a shame. You want to cancel too, then, I guess? Won’t be near as much fun with just ole dad to hang with.”

“Heck no, I don’t want to cancel. I’ve been looking forward to spending the weekend with you; I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said emphatically like she had expected something of the sort and had already ruled it out.

He grinned in mild relief, recalling that the trip had actually been her idea; something she had cooked up for them to do together after Miriam announced that she was going to the convention alone.

“You sure you won’t be bored to death with just me out there? Maybe they’ll be free tomorrow; we can wait and go then, if you want.”

“It’s OK, Dad,” she reassured him. “They’re tied up all weekend. And besides, you’re plenty of fun by yourself and those two are totally psycho. All they do is talk about boys and plot about how to hookup with each other’s boyfriend. They’re really sketchy, Dad. I’m actually relieved they aren’t going.”

“Hey, that’s great; I mean that you still want to go with me, but I didn’t know that about them; I always thought you were really tight with Heckle and Jeckle,” he replied, smiling at the memory of how the twins’ manner of turning their heads to jabber at each other earned them their nicknames. Well, that, plus their coal black hair and dark eyes, too.

“We’re tight enough, I just won’t miss them this weekend. You and I will just have to find something to keep each other entertained, I guess,” she smiled at him evenly. “Well, all right,” he exclaimed happily. “I’ll accept that challenge. Let’s get outa here and get there early, so we don’t lose our favorite spot.”

“Sure, Dad. I’m packed already; won’t take me a second to get ready.”

“By the way, are you and Lance speaking these days?” he inquired cautiously. Sibling rivalry had been taking a toll on what remained of the family’s tranquility, and he had frequently noticed her pointedly ignoring her brother.

“Kinda. Why?” She asked warily.

“Just wondered if you talked to him about coming with us, like I suggested?” he answered trying to sound casual about it.

“I left him a note Monday. I told him we were going, and he was welcome to come along, if he wanted.”

“Bet he was thrilled at that,” he replied sardonically. “What’d he say?”

“He can’t go; has rugby practice every day this weekend and he’s going backpacking next week. Said he probably won’t be back till about the time mom’s due back from Chicago.”

“Probably just an excuse. You tell him Heckle and Jeckle might be there?” he asked, remembering how attractive the twins were.

“Nope, last thing I need is to be stuck with them on a boat so far back in the middle of nowhere the phones don’t work and them “Oohing” and “Aahing” all over Lance for three days. I’d sooner stay home myself as to go through that crap.”

“Well, I guess I can see what you mean,” he replied softly, trying not to rile her further. “Did you believe the bit about rugby practice and backpacking?”

“I dunno. With Lance you never can be sure what he’s really up to, but his backpack and sleeping bag aren’t in his closet. You can go check for yourself, if you want.”

“His closet? I don’t think so. You know how your mother is about allowing you guys to have your privacy and your space.”

“Oh, yeah, Dad, I know all about Mom,” she replied with a hint of exasperation. “But, if you ask me, if you and mom give Lance much more space, he’s gonna take over the place.”

“Come on, baby, don’t be so judgmental,” he urged gently. He was cognizant of the burdens that birth order places on the last born. “He’s just having a little difficulty finding himself; you know, growing up.”

“It could be, Dad, he’s a lot more grown up than you know,” she answered sharply.

“Well, I hope so for his sake,” he replied pensively, recollecting the escapades of the boy’s younger years. Rugby and backpacking sure are preferable to his former activities. Turned seventeen and wanted to pose for Playgirl. Miriam squelched that; not that he didn’t have the body and the looks for it. Had looks like Michelangelo chiseled him from solid stone himself. Tall, proportioned, strong casino siteleri as an ox and fast as lightning. Played tailback till he dislocated his shoulder in a rappelling accident. Turned eighteen and wanted to leave home with a couple of friends and try out for the Chippendales.

Miriam squelched that one too, but Don had figured he might as well get paid for what he was gonna do anyway. Had so many girls after him they were driving all the rest of the household nuts. What was going on in his room behind the closed door, he didn’t even want to know. Anyway, it did seem that, since he turned twenty, ole Lance had grown up a lot. Shoot, he wasn’t even dating very often anymore, and he’d even been working with Miriam some. She’d started taking him along on her open houses quite a bit of late, and he’d been a huge success with all her clients. Well, it’s a good thing he’s growing up, Don thought guiltily, because he’s sure going to have a lot to handle in a few days, when the cops show up looking for his daddy. Doesn’t much look like I’ll get the chance to talk to him and invite him to come along, but I really didn’t have any illusions that he would want to. Nope, ole Lance’s become just a little too independent to want to tag along with a Dad on the lam from the law.

“There, that’s done,” Laura said, finishing her nails and bouncing up from the couch. He hadn’t paid much attention to her attire previously. Whew, he thought, eyeballing her dangerously short cutoffs and skimpy top. It was the top that really caught his attention. It was one of those little bands of flimsy fabric about six inches wide that hangs loosely from the shoulders by a couple of spaghetti straps. It barely covered her breasts and her midriff was bare.

Laura turned to face him, her bronzed, flat tummy and long legs bare; her pert breasts thrust the top out a good four or five inches from her belly. The straps had slipped from her shoulders and hung uselessly down her arms. Gawd, he thought, realizing that the only thing keeping her top from falling off was the fact that it was snagged on her nipples, the points of which protruded prominently just below top seam of the garment. An accident looking for a place to happen, he thought; if she steps off a curb, that thing’s gonna wind up around her ankles. She stepped toward him, and he watched her closely. The verges of her nipples, just where the golden tan of her breasts changed to darker brown, peeked out above her top.

“You think maybe you need to change? I’ve got to stop at the liquor store on the way,” he asked with a look that was less disapproving than dubious.

“I’m OK, I’ll just wait in the car while you go in,” she answered brightly, quickly dismissing his concerns.

“That’s what I’m afraid of, baby. You might get abducted looking like that.”

“I ain’t skeered,” she laughed. “I got you to protect me, don’t I?”

“You sure do, darlin, but you’re expectin a little much of your dad, if you’re thinkin I can fight off twenty or thirty of ’em at a time.

“Well, daddy,” she said giggling suggestively as she wriggled up the stairs toward her room. “If it comes to that, we’ll just have to think of something other than fighting to handle them, won’t we?”

It took only a few minutes to load the car and lower the convertible top for the hour drive to the lake. The trip to the liquor store wasn’t nearly as eventful as he had feared, though the line did get a little long because the clerk got distracted and kept staring out the window at Laura. The hour-long trip from there to the lake was a breeze, almost no traffic except for an occasional trucker, most of who honked and waved. Heck, they usually honked at Miriam, too. At first, he thought, it must be the convertible, but then he noticed that the wind was causing Laura’s top to billow out whenever they passed an eighteen wheeler. It didn’t do much from his prospective, but it must be quite a view from eight feet above them. Laura just laughed and waved back as they sped past.

Their houseboat wasn’t not bad as houseboats go; about forty-five feet long, with a flying bridge and sundeck on top, a master state room and bath in the bow below and a pilot’s station, a kitchen and eating/sitting area amid ship and aft. The seats in the sitting area can be made into beds, so six or so can sleep comfortably.

They loaded the supplies quickly, and Laura untied the mooring lines, while he started the dual inboard diesels.

“You want to drag the ski boat along, daddy?” she called up to him, shouting over the noise of the engines.

Guiltily recalling images from “The Dream,” he glanced in the direction of the boat moored along side the houseboat and shook his head. “Naw, we better not since there’s just the two of us; that OK with you?”

“Sure,” she called back, hopping onto the gently rocking deck of the houseboat. “We can always come back later and get it, if we want.”

They had the lake practically to themselves as they motored out to their favorite anchorage. It was canlı casino located in a deep, narrow cove, which followed the bed of an old stream that had been drowned by the lake. Rocky bluffs rose along the sides of the cove, reaching upward in some places more than seventy feet above the water. The cove ended, after several sharp turns, in a narrow gorge with a softly singing waterfall at the head. The sheer walls of the gorge pressed so closely that there was barely room enough to maneuver the boat. High above and nearly horizontal to the water, on the rim of the gorge, an old oak tree that had been pushed over in a thunderstorm, reached out across the empty space above the cove with leafy arms extended. An old rope, badly frayed and gray from exposure to the elements, dangled from the oak and hung, like a noose from a giblet, almost to the water right in the center of the cove. Ledges and narrow crevices scored the precipitous walls, and provided scant lodgment for a few adventurous scrub trees and bushes. At nightfall, the lights from the boat could only illuminate the lower reaches of the rock faces, and above the light, the rock would soar onward into the darkness like the great walls of an ancient gothic cathedral. A star-filled sky formed a glorious domed ceiling for the chamber that had no rival on the earth, they thought, save, possibly, the dome of the Sistine chapel. At the cove’s head, the waterfall descended from the upper reaches of the wall in a series of uneven, broken steps, before dropping the final fifteen or twenty feet in a frothy curtain some ten feet wide. The sound of cascading water, amplified by the confining rock walls, filled the cove and enhanced the sense of tranquility and peace.

For years the cove had been their paradise on earth; a sanctuary of towering rocky spires and serenely singing waters. It was the place they came to worship the sun and perform the Bacchanalian rites of spring. They had spent countless days and nights in total seclusion there, and in earlier, happier times, when the kids were little, he and Miriam would put them to bed and go skinny dipping in the dark. They had discovered a broad ledge under the waterfall, where they could lie naked and make love while the cool water beat gently on their heated bodies. The kids loved it there, too, swinging by the rope from the sundeck to drop into the cool, clear water below, spending endless hours floating on tubes and rafts, fishing and climbing the waterfall to explore the vast empty forest above.

He was relieved to find the cove empty on that afternoon, since it was well known and very popular, especially for the privacy it offered. Once moored at the head of the cove, none of the boat would be visible from the lake, and, in fact, someone would have to come within just a few yards of the boat to know they were there.

After tying off the boat, they changed into swimsuits and climbed the ladder to the sundeck. He slipped off his shirt, stretched out on a cushioned bench at the end of the deck and positioned an umbrella to shield his face from the sun. We’ll in the shadows pretty soon, since the cove only gets about five or six hours of direct sunlight a day, he thought, as he picked up his book to begin reading. Laura, meanwhile, had spread a beach towel on the deck and was laying face down on it. Reaching behind her, she unsnapped the clasp of her bikini top and let the band fall to the deck. He squinted at her briefly, wondering if he recognized the bikini as being from his dream. It looked vaguely familiar, but he quickly pushed that thought out of his mind, annoyed with himself for impure thoughts, and looked away, but not before noticing the fullness of her breast pushing out under the weight of her body and the fact that she had no tan lines. Ashamed of himself, he fought off the image of the fullness of her naked breast and it’s crowning nipple, and turned to his book.

Time passed quickly. Before long, the shadow of the west cliff had crossed the cove and was well on its way up the east wall. A cool gust of wind blowing off the lake had negotiated the approaches to the cove and was replacing the heavier, heated air surrounding the boat with a refreshing breeze. He put down his book, looking in Laura’s direction.

“Hey, Laura, the sun’s about gone and I’m dying of thirst. How about going down and getting your old man one of those beers?”

“Sure, Dad,” she replied rubbing her eyes and reaching behind her to refasten her top. “The sun felt so good, I fell asleep; what time is it anyway?”

“Nearly five, baby, cocktail hour.”

“Wow, that late?” she replied, jumping to her feet, “I’ll be right back with your beer.”

In a couple of minutes, she returned, climbing the ladder with two beers in her hand. “I thought I’d join you, Dad. It wouldn’t do having you drinking alone up here, would it?” she said grinning brazenly.

“Well,” he began uncertainly, finding it difficult to imagine life without having to account to Miriam. “I’m not so sure that’s a good idea, baby. kaçak casino You know that if your mother finds, she’d have a fit and probably wouldn’t ever let you come up again without her.”

She laughed, stepping onto the deck and extending an open bottle to him. “Daddy,” she scolded, cocking her head and putting her hand on her hip for emphasis, “Mother is not going to hear one word about this trip from me, and besides, I seriously doubt she would want me to come with her if she ever does come up here.”

“Why do you say that, sweetheart?” he answered curiously, taking the beer from her.

“She didn’t want me with her in Chicago, did she?”

“It’s not that she didn’t want to be with you, honey,” he said, recalling Miriam’s emphatic rejection of his idea that she take Laura with her and make a mother-daughter thing of the trip. “She was just afraid you would be bored with her being in meetings all day and hanging out with her real estate buddies at night. You know how she loves to network.”

“Oh, daddy, sometimes you…” she began, looking at him oddly.

“Sometimes I what?” he responded, soliciting a conclusion to the observation.

“Oh nothing,” she replied evasively. “I just wish you were right.”

He pondered that unresponsive remark briefly before bringing the cold bottle to his lips. What’s that mean, he wondered, but he shrugged it off, preferring to savor the flavor of the cold liquid flowing into his mouth.

“OK, I guess one won’t hurt you. Much.”

“Hasn’t so far,” she chirped back cheerfully and settling into a lawn chair by his side.

I’ll let that one pass, he thought wisely, and changed the subject.

They sat, talking quietly while the light faded. From time to time, over the next hour or so, she replenished his beer from the cooler in the galley below, and he would drink while their conversation ranged far and wide. They talked of boyfriends, or the lack thereof, college expectations, career aspirations, the manner of things of which fathers speak to daughters on the infrequent occasions when they are alone together. He marveled at how she had grown intellectually, her mind keeping pace with her obvious physical development. Her insights and depth of understanding suggested wisdom beyond her years. Her self-confidence and assurance manifested itself repeatedly in the openness and directness of her questions to him. No guile in this girl, he thought, as she fired salvo after salvo directly across his bow:

“Daddy, are you and Mom going to get a divorce?” she asked him pointedly.

“Good Lord, what makes you ask a question like that?” he gulped uncomfortably.

“Oh, I dunno. I guess cause you two fight so much.”

“It’s not as bad as all that, is it?”

“Sure sounds bad to me.”

“What do you mean?”

“All that shouting and yelling, doors slamming, things breaking. You know.”

“People argue, baby, but it doesn’t mean anything. Just letting off steam is all. It sure doesn’t mean they’re going to get a divorce,” he answered guardedly, suppressing the urge to blurt out the truth.

“Lance figures if she starts making any money in this real estate thing, she’ll take off.”

“Is that what you think?” he asked, masking his surprise.

“I dunno. I think she’s got it made. Does what she wants, when she wants. Anything she doesn’t want to do, she just leaves for you. I think she’d be a fool to leave and have to start taking care of herself for a change.”

He laughed a little, mostly self-consciously, at this dead-on portrayal of his gutless approach to division of responsibility. He again resisted the impulse to divulge his plans; the time’s not right for that, he thought. “Honey, I wouldn’t worry too much about what Lance thinks. He’s hardly around enough to know what’s going on.”

“He’s around more than you think; you’re just at work. Besides, he and Mom talk about stuff all the time.” Her words were sharp and he could feel her eyes on him.

“Well, honey, even so, I don’t imagine she’s discussing that kind of thing with him, do you? Really?”

“I don’t know what they talk about, daddy,” she answered darkly, like she wasn’t telling everything she knew.

“What does that mean?” he said trying to draw her out.

“I mean they don’t talk when I’m around. It’s, like, weird. They stop talking whenever I’m there, like I’m interrupting something.”

“Oh, honey, you’re just imagining things,” he responded, protectively putting an innocuous face to the behavior.

“I’m not making that up.”

“That’s not what I’m saying. It’s just that there’s probably a good explanation for it, that’s all. She’s probably just protecting his privacy and doesn’t want to discuss his business in front of you.”

“Thanks, Dad. That’s sweet,” she sighed patting his arm.

“Sweet?”

“Yeah, trying to make me feel better.”

“I meant it, baby, I wasn’t just trying to make you feel better,” he lied unconvincingly; they both knew Miriam had always been excessively partial to Lance. That gives me an edge at least, he thought deviously. If she’s pissed enough at her mother, maybe she’ll jump at the chance to come with me. Might actually work out, he pondered, his affect brightening at the prospect.

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