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HEIRLOOM: "Something of special value handed on from one generation or person to another generation or person."
The name is John Theodore Chance and I'm the baby of the family. My older brother is Ethan Edward and my older sister is Mary Kate. My father is William; his favorite movie star is John Wayne so he decided to name us after characters from three of the "Duke's" movies. Shame on you if you don't recognize the names and don't know which movies the characters were in; your entertainment education seems sorely lacking.
My mother, Alyssa, was a fan of the "Duke" too so I guess that's how Dad talked her into giving us those names. I'm glad that Dad wasn't a fan of the movie "Horatio Hornblower". I would've had to fight all through school with that name. There are worse people to be named after than one of Wayne's characters.
We lived on a ranch outside of a medium size city in southeastern Missouri. I suppose it was just a big farm, about 500 acres, but my dad called it a ranch and he paid the bills so he could call it whatever he wanted. He even named our farm "26 Bar Ranch" after John Wayne's place in Arizona; Dad did actually raise Hereford cattle on the ranch.
He owned a building supply business and that's what paid the bills but he loved that ranch. "26 Bar Ranch" may have been a hobby for Dad but he worked hard at it. When Ethan got home after two years of college he took over the day by day running of the business and Dad spent a lot more of his time on the ranch. He would spend three or four mornings a week in the business office but the rest of the time he was with his cattle.
During elementary school and part of high school I was an average, skinny kid with big hands and feet. In the summer between my sophomore and junior year I got a growth spurt and grew like a weed. Like Wayne's character "Sheriff John T. Chance" I grew to 6' 4'' and now at 26 have the big body at 230 pounds to go with my height.
Dad is about an inch shorter than me and Mom was very tall for a woman at 5' 10". We kids all took after them; my brother is four years older and about an inch taller than me. Even my sister is the same height that Mom was. I say was because we lost Mom to cancer when I was 14. Mary Kate is three years my senior and took over the role of "mother" to a grieving and lost young boy.
My mother's death and the loss of her love and guidance caused me to become something of a rebel. Mary Kate tried to fill the void but it wasn't the same. I didn't get into a lot of trouble because my dad wouldn't put up with it.
But I developed an aversion to taking seemingly non-sensical orders or being told what to do without explanation. The only ones I listened to without question were my family or some people at school that I respected. I followed the rules that I had to but would become very stubborn when people tried to tell me what to do without some reasonable explanation. Well, reasonable to me at least.
After my mother passed away I would do my chores and then spend most of my time riding my dirt bike or one of the horses around the ranch. I didn't often feel like socializing, even with my family. The exception that I did spend a lot of time with was Roberta Cassidy.
"Bobbie" and I had known each other since the fourth grade and were best buddies. We spent a lot of time together and were totally comfortable with each other. She had her own dirt bike and would follow me on my rides or borrow one of our horses and keep me company. Sometimes we would swim in the stream running through our ranch after our rides or hikes.
Bobbie and I were in the same year in high school and had several classes together. She was the one person besides my dad and my older sister that I would listen to concerning problems and confrontations at school; unfortunately my sister went to a different school. Bobbie would notice me getting into one of my moods about something or someone at school and most times she would be able to defuse the situation by joking with me or taking my hand and leading me away.
My brother was there for my freshman year and he tried to help keep me out of trouble but he had a tendency to order me around. Sometimes I felt he was just another adult and I rebelled against him too.
Once we were alone, Bobbie would get me to explain the problem and discuss it with me. Mostly she was able to "talk me down" and get me to calm down. Sometimes it didn't work and then I would have a run in with the school administration. Without her influence I really don't know if I would have made it through high school. After one of several incidents at school Dad once asked me why I didn't just go along to get along. I told him that they hadn't earned the right to give me orders and I was smarter than them anyway. He didn't get mad or punish me but he made a comment that I didn't understand until years later. Dad said, "Son, you've got a lot to learn and as you get older you'll find out you're not as smart as you think."
As I started high school I had a growth spurt and sprouted up like a young oak. My brother Ethan was playing football for our school during his senior year and he suggested that I try out for the team. He said it would teach me discipline and allow me to work out some of my repressed anger and not so repressed aggression. It was a strange concept coming from an 18 year old; I found out later that one of the guidance counselors suggested the idea to Ethan.
The plan might have worked but the coach apparently had no use for a big clumsy kid that had never played organized football before. He told me to come back when I could run without tripping over my own feet. By my senior year I had gotten my full growth and coordination; the coach invited me to join the team. I just laughed in his face and told him that if I wasn't worth his time three years ago, he wasn't worth mine now.
I made it through high school without any serious trouble and continued my education. Dad wanted me to go to college and since I didn't know what else to do, I agreed to go. He paid for my college expenses such as tuition and books, plus room and board; I had it pretty good. Any extra spending money I had to earn; Dad told me working would teach me about the real world. He was right by the way.
I started as an apprentice and worked my way up to a framing carpenter during my summer breaks from college and thought I might continue working construction after graduation. During the summers I made enough to pay for all the extras and incidentals for the next year at school. I also did my share of chores on the ranch; Dad said I had to earn my room and board while I was living there during those summers.
It was working at my "summer" job that I begin to see that Dad was right; I wasn't as smart as I thought. I guess it was the no nonsense attitude of my foreman and my respect for his know-how that let me take orders from him without resentment. The guys I worked with sort of adopted me and taught me things that you only learned with experience; another instance to show me that I had a lot to learn, about work, people and life.
I was never shy with the young lovelies at school and my "Black Irish" heritage of dark hair and laser like blue eyes coupled with my size attracted the ladies. If a date was wanted, I had only to ask one of the coeds and a date was obtained. I was in lust a lot but never felt especially close to any of these playmates.
Bobbie was attending the same school; we were still buddies and hung around together most nights when I took a break from trying to bed every coed on campus. She would listen as I explained why this girl or that one wasn't interesting enough to pursue or to continue dating. Then I met a young lady that really caught my interest.
Amber Fleming was a tall, blond, browned eyed heart breaker with the stereotypical "cheerleader" type beauty. Along with three other guys, Amber and I were both assigned to an experiment in one of the fuzzy sciences during our junior year, a psychology test lab. I didn't make much of an impression the first time we met.
"Hi, I'm John Chance but everyone calls me J.T.," I told her.
"Hello J.T., I'm Amber Fleming," she said with a big Miss America type smile.
"Of course you are," I replied. I couldn't help it; it was all too perfect. Blond, beautiful, named Amber, and probably an airhead; I thought it was funnier than hell except I was stuck with her as a lab partner. It's going to be a tough assignment to complete I thought, and I have my work cut out for me.
Apparently Amber knew exactly what I thinking and put me in my place very quickly. "If you're going to continue to be an ass we're going to have a hard time completing this assignment." Her temper was up and she wasn't about to take any bullshit from me.
She shocked me out of my smug little mindset. I thought about the way kids in high school had treated a gangly, clumsy, 15 year old and how they prejudged me before they had a chance to know me. Now I was judging her based on her looks.
"You're right, I was being an ass. I apologize. How about we start over? Hi, I'm J.T. and you must be Amber Fleming. Nice to meet you, Amber. I'm doing my best here to get my foot out of my mouth." She started laughing and shook hands with me.
The experiment consisted of showing other students visual stimuli and recording their responses; then we had to hypothesize why they reacted the way they did. I thought it was stupid and a waste of time because the same experiment had been done countless times before in this class.
However, it was necessary to complete the experiment to get a passing grade in the psychology class and therefore my degree. So I put aside my aggravation at taking stupid orders and did the work. After meeting and working with Amber a few times I began to look forward to our lab time.
Contrary to the way she looked, Amber was very intelligent. I found out at that first meeting that she wasn't the blond bimbo that you would think. Her intellect, keen observational skills, and upbeat attitude made it a joy to work with her. Amber also made it known, in a good humored way, that there wouldn't be any type of romantic goings-on during these lab tests. We're here to get an education, not start a romance she stated. It was directed at all three of the men working on the experiment; including me.
We completed the tests after a month, and on Thursday evening the whole group decided to celebrate with pizza and beer. There were five of us in the group and somehow Amber and I ended up sitting next to each other. The pizza joint was full of students and very loud so we had to lean toward each other to make ourselves heard over the noise. It was the closest we had been physically.
I was explaining something to Amber, leaning in close to her ear and suddenly realized just how great she smelled. Maybe she would reconsider her thoughts about dating now that the experiment was over, I thought. I asked her if she would like to meet for coffee on Saturday. She said yes and we made plans to meet at the local coffee bar. My plan was to let her get to know me outside of the lab and ask if she would go to dinner or a movie with me. Plans don't always work or get the result you hope for, now do they?
On Saturday we met at 2 PM for coffee. We sat and talked about the experiment, what we expected for the rest of the semester from the class, and just talked about school in general. After about 30 minutes I put my plan in to action.
"Amber, I enjoyed working with you during the test and would like to spend some time with you outside of that lab. Would you like to go to dinner or a movie next weekend?"
"I've had a good time working with you too. But I don't think it would be a good idea for us to date," she told me. "I know your reputation and I don't want to be another toy in your playpen."
Whoa, where did that come from? My reputation, what reputation? It wasn't the response I expected. Normally if the object of my desire doesn't want to get together I accept her decision and move on. However there was no way I could just move on from her statement.
"What reputation Amber? I didn't know I had one. Please enlighten me." I was a little upset.
"The word is that you date a lot of women, sometimes more than one at a time. I don't want to get involved with a player type and end up as just another one of your discarded toys." The tone in her voice was a little defiant.
"I'm insulted by your characterization. Normally I would just say okay and not defend my actions or myself but I think you've come to a faulty hypothesis. In other words, you're full of it," I lectured her using my "teacher's" voice.
She blushed and started to respond to my statement but I held up my hand to stop her.
I fixed Amber with a hard look and said, "My turn Ms. Fleming. If you had bothered to check into "my reputation" a little deeper instead of listening to gossip, you would have found that my dates were treated like ladies and most of them don't have a problem with me. I never lied to them or made a promise for more than a good time." I stopped to get back some control. It surprised me how much her words had bothered me.
"I have dated a lot of ladies and sometimes I have dated more than one girl during the same week. Maybe that makes me a player, but the reason for so many dates is that I haven't found anyone that I wanted to be more than friends with. When and if I do find that person, I will be with her alone."
She didn't know what to say and I didn't give her a chance.
"In addition, you're being a little presumptuous to think that you could even qualify as one of my "toys", don't you think? Enjoy the rest of your weekend Ms. Fleming." I left her sitting at the table.
By the time I got to my truck to return to my apartment I was talking to myself. What a bitch, she was wrong, and the hell with her was just a few of my thoughts. Popping open a beer at my place I realized why Amber refusing a date and the things she said bothered me so much. She was the first woman that I found interesting enough to actually pursue.
The next two weeks were a study in how to avoid and ignore someone in the same class as you. I made it a point to not look at Amber during our class together and avoided her leaving the classroom. She tried to catch my eye several times but I wouldn't acknowledge her at all. If she started toward me I turned and walked in the other direction.
I was coming out of my Economics class somewhat angry with the teacher when she caught up to me. The professor was a liberal and I was somewhere right of Attila the Hun so we butted heads almost every class. This discussion had been particularly heated and I wasn't in the best of moods. One of my friends in the class walked with me and told me that I'd better keep my mouth shut or I was going to fail the class.
"Go along and get along and get the hell out of his class with a passing grade," he suggested.
Right, going along was something I hadn't been much good at in the past. I was in trouble because I needed a passing grade in this class. Oh hell, how much do I want to get a degree anyway, I thought?
It had been three weeks since Amber had shut me down and I hadn't said a word to her since. I found her sitting on the tail gate of my truck with a couple of large coffees; obviously she was waiting for me. I couldn't avoid her this time, not unless I wanted to leave my truck and walk back to my apartment.
"Hi J.T. care for coffee?" That was her opening line. "I listened to some of your debate in Econ and thought you could probably use one."
I could have reacted to her the same way as I did to the football coach in high school and told her to go away but I couldn't. This was Amber. I accepted the coffee and sat next to her on my tail gate.
"What are you doing here?" I spoke with a little anger in my voice. "I would think you wouldn't want to be seen with me, considering my reputation." I was being a tad nasty to her.
Surprisingly she just smiled at me. "I tried to get your attention in class and since that didn't work I thought I would come to you. I've come to apologize; the things I said about you were based on gossip and it wasn't fair. I've been talking to some of your former "playmates" and I found that you were right; most of them speak highly of you and a lot of them would go out with you again." Amber took several sips from her coffee and continued.
"So I've come to invite you to dinner or a movie if you still want to go with me."
It took me a real long time to answer her; almost three seconds. "Okay, but you pay this first time," I said.
We went to a movie and then out for pizza and that evening led to many others. For the first time in my "dating" career I met someone that I wanted to become closer to. I enjoyed being with the other young ladies I had dated but had never felt a real spark with any of them. I felt that spark with Amber.
She and I dated each other exclusively after that first evening. We never discussed it but that's the way it was; my days of multiple dates were over. I knew that if we weren't in love that we were in serious like and I began to think that I had met "the one". So much so that I didn't pressure Amber to climb into my bed, this was unusual for me. The only bone of contention between us was my friendship with Bobbie.
Amber couldn't understand or didn't believe that a woman and a man could spend as much time together as Bobbie and I did talking and hanging out and not be romantically involved. No matter how I tried to explain our friendship she didn't like it. I caved and consequently the time I spent with Bobbie dropped off to almost nothing although we did have a couple of classes together and got to talk a little before and after them.
After our junior year, during the summer break, I invited Amber to come home with me and meet my family; I wanted to show her off. I was going to take two weeks off before I started my summer construction job and we could spend that time together. After the two weeks Amber would go home to her parents who lived about two hundred miles from our ranch.
I had told Amber about the ranch and my family. She laughed and wanted to meet them after hearing how my parents choose our names. I explained that my dad was fiercely independent and enjoyed teasing those that he cared for; my brother Ethan was more serious and always protected and took care my sister and I; and my sister Mary Kate had taken over mothering me when Mom passed away.
Amber wasn't the instant hit with my family that I thought she would be. Dad liked her because when he teased her Amber would come right back at him. Ethan and Mary Kate also seemed to like her but the warmth that I expected wasn't there. My family was friendly, cordial, and went out of their way to make Amber feel welcomed but they treated her like a guest. People that my family really liked were sort of adopted into our clan and treated like any family member. That adoption never took place with Amber.
Those two weeks were great. I was at home with my family and had my "woman" with me too. In addition my buddy Bobbie came over a few times and now I had it all. Amber, Bobbie and I had a couple of horseback rides around the property. After the third one Amber suggested that we go on the rides alone, smiling and rubbing up against me when she said it.
She was still concerned, read jealous here, about Bobbie and me. Looking at it from Amber's point of view, I guess I could understand her concern. Bobbie is as pretty in her own way as Amber is in hers.
While Amber had the blond good looks and body of a cheerleader, Bobbie was just as tall but with a slimmer, athletic type body. She had auburn hair worn long, usually in a pony tail, and big blue eyes with a few freckles across her nose. Amber was a go to fancy dinners, plays, and the "right" type of party's girl. Bobbie was a let's go fishing, or have pizza and beer, or keg party type. In short Amber was a little bit high maintenance and Bobbie was one of the guys; a damn good looking guy at that.
Amber and I made love for the first time while on a picnic at the little stream running through the back of our ranch. We had been on a ride into the national forest adjacent to our ranch and stopped at the stream for our lunch. Let me say here that I didn't seduce Amber; if anything she was the one that seduced me, although I didn't put up much of a fight.
We had worn our bathing suits under our clothes and stripped down to them when we got to the stream. While we were swimming after lunch Amber made a comment about how pretty it was here with the stream and the swimming hole.
"When Dad and Mom bought the place years ago, he dammed the stream so the family would have a place to swim. My brother and I would sometime sneak off and go skinny dipping. Dad caught us one time when I was about ten; we were supposed to be rounding up some stray cattle and saw him standing at the edge of the tree line watching us.
He never said anything but that was the last time that we skinny dipped before our chores were done. Ethan and I would still jump off the horses, get naked, and jump in the water but only after our work was done,"
"Skinny dipping huh? Sounds exciting," Amber said, stripped off her bikini, and slowly walked into the water.
My efforts not to stare at her in that tiny bikini hadn't been entirely successful and once she took it off there was no chance of not looking. I'm a normal red blooded young man who had been chaste since I started dating Amber so I can't be blamed for my reaction. Anyway she didn't put up any resistance and in fact sort of led the way. Other than the sand on the blanket it was almost perfect.
We tried to be cool when we got back to the house but I think everyone knew what had happened. My dad was the only one to say anything when he mentioned that it looked like I had gotten a lot of sun that day. That last ride was sort of bitter sweet because Amber left the next day. It wasn't as if we would be apart for the whole summer because one of us would go to the others home twice a month on the weekends. But it wasn't like seeing and talking to each other every day.
Shortly after we got back to school Amber was busy one week end with her parents. They had stopped by on their way to the west coast to spend the weekend with her. I went to dinner with them on Friday night; the dinner was nice but cordial is the best that could be said about meeting her parents. I didn't get to see Amber for the rest of their visit: they didn't leave until early Monday morning. It really didn't bother me because it gave me a chance to talk to Bobbie.
I ordered a pizza and Bobbie and I ate at my apartment. I wasn't hiding anything but Amber didn't care for my friendship with Bobbie. I tried to explain to Amber that Bobbie wasn't competition; that next to my sister Bobbie was my best friend. My explanation didn't impress her or change her mind so I hadn't seen Bobbie for any length of time for a couple of months.
Bobbie came waltzing into my place with two six packs and a smile. "I guess you got a parole for tonight, huh?" Are you sure you want to see me, I mean Amber might not like it?" She was pulling my chain; Amber didn't impress her at all.
"Knock it off will ya? I need to talk to someone and other than my sister you're the only one I trust; I mean to talk to about this."
"Okay, let's eat and you can tell "momma" all about it," she said. Even being serious she was always a bit of a smart ass.
I was comfortable talking about my "love life" with Bobbie. We have known each other forever and she helped me get through my mother's death; in some ways she was closer than my brother or sister. So I told her about my feelings for Amber. I explained that I enjoyed being with her, that I admired her, and that she was the first woman that I had dated that I wanted to spend a lot of time with.
"When I'm not with her I want to be and when I'm with her I'm a happy guy. But something's missing, something's not right. I think about "us" but I don't think about a future together. It's all right now or next week but nothing long term. Is that weird or what?"
"How's your sex life?" Bobbie was being serious. "Do you guys fit together and enjoy each other or is it just sex?"
"The first time was her last day at the ranch and twice more over the summer when she would come to visit. And yes we fit together and yes we enjoy it; it's more than just sex," I answered, a little put out at the question. But this was Bobbie and I needed her help.
"What? The supreme Casanova has only bedded the fair Amber a couple of times. Stop the presses this is front page news." Bobbie stopped teasing me and got serious again. "I find that interesting. I mean you've bedded just about every girl you've wanted to but your experiences with Amber is very limited. Strange!"
"We didn't think it would be good to go hog wild and rut like animals. So we decided to restrict ourselves," I defended myself.
"And whose idea was that, J.T.? Yours or hers?"
"It was a mutual decision."
"Bullshit. That's not the J.T. I know and love, something's funny here but I don't know what. I've never known you to back off like this. Either you're in love or you're trying to fool yourself into thinking you are. You better think about this before you go any further." Bobbie had always had a unique talent for cutting through the bullshit.
We tabled that discussion and tried to see how many of the beers we could put away. I won but the next morning I was a little the worse for wear. Bobbie slept on the couch and was almost as bad as me. It seems somewhere in our talk we found half a bottle of Jose Cuervo and decided to put it out of its misery. Senor Cuervo won.
I called Amber after classes on Monday to see when she wanted to get together. She said she had to do some make-up work in one of her classes and probably wouldn't see me until the weekend. It seemed a little funny to me, I mean we had spent almost every day together before the summer break and now she was too busy studying to see me.
For the next two weeks I only saw Amber six or seven times. This may seem sufficient but prior to the year-end break we would have been together at least ten days or evenings. One good thing about our cut back relationship was that I got to spend more time with Bobbie without getting an ass chewing from Amber.
On Friday evening Bobbie and I were doing the pizza routine at my apartment again and I again asked her opinion about Amber. I told her that Amber and I were going to dinner the next night and that it was the first time I would see her that week. In fact I had only talked to her once during that period, I told Bobbie.
"Okay, enough. I repeat, this isn't the J.T. I know. You've never let anyone including me, dictate your life like this. Tomorrow night is the perfect time to straighten this mess out. Either you love her and want to spend your life with Amber or you don't. Cut and dried, A B C, get it done son," Bobbie cut through the bullshit again.
"But I..." I started.
"But nothing John." Bobbie never called me John unless she was really upset with me. "Get your head out and find out what's going on. If you love her make your point and discuss your problem with not seeing her more. If you don't love her then break it off. You don't need or deserve to be treated like this and she doesn't deserve to be led on. Thus ends my sermon," she said with a smile.
Shortly afterwards she left and I spent the rest of the evening thinking about Amber, the changes in the relationship, and what I wanted to happen now. I didn't get much sleep that night but did come to a decision. I was going to be proactive at dinner Saturday night instead of just sitting back and letting things roll over me.
Saturday morning after getting enough coffee to jump start my day, I continued thinking about my situation. Why didn't I or couldn't I imagine or think about a relationship with Amber much past school. I had never thought about marriage or what we were going to do after graduation.
Sometimes you worry and chew at a problem and come up with nothing and sometimes when you're not thinking about it, the answer slips out of the back of your mind and hits you in the face. I was editing a paper for an English Lit class when the answer to the Amber question hit me right between the eyes.
I finally realized why I didn't see a future with Amber. It had been right in front of me all the time, but I hadn't seen it. The reason Amber didn't figure in my future plans, the reason I couldn't completely commit to her was very simple. I was in love with Bobbie. Shock, denial, and finally acceptance all ran through my mind. I loved Bobbie and had for years but our buddy status had covered it up. Oh shit, now what?