Busted Axle Road
Chapter 34

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

With the sun setting late, it was hard to get Tiffany and Henry to bed on something approaching the right time, but they had to be gotten up early so Kirsten could run them out to the day care at the club and still make it to work on time. The next day was a Saturday, but there was no point in letting them get too far off schedule, but it took some doing to get them put down for the night that was still some time to come.

It was still light, though the sun was dipping toward the horizon, and Kirsten was wondering where her husband and Mark might be. After thinking about it for a while, she realized that they might be right up at Marks, maybe drinking beer and talking about dogs or flying, or something. Not that she was worried; Mike often had to stay out late -- but she was curious. Besides, that gave her a reason to call Jackie.

Kirsten and Jackie had been friends in high school, but after high school, they'd gone their separate ways. It was strange; they'd lived in the same town virtually ever since, except for the few months that Jackie had been gone on her honeymoon, and except for the two years that Kirsten had spent in community college, trying to put Henry Toivo out of her mind, but somehow, the friendship had deteriorated. Kirsten knew that Jackie was a bit of a loner, not one to make friends easily, and had wondered once or twice how she could have ever hooked up with Mark.

But Mark and Jackie had put a lot of time into helping out with the move, and since they were going to be neighbors, Kirsten hoped to renew the friendship a little. The missing husbands gave her an excuse for a little womanly chat, after all. She had to look up the number before she called.

"Spearfish Signs," Jackie answered. Kirsten was taken a little aback, but realized that was how Jackie answered the phone, day or night.

"Hi, Jackie. This is Kirsten. Do you have any idea where our wandering boys are?"

"No, I don't," Jackie replied. "I sort of figured they stopped off at your place to move something, after they got back from Warsaw."

"I'm not too sure why they went to Warsaw, anyway. Mike said that he had someone he wanted to see."

"I know," Jackie replied, a slight bit of exasperation creeping into her voice. "There's some guy over there that used to run dog teams, and they went over to pick his brains. Any one of these days, I expect to look out the kitchen window and see a couple of dozen dogs, while Mark's studying maps of Alaska."

"To tell you the truth, I'm getting a little worried about Mike. He was reading Jack London last night. It wouldn't surprise me to look up and see a yard full of dogs, either."

"That's worse."

"You bet," Kirsten agreed. "The two of them together will just drive each other to do it."

"Sometimes I'm sorry that I never had children, but I'll tell you, sometimes my husband is child enough."

"Speaking of kids, mine are in bed, so I can't leave. But, why don't you slide down here, and try out the first cookies I've baked in our new house?"

It took Jackie a little talking and a couple of minutes to make up her mind, but soon she was jogging the quarter mile up the road to Mike and Kirsten's house. It would be hard to describe what the two talked about for the next hour, except that what really was being talked about was the renewal of old ties. The discussion eventually worked its way around to the hot tub, with Kirsten giving a sales pitch, and eventually, Jackie and Kirsten decided to try it out.

"There's just one rule," Kirsten said. "We picked it up from Gil and Carrie, but we can bend it if it makes you uncomfortable."

"What's that?"

"No swimsuits in the hot tub. Like I say, we can bend it if you want to."

"I don't have a swimsuit here, anyway," Jackie said. "I'd have to go home to find one. I guess it doesn't matter. Mark and I went to a nude beach once, while we were on our honeymoon, and it was sort of fun, then. But, I was a little younger then, too."

"It's sort of like skinny dipping," Kirsten smiled. "Kind of fun."

The water seemed awful hot to Jackie, but Kirsten suggested that she just set on the edge of the tub for a few minutes, her feet in the water, before she got in. Once she had her nude body immersed in the water, though, and had gotten used to it, the pulsations of the aerator on her body felt wonderfully relaxing. "I could get used to this, real easy," she told Kirsten.

"It's going to be nice to have one," the shorter blonde said. "I've always wanted one at home, but there was just never room enough. My back has been hurting so bad with this baby that I'm really glad we've got it. I just wish we'd had it sooner."

"Are you going to take off from work when the baby comes?"

Kirsten smiled. "Well, I'll take a few days off. I took two months off with both Tiffany and Henry, and didn't hit a lick, but Harry was still running the department then, and as luck had it, it was during a slow period, each time. This critter," she said, pointing, "isn't being as cooperative as far as timing goes, and I can't take that much time off, so we're going to shuffle jobs around for a while. Sally's going to be making most of the calls, except for a few that Carrie will make and a few that I have to make, and I'm going to bring a computer home and sit here and do some typesetting and ad makeup. If it works out, we may keep it up for six months or so. My mom's getting on up there, and I don't want to have to lean on her for babysitting as much as I did with the others."

"Well, with my business, I can't watch a kid all the time, but if you get in a bind, I'm just up the road," Jackie said.

"Thanks. That'll be a big help. Are you sure you don't mind?

"It'd be kind of fun to have a baby around again. I used to watch Johnny and Josh for dad and Sarah when they were little, but haven't had to do it much since they started school. Now, Johnny's in college, and Josh will be in a couple of years."

"Am I getting a little personal, but how come you never had kids?"

"That's kind of a long story," Jackie said. It was in fact getting a little personal; Jackie's real mother had been institutionalized, far out of touch with reality, when she was little, and had died there after more than ten years. Kirsten knew that, of course, but didn't know that Jackie had always been a little scared that whatever had been wrong with her mother was genetic; Jackie didn't even like to admit it to herself. "I've given it some thought," she admitted, "I'm beginning to realize that if Mark and I are ever going to have kids, we're going to have to get started."

"It gets harder as you get older," Kirsten said. "Believe me, I know."

Outside, a car door slammed, then another one. They heard Mark's voice: "Cumulus, you stay in the truck."

Jackie cringed a little; it was all right to sit there naked in the hot tub with Kirsten, but with the guys coming in it was another story. Then, she realized that it was second nature to Mike and Kirsten -- she knew they'd been guests of the Evachevskis at one time and another -- and that she had no choice but to be casual about it, or else she'd hurt some feelings. Still, it was hard to be casual when Mike walked in the door and said, "Aha! Thought we'd find you here."

"Did you find out anything useful?" Jackie said, trying to not think about her embarrassment, "Or did you just get a lot of stories about the good old days?"

"Got a lot of stories," Mark said. "But, I think we got a lot of useful information, too."

"Is that a private party, or is there room for two more?" Mike asked.

"Oh, come join us, and tell us all about it," Kirsten said.

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