Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
December 13, 1974
Sandra Miller and Cathy Peterson glared at Tim when he sat down at the lunch table across from them. He had just walked over and sat down without any kind of invitation.
Cathy said, “Go away.”
“No. I have a proposition for the two of you.”
“We’re not interested.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Are you stupid or something?”
“No. In a couple of weeks we will be entering the Christmas holidays. That’s normally a reason to celebrate, particularly since we’ll be out of school for almost three weeks. Unfortunately, there are some people who will be very unhappy.”
“You’re not playing the game right,” Tim said giving Cathy a look as if to say get on the game wagon. “You’re supposed to ask me why some people will be unhappy.”
“If I ask, will you go away?”
“Ask that question again after I’ve answered the first question you should ask.”
Cathy rolled her eyes and asked, “Why will some people be unhappy?”
“Because she won’t have a chance to be with her forbidden lover.”
Both women stared at him. Sandra thought she was going to get sick right there. Cathy felt like someone had punched her in the stomach. Then she started to get angry. One could almost see her emotions boiling inside her. There was no way she was going to let some asshole force her into something she absolutely detested.
Tim said, “Don’t get upset. You’re getting the wrong idea.”
In a voice that could freeze a polar bear, Cathy asked, “What do you want?”
“Do you see the girl over my shoulder who is staring at me?”
Sandra and Cathy couldn’t stop from looking. Sandra asked, “Who? Stacy?”
“What about her?”
“She’s a gold digger and the gold she wants to dig is mine. I don’t date gold diggers.”
The anger in his voice caught both women by surprise. They knew that 90% of the boys in school would be more than happy for Stacy to try to dig their gold.
“What’s that got to do with us?”
“She’s becoming very irritating and is starting to make comments that are unflattering. I need a show girlfriend to get rid of her.”
“I’m able to provide a nice safe place for two people in love to express their love.”
“What do you want?” Again the frosty tone in Cathy’s voice was reaching arctic temperatures.
“I need a show girlfriend. When Stacy comes around, my show girlfriend needs to be willing chase the bitch away.”
“Which one of us?” Cathy asked.
“Well, I doubt that the two of you would want to be separated, so I’m proposing double dates.”
“Benny and I own a house that is thirty minutes from here. We are fixing it up to serve as an office for our business. We’ll give you a key to it. You’ll have private access to it. You’ll have the place all to yourselves.”
“What do you expect from us?” Sandra asked.
“I’ll pick you up for a date. Benny will pick up Cathy. You’ll probably want to introduce us to your parents. I’m sure they’d be happy to meet the boys you’re dating. In fact, I’m sure they would insist on meeting us.
“We’ll go to dinner and a movie as a double date. Then we’ll drop you at home. We can do that a couple of times before Christmas. Over the Christmas holidays, you can come up with an excuse to see us somewhere. You can go to our place and well ... what you do there is up to you.”
“Are you two homosexuals?”
“No. We’re as heterosexual as you can get.”
“So you want to have sex with us.”
“Let me put this delicately. Benny is having sex on a regular basis with a woman. Neither of them wants it known that Benny is having sex with her.”
“Benny is having an affair with a married woman?”
“I can’t answer that. It’s not my place to comment on their relationship.”
Tim felt that answer was as truthful as possible without actually answering their question. He didn’t think they’d be all that impressed if he told her that Benny was regularly sleeping with a prostitute. Most people wouldn’t be impressed. In fact, most people would be disgusted.
“What about you?”
“The woman I like isn’t interested in me at the moment. Any girls who might claim to be interested in me at the moment, are only interested in my money. Let’s be honest, the line of women wanting to date me is just one, and I want to avoid having anything to do with Stacy.”
“I don’t know,” Cathy said.
Tim slid a piece of paper across the table to Cathy. “Tomorrow is Saturday. Why don’t you tell your mothers that you are going Christmas shopping? Follow the directions on the paper. It will take you to the house we’re using as an office. Benny and I will be there from noon until five. We’ll show you around and you can come to your own decision.”
After Tim left, Sandra said, “They know.”
“There’s no way they should know.”
“Well, they do.”
“We’ve been careful.”
“Not careful enough.”
On this day, Malta became a republic.
December 14, 1974
“Benny, do you know what today is?”
“It’s your birthday.”
“Today’s the 14th?”
“Interesting. I guess I’m 17 now.”
Tim slid a package across the table. “I bought you a present.”
“You didn’t need to do that.”
Benny opened the package. It was a key chain with a large ring attached to a short leather strap embossed with a Celtic cross. Benny stared at it for a moment and then nodded his head.
“I remember. You got me a key chain for my seventeenth birthday during our first pass through life.”
“I don’t normally keep track of my birthday.”
“I know. Last year was kind of a big deal because you got your driver’s license.”
“That’s right.” Benny threaded his keys onto the ring of the new key chain. He held it up by the leather strap with the linked rings hanging down. He jingled it.
“It sounds like someone just drove up.”
Tim looked out the front window. “It’s them.”
“I guess that’s a good thing.”
“I’ll get the door.”
Sandra and Cathy were not impressed upon seeing the interior of the house. A more accurate description of their reaction was dismay. It was understandable. They were expecting a house and what they found was a construction site. Three of the walls had drywall and the forth was partially covered. There was dust all over the floor and a pile of construction material in a corner.
“This is ugly.”
“Well, yes,” Benny said. “We’re still fixing it. You should have seen it with the snakes.”
“Let me talk.”
“Sure. I’ll go in the kitchen and make hot chocolate.”
Once Benny disappeared into the kitchen, Tim said, “I know that it doesn’t look like much right now. We’re replacing the walls and the light fixtures. Next weekend, the walls will be up in every room. We might even have it all taped. After that, we can sand it and paint it. Of course, we’re going to have to wait for warmer weather to start painting.
“We finished the wall board in the kitchen and installed the stove, sink, and a cheap refrigerator. We even have a cabinet with pots, pans, plates, glasses, and silverware.”
“Interesting,” Sandra said having to bit her tongue to keep from saying something tacky.
“The bathroom is finished except for the painting. You might want to look at it. It’s that room right behind you.”
Cathy stood there trying to stare down Tim while Sandra checked out the bathroom. Tim pretended that he wasn’t aware that it was a stare down and just stood there waiting. Sandra came out of the room wide eyed. “That is beautiful.”
“We got some advice on how to mask the imperfections until the real problem can be corrected. It looks nice and it can be used. The only problem is that we are waiting for the LNG tank, heater fixtures, and the water heater to be installed. if you want hot water, we’ve got big fire ring in the back yard you can use to heat some water. It’s a little awkward, but it really works nice.
“Come into the front bedroom. This is the room we were thinking of making our office. It’s big enough for two small desks.”
Cathy looked around with a critical eye. It was a basically an empty room, except for a floor lamp. All of the walls had drywall installed, but they hadn’t been taped. She turned her back on the room. She just couldn’t see it as an office.
She went into the second bedroom. This one was nearly complete. All of the wall board was up, the gaps had been taped, and the imperfections were sanded smooth. It looked like it would be useable with just a coat of paint.
“This room looks almost done.”
“That’s the room we started with this morning.”
“What are you working on now?”
“The main room.”
“Can I help?”
Cathy and Tim went to work with Cathy holding up drywall panel with Tim nailing it in place. It was a simple install without any holes for wires or odd shapes to fit around doors or windows. There weren’t any major gaps, but it still required taping.
“Why aren’t you putting the tape like in the other room?”
“That’s Benny’s job. He’s a master at it.”
Tim put up two more pieces, having to pause to cut one of them to fit around the window. With the last piece put in place, the whole room just felt more complete. Tim went around the room double checking that all of the pieces were set correctly, and that there were no major flaws. Once Benny finished out in the kitchen, he’d start taping.
Cathy asked, “So ... how will this work?”
“Pick a room.”
“How about that one?” she asked pointing to the one that was most complete.
“It’s yours to fix up.”
“What do you mean?
“You pick a color and you paint it. You pick out the furniture you want and you place it where you want it. If you want a painting, buy it and hang it. Curtains, same thing.”
“We can’t afford to buy furniture.”
Tim went over to a box and pulled out a check book. He wrote a check and pulled it out. He said, “Here’s four hundred dollars. Decorate. Just bring back the receipts.”
Cathy looked down at the check. She couldn’t believe that Tim would just hand her that much money. She asked, “Why? Why are you doing this?”
Tim took a deep breath. He and Benny had discussed how to discuss what he knew about the future. They had decided the truth wouldn’t work, but a mystical all knowing approach would. Tim answered, “Sometimes, I can see the future. I had a vision that concerns you. It’s early February and it’s on a day that’s special to you and Sandra, maybe an anniversary or something like that.”
Cathy swallowed heavily. Their anniversary was February 4. Nobody knew that except them.
“You are in her bedroom and her mother comes in the house unexpectedly. You’re caught in such a way that there’s no denying that you two are lovers. You and Sandra are engaged in a very physical expression of love. A ten megaton bomb goes off and you flee. You’re too late to keep everything under control. By the time you make it home, Sandra’s mom has called your mother. She’s furious at you, at her lesbian daughter. Your father comes home and you get the shit beat out of you.”
“Stop it,” Cathy cried out. She knew exactly how her parents would react and Tim had nailed their reactions. Her mother, who was hateful towards her even under the best of circumstances, would have been furious. Her father would have beat her at the request of his wife.
“While you’re at home getting destroyed, Sandra is stuck facing her parents. She tries to play it off as innocent explorations that teenagers do, but her parents don’t buy it. She’s told that she’s never to see you again. Her mother is continually harping at her. Of course, Sandra still sees you.”
Cathy said, “I don’t want to hear any more.”
“It quiets down, but it’s only the calm before the storm. Then one day, you say something and your parents lose their temper. It was brutal. The first time their abuse was physical and you survived that. The second time it was psychological and they tore you from limb to limb. You committed suicide that night.”
Cathy felt her stomach drop. She moaned, “Oh, God.”
“Sandra, she’s devastated by the news. Her parents reacted by sending her to a religious boarding school. When Sandra left the school under an angry cloud, she had lost her lover, her family, and her religion. She was shell of herself for years.
“Here, you’ll be safe from discovery.”
Benny was in the kitchen preparing hot water for the instant hot chocolate. While he and Tim would kill for coffee, they were avoiding it. Their parents wouldn’t understand and they didn’t want to get back in the habit of drinking it all of the time.
Sandra watched him puttering around the kitchen effectively ignoring her.
Sandra asked, “Why do you want Cathy as a girlfriend?”
“As a fake girlfriend.”
“For Tim. He says that Cathy will die if I don’t date her and that you’ll be very unhappy. He wants you happy.”
“Do you care about Cathy?”