Monica sat in the front seat of the big dark sedan and craned her neck to look back at the small group standing watching them drive down the long gravel driveway. Junie still had one hand in the air, hanging suspended, no longer waving and her other in Happy’s collar. The half grown golden puppy was straining against the restraint, her tail wagging furiously. It was another gray misty late fall day, and the figures rapidly faded from view. She raised her hand to wave good bye one last time and then turned and faced forward.
One of the things Monica hated most about being so short was the way she had to stretch to see out of the windows of some cars. David’s big FBI issued sedan was one of those kinds of cars and Monica found herself pulling her knees up underneath her to give her some height. She looked surreptitiously over at David. He had chided her in the past about her habit of not sitting ‘right’ and that it wasn’t safe. He said that the seat belt needed to be over her hips and when she sat like that it would not work to protect her properly. Monica had pouted and said that if she had read the warnings correctly, the air bag would probably kill her anyway. David had laughed and threatened to buy her a booster seat or make her sit in the back.
But that was a long time ago, almost a lifetime ago. Monica blinked, really it had only been a few months but so much had happened that it seemed another time.
As the big car drove down the long gravel driveway, the rocks clicking and crunching under the tires, Monica’s eyes were drawn to the place where the body had lain. There were still some spray painted marks on the ground and she was pretty sure that she could see where the blood had spilled on the road. It was hard to believe it was over, that David had killed the man who had attacked her, changing her life, her heart and her body. Everything had been literally sliced apart and in many ways she did not think she would have survived if it had not been for this veteran lawman who had been sitting beside her hospital bed when she had woken up.
She looked over at the man she had consented to marry just the day before. He was lean and tan and much older than her. She did not understand completely the overwhelming compulsion to be near him, but she knew that every time she was apart from him it felt like parts of her were missing. There was a great aching void inside her and when she was separated from him she would feel this ominous ever growing sense of fear. It was like she was unfastened from the world and he was her only lifeline.
He was not wearing the dark omnipresent FBI man suit that she was so used to seeing him in. Instead he had on his worn jeans, pearl snap western shirt, and old scuffed cowboy boots that meant he was not working, but Monica knew that attached to his belt, just out of sight was his gun. She had never seen him dressed when he was not carrying his gun. It was so much a part of his daily ritual that she hardly noticed it anymore. Yesterday, when he had proposed and she had said yes, he told her that he was retiring from his position as an FBI agent. She wondered if once he was officially no longer with the FBI if he would stop wearing it. He drove with one hand resting on the console gear shift lever and on impulse she reached over and laid her smaller hand over his.
He looked over at her and asked, “You okay?”
“Yeah, I guess so. It is just that so much has happened and I don’t know what is going to happen next.”
“Pretty girl, we get to decide exactly what happens next.” He took her hand and gave it a squeeze, “The only thing on my list is that I have to turn this car in to the FBI head quarters and then we need to rent a car. Or we could buy one. In the long run, it would probably be cheaper to buy a car. I have a pickup truck back at my house in Louisiana, but you will need to have a car of your own too, I guess. What kind of car do you think you would like?”
Monica felt a tremble of confusion at the question. It was a harbinger of so many decisions that needed to be made and she did not feel up to thinking about any of them. “Oh I don’t know. I never was a very good driver. I have a license but I have not driven a car in over a year.” On impulse she grinned and then giggled, “I want a car I can see out of.”
“Well I have plenty of money in savings, I haven’t had much in the way of personal expenses the last year or so. Let’s get something comfortable.” David looked over at her, “Pretty girl, I really want to take you to Louisiana. I have family there and I do have a house. I haven’t spent much time there in the last few years. It was more Irene’s house than mine and I just hung onto it so I would have a place to go if I ever needed.
Monica knew his wife had died of breast cancer quite a few years ago and that he had pretty much buried himself in his work after that. “Sure I guess so.”
David nodded, “We will only be there long enough to get the house ready to sell and meet the family.” He looked over at the tiny blond girl, “What I really want is to build a place on my property in East Texas. I want to raise horses.”
“I don’t know anything about horses.” Monica’s voice was small and shy. “But if it’s what you want…” She did not finish the sentence. A growing feeling that she had somehow forced herself into his life and that she had no right to question any of these decisions kept her questions at bay. That and the fact that she had no idea what she wanted.
David seemed unaware of her uncertainty, “Oh, you will love them. I will teach you everything you need to know. I grew up on a horse ranch and I always knew I would do this once I retired.” Monica knew it was important to him. She had listened to him talk about his dream many times before.
She tentatively nodded, “It seems like so much to think about.”
“Am I moving too fast for you?”
“I don’t know. I know I want this. It just seems kind of overwhelming.”
David’s voice turned serious, “Pretty girl, I am running on pure adrenaline. You think you feel overwhelmed. I am pretty much feeling the same way. I think my way of dealing with it is by trying to plan it all out and get a sense of what to expect. If I start to stampede over the top of you just hold up your hand and say whoa.”
Monica smiled as his southern accent deepened. She whispered softly, “Whoa.”
“Yes, Pretty Girl?”
“Let’s not worry about all that now. Let’s just get a car, you decide if we want to buy or rent. I want to stop by my Mom’s house and get some stuff so there should be room for some suitcases. It’s a long way to Louisiana; we can talk about horses and ranches on the ride down.”
“Sounds like a good plan. I am sort of looking forward to being able to talk to your mother in a purely unprofessional manner.”
Monica thought back to the last time she had seen her mother. She grinned ruefully to think that she had attacked her mother, slapping her in her face and snarling like an angry little animal. “I had almost forgotten about that. You know she is really wasn’t always horrible. It seemed like she sort of snapped when I got attacked. I think she somehow blamed herself and then started to blame me. She could not get past that. She was pretty wild as a younger woman. She never even knew who my father was. She kind of overreacted to that and tried somehow to keep me from ‘turning into a whore’. Her words not mine. When I got hurt, and she found out what kind of bad decisions I had been making, she just tried to control me more. She did it because she loved me. She was all I had.” Monica turned to David, “Please don’t make her feel too bad. I am really all she has. And I do love her.”
“Pretty girl, if you want it, I will be civil, but if she starts to call you names, we will be leaving. Nobody talks to my wife like that.”
Monica giggled at his words, “I am not your wife yet.”
“Sooner than you think, Pretty Girl, I am not the sort of man to drive across this country with an unmarried woman.”
Monica felt a little rush of fear at the idea of being married. Her voice squeaked, “Soon?”
His voice was nervous, “I made some phone calls. I have a friend in the courthouse. They got a waiver on the waiting period. He will line up a couple of witnesses and a justice of the peace.”
Monica gasped, “I don’t have anything to wear!”
“Pretty girl, you can have a white dress and a big church once we get to Louisiana but like I told you before, I am an old fashioned man and I am not going to sleep with you until we are married.”
Monica felt her mouth go dry, a tiny tremble of fear coursed through her. It was not so much fear that he would hurt her; it was more fear that somehow she would panic or not be able to have sex. The doctors said that her reconstructive surgery was successful and there was no reason she could not engage in intercourse but there was a lot of scar tissue. She had not even masturbated since she had been assaulted.
She remembered Junie’s words to her, that if she wanted it, she would find a way. Junie said to talk about it and be gentle and it would work out just fine. Monica’s voice was soft and tentative, “David?”
“Yes, Pretty Girl?”
“I am pretty afraid about that.”
“Um… no… afterwards.”
He looked over at her and saw her lips trembling, and pulled the car over to the side of the road. “Pretty girl, we have all the time in the world to work that out. I did not expect you to rush into that.”
“I’m sorry. I want to… I mean I want you to… but it’s just I don’t know if I can.” A soft sob bubbled up and she sniffed. “I’m afraid that I will not be good enough.”
He reached across the console and awkwardly tried to put his arms around her. “Don’t cry; you are not the only one worried about being good enough. I haven’t been with a woman in longer than I care to mention. I had thought that part of my life was behind me. Now I have a beautiful young woman who is going to be my wife. Let’s just take our time with this one too. It will be better if we don’t try to make it happen.”
Monica slipped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his, tentatively reaching to touch his mouth with the shy tip of her tongue and then pulled away, an impish glint in her shiny wet eyes. “Okay.”
He gave her a quick kiss on her nose and then pulled away, and put the car in gear. “I think we will have fun reinventing that wheel.”