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Chapter 2

KATE ONLY KNEW ANECDOTES — sterilized stories of

outings. The persistence of hard times hadn‟t precluded all
fun happenings for her family. But, those were all that were
shared. She‟d been sheltered from early segments of their
scandal. Fading legacies of grief and loneliness masqueraded
as might in hardworking men and women. She‟d heard
rumors. Still, she‟d rejected shrill declarations of
authenticity. Glory assured her daughter some girls‟ jealousy
spurred their attacks. They solely endeavored to hurt her
feelings, Kate consciously gleaned. Their efforts often worked
— despite enlightenment and sage advice.
The so-called cutest boy in school was allegedly in love
with the daughter of a brazen floozy. Young accusers had no

proof of her mother‟s misconduct. However, their parents‟

word was good enough. Generations, entertained by their
disgrace, had no effect on Alex‟s selection of a teenage
girlfriend. Kate‟s beauty rivaled her mother‟s. Only doubts
and downplaying reduced her physical status amongst the
who‟d supplied her traits as possible. She had no educational
aspirations beyond high school. She wanted to be a musician.
That much she knew. The old guitar her mother had given
her hadn‟t collected much dust. She‟d taught herself to play
— at least, that‟s how she recalled it. Glory‟s sessions had
been discounted. Calloused fingertips upstaged the patient
instructor who‟d encouraged her gift.
Kate wanted to get married. Hovering hopefuls had
given up on her becoming single. None would come forward
and put their intentions on the table. They sat back, waiting.
Once Alex proposed — and Kate accepted — they quietly did
some asking of their own. Settling for second choices, some
got engaged. Others went to college.
But, Alex stayed in town. His golden years, he feared,
were already disappearing behind him. No football
scholarships had come his way. Still, he knew he had a bride.
He‟d staked his claim. And he was free to do as he liked until

the two were betrothed and beyond, he told himself. He saw

no double standard. In his mind, only lack of opportunity
separated his lady from being a whore.
A blue flyer rustled, caught on the roof of Kate‟s old
fort. The dilapidated structure was more eyesore than shelter.
Dirt floors provided foundation for aging memories and
childhood revelries — which were rarely interrupted by angry,
adult directives. Now, the ground seemed unforgiving. What
youthful eyes had accepted as fields of flowers and skies of
glimmering stars met with evident resistance. The floor was
uncomfortable. The rooftop was a collapsing hazard. Kate‟s
stronghold — built for a person half her size — offered little
consolation. The anxious fiancée wished for her father to
walk her down the aisle.
Enjoying the show, Billy rooted for his friend to finish
the fight by pummeling Toby into unconsciousness.
“Nah, man. He‟s had enough. Stop,” Joe warned.
Having said the words at a respectable volume, he hesitated
as he stepped forward.
“I‟d say that‟s up to me.” Alex almost grinned. His fury
stifled any attempts of his lips to curl.
Toby had made a mistake by calling his adversary a
drunken bully. His second lapse in judgment involved rising

to his feet and balling his bantam fists. Alex was a

heavyweight. And he enjoyed playing with his prey. A
confrontation was welcome. It reminded the other patrons to
mind their Ps and Qs — even if Alex didn‟t reciprocate. So as
not to disappoint, Alex punched his languishing opponent
“Piece of crap.” Lainie congratulated the victor with a
kiss on his cheek. The beer — spilled on her blouse during
the scuffle — had been nearly forgotten. The hem of her skirt
barely hid her brand-new, black G-string. The $5.99, flimsy
tank top she‟d worn that night clung to her skin and was
translucent. She made no effort to cover up.
“I bet he won‟t mess with you no more,” Billy
exclaimed. Being a part of Alex‟s posse had its perks. Some
people feared him. Since he hadn‟t, in his twenty-four years,
obtained the majority‟s respect, he was happy to settle for
whatever he could get.
Struggling to his feet, Toby half-ran, half-staggered to his
Buick. Zigzagging footsteps took twice the time to arrive at
their destination. Relieved, Joe took a deep breath — then
hoped it hadn‟t been noticed. “What an asshole,” he chimed
in for everyone‟s approval.
“If you ask me, you shoulda hit him again,” Lainie
added, slipping an arm around Alex‟s waist.
He kissed her. “Nobody asked you,” he responded.

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