Once I had gotten to Charlotte, I pretty much had made up my mind about a lot of things. The most important right now was that I was going to stop here, get a room with a Hot Tub and the biggest steak dinner they had.
I pretty much had decided to find a small place on the beach or not far from it and vegetate. Like so many, my married life had come to an end. Not so much as either of us had a SO, but the marriage was just not working out as promised. Both of us had a career and both of us had a difficult time seeing the other a part of it. She was Hell bent on becoming Dr. Janet Jones(Her maiden name mind you) and I wrote songs; lyrics mostly. The divorce was the next logical step. We had been married almost 5 years. Neither of us was rich. Her parents were though and becoming a doctor seemed to make the apple in their eyes happy with or without the dolt.(Me)
She very happily went off to Bethesda, MD and me, well I decided the wet and wild South, near water would be OK for me. My two laptops, one power desktop and a dozen backup drives would allow me the freedom to roam. Now if I could only find a range and a place to live I would be all set. Get it, a 'Home on the range'. I did not expect Antelope but deer were plentiful. In my Land Cruiser were the .44 S&W Model 29, revolver and a .44 Winchester lever action rifle. I was a fair rider and up ahead, in Augusta were some of the best hunting preserves for wild hogs you could find. One day, three or a weekend would guarantee you got something, a week meant one of trophy size. My ex hated hunting so as a parting gesture I just wanted to kill something thinking it was her. Actually our parting wasn't that bad, yet it hurt my pride.
Past Columbia on 77, then US 1 ran into US 20 and a little ways South into Augusta. I intended to stay near the border then backtrack down the 95 down along the beaches in Florida. I figured having a high-speed Internet would be good but if I sold things face-to-face then a DVD seemed best.
I stopped for lunch, or as they called it dinner in Columbia. Fried chicken, smashed taters, greens, grits, sweet iced tea and biscuits with honey seemed the right way to go. When the little waitress came up again and asked me if I wanted anything else or some desert; I was going to say no. Her comment about mama's homemade peach or apple pie made that earlier decision mute. I ordered both and more biscuits and honey to go, saying I planned to go hunting and to let me know if there was any game preserves near US 1. She said she would check in back, and get me my snacks.
She came back carrying a sack that looked big enough to hold enough food for a week. "I checked, the cooks use a place up ahead. Here is the number and address, they say to ask for Zeke and tell him Billy from the diner sent you. Here are some left over stuff and I made you 2 ham sandwiches to take on the horse, you need to use a horse around here."
She handed me the bag and a bill for $9.78. That up North might have got me a coffee. I shook me head. "Hon, what's your name?"
"Mandy! Did I do something wrong, Sir?"
"Yep, can you call your mom and have her come out for a second?"
She did, and more of the boys were looking out from the door ready to come to the aid of Mandy.
A mirror image of Mandy, her hair in a bun and apron covering her sizable endowments came out. "I'm her mom, Mandy said you wanted to see me, what's wrong? If the bill is too high I'll..."
"That's part of the problem. The bill is too low, not too high. She did not charge me enough. She gave me enough food for a week, plus what must be two whole pies and ten pounds of biscuits and honey, plus told me about a great place to go hunting and sandwiches to take on the hunt. I want to know what your going to do about it, the food alone is worth $50-$60 let alone the tip about the hunting lodge? I get the feeling that if I needed a place to stay I'd be moving in at your place. Hell if I even knew your pies and those sandwiches were half as good as the chicken was I'd be begging her to stay and weigh 300 pounds soon."
"Ha, we don't get too many Yankees like you down here and I guess my little girl took a shine to you. Now I can see why! I'm Sue, Sue Styles. And I'm afraid Mandy has let her dreams come out a might. I'm sorry, Mr..."
"Pete, Peter Reynolds but just call me Pete and not late for any of that pie, Mrs. Styles. It's not often an old guy like me gets to see a girl like Mandy notice me. By the way I'm not a Damn Yankee, came from South of the Mason-Dixon and stand up for Dixie."
"Whew, I was worried for a while till I saw you. I was never into the idea of a mixed marriage. You know of course my little girl will either catch you or cry her heart out if you leave her now. She always told me she would know when she met the right man."
Damn, damn, damn, life was not fair where was this girl 5 years ago? "Sue, Mandy, I don't know what to say. You just met me, I could be an axe killer or worse, a Republican."
"That's OK Mr. Pete, just run off and leave me. I'll stop crying, my heart broken, and go on with waiting tables; so in 5 or 6 years, maybe, I'll get over losing you. It's not your problem. I'm sorry if that'll make you feel badly, but don't you worry none, I'll try to forget you, the life we could have had, our three beautiful children and the home high on top of the hill we could've shared."
"I see you studied drama in school. Was 'Gone With The Wind' your favourite film or book?"
"Both!" was her reply.
Man was I ever in trouble! I had just got out of a loveless relationship in which 5 years had been wasted, now in 1 hours some little girls says she loves me. Why me Lord, I just stopped for food. I had an idea.
"Well you are a small little thing, probably won't eat much but I'll have to see if my other three wives and 7 kids think you are strong enough to work the fields and feed the cattle and horses. You know we will be going on to Utah too, don't you?"
"I'll do anything and go anywhere you say, I love you. Is that Ok mama?"
Mama could not keep a straight face. Pretty soon she wrapped her arms around Mandy and pulled her close. "He's just joshing you girl. By the looks of him, he's as keen on the idea of being with you as you seem to be willing to do anything that man would ask. We call it 'getting hit by lightning', you can't do anything about it, it just happens. Well Mr. Pete any other bright ideas to leave this totally dumbstruck girl?"
"Yes! Can I have two aspirins and lie down anywhere, my head is pounding."
"And which head is it?"
I looked right, then left. No where did I see my heart on a sleeve, so how could she know. I had just stopped for food. There was no way in Hell that I was going to become involved with some beautiful, teenage Southern Belle. Even if, did I say she was beautiful, sorry I digress, no way in Hell. But then I remembered this was South Carolina.
"Mrs. Styles, you have to talk some sense into your daughter. Listen to what she is saying? She just met me, I could be on my way far away, married, kids, girlfriend, mistresses be a felon any number of things, please tell her she does not know what she is doing."
"Well Shakespeare, let's see, Are you Married?"
"Going far away?"
"No, but damn I could be."
"Have any girlfriend, mistress or are you a felon?"
"Do you think my daughter is serious about you?"
Deep breath, "Yes".
"Would you treat her right and keep her safe?"
"Damn, you know I would."
"Do you love her or think you could some day?"
Dust, really dusty, eyes misty now.
"Can I have like 6 aspirins now, Where's the cameras? I thought 'This Is Your Life' was off the air?"
"Mandy will take you in back to lie down. Might as well sleep until dinner, we'll take you back to the house later. Mandy you should rest up too Hon, 'we' may not be getting any ... sleep tonight!"