Chapter 1

February 1960

It was Monday evening with my sister, Shelly, who was following me around after cleaning up supper dishes, telling me that I'd better get a date for Saturday. She knew who my choice would be and also knew that I would rather stay home than have to ask someone out.

"Stop nagging me," I yelled at my sister, who had been harassing me about not having a date for the Valentine's Day dance at the VFW hall for a couple of weeks. She didn't have a date either, for all I knew. The only people I knew who really had a date for the dance were Mom and Dad. They always went to the dance, always had almost too much firewater, and always made a spectacle of themselves by the way they so suggestively danced by the end of the evening.

I really wanted to ask a neighbor girl who really flipped my switch, but I figured she was probably being asked by half the male population in the county. Janet really had it all as far as I was concerned. Nice build, great smile, and beautiful fire red hair, but she always complained that she was covered with what I thought were some of the sweetest freckles there could be.

Shelly, my sister, was right back in my face, "Call her; you know who I mean, ask her out to the dance. I'll bet you'll get a date. Don't be afraid. You've been sweet on her all your life. You're the talk of the girls because you're good looking, a good student, you dress nice, you have a job, and you have your own car that you earned yourself. I'm sure glad you have your own car so that I get to drive the old one all the time now. Anyway, call her."

I had to use the phone that was on the wall in the kitchen to make a call if I did that. I probably should drive over there and ask her, but doing it over the phone would be easier except that Dad was reading the paper at the table, and Mom was making a cake. We didn't hide anything from each other anyway, so I went to the phone, lifted the receiver, listened to make sure no one was on the party line, and then turned the crank to ring the operator. I could just use the crank to ring the right cadence if I knew the Kennedys' ring because they were on our party line.

The lady from the telephone company said, "Number, please?" I said, "I want to call the Kennedys, Shirley."

Shirley was in my class at school and worked at the telephone company three nights a week, the same place I worked three times a week on one of my jobs.

Shirley asked, "Is that you, Tommy? Are you going to ask Janet to the Valentine dance? I'll bet she's waiting for you to call. Let me ring their phone for you."

There are no secrets in a small community. You called one of the neighbors that spend all their time listening to others talk on the phone if you don't know something. The girls at school talked a lot too, of course.

Janet's older sister, June, answered the phone and asked, "Is that you, Harold? I've been waiting for you to call."

"Hate to disappoint you, June, but this is Tom Martin; I want to talk to Janet please."

The Kennedys had a pile of kids who could be anywhere in their big old house. The easiest way to find someone was to yell, but Mr. Kennedy didn't like the yelling. June didn't think and yelled, "Come to the phone, Janet; Tommy Martin is on the phone for you."

I heard Mr. Kennedy ask 'Why didn't the boy just drive over here? He has his own car.'

Someone answered him, but I couldn't make out what was said.

Janet's voice said, "Hi, Tommy, it's nice that you called."

I was in full terror mode now. "Ah, ah, Janet."

"Yes, Tommy?"

"I'd like to take you to the Valentine dance at the VFW Saturday night. Will you go with me?"

There was long pause before Janet said, "Let me ask Mom and Dad. I heard her address her parents who were like mine and in the kitchen, probably drinking coffee and chatting like my mom and dad."

Janet's voice said, "Daddy wants to know why you didn't drive over here to ask me. He wants to know if you're afraid of him."

Mr. Kennedy was someone to be afraid of as he was a giant of a man. I knew he was a gentle person because none of the kids ever talked about him smacking his wife or any of the kids around.

My answer to Janet was, "No, I'm afraid to talk in front of people sometimes. I can do that if you want me to come ask you in person."

"Do that and I'll bet he'll let me go, Tommy."

This was silly because Janet and I were both seniors at the high school, and most of the girls already had steady boyfriends and considered that the same as being engaged. I probably knew that half the class, if not more, would be married by August. I'm almost surprised he didn't have Janet standing at the court house doors with a sign that says 'marrying age'. The Kennedy girls were slow at getting married. June had been out of school since last year, had a town job, but was really engaged with a ring and all to Harold Burlew who was working his folks' and grandparents' farms. Their wedding was planned for April so that they would beat all the school graduates to the church.

I told my Dad, "I'm going to the Kennedys to ask Janet to the Valentine dance. Want to go with me to visit?"

Dad smiled and said, "I'm good. Say hi to Bev and Clint for us."

The weather was mild as it usually was by February, so I didn't even bother with a jean jacket. I sat in my prized procession, a '47 Chevrolet 4-door Town Sedan. It had been Mr. Juengels car, but his widow couldn't drive when he passed, so I made her a deal that I would keep her garden ready for the seasons and do the heavy chores around the house, as well as drive her to the grocery store a couple of times a month. They had an old Ford pickup too, but that needed to stay in their barn to haul stuff. She had a lot of chickens that she sold for fryers and also sold eggs. I think she had enough money, but it made her feel good to bring in a little extra money for the house. She liked young beef, so she always had a young steer that she butchered at just over a year old, long before most people would. She sold half the meat to the butcher and kept the good parts in her big chest freezer. She would bring me a couple of hamburgers on homemade bread if I worked at her place all day. She loved to dress the burgers up with onions, cheese, pickles, and dripping with catsup. The woman was a sweetheart, but was a very lonely lady. I called every Sunday morning to see if she would go to church with us or me, and she always declined. There were always several widowers at church who would have shown some interest if she had gone.

Anyway, I drove my car to the Kennedys' and parked right up under the bright as day electric lamp of the big yard light they had. I wasn't even out of the car before Janet came running out to the car to greet me. She surprised me and hugged me. Now that's pretty forward. I must have blushed as she said, "Your face matches my hair. Wait till we get inside and ask me to the dance in front of Mom and Dad."

I'd do just that if my mouth and vocal cords coordinated enough to get it out. My first problem was looking past Mrs. Kennedy. That would be Beverly Kennedy, who was a strikingly beautiful, full-bodied, and full-breasted redhead. You just had to know that Janet was going to look just like her after a few kids and some years.

Clint was sitting with an amused smile on his face when we walked into the typical farm kitchen with the big table. He had a newspaper folded around so he could read what he wanted, but sat ready for the entertainment. Bev was busily making bread dough and putting chunks of it into baking pans to rise. A half-dozen kids had to come in to see what was going on and to tease Janet. Clint shooed them all out and they went back to books and games while listening to the radio in the living room.

I was still standing as was Janet, but she had the biggest grin you'll ever see. My mouth and brain had to make a deal to get it out once again. "Ah, ah, Janet, will you go to the Valentine's Day Dance with me this next Saturday?"

Right on cue, Janet said, "I'll have to ask my mom and dad." Keep in mind this was right in front of both parents.

Big ole' Clint rustled his paper and said, "That ought to be alright as long as you follow some rules."

Uh oh! Now there are rules.

"You show up here dressed nice. Your car has to be clean and full of gas; I'll check. You two don't go off with any of those town kids. You can go all the way to the Junction for something to eat after the dance. No drinking liquor. Come home here and pour out of my jug if you two want to do that. Be sure to watch the time because you have to do chores in the morning, Tom. Stay out of the back seat of that big car and be careful while you're smooching when you get here."

Who would believe this guy's rules? Mrs. Kennedy said, "I think my dad said about the same thing to Clint almost twenty years ago. Janet knows all about the rules, so you two have fun and enjoy yourselves. Clint and I don't want any rushed weddings when you graduate."

Janet and I blushed, but Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy were smiling at each other while lost in their memories.

We went out to my car and were standing facing each other. Janet said, "I've been waiting for you to ask me. Mom knew I wanted you to ask, and she said Dad was the same when they began dating and was embarrassed to come to her house and ask in front of Grandpa. It worked out as you can see."

Janet moved against me and kissed me lips to lips. This shy girl wasn't acting shy and held my hips to her as she pushed me harder against my car. I was ready to faint dead away by the time we finished kissing, and I think I had a wet dream right there and then. Janet took a step back and licked her lips as she ran her hand across the front of my jeans. She grinned real big and asked, "Do you know how to dance?"

Oops. "Not really. My sister and I try to dance to some of our mom's records and Mom shows us some dance steps. I'll make her teach me more this week so it will at least look like we know what we're doing. We'll have a good time anyway."

Janet looked at me with her coy, kittenish look and said, "We'll go for a ride in your car and do what I know we'll be good at if we don't dance well."

Did my dream girl and dream date just say that to me?

Janet leaned into me with the full body press again, and said, "We probably shouldn't get crazy, but I think the two of us are a good fit. We've been friends all our lives. We sit on the bus together every day when you ride, and always sit together in church. We're both hard workers and both know how to farm. We won't get caught, but I'd love to be your wife if we did."

Well, what the heck. I kissed Janet one more time and sent her inside. It took me a minute or so to settle down before I could start the car and head home. It was late enough that Dad had gone to bed and the kids were upstairs, probably in bed too, when I got home. Mom told me to get some milk or some of the old coffee and sit with her. The matriarch of the family settled in her chair and patted me on the arm, "You're just about to be out on your own making your way in our society, Son, working and playing in the big world that's out there."

My mom smiled, and said, "Janet is ready for something you might not have thought about. She's ready for you two to connect like lovers, like husband and wife. She wants to feel that love and feel those emotions. I have to tell you that all those things feel wonderful to a woman, Tommy. I still feel them with your father, but we shouldn't have more kids. We just get those feelings now and know that it's our love that gives us those great goosebumps. Janet's been waiting for you for a lot of years, but you're always busy. She knows you will be a good provider and wants to stake her claim. She's willing to do whatever is necessary to keep you two together. You be careful and know what you should and shouldn't do. There's a lot you can do that won't get her pregnant. I hope her mom has been teaching her."

I told my mother, "It shouldn't be all for me. I want to give her pleasure too if she is going to give me pleasure. Can you tell me how to do that?"

Mom grinned and said, "Follow me and I'll let your father show you."

We spent over an hour with Dad showing me how he pleasures Mom without pushing into her. Mom demonstrated how she makes Dad have those great feelings using her hands and mouth. I used my hand to relieve the pressure three times when I finally went to bed. Watching your parents give each other pleasure should be required as part of a life preparation class.

I had to drive my car to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays as those were evenings I worked the telephone company switchboard. I only worked until ten and then the night person came on. Two people alternated from ten PM until six AM every night. The two dayshift people began at six and worked until three. There were two people on week days and only one on weekend days. My weekend shift was usually from noon to ten at night either Saturday or Sunday. Mrs. Burk was going to work the day shift Saturday and Sunday this week, because of Valentine's Day and the dance.

I wouldn't have to work, but I wouldn't get paid either.

Mom made me put on my Sunday suit to make sure I wasn't outgrowing it on Wednesday evening. Everything fit. Shelly had to try the dress Mom had bought at the thrift shop on so that she could take it up in the waist and give it some more room for Shelly's growing chest. I found out that she was going to the dance with one of my classmates. It wasn't unusual for a senior to go out with a junior girl. What was unusual was the senior was a town kid, and Shelly was a farm girl. There was usually catty talk about that kind of arrangement. The senior Shelly was going with had a fifty-five Oldsmobile that was a very slick car. His family was one of the wealthier families in town. He seemed okay since I knew him around school, but you do look at him different if a guy like that is going to date your sister. He was the son of the local telephone company owner who was Mrs. Burk's brother and Morris was Mrs. Burk's nephew. The telephone lines were burning up Thursday night with the kids calling each other to see who was going to the dance with whom, and which girls the others thought would end up pregnant. I heard how the consensus was that Shelly would end up pregnant, but the guy wouldn't be around because he was going to college. I was also surprised that it seemed like the consensus was that Janet would get pregnant and us marrying on Memorial Day. I knew better, and felt like a lot of people would be surprised.

I even talked to Janet about what I had heard when I drove her home from school on Friday. We agreed that we were not going to let our interest in each other get out of hand. I wondered if I could resist if we were to get that far.

I knew I needed some things for Saturday and the Valentine's dance, so I was making excuses to go to town. Dad wanted to ride with me so the two of us went to the five and dime store to get Valentine cards and a couple of those small heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. The grocery store had some fresh flowers, so I got some for Janet and some for Shelly. I made Dad get chocolates for Mom, and I got some for Shelly when I bought Janet's.

It was time, and I was dressed in my suit with shined shoes, tie straight, flowers, card, and chocolates ready.

Clint and Bev met me upon my arrival at the Kennedy farm, all dressed up and ready to go to one of the big dances of the year. Clint said, "Your dad is coming by to pick us up so we can all ride to the dance together." I tried to remember, and it did seem like the two couples went to the dances together all the time anyway.

I was so shocked and fascinated when Janet made her appearance that I just stood in front of her with my mouth open. I finally got out, "You're beautiful, Janet. Here are some flowers to make you even more beautiful, and a card. There's some candy for you to enjoy too."

Janet didn't kiss me because she had some bright red lipstick on that may not have been blotted enough. I was okay with that. She wore an emerald green dress with red hearts sewn to the skirt. I couldn't get over that this was a girl who wanted us to get together for the big time. I was smiling as I realized Janet wanted me to be her husband and father of her children. Wow, that was a lot to think about.

I escorted Janet out to my car and put her in the passenger seat, where she scooted over to sit next to me. I couldn't get completely behind the wheel when I got in, because of where Janet was sitting. Who cares, because the car had a column shift and I had a steering wheel knob to make the heavy turns with one hand.

We drove slowly, talking about school and the last few months we had left. We talked about going on to college, but it was just talk. We knew that we were destined to be farmers with a city job to help to make ends meet until we had property that was supporting us. I asked Janet, "You're thinking way ahead. Am I being slow to not think the way you do?"

Janet said, "I want to get married tomorrow, but I know we need to wait. I want to wait until all those who have to get married get it done. We'll do it later and enjoy each other for a while before we begin making babies. Is this scaring you, Tommy?"

"Sure, but not really. I've always somehow thought we might get together. I guess you did too. We'll make a good couple."

The dance was everything the two of us wanted it to be. I checked on Shelly a couple of times and she seemed okay, but her guy was always gone talking to the bunch of braggarts he hung out with. I danced with my sister, Mom, and Bev, Janet's mom. Dad danced with Sis, Janet, and Bev, while Clint danced with all the girls.

The parents decided to go there too when I said I thought Janet and I would go for some breakfast at the Junction. We couldn't find Shelly, so Janet, June, Bev, and Mom went on the hunt inside, while Dad, Clint, Harold, and I went around looking in the cars in the parking area.

We heard a muffled scream toward the edge of the parking area, and went that way fast. Morris Betterman, the guy Shelly went to the dance with was standing over her face with his pecker out of his pants jerking on it. Two guys were holding her arms and two guys were holding her legs. Jimmy Crown was trying to get her pink panties off her for a sixth guy, John Mosely, who was standing there stroking his hardon to stab her.

The sight of what was happening was enough to turn four farmers into a very enraged group. Clint grabbed two of the guys and slammed them together. I hit Shelly's date so hard that I broke a finger, but he lost most of his upper teeth, along with a broken nose. Dad and Harold accounted for the other three. We were standing over the boys when the county Sheriff rolled up and began hollering that we men were beating up on six of the bigger high school boys.

Dad pointed to Shelly, whose dress was torn and one of her eyes was swollen, and asked, "So these boys who were going to rape Shelly don't have to stand for what they did?"

"Oh, shit," the Chief said, as he herded the six big boys into the back of his Ford police car. Dad warned the Chief, "Don't let those boys go, because I want them charged with assault and attempted rape."

Mom, Bev, June, and Janet came out to the parking lot and saw what was happening about this time. Mom wanted to use the Chief's gun to even the score for Shelly. The Chief left with the boys in his car when the yelling stopped, and Mom, Dad, Clint, and Bev were ready to take Shelly home. I looked at Shelly and realized she could repair her dress enough to go eat, and asked, "Come on, Everyone. Let's go to the Junction for breakfast and then get home at a reasonable hour."

That's what we did. We all had a great breakfast with a lot of laughter and happy talk. Shelly was over her scare, thankful that the problem didn't get more out of hand before Dad and the rest of us found her. Janet and I took Shelly home, and then I took Janet toward her house. We stopped at the edge of an empty pumpkin and melon field, and sat looking at each other. We kissed for a long while and then I decided to take Janet home. We parked in her yard, but the big light wasn't on. We began kissing again and did a lot of whispering of what we might want to do. Our holding each other and kissing put us to sleep. The two of us were wrapped in each other's arms when Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy knocked on the side window. Janet and I woke with a start, blushing although our clothes were all where they should be. Janet got out of the car and Clint shook my hand when I got out. Bev hugged me, and Janet came back around the car and whispered, "Today is now the fourteenth, so we have all day to enjoy lover's day."

The four of us laughed in anticipation of what we might do on this day.

I knew I had to get home for chores and get ready for church. I hurried through doing what had to be done at home and brought a jug of milk in. I called Mrs. Juengels to ask her if I could pick her up for church, but she said her usual piece about the church would crumble if she were to go in. I told her the same thing I always said, "I'll hold it up for us to enjoy a prayer, a song, and a sermon."

I told Dad that I was going to take my car so I could bring Janet home, and that the two of us might go walking after Sunday dinner. Mom told me then that we were having the Kennedys' eat with us, so it should be fun.

Well shoot, I wanted Janet and me to have some special time together, but I suppose we would have the rest of our lives for that.

We migrated to the big sanctuary to sit in almost pre-assigned seats after Sunday school. I sat next to my sister, who sat next to Mom, who sat next to Dad. Just like every Sunday since the two of us were probably three years old, Janet sat on my left, next to her Dad, with her mother next to him, and then the rest of the Kennedy kids.

Nothing had changed since we were three because Janet's hand slid into mine as soon as we sat. How did we begin this? Janet was holding my hand and her dad's. I held Janet's and Shelly's hands. It was right then that I realized Janet and I had been meant for each other all our lives. I was the one who had never put it together. We sat like this every Sunday, feeling those things you're supposed to feel in church. My eyes began watering as I listened to the preacher talking about eternal love. I wondered if Dad or the giant Mr. Kennedy had those same feelings.

As is typical after the final hymn and prayer, people gathered outside in groups to talk about someone's new baby, a new calf that was born, and how someone who had been sick was.

That's when we heard two big engines rev and whine and then tires spinning on gravel. The big Oldsmobile driven by Shelly's date, Morris Betterman, from last night was fishtailing through the parking lot aimed right at my Chevy. I watched as the bigger car slammed into my car and pushed it into a pickup truck. Another of that group, the son of the Ford dealer, John Moseley, was tearing across the gravel parking area and slammed into the Oldsmobile before smashing the cars into each other. I was standing with my mouth open when someone yelled, "Janet and Shelly are in Tommy's car."

That's when I ran to the wreckage of my car. I smelled smoke and tried to pull Janet from the front seat. She was wedged in. I tried to move Shelly and she was between the front and the back seat.

Clint hollered, "Get a chain; we have to pull the cars apart." People were running back and forth to bring something that would help. The preacher held his hand on my shoulder and said a prayer."

There was still smoke, but no flames. I leaped onto the wrecked hood of the car and pulled the unbroken glass from the frame. Clint was using all his strength to bend the seat away from Shelly, while Dad and another farmer were carefully removing her from the car.

A State Police car showed up, and then another and another. They kept asking the parishioners to move their cars so they had room. An ambulance that was an old Cadillac hearse with a couple of firemen in it arrived. The fire trucks arrived, and Janet was barely alive when they loaded her next to Shelly and took off with a State Police car leading the way.

I had one brief moment with Janet as I said, "I love you, Janet, we'll be together soon." Mom, Dad, Clint, and Bev left for the hospital in one car and Clint told me, "Get the kids home. The food's at your house, so take all of them there."

That's when a State Trooper pulled up with the Sheriff I think he didn't want to be any part of law enforcement at that moment.

The other boys who had been involved in Shelly's attack were standing together laughing and joking. The Sheriff took a Trooper with him and they were able to gather the boys together. "You boys are still charged with assault and attempted rape. You are now charged with attacking me and breaking jail." The only comment was, "Like that was so hard."

A man came running up to the boys and told them, "Don't say anything."

The Sheriff finally said, "And now for what you've just done, you are under arrest for the murder of Morris Betterman and John Moseley. You'll be part of that too if Janet Kennedy or Shelly Martin dies. You boys better get on your knees and do some praying. I think we're going to have hanging."

The man who had run up to us said, "You can't be serious. The boys were just having a little fun and it got out of hand." There was a lot of loud discouraging comments from those that heard what the man had said.

Billy Joe came with his tow truck and patted me on the shoulder. That car is done. Do you want anything from it?"

I went to the car and found Janet's and Shelly's small purses. There were shoes there too, so I brought them. I had the sickest feeling I've ever had as I carried everything to the Kennedy station wagon.

The ride home was very somber with the kids not knowing how to feel. They were all scared that their sister would die. These were farm kids and knew that death was forever. I drove home fighting the tears that wanted to roll down my face. A few did, as I'm sure were also on the kids' faces.

The girls all hurried to put dinner on the table once home. Our appetites weren't as good as normal, but the kids were fed. I told the Kennedy kids, "Let's go to your house, and let you put regular clothes on. You kids need to stay with us until your folks get here. Make sure you hang your Sunday clothes up."

We were on our way back to our house ten minutes later.

I rang the operator on the phone and asked Mrs. Burks, "Have you heard anything yet? I promise not to bug you, but I have the Kennedy kids at my house and we want to know how Shelly and Janet are doing."

Mrs. Burks said, "I've been getting calls from just about everyone to find out how they all are. I'll call you right away if I hear anything, Tommy. According to the Sheriff, the State Police took those other four boys to Melbourne where a state jail is. That Jimmy Crown kid, whose father is the big shot lawyer, has been charged with resisting arrest, assault on police officers, attempted escape, and attempted murder of his father. Can you believe that boy could do all that?"

"I can believe it after last night, Mrs. Burks."

June and Harold were with us, and I had June look at my hand that was swollen. She determined I had a broken finger, found a wooden Popsicle stick, and wrapped it. Her pulling on the finger and just straightening it out helped the pain. We searched the kitchen drawer for Aspirin, and I took two when we found them.

Dad called about five and told me that Shelly is going to recover, but she has a broken arm and leg. Janet is still in really bad shape, but the doctors say she has a chance to recover. She hasn't recovered consciousness yet. We're coming home. I don't think you could get here before they closed for visitors tonight, but take off school tomorrow and come over. You can use our car and drive your mom. She wants to come over in the morning. You know how she hates to drive."

"Come home, Dad. All the kids are still here. June and Harold are here too."

Mom got on the phone and told me to cut up the roast for some sandwiches that will take care of the kids. June helped me and had the food on the table so the kids could eat. I was also hungry by then, but ran out to do the chores before I ate. The cow would have a fit if I didn't milk her near her regular time.

The folks all arrived around six and sat down to eat. June explained that we didn't eat much for dinner, so that was why so much food was left. Dad said, "We'll go to the city and check to see what the Chevy store has to offer. I don't think we want to go to the Ford store until they get over losing a kid. Your insurance will pay for most of your car, but it was in such good condition they won't pay you what its worth."

"The Juengels' old truck is in decent condition so it can go to the grain elevator and into the city if necessary, Dad. That might be a quick answer."

Dad said, "Use your mom's car for now. Shelly isn't going to be driving for six weeks or more. You can put it into good shape for when she begins driving again."

"When do think Shelly will be home? I'll get her lessons for her so that she won't fall behind. Tell me how you feel about Janet?"

Bev Kennedy looked at me and said, "We don't know, Tommy. They thought she was going to die, but she's held on. She isn't awake, but she's alive. Can I ride in with you and your mom tomorrow?"

"No need to ask, Mrs. Kennedy. Janet and I decided we wanted to get married, but not until next year if we can wait. I think she wants to get married on Valentine's Day." I said this with tears streaming down my face. Clint wrapped his big arm around me and hugged me. No words were necessary.

The Kennedys left to go home. Harold and June were still there, and June told Mom to have my hand looked at. It felt pretty good and most of the swelling had gone down. Harold told me, "Grandpa's old Ford is in pretty good condition, and he can't drive anymore. It isn't as new looking as your Chevy was, but come look at it. I know he'll give you a good deal to get it out of the barn."

I thanked Harold for the lead on a car and walked them to his car.

I got back out when I was in bed that night, and knelt next to it with my folded hands on the bed, "God, help Janet and my sister. I hope you forgive those two boys who are probably on their knees at your gates. Help the others as well, but teach them how to live and respect others. God, please help my Janet and keep her comfortable. Thank you for trying to keep her for me. Amen."

I got back into bed just in time for Mom to walk into my room and tell me that what I just did was how I could help Janet. My loving mother hugged me, kissed my forehead, and patted me on the shoulder as she left the room.

Monday morning was chores first, then dressing in clean clothes that I would normally wear to school. Mom was ready to go, so we used the family fifty-five Chevy sedan. We stopped by the Kennedys', and Clint hugged me before telling me, "We're all praying for her. Call if you need me."

It was less than thirty miles to the hospital, which was about the same distance as the school buses traveled to take us to school. We parked and went into the hospital where Mom and Janet checked on the two girls' condition. Shelly was probably close to being released to go home, but Janet was still unconscious. We went to see Shelly, and the first thing out of her mouth was, "Did you go see Janet?"

She said, "Go, she needs to hear your voice," when I said no. "It may not wake her up, but it will make her feel better."

Bev and I went to Janet's room, and I was shocked to see how her head was all wrapped up, along with her arms. I wanted to touch her, but couldn't make up my mind where. A nurse came in and recognized my problem and removed the mask that covered her nose and mouth. She smiled at me and nodded. I leaned down to Janet and gently kissed her on the lips. She moaned which made me almost frantic that I had hurt her. The nurse said, "Let me get the new kind of oxygen input for the nose. You can kiss her if you want to that way. From the sound she made, I think she wants to wake up to be with you."

The nurse was gone a few seconds and returned with something that draped across Janet's ears and set in her nostrils. The nurse assured me she was getting all the oxygen she needed.

Janet had tubes and IVs in both arms. She had two of them in her right arm. I stood looking at her and remembered how she was crumpled up between the front seat and the center dash. I wondered how either girl lived through the collisions. Why would someone do something so stupid? Why would Morris destroy his precious '55 Oldsmobile two door hardtop? I knew it had been his dad's car but still, it wasn't old and was the ultimate big date car."

I thought the same about John Moseley, but he had always been the spoiled brat kid of Moseley Ford. For either of the two to wreck their cars was crazy. Well Betterman literally lost his head from the first or second impact, and Moseley was impaled on the steering shaft of his year old Ford.

I sat holding Janet's hand for a long, long time, trying to project my loving thoughts to her. Bev finally brought me out of my trance, and said, "We need to get some lunch. Give her a kiss and tell her you'll be back shortly."

We both gave Janet a kiss, but her lips curled into a smile when I kissed her and said 'I love you' this time. That gave me hope.

We went to a local café that probably lived off hospital employees and people with a patient inside. Mom was telling me that the doctor would look at Shelly later today and decide whether or not to send her home. He had previously indicated that he thought she needed to be in the hospital at least another day, maybe two. I told Mom how Janet had moaned when I kissed her, and then how she smiled when I kissed her again before we left. Bev had found out that Janet probably had a concussion, along with everything else. The doc told Bev that Janet wouldn't have lived if she hadn't been so healthy.

Mom and Bev decided we could stay another couple of hours, and we should then go home. Mom said, "You need to figure out what you're going to do about school and work."

The last kiss almost brought a smile from Janet once again, as well as a slight squeeze of my hand. I told Janet, "I'll be here tomorrow and you'll be that much better."

We hadn't been home but for only a couple of minutes when the phone rang. It was Shirley and she said, "Mrs. Burks wants to talk to you."

When she answered, I said, "Yes Ma'am, you wanted to talk to me?"

"There is no nice way to say this, Tom, but I have to let you go. Morris' dad is insisting on it. He thinks you provoked Morris into doing something so crazy. You would not be let go if it were my decision. Morris' dad was going to take his car away from him the same as the Moseley boy. I guess they thought wrecking them would be payback to their parents for taking them away. I'm sorry, Tom. I heard Mason over at the grain elevator was looking for a part timer. Go see him and I'll make sure you get a good reference."

I put the receiver back on the hook and just slid down the wall. How could this be happening? Mom came into the kitchen and asked what the matter was. I gave her the glossed-over details, and then got up to change clothes for chores. I was done in a flash and then Janet's younger sister, in her third year of high school with Shelly, called and said, "Your teachers all gave me your homework and told me to tell you that you could work from home, but needed to send lessons in every day. You might be able to catch Janet up when she comes out of it. Come over and get your lessons."

I drove Mom's car to the Kennedys' and was greeted by another cute redhead with lots of freckles. This was Jeannie, or 'Jeannie the junior', as I teased her. She always had a comeback that I'm sure she had been thinking about since the last tease.

Janet needed me to help her come out of it, and I was determined to be there. I could be doing homework while sitting with her. I was going to save each day's lesson so she could begin where she left off when she did come out of it.

I called Mrs. Juengels to see if she needed anything. She said, "Don't you worry about me, Tommy. You go see Janet every day and help her get better. I have a grandson who is capable of helping me now so he can take over your job. You lost your car anyway. I want you to know something Tommy. Your family and the Kennedys' need to talk to my son in Melbourne. Kenneth is a big time attorney, and can get all the medical bills paid, as well as get your car paid for too. Let me get his office number for you. Make sure your folks and the Kennedys go see him."

Who would have guessed Mrs. Juengels' son was a big time lawyer the same as Jimmy Crown's dad. I talked to Dad about what I was told, which prompted Dad to go to the Kennedys' to talk to them. It was agreed that the lawyer, Kenneth Juengel, would be called in the morning and the parents would go to his office tomorrow. My plan would remain the same. I was going to the hospital and stay there all day. I prayed every night and knew my prayers were being answered as I saw visible proof as Janet improved.

I left in Mom's old car early in the morning, and arrived at the hospital in time for me to interrupt a nurse's aide giving Janet a bath. I backed out of the curtain and sat in the chair where I could imagine what Janet looked like without clothes. I didn't even become erect and realized that I was more concerned about Janet getting well than seeing her intimate parts.

When the young aide came out and pushed the curtains back, she said, "Your girlfriend is lucky to have someone who cares for her so much. Give her a kiss and let's see if she smiles again. I heard she did that yesterday."

I took hold of Janet's hand and leaned over to kiss her. Her eyes fluttered open, she smiled, and then closed them again when I said, "I love you."

"That was wonderful. Janet is going to come around for us and you. It looks like you brought homework so you can do that while you sit with her."

A doctor came in a few minutes later, checked her eyes, and then used a rubber hammer to check her reflexes. The man said, "The nurse's aide said Janet opened her eyes and smiled when you kissed her. Keep on kissing her and see if you can bring her back."

The folks came by to take me to lunch about noon. They said they had a one thirty appointment with the lawyer. I told Dad during lunch, "Make sure you mention that Jimmy Crown's dad is an attorney here in Melbourne. I think he's named after his dad so his name could be Jim or James. I went back to Janet's room and watched her while I read the entire book for two classes. That ought to make homework faster. The only problem was going to be getting help with the trigonometry lessons. You really needed to be in class to hear the teacher tell how to solve a problem.

The folks all came back before five and checked Shelly out. Janet's eyes came open and she smiled when I kissed her this time. I leaned down because I thought she was trying to say something. I think I heard "I love you" and then she closed her eyes again.

I told Janet, "I have to go home to do chores. I'll be here in the morning." I kissed her again which brought the smile. I really didn't want to leave her. I didn't know, why but something about leaving was bugging me. I kissed Janet and told her I loved her again before I reluctantly left.

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