Chapter 1

Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Romantic, Tear Jerker, Slow, .

Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - A girl that has led a hard life wants nothing more that "to be wanted!" A story of love that mostly takes place in Western Colorado.



JESSICA

As I drove down the highway I mused over my dilemma — I was literally all dressed up with no place to go. I had been ready for my date with my fiancé to go out for dinner and maybe some dancing. He was late but that was not unusual - he did that all the time.

Finally after an hour of waiting, I called him. The cell phone rang a couple of times and I thought he wasn't going to answer. Then I could hear his voice faintly over the line; I could hear loud music in the background and what sounded like many people talking, laughing, and shouting.

"Hello, hello! Is anyone there?" Gerald was asking.

"Gerry! It's me, Jesse."

"Wait a minute."

There was a sudden lowering of the background noise as I heard a door closing.

"Jesse, you still there?"

"Yeah, Gerry. I've been waiting for an hour!"

"Jesse, babe, I'm sorry. Something came up at the last minute — this party see? I couldn't get out of it. Hey, babe! I'll make it up to you. I'll come over tomorrow and you can fix me dinner, right? See you later then. Bye babe."

As he was saying goodbye, I could hear a voice in the background, "Hey, lover, there you... " as the call ended.

It was like that in high school — I never went to any of the dances, and my few dates only lasted long enough for the guys to find out I wouldn't go to bed with them. College was much the same, except I kind of gave up on dating completely and concentrated on my grades. That, at least, paid off and I completed my Geoscience degree in three years at Ft. Lewis College in Durango.

I had gone on and earned my Masters in Economic Geology at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. My area of interest, one I was passionate about, was Environmental Planning. I had lived for the last eighteen months with my Aunt Bea, a few blocks from the campus. My Uncle Hank worked at Coor's doing market research.

It was at a Coor's Christmas party that I met Gerald. He was tall and very handsome with black wavy hair. My uncle told me he was a "git" (he had been a pilot in the war stationed in England and said that git was mildly offensive word for someone you don't like). He dressed a little too flashy for me but I was terribly lonely.

I did feel comfortable with him; he never pushed me too hard for sex, saying he could wait until we were married. Now, as I was driving up I-70 towards the Eisenhower tunnel, I had an epiphany! When I first started dating Gerald, he was what we used to call a "foreigner" in high school: Roman hands and Russian fingers. One night at dinner, on our fourth date, I told him about my job offer, working on the environmental planning for an oil shale company in Grand Junction. After that he was suddenly much more patient. I was too naive to understand what he was really thinking.

As I went through the tunnel, heading for Dillon, I grimaced distastefully as I realized that Gerry was never going to change. He would keep up his womanizing even after we got married! I hardened my heart to complete what I had set out to do. I was headed for a roadside park just west of Dillon that I knew would be deserted. I didn't want to go to a place where I wouldn't be found for months — that would be too hard on my Aunt and Uncle.

Yes, this was perfect. Sometimes a trucker on a long haul might stop there for some sleep but that shouldn't pose a problem. "I'll be sleeping too," I mused. After Gerry had hung up on me I had watched the evening news with "Stormy" my favorite for doing the weather. I liked "Sunny", too, the one that did the daytime weather, but he was too optimistic. Stormy had said that with the cloud cover lifting, it was going to be very cold in the high country. At seven thousand feet, where I was, it should be about fifteen below. That would be perfect.

I saw the turnoff ahead, and slowed for the entrance. There were no cars visible in either direction this late at night. There was little chance anyone else would drive in now. I parked near the restrooms, closed of course, and sat there quietly for a moment, composing myself. Finally, I took an envelope from my purse, turned on the dome light, and read my note for the final time.

Dear Aunt Bea,

I'm sorry for what I'm doing to you. I know this will be hard for you to understand. I can't go on, I just can't.

I feel so alone, I cry at night as I try to sleep. All I've ever wanted is to be loved. To have someone to be mine, to share a life with, a house, kids, oh God... I wanted kids so bad!

Each day I'm alone. I might be in the park, watching lovers, arm in arm, giving each other that special secret smile; that smile no one has ever given me! I would watch as they put their arms around each other and shared a love I could only dream of. And I just wanted someone to want me like that.

If I could find someone, I would want that someone to kiss me, I mean really kiss me. When we were apart I would want him to miss me, his heart to miss me, tears to come to his eyes when he thinks of me... apart. That's the way I want to be loved!

But I don't have anyone to love me. I'm alone, so terribly alone. My heart knows how alone I am — and lonely right now, not tomorrow!

I want someone to say good morning as the dawn glows in the east, and to say goodnight as the last rays of the setting sun fades over the mountain peaks. I want someone that will always be mine; be there for me, for my children. Where is this someone? Where is the man God meant for me?

But he's not here. He never was here. And now... he never will, as I will be alone... forever! No, there is no one meant for me.

Oh, God Aunt Bea! It's too much for me anymore!

You and Uncle Hank are the only ones that ever cared for me,

Love, Jesse

The tears were sliding down my face, splashing on the page, running the ink in places. As I rolled the window down, the cold sweet air came wafting gently into the car, the scent from the pines heavy in the still air. I turned the dome light off. It was a clear cold night in the Colorado Mountains, twelve below and falling slowly. My mind slowly drifted to thoughts of my life... my body chilling as it became one with the coldness lurking in my heart!


Jessica was a plain girl, not by God's plan, but by her clothes, her lack of knowledge of how to present herself and from the crushing blows events in her life had dealt to her self esteem. By looking in the mirror and seeing a plain, mousy girl, she became one.

In school she never became part of one of the girlish cliques that form; rather she was always the outsider, forever being mocked and made an object of ridicule. Children can be cruel in a very ugly way and Jessica was all too often chosen as a target of that cruelty; no one stood up for her, no one befriended her.

Her parents lived on a small farm outside of Durango, a small place with the pump outside and a one-holer out back. The farm was about 500 feet higher than Durango's 6500-foot elevation and winters were harsh! Her mom made most of her clothes — what wasn't made was bought second-hand and they made her appear dowdy.

When Jessica was ten her dad disappeared; he just wasn't around anymore. She didn't say anything for a few days but finally got the gumption to ask her mom. The answer devastated what little sense of self worth she had left.

"Damn old fart! He done said he din't want no old crow of a wife and a girl kid to hold him down. He tooken off with that redhead floozy at that dance hall of Hank's. Good riddance I say!"

Jessica obsessed with the idea that her dad never wanted her! Her mom was never affectionate; many were the nights her pillow was damp with the tears slowly sliding down her cheeks — each one a testament to her sadness. Each tear lessened her expectations from life; each tear left behind a growing well of bitterness, a sense of worthlessness.

They held onto the farm, barely. By raising chickens and selling chickens and eggs, plus some sewing by both of them, they scrimped by. Jesse (as she thought of herself) began making most of her own clothes when she was fourteen. She had a sense of style but the material she had to work with was second-rate at best.

High school was better in many ways but she still suffered intense loneliness, sometimes bordering on depression. She wasn't picked as an object of ridicule anymore but she also didn't have any friends. She was never asked to go to a dance and the few dates as such were disasters. She knew she could get more dates by being "friendlier" but somehow she had developed a stubborn pride in herself... and in her own thoughts, a pitiful dream of finding that special person that God had chosen for her.

She put all her energies into her studies, taking all the advanced placement courses she could. She was rewarded by being offered a full-ride scholarship to Ft. Lewis College, including room and board. She wound up with one of the few single rooms in the dorm and was able to keep it all three years she was there. She went to summer school each year and took more than a full course load, hoping to finish early.

Once she was safely ensconced in her dorm her mom sold the farm and took off, telling Jessica," it's my time now. I've done worked hard and I'm gonna go git me some life before it be passin' me by." She took off for Tucson and Jesse never saw her again.

She had never really had fun in her life so she reasoned if she didn't expect it she wouldn't be disappointed when it didn't come. This perverted logic got her through Ft. Lewis in a never-never land of neither being happy or unhappy.

The summer after her freshman year her Aunt Bea called from Golden and told her that her mom had died in Flagstaff in a car accident two weeks before and had been buried before anyone knew what had happened. Bea invited her to visit her in Golden for a couple weeks between classes and it was so nice she did it each summer.

Jesse found in her aunt and uncle a love she had never received from anyone else but they were of an older generation and couldn't see or understand her unhappiness. When she got the scholarship to the School of Mines in Golden, her Aunt Bea insisted she live with them.

She had met Gerry and fell in love and was so happy to be loved. Her dream of a caring man and children had seemed within reach. But, then...


I just wanted... to fade away quietly in the icy darkness.

CAL

I rubbed the back of my neck trying to work out the knots formed from driving for hours hunched over, watching for slick spots on I-70; squinting through the occasional snow flurries.

"It has been a hectic trip," I mused. When my sister had called from Grand Junction about the baby I had just come off a twelve-hour shift as an intern at the Hospital at the University of Colorado in Denver. I had graduated last spring and after my internship I was moving to Grand Junction to be near my family, and to be near the open country I so loved. It was a great thought, Caleb Townsend a doctor! It did have a certain ring to it.

I'd been able to grab a couple of hours sleep before I started on the trip across the state. I had been lucky: the traffic was light and the weather was great. There were a few light snow flurries but that was nothing for my big F-250 four-wheeler. It actually belonged to the family ranch near Rifle but I had been using it all through school.

Jan had a difficult delivery but the tiny pink creature, so obviously a girl, made the trip worthwhile. I had a chance to run out to the ranch for dinner and a good night's sleep and then back to the hospital to spend some time with my sister and brother-in-law, Tad. The time got away from me and I was late heading back to Denver for my scheduled midnight shift. I stopped at Vail for some coffee and a quick steak and made sure to fill my thermos.

Back on the road, I pushed it a little but was finally getting close to Dillon; I was looking at maybe an hour and a half more driving to get to Denver. I was getting a little sleepy and it was just ten o'clock so I pulled into the roadside park I sometimes stopped at. I figured a cup of coffee and a short walk in the crisp clear air would still get me to the hospital in good time and wide awake.

There was a car there, which surprised me. I pulled next to the car on the passenger side and got out, something not seeming right! I walked around the car, seeing the driver's window down. I jerked open the door seeing a woman there as the light came on. As I put my hand to her throat I was surprised how lovely she was... an aura of childlike innocence surrounding her and her exposed skin translucently white in the cold, the color of alabaster.

I felt a thready pulse, a last gasp at life beating a sad goodbye. On her lap was what looked like a letter — instinctively I crammed in my pocket. Knowing I didn't have much time I unfastened her seat belt, picked her up and laid her across the seat of the truck. Not taking the time for the seat belt I lifted her head on my lap and started the truck, turning the heater on high. On an impulse, I jumped out and rolled her car window up.

Grabbing my cell phone I called 911, told them who I was, and asked them to alert the Vail Valley Medical Center, about twenty miles back on I-70 in Vail. It wasn't more than twenty minutes from where I was to the hospital, and I knew I could get there before the ambulance could have even arrived at the roadside park. With no cars on the road I made good time and as I pulled up to the emergency entrance, they were outside waiting for me.

When they put her on a gurney, taking her inside the hospital, I walked in with the doctor pulling duty, telling her what I knew; I didn't tell her about the car window being open. The doctor nodded and went to treat the girl for hypothermia.

A nurse pointed out a phone I could use to call my hospital. I got hold of the supervising physician and explained what had happened. She agreed to bring in one of the on-call interns and, as a result, I wouldn't have to work for three days and then it would be the noon to midnight shift.

I would be in the way while they worked on the girl so I went down for coffee. As I reached for change in my pocket I found the letter. I went ahead with the coffee and sat down to take a look at what it said.

As I started reading it, tears came to my eyes. When the nurse came down later to give me an update, the letter was folded tightly in my hands and tears were running down my face, dripping slowly onto the table. She put her hand on my shoulder, gently, and said the doctor wanted to see me.

The attending physician was waiting for me by the nurse's station, a sad look on her face.

"If you had found her a half hour later... well, it's good you found her when you did. I think she's going to lose the two outside toes on her left foot, and possibly the small finger on her left hand — it's too early to tell on that. Otherwise, I think she will be okay — I don't see any long-term problems.

I nodded, thinking. We talked it over, and agreed that when she was able, I would move her to the UC Hospital. I didn't tell her about the note, and didn't tell her that I was planning on setting up some counseling sessions with my psych prof I'd had for two classes in school. I knew what she had tried to do but, as yet, no one else did. I couldn't figure out why I had reacted this way and not said anything to the doctor.

I went in to see her for a minute before I left but she was half awake and half asleep. She looked so vulnerable, lying there on the hospital bed. My heart went out to her as I thought about that note and what her life must have been like. I left and drove on over the pass and down into Denver to my apartment.

The next morning after a late breakfast, I called Aaron Spaulding, my old prof. Aaron's brother was an long-time friend of my dad... that's how I had wound up taking Aaron's classes. We met in Aaron's office and I told him everything that had happened, showed him the note, and asked him if he would work with the girl.

Aaron looked at me solemnly for a few minutes, and said, "Caleb, I want you to think for a minute, and tell me everything you did wrong on this!"

I was quiet for a minute, not really thinking since I had done nothing but think about it, especially about holding on to the note and rolling the window up. I proceeded to tell the professor step by step, what I had done and what I should have done.

"Okay, Cal, I see you at least remembered a couple things from all those years of med school. Now tell me what you did right."

I looked at him, puzzled a minute, then enlightenment dawning, I said, "Well, I guess what I did right was everything I did wrong!"

Aaron looked at me, as proud as if I were his son. I thought at that minute I became a doctor, understanding that there was more to medicine than the science: caring for people was as important.

"Cal, a doctor is not God but neither is he a cop. Now I haven't met the girl yet, but my instincts are the same as yours are. From the note I think she is a girl that needs someone to love her, to care for her. I think she almost died of sadness, nothing else."

Sounding more formal, he continued, "Now, Caleb, what are the ethics involved in a doctor getting romantically involved with his patient?"

Struggling with that a minute, I looked down at the floor, remembering that sad alabaster face. It hit me all of a sudden.

"Well, Aaron, I do believe that means you can't take her dancing!"

"Damn, Cal! You are just too smart for me. Thanks in advance for lunch... you're buying."

We went to this great Mexican place a bit southwest of downtown Denver, right across the railroad tracks. The place specialized in Chile Rellenos; the chef deep fried them and covered them with green chile, lettuce and jalapenos. They were really great — if you liked a slice of the fires of hell for lunch! The smallest beer they served was a pint and that was called a Tiny.

An ambulance service did bring Jessica down a couple days later. Physically she was fine — she did lose her left little toe, but everything else was okay. Aaron was going to keep her in the hospital in Denver for a week, just to give her time to decompress. Her aunt was coming in to see her the next day. I talked to Aaron and he agreed with what I wanted to do.

I went in to her room as she was looking at the window, silently crying. I turned a little, looked over my shoulder and called something to the nurse in the hallway, mostly just to let her know I was there. She turned towards me and wiped at her eyes.

Looking at me, she asked, "Are you my doctor?"

A little nonplussed, I replied, "No, that's Doctor Spaulding, Aaron Spaulding. I'm the one that found you."

Looking embarrassed, she asked, "Did you find anything, a letter or something like that? Smiling a little, I said, "No, nothing like a letter. I did find this piece of scrap paper," I waved the suicide note at her, "but it's nothing important." I grabbed a stainless steel bedpan that was on her dresser, lit the paper with a match, and dropped it into the bedpan. "No, I didn't find anything," I repeated."

Her face turned very pink, and she said, "Did you read that piece of scrap paper?"

Flushing a little, I didn't want to talk about the note yet. "I was wondering, what's a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this?"

At first she looked at me like I had just stepped off a space ship. I thought, "Hell, maybe I had." This was all new territory for me.

Then she smiled, a radiant smile that transformed her face. She had been, maybe cute, but now she was stunningly beautiful!

"What's your name? Are you a doctor too?"

I felt like I really had just stepped off an alien spaceship.

"Well, yes. I'm a doctor. I'm also an intern, but they tell me that I'm a doctor too."

She sat there, waiting.

"Oh! Yeah! Um, I'm Caleb, Caleb Townsend. Cal really, well, some people call me Caleb. But, really, everyone calls me Cal."

The thought passed through my mind, "I guess I'm growing horns; she was looking at me kind of funny."

"Well, Caleb, Cal really, you are the one that found me, right?" she asked, with a slight frown, as if she was puzzling over something.

"Well, yeah, I guess I did."

Continuing to frown, she continued, "So you saved my life right?"

"Unh, yeah, I guess I did, come to think about it."

"So what are you going to do with me?"

I nervously looked around, possibly my fellow aliens could help me out here.

"Unh..."

This time a little sternly, but with the big smile twitching up the corners of her lips, "Don't you know that when you save someone's life you are responsible for them? In a way, you 'own' them!"

Okay... "Are you feeling okay, Jessica? Do you want me to get the doctor?"

"I thought you were a doctor?"

Well, she had me there!

This time, almost crying, her eyes a little damp, "Look, Caleb, really Cal, I did something very, very stupid. I hate myself now thinking what it would do to my Aunt Bea. You read the note; I know you did. If you hadn't I'm sure there would be police in here talking to me. It would be in the papers, and God knows, I might try it again."

A little shyly she continued, "You know more about me than anyone in the world. My fiancé conveniently forgot about our Valentine's date so he could go to a party with another woman. Haven't you ever had a bad day before?"

"Well, yeah, one time at the dorm in Boulder, I mixed the whites with the non-whites in the washer..."

Overriding me, she continued, "Am I ugly?"

Well, that one I could answer. There was a small mirror on the nightstand. I picked it up and held it in front of her face.

"Look in the mirror. What do you see? Okay, keep looking. If I were a frog would you kiss me just to see if I turned into a prince?"

With that she turned on that big smile.

"Does that look ugly to you, Jesse? Can I call you Jesse?"

She was looking at the mirror, turning the smile on and off, looking somewhat awed.

"Hey, Jesse! I have to do my rounds now or they will have me cleaning bedpans."

She didn't hear a word. She kept looking in the mirror, smiling, turning it off. Showing more confusion now than awe. I beat a hasty retreat.

Aaron talked to her that afternoon. I went down and had some coffee with him afterwards.

"Okay, Cal, this is much more serious that I thought."

Damn... I thought, that sounds like maybe twelve syllable diagnosis, at least.

"She has three things wrong with her."

This was sounding bad.

"She's lonely. She has very low self-esteem. She needs love."

Already prepped to hear some archaic diagnosis from some ancient medical tome, I responded, "Wow, that's incred... what? She needs love?"

"Don't you need it too, Cal?"

Unh, oh! That's hitting below the belt.

"Caleb, what's my favorite Beatle's song?"

Shit, I was back with the aliens again. "Ummm, maybe, 'Yellow Submarine'?"

"Okay, Cal, you buy the dinner the next time we go out. I don't suppose you have ever heard me humming, 'All You Need is Love, ' have you?"

Okay, that's what he was doing! "Oh, yeah, I see what you're saying."

I finally understood what the "generation gap" meant.

Jessica's aunt and uncle came to see her the next afternoon. They understood that she had decided to drive to Durango to visit friends and had gotten sleepy and stopped, but actually did fall asleep. They never thought to ask why she was going out I-70 instead of south on I25 to Pueblo and west to Durango.

JESSICA

I was confused. I was horrified that I had put my heart and my soul into that note and a man, this doctor had read it.

My thoughts were jumbled. Wow! I don't know what I was thinking of. Doctor Spaulding thought I was mostly depressed and he talked to me about self-esteem. We talked about what I had accomplished in school and what I had to offer in the job with the oil company. Then he asked me the shocker; he wanted to know if I wished I was married to Gerald and was living with him! When he asked that I thought about a big, slimy snake.

And I kept wondering about what Cal - I couldn't think of him as Doctor Caleb - had done with the mirror. I couldn't believe the difference! What shook me up a little though, was whenever I smiled at Cal he smiled back. Which made me smile. It felt strange.

I couldn't stop worrying about that note and that Cal had read it. It bothered me. Not that I had written the note but that he had read it. No one had seen the depths of my pain, my innermost secrets. I was both excited about it and ashamed at the same time. I felt the need to clear the air. I couldn't get him to talk seriously. Like the last time, right before I left the hospital.

I was trying to broach the subject of the note so we could talk about it. I thought he was ready but then he asked if he could see my toe. It was healing and had only a loose bandage over it. I pulled my foot out from under the sheet and held it up. He lifted the bandage and looked really serious.

"Damn, Jesse. What are you going to do if you have to count past nineteen?"

I had to laugh at that... but then I started crying hysterically! Life was just too much for me all of a sudden and I wished that Cal had not found me. Cal looked stunned as he tried to comfort me but it was too much! I yelled at him to leave me alone!

Later Aaron came in and talked to me; I was calm then.

"Jessica, I'm concerned about these mood swings of yours. Do you understand what I'm talking about?"

I thought for a minute; frowning in concentration.

"Can I tell you the truth, Doctor Spaulding?"

He smiled at me, somewhat wryly. "Yes, Jessica, that would be nice!"

I looked at him, confused for a minute and then realized he was teasing me.

"Doctor, I've never been happy in my life! I've never been loved by anyone, except maybe my aunt. I've been lonely; I've been sad. I didn't want to live anymore... I couldn't take it! Cal made me laugh yesterday; it felt so good. Then he had me look into a mirror and see how a smile transformed me, made me a different person.

"I felt for a moment, like... like Cinderella! But I know that's a fairy tale. He either just wants to take advantage of me, like all other men have tried, or this is just a whim of his... and... and he will wind up laughing at me like everyone else!"

Embarrassed, I started crying again. I couldn't help it. I was just so frustrated with life.

"Jessica, please call me Aaron. When you call me Doctor, or Doctor Spaulding, you make me feel like an old damned fossil! Do I look that old and desiccated?"

I had to smile a little. I really liked this kind man.

"Okay, Aaron. No, you don't look like an old fossil! What's wrong with me? Why has life been so hard for me?"

"Dear girl! Have you ever heard of Toledo steel? Well not many have. Toledo is a town of moderate size somewhat west of Madrid in Spain. Hundreds of years ago they developed a secret process of making steel for sword blades that was unsurpassed in the world. An appropriate selection of raw materials, their proper proportion in the blade and the forging of the steel at a temperature of over 1400º for the exact interval of time required, resulted in the most perfect sword ever built in the world.

"Life is like that sometimes. We are tempered into the finest that life can offer by the trials we face. The sorrows and sadness you have had, the trial by fire if you will, have made you a strong person ready for happiness and the best that life can offer. But you have to be open to it."

"God knows, you have no reason to trust anyone and even less to trust men. But there are good men around and Caleb is one of the best! He comes from a family long established in western Colorado. He is part of a strong loving family. He is a country boy but has shown remarkable ability in school in becoming a doctor. You and Cal are two of the smartest people I have had the pleasure to know.

"I don't know what his intentions are, but I know he is a man that cares, and he will never do anything to hurt you! You have every right to be skeptical of men but please, dear girl, trust me and trust Caleb."

Aaron gave me a lot to think about — a lot to confuse me. Cal stopped by later and almost seemed afraid of me! I felt bad about that and I asked him to sit down and tell me about his life growing up. I was a little surprised that he did. He was a little hesitant at first but then really opened up. I could relate to his growing up on a ranch and told him a little about my childhood, nothing deep, just about the ranch and how beautiful the country around Durango was. I said this a bit wistfully, not realizing how much I missed it.

I was released the next day and was suddenly thrust into the mayhem of moving to Grand Junction and starting a new job. I had about a month to get things sorted out in Denver — bank accounts and such — before I would move. I also had to attend a three-day orientation class at the home office here, plus fill out all the personnel forms.

Cal took me to lunch at a wonderful Mexican place. The food was really good. I was feeling a little down when I went, but Cal made me laugh and I felt better. That night looking in the mirror, I told myself, "You could get used to him, couldn't you girl?"

We called back and forth a few times and went to the Denver Zoo one Sunday. That was fun too. I seemed to be having fewer and fewer bad days — I wonder if Cal had anything to do with it.

The last time I saw him before I moved out to Grand Junction was when he stopped by to help me load a van I rented for the trip. When he stood by my window as I started up, it seemed like his eyes were a little misty. I know mine were! I would miss him much more than he knew.

Finally I finished the long drive across the state and was ready to go to work. The company, West Slope Oil, was a full-scale trial between several oil companies and the federal government... sort of a pilot project. I was amazed at the respect I was shown; it turned out the environmental aspects were given the highest priorities and everyone really stepped forward to help me out.

They put me up in a hotel for two weeks while I looked for a place to stay. The offer was that they would pay half of my housing for the first year, knowing that even though I was going to be making some good money, I still had some student loans to pay off. I looked at apartments and condominiums, but I didn't feel comfortable with the crowded parking lots and the buildings so close together.

After searching for two weeks, I was having breakfast at a great little mom and pop kind of place, ham steaks, three eggs, a mountain of hash browns, homemade biscuits, you get the idea. I got to chatting with the waitress and she mentioned her parents were trying to sell their small ranch just before De Beque, about thirty-five miles back up I-70 towards Denver. She said they were having problems finding anyone interested and that they would consider a lease to buy.

I went out to look at the property and to talk with her parents. I fell in love with the place immediately. It was about eighty acres strung out along a creek that entered into the Colorado River from the north. The road was a dead-end that died at the ranch house. There were a couple of barns, three corrals, and a nicely maintained, but small log cabin. It was about fifty years old but was really clean. There was one big room that was the living room, dining room and kitchen. At the back of the house was a bathroom in the middle with a bedroom on each side, each of which had a door into the bathroom.

The couple was retiring and had bought a small house in Grand Junction. They had raised horses for most of their lives and still had a half dozen left along with ten miniature horses they had been breeding and selling as pets. They almost begged me to take the place and to take care of the horses. They said if I would take care of the animals they would split with me 50-50 any money made. One barn was full of hay and they had several kids from the local 4-H that would come out and help with the animals.

It was heaven for me! The company gave me a four-wheel drive truck, since I would be spending a lot of time in the backcountry. I moved in a couple of weeks later and felt a wonderful satisfaction as I sat on the front porch of an evening with a mug of tea and looked out at my little slice of heaven. I was happy for the first time in my life... but still lonely. I did call Cal and told him about the place I'd found. He thought he knew the place but he wasn't sure. It was nice to talk to him and it helped the loneliness some.

The job was working out great! The company was using a new process of extracting oil from the shale, "in-situ." Instead of a physical extraction and processing of the shale, the shale was heated underground and the oil then extracted. To make the extraction process effective, the shale around the area to be worked had to be frozen. If we could show the combined heating/freezing technologies worked, we could put oil on the market for $30 a barrel!

My job was to make sure that in freezing the surrounding ground water that no pollution occurred. It was a strong technical challenge and expertise had to be developed on the fly. I was pleased that I was accepted as an equal member of the team and everyone accepted my credentials and my expertise.

I had been raised in the social climate of the West Slope of Colorado and I knew what the men were like. I had learned the hard way to let them know that I wouldn't take any crap from them. Of course men made advances but every time I was tempted, I remembered Cal and what he had done for me. I hadn't seen him since I moved to Grand Junction several months ago. He had asked me to call his parents and meet them but I kept putting it off.

Finally I ran out of excuses and called them and they invited me to their ranch in Rifle for a Sunday dinner. I drove to their ranch, about thirty miles to Rifle from De Beque and then a dozen or so miles north on Government Road. They had about three hundred acres in the valley and a couple thousand more in the hills to the east of the valley. It was a huge operation, and the house was an amazing, really old, three-story brick house.

They were extremely nice and their daughter Jan was there with her husband and their new baby. They let me hold the baby and as it squirmed around in my unfamiliar grasp, I knew what I had been missing in my life and what I wanted more than anything in the world.

Cal's older brother Jacob was also there; I guess he was the ranch manager. He was somewhat older than Cal and Jan and had three kids around ten to thirteen or so.

Everyone was curious about me and I didn't know what Caleb had told them, other than I was his "friend." I didn't say too much, just kept nodding and talking only when asked a question. I had a great time — they were such a wonderful and close family. They kidded each other a lot, and kept teasing me, but it was all done with real laughter, the kind that can't be faked.

They seemed to accept me as part of the family, but I think they were just wonderful western folks. They did invite me to come for the big Fourth of July party they had every year. They weren't sure if Cal would be there.

I felt closer to Jan than anyone else; we seemed to hit it off. The men were going river rafting the next week: down the Green to the Colorado, going around the huge cliff at the junction and on down to Dinosaur National Monument. They said they did another trip in the fall, just before school started and everyone that could went — by that time the waters were lower and slower... and safer!

I invited Jan to come out to my place while they were gone and she made the drive. While the baby was taking a nap she looked through my closet. It was okay with me - I knew all women were curious about that stuff.

Of course I had bought a bunch of new clothes but Jan got after me... all I had bought were jeans, short sleeve flannel shirts and engineer type boots. After that she kind of adopted me; she kept taking me shopping and making me buy more feminine clothes that would fit in my budget. She also made me get something other than plain functional underwear, took me to a beauty parlor and made me get my haircut short for the summer in a more casual style, and in general made me over.

I didn't mind; I had never had a sister and enjoyed being with her. She taught me a lot about what being a woman meant. She asked me somewhat forthrightly what I thought of Caleb. I blushed and froze up... and started crying. Everything came back to me in a crushing flash - what I had tried to do and why. Jan put her arm around me and let me cry it out. In the end I told her all of it. I had never talked to a woman about my life and it was such a relief to get it all out.

I told her about my childhood, my experiences with boys and later men, particularly with Gerry and what he had done. I blushed again when I told her what Cal had done for me. I confessed my feelings about him, realizing they were deeper than I had let myself think. I admitted to Jan that I was scared of what I felt. Jan just hugged me and didn't say anything.

A couple of weeks later we had lunch in Grand Junction. It was a lot of fun; I was learning how to relax with other people. Then, out of the blue, my life changed.

"Jesse, you do remember about the Fourth of July barbeque at the ranch next Saturday, right?

Actually I had forgot about it! Cal had called a week earlier and asked me to come. He said it was looking like he wouldn't be able to make it but he wasn't giving up hope.

"Anyway, Cal called me last night and said he was going to make it after all. He finishes his residency this week. He has to go back after the holiday to wrap some stuff up and then he will move out here! An old friend of our dad's has a family practice but wants to retire. Cal will work with him for a year and then take the practice over. The whole family is really excited to have him back with us."

"What do you think about it, Jesse?"

"What did I think about it?" I asked myself.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic / Tear Jerker / Slow /