That's What Friends Are For
Chapter 1: When We Were Young
I think I was six years old when I first met Myrna, perhaps I was seven, but I couldn’t have been much older, and I think Myrna was a year younger than I was, but I’m not even sure of that. I do know that I was already going to a one room country school while she hadn’t started yet. Her family was new to the neighbourhood, having bought the farm just down the hill from ours, so since they were new neighbours, my folks had invited them over for coffee and a chat.
Because we were both young and didn’t have a lot of patience, Myrna and I got sent outside to play, just to get us out of the grownup’s hair. Like all kids, we were shy of each other at first, then I suppose I did something to show off since she was so pretty and I imagine I wanted to impress her. It was probably something silly like doing a somersault or trying to stand on my head, some dumb stunt or other. It doesn’t matter, what does matter is that it broke the ice so before very long we became friends.
About that time I recall my cat having a batch of kittens and I remember the day I gave her one. She wanted to take it home with her right then, but my father took the time to explain to her that it was just a baby, and that it had to stay with its mother until it was weaned. He did say that she could come and see it any time though and I remember that she embarrassed me something fierce that day. Before she and her folks went home, she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me, which made my big sister giggle like mad.
That kiss may have embarrassed me, but it didn’t stop me from liking her. We were best friends from that day on and since we lived so close, we used to see a lot of each other. It started because she wanted to see that kitten every day, so she’d come over as soon as I was home from school. Then after the kitten was old enough and she had it at home, she used to walk over to play with me or I’d walk over to her house to play with her.
Another big happening in our lives developed when my family got an old quiet horse for me to ride to the country school when I started second grade. Before that I’d been riding behind my sister on her horse. Shorty, my ‘new’ horse, was old, but he’d been trained extremely well. He could be ridden bareback, with a saddle, or he would even pull a cart.
Of course the very first thing I did after he was unloaded from the horse trader’s truck was to hop onto his back and ride down the hill to show Myrna. It’s a good thing that horse was old and patient, because inside of seconds she was climbing up behind me and we were riding double. Almost instantly we were a laughing screaming pair of hellions, bent on having fun.
Since we rode that old horse without a saddle, if we got too carried away, we fell off. We got bumps and bruises and scrapes, but it didn’t matter. That old horse gave us an independence that children nowadays don’t really get until they have a car, yet in those days of innocence, our families trusted us as long as we were together. I’m not sure they should have, but they did, and their trust led to our lives developing the way they did.
Of course as time passed, things changed. Myrna started school and since she insisted on riding to school behind me on old Shorty, I got teased by the older boys about my girlfriend. I started to get upset, but Myrna quickly managed to defuse my anger.
She took my hand firmly in hers, looked the biggest of the bullies in the eye and said, “So what? Are you jealous?”
That probably only had an effect because it shocked him, but the fact that she was so pretty might have counted as well, since it probably meant that he really was jealous. Of course we still got ribbed and teased, but somehow I managed to keep my temper, at least most of the time. If I started to get riled, Myrna soon calmed me down and I learned to sluff it off, then even to turn their teases back on the bullies. As a result, in a very short time everyone accepted that we were just extremely close friends.
By the time I was ten, we’d found a private swimming hole in a local creek, and of course on hot days, it was just much too much temptation to resist. At first we tried keeping our underpants on when we swam, but after trying to ride home in wet underclothes a time or two, we found that wearing wet underwear while riding bareback on a horse wasn’t such a good idea. The solution was simple. We took off our underpants and went skinny dipping.
Now don’t get any ideas that at ten years old we were having sex, we weren’t, but we certainly knew what each other’s bodies looked like. It’s funny, but when we were naked, we never touched each other. I remember I thought she was the prettiest thing I had ever seen, but somehow I felt if I touched her body that our friendship would be ruined. I suppose she knew that if she touched me, I’d have an unspoken permission to touch her in return. So for a few years, we found ourselves looking, but not touching each other when we were naked.
We made up for that when we had clothes on though. Sometimes we’d hug or cuddle, but at other times we’d tussle and roughhouse with each other.
I think we were in our early teens, and we were wrestling in fun, when I accidentally touched her on the chest harder than I’d meant to and she screamed in pain. I’d felt a hard little lump under my hand and I knew it was her developing breast. I felt terrible because I’d hurt her and made her cry, but I didn’t know what to do.
Since I was a healthy active teenager, I developed an erection at the drop of a hat, and because I knew what I’d unintentionally done was somewhat sexual, I’d instantly developed a rock hard boner. Myrna had dropped to her knees and bent over clutching her breast, but was trying to hide it from me. In my sorrowfulness at having hurt her, I put a hand on her shoulder and started to say that I was sorry, but she reacted in pain and annoyance. She swatted her hand back to push me away and since she was hurting, she probably swung far harder than was really needed or intended. Her fist drove the metal zipper of my blue jeans against the most ultra-sensitive part of my anatomy, at least in that area of my body.
It was instantly my turn to fold over in pain.
Needless to say, that day changed our lives and our attitudes toward each other forever. We both said we were sorry before we each went home, and I don’t know about Myrna, but I felt lost. I know we both did our best to stay away from each other for several days.
Then I was out walking one day in one of my favourite spots and as I walked around a clump of willows I met Myrna coming the opposite direction. We both stopped, and then both started to speak at once. Seconds later we were in each other’s arms. Before we went home that day, we’d kissed and cuddled to make up, and I’m fairly sure that was the first time we said we loved each other.
More time passed and during junior high and high school my old horse was retired since we were being bussed to a small town school each day. Suddenly it wasn’t so odd for us to be seen together at school or on the street and now that we were older, it was okay that we were boyfriend and girlfriend. Our relationship was gradually changing all the time.
Since we were going to school by bus, I eventually realised that I really didn’t need a horse anymore and I decided to sell old Shorty. I loaded him into the back of our farm truck and took him to the auction, then I made the mistake of staying to watch as he was sold.
Shorty was old, but over the years his reputation had spread around the community. Tales were told about how gentle he was, how patient he was, how smart he was, and so on. There were people who wanted a horse like him for their young children so the bidding was fast and furious and I was astounded at the price he eventually brought. Then I made a second decision that changed my life.
I was in a great mood, the auction was exciting, and I stayed a while longer. The next lot up for auction took everyone by surprise. It was two halter broken, but untrained horses that were being sold as a pair even though they looked totally mismatched. One was a tall and rangy gelding with a roman nose and jerky gait, while the other was a short and sleek mare with a finely chiselled head and a motion that was smooth as silk. The only real similarity was their colour, and the fact that each horse had a star on its forehead. Both of the horses were chestnuts, though the mare was somewhat darker in colour than the gelding.
The auctioneer explained that these were two horses bred from the same mare by different studs. Then he announced that they were so close to each other that they created a fuss if they were separated, so the owner was asking that they be sold as a pair. On top of that, neither horse had ever been broken to ride. It was soon clear that people didn’t like the idea of buying a pair of unbroken horses, so bidding was exceptionally low.
Somewhere in my head, a bell went off about then though and in an instant I was imagining Myrna and I riding together once more, only with each of us on our own horse. I bid just once, a very low bid, far less money than I had just received for my much older horse, but to my absolute astonishment my bid won out. I had gone to the auction with one horse and went home with two.
Of course my family thought I was totally nuts until I told them that I wanted to break the horses of being together all the time, then I wanted to give the smaller and prettier horse to Myrna for her birthday, which was coming in a month’s time. Since my whole family liked Myrna that idea threw a completely different light on the subject and suddenly everyone wanted to help.
We started that night by putting the gelding in one box stall in the barn and the little mare in the stall next to him. The next day we’d take one horse at a time outside to graze near the barn. Part way through the day, we’d swap which one was outside and which one was inside. Each night we gradually moved them into stalls that were further and further apart and grazed them slightly further away from each other as well.
While we were getting them accustomed to being apart, Dad helped my sister and me to break horses the way he felt was right. That wasn’t to force the horse to accept someone jumping on their back and riding them while they bucked and fought. Instead we made friends with them, then trained them to want to please us. It wasn’t long before they were trying to please us by doing what we wanted and being fussed over when they did.
By the end of the month, we had those horses trained to be separated without making a fuss and to be ridden as well. I was proud as punch. My family surprised me though. The morning that I was going to ride the two horses down to give the one to Myrna, I found my family were all in the barn. Somehow Dad had found an pair of used, but matching saddles and bridles at an auction. After he’d repaired them, Mom and my sister had cleaned up the old leather until it shone. That morning, they’d gone out early, cleaned up the horses, then saddled them for me. There were tears in my eyes when I hugged each of them and thanked them from my heart.
I was in an almost ecstatic mood when I rode down the hill to see Myrna. When I knocked on their door and Myrna came out demanding to know where I had been hiding, she never even noticed the horses for a moment. Then I gave her the reins to her new horse and said “Happy Birthday.”
It’s a good thing that we’d trained those two horses to ‘ground tether’ because in just seconds we’d both dropped the reins as she wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me. I guess our folks had been talking, because when we broke the kiss, her parents were standing on the porch, looking on and laughing in delight at Myrna’s happiness.
Of course she had to go for a ride and she ran inside to change while I talked to our folks. When she went to get astride her little mare, I found that my Dad and my sister had planned a little extra surprise for both of us.
Whenever Myrna rode horseback, she had a habit of wearing a skirt over a pair of jeans. Dad and my sister had trained that little mare to reach forward with her right foot, then to drop down by bending her left foot into a kneeling position when someone in a skirt went to ride her. After Myrna was in the saddle, the little mare stood back upright again.
While she’d been getting in the saddle, my horse had been a bit edgy, but it didn’t really worry me. As Myrna swung her little mare and rode away, I flipped into my saddle and followed. That day we rode until we had sore bottoms, then went back to Myrna’s place to have a marvellous birthday party with both of our families.
I wish I’d paid more attention to my horse’s likes and dislikes though. After we’d eaten and Myrna had opened her other presents, she wanted to try riding my horse to see what he was like. That’s when we found out that he hated skirts. When she swung her leg over his back, he bucked and threw her. She landed on her already tender fanny. Of course when my horse started to buck, her horse panicked a bit and I had my hands full just holding her horse, then catching mine.
Both of our Moms and my sister ran to help Myrna and to check if she was okay while our Dads came to help me. By the time we had things under control with Myrna’s horse put away and mine tied to a post in the yard, the women were all inside. Myrna didn’t really seem any the worse for wear except that she was walking gingerly. She complained that it was the first time she’d ever gotten her birthday bumps from a horse, which brought a chuckle from all of us.
I and my family didn’t see Myrna for a few days after her birthday, but she made up for it. Inside of a week, I was being woken up in the morning to her sitting on her horse and reaching up to knock on my window, asking me what I was going to do that day. We rode together. We worked together. We played together. We ate together. The only thing we didn’t do was sleep together.
In some ways I suppose it was very strange that we were so close for so long and yet we never got sexually involved beyond petting and mutual touching. Well, that is until the day of my graduation. I doubt if I’ll ever forget the happenings of that night.
Graduation in our town was a huge day for everyone involved. The celebration and awards ceremony started at about five in the evening and carried on for hours and hours. First there was the awards ceremony, then there was a graduation dinner for the grads, their families, and their friends. After that, there was the graduation dance. When the dance finished, there were often all night parties at various people’s homes as well, so grads and their dates were often out all night.
When I picked Myrna up before the ceremonies, I was speechless at the sight of her and her dress. Her hair was done up high, her makeup was perfect and she was wearing a dress that left no doubt about the fact that she had cleavage, as well as a wonderful figure. She looked absolutely gorgeous and I was never prouder of having anyone standing at my side throughout the whole evening or dancing with me later. Both of us had brought along a change of clothing for after the dance because we were planning on going to the grad party one of our friends was having and we actually changed at the dance hall, part way through the evening.
It was after Myrna had changed her clothes and while I was changing mine, that our evening took a hard left turn. Some of the kids at the dance had been drinking heavily and I came out of the guy’s washroom after changing to find a scuffle going on in the hallway. Through the crowd, I could see that a pair of drunks had cornered Myrna and were demanding that she show them “a little bit of tit, like in that other teasing dress.” Somehow I heard those words over the music and I saw red. Suddenly I was pushing my way toward her as fast as I could move.
I was on my way to break up the scene when one of them reached out toward her and grabbed at her breast. She screamed. Suddenly it was as if the whole dance hall fell silent and everyone turned toward us. I knew that scream, it wasn’t a scream of fear, it was a scream of rage and a challenge. She kicked the guy who had been reaching for her in the pit of the stomach and I managed to grab the other one by a shoulder. When he spun around, he almost broke my knuckles by slamming his nose against my fist.
By the time one of the teachers reached us, both of the drunks were being held down on the floor by some of our friends and I was holding an tearful young woman in my arms. When I tried to explain what had happened, the teacher waved away my explanation, telling me that he had seen the whole thing, but hadn’t been able to get there in time to stop what happened.
I managed to steer Myrna away from the scene after that and she decided she wanted to get some fresh air. We went outside and actually went for a short walk. When we got back a few minutes later, we were met by the town cop who had been looking for us. He had the two drunk kids in the back of his car and he asked Myrna if she wanted to press charges. I would have, but she looked at the two kids and shook her head. Instead she told the cop that she wouldn’t do that if he’d take the kids and put them in confinement until their parents could come get them. She said they were too drunk to be running around free, but they’d already discovered that acting like fools could get them hurt. Besides, she said her mother was bound to have a talk with their mothers and she thought that would be a worse punishment than a court would give them.
“Do you know who those two are?” The cop asked with a wry grin as he cocked a thumb at the two miscreants.
Both Myrna and I shook our heads.
“Well, since they both go to a parochial school, that’s not a surprise. The one holding his gut is the son of the Baptist minister and the one with the bloody nose is the Presbyterian minister’s son,” He spoke quietly. “The two of them have been riding on the reputation of their fathers for a while and getting wilder all the time. I don’t usually like calling parents about their wayward kids, but this time I think I’m going to enjoy making those two phone calls, even if I know I shouldn’t feel that way.
“I’ll take care of them. You two should go back to the dance and enjoy yourselves. I plan on explaining the facts of life to these two before I call their parents. I think they should know that you could have them jailed for assault and perhaps even attempted rape for what they did. And thank you both for stopping the fight when they were down, that means a lot to me.”
Both Myrna and I were left staring after him as he climbed into the car and drove away. Of course even though he’d spoken quietly, others had overheard what he said. When we got inside, the rumours were already flying and it wasn’t long before we were being treated as if we were heros in one way or another. Neither of us felt proud of ourselves, so it wasn’t long before we felt we’d had enough. We went out and sat in my car until it was time for the last dance, both of us felt that we had to go back inside and dance to that.
Even during that last dance, we weren’t comfortable. It seemed that everyone was treating us special, in fact we danced in an open space as we drifted around the crowded dance floor. Seconds after the dance ended, Myrna was tugging on my hand, almost begging me to leave as quickly as we could.
Once we were in the car, she admitted that she didn’t think we should go to our friends party because she felt we were going to get the same treatment there. When I asked if she wanted to go home, she admitted that she didn’t want to do that either. She wanted to talk.
So we drove my beat-up old car down to a picnic ground we liked down by the river. At first we sat in the car and talked, then we decided we wanted a campfire. While I built up a small blaze in one of the fire pits, she pulled the old blankets that I used for seat covers out of my car and spread them nearby.
Snuggled side by side in those blankets and near that little fire, we talked the night away. We talked about the happenings of earlier in the night and about our friends, but mostly we talked about what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives.
I didn’t want to stay on the farm and be another farmer. Instead, I wanted to be a veterinarian and work with animals. I’d known that was what I wanted to do for years and I’d known that in order to do it, I’d have to win a scholarship. That was a tall order on it’s own, but what made it even tougher was that Canada’s one and only veterinary college at that time was thousands of miles away in Guelph, Ontario. They got scholarship applications from all over Canada and they were notoriously tough about giving one out.
I was on tenterhooks about the grades of my final exams and I admitted it to her. She knew how badly I wanted to go, so she told me that she’d help me in any way she could. Then we snuggled and kissed for a while as I thanked her in advance.
After a while she explained that she wanted to stay on the farm and raise horses. In a way I thought that was nuts, but since both she was so enthused about the idea and had even infected my sister with her enthusiasm, I knew better than to argue with her. Her plans were to raise ponies, then to train them to be gentle, and sell them to people for their children to ride.
That’s when she told me that she’d already bred the little mare I’d given her, and that she was expecting her to foal in another month.
Of course she thanked me all over again for that little mare. Only this time we were all alone in a romantic setting, and it was my graduation night. There between two ratty old blankets, next to a flickering campfire, and under the early morning stars, she gave me the most precious gift she had to give.
Afterward as we lay there, I was worried that I’d hurt her, but she denied that, then smiled rather wryly.
“Oh, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t painful at all, but then I didn’t have a hymen for you to break,” She whispered. “That damn horse of yours took care of that a couple of years ago.”
“He did? Well, if I’d know you were that desperate, I’d have volunteered.” I teased, then kissed her ear.
“You ass!” She giggled. “Remember my birthday, when he bucked me off? Well when I landed, it tore. Both your mom and mine knew instantly what had happened. Why do you think they rushed over to me and hustled me inside so fast? And why do you think I was walking so funny for a few days afterward?”
I had to admit I had just thought her butt was bruised and she giggled again, telling me that it was, but that her privates were really what had hurt the most.
Then she astounded me by asking if we just might try things again, but this time a bit slower and with her on the top. I didn’t argue. It seems she knew more than I did, the second time was much better for both of us.
It wasn’t until the next day that it suddenly dawned on me that we hadn’t used any protection at all and I started to worry. I just had to talk to her. When I drove down to her folk’s farm, she was out at the corral currying her horse and when she saw me, she came running into my arms, giving me a huge hug and kiss. I wanted that affection, but at the same time, she knew me so well that she felt I wasn’t just there for the fun of it.
When Myrna asked me what was wrong, I didn’t know what to say at first, then I blurted it out. She sighed and buried her head in my shoulder.
“I gambled because I only had three days until my period, but even if I get pregnant, I’m not worried. It wouldn’t be the end of the world for me.”
“But I want to be a veterinarian and I won’t be able to go to college if I have to support a wife and a kid,” I protested.
That’s when she set me back on my heels.
“Oh, I’m not ready to get married yet, even if I wouldn’t mind a baby, so don’t even ask me,” She had a determined look on her face. “If you still want to marry me after four or five years, look me up. If I’m still single, I’ll think about it.”
Then she walked away. She went inside the house and she wouldn’t let me in. I tried to see her or talk to her several times in the next few weeks, but she refused. At first I was bitterly hurt and then I got angry, as a result I swore I was going to win a damn scholarship and get away from the damn farm and my fickle neighbour. I became a driven man and spent every spare minute hitting the books to study for my final exams.
The day I wrote my last exam, I heaved a huge sigh of relief as I walked to my car. Then I just stopped and stared. Myrna was sitting on the hood and smiling hopefully, but with a hint of sadness in her eyes.
“Aced that one too, didn’t you?” She said quietly.
“Yeah, I think so,” I managed to hold my temper, which was rising rapidly.
“Good, I thought you would, as long as I wasn’t around to distract you,” She smiled then. “That’s why I gave you the bum’s rush. I thought you’d get PO’d at me and take out your frustrations on your books.”
I just stared at her in astonishment.
“Well say something,” She grinned. “I know I was being a bitch, but I had to. After making love to you, I wanted more, and I knew if we spent much time together, your studies would suffer. I had to get you mad at me so you’d study your fool head off.”
“You are a bitch,” I growled as I scooped her into my arms.
“Yeah, but I’m your bitch,” She laughed, throwing her arms around my neck.
“Did you really do that just to make me study?” I demanded to know.
“Yep, that’s what friends are for,” She giggled, kissing me briefly. “Now can we go somewhere private? I visited the drugstore and bought supplies, then I told Mom to warn your folks that we’d be late getting home.”
For the next few months, we were an inseparable item again, until I had to go off to Guelph to the veterinarian’s college. I had won a scholarship for books and tuition, but I was still going to have to work to earn money for food and housing, so the University had offered to help me find a job. Of course that also meant I wasn’t going to be able to come home very often, so my farewell party was a rather poignant affair. Actually, there were two farewell parties. There was the public one, with my family as well as all of my friends and neighbours – then there was Myrna’s idea of a private party, with just the two of us.
That evening Myrna and I made love, but we also spent a long time talking about being apart. Both of us knew that trying to maintain a love affair across thousands of miles was an impossibility, especially since I wasn’t going to be able to come home often. We very carefully skirted around any promises to be ‘true’ to one another, but I know that at that time I felt we were made for each other. I’d like to believe that Myrna felt the same way.
The morning that I left, I gave Myrna the gelding. I felt that the two horses should be together, even if she and I couldn’t.