There is no explicit sex in this story. I wish to thank the people who helped contribute to and edit this story, per their wishes, they remain anonymous. This story is totally fictitious; any resemblance the characters might have to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental. No part of this story may be published at any other site without the express permission of the author. © December 14, 2007
'FUCK... fuck, fuck, fuck, and double fuck, there goes my afternoon, ' Hank thought as he watched the small group come in the door. 'I've just been sitting here minding my own business... Hell, I'm only on my second beer and she has to show up.'
Sarah seemed to be very excited as she clung to the arm of a handsome young man. They appeared to be the center of attention as the sound of her giggling friends filled the room.
Hank watched Sarah glance around and knew she was looking for the perfect spot to sit. She used to do that with him. Suddenly Sarah noticed Hank at the end of the bar, and her eyes danced in lively recognition as she waved at him. But Hank only nodded, slid off the bar stool, and turned away. Quickly as it had lit up, her face dropped in embarrassment.
Suddenly Hank reached around with one arm and grasped the top of his pants. As he pulled them up tight, he leaned a little sideways while his other hand forced its way into his pocket. 'Damn tight ass jeans, ' Hank thought, 'I really should start wearing slacks.' After digging out his money clip, he said, "Ok barkeep, time for me to go."
Rick knew something was wrong. Hank never left before finishing his drink. As the bartender checked out the batch of new faces, he spotted Sarah and immediately understood the problem. 'After all, it is a small town, ' he thought, 'and everyone does know everyone's business.'
"Come on Rick... give me the bad news. How much do I owe ya?" Hank asked.
"Put a lid on it," the bartender joked, "it's your fault anyway. Whatever in the world possessed you to order that second beer I'll never know. Have you forgotten how bad I am with numbers? I can calculate the first on my fingers, but after that I have to use my toes. Just be glad you don't have time for a third."
Normally Hank would have laughed at the humor, or least at the attempt. But for now, he could only muster a lopsided grin. After being told the amount of his bar tab, he peeled off enough bills to cover the damages plus a couple of extra for a tip.
Due to the difference in their ages, Hank had never been close friends with Rick, but had always liked him. He was a good bartender, always hustling, never talking unless spoken to, and had a very pleasant disposition.
To show his appreciation, Hank added one more bill to the stack then asked, "Be okay if I take the rest of my beer with me?"
"Sorry man... you know the rules. I'm not supposed to let anyone leave the premises with alcoholic beverages. If you got caught, it could cost my license," Rick replied.
Since the answer was what Hank had expected, it didn't really upset him. He knew the bartender had more than just himself to worry about. With a sudden twinge of regret, he realized, 'Unlike Rick, I don't have a loving wife waiting at home... with three little ones to feed.'
Hank looked at his money roll and thought, 'Hell, it ain't doing me any good just sittin' in my pocket, and they probably need it more.' With that he peeled off three more bills, one for each kid, and laid them on the stack.
"Damn it Hank, you don't have to do that. Oh what the fuck, just keep the bottle down and make sure no one sees it. And if you get stopped, remember... you didn't get it here. If I lose my license, you're putting my ass to work, and for a damn good salary," Rick chuckled.
Hank couldn't help but notice that Sarah was glancing sideways at him as he strode across the bar and out the front door.
The old truck came to a sliding halt in the loose gravel of the 'ole river road.' In his anger, Hank's foot still had the brake pressed hard to the floor. Raising the bottle to his lips, he leaned his head back and finished off the last couple of swallows. Then with one hand holding the empty beer bottle, Hank leaned forward, resting his arms on the steering wheel.
As he looked out at the small stream he couldn't help but ponder, 'Why do they call it a river? It's not over three or four feet wide in most places. Other than a few large pools, it's nothing but a small creek.'
"Oh well, they didn't bother to ask me," he sarcastically chuckled, "and if it was any of my business, I'm sure they would've. So, then... it's a river, and always will be... no matter how screwed up I think that is."
Hank pulled up on the door handle and pushed the truck door open. He could still smell the dust he'd stirred up in his frustration.
After easing out of the truck, Hank strolled slowly along the river bank. Occasionally he would pick up a rock with his free hand and throw it into one of the larger pools. The sound of the splash felt real and reminded him of the fact that life went on, in spite of his pain.
But as the ripples rolled across the pools, Hank began to realize his real enjoyment was the comfort he derived from watching the water reclaim its calm surface.
A large familiar flat rock caught his attention. It was just what he had been looking for and he plopped his butt down.
Unconsciously Hank pulled off his hat and laid it on the rock beside him. With his elbows resting on his knees, he leaned his head forward and ran his hand through his hair, rubbing and scratching as it went.
Then holding the top of the bottle between the thumb and finger of one hand, he tapped the bottom with his other. After swinging back and forth a couple of times, the bottle came to rest, hanging straight down.
'Just like my life, ' Hank thought sarcastically, 'it's been tapped... no, it's been knocked on its ass, turned upside down, and left standing on its head.
'What happened to us?' He wondered. 'All those years, I thought we were in love. Damn it, I know she loved me. Did it just slip away while she was at college?
'Maybe Sarah discovered she loved that new guy more? He looked like a nice enough fellow, not bad looking, and from what I hear, his family is loaded... No, it wouldn't be... couldn't be the money. She's too special to be that shallow.
'Hell, I would never have even talked to Sarah, let alone fallen in love with her if I had known she could do this to me.'
All at once Hank was filled with rage, he needed to break something. Flipping the bottle up, he caught it by the neck and raised it over his head as he reared back. But suddenly Hank pictured kids playing in the pool like he and Sarah used to do. And even though he wanted to shatter it on the rocks that lined the other side, he stopped. The thought of bare feet on broken glass left him feeling embarrassed. 'My anger doesn't give me the right to hurt others.'
As the bottle flipped in the air once more, Hank reached out, grabbed it, stood up, and headed back to his truck. Before getting in, he leaned over and dropped it in the backend.
Sarah sat in the back porch swing, reading a book. She finally laid it down and smiled recalling her day with her new boyfriend. 'My friends really seem impressed with Fred, and it was fun showing him off. He's so witty, but what's more important, he's very cultured and refined, which fits in perfectly with my future plans.
'But running into Hank was embarrassing. I'm glad he made it easy and left. I don't know what I would have done or said if he had come over. Thank goodness none of my friends mentioned him. That would have been difficult to explain, like everything else since I've started going out with my new boyfriend.' But... Sarah also realized seeing Hank had inflamed emotions she thought were buried.
Just at that moment, her dad walked out with a cup of coffee and sat down beside her. She grinned, "Daddy, I wouldn't know what to think if I ever saw you without a cup of coffee in your hand."
"Well daughter, I dread the day you do. Because that means either the end of the world has finally arrived... or they're fixin' to put me six foot under," he smiled at her.
She slapped him on the arm, "Dang it dad, don't even joke about that. We both know you're going to live forever."
"Sure I am, darlin'. Now what's got you so flustered, and don't tell me nothing. I know you too well. You have that look on your face," he cajoled her.
"Just wondering... now that you've had time to get to know him, what do you think of Fred?" She asked.
Her dad took a deep breath, then said, "Well, he seems like a nice enough fellow. Good breeding from what I can tell. His teeth are white and always look freshly brushed, that's important you know," he joked.
"Ahh daddy, be serious, I really want to know what you think."
With a deep sigh, he stood and walked to the porch railing. Sitting his coffee cup down, he leaned forward with a hand on each side and gripped the rail tightly. "He's not Hank, baby girl."
Sarah rose and stepped up beside him. She laid one hand on his back and squeezed his upper arm with her other. "I know daddy, and I know how much you like Hank... hell, we both love Hank. But my life has changed. Hank is tied here forever. This town is his future, but it's not mine, I've moved on. I have plans for my career and he just wouldn't fit in.
"Please daddy, at least give my new beau a chance. He and his family love me. They insist he bring me with him every time he goes home. We fly there in his private plane. His family has connections and they are already planning options for my future. With him I will have a life style that I could never find here, plus unlimited opportunities for my career. Fred is really a nice guy, just give him a chance daddy. I know you'll like him."
"So, I gather from what you're sayin'... no matter what happens or what Hank does, he's out of the picture and out of your heart?"
"He'll never be out of my heart, daddy, but yes, he's out of my life... forever."
"Well it's your decision sugar, whether I agree with it or not. But I promise you, I'll live with it and we'll either reap the wind or pick up the pieces together. After all, you are my daughter and always will be. Now what's that you're reading?"
"Oh, it's a copy of a new novel I picked up right before we left. I just wanted something to do in my spare time, but turns out that I can hardly put it down. I hope to catch the author at a book signing. I'd love to get it personally autographed. I'm almost through with it. Want to read it when I'm done?"
Her dad chuckled, "Yeah sure. You know me, I'll start reading when books start drinking coffee." They both laughed.
That evening, Sarah walked into the kitchen just as her father was filling two cups with coffee. "Whoa dad, I'm not like you. I've already had my limit for the day. Don't bother pouring that second cup, unless you're drinking two at a time now," she laughed.
"Go ahead and laugh smartass, it just so happens it's not for you. It's for my guest on the back porch," he grinned as he pushed the screen door open with the back of his shoulder to keep from spilling coffee.
Sarah's eyebrows furrowed as she curiously stepped over to see who her dad had cornered on the back porch. 'Probably one of the neighbor ladies trying to gain his favor by putting up with his bull, ' she chuckled to herself.
Needless to say, she was quite shocked to see Hank sitting in the swing. And knowing her new boyfriend would be back in about an hour, she pushed the screen door open and charged out onto the back porch. With hackles slightly up, she demanded of her dad, "What's he doing here?"
Her father calmly replied, "If by 'he, ' you mean Hank. Well darlin', I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but, it's still my house, and he's my guest."
Red faced, Sarah apologized, "I'm sorry daddy. It's just that Hank is the last person I expected to see while I'm here."
"It's my fault," Hank interjected between sips of coffee. "I came by to see if your father could do me a favor. I'll be leaving shortly."
"What kind of favor," she semi-demanded to know.
"Now look here baby girl," her dad testily replied. "If I wanted you butting into my business, I'd ask for your input. But until I do, kindly keep your nose out of my affairs, thank you."
Again Sarah was embarrassed, "You're right daddy, I apologize."
"No, it's alright," Hank said. "I need a ride to the airport in the morning and was wondering if your dad could give me a lift."
"Why are you going to the airport?" she asked.
"Girl, will you never learn?" Her father snapped, "You're just like your mother. God rest her soul... she used to be the same way."
"No, that's okay," Hank said again as he finished off his coffee. "I have to take care of some business and I'll be gone a few days."
"Selling some cows or something, I suppose," Sarah quipped.
Not missing the jab, Hank smiled, "Yeah, it's a pretty big deal for me. But, you've got me pegged right. I'm just an ole country boy, and always will be. It's my lot in life, guess I'll just have to live with it."
With that, Hank rose and said to her dad, "Thanks for the coffee. I'll see you bright and early in the morning." Then he stepped off the porch and went around the corner of the house, headed for his truck in the front drive.
Sarah's dad sat there shaking his head. "What?" She asked, "Did I say something wrong?"
"More than you'll ever know," her father replied, then added, "I'd laugh... but it's really not funny."
With a typical female huff, Sarah turned and went back into the house.
'What time is it?' Sarah wondered as she looked over at the alarm clock. Then she heard a strange noise, evidently the same one that had awakened her. It sounded like someone was rattling pots and pans. Crawling out of bed, she slipped on her robe and tiptoed to the kitchen.
"Should have known," Sarah said out loud as she found her father making coffee.
Startled, he inquired, "What the hell you doing up so early, girl?"
"Better yet, let me ask you the same thing," she replied with a smile.
"Well, I know why I'm up, and so do you. Unless you forgot I was taking Hank to the airport this morning?" he asked.
"Oh yeah, but tell you what dad, instead of you, how about letting me pick him up and take him. I really feel that I should talk to him and explain a few things."
"That would be just Jim Dandy and fine youngin', but you're about two hours late."
With a puzzled expression, Sarah asked, "What do you mean, two hours late?"
"I picked Hank up two hours ago. I've already been to the airport and back. That's what I mean," her dad replied.
"But dad, it's four o'clock in the morning. There won't be a flight out of that airport for another three hours."
"You're correct about that, baby girl, no commercial flights for three more hours."
"So he's just sitting at the airport for three or four hours, waiting?" She asked.
"Nope," her dad responded, "I promise ya, he's not."
"Ok dad, I give up. What's he doing then?"
"Ohh, about now... I'd guess he's crossing over the state line headed in a northerly direction... and probably enjoying a fresh cup of coffee."
"Is he driving? I thought you took him to the airport?" She puzzled.
"I did... and no, he's not driving. Hank is kicked back in a private jet. Hell, he may already be in New York by now."
"Daddy, excuse the language, but what the fuck is going on?"
"Well Hank did want you to get everything your heart desired, so here," her dad said as he handed Sarah her new novel.
Sarah asked, "Daddy, whose private jet was it that picked Hank up?"
"Why darlin'... it belongs to his new business associates. They sent it this morning, just in time to fly him to New York City."
Confused, she had just been sitting and staring at her novel.
"Open it up daughter, then you won't have to ask anymore questions," her dad said with a very sad countenance.
With an almost sixth sense, a slightly shaken Sarah seemed to already know before she even opened the cover. As she began to read the hand written message scribbled inside, tears rolled down her cheeks:
All I ever wanted was for you to be happy, and it would seem that your dreams are finally coming true. I was told one thing you don't have is an autographed copy of this novel. Since it's written under my pen name, and today is my inaugural book signing, I felt the least I could do was sign your copy first. I hope that makes it special. As you can see, I am now an author, and always will be. It's my new lot in life, guess I'll just have to live with it.
A couple of days later, Sarah's father looked up when, with a lot of banging and bumping, the front door flew open. He wondered, 'What the hell?' Suddenly the end of a suitcase appeared, it was obviously being used to brace the door open. Then another appeared with Sarah stuck between them, looking agitated as she squeezed through the doorway with her purse tucked under her arm.
"You could have carried them in one at a time, or just hollered. I would have come out and helped," her dad admonished.
A flustered looking Sarah stared at him and tried to think of something to say. Instead, she broke down and started bawling her eyes out.
Her father bounded out of his chair as she dropped her suitcases and purse. Sobbing, she collapsed into his chest.
"There, there now, did your new boyfriend dump you or something?" He asked while hugging her.
"No," she replied with a sob, "I dumped him."
Shocked, her dad replied, "Baby girl, Hank's gone and I don't think he'll be coming back."
With tear filled red eyes, Sarah looked up at her father and said, "Daddy, I know that. But this isn't about Hank, it's about me... and what I've become." Then she started bawling again.
Her father squeezed her tighter, "Ok sugar, go ahead and cry. It'll make you feel better. It always did for your mamma, and you do take after her."
Later after Sarah woke up from a nap, she joined her dad in the swing on the back porch. He asked her, "Are you ready to talk? Want to tell me what's bugging you and why you're back here with your suitcases in hand?"
"First, I need to ask you something, daddy. Was mom as empty headed and crazy as I am?"
Her father let lose with a deep, truly amused but loving, non-judgmental laugh. "Darlin', there was nothing empty headed or crazy about your mother... no more than there is with you. But just like you, she had her moments when she was confused and unsure about life. And moments when she could be so pig-headed and stubborn... but she always landed on her feet and going in the right direction. I have no doubt you will too."
"Daddy, I don't know. It sure seems like I've made a total mess of everything, including my life. The most painful part, I now realize how much I've hurt the people I love most."
Suddenly with tears in her eyes, she added, "And what's worse, I don't know how to fix or make it right." Once more she started sobbing as she leaned over sideways and laid her head in his lap.
He just gently and lovingly stroked her hair as he thought, "But you will sweetheart, you will. After all, as I've said, you do take after her, trust me, you will."
When Sarah finally quit crying, she sat back up and attempted to wipe the tears with the back of her hands. Her father handed her a dish towel he'd carried out with his coffee.
"Thanks," Sarah said while dabbing at her eyes, "I must look a fright after all this crying."
"No," her father interjected, "for some reason, just like your mother, you always look prettier after a good cry."
Sarah smiled and with a deep breath, began, "Well I guess now is as good a time as any. Daddy, I broke it off with Fred because it was only fair to end it and let him get on with his life. After last weekend, I realized I don't love him and never will.
"I was only using him and his family to get what I... what I thought I wanted out of life. He's really a very nice guy and doesn't deserve to be treated that way." Her eyes started to tear up again and her dad decided he'd better say something fast or else go inside and get a handful of dishtowels.
"Well girl, I have a confession to make. All the time you were going with him, you never once used the word 'love' to describe your feelings when talking about or to him. But, I couldn't help noticing that you still do when talking about... Hank."
"I know, daddy... and that hurts more than you'll ever know. Hank deserved it even less. I can't take back what I did or the way I treated him, but I'm glad everything is working out for Hank. He deserves all the good things that are happening to him, and more. Isn't it strange how you can feel pain over losing the person you love, but still be happy for and wish them the best?"
As fresh tears fell down her face, Sarah once more leaned over and laid her head in her dad's lap. Then she soulfully added, "Now I understand what he wrote in my novel... and I know he meant it.
Stroking her hair to comfort her, he smiled with the thought, 'That's one foot on the ground, girl, just one more to go. Then we'll make sure they're aimed in the right direction.'
"What about your schoolin'?" Her father asked.