Chapter 32: The Calm Before the Storm

On the drive home from the motel room, after Quinn had run away, Cade realized how different his life was. Perhaps if his father Dusty had lived, he would have grown to hate Dusty just as much as he did Seth, but somehow he doubted it. Cade had never known a person like Dusty in his life, except in books.

Cade had been nobody his entire life, and now he was beginning to feel like somebody. He was ready to do battle against the most powerful man in town. Somewhere deep down inside of him, it felt right, because it made him feel like part of the family and life he had never known until now. Ultimately, he wanted to leave his past behind and move forward.

When Cade arrived home, Ashley was relieved that Quinn was gone. As Cade sat in the living room smoking a cigarette, Ashley sat down next to him. She was always a bit nervous around her dad, even though she knew that he wouldn't hurt her. "Dad," she said softly.

Cade turned to look at her, "What is it Ash?"

She blushed, "Thanks for getting rid of Seth and Quinn."

Cade pulled her close to him and gave her a squeeze, "I'm sorry they hurt you like they did."

Ashley buried her head against him, feeling the warmth of his body. He stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray on the coffee table, and leaned back and held Ashley, lightly kissing the top of her head. "I hope I can be there to protect you next time."

Cade was the only person in Ashley's life who had truly cared about her. She had a relationship with Callie, but Callie was not her real mother, and never would be. Ashley had to work at her relationship with Callie, but she came to realize that Cade loved her no matter what. She couldn't imagine her life without him.

When Jessica saw that Cade was hugging Ashley, she walked over and wedged herself between them, wiggling her way between them until she was sitting next to Cade. Ashley hated it when Jessica did that, but she always knew that her time alone with Cade was limited. Everyone wanted his attention, especially Jessica.

Ashley slid off the couch and went upstairs to find her book. Callie had gone into town and Harley was off playing somewhere. "Can we go see a movie?" Jessica asked.

Cade snickered down at her, "Where did you come up with that idea?"

"From the television," Jessica informed him.

Cade chuckled, because the television had proven to be both a blessing and curse. "Maybe we will go to a movie," he sighed. He suddenly wanted to treat his family to something good to help take the sting out of Seth's visit.

"When?" Jessica asked.

Cade laughed at how persistent she was. He gave her a squeeze. "Go get ready to leave, and we'll round up your brother, and when your mom get's home, we'll go into town and see a movie."

"Yipee!" Jessica exclaimed and she bounced up and down on the couch.

It was time for school to begin again. Ashley was terrified. Cade was so busy with work and other things that Callie had to be the one to take the lead when it came to getting the children ready for school. Ashley had feared Callie in the past, but now she found herself leaning on her more and more. She hated the prospect of school, and every time she thought about it, she would get a knot in her stomach.

The night before school was supposed to start; Ashley confided her fears to Callie. "I can't go to school tomorrow."

"Yes you can," Callie assured her as she helped Ashley lay out her clothes for school the next day. Jessica was already in bed asleep.

"I can't go," Ashley choked, and she sat on her bed in frustration as the tears began to run down her face.

It wasn't difficult for Callie to recall her first day of junior high, because it hadn't been that long ago. Callie had always been an outcast at school. "It will be OK," Callie said softly, but she knew her words would not comfort Ashley, and she had no way to back them up.

Ashley began to sob. "I don't want to go," she choked. Somehow, she dared to say these things to Callie, but not to Cade.

Callie sat down on the bed next to her and put her arms around Ashley. In the past, Callie would have said something bitter to Ashley's fears, but she had learned a few things from watching Cade. Callie had never felt she fit in anywhere. Suddenly her heart began to race and her own eyes filled with tears. "Oh Ashley," she said softly. "I wish I could take the fear away from you."

"The other kids will make fun of me," Ashley lamented, through her tears.

Callie held her close. "When I went to junior high school for the first day, I felt the same way. I was living with my aunt Regina. That woman was evil," Callie's voice drifted off and she closed her eyes. "I was made to wear my cousin, Patty's, clothes," Callie had difficulty talking about it, but she persisted. "Patty was eighteen-years-old, and I was only twelve, so you can imagine how well those clothes fit," Callie scoffed. "They were out of style and I was drowning in them."

Ashley looked up at Callie and her tears began to subside. Callie never spoke about her past. "That's horrible," Ashley said, wiping her eyes with her fingers and sniffing.

"It was awful," Callie cringed. "I was a lost soul back then, and no one wanted anything to do with me."

"I wouldn't have guessed that about you now, because you're very pretty," Ashley assured her.

Callie squeezed Ashley. She still didn't feel she fit in anywhere. "I always think of myself as that unwanted girl, who was passed around from home to home."

Ashley swallowed, "It must have been horrible for you."

"On the first day of junior high, I got on the school bus, and shrunk down in my seat. I didn't look at anyone," Callie said, "But that didn't help. The boys and girls still shunned and teased me. I wanted to disappear, but I didn't know how."

Ashley squeezed Callie's hand.

"The kids were very cruel," Callie recalled, and she winced. "They filled my locker full of trash and did other terrible things to me. They taunted me endlessly," she began to shake. "After school I would go home and do work for Aunt Regina around the house. She had this heavy half-inch dowel rod she kept in the hall closet," Callie swallowed. "When I didn't do what she said, she hit me with the rod across my butt and legs. It left horrible bruises."

Ashley was no longer thinking of her own misery, she was thinking of Callie's, and she realized how much she had grown to love Callie. "That's horrible," Ashley said, appalled by Callie's words.

"I only lived there for about six months," Callie shrugged. "Then I was shuffled off to my Uncle Beau's house." She shuddered. "I don't even know if he was really my uncle. But at least I got to wear clothes that fit me," she recalled with a bitter laugh. "He picked my clothes out for me, and they were very low cut and slutty," Callie wondered why she couldn't seem to stop talking about it. "I guess I was twelve or thirteen at the time, and I'm sure those clothes turned that old bastard on," she shuddered, "They also made me very popular with the boys at school. I became the class slut. Even when I didn't do things with the boys, they always said I did. I guess I finally found my niche, because I've been known as a slut ever since."

Ashley looked up at Callie and didn't know what to say.

"I don't want any of that for you Ash," Callie said and she wiped away her bitter tears. "You have a dad who loves you, and even though a lot of your clothes are from the second hand store, at least they fit you."

Ashley clung to Callie, "I love you mom," she said through her tears.

Callie hugged Ashley back, "I love you too Ashley, and if those kids at school give you any shit, you let me know."

Ashley smiled up at her. "I will."

"Good," Callie grinned, and used her fingers to dry her eyes. Then she took out a cigarette, "Now get some sleep. It's not going to be as bad as you think tomorrow." She tucked Ashley in, then turned, and left the room.

Callie walked down the stairs and out onto the back porch. She leaned up against a post on the back porch and smoked a few cigarettes. The tears continued to fall from her eyes and her chest felt tight as she remembered her past. There was a lump in her throat. Cade walked up behind her after awhile and kissed her neck. "What are you thinking about?" He asked.

"How glad I am that we live here," She said and turned around, hugging his warm body, and closing her eyes. "I'm afraid Drake Pennington is going to ruin it all for us," she whispered.

"He won't," Cade said. "I won't let him. He's a spoiled rich kid, and I'm a street thug. When push comes to shove and the gloves come off, he'll go down." Cade grinned at her because he could see she was feeling melancholy. He wanted to comfort her.

Callie knew it wasn't that simple, but it was reassuring to hear him talk like that. If anyone could defeat Drake Pennington, it was Cade. She had to believe in him.

Ashley woke up two hours early for her first day of school and fussed in front of the bathroom mirror. Jessica and Harley were not nearly as nervous as Ashley was. Not much would change for Harley this year, aside from his teacher, but Jessica would be going to first grade. She felt very important and grown up. She was nervous about it, but it was not in her nature to be as nervous as Ashley was.

Callie served them a big breakfast for their first day, and Ashley recalled her conversation with Callie from the night before. She realized that Callie understood how she felt. They ate breakfast and then Callie and Cade walked them out to the road to catch the bus. The bus was the same for elementary and secondary schools.

"I hope Ashley is OK in junior high," Cade said as he watched the kids get on the bus.

"Me too," Callie sighed, and they both watched as the school bus drove away. "I wish you didn't have to work today," she smiled seductively at him.

He could tell she was horny by the way she looked at him. He playfully chased her around the yard until they ended up back inside the house. They stood in the living room kissing. Callie looked at the clock, and realized there was about fifteen minutes before Lonnie would arrive to pick up Cade for work. She slowly fell on her knees in front of him and undid his belt, followed by his pants. "What are you doing?" He laughed.

"Giving you a little something to think about," Callie grinned as she pulled his penis out and put her moist lips around it.

"Ahhh," Cade sighed, and leaning back against a nearby wall. "My God," he said as he became erect.

Callie worked her mouth and tongue along his hard penis and it didn't take long. Soon she felt him jerk and suddenly he was spurting his load inside of her mouth. She gagged at first, but swallowed all of it. Then she grinned up at him. "Now that should get you through the day."

He pulled her to her feet and kissed her tenderly. "It will certainly help," he caressed her breasts over her clothing and kissed her. "I love you Callie," he said.

"I love you too," she leaned against him, enjoying the last few minutes before he would be gone. When Lonnie arrived to pick him up, Cade didn't want to leave. He caressed Callie's bottom. "When I get home, I'll return the favor."

"No need," she smiled, and pulled away from him to light up a cigarette.

Cade grinned at her and walked out the door to go to work.

Callie had grown used to having the kids around, so today felt empty. By mid-morning, she was bored, and she went over to visit Angie. Her intent was to do some work on the bills. Angie's house was a complete disaster as usual, but it was much quieter with just the twins and a two-year-old left at home. "I think we've got the invoices all caught up," Angie said, pouring Callie a cup of coffee. "There's not much to do today."

"OK," Callie said, and Angie could tell Callie was disappointed.

"How is everything going?" Angie asked. She had been so busy getting her kids ready to go back to school, that she hadn't had a chance to chat much with Callie during the past week or two.

"Things are OK," Callie said quietly.

"Is something the matter?" Angie asked.

Callie's mind drifted to her empty house. "No," she said distantly, "I guess I've just gotten used to having the kids home."

Angie stood up and began to tidy up her kitchen, "I know what you mean." Callie sat at the table and sipped her coffee. There was a comfortable silence between them. "I sure hope Lisa and Ashley have a good first day at junior high," Angie said after awhile as she began loading the dishwasher.

"Me too," Callie said. "I worry about Ashley; she's been through so much."

It had not escaped Angie's attention that Callie's love for Ashley had grown a lot, and it warmed Angie's heart. "Junior high is a big step."

Callie nodded. "In some ways I hate watching Ashley grow up."

"I know what you mean," Angie sighed. "Being an adult isn't all that it's cracked up to be, and those kids don't realize they should be savoring their youth."

Callie scoffed. "Yeah, but I sure wouldn't want to go back and relive my childhood."

"Me either," Angie agreed. She took a break from loading the dishwasher and sat back down at the table next to Callie, "And I'm sick of this filthy house." The kids were quietly playing nearby.

Callie was in a contemplative mood. "I don't know how to be a mother, not really."

Angie realized that Callie was finally opening up more lately. "What do you mean?" Angie asked.

"Well I never really had a mother," Callie confessed.

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