Chapter 1

My cell chirped. I reached forward and punched the speaker so I could hear the message. It was my dispatcher. "Ted Woodman, when are you getting in?"

"I'm about an hour out. Why?"

"Teri Bascomb is limping in with engine problems, driving an eleven-year-old Mack. The load that it is hooked to has to be on the west coast ASAP. We need a tractor to take it. Teri is looking for someone coming in that she can team up with and take right off."

"Shit, my rig needs service. Get someone else."

"No one else is available. The load won't be here for three hours. You'll have time to clean up, get your tractor serviced and then you can crawl into your sleeper. Teri has plenty of time open on the book, and can hook up and take off even if you're sleeping."

"Is this Terry a good operator?"

"Teri has had the north-south runs from New England to the Deep South and has never had a bit of trouble. Going west will be a new route for this driver and you know it well. You two will make a great team."

"Okay, I'll pull into the service area and get things ready. You can tell this Terry guy I'll be in the bunk asleep when he gets here."

I needed an oil change and a new air filter and a list of things checked out. I grabbed a shower and ate a light lunch. It was going to be dark by the time my rig headed west. It wouldn't matter to me; I would be sleeping.

I'm an independent trucker. It might seem strange for me to let someone pilot my rig, but I had known Henry, the dispatcher, for years. We had never met. I knew what city and state he worked out of, but never had a reason to go through there. If I worked for a fleet company like Yellow or Air Land and Sea Express I would know the dispatcher. Henry had several independent truckers like me he dispatched for. I doubted he had met very many of us We had been friends a long time coming from our phone conversations. I trusted him to give me a load that would make me no trouble.

I crawled into my bunk and went to sleep. My last thought was wondering what this Terry guy looked like. A while later, I felt the engine kick over and then, in a few minutes, lock onto the load. The driver eased across the lot and I was aware when he hit the highway. I approved of the way he went up through the gears. I rolled over and dropped off again.

I awoke to a CD playing a Ray Price song. In my estimation, if there ever was a singer, he was it. The timbre in his voice always gives me shivers. Terry sure had good taste. I listened to two more songs and decided I'd crawl out and meet my team driver. Just then, "Crazy Arms" came on. Terry started to sing along.

Shit, this Terry person either had a real high voice or he was a she. Beautiful voice, though. I squirmed into my pants, anxious to meet Terry or maybe Teri now. I opened the curtain just enough to get the woman's face in profile. She had black hair, styled in a mannish cut. Just then, she glanced across to the side view mirror. Her eyebrows were plucked lightly. She had a thin nose and her lips were overly full and wide. No raving beauty, this one. But then, was I the most handsome devil?

She stopped singing when the song ended and then her gaze swung back to where I was staring at her. She smiled, saying, "You snore. Truck stop ahead in ten minutes. Are you rested enough to take over?"

"Yes Ma'am."

"Good, I'm a half hour over on my log. You fill up the tanks and I will get us something to take with us to eat. I like driving your rig. Driving a rig with this few miles on it is an experience for me even if it is a Freightliner." She grinned at me and I knew she liked what I drove. "I know I'm pushing this, but we need to keep moving. I lost too much time with the piece of junk I was driving."

I eased into the co-pilot's seat.

"Ma'am, had you kept up your maintenance? I have a reason for asking."

"I have. I think I took on a load of bad fuel. My problem started when I switched saddles."

"To fix it would mean draining and flushing the lines."

"You got it and I didn't have time to have that done. After I pay you for your time and for the tractor, I might not make any money, but I will still have my reputation intact. You said you had a reason for asking about my maintenance. What is that all about?"

"It took me five years to be able to buy this rig. The day I took title, Mona, my wife, told me she was terminally ill. She lasted seven months. When I put her in the hospital near the end, she said she had two more weeks. I was going to be gone three days on a short trip. She lied. I found out later when I read the note she left me, she did not want me around to see her die.

"Mona passed away the day before I returned. That was two years ago. Now I call this rig Mona, in her memory. I lost one Mona and I don't want to lose another. I'm a stickler for maintenance and that is the reason I asked."

"Fair enough. After six hours in the seat, I'm in love with this Mona, myself."

"Ma'am, you know you said we didn't have time to eat. I think we do. When we hit the prairies, we'll pinch Mona in the ass and you can see how sweet she really is."

"Okay, if you say so."

I watched "Teri" wheel into the truck stop. I gathered she was at least as tall as I was. She seemed thin, but this may have been because she did not have much for breasts. I could not tell because how could I stare without being disrespectful. Teri pulled up to the pumps and jumped down, heading for the restrooms. I started the fuel running in and clicked the nozzle on automatic. I headed for the restroom myself. We met as I was going in. Teri was as tall as I had guessed at earlier.

The truck stop was well lit. I smiled, and even though I had my legs crossed, I paused to watch her walk around to the entrance to the diner before I turned into the john. There was not anything wrong below her waist. Her jeans were designer and fairly tight. Nice legs and a nice butt. There was not much about her especially to turn me on, but I wasn't looking for a woman anyway.

The waitress was setting my breakfast on the table when I went in. Teri was giving her an order for food to travel with us. Teri looked at me. "Is there anything you want to add?"

"Maybe a little more fruit. Double the apples and bananas. If you have a melon, that could go in as well."

She nodded agreement. I sat the coffee carafe on the table, asking for it to be filled before we left and attacked my meal. I announced that I preferred toast rather than English muffins.

"I'll remember for tomorrow." Teri ate fast and I did too. She was worried we would not make good time when we hit the flat country further to the west. Soon we pulled back onto the road again.

Teri announced she would sit beside me until her breakfast settled a little. "I've never been west before. I want to see some of it. Even here in Ohio the towns and cities are not nearly as close together as up and down the coast corridor."

"Through here is fine. Wait until we get near St Louis. It is busy then. The country will begin to open up after that. I'll drive through the cities if you want."

"Okay. Do you have any family?"

"My parents live north of Albany. My sister is married to a farmer in Vermont. I have two nephews. That is about it. How about you?"

"I have a brother who still lives in Maine. That is where I am from. I married my high school sweetheart, but after awhile he decided I wasn't pretty enough for him. He dumped me for the sluts who hung around the truck stops. I got the house and some of the things in it. He got the up-front money for the lease of the Mack. I turned around and sold the house and when he lost the lease I had money to take it over."

"Do you still see him?"

"Occasionally. He wants to come back to me, but I have said no. Vows and promises have always meant a lot to me. I could not trust him, and his track record on promises is not very good. We started out as a team. Being a team driver has its good points, but if you don't trust your partner, it is canned hell."

"Having someone in the cab is unusual for me. For the minute, I'm enjoying this."

"I am too. I guess I will get in the bunk. You might keep feeding CDs into the deck. You've got a good selection and I love to hear them."

It was still night for a little bit. I had slept well and I was wide-awake. Three and a half hours were about all I was good for when I was driving before my bladder was screaming, "empty me." I made one stop and Teri didn't wake up.

"Ma'am, you better wake up. I'll be turning off soon at the next truck stop." You've been asleep more than six hours."

"I was wondering when we were going to have a pee break."

"You missed the last one, but I figured as long as you were sleeping you were fine."

"I was. How are we doing on time?"

"I think I have made up all the time you lost getting to me. We can take it a little easier now if you wish. We still have open country ahead of us."

"Time enough for me to take a shower?"

"Both of us and an early lunch too."

"Thank God." I'm sure we both felt better being in the same cab this close together when we climbed in again.

We alternated every few hours when we stopped for restroom breaks. Teri sang to the songs I had on the CDs and she was damned good. She did not have a strong voice, but she was always on key. By the time we hit the bottom of the Continental Divide and started climbing, we were a full three hours ahead of Teri's schedule.

"We'll be in San Diego in plenty of time. The load I have in the container is bound for the air force base there. They are doing minor retrofit of some planes on-base rather than having the planes return to the factory. The base is waiting on this equipment."

"Ma'am, I think you were in luck that your truck gave out. You would never have made it in your Mack, driving on your own."

"I know. I told Henry my problem and he said he would find a way to get me to San Diego in time. I did have a team driver hired, but he had a death in the family and refused to make the trip."

"So you know Henry, the dispatcher?"

"He is extended family. He is my brother's wife's brother. I've known him for years."

"So I've been set up?"

I received a quiet, "Yes. Are you pissed?"

"Can't tell yet. It depends on whether I can get a load back to Pennsylvania soon. I was going to be visiting my folks this week. What are you going to do now that you're out here on the west coast?"

"I'm going back with you if you'll let me."

"I'll give it some thought after we drop this load." This comment apparently didn't sit well. From then on, Teri didn't have much to say on the way down the west slope of the Rocky Mountains. She did not sing either and I missed that. Maybe she was disappointed I did not fall all over her.

I backed up to the dock at 9 A.M. and took the odometer reading. "Ma'am, how many miles from where you took on this load until you met up with me?" She told me. "Well what do you know? It totals exactly 3,000 miles. That is damned good. I guess you could call us a team."

She mumbled something. It sounded like, "Don't I wish" and maybe it was.

Then she asked, "Where to now?"

"Ma'am, I'm driving up the coast to a motel I know. It's about forty miles. We will clean up and get us lunch. Maybe have a nap. Tonight we'll have a nice dinner at the restaurant across the street and go down to the dance hall and kick up our heels. I am good after a few beers. You'll have to bear with me until I do."

"Damn it, stop calling me Ma'am. My name is Teri."

I grinned, "Yes Ma'am."

Teri stared at me and then she grinned back at me.

"Sounds like a plan."

I parked my rig and called a taxi to take us to the motel.

"Teri, I'll get us rooms."

"Get one room. Twin beds if they have them or one king-size if they don't."

"Either way, that's going to put us awfully close together."

"Are you afraid of me? I'll tell you right now, I'm not afraid of you."

"No, I'm not afraid of you, but I am cautious."

"Okay, people can call us the cautious twins. I'll need some things at a clothing store. Is there one near where we are staying?"

"Around the corner. I'll walk with you, or meet you and we can walk back together. I need to call dispatch."

"Meet me. You can carry my bags."

"Just like a woman." We were back to being friendly again. She left me when I went in to get a room and watched her go down the street.

I had my choice of beds in the motel room. Thinking "What-the-hell," I picked one with a king-sized bed. I would follow Teri's lead, though. In the meantime, I called my dispatcher.

"Ted here," I stated when Henry answered. He got right to it.

"Hey Ted, have you made love to her yet? You two should be just right for each other."

"You son-of-a-bitch, you could have warned me. What did you tell her about me anyway?"

"Just that you were a lonely, depressed widower."

"I figured something like that. I've kept her off balance though. She does not even know yet if I am going to let her ride home with me. She is a good driver, I'll give her that much."

"Come on Ted, if you are pissed at me, don't take it out on her. I know she isn't any raving beauty, but I can't believe you will hurt her feelings. That isn't you."

"Whatever. Can you round me up a load going east?"

"I've got two. One from San Diego to Dallas and one from Houston to New Jersey. You can have them both. You will need Teri to help you drive though. You have only a short time to make Texas before the other load has to leave. You can't get the one in San Diego until tomorrow afternoon. It will be tight, but with Teri there, you can make it."

"What are you trying to do, play cupid? I thought only interfering women did that."

"Maybe a little. Ted, I know Teri is not that pretty, but she really is a nice woman. She took a hit when she decided to walk away from her husband. It was the right move, but she was hurt. She needs someone that will treat her right. You and I have been friends for years, and I know what happened to you when you lost Mona. You need someone as much as Teri needs someone."

"Yeah well, okay, I'll treat her good. I'll have her call you about the two loads when she gets back. I'm fine with them and her driving with me, but you can put it up to her. I don't want to pressure her in any way."

"Ted, I never met your wife, but I know you loved her dearly. She was reclusive I think you said one time. You are young and it is time you started looking for someone new. Even if nothing develops between you and Teri, you both will be better for knowing each other. If that is playing cupid, so be it."

Henry explained more about the freight I would be delivering and where. Finishing with him, I went down the street to meet Teri. She was checking out of the store. "Do you need to buy anything?" she asked as she came up to me.

"No, I'm fine. Do you need any clothes washed? There is a laundry a couple of doors from the motel."

"I could. Everything I have is dirty. I could wait until after you leave if you want. That is if you don't want me riding with you."

"I would like to have you with me. Henry found me a contract and I need a driver as far as Dallas." A look of stubbornness crossed her features.

"So it boils down to I can have a ride because you need me. Is that it?"

"You can look at it that way. I will say it again, I do want you with me and had decided already that you would be in the cab all the way east before Henry had found a load for me. I suppose you might not believe me and I admit I didn't fall all over you by asking you earlier. So if you want, I'll buy you air fare if you don't believe that."

"What would you do for a spare driver if I took you up on that?"

"I'd have to call Henry and tell him I couldn't handle the orders for service. I'd then wait for a load that I could handle." Teri searched my face for an indication to see what I really wanted."

"Ted, let's start over and talk about this rationally. Would you like to have me as your team driver on the way east?"

"The truth is I'm hoping you will be."

"Okay, that is settled. Now tell me why you didn't know if you wanted me with you?"

"It wasn't you. I was pissed at Henry. I felt he had put something over on me and you got in the way. He could have told me that the Teri I was going to be driving with was a woman. You are an excellent driver and you sing well. I was going to beg you to drive with me if I had to."

"I thought there was something about me you didn't like and wanted to get rid of me. I was beginning to like you a lot. You were treating me with respect. More than my ex-husband did at the end of our marriage. When you said you weren't sure about me returning with you, I was hurt."

"I'm sorry. As I said, it wasn't you. I felt Henry was meddling in my life and I took it out on you."

"Okay, I'll accept that. I am going down and do our dirty clothes. What are you up to?"

"I'll walk down with you. There is a deli across the street and I will get us a sandwich for lunch. Then I'm coming back and lie down until you get back."

"You did have the last turn this morning. Good idea." Teri was as tall as I was and with the shorts, she had put on when replacing her jeans, I could see her beautifully shaped legs. I had resisted looking at women for a couple of years. I felt I owed Mona that much. As Henry said, it was time I moved on. Was Teri the one? I did like her and I regretted almost blowing my chances with her. I would have to be more careful and consider her feelings in the future.

I wrote Teri a note when I returned from the deli, "I ate my sandwich. Too sleepy to wait for you. Beer and soda in the fridge. Sorry."

I didn't hear Teri come in with the clean clothes. When I roused up again, I heard her in the bathroom. She was singing in the shower. Mona used to sing when she was washing up. Tears came to my eyes remembering this. I was not prepared for what the last four days had pushed onto me. I had never had a female team driver before. Here I was in the same motel room with a woman I had rubbed elbows with several times over the last week.

Two years I had kept my thoughts on my deceased wife. In the last two or three days, Teri had invaded my mind and pushed Mona into the background. I knew there was nothing wrong with this. Was I ready to let my love for Mona fade? Was I ready to take up with Teri, or any woman for that matter? I imagined her drying off when she bumped into something. The singing was jumpy as if she were vigorously rubbing her skin.

I heard the bath door open and I closed my eyes to just a slit. Teri paused to see if I was still asleep before she came out. She had a towel wrapped around her. She went to the other side of the bed and I could hear her getting dressed. Suddenly she said, "Ted wake up. You have slept all afternoon. If we are going out to dinner, you had better get a move on. All of your clothes are clean, but I imagine you want to shower. I'm dressed already."

I rolled over and opened my eyes. I stared. She had on a nice dress. In addition, she had grown breasts since I had seen her earlier in the day. Should I comment? I decided it was better not to. I swung off the bed and headed for the bathroom.

"Ted, do you like the new me?"

"Teri, I do. I liked the old you too. Look, this is somewhat awkward for me. When I finish my shower, would you step outside and sit on the patio while I get dressed? I'm kind of shy."

"Sure. It is hard to get your clothes on in a steamy bathroom. Just knock on the door when you are ready to come out."

When I finished dressing, I opened the door to the outside. Teri smiled and came in. The deli had had some roses on the counter in tubes and I had bought three of them. I had hid them the best I could in the miniature fridge that the room supplied. "Will a pin spoil your dress if I affix these?"

"No." She watched me make a little arrangement out of the roses. "This is like a first date isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. First date and all that goes with it. Dinner, dancing and maybe a kiss at the end of the evening."

Teri looked at me. "You're pretty subtle you know. I know what you meant when you said first date. That tells me where I'm at with you. Too soon to call it a second date."

"You're pretty smart yourself. Let's go eat."

It was pleasant sitting across the table from Teri. We made small talk at first. Then I asked, "How long are you going to be driving big rigs?"

"I've had about enough of it. I can turn my rig in anytime without penalty. I have been trying for two years to find someone to replace my ex-husband. I have not found him yet. I am too fussy, I guess. Everyone was either too fat, two bald, too old, and too young or just looking for a one-night stand. Therefore, I have been going without, but I miss my loving. No, I will put that differently. I miss being in love and being loved. For someone who looks like I do, there is a chance I may never find love again."

"For me, I find you very attractive."

"More attractive than your wife whom you loved so much?"

"That isn't a fair question, but I will answer you. Mona was extremely pretty, but then cancer happened and it took her beauty away. Her lost looks bothered her much more than it did me. She was always the same person to me and I loved her."

"Yet you drove truck and were away for periods of time. If you loved her so much, how could you leave her?"

"Because Mona asked me to keep driving. Her mother cared for her while I was away and she also asked me to comply with Mona's wishes. My mother lives across the road and she said the same. All three women knew my love would never waver. They were right. I was always glad to get home to see Mona and she so looked forward to see me arrive."

"That is so sweet. I envy you having a love like that. I was puzzled when I first met you because you seemed surprisingly dedicated to someone who had left you so long ago."

"We did have something special and it's hard to let go." This conversation was getting to me. "Change the subject, would you? What will you be doing if you give up driving long hauls?"

"I don't know for sure. I might try driving a bus or for UPS. Some job where I can be home every night. With a CDL and a clean record, I should have no trouble. Are you going to continue driving for a living?"

"The same as you, I guess. In some capacity anyway. I have been offered work by my parents. It is near them and I've thought about accepting the job. Settling down in one place has its good points. Mona and I owned the house across the road from Mom and Dad, but then I had to get away from the area for awhile. I was headed home the day I got a call from Henry about needing a tractor for your load. It has put off going home for two or more weeks or so. I will visit as soon as I get back from this trip.

"You know Mona rode with me occasionally. She and I sat at this very same table and stayed in the same motel where we are right now. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to handle tonight very well. I find it isn't bothering me too much and I'm actually enjoying myself."

Teri reached across the table and squeezed my hand. "I'm glad. After the little uncertainty I had about you, I am enjoying being with you. I'm also looking forward to dancing with you."

I chuckled, saying, "You may not be so happy with my dancing. It has been a long time. I'll probably walk all over your feet."

"I'll risk it. Let's have another glass of wine. That way if you step on me I won't feel the pain." Mona and I had enjoyed dancing at one time and we were good. That part did not worry me, but the fact I was going to be in close proximity to Teri did.

We both had a little buzz on when we left the restaurant. I held her arm as we walked down the street to the lounge. Before we got very far, she took it and placed it around her waist. We came up to a dark spot in the shadow of a tall building. Teri paused and turned to me. "I want a kiss. I hope dancing with you is going to be as much fun as having dinner with you."

We did fit together nice. Yes, she pressed herself to me. There was not anything sexual about it as she immediately backed off and put my arm around her waist again. She started humming "Crazy Arms" and we continued on our way.

I nursed one beer the rest of the evening. Teri was happy, drinking more wine, and it was shortly after ten during a slow waltz set when this caught up with her. It started out fine, but the alcohol hit her and by the time we were into the second dance, she was draped on me. Her head was on my shoulder. The third dance had us over in a dark corner. We were not moving, just swaying to the music.

She roused up and slurred. "Ted, this is a wonderful first date. I think you had better take me back to our room and put me to bed. I do not want this to end and I know it can't get better than this, so we should end it now. This is how memories are made. Okay?"

We did make it back to the motel with me more than half carrying her. I opened the door and she started to enter. I took her arm and halted her. "Teri, first date, remember?"

A blank look came over her as she tried to remember what I was saying. Finally, "Kiss." She came toward me and I received what was a wine flavored slobber. I waited for it to end and found I had a passed out woman in my arms. I felt a stinging in my chest and remembered the pin that held the flowers. I had to ignore it or drop her, so although it was painful, I carried her to the bed.

She flopped down. I looked at her. What to do? I started out being as gentle as I could be, but found this did not cut it. I had never removed a woman's pantyhose before and found it a tussle. I left on her panties. I managed to get her dress off and her silky chemise that covered her above the waist.

Her bra was before me. It had a tag stitched to the strap across the back. "Acme, Prosthesis Co., quality products." It looked uncomfortable, but I was not going to touch it or remove it. Teri was going to wake up in the morning, not remembering anything at first. She was going to be asking questions about how she was undressed and I wanted to answer them truthfully.

I opened her case. I guess she didn't wear a nightgown for I couldn't find one. I found a just-washed tee shirt and put that on her. I looked at my watch. It was still before midnight. She would have ten hours to recover before checkout time. I went to the bathroom and came back, stripping down to my shorts. I put on a clean tee of my own. I didn't get entirely into bed, just sliding under the coverlet.

I did not worry about getting to sleep. I had taken a long nap in the afternoon and knew I would get a few more hours before dawn. I would be hooking onto a container about three in the afternoon and heading for Dallas. Moreover, I wouldn't have to drive very long before Teri would be ready to take the wheel again.

It was three A.M. when Teri staggered out of bed and headed to the bathroom. I heard her bumping around, still drunk. When she returned, she was totally naked. I knew she could not be thinking. She flopped down on the bed. I got up and threw a light blanket over her. She mumbled, "Thanks, Rich." I smiled as I think she thought she was back in bed with her ex-husband. When I came back from the bathroom, I went right off to sleep.

I was up at seven for the bathroom again. I would let Teri sleep awhile longer. It was eight when I felt Teri poking me. "I thought you said this was a first date and you wouldn't expect sex last night. Where is my underwear? God, I feel awful."

"Teri, nothing happened between us. I didn't take your underwear off. I did take your dress and pantyhose off so you would be more comfortable, but I didn't go any further."

"Turn over and don't look at me. I have to get up." I heard Teri pause at her suitcase and get something. Shortly I heard the shower turn on. I hoped she would leave me some hot water and my kidneys hoped she would not be in there too much longer.

Teri finally came out dressed in jeans and her usual top. She came up to me and leaned down to say, "I'll bet this is the first time you ever saw a woman's tits hung on the towel rack in the bathroom. Ted, I want to apologize for drinking so much. I seldom do that, but I was having such a good time I guess I went overboard. Thank you for taking care of me. Tell me why you didn't take advantage of me.?"

"If I had you would have been upset this morning. We still have several days in the cab together ahead of us before we part ways. I will also tell you I am looking ahead to a second date sometime in the future."

"Maybe we won't part ways. Did you ever think about that?"

"I am giving it some thought. By the way, who is Rich? You thanked him for covering you up when you came back from the bathroom last night."

Teri's face was flaming red. "That is my ex-husband's name. You saw me naked didn't you?"

"Yes, I did, and I very much would like to inspect you more closely at some later time in the future."

"I might just let you. Let's get something on my queasy stomach, can we?"

It took us 25 hours to reach Dallas. Teri was thrilled to see this part of the country and she hated to crawl back into the sleeper when I took over driving. I swear she sang the whole way. We had made good time and we stopped in Dallas after discharging the container. We got a room for a few hours and were able to make Houston at eight the next morning. It took three hours before our load was ready. We had expected it would be ready to hook onto immediately. This cut into the on the road time we had to make New Jersey. It was going to be tight, time-wise.

"What route are we taking east?"

"I think we will go back to Dallas and head east from there. We will start out from Dallas on I-30, pick up I-40 and eventually we hit I-81. This will put us into Scranton. I hope that we can lay over a few hours, before going into New Jersey with our load. I have traveled this route several times. I might even leave you in Scranton and deliver it by myself. That will give you a chance to take care of your rig."

"Oh no, I signed on for this trip and I'm sticking with it all the way."

I flashed Teri a glance. "Is it the money? It won't be that much."

"No." Nothing more was forthcoming for a bit. I glanced at her again. Then she explained, "I'm turning my beast in. Henry will guide me on that. I am going to miss it. Henry had it looked at and it was not just the fuel. It is definitely sick. Then I am going to take a long vacation. If I decide to still drive truck, I'll sign on with some outfit that has team drivers exclusively."

"How are you going to get home to Maine?"

"I'll buy me a vehicle in Scranton before I leave so I can travel on my vacation."

"Sounds like a plan to me. I am going to miss your singing though."

"You mean all this tit-less wonder means to you is my singing?"

"You said that, not me. Look Teri, I still have a few issues concerning my wife and her death. This trip with you as teammate makes me want to put those issues behind me. Having you with me for the last several days has been great for me. I can only straighten out my mind by going home and getting things settled.

"I told you my parents live in the same town as I do. I have let Mona's mother, Eloise, stay in my home across the road from my parents. I haven't been able to stay at home since Mona died, and I'll have to decide what to do about Eloise. She was wonderful to my wife and even more to me by taking care of both of us."

It was silent in the cab for a while. Then Teri started singing to the CDs again. I was going to miss this, that was for certain. Teri took over the wheel and I crawled back into the bunk. I lay there thinking, not sleeping.

I poked the curtain aside, "Teri, you could buy a car in Albany as well as Scranton." Teri's answer was to put Ray Price's CD on and sing along with "You Are the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me." I dozed off.

I slept for several hours, and after stretching, I poked my head through the curtain. Teri smiled at me and made an obvious comment, "Awake?"

"Yeah. Where are we?"

"We are still on I-40 and still making great time. We are ahead of schedule. You mentioned we might get a motel room for a night. Do you still want to do that?"

"No, not now. I'm anxious to get this load delivered and see home again."

"Good. I want to see your hometown myself. I have been on the radio with Henry. Henry is going to handle turning in my tractor to the leasing company. He has hired someone to drive it back for me. You know if we got off I-81 and headed straight to Baltimore, we would save a lot of time getting into New Jersey."

"Good planning. That is the route I would normally travel. I had been thinking of you and your rig when I said we would go into Scranton. This way we can drop our load and head north. You will be able to help me with some of the routes getting out of New Jersey."

"That I can do. I am familiar with the area. Are you going up I-87?"

"No, it is a toll road as far as Albany and there are some other roads that are almost as good."

"I like your thinking. Toll roads are great if you are in a hurry, but if you have the time, the extra cost is unnecessary. Ted, I won't be cramping your style by following you home will I?"

"No, not at all."

We found our way into Patterson, New Jersey, arriving there too early to unhook. We walked down to a diner and had breakfast, holding a conversation on what this day would be like. "How do you plan on getting to Albany from here?"

"I'm going to work our way up to 9W. That will take us to Albany. There are a lot of small towns so it will be slow going, but still better than hitting the interstate and its toll roads."

"It sounds like a plan. Are you going directly home?"

"We could, or we could stop somewhere, get a motel room, and talk a little bit about us and what our lives have been like in the past. We might explore the idea of starting a relationship. Before we get to that subject, I have a lot to tell you about my wife and our last years together. There is also my life since she died."

"Your comment about starting a relationship interests me very much. We do need to tell each other much more about our pasts. I need to tell you about me and my husband and our life together."

"Okay, we stop before we get to Albany. Teri, it's going to take some time to tell you about my wife. After I have told you, you may not consider it is wise to go forward and start a relationship with me. I would like to have one with you, but I'm going to tell you everything."

"Okay, you have cautioned me. That is a start. Other than rape or murder, there is nothing I can think of that would change my mind."

"No rape and no murder." I left Teri to speculate what I was going to tell her in a few hours. We dawdled over our coffee until the factory compound would be open to take our paper work for the load.

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