ANOTHER FIELDING HERO
Commander Jennifer Fielding was tired. No, she was totally exhausted but duty called and she responded as she always had. It was just another routine day in the life of a Naval Aviator and then all at once it wasn't. She had seen some heavy shit in her twenty plus year career but this day looked like it would take first place in the shit category. Her take off had been delayed for almost an hour while the mechanics ran down a problem in her bird. She also had a discipline problem to work on when she returned to the ship. Two of her sailors had decided they loved each other and had been caught doing the dirty in a paint locker. At least she was lucky enough that they had been of opposite sexes. Still, after her investigation she would have to spend several hours at Captains Mast and taking care of the assorted paperwork.
Finally Commander Fielding had been able to take off on her first flight of the day. On the way back to the ship she planned to turn this flight into a check flight and possibly training mission for her copilot. She was flying off the USS Enterprise on what was supposed to be a very boring flight. She was way too senior to be doing mail runs which is what this flight was supposedly about. She had ulterior motives when she opted to take this flight and use it as a check flight on her copilot when they returned to the ship.
Commander Fielding's reason for taking this flight was a very good one to her at least. The official reason for the flight was to make a mail run into Bagdad Iraq. All she was supposed to do was fly in, pickup and deliver mail and load some parts her ship needed. Unofficially, however, she was on a personal mission as well. Normally one of her junior pilots would get this duty but her Uncle Jeffery Fielding was "in town" and she wanted to take a few minutes to visit him. He was a Soldier but she didn't hold that against him one little bit. In fact, most of her family were Soldiers rather than Sailors but what the heck. Jennifer had felt the call of the sea when she was young and followed the roughly ten to twenty percent of her relatives who went into the Navy instead of the Army.
Uncle Jeff was only going to be in country for a few days so she had a choice of taking this mission or chancing not being able to see him for several more months. Jennifer had just read in her copy of the Army Times that Colonel Jeffery Fielding had been selected for the rank of Brigadier General and she wanted to congratulate him in person. She had flown late into the night the day before serving as pilot of the helo that was always up during flight ops. She was supposed to be off most of the morning but when she got the e-mail from Jeffery she decided to take the flight and visit him. Truthfully Jennifer was lonely. She was senior enough she had very few friends and peers on board. She had never been married so had no close family to write to or call. Oh, sure, she had her birth family back home in Missouri but she had no one special, no one she was close to and she needed that desperately. It seemed all she did was work, eat and sleep. At least if she took the mail run she could see someone special and have a few hours of pleasant conversation. She really needed to catch up on family and the happenings back home.
CDR Fielding brought her bird in carefully and skillfully when she reached the airport. She was slowly settling down for what she hoped would be a textbook landing when her Crew Chief yelled, "Commander get out of here! We have a hot LZ. INCOMING." As she heard him over the intercom she also received the radioed warning from the flight controller. The airport was being hit with mortars.
Jennifer looked around and saw an explosion just to the side of her aircraft. She started back up when another explosion hit just under the nose of the aircraft. Jennifer felt several hard hits on the aircraft. She felt something slam into her right breast. Her right arm went numb and flopped away from the controls. The aircraft began to nose right and drop toward the tarmac.
Jennifer looked down and saw a mass of blood on the right side of her chest. Her flight suit had been torn open and she could see dark red blood seeping out of her body. The pain hit and she moaned. She could hear her copilot yelling in the background as he tried to get control of the bird.
They hit the ground with a hard wallop and screech. Jennifer saw the front of the canopy moving toward her and heard the rotor hit the tarmac. She felt a deep blackness envelop her.
Slowly, painfully CDR Fielding awoke. Her whole body ached with a deep throbbing pain. Her right chest ached with a sharp stabbing pain. Every breath and movement hurt. She heard a moan then realized it was her. She bit her lip to stifle the noise. It was dark in the room where she lay. The doorway was open and she saw light in the hallway. There was faint noise coming through the open door. There was a steady beep, beep, beep coming from the equipment she was attached to.
An Army Lieutenant, a Nurse, came into the room. She smiled at Jennifer and said, "Good evening Commander. I'm Lieutenant Samuels. How do you feel?"
Jennifer tried to smile and said, "Like Crap. I hurt all over."
"I expect you do." The Lieutenant reached for a small cord with a push button on the end. She handed it to Jennifer and said, "This is the control for your pain killer. When the pain begins to bother you too much just push the button and you will get a small dose of Morphine. Don't worry. You can't get too much. It is set to only allow you so much an hour."
While the nurse was talking she was checking all the vital signs on Jennifer. She checked blood pressure, pulse and temperature, made some notes on the chart. She gave Jennifer a quick smile and knelt to check the bag attached to a catheter. "You're doing fine Commander," she said.
Jennifer looked at the young woman and whispered, "My crew? Did they ... are they ok?"
"I don't know about all of them ma'am. Your Crew Chief is pretty badly banged up. He wasn't strapped in well and got thrown around a lot when you went in. Your Copilot has a broken leg and some scrapes and abrasions but he'll be fine. Was there anyone else on board?"
Jennifer shook her head no and said, "No, just the three of us this trip. Will Smitty make it? When can I see them?"
"I really can't say Commander. We'll have to see what the Doctor says about visitors. You aren't going anywhere for a while yourself and the Crew Chief can't get out of bed either. Maybe your copilot can drop in on both of you. He is mobile at least. Of course all of you will be leaving in a day or two. You've all got a ticket home."
Later--Jennifer had no idea how much later--a doctor came into her room. He was a Colonel, US Army. He gave her what she was to come to call his "Doctor Smile" and said in an obviously falsely cheerful voice, "Well good morning Commander. How do you feel?"
Somewhat later after the obligatory fines and you'll do wells were out of the way Jennifer finally had the nerve to ask, "Sir how badly was I really hit. I mean, I saw the mess on my chest and I'm pretty sure I had some other holes in me..."
The doctor walked to the other side of the room, picked up a folding chair and pulled it back beside Jennifer's bed. He sat down backwards on it, leaned his chest on the backrest and opened her file. He glanced at it then held it in front of him. Commander, there's no good way to say this. You lost almost your entire right breast. We saved the nipple and most of the upper side. The underside and some of your muscles were ripped away. Luckily the shrapnel that hit your chest was moving from right to left and slightly back to front. If you had been leaning just a little to the left side the damage would have been much less. You took another piece of shrapnel through your lower right side. It missed the kidney but damaged your right ovary and some of your intestines."
The Colonel looked over at Jennifer. He saw the tears, grimaced and continued, "Do you have a family? Children?" When Jennifer shook her head no he continued in a softer voice. "Commander we can reconstruct your breast. We left as much flesh as possible for the plastic surgeons to work with so it can be done. There will be some serious scar tissue and that just can't be helped. You lost enough muscle your right side will probably be weaker than it was. You still have one perfect ovary. There will be some scaring in the reproductive tract. I just can't tell you how that might affect you if you decide to have children in the future. I'm afraid you would have to talk to a specialist about that. Physically you can expect a full recovery however."
Jennifer felt her eyes water. She bit her lip and turned her head away from the doctor. She took a deep shuddering breath and said, "Thank you Sir. At least now I know for sure. For once I am glad I'm a lefty. At least I can still feed myself."
Some unknown amount of time after the doctor left Jennifer was laying in bed looking out the window. She was felt sorry for herself and angrily wiped at the tears trickling down her cheeks. She was like many, even most women. She had wanted a family; a husband, children, the house and yard, PTA meetings and the works. She had dreamed of finding that perfect man while she was in the service but that never seemed to happen. She found several Mr. right nows but never a Mr. All Right. One or two had come close but they just somehow came up short in the end so she had never married. Jennifer had planned to put in her retirement papers after this deployment and find a job on Civvie Street. Truthfully she was becoming tired of the pace she had to keep up in the Navy as well as the loneliness she felt in her personal life. Somehow her career just wasn't fun any longer. She needed more or something different now.
Jennifer was still staring at the dirty brown buildings and sand when she heard a noise behind her. She turned her head back toward the door and saw several more Army uniforms entering her room. There was the doctor, a young Lieutenant and then her eyes opened wider. There was a Brigadier General—her Uncle Jeffery.
Jennifer smiled and said, "Jeff, uh I mean General. I didn't know you had already pinned it on. Congratulations. I had hoped to get to see you this trip. That's why I was flying the bird instead of someone else."
Jeffery looked at Jennifer with sorrow and some worry. He moved through the people with him and bent to her. He gave her a careful hug, kissed her cheek and stood. He smiled and said, "While I would have liked to see you in different settings than this I am glad I can see you and we're able to talk. I understand you had quite an adventure." Jeffery laid his hand on her shoulder and continued, "I know how you feel Jenny. It hurts like hell. You want to cry. Sometimes you just want to die so the pain stops but you do get over it. They tell me you will be moved to Germany tomorrow. You'll probably be back in the states before I am. If you are, tell everyone hi for me. I'll try to call your folks today and tell them I saw you."
Jennifer and Jeffery visited for a few more minutes before he had to leave. She was sorry to see him go but knew he had to. After all, he was here to work not babysit a banged up chopper jockey.
Jennifer was not normally one to feel sorry for herself. She was inherently honest and detested crybabies. Knowing she still had a full and fulfilling life ahead of her she still had immense difficulty maintaining a positive outlook on life after her injury. She had a normal convalescence according to her doctors. In her mind however she did not. She was constantly impatient with her progress. She was devastated when she was told she would have to go before a fitness board for flying. She would be devastated if she could not continue to be a pilot. Every time she looked at herself in a mirror she almost cried. Jennifer had been a very beautiful woman before her injury. Now she was lopsided and her chest and abdomen were covered in unsightly scars. Many times she would catch herself standing in the shower or in front of her mirror gently rubbing the scars and silently crying over what she had lost.
Jennifer still had her life and if she wanted it a career in the Navy. It didn't matter to her that she had already decided to leave the Navy when she was shot down. All that mattered was that she was now ugly and she might no longer be allowed to fly. After her injuries were healed she would have to go before a medical review board for their decision on what future job she would have in the navy or even if she would be allowed to stay on active duty or retired.
Jennifer took a long convalescent leave and returned home to Steelville. It was great to see the little town once again and to reconnect with all the old friends and her family. Like many of her relatives before her that came home from the military a wounded hero she relaxed beside the river flowing through their land. Also like many of her relatives before her she, perhaps, partook a little too much from the bottle during that time. Also like many before her the family finally got fed up with her attitude. One afternoon Jennifer was sitting on the riverbank pretending to fish while trying to drain a fifth of the Glenlivet.
Jennifer heard footsteps walking up the trail from the direction of the Resort. She tried to ignore the noise and whoever was making it in the hopes they would go away. She heard the steps stop beside her and felt as much as saw a large male shape sit beside her in a lawn chair he had brought with him. The chair matched the one she was using.
Jennifer turned her head to glare at him when she felt him pry her fingers off her bottle of scotch. She set her jaws and glared at him while he raised the bottle to his lips and took a deep swallow. Without a word Colonel (Retired) Charles Fielding returned the bottle to his daughter. He looked at her a moment then leaned forward and put his forearms on his legs. He looked over the slowly flowing river and through the trees lining the far bank. His eyes focused on one of the hired hands running a tractor baling hay in the distant field. To her surprise Jennifer saw the hint of a tear in his eye.
Finally her father heaved a deep sigh and without looking at her began to speak. "Honey I know you hurt. You have lost something that I know was very dear to you. I remember how Charlene felt about flying. She loved me dearly but I almost think she loved flying more. Before she agreed to marry me she made me agree not to try to keep her from flying. In the end the flying killed her just like it almost did you.
"When Charlene died a part of me died with her. I've been where you are now just as have many of your other relatives and friends. I tried to kill my sorrow with the Glenlivet too. Honey you can't spend the rest of your life sitting here sucking on that bottle no matter how good its contents are. A good scotch can make you feel better for a while. It can deaden your pain somewhat but I guarantee you are still thinking about what you have lost. It can't make you forget. You really don't want to forget. All you want to do is lose the pain. Honey the only way you can lose the pain is to move on.
"After Charlene died I did the same thing you are doing. I sat down here for hours at a time, day after day trying to make myself feel better and wallowing in my sorrow. I was miserable. Your mother and grandmother finally talked some sense into me. You have to let it go and move on. I know I wasn't injured physically like you and your uncle Jeff was but I had a soul searing, soul destroying loss. I really didn't care if I lived or died for a while. At least in one way what happened to you is better than what happened to me. You didn't lose someone you loved. You can do other things and be happy.
"You know many people believe things always happen for a reason. If I hadn't lost Charlene I wouldn't have met your mother whom I love very deeply. If I hadn't gone through that pain and suffering I might not have been trying to find something I had lost by taking my time driving across the country when I met your mother. If I had not lost Charlene I definitely wouldn't have had you and your brothers. You have to believe there are still a lot of good things out there for you Jennifer.
"Honey you have over half your life ahead of you still. I don't know what you want to do with it but I desperately hope it isn't to live the rest of your life inside that bottle. You have to get a grip and move on. Ok, so you aren't as beautiful as you once were on the outside. So you have lost the ability to do something you loved to do. Buck up. There are other things you can still do. You are still a beautiful woman. You have that inner beauty and frankly an outer one as well.
"I've never asked. I always felt it really wasn't any of my business but I do want to make a comment here. You need people in your life. You need a special person—someone who can make you feel like your mother does me; someone who can give you children if you want them or at the very least someone who can love you and take away the hurt as you deserve." Charlie looked somewhat uncomfortable and continued, "If you, unnh, if you don't have a man to do that we can make a partner welcome here too."
For the first time since she was shot down Jennifer laughed. For some reason seeing the expression on his face when her father tried to tell her it was ok if she was a lesbian made her laugh until her sides hurt. Finally she managed to stop and leaned over to hug him. "Daddy how could you think I was like that? You know I dated a lot of boys and men before I left home and after I got into the Navy."
Jennifer smiled and laid her hand on her father's forearm. "Daddy you know I have always wanted a family and children. At first I was captivated by my career and felt like I had scads of time to become a good pilot and then make babies. I tried Daddy, I really did but I just couldn't find a man who was good enough. The one or two I did find wanted me to get out of the Navy and become a stay at home wife, to join the wives club and help further THEIR careers. I couldn't do that. You and mom raised me to stand on my own two feet and to have a career too. Now I suppose it's too late though. Who would want a scared up old hag like me that may not even be able to make a baby any longer?"
Charlie leaned back in his chair and glared at his daughter. "THAT'S ENOUGH OF THAT CRAP COMMANDER!" You are a highly educated woman, a military officer. You know damn well you're spouting a bunch of bullshit. You're a fine woman and if you want to badly enough you can find a man or woman to live the rest of your life with. Your few physical imperfections will not stop them from loving you either. Your inner beauty, your personality and brain will win the day for you. Now GET OFF YOUR DAMN ASS AND QUIT FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF!"
Charlie stood and stomped away from Jennifer. Jennifer on the other hand felt herself almost shaking with anger. What the hell did he know? He still had his career. He had her mother too. She had no one and now she probably didn't even have a job she loved.
Jennifer reached for her bottle again and became even angrier. Her beloved Glenlivet was gone. She looked up in time to see her father walk around a corner in the path carrying the bottle with him. "Shit. Damn asshole," she muttered. She stood and threw the stick she had been holding into the river. She didn't even pull her fishing pole from the water before she stomped down the path behind her father. How DARE he take her bottle when he left? She was damn well going to get it back from him and give him a piece of her mind.
Jennifer had gone almost out of sight of her spot before she cooled off enough to think again. She walked slower then with an oath turned back to where she had been sitting. She pulled in her fishing line, folded both chairs and began trudging slowly back toward the resort. When she got there she put the chairs and fishing gear away without a word. Jennifer went straight to the room she was using and ignored everyone who was watching her.
After a long hot shower Jennifer sat on the small deck off her room and watched the river flow past. Occasionally a young couple or a group of people would float past in canoes. She remembered the days when she was young and did the same thing. Life seemed so simple and so wonderful in those days. She was beautiful and knew it. She had to fight the men off and many times she didn't. She had lost her virginity on one of those float trips. She wondered what ever happened to all those boys she had dated in high school and college. Well, really, she only wondered about two or three of the most special ones but so what.
Jennifer sat on her patio until nearly 1730 before she moved. She was supposed to have supper with the family at her grandparents' home. It was Friday night and every Friday a different family member hosted a meal for the rest of the family. She had missed almost all of the gatherings since she had been home this time. Sometimes they held the gathering here at the Resort but that was usually on a special occasion or when the entire family would be expected to be present and no one else had room.
Jennifer changed into shorts and a blouse then walked out of the lodge and to the car she had been loaned for her leave. When she entered her grandparent's home she found herself walking slower. She felt like a naughty child who had been caught more than a responsible Naval Officer. She walked through the house and into the kitchen where many of the women were putting the finishing touches on the meal. She could see the men standing or sitting around outside while the BBQ smoked wildly.
Jennifer wasn't comfortable with the women because she had not done much of a domestic nature for over 20 years. Oh, sure when she was on shore duty she prepared many of her own meals, cleaned her own home and so forth but she didn't feel like she had much in common with the wives and mothers scurrying around the kitchen. She really had more in common with the men. Most of the males in the back yard either were in the Reserves or had retired from one branch or another of the military. They were all, to a man Officers. She fit in there but she was embarrassed to show her face after the talking to she had suffered this afternoon. She knew her father was right but it hurt so damn much...
Finally Jennifer moved to a compromise. She began carrying prepared items outside and placing them on the tables they would use for the meal. While she was out there she would visit for a moment or two with the men. Slowly, inevitably Jennifer relaxed and began to enjoy herself. These people were not only her family they were her friends. She cared deeply for them and she knew they cared deeply for her.
Over the course of that evening and the next week Jennifer finally began to heal mentally and emotionally as she had already healed physically. A week before her leave was over she got a phone call from her commander. He told her when her Medical Review Board met. After that call Jennifer called her detailer. He laid out her options if she was able to continue flying and if she was not. To her they weren't really all that great. She agreed to consider them all and let him know what position she would be most interested in if she was retained in the navy. Of course there was no guarantee that would be where the Navy would put her but at least she did have some input.
By the time her leave was over Jennifer was once again in love with her hometown and the surrounding area. The small town had grown enormously while she had been away in the Navy. There were now almost 4000 residents and many new businesses. Jennifer found herself strangely reluctant to leave. She had met many new people and made friends with some of them. She was especially fond of a retired Command Sergeant Major in Wilsons Mill and a retired navy Chief that worked for another friend of hers in Steelville.
While she was going through more physicals and reintegrating herself back into the Navy Jennifer made a life altering decision. She decided to retire and move back home. She did not even wait to see if she would pass the flight physical that had been scheduled for her. She did not care what the Medical Review Board would decide. One of her old school friends worked as a real estate agent. They had gone out several evenings during her convalescence and reconnected. The lady made real estate sound interesting. She said if you were good even in the down markets you could make enough money to live comfortably. Of course with her pension Jennifer would not have to work as hard or long to live comfortably any way. She had no intention of using her income from the family business to live on. As far as she was concerned she didn't need it and so it was of no consequence.
Much to her surprise the day Jennifer filled out the retirement application she felt a weight lift off her shoulders. She had not realized how the responsibilities of her career had weighed her down. She felt happy about the decision and was looking forward to returning permanently to the home she had left so many years ago. Normally the Navy required several months notice for retirement but considering her special circumstances they waived some of the notice time. Jennifer was retired and released from Active duty three months after returning from her convalescence leave.
Jennifer packed her small SUV with immediately necessary items and started off on a leisurely drive back toward home. The Navy would ship the rest of her belongings to her. She had already decided to get her real estate license and see if she liked selling real estate as a second career.
Jennifer was surprised at the ease with which she settled back into life in her small town. Within six months she felt as if she had been there all her life. She had her real estate license and was building her business rapidly. Her name and family connections were helping immensely as you would expect. She was already working on obtaining her broker's license as well. Jennifer knew the area well and knew where the choice locations to own were. She targeted those locations in her marketing.
There was a small bar and campground in the town of Prineville that Jennifer began going to. It was owned and operated by Larry Wilson, a young retired Army Sergeant and his wife Linda. The first time Jennifer had been there was for lunch she treated a couple to when she was showing them some property. She had liked the place immediately and felt relaxed there.
The second time Jennifer had gone to the place was on a Friday evening when she had invited her good friend Sarah out to celebrate her obtaining her Broker's License. They sat on the patio with a couple of the other agents celebrating Jennifer's accomplishment. Finally, near the end of the evening Sarah stood and made a toast to Jennifer. "I want to take this opportunity to formally toast the accomplishments of my very good friend Commander Jennifer Fielding. She served our country with distinction for almost 22 years before retiring and coming back home to us. Now that she has returned to us she has taken up another career and in just a few short months has obtained her Broker's license and a full book of properties to sell. Well done Jennifer, thank you for your service and welcome home."
Later that evening only Jennifer and Sarah were left celebrating. A young man and woman walked up to their table. The young man was crippled and limping slightly. The woman was carrying a tray with four drinks on it. The man stood before Jennifer almost at attention. The woman placed the drinks for Sarah and Jennifer on the table, handed one to the man and took the other for herself.
The man fully assumed the position of attention with the exception of holding his drink and said, "Commander I am SSG Larry Wilson, Retired. I overheard the earlier toast your friend there made. My wife Linda and I also want to thank you for your service and welcome you home."
The man smiled and placed his arm around the waist of the woman standing beside him before continuing. "My wife and I own this little slice of Heaven and are pleased you and your friends have chosen to honor us with your business. You were always welcome here but now you are even more welcome. There is always a place in our establishment for those who have served our country."
For some reason Jennifer felt her eyes become moist. She felt a tightening in her throat. She stood also and said, "Thank you so much Sergeant but, if I may, I want to repeat a saying my Grandfather used to use. We're both retired now and I'm not a Commander any longer. It would honor me if you would call me Jennifer. I assume since you're retired at such a young age that your limp must have something to do with it? If so, I am the one who should be honored to be in the presence of one who was so seriously injured fighting for his country."
Larry laughed and said, "OK Jennifer. And yes, you are correct. I was injured somewhat on active duty and had to leave the service. Of course from the rumors I hear I don't hold a monopoly on that either do I? I hear you took some major hits too."
Surprising no one the two ex military people hit it off well. The one drink morphed into another, then another. Linda and Sarah both sat listening as the two new friends travelled down memory lane with each other. As the night passed and finally drew to a close it became obvious neither Sarah nor Jennifer were fit to drive. Atypically Larry and Linda closed the bar with Linda doing most of the work because of Larry's unusual state of intoxication. Even more strangely when the closing work was completed they took the two drunks into their home and let them sleep it off.
The next morning a hung over Larry and his wife were sitting on the balcony overlooking the park and river when an embarrassed Jennifer came stumbling outside to see them. "Mrs. Wilson I am so embarrassed. I apologize for my actions last night. I am grateful for your kindness putting Sarah and me up last evening. Can you ever forgive me for imposing on you like I did?"
Linda laughed and said, "Jennifer you have no reason to ask for my forgiveness. You were not obnoxious in the least and Larry and I both really enjoyed talking with you last night." She smiled and wrapped her arm around a sheepish looking Larry then continued, "Besides, I not only learned more about my husband and what he went through last night than I had known before but I also understand much better what those of you who serve go through. I would like very much to be able to call you a friend. You and your friends will always be welcome in our bar and in our home. Now sit down and I'll get you some coffee I bet you need."
Jennifer sank into a chair beside Larry and sheepishly took the coffee when Linda handed it to her. She sat quietly drinking the coffee and looking over the river with Larry and Linda. About thirty minutes later Sarah came staggering from her bedroom and onto the deck. She sank into a chair and held her head in her hands. "OHHHH. I feel like crap." She turned to Jennifer and said, "All the rumors I have heard are correct aren't they? You damn sailors DO drink like fishes. Never again."
Everyone laughed and relaxed back in their seats. Linda walked from the deck into the house. Soon Linda returned and handed Sarah a cup of steaming coffee. Not another word was spoken until all had completed their cups of coffee. Jennifer looked over at Larry and said, "I really don't know what got into me last night. It's been years since I let myself get drunk like that."
Larry looked over at Jennifer and smiled although the smile looked more like a grimace. "I know what you mean Commander. I acted like a payday rich little PV1 and I'm sure paying for it right now."
"Dammit Larry I TOLD you my name's Jennifer. I WAS a Commander. Am I going to have to stand you at attention and read you the riot act before you call me by my name?"
"I'm sorry Ma'am. It's just a habit. I'll try to get better if you insist."
"Larry Ma'am is just as bad. I will lay some hurt on you if you don't straighten up. Speaking of hurt, do you have some aspirin I could have? I need to take care of this headache, find some food and then get home to change clothes and get to work."
Sometime during Larry and Jennifer's exchange Linda had disappeared. Larry stood and walked slowly, almost painfully, into his house. He went into the master bedroom and got a bottle of aspirin then went into the kitchen for a glass of water. He saw Linda making what he called a "real" breakfast. She was frying Potatoes and Onions, Eggs, Ham and there were biscuits in the oven. He walked up to her, set the water and aspirin down then wrapped her in his arms. He looked at her beautiful face a moment then gave her a gentle kiss. "I love you Honey," he said. "Thank you for putting up with us last night and for the breakfast this morning."
After another hug Larry picked up Jennifer's aspirin and water then walked back out onto the deck. He handed her the items he had for her and said, "Here are your pain pills you worthless Squid. Linda's making that breakfast you ordered right now. I'm afraid we can't help you with the change of clothes though."
"Oh, no! We couldn't impose on you for breakfast. Come on Sarah, we have to go right now."
Larry was just beginning to tell Jennifer she had to stay because the food was almost done when Linda came to the door. "Come on you three. Breakfast's on the table."
Jennifer and Sarah made a couple more polite statements of regret for putting Larry and Linda out then they all trooped into the house. There wasn't much conversation as the meal disappeared rapidly. Finally Jennifer sighed and pushed back from the table. "That was delicious Linda. Thank you. I really enjoy breakfasts like that but don't have them very often because of the calories they pack in. Now let me help you with the dishes then I really do have to run. I have a showing this morning and I still have to go home, shower and change clothes."
Larry and Linda watched the two women walk slowly toward their cars. When the cars started ok the couple turned back toward the bar. They had a lot of work to do to prepare it for opening at 11:00. Normally they had a lively lunch trade then things slowed down until shortly after 5 when people began dropping in for a cold one on the way home from work. Larry worked slowly because of his hang over. Finally they were ready for the lunch crowd and wandered out onto the deck to rest a moment before they unlocked the door to start another day.
Linda looked over at Larry and smiled. "I really enjoyed myself last night Honey. Jennifer Fielding is a really nice woman and her friend Sarah is ok too."
"Yeah but I think she's really lonesome. I hope she finds some friends to visit with soon so she doesn't seem so sad. Somehow she just doesn't seem like most of the people we get in here. I hope she comes back often."
Larry and Linda didn't see Jennifer for a few days then she showed up Wednesday evening. She came in about 6 p.m. and walked up to the bar. She ordered a Dos Equis Lager. After she paid she took her beer and wandered out onto the deck. None of the group Jennifer usually came with had showed up. She sat watching the sun filter through the trees. There was still an occasional canoe floating past on the river that would catch her attention.
Larry walked up to his cook and said, "Betty Linda and I are going to be on the deck for a break. Please keep an eye on the bar for me. Yell if you need one of us back."
When Linda and Larry walked onto the deck they saw Jennifer staring at the old abandoned Hotel beside his campground. She looked up at them and smiled then returned to her inspection of the surroundings.
Jennifer said, "Larry what's the story on the old Hotel over there? I know it's been closed for several years. It looks so sad just sitting there rotting away. Do you own it too? I seem to recall it was part of the camp grounds at one time."
"Yeah we own it. It was part of the deal when I bought the place from Phil. I hate to see it rot but we just don't have the money to fix it up. I try to keep the grounds in decent shape because a lot of the campers and picnickers use the yard and shade during the summer. I've thought about trying to do something with it but I really don't have the time or money to do it."
"Would you mind if I looked it over? I would like to see what it looks like. I spent a lot of fun summers working there when it was open for tourists."
"No, be my guest. Do you have something in mind or are you just curious?"
"No I just remember it from when I was younger and thought it would be neat to trip down memory lane more than anything."
After Jennifer finished her beer she stood to leave. Larry and Linda stood also to return to work. When the three got to the bar Larry picked up a key and handed it to Jennifer. "Here's the key to the hotel. Sorry I can't come with you but I have to get back to work."
Jennifer was gone almost an hour before she came back into the bar once more. She smiled and handed Larry the key then ordered another beer. This time she sat at the bar and visited with Larry while he tended to his business. Linda was helping the cook and two waitresses were scurrying back and forth.
The next Friday evening Jennifer returned to the bar once more. She greeted Larry as normal and once more took a table on the deck where she could see the hotel and look over the river. Several people she knew showed up and they had a great sounding time. Sometimes the table would be completely packed then one or two would leave before more showed up. Jennifer stayed until the very end. After the last of her friends left about 10 p.m. she stood, walked to the bar and took a seat.
Larry walked up and stood in front of her. They began visiting and continued the visit through several interruptions necessitated by drink orders. Finally about 11:30 things began slowing down. Jennifer looked up from watching her bottle as she made water rings on the bar. She said, "Larry I've been thinking about your hotel all week. I have a proposition for you. You know I'm in the real estate business?"
Larry nodded his head 'yes' and Jennifer continued. "I think the old building is still pretty structurally sound. It is dirty and outdated. The room sizes are slightly below modern standards but I think you could work around that. What I'm thinking here is that I could help finance a remodel for you then I could act as manager of the property. We would have to hire some help but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. What I really want to do is live there. I've fallen in love with the view here and how peaceful it is along this stretch of the river. I like it here a lot better than out at my families' resort where I have been living.