I got the call from Nick, and there was no question that I had to go. He once took a bullet for me. That is to say he was stupid enough to save my life and get himself shot in the process.
The simple fact that we were from the same -smallish- town, prompted us to become buddy's in boot camp. We got drunk together a few times on leave, the few we got before Saddam Hussan decided to pick on the Kuwaitis. Of course our unit got called up. Yup folks, we won ourselves a luxury vacation to the middle East. Our unit had the honor of being among the first ground troops to go into Kuwait. Now I kind of know what a duck decoy feels like.
Just after sunrise that first day in I was out on Recon, the C.O. said to check out this little band of merry gentlemen clustered by a wall in this little Iraqi outpost. So I'm doing my best to communicate with this bunch of jabbering idiots when -behind me- one of those Shiite guys took offense to my translation abilities or some such thing. He decided he would draw down a bead on the head of little, innocent Mikey Irvin -that's me- with his side arm. He was just starting to squeeze the trigger when old dipshit Nick Ainsely comes out of nowhere in a flying tackle.
Nick hit him and they both went down in a mighty OOF! The Shiite cause Nick's full weight with battle pack had landed on him, Nick from the new hole punched -not so neatly- in his shoulder from the point blank discharge from the side arm. As Nick was no longer much in control of the situation, I managed to empty a full clip from my M-16 into the aforementioned Shiite before he could squeeze off another round.
Actually, I tell people I was aiming at Nick for being such a dipshit and not popping the yo-yo from a distance himself, but my aim isn't very good so I got the Shiite instead. Anyway, Nick saved my life.
I spent the rest of my tour in Kuwait breathing stinky, black smoke from damn big oil fires, making certain that none of the locals came by to offer a light to the guys trying to put them out. Nick spent the rest of his in a hospital bed stateside.
Once back from my Middle East vacation, I stopped by to see how old buddy Nick was doing. He was doing alright at the time. His shoulder now fairly well healed, leaving a battle scar he could talk about around the pool at his apartment complex.
Now as to what prompted old Nicky to enlist in Uncle Sugars boy scouts, I have no clue. Especially when he was married with an infant daughter, who was much less an infant when he got back. He neglected to tell me all this when we were in boot and then the Middle East, not that we had much time for conversation over there. So I didn't know it until I went to visit him.
I met Nick's wife -Sally- and young daughter -Calley- at a pool side barbecue. I was with my girlfriend, I think it was Nancy at the time, but I'm not certain. I recall we got pretty drunk at the barbecue. Nick told the party all about how he had saved my butt (actually, it was my head). I told the party how I emptied a whole clip into the Shiite trying to hit Nick for being such a dipshit. In terms of points scored, I lost. I actually saved his life too, as the Shiite had taken an exception to being tackled in that manner, thoughtlessly interrupting him in the process of blowing my head off. So this guy was bringing the sidearm around toward Nick's noggin to register his displeasure when I casually stitched him with lead while avoiding the dipshit. Nick saved my life first, so it didn't count with the pool side babes.
Life goes on. I went back to my mechanics job while Nick took university classes on Uncle Sugar's tab because of his injury. We saw each other a couple of times a week for a beer. That was before we both got too busy to keep in touch very often. Nick was at the university taking classes and I was working days in an auto shop, going to school nights (learning to talk to computers) and finishing out my tour of duty on the weekends.
Still, I got to know Nick's family pretty well. Sally always had a smile for me when I came over to visit and Calley called me Uncle Mike ( I called her short stuff, which she hated, but giggled over). During one of Sally's attempts to put a little structure into their family life, I happily consented to be Calley's godfather.
With both Nick and I in school, our visits got farther apart again. When I graduated, I got a pretty good job offer in another city a thousand miles away. Finding I could transfer my remaining time with Uncle Sam to the new town, I accepted the job. This was heavily influenced by the fact there weren't any computers smart enough to talk to in our home town. Anyway, the distant job cut my visits back to once a year, supplemented by phone calls a couple of times a month, then once a month, then every few months.
I got a call from Nick a few years later telling me that Sally had the misfortune to step in front of city bus traveling at a fair clip. She hardly knew what hit her. I made the trip to attend her funeral and go through a ritual drunk with Nick. At the time, Sally's mother was watching over Calley, so I hardly got to see much of her. I was sort of glad of that, as she was pretty broke up about losing her mom.
After that, I didn't get to see Nick and Calley very much. When I did, things seemed to be working out okay for them, so I didn't worry too much about them. I'd talk to them from time to time or scoot a letter off to them. As we were both busy as hell and so far apart, our contacts got fewer and fewer again until finally I hadn't heard from them again for almost five years. I'd finished my time with Uncle Sam and my career was going very well.
Out of the blue, I get a call from Nick, saying he needed to see me real bad. I had some vacation time accrued, so I told the boss I was taking it and made the journey back home.
It was only when I got there that I discovered the real reason for the call. Nick was in a hospital bed in pretty bad shape. The reason he needed to see me, was because he was dying. He was calling in my debt to him for saving my life. The price; Taking over guardianship of one fully grown fourteen year old girl, my god daughter, Calley.
After the initial shock and denial wore off a bit, I took the time to access the situation realistically; Sally's mother had just kicked off herself a short time before, her father a long time before that. Nick's parents were also deceased. Sally had been an only child, so was Nick, who was genuinely fucked up with a bad liver.
Apparently I should have been worrying about Nick and Calley a lot more than I had in the interim. In college Nick had gotten himself hooked real good on drugs. I guess he got into them partially from the pain killers first given to him because of his shoulder injury. He hid it from everybody pretty well for quite a while. Before he kicked them, he had the misfortune to share a needle with some twerp who had hepatitis-A. That slowly ate his liver away. He aggravated it in later years by drinking heavily after he was already too ill to work. When I finally saw him in the hospital, it was a noticeable bulge on him.
So Calley had no other living relatives. She didn't have too many options for foster parents in our smallish home town. Teenagers seldom get adopted anyway, even if they do get straight "A's" on their report cards. Everybody prone to adoption wants a cute little baby. So it was me, an orphanage or a long string of short term foster homes. Calley was a good kid and didn't deserve that. Nick had it all worked out with his lawyers and a kindly judge before I ever got there. I didn't have much time to think about it, as he was going fast. There was also the major fact that I owed him big time for saving my life. I did the right thing and agreed to take Calley.
The judge and child welfare people didn't make much fuss about things. They had Nick's sworn statement and endorsement about my good character. I'd had a steady, good-paying job for years. Years before I had been legally established as Calley's godfather. While not married, I had been engaged to the same woman for a couple of years. I didn't have any criminal record. I had a nice home -that I co-owed with the bank- in a nice area of the town I lived in.
I think the clincher was Calley clinging to my side in the courtroom. Mostly in fear of the other places the judge might have sent her. I was appointed Calley's legal guardian until age eighteen, when she was officially on her own. Calley had tears in her eyes as she politely thanked the judge for his decision.
Basically this kept Calley from being a problem for the county in the meantime. I didn't consider Calley to be a problem. She was a good kid. She got good grades. Over the past few years -as Nick deteriorated- she had shown herself to be quite self sufficient. Getting herself off to school as well as tending to his needs when she got home.
I had been amazed when she had recognized me right off when I first walked into the hospital. She called me Uncle Mike and came running up and gave me a giant hug. I thought it might have been Nick telling her that I was coming, but I was to later learn that she honestly remembered me. I was also amazed at what a sweet young lady she had turned into.
At the moment, we didn't have much time to get to know each other again. It seemed that the legal documents were barely signed when Nick checked out. Then it was dealing with funeral arrangements The VA covered it.
There weren't a lot of people at Nick's funeral. I felt sorry for Calley. It wasn't fair for such a sweet kid to have been dealt the hand she had been; losing her mom before she out of grade school and then her father before she was out of Junior High. She hadn't had much of a social life taking care of her father as she had.
After the funeral, Calley and I went through another round of dealings while I sorted through the mess over their home and possessions.
Surprisingly, Nick had a life insurance policy that was in force and listed Calley as sole beneficiary. I say surprisingly, as many -even most- insurance companies would have disallowed the cause of death as a self inflicted injury. But it turned out that Nick had been under recurrent care of the VA when he contracted the hepatitis. By shear coincidence, the VA had a sloppy intern on staff at the time -no longer- who had taken blood samples from Nick. He had reused needles and the hospital ended up with several cases of hepatitis-A, or serum hepatitis, which is generally only passed through sharing a needle with someone who has it.
The hospital assumed responsibility for Nick's hepatitis. He had privately told me the truth before he died. But the status was that through some deal between the hospital and Nick's insurance company, the insurance paid off on the death benefits in exchange for the hospital eating all the medical costs. Calley also got a death benefit from the government and somehow from Social security.
The upshot of all that, was that Calley would be fairly well off when she finally turned eighteen. In the meantime, it was put into trust. That was okay, I was doing fairly well in my career. There was also the matter of the equity Nick had built up in his house, which it turned out the bank had an eager buyer for. Calley didn't seem forlorn about the idea of selling the house. When I asked her about keeping it as an investment she made a face and told me to sell it. So that would pretty much provide for the expenses of raising Calley for the next four years at least. This was at her suggestion, not mine. She said I deserved something for suddenly being forced into being a parent. I finally agreed to accept it, but once alone with the lawyer I arranged for it to be added to her trust with a contingent rider releasing it in case it was needed for emergencies.
The house now sold, we set about packing up. This was really our first time alone together for any length of time since I had arrived. I studied her from the side as we sorted the household.
I didn't know how to read Calley. I knew she must have been hurting pretty badly from losing both her parents. But she hardly showed it as we packed up what she wanted to keep and sold off the rest of the furnishings. She wasn't cheerful, but she didn't seem all that withdrawn either. It was as though she had been preparing herself for Nick's death for quite a while. When it happened, she was somber about it. She cried at the funeral, staying close by my side, but there wasn't a prolonged bout of it either. We talked about her folks some, but she seemed to shy away from that subject for the moment. I let her know that I would be there for her when she wanted to talk about it. She hugged me tightly and kissed my cheek. Then went on with the packing. In the meantime we talked about what her life would be like moving to a big city. She also seemed intensely interested in anything I could tell her about Jill, my fiancee. I attributed this to concern over what her future step-mom might be like.
Fact was that Jill and I hadn't been all that serious about getting married. It was more like a steady date for Friday night with various different weekend activities thrown in here and there. Our sex life was pretty mundane. She liked to do it -quickly- Friday night, in the dark, after dinner and a movie. That was when she wasn't "In the shop". No kink. No frills. No fireworks. Just a regular -mundane- lay for each of us. Any attempt at adding a little spice or excitement -like leaving the lights on- was met with quiet contempt on her part. She would also assuredly not be in the mood the following Friday as a punishment for my actions. Of course she never called it that, but over two years the behavior was pretty predictable.
Jill wasn't happy at all when I told her on the phone about me bringing Calley back with me. Of course I didn't tell Calley that.
We finally got all Calley's possessions, packed and loaded in a rental van. As I had driven out, the van sported a tail, my sports car on a car carrier. We made the rounds in town for Calley to say good-bye to her few friends and exchange numbers and addresses. We also stopped by the school for a record of her school transcript. Finally we hit the road.
I let Calley pick a radio station to keep us company on the road. Surprisingly, for her age, she picked a fairly moderate one. At times she almost hummed along with some of the tunes, but after a note or two she'd stop. She wasn't all that happy yet. Still, she kept in a pleasant mood as we drove along. She seemed to spend a lot of time looking at the country side we passed. Occasionally asking about something, as if I knew a lot about farming!
We stopped at a sit down diner for a pleasant lunch and to give ourselves a rest from the road. Over lunch I couldn't help wonder at how she had grown since I had last seen her.
Calley was about 5'6" tall and maybe 125 lbs. I'm not good at guessing women's weights, but she was slim. Not skinny, just slim. Her breasts were becoming quite noticeable on her. I gathered the effect to be real rather than padded when her nipples came and went when we passed by an air conditioner. Her hair was light brown, like her mother's had been. She had stunning green eyes, as green as I had ever seen. The effect made her face quite pretty. I'd done my best not to notice her lower end, but her ass seemed to be near perfect for her body size, much to my disconcertion. Still, Calley was a young teenager. While I did notice she was very attractive, it was more from a perspective of how many boys I'd have to fight off rather than any sexual thoughts it might have provoked in my libido. Calley was far too young and essentially now my daughter. Fooling around with her wasn't something that came to mind.
"Like what you see?" Calley asked, taking a sip of her diet Coke.
"Huh? Sorry, just musing about how many boys I would have to fight off." I chuckled, having been caught looking.
Calley sort of made a face.
"Not too many. I know I'm young, but boys my age seem like such kids." she said.
"They are kids. So are you, but you are amazingly mature for your age." I said.
Calley sort of smiled at me.
"Thanks. You seem amazingly cool for yours." she chuckled.
"Ouch! Touché." I said.
She nodded at me, grinning.
We finished up our lunch, then used the bathrooms before we hit the road again.
Calley seemed thoughtful as we drove along. I quietly sang along to a modern song that was playing. Calley joined me.
"You really are pretty cool. How come Jill hasn't drug you off to the alter yet?" she asked, after the song.
I glanced at her a moment, then back at the road. Perhaps it was a good time to tell her about Jill.
"Oh, I guess -so far- it's just been convenient for us to go along as we have. She seems to want a bit too much control of my life for me to do that." I said.
"What sort of control?" she asked.
"Oh ... Money, for one. She has this plan for her to be the household administrator, with me just signing my check over to the household account. I'm more inclined towards separate checking accounts with a household account for the bills. Both of us paying our share each month into the household account. She thinks that shows a lack of commitment on my part to the union. I don't see how. Fact is that I make a lot more than she does. I also want a pre-nuptial agreement before I'd get married. She's not in favor of that at all. Says it shows I think the marriage wouldn't last." I said.
"I see, what other kinds of control does she want?" Calley asked.
I was a bit uncomfortable talking about it, but I wanted to be honest with Calley.
"In the bedroom." I said.
"How so?" she asked, grinning.
"She's pretty reserved about our relationships. Enough so that it's not all that exciting to me." I said, blushing a bit.
"What, she won't do what you want?" Calley asked.
"Not really. Doesn't even want the lights on. Not that I care so much about that. But she's not very affectionate otherwise either. I guess I'm a huggy-feely person. She doesn't like a lot of physical affection." I said.
"So why don't you find another?" Calley asked.
"Not really that easy, for one. Secondly, well, for the most part Jill and I do get along. We've been going together now for a couple of years. I kind of feel devoted to her." I said.
"Why?" Calley asked, casually.
"Oh, we've been through a lot together." I said, now wondering a bit myself.
"Like what?" Calley asked.
"Oh, like we've been to concerts, plays and even the ballet. On weekends we go out sometimes to arts fairs and stuff like that." I said.
"Who pays when you go out?" Calley asked.
"Uh, I do. Why?" I asked.
"Just that it seems to me that you're getting screwed, and not literally. I mean, you supply all her entertainment. You pay for all your activities. In return she doesn't like to be touched and maybe lets you do it once a week, in the dark, if you are a good boy. How much does it cost to go to the ballet?" Calley asked.
"About forty-five dollars a seat." I said, flustering a bit.
"So that's ninety bucks. Throw in dinner at a moderate restaurant at twenty bucks a plate and you are into the date a hundred-thirty bucks. A nice restaurant would make it an even two hundred. Last I heard prostitutes were around fifty bucks a pop. So you could save between eighty and a hundred-fifty dollars. And I think they would let you leave the lights on." Calley said.
"What about disease?" I asked, smugly.
"So wear a rubber. I heard most prostitutes require it nowadays anyway. What do you and Jill use for birth control?" Calley asked.
"Uh ... rubbers." I admitted.
"So not even that much different." Calley chuckled.
"You sure don't talk much like a fourteen year old." I said.
"You're right, I don't swear near as much as most the kids I know." Calley said, grinning.
"Alright, smarty. What about love?" I asked.
"That, you'd have to answer for yourself. I don't know much about that. But I do know that just getting along with someone isn't the same thing." she replied.
The conversation lapsed with that tidbit of wisdom. The question about love seemed to have put Calley in a somewhat dispirited mood. I wasn't much better. The conversation left me thoughtful about my relationship with Jill. What Calley had said was all too true.
Towards dusk, I was getting tired. I told Calley to keep her eyes open for places to eat and a motel that didn't look too bad. She suggested we find a room with a kitchenette and stop at a grocery store to save a bit of money. I reflected over how different the statement was from what Jill would want. With her, we'd have to eat at the nicest place in town and stay at the most expensive motel.
Coming up on a medium sized community, Calley spotted an ad for a motel with kitchens. She consulted one of the maps we had picked up and directed me which exit to take. On the way there she spotted a grocery store and we stopped and got some food. Calley had volunteered to cook, so I let her choose the food. Her selections were quite reasonable. The food cost us less than a single serving at a restaurant. We drove on to the motel, which also turned out more reasonable than I expected.
When I registered, I listed Calley's real name as well as mine. The clerk raised an eyebrow over this, as through the window she could see Calley was quite young.
"It's not what you think. I'm her legal guardian." I offered.
"Yes sir, sign here please." the clerk smirked.
Once in the room, Calley set about fixing us dinner. I lay down on one of the beds to channel surf a bit. I must have been more tired than I realized, as the next thing I knew Calley was shaking me gently to come eat.
The meal was good. Light, but filling. I felt much better afterward. I sat back with a second cup of coffee relaxing on the bed. Calley got the TV control and found us a movie to watch, then sat back and snuggled by my side as we watched it.
Feeling Calley's body against me was a bit disconcerting, but I reasoned she needed a bit of security in her life at the moment. Fact was that I was kind of amazed she was as comfortable with me as she seemed to be. She showed no signs of the typical teenage aversion for adults. Especially one she had seen so little of as she was growing up.
A jiggle at my side revealed that Calley was crying. I turned to her and pulled her into my arms. She conformed to me and I held her tenderly as she sobbed herself out.
"It'll be okay, Calley." I offered, softly caressing her back to comfort her.
"Thank you for taking me. I was so afraid I would be alone." she sobbed.
"You don't have to worry anymore, I'm not going anywhere without you, baby." I told her.
"Promise?" she asked, timidly.
"Yes, love. I promise. It's you and me from now on. Where I go, you go." I promised.
Calley hugged me tightly and continued to cry. We ended up laying on the bed, her half atop me, clinging to me as she cried herself to sleep. I held her tenderly as I vowed to myself to make her life happier and never let anyone hurt her. I managed to pull a blanket over us and continued to hold her as I slipped away myself.