I think I've finally made up my mind about what I want to do if and when I grow up. I'm a junior at the university now and I've been vacillating between two majors since I came here but now it seems to be coming together. I've always enjoyed writing and I've kept a journal since I was about ten so it's fairly extensive. Now I'm thinking about tackling a book. It wouldn't be an autobiography, though. I'm not interested in sharing my whole life with the world at large but I think I've compiled enough interesting events through my twenty years on this planet that they could be the basis for a pretty interesting novel. It might be a pipe dream but, hey, how many writers get their first novel published anyway? Scanning through some of my older notebooks, I ran across some stuff that evoked some memories of an important turning point in my life; and my sister's life as well. For reasons that will become obvious, the names are made up but here's what happened:
I guess you could say we were practically inseparable, my sister and I. Oh, we had our fights and disagreements like all kids but for the most part, we really only had each other to rely on so maybe we were closer than most sibs.
Living on a barely profitable ranch in the middle of Nevada didn't offer many opportunities for social engagement. Everything was so far apart and we lived so far out of town that even something as simple as going to a party with our friends at school was usually out of the question. Dad lived only for the ranch and he was about as fatherly as a fireplug. As far as he was concerned, raising children was the mother's job. Mom was bored out of her skull and spent a good deal of her energy trying to get into the hired hand's jeans when she thought Dad wasn't looking. It was a big joke among the men and I'm pretty sure Dad knew about it but just didn't give a damn. You might add vacuous to the list of Mom's characteristics.
We weren't physically abused or anything. Well, at least not much. We had pretty much what all kids had except that our folks seemed like they were counting the days until we were old enough to live on our own and they could be seen to have fulfilled their parental responsibilities. The time I'm thinking about, we'd just turned fourteen – oh, by the way, we're twins – so they were going to be saddled with us for three more years until they could ship us off to some college; the further away the better.
Do I sound like I'm whining and wallowing in self-pity? I'm not. Alexandra and I – I call her Allie - had long since come to a consensus on what we thought was the secret to surviving our family. If we played it cool and hung together we could do OK on our own and not be a 'burden' to our folks who clearly would rather be doing anything other than raising kids. Is it any wonder that we clung to each other?
Our daily routine included after school chores. Mine was looking after our five horses and keeping the stable cleaned up. That usually took about two hours a day. We use to have a lot of horses until my Dad discovered he could do a lot more with ATVs for a lot less money than it cost to keep horses fed, groomed and medicated. Allie's duty was helping Mom with the cooking and keeping the house reasonably clean. I say helping but in reality, she cleaned and cooked while Mom parked her derriere on the couch and read romance novels. We'd both taken a few 'whuppins' over the years, as dad called them, mostly for not getting our work done to his satisfaction. He couldn't abide laziness.
We made our little pact somewhere around the age of eleven and for the most part, it worked. We made sure we did our work, kept a low profile and kept our mouths shut around the folks. In other words, we tried to be as invisible as possible. If we could avoid it, we never went to them with our problems, never asked questions, never asked for anything unless it was a school requirement. An outside observer probably would have thought we were someone else's kids, there was so little interaction between us and our parents. We just kind of co-existed in the same house.
If we weren't in school or doing chores, we were together, either in her room or mine or out riding our horses somewhere on the ranch. One of the few gifts we ever got from Dad was pair of twin colts on our tenth birthday. We fed them, cared for them and trained them. When Allie and I began our great adventure, they were four years old and in their prime; beautiful matched geldings, gentle as lambs and devoted to my sister and I. We named them Thunder and Lightning. Hey, we were kids.
During summer breaks or whenever school wasn't in session for some reason, we'd ride for miles and miles exploring the ranch. Eventually we found a favorite place we liked to go that nobody else knew about. It was a cave on a rocky hillside about two miles from the house. We discovered it by accident one day when we stopped to let the horses rest after a half-mile gallop. Allie challenged me to a foot race to the top of the hill and took off running with me in hot pursuit. She had already started her pubescent growth spurt and she was two inches taller than I was so she had the advantage. I was about to catcher her when she darted between two boulders. When I followed her through the narrow gap, we found ourselves standing in a cave entrance, maybe seven feet high, five feet across and disappearing into darkness.
"Wow, Mark! I never knew this was here, did you?"
"No! This is so cool. I wonder how far back it goes." I looked around the floor area covered with fine dirt and didn't see anything but coyote and rodent tracks and some slither marks where snakes had passed. I found a good-sized rock and threw it into the darkness. It went a good distance before it bounced off a couple of rock walls. It was deep.
"I don't know but let's not go exploring until we have some light," warned my sister, always the practical and cautious one.
"You're chicken!" I taunted.
"No, just smarter than you. Look, next time we ride out here we'll bring a lantern and some stuff for a picnic. Who knows? This might be some old bandit's hideout and there might be stolen money or gold somewhere."
"You wish! It'd still be fun to explore, though. We could come back next Saturday if you want. I can bring my .22 rifle in case there are varmints."
"That's a good idea. Come on, it's getting late and we still have chores to do. We don't want to be catching any grief from the parental units."
We left the cave and headed back to the house with a feeling of ownership. This would be our place and nobody else's.
The following Saturday, we got up early and made ourselves breakfast and a few sandwiches to take with us to the cave before Mom was up. Dad was already out doing fence repair with one of the hired hands. Nobody gets up before he does. Sometimes I think he doesn't sleep at all. We got our chores done early and saddled our horses for the ride out to the cave. I found an old oil lantern and a half-full bottle of oil in the tack room and stuffed them into the saddlebag. Allie carried the sandwiches and bottles of water.
A half hour later we were at the cave. From the bottom of the hill the two boulders looked like one. The gap between them was invisible and too narrow for the horses to squeeze through so we unsaddled them and let them graze while we explored our new 'special place'.
The cave entrance faced east so there was a little sunlight coming in between the rocks and lighting the place up about ten feet in. It looked like it widened but there was a lot of dark beyond the sunlit floor. I laid the saddlebags off to the side and lit the oil lamp.
"You ready?" I asked.
"Ready when you are, Bro. Let's check it out."
When we got past the sunlit part, the cave opened up into a chamber about fifteen feet across. Further on it looked like it narrowed again, twisting and turning in the lamplight. Of course the swinging lamp caused all sorts of interesting shadows to move around us kicking our imaginations into high gear. I still couldn't see anything on the dusty floor but animal tracks. That reminded me that I'd forgotten my .22.
"Dang! I forgot my rifle."
"What were you planning to shoot," she joked. "A ghost?"
"Har, har! Very funny! Come on, let's keep going."
The floor slanted downward at a fairly steep grade. We weren't more than a hundred yards in when Millie squeaked and pushed me against the rock wall making me bang my head.
"Ouch! Damn it, Allie, that hurt," I complained.
"L-l-look!" she said, pointing into the darkness.
At first I couldn't see anything but then I did. Two bright yellow dots in the darkness and they seemed to be moving toward us. We stood as still as stones, hardly breathing as the points of light got closer and closer. I almost wet my pants when a coyote suddenly bolted past us like a bat out of hell. I don't know which of the three of us was the most frightened.
I chuckled with my best attempt at bravado, "Just an old coyote. He probably won't come back since the smell of humans is in the cave now."
"I hope not," gasped Allie. "I know they try to stay away from people but they still bite if they get cornered and he was almost cornered."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Maybe we need to be more carful."
There was one more surprise. We found the end of the cave about another fifty yards in. Where the ceiling looked like it nosedived into the cave floor, there was a little pool of water a few feet across that was fed by a trickle coming out of a crack in the rock wall. I don't know why but I was reminded of Bilbo's first encounter with Gollum. I scooped water up in my hand and smelled it, then tasted it. It was clean and cold. That alone was quite a find in the middle of Nevada. It was no Mammoth Cave like I read about in geography class but it was still pretty darned big. And it was ours.
We headed back to the entrance and ate some sandwiches.
"This place is so cool, Allie. You know what? I want to start bringing stuff out here to make it a special hideout. You know, kind of like our own secret place that nobody knows about. I bet we could live here and nobody would ever find us."
"Why would you want to live here, Doofus? There's nothing here but dirt and rocks."
"Boy! For a kid, you sure don't have much imagination. I don't mean really live here. I'm just saying that if we ever wanted to be really alone, we could."
"Yeah, I guess I see what you're saying." She giggled, "It is kinda fun, isn't it?"
Little by little, through summer vacation, we carted more and more stuff to the cave. One day when Dad and Mom were in town for the day, we hooked a little trailer to one of his ATVs and carted out a bale of hay, an old three-drawer bureau and two sleeping bags with air mattresses. I also found an old Coleman cook stove that I know hadn't been used in years and two unused bottles of propane. We kept games and our personal stuff in the bureau.
Since Allie served as assistant chief cook and bottle washer at home, she had access to a whole kitchen full of useful stuff. Before long we had a cast-iron skillet, a saucepan and a few cans of ravioli and spaghetti and several varieties of soup. Some days we'd make fried bologna and cheese sandwiches and eat 'til we were ready to pop.
Winters can be pretty raw in central Nevada so we didn't get out to the cave as often when it started getting colder. That was the year I did my own growth spurt and by the time the next spring and our fourteenth birthday rolled around, I was two inches taller than Allie and had sprouted hair in all the appropriate places. I'd also discovered the joys of masturbation which took up a lot of my time and energy.
Additional changes in the Alexandra department hadn't escaped my notice. Seems like every day she looked more and more like a woman with bumps and curves in all the right places. When she was bouncing around on the back of her horse in tight jeans and a tank top, it was hard to keep my eyes off her, hormones affecting the brain like they do.
By April the weather was getting warm and we spent a lot of our free time at the cave. Hard as it was for us to believe, Mom actually took notice and asked us where we were going that we spent so much time away from home. We told her we just liked riding around the ranch looking at stuff. "Well, don't be gettin' lazy 'bout doin' yer chores 'r yer dad'll whup yer butt." That was pretty much the extent of her interest.
The turning point in the lives of Alexandra and Mark Taylor and the beginning of our big adventure was when we came home from school early one day because of a gas leak in the school kitchen. We walked into the living room to find Mom splayed out on the couch getting banged by George Ortega, one of the hired men. Man, they were going at it so hard they didn't even hear us until we were practically on top of them. We were just standing there staring when Mom finally opened her eyes and saw us.
She gave a yelp and screamed, "Get the fuck out of here, you little perverts!" At the same time, she pushed George off of her and onto the floor. He looked at us and then at her, then made a grab for his clothes lying in a heap next to the couch.
We were backing toward the stairway while George was scrambling to get his pants on but we weren't moving fast enough for Mom. Trying to get her blouse buttoned, she screamed again, "I said get out!" That's when she picked up a heavy glass dish off the coffee table and threw it at us. I ducked, Millie didn't. The bowl caught her square in the middle of the forehead and she went down like a pole-axed steer. Blood started pouring down her face. Mom looked at her with eyes like saucers and took off out the door behind George for parts unknown. So much for maternal instinct.
It took me a few seconds to get my own brain working. She couldn't have been out for more than a few seconds and as she started coming around, I dashed into the downstairs bathroom and got a wet washcloth. By the time I got back to her, she was sitting up and trying to stop the bleeding with the palm of her hand. I moved her hand and wiped the blood away enough that I could see it was only a small cut but it would be on a big knot.
"Shit, Allie! Are you OK?" I plastered the washcloth against the cut and told her to put pressure on it. That's all could remember of my Boy Scout first aid training. I was scared.
"Don't say 'shit'! And no, I'm not OK! It hurts like hell! Jeez, Mark, look at my new top. It's ruined!"
I looked at her in exasperation. "Only you could get cold-cocked by your own mother and be worried about your damned shirt. Let's get out of here! I think she's finally gone over the edge."
"Where can we go?" Tears were flowing now and that made me want to cry myself.
"Back to the cave! Where do you think?"
As I was helping her out to the stable, we saw George's pickup tearing down the drive toward the highway but we couldn't see if Mom was with him. We were in a hurry so we didn't even take time to saddle the horses; we just jumped on and rode bareback to the cave. We galloped all the way so the horses were pretty spent by the time we got there. Allie slid down off of Thunder's back and I helped her up the hill to the cave. I hoped the horses would wander back to the stable and not hang around giving away our hiding place.
Inside the cave, I guided her to one of the sleeping bags and got her to lie down. She was looking pretty pale but I didn't think it was from blood loss. It was probably from pain and the shock of what had just happened to her. I opened a bottle of water and gave it to her. It was warm but it was wet.
"Thanks, Mark. I think I'll be OK. Does it look like I need stitches?"
"I don't think so. The cut's only about half an inch long but you're sure getting a big knot on your forehead. You just stay down and rest, OK? Are you hungry? I could heat up some ravioli or something."
"Maybe later, thanks. I hope I don't have a concussion. If I go to sleep, I think you're supposed to wake me up every couple of hours to make sure I'm not brain damaged. I think that's what the doctor told Mom to do when you banged your head falling off Lightning last year. I guess if I start getting dopey, you'd better ride back to the house and call an ambulance."
I tried to lighten her spirits. "You're always dopey so how would I know the difference?"
"Go away, Bro and let me rest."
I watched her sleep, checking to make sure she was breathing about every two minutes. You know how it is when you get something locked in your head; you just keep going back to it over and over until it's been blown up into something way bigger than reality. Well, that's how it was watching Allie sleep. I kept imagining the worst and finally I couldn't stand it any more and woke her up after about an hour to ask if she was OK.
"Well, I was until you woke me up. How long have I been sleeping?"
"I don't know, maybe an hour. Are you sure you're OK? I thought your breathing looked a little strange."
"I'm fine, Mark! Quit fussing over me, please! Um, maybe you could heat up some of that ravioli now."
"Coming right up. I took the bucket down to the pool and got some water for you to soak your shirt. Cold water's supposed to be good for getting blood out, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is but I think you have to do it right away. Besides, I don't have anything else to put on."
"Sure you do. There's a couple of my old T-shirts in the bottom drawer of the bureau. Go ahead, I won't look."
It took a lot of willpower not to peek. I heard the drawer open and then the rustle of cloth. She leaned over my shoulder and smelled the canned ravioli warming up.
"I know this stuff isn't good for you but it sure smells good doesn't it?"
When I turned to look at her, the first things my eyes focused on were her nipples making two points on the front of the T-shirt. I guess blood had dripped onto her bra as well. I quickly looked away hoping I hadn't stared long enough to be discovered. I poured the warmed contents of the pan into two bowls and handed one to her along with a spoon.
"That's a lot! What'd you do, open two cans?"
"Well, yeah. You don't believe that crap on the label about it serving two, do you?"
She just laughed and dug in. It made me feel better knowing she had an appetite. When she was done she set her bowl down and asked, "What are we going to do, Mark? We can't stay here forever."
"I don't want to go back while she's still around and I sure as hell don't want to be the one to tell Dad what happened." I thought about it for a while. "You know what? I think I'll sneak back and pick up some more stuff for us. Dad won't be back home yet and if Mom's there I'll just come back. She might have gone with George rather than face Dad. From the look on her face when she took off out the door, she probably thinks she killed you."
"I don't know if that's a good idea, Mark."
"It'll be OK. Tell me what you need. I know we need some Steri-strips for that cut on you forehead and maybe some aspirin or something for your headache."
"Well, I could use some clean clothes and underwear, I guess, and maybe you should bring out some more food."
"OK, you just stay out of sight and I'll be back as soon as I can. I'll think about what else we need on the way."
Allie surprised me by reaching out and pulling me into a snug hug. "Be careful, Bro."
Luck was with me in that the horses had only wandered off a few hundred yards and came running when I whistled. I climbed onto Lightning and headed back to the house, Thunder following behind. From the low hill behind the house, I got off and crept closer looking for any signs of life. Nothing. I checked the garage and Mom's car was gone. After stabling the horses and giving them some oats and a bucket of water each, I eased in through the back door, still not positive the place was empty.
When I was satisfied it was, I went back to the garage and took my backpack down form the hook and carried it into the kitchen where I filled the bottom half of the pack with the kind of food you take on a hike; you know, Mac-n-cheese, packets of oatmeal, crackers, that sort of thing. I threw in a half dozen oranges and a chunk of cheese out of the fridge. From there, I went to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and got a box of bandage strips and some Tylenol.
Looking at the contents of Allie's dresser drawer, I wished she'd been a little more specific about what she wanted. Finally, I just grabbed some bras, panties, jeans, socks and tops and hoped it was what she wanted. By the time I'd stuffed my things on top, the backpack was full and probably weighed in at fifty or sixty pounds. I was a strong, healthy boy but I knew I'd be breathing hard by the time I got back to the cave. As an afterthought, I took off my sneakers, tied the laces together and hung them around my neck and put on my hiking boots.
By the time I got back to the cave about an hour later, it was starting to get dark. Allie helped me shed the backpack and get everything sorted out and put away.
"Did you see anyone?" she asked.
"No. It's getting dark so Dad should be in soon. He probably won't even notice anything 'til his supper isn't on the table when it's supposed to be. If Mom has half the brains I give her credit for, she packed her bags and took off. I didn't check their bedroom but her car was gone."
"Well I hope the bitch never comes back, " hissed Allie. I raised my eyebrows at that outburst because it was so unlike her.
I cleaned the little cut on her head again and put a bandage over it. The temperature was starting to fall with the onset of darkness so I lit the lantern and draped a blanket over her shoulders. I heated some water on the camp stove to make tea.
"How about a game of scrabble?" I asked.
"Sure. I always enjoy shining a spotlight on your ignorance," she laughed. That was a little false bravado on her part because I had a thing for words and pretty much always kicked her butt.
We played scrabble and sipped tea for a couple of hours until she finally conceded defeat and crawled into her sleeping bag to read for a while.
As I was rinsing out our cups, we heard thunder off in the distance. That was unusual so early in the season so I stepped outside between the rocks to see if it was coming our way. I could see the sky lighting up to the south and it definitely looked like we were going to get rained on. I checked out the area in front of the cave entrance to see which way the water was going to go if we got a heavy rain. When I was satisfied any runoff would be away from us, I took off my boots and crawled into my own sleeping bag. It wasn't all that late but a lot had happened that day and I was feeling pooped.
I closed my eyes and was vaguely aware of the storm coming closer as I drifted off to sleep. My eyes popped open with a particularly loud clap of thunder and I heard the rain pouring down outside. Allie had turned off the lantern and was scrunched down in her sleeping bag.
"Wow! That was close, wasn't it?"
"Too close for me," she answered.
I snugged back into my sleeping bag listening to it come down.
"Um, could we zip the sleeping bags together?"
"Why, are you afraid the boogey man is gonna get you?"
She wasn't amused. "OK, just forget it, creep!"
Of course I felt like an ass. After all, the girl had had a very bad day. "Sorry, Allie. I think that's a good idea. I could do with a little physical contact about now and I'm sure you could too."
We crawled out of our bags and unzipped them all around, then zipped them together. "Do you mind if I undress down to my underwear?" she asked. "I really don't like sleeping in my clothes."
I'd be lying if I said the idea didn't cause my pulse rate to speed up. "No, I don't mind if you don't. I will too if you don't mind." I tried to sound as nonchalant as possible, not feeling the least bit so. Allie crawled under the top sleeping bag in her panties and bra and I slid in next to her in my boxers, turning on my side facing away from her so my dick wouldn't make its presence obvious or poke her in the butt with unintended consequences, i.e., getting a hard on. I know it sounds ridiculous but I suddenly remembered that I hadn't brushed my teeth and crawled out of the bag to take care of that issue.
"You're really a creature of habit, aren't you Mark?"
"Yeah, I guess." I got snugged in again.
She spooned up against my back and put her arm around my chest pressing her boobs against me. "G'night, Bro."
I lay there feeling her against my body and trying to control my breathing. I was afraid she'd figure out I was getting turned on and think I'd become some kind of a sexual deviant. After a few minutes, I heard her snoring quietly behind me and relaxed enough that I could finally sleep. The last thing I remember thinking before I drifted off was that I really shouldn't be thinking about my sister the way I was.