Copyright© 2022 by Lazlo Zalezac
Ling said, “You look like hell.”
“I’ve been around your daughter for a couple of days,” Gary replied pointedly.
He tried to count the days, but they all ran into a blur of move and move and move. He had never been so tired in his life. Trying to keep up with Betsy was a constant effort. She was always in motion and that required him to always be in motion. The normal human being wasn’t built for that level of activity.
“You should get some rest,” Kelly said.
Gary pointed at Ling and said, “She should let me quit.”
“You can’t quit until I find a replacement for you,” Ling said.
“How’s that search going?” Gary asked sarcastically.
“Not very well,” Ling admitted.
Gary said, “You might as well give up. Everyone knows that she’s just as deadly as you are. No one in their right mind is going to touch her. Anyone not in their right mind is going to get torn into little pieces.”
“I want someone to watch over her,” Ling declared.
“Do you have anyone watching over you?” Gary asked pointedly.
“Yes. We have a full security staff at home,” Ling answered.
Kelly said, “We do.”
“Do you have a personal bodyguard?” Gary asked.
“Well, no,” Ling said.
Gary said, “I’ll handle security at her house, but there’s no way I’m going to be her bodyguard. It’s physically impossible. I can’t protect her when she’s jogging. She runs at fifteen miles per hour and I’m doing good to get up to eight miles per hour. I try to follow behind her on a bike and the next thing I know she starts heading across country doing that Parkour thing where I can’t follow her. I’m not going in the ocean with her. She attracts sharks and the sharks are going to look at me like I’m dinner.”
Ling said, “That is a problem.”
“That’s a big problem. No job is worth getting shit out the back end of a shark,” Gary said.
“That’s a rather vulgar way to put it,” Kelly said.
“I apologize. It’s just that I feel rather strongly about the subject,” Gary said.
Claire said, “You make some good points. I don’t blame you.”
Ling said, “That doesn’t solve our problem.”
Gary said, “The only problem you have is that you can’t accept that she can take care of herself.”
Ed said, “He’s telling the truth.”
“Don’t take his side,” Ling said glaring at Ed.
Gary said, “I’ll bet you every dollar you owe me that you can’t keep up with her for two days.”
“I’d never take that bet,” Ling said with a low growl of frustration.
The unfortunate thing was the Gary was right. She couldn’t keep up with Betsy. There probably wasn’t another human being on the planet who could keep up with Betsy. Her need to constantly move while awake was unnatural. In every aspect of physical ability, Betsy was at the far end of the spectrum.
Gary said, “I’ll put the security systems in her house and condo. I’ll stay at her place and defend her against anyone who tries to break in. I’m not following her around.”
“Okay,” Ling said.
“Thank you,” Gary said.
Ed said, “You can probably hire a couple of people willing to accept those terms.”
“I’ll make the calls,” Ling said.
“I’m glad that’s settled,” Claire said.
Gary said, “She wants a carry permit.”
“I’ll definitely support her in that,” Ling said.
Ed said, “I’m not so happy about that.”
Claire said, “After William’s shunning of her, I have a feeling that she’ll be very responsible.”
“That’s true,” Ed said.
Gary said, “I’ll go talk to her.”
Betsy was on the stationary bike watching a movie on the television. It wasn’t a very good movie, but it was the best she had found. She looked down at the digital readouts and saw that she had already covered twenty miles.
Gary entered the room and sat down on the couch. It was an older movie that starred Nora Turner. He was surprised when Betsy shut off the television.
“Are you quitting?” Betsy asked.
“No. Your mothers have agreed that you don’t need a bodyguard. They do insist that you have a security detail at your houses,” Gary said.
“I can live with that,” Betsy said. “I’ve been surrounded by security my whole life.”
“That wouldn’t surprise me,” Gary said. “If you’ll have me, I’ll be happy to provide security at your home.”
“That would be nice,” Betsy said.
Betsy peddled the bike some more while Gary watched her. He wondered how anyone could move that much for so long without dropping dead. It couldn’t be healthy.
“Do you think I’m a freak?” Betsy asked.
“A freak? No. I think you are at an extreme in terms of human physical endurance. That doesn’t make you a freak,” Gary answered.
“I think I’m a freak.”
Gary thought it was sad that she thought of herself as a freak. He could see why she might feel that way. There was nothing natural about her stamina and need to continually move. Of course, there were a lot of high strung people who had a very difficult time sitting still for very long.
He asked, “Why do you think you’re a freak?”
“William is always talking about big numbers. He says there are six billion people on the planet and that no one is really unique. I confronted him about that once. I asked him to find another person just like me. He got real quiet for a long time. Then he said there are a handful of people who are truly unique and that I was one of them.”
“So is he.”
“That’s true. I guess I didn’t think about that. He is different from everyone else.”
Betsy was silent for a moment before she said, “Did you know that I’ve never had a real friend?”
“What do you mean – you’ve never had a friend?” Gary asked.
“I’ve never had a friend. I’ve never had a girlfriend to share secrets with. You know, a girl who comes over and spends the night where we giggle, tell stories, and drink hot chocolate.
“I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’ve never been on a date. I’ve never been kissed. I’m twenty-four and still a virgin,” Betsy said.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Gary said a little flustered by the topic of conversation. “I mean ... I think it’s great that you’re still a virgin, but I’m sorry you’ve never had a friend.”
Somewhat defensively, she said, “I’m not sorry about being a virgin.”
“I don’t want you to think that I’m looking to get laid at the moment. I’m not,” Betsy said.
“I believe you. Besides, your first time should be with someone you care about,” Gary said.
The idea that she was offering up her virginity to him had never entered his mind. He figured she was wanting to talk about something that was bothering her and hadn’t quite gotten to the real heart of the subject. Her status as a virgin was an artifact of what was bothering her.
“I believe that it’s true that it is better to wait until you find someone you love. William waited to have sex until he met Lucy,” Betsy said.
She peddled for a bit lost in thought.
Betsy said, “It’s not that I’ve been alone, but I’m lonely.”
“At least you have family,” Gary said.
“Do you have family?”
Gary answered, “Not really. My parents passed away while I was in the Army. My wife divorced me because I was never home. We never had a chance to have kids. Well ... I have a sister, but we don’t talk to each other.”
“That’s a shame about you and your sister, but I kind of understand what you’re talking about,” Betsy said.
“Your whole family is pretty close,” Gary said.
Betsy said, “My brother Eddie is probably the most supportive member of the family. He’s proud of everything I’ve ever done. He helped me train for the Olympics and cheered me on in every event.
“My brother William listens to me and gives me good advice. The thing is that William is William. He only relates well to a couple of people ... like his wife. I know he loves me, but I think at times that he finds me amusing. I don’t always understand him. He’s kind of a loner, if you know what I mean.”
“John and Beth travel all of the time so I don’t really see them that much. When I do see them, it’s pretty obvious that we don’t have much in common. John is into animals, so we can talk about that for a while. Beth has her buildings and I’m not into buildings.”
“My little brother Micheal is really too young for me to have a real sibling kind of relationship with him. I’m almost more like an aunt than a sister. He’s still the baby of the family.”
“I’m sorry you feel that degree of separation from your siblings,” Gary said.
“That’s the way things are,” Betsy said shrugging her shoulders.
Gary said, “You still have your parents.”
“That’s true,” Betsy said softly.
She started peddling faster. Gary watched and wondered what was going through her mind. She was definitely burning up a lot of energy on that bike.
“It’s just they aren’t my age.”
“Ah,” Gary said.
He had never given much thought as to how important it was to have friends your own age. It automatically established a common ground of experience. Of course, there weren’t many people who had the kind of life lived by Betsy. A super hyperactive child raised by eight parents who were among the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world didn’t have a very large peer group.
“I don’t think Bess and George liked me very much,” Betsy said.
“You might have overwhelmed them a little,” Gary said diplomatically.
Betsy said, “I’ll admit that I might have been a little over excited about finding such a beautiful house, and then discovering that I had sharks in my backyard.”
Gary said, “I think Bess is a little conservative. She’s not used to nude women hugging her.”
“I didn’t think of that,” Betsy said with a frown.
She had thought of it as a friendly greeting. She didn’t think there was anything wrong with being nude. She knew that not everyone felt that way, but it seemed strange to her to find someone who felt that nudity was wrong. She didn’t know anyone who wore a swimming suit except when away from home.
“I was pretty sure that the thought never crossed your mind,” Gary said.
Betsy said, “I guess I act first and then think later.”
“I think if you were to ever meet with her in situation like this...”
“A situation where you aren’t running from one place to another constantly. I think if you could just talk with her in a relaxed manner like we’re talking that you could probably patch up things,” Gary said.
“Do you really think so?”
“That would be nice,” Betsy said.
“Riding your exercise bike while having a cup of tea with her would probably give her a chance to know Betsy Carter as person rather than as a force of nature,” Gary said.
“Do you think of me as a force of nature?”
“At times you give that impression.”
“I don’t mean to.”
“I know,” Gary said.
This was one of the few occasions that she wasn’t talking so fast that her words came at him like bullets out of a Gatling gun. He actually appreciated the more thoughtful version of Betsy.
He got up and went over to the little refrigerator. He grabbed a bottle of water and held it up. “Do you want one?”
“Sure,” Betsy said.
He grabbed a second bottle and took it over to the bike. She took it, removed the cap, and drank a third of it. While screwing the cap back on the bottle, she said, “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Gary said returning to his seat.
Kelly stuck her head into the room and smiled upon seeing Betsy. She came in and sat down in one of the chairs. It was obvious by the deliberate manner in which she moved that this was not a social visit.