Copyright© 2022 by Lazlo Zalezac
Gary stayed away from the house while the rules of the house were explained to the rest of the staff. He was dreading going inside. There was no telling what he’d find when he got inside. He sat in his car staring off into the distance.
Stacy said, “One guy and six women in a clothing optional house. You must be in heaven.”
“Hell is more like it,” Gary said. “Don’t forget that one of those women is you.”
“That still leaves you five women, mister ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em, ‘“ Stacy said.
“Damn it! I was eighteen! I was young, dumb, and full cum,” Gary shouted. “She threw herself at me with her legs spread wide open. What guy is going to say – maybe I should do the responsible thing and say no because I’m not in love with her?”
“I told you that if you went to bed with her that she was going to expect you to marry her,” Stacy said.
Getting out of the car, Gary said, “I wasn’t ready to get married. I had just gotten out of high school. I had no money for college and not a single job prospect. My only option was to enlist.”
“You dumped her when she needed you.”
“I had no idea that she would kill herself when I enlisted,” Gary said.
The slam made when he closed the car door was timed as if to add punctuation to his statement.
“She was pregnant!”
“I didn’t know that at the time!”
Frustrated and angry, Gary took a couple of steps away.
“She was three months pregnant.”
“Well, she didn’t tell me! She stood there waving good-bye when I was getting on the bus to go to basic training. I get to the base and a chaplain is there to tell me that she killed herself. That was my welcome to the Army.”
“I thought you knew.”
“Mom told me three years later. That was the first I’d ever heard of it,” Gary said.
Gary said, “I know that she was your best friend, but to be honest – she wasn’t all there. She was needy and -grabby and ... she was suffocating me. I couldn’t even go to the toilet without her waxing poetic about how long we had been separated.”
“She was madly in love with you.”
“No. There’s love and there’s what she had. What she was feeling wasn’t love. I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, but she was sick.”
Stacy stood there looking down at the ground. She didn’t want to believe what he was saying, but his story was consistent with his behavior at the time. She didn’t know what to think.
“I’ve got to tell you the truth, I was happy to be getting on that bus. I was starting to have nightmares about waking up in the middle of the night, to find her hovering over me with a knife in her hand, like some kind of scene out of a horror movie.”
Stacy shouted, “I don’t believe you.”
“I don’t care what you believe,” Gary shouted.
“That’s the first lie told in this entire conversation,” Ed said.
Shocked, Gary spun around to face Ed. He asked, “What are you doing here?”
“What do you mean that is the first lie?” Stacy asked.
Ed answered, “He does care what you believe. Everything else he said was the absolute truth as far as he knew it. You were telling him the truth, as you knew it.”
“How can you say that?”
Ed held out his medallion and said, “My service to the Two-Sided One is to find the truth and to expose the lies. And, Gary, to answer your question, I’m here to expose the lies.”
“Okay,” Gary said.
Ed asked, “Are you two going to be able to play nicely together, now?”
Gary answered, “No. I’m still mad at her.”
“Why?” she asked.
“You shot at me,” Gary said.
“I fired in your general direction.”
Gary said, “You stood in the center of the street, calling me a murderer, and you shot at me. You blew the back window of my car to smithereens.”
“Don’t be a baby. If I had wanted to hit you, you’d have been dead,” Stacy said.
“I don’t believe you,” Gary said.
Stacy said, “I don’t care what you believe.”
“That’s a lie,” Ed said. “You do care.”
Gary said, “I don’t think I want to have this discussion with you here, Ed.”
“You’re stuck with me,” Ed said.
Gary said, “If I didn’t care about Betsy so much, I’d quit. She needs me.”
Ed looked astonished. “What do you mean ... she needs you?”
“She needs a friend. She needs someone who will listen to her and try understand her situation. That poor girl is lonely,” Gary answered.
“You’ll jump on her and destroy another woman,” Stacy said.
Gary shook his head. “I’m not eighteen. I’m not interested in having sex with her. She needs a friend and I want to be that friend.”
“This is an interesting development,” Ed said looking off into the distance deep in thought.
It seemed as though he was that way for a long time. Finally, he turned to Stacy and said, “He didn’t know your friend was pregnant. She wasn’t quite all there. He left to pursue a better future in the Army, with the benefit that he was leaving your friend behind. You went off on him without knowing all of the facts. You owe your brother an apology.”
He turned to Gary and said, “You were a young, dumb man when you encountered an unstable woman. You handled it badly. You’re still dumb by letting that event control your relationship with your sister, after so many years. Grow up.”
Ed walked off.
Gary said, “I’m still pissed at you.”
“I still think you knew what she’d do when you left,” Stacy said.
Gary said, “I’m going to check the back of the house.”
He glanced over at the garage. The Hugger Betsy had bought for use on the island was parked in one bay. The Mercedes Benz Benzino was parked in the other. Of the two vehicles, he had to admit that he like the Mercedes the most. There was something about the lines of the car that reached out and touched the soul. It was more art than automobile and he couldn’t help wonder what had happened to cause an entire industry to forget its esthetic past like it had.
Beth’s husband, John, Wheels, and Sam were head down in the engine compartment of the car Wheels was restoring. It only made sense that John was out there. As an automotive engineer, the chance to go through the classic car would appeal to him. Sam’s interest in the car was kind of a surprise to him, but she had a mechanical streak in her that was a mile wide. She probably enjoyed checking out the old-time mechanics that went into the car.
Gary made his way to the back of the house. The large pile of sleeping bags was an immediate reminder of how many people were staying at the house. Everyone in the Carter Clan ... with the exception of William Redman Carter, and his wife, Lucy ... were camped out in the backyard. William didn’t ever leave his home in Arizona.
It was hard to keep track of how many people were on the property at any given time. They swarmed. They came and went, like bees around a hive. There were shopping expeditions to furnish the house. There were trips to Oahu to furnish the condo. There were frequent trips to the supermarket to purchase food and refreshments. The staff were busy moving in and that brought strangers into the house. At least Ling and Claire were there to support him, and Stacy to help with the security concerns.
There was a flurry of activity at the rear of the house when several members of the family stripped out of their clothes and took off for the beach. He wondered how Bess was going to take the sudden influx of nude people on their beach. That reminded him that he was supposed to introduce them to Ed Biggers, so that Ed could check them out. He suspected that Bess would start trying to pressure George into moving out sometime in the future unless some sort of good relationship was established with them and Betsy.
He looked around and decided that everything was okay. He wished that everyone had stayed for another couple of nights in the hotel while he finished getting the security systems in place, but they weren’t to be denied. Instead of having a nice empty house in which to work, the installers were constantly being interrupted with questions, observations, and minor suggestions – all of which were being studiously ignored. All that was being accomplished was that the installation was behind schedule.