A Proper Goodbyebywritingdragon©
Gebriele Winder sat in a quiet booth towards the back of Sacker’s, a local Bar and Grill just outside her home town of Plainview Arkansas, near Nimrod Lake. It was the 23rd of August the time was 8:30, she knew the ritual, this was the sixth year in a row she had sat in this booth and waited, waited for the clock to strike 8:39 so she could tell him all about the year and maybe say goodbye.
Glancing slowly around the interior of the local watering hole, Jacob Billing known locally as the ‘Bear’ plied his ministrations to the top of the white oak bar, he was the owner, bartender and bouncer of the establishment. She looked past where he was standing, her eyes drawn to the methodical movement of color in the windows behind where he stood. For as long as Gebriele could remember the Budweiser sign blaring it’s neon red greeting had competed for attention with the Blue and gold Coors sign in the front two windows. She always felt the two signs made the front of the place look like a weird Christmas display year round. Her eyes returned to ‘Bear,’ who at a glance, seemed to be haphazardly running the rag in his hand over the flat surface, but upon closer inspection, one could pick up his careful, loving, almost tender care in everything he did for his establishment. Gebriele chuckled a bit, her father had told her once it was as if the bar was his wife and he went about to ensure her happiness in all he did.
She noticed the young kids in the first booth up by the bar as they got up to leave. Probably a summer romance, she took them both for no more than High School freshman or sophomores. That left the guy in the booth two up and across from her as the only other person in the place, a stranger that wasn’t at all unusual for this time of year. It was a very slow night, for which she was glad, sighing heavily; she sipped on her beer the first legal one ‘Bear’ had ever served her.
Gebriele was going into her senior year of high school when her life changed. She was just a youngster starting to grow into her womanhood back then; she had gone from being a shy skinny kid with long straight black shoulder length hair and dark brown eyes, to the way her body had developed, now at 24, her body was sleek and well defined, she had worked hours at toning it. She was 5’7” 128 lbs and although not model material, she would turn heads in any crowd. The raven black hair that flowed aimlessly to the middle of her back and dark brooding eyes were the only hints of her Cherokee Indian heritage something she was and always had been extremely proud of.
As she sat in quiet contemplation the memories came cascading back without provocation, hanging all about her like humidity on a hot summer day, she gave in, letting herself drift back to that night six years ago.
“Grebs wait up,” she heard her best friend Kersen Tennery, yell over to her.
“Well hurry up slow poke,” she laughingly replied.
Kersen, he had been her best friend and buddy since his family had moved into the farm across the road from her family when they were both six. ‘Grebs’ was his very own private nickname for her and she would only allow him to call her that. Kersen was a likeable guy though a tad bit skinny, he was actually well muscled at 5’11” 175lbs, light brown hair and sparkling hazel eyes.
He and Gebriele had done everything together, growing up, fishing, hunting, cooking, cleaning house, playing baseball, basketball and tennis, as well as playing card games. They had joined 4-H, learned to ride horses and care for livestock together, and with their parents who were also good friends, had hiked, camped, canoed, and learned about nature with each other. During the summer both kids looked forward to the family camp outs at Nimrod lake. Only 5 or 6 miles from their houses, the lake offered the friends time to explore and discover a completely new universe in the paradise setting.
That special year had been a turning point in their relationship; they were both preparing to enter their sophomore year of H.S. in the fall. By June, they realized they had fallen in love with the other. Both of them understood that, what they now felt towards each other was much deeper and richer than it had ever been before. Their parents were supportive of the relationship once they discovered their kids had become ‘an item.’ Not one of the parents understood exactly how deep the bond between their children had become.
Kersen was the first guy to hold Gebriele’s hand, the first to hold her and whisper lover’s secrets in her ear, given her the first kiss as well as her first French kiss. In early August of that same year, they shared themselves with one another for the very first time and became lovers, happening as it did out in the Tennery’s field, under their favorite tree. Kersen true to form had held her after that first time reassuring her of his love, after which he asked her in all truthfulness if this meant he could take her to homecoming in Oct. and prom in the spring. Then before she could answer he asked if this meant they were going steady. When she said yes to all three, all the boy could do was grin ear to ear. She thought it was so cute.
By the evening of the August 23 the young lover’s had been together four times. They had made some time to be together that day and for some reason it had seemed very special, almost as if they had become one that afternoon. Since the two families were enjoying the last weeklong campout by the lake of the summer, they asked their parents if they could go up to Sacker’s for a root beer.
Her dad said “OK.”
As they walked towards the small bridge that separated the campsites from the Bar and Grill area, Kersen stopped and kissed Gebriele, there was raw passion in that kiss mixed with unbelievable tenderness.
When they broke, Gebriele asked, “Not that I mind, but what was that for?”
“Ever since we made love today, I can’t believe how close to you I feel, how special it was today. I mean every time has been wonderful, but today was so beautiful so…. I wanted to just crawl inside your skin and be part of you.” Kersen’s smile lit up her whole world.
She brushed the hair out of his eyes, “I know it was that way for me too today,” she kissed him again, just to watch his eyes sparkle.
Just as they crossed a bridge about a quarter mile from the bar, Kersen kissed her again then they exchanged ‘I Love You’s’ and he said, “I have to pee, you go on ahead, I’ll catch up in a moment.”
She walked aimlessly along the river path towards the Bar, the low hanging branches brushing against her head and face; she waved to Betsy, Mr. Bear’s niece as she sat on the back steps of the Tavern.
Gebriele suddenly screamed as pair of rough hands grabbed her. “Lookee what I got Tommy. After we knock over the store we have something to play with tonight,” a sickly voice resounded in her ear.
Another voice said, “Look on the steps another one.”
Gebriele bit the hand over her mouth and screamed, “Becky, run get help, hurry.”
At the same time her captor yelled, “You little bitch,” she watched a hand move towards her face, and remembers hearing Kersen’s voice, he was screaming something then all was black.
Gebriele woke up in the hospital about an hour later; her Mom and Dad were with her, comforting her she had asked, “Where’s Kersen?”
Her Mom got a funny look on her face and looked up at her Dad, who swallowed very hard.
Fear gripped Gebriele’s mind she started shaking her head side to side and asked again in a tear filled voice, “Where is my Kersen? Daddy where is he?”
Her father took her in his arms and held her, “Baby he was shot and killed by the men that attacked you tonight. He was protecting his friend, the girl he loved…. I’m so sorry honey.”
Gebriele tried to understand, she tried to speak, but her mouth wouldn’t work except to cry as she held her Daddy and her Mommy as they put their arms around her to comfort her in her time of loss. Sometime later that night Kersen’s Mom and Dad came in and all Gebriele could do was hold them and cry some more. At that moment, no one realized how devastating the loss would be.
Gebriele was shaking as she brought herself back to the present, she glanced around no one was looking at her, she was weeping quietly. Looking at her watch, she noted she still had five minutes; she sighed and let her mind wander back. She remembered that over the next month she slowly pieced together the circumstances of the next few minutes after she was rendered unconscious.
Becky told her, “You yelled, then the guy holding you punched you in the head and you fell to the ground. One of the guys started coming towards me when Kersen charged them with a boat oar he picked up from a rowboat someone tied up near the path.”
He yelled, “Get away from them,”
“Then smacked the guy charging me in the head with the oar, giving me the time I needed to get inside and get my uncle.”
Mr. Bear told her, “he responded to his niece’s screams by grabbing a shotgun, then he sent two of his customers whom he knew had rifles in their cars to get them, and circle either side of the Bar. Watching through the back window, he saw Kersen charge the remaining two men, smacking the first man the one who they later learned had hit you, with the shank of the oar on his knee, then twirled around hitting the last guy in the ribs with the edge of the paddle. His attacks were startling and brutal, as both of those men moved as rapidly as they could down the path away from the two of you. Kersen glanced quickly around, finding no more danger, he dropped the paddle, then started to bend down towards you. He suddenly stopped and seemed to stiffen, then stood up, and took a step towards the Bar.”
Mr. Bear continued a catch in his voice clearly evident, “I looked down in horror, and saw the first guy who Kersen had saved Becky from, he was now standing, his right hand covering a bloody wound on the side of his head that he had received a moment earlier. His left arm outstretched pointing towards Kersen, the man was holding a gun. Kersen took a step towards him, I think to get between you and the gunman, the man screamed something, and then fired twice; both bullets struck him in the stomach. I moved to grab the doorknob and glanced at the clock it was 8:39, then I flung the back door open. The guy that had shot Kersen looked up the steps at me then started to swing his gun towards me. I unloaded both barrels into his head and chest he didn’t have a chance. As I started to move out to get to Kersen who was now on his knees and one arm holding himself up, his other arm around his stomach, suddenly two bullets slammed into the doorframe beside me. It seemed the other two goons were shooting at me, I moved back into the bar. The Ol’ boys I had sent out to get their guns, opened fire with their hunting rifles while I reloaded the shotgun.
There was a long silence, as a lone ‘I give up,’ echoed into the night, and one of the two remaining rowdies came into the light with his hands on his head. We quickly found out that one of the fellows with the rifles had found his mark; two of them were now dead. No one moved for a second, and then the night lit up with the sounds of sirens, it seems Becky had called the Sheriff. One of my buddies took control of the man who had surrendered.
Becky and I got to you two a moment later; Kersen had just said something to you, I bent over pulling him up on his knees, leaned him into my chest so Becky could get some of the towels she had brought onto the wounds to stop the blood flow. He looked up and asked me to tell you ‘Goodbye’ and that he both loved you and knew you loved him. Your parents had heard the ruckus at your campsite came running up to us just as the sheriff arrived. He lasted until 8:51, but he got to say I love you and his Goodbyes to his parents, they were holding him when he died. Your parents got to you by then they were cradling you as life left him. He was holding your hand when he died honey,” ‘Bear” concluded his story.
Gebriele opened her eyes as she whispered, “Kersen, I wish you would have held on so I could have said goodbye.”
It was 8:39, she felt a twinge of regret, but for some reason she was more comforted this year than before, “oh well” she thought, “Time heals all wounds.” She sat and told him all about the year the goings on in her house and his parents house, including the wonderful news that his parents had been approved to adopt the twins they had been foster parents to for the last 3 years. Also wonder of wonders his Mom had allowed her to go into Kersen’s old room, box up everything, repaint, and redecorate it since the twins were girls. Running out of things to say she just sat and thought about her bestest friend and how much she missed him. Then it was over at least for another year, she could go on with her life.
Becky waited until Gebriele sighed and started to lift her head, then slid into the bench across the booth from Gebriele, who looked up with tear-stained cheeks, and smiled, at her friend.
Becky said, “Hi!”
“You Ok now?”
“Yea, for another year.”
“Gebriele, I’ve been here with you for 6 years, you’ve never told me why you can’t move on?”
“I’ve asked myself that exact same thing for six years Becky. I was the only one who didn’t get to say Goodbye, to see him go, I’ll not see him again to say it until I cross over, at the end of my life. I know it’s stupid but I wanted, no needed to say goodbye. Trust me Becky, it’s getting easier to live life afterwards, but, I am healing.”
Gebriele smiled at her friend.
“I’ll see you tomorrow for breakfast,” Becky remarked, “gotta get home to my Hubby,” getting up to leave she went out the back door to where her truck was parked and left.
Gebriele, sighed and allowed her head to fall into her hands, elbows on the table, tears flowing easily as she felt him with her once again.
Sitting with her head in her hands, she didn’t see the two drunken college boys come into get a couple of 12-paks or that they noticed her. Bear was outside making sure the remaining six college rowdies all stayed in the truck; while Carla the regular night shift girl was watching the cash drawer and filling orders. The two Romeo’s staggered over and sat down with Gebriele one sliding in across from her, the other one next to her moving his arm around her shoulders, he pulled her close to him.
Startled, she gave out a cry, “What the Hell do you want, get your arm off of me, get out of here and leave me alone.” She was absolutely flabbergasted at the man’s gall.
The man across the table slurred out, “ah com-on hunny, you don’t need to cry over him, we’ll make everything all better, now quite playin’ hard to git.” He winked at the guy who was still holding her.
“First, get off of me.” Poking the guy in the ribs, he moved his arm as she pushed him out of the booth and onto the floor.
“Second, that is the worst southern drawl, and pick up line I’ve ever heard.”
“Third, get out of here and leave me alone.”
Both men got real quiet, then the guy who was sitting across from her snapped his hand and slapped her hard on her cheek. The unexpected move had Gebriele back on her heals so to speak, and she moved into the corner of the booth her arms close to her body, her hands up near her face guarding.
The man who had been deposited on the floor, crawled back up from the floor putting his knee on the booth seat, “so you like it rough bitch, well I like it rough too!” he spit the words out like they were physical barbs, then lunged at Gebriele.
She screamed, “No!”
The man stopped inches from Gebriele’s face, then staring at her in obvious pain, mouth hanging open, no words coming from the evil smelling canyon that now dominated his face, he seemed to be frozen in place. He slowly slid backwards to the end of the booth.
The man let out a low groan of pain mixed with terror whispering, “My Balls, Oh my god, he’s got me by the balls.” He lowered his head to the bench and just shook.
Gebriele looked up to see a tall man of average build; he had a gentle look in his eyes she noticed as he met her gaze briefly, he smiled then nodded back at her. He looked at the rapidly sobering man sitting across from her; the tall man’s voice was firm but had a distinct edge to it, “Ok boys, this lady has made it very clear she doesn’t want your attention, furthermore she has asked you, not once, but twice to leave her alone. So, I’ll leave the gruesome details to your imagination if you decide to challenge, now get lost.”
The stranger released his grasp, then slammed his fist back between his buddy’s legs, the man lurched forward and slid down under the table, as a low almost inaudible groan tumbled from his lips. The guy across the table from Gebriele jumped up to grab the stranger, was met with a hard, well placed left jab that landed on the bridge of his nose, splattering blood over both of the antagonist, as the drunk student fell limply back onto the bench.
The stranger looked at Gebriele, “Sorry about the mess ma’am, it would probably be best if you got another seat after I escort our two guests out to their car.”
All Gebriele could do was nod her head in agreement.
The man gathered the two goons then drug and pushed them to the bar where they picked up the two 12 – packs of beer, then manhandled them to their awaiting truck. The boys took off out of the parking lot only to be immediately pulled over by not one, but three sheriff’s cars; it seemed Carla made a phone call to alert them.
When the man came back inside, Carla handed him a wet rag to clean himself off, he handed the cloth back when he was finished, nodding to the woman in thanks. He found that he had a friend sitting at his booth.
“Gebriele,” she introduced herself, as she shook his hand.
The man mumbled something the sounded like ‘Kenny,’ as he stared at her with big doe eyes.
Gebriele smiled, the man’s gentleness disarmed her, she found him easy to talk to, and was amazed at how quickly he drew her in, as she ended up telling him all about Kersen. He seemed amazed at the depth of commitment the two had for each other.
When he said, “I am truly sorry for the loss all the people involved incurred,” she didn’t know why, but she felt he really meant it. As the bar closed down, Gebriele asked where his car was parked. He pointed to a late nineties model Mustang, she turned and asked Kenny if he would mind giving her a ride home, her raw emotions coupled with the beer she had, were too much to risk the drive.
As they drove along, she pointed out the house where Kersen had lived; Kenny studied the place with genuine interest, surprisingly he pulled into her parent’s driveway before she told him where it was. He had walked her to her door, when she politely asked. “Would you like to come in?”
Standing off to the right side of the porch, with a sad far away look in his eyes, he replied, “I don’t think I’m allowed?”
Gebriele stood by the front door a bit dumbfounded by his answer, then noticed a tear running down his cheek. “You Ok?” She asked softly.
He nodded, then sighed, “Well do you like the way I would have looked? I guess this is about what I should have been like at our age now?”
She stared at the man in front of her, “What do you mean?” she asked confusion apparent in her voice.
The man looked at her, emotion readily apparent on his face as he gushed, “I have missed you so much Grebs, and I didn’t mean to leave you that night, especially without saying goodbye. I don’t know what you did, but they sent me back for just a few brief spans of time and that allotment is growing short, Oh my Grebs,” the man both sighed and let out a soft sob, as he continued, “ The Lord knows, I love you so much.”
An impossible hope sprang up in Gebriele as she saw the man in front of her for who he was. Moving quickly towards him she grabbed him and fell into his embrace, then pulled him down to her, and her lips touched his, both of them were lost in the moment. When they broke, she looked into his eyes, “Kersen, it’s really you…. You’re here holding me, how…. how is that possible?”