tagRomanceShe Had it All

She Had it All

byDinsmore©

The war referenced in this story is fabricated in order to make the ages and time-lines work.

At thirty she had it all, didn't she? Five years earlier her appearance on a television reality show had quickly brought her worldwide attention and fame. As cheesy as the experience had been, it had opened many doors for her. It hadn't hurt that she was beautiful...sexy.

While she had always struggled with her weight, she was one of those lucky women with the height to carry a few extra pounds. She believed her butt was too big but her ass seemed to ignite male fantasies wherever she appeared or was photographed. Her tits certainly did. She couldn't remember the last man who hadn't stared at them. Her absurdly long legs, shining tresses and "come hither" smile certainly didn't hurt. She was a household name, both adored and despised, depending on the fan base.

A major pop culture weekly had included her in their list of the 100 most beautiful women in the world. Every grimy detail of her life, many exaggerated or patently false, covered the Internet. Her first album had quickly gone double platinum in spite of garnering scathing reviews as "unfocused" or "a muddy mix of pop wannabe and unfulfilled promise." Looking back she had not been pleased with that first effort; it was over-produced and hardly memorable. Her crystal clear voice with its remarkable range and power was often drowned out by over-mixed instrumentals and backup singers. She had attempted to take control of the project---to make it more "current"---to appeal to those who had supported her. Her instincts had been inaccurate or at least inexperienced.

Instead of being perceived as a serious artist, she had become what she so despised---a pop star---or worse. The "worse" was being compared to other marginally talented "pop tarts" who seemed to dominate the current music scene. She knew that she was better than that---knew she "had the music in her" and the ability to stun an audience with her vocal prowess and interpretation. She had done so on isolated occasions but had unfortunately gotten a reputation for being inconsistent and "not living up to her potential."

Her second album had been pure pop---and had also gone multi-platinum. It had garnered even more scathing reviews in spite of producing two number one hits and a Grammy nomination. "Forgettable," said Rolling Stone, and that had been nicer than some others had been. Yet, her label had been ecstatic as the CDs leapt off the shelves and the download sites listed it in their top ten for almost six months.

The constant scrutiny had taken its toll. She certainly knew that her taste in men, as illustrated by several dreadful failed relationships in the previous five years, was abysmal. Prior to becoming famous her record in romance was equally awful. Men certainly wanted to date her---fuck her. She was drawn to men much older than she was. All had been reasonably attractive and moderately successful. All had controlled her...attempted to remake her...shape her to fit their needs. She had let them---encouraged them to do so---and then hated them for it.

'Face it, Taylor. At thirty you are a complete basket case' she thought. 'You're insecure, needy, clingy and neurotic. A string of therapists have had little if any impact on your mental state. You've gone through eating disorders, dabbled in wacko religions and almost ended up in rehab for alcohol abuse. You've been photographed in revealing poses while hanging out with the most notorious pop sluts. The more tawdry the event the more in demand you became---accompanied by a surge in sales of your two decidedly "forgettable" albums.'

Her tours had been a mixed bag. They sold out quickly in spite of the fact that last minute cancellations blamed on laryngitis---but in fact the result of anxiety attacks---were an all too common occurrence. With the right audience and the right frame of mind, she could thrill and dazzle...leave them breathless. Too often she was just going through the motions, allowing the pyrotechnics, a solid band and strong backup singers to carry the load.

The best thing she had done over the previous five years was save most of her money. Taylor had grown up middle class and did not fall prey to the "spend it now" disease that afflicted too many young stars who are enjoying real wealth and false security for the first time in their lives. She had a degree---even had a minor in business. She could quit; she could accept the fact that she would never be considered a serious artist. She could take her money and run. In fact, that was essentially what she had done; she had packed up a few things, gotten in her car and started to drive.

Her label desperately wanted to re-sign her; she had balked, unconvinced that they really cared about her art. She had left that one in limbo. She'd fired her management and furloughed her band. While she still had a contract with her agent and publicist for a few more weeks, she doubted that she would extend it. She had told no one where she was going; she hadn't really known herself. She had made periodic calls to her mother, often simply leaving a message that she was okay but not giving her location.

A little over 2,000 miles later she had taken a detour to a small city with a regional state university in a state which, while south of the Mason-Dixon line, had a decidedly Midwestern ambiance. She'd been attracted to the name of the town in question; she knew absolutely nothing about it. After driving around for several hours, she decided she wanted to stay for a while. Her car was now situated just off the roadway; it had stopped running. She'd opened the hood, more to indicate to passers by that she had car trouble than with any sense that she could fix the car.

***

Jake was tired, sweaty and smelly. He had just hauled the fifth and final load of horse manure to his small spread as part of a vegetable garden project which he had been thinking about for some months. He had stopped at a truck wash to clean up the small, ancient but mechanically sound dump truck before returning it to a friend. He almost didn't stop; hell, whoever it was had probably already called the auto club. At the last second, he hit the brakes and pulled in behind the disabled import, to the consternation of the SUV following too closely behind him whose driver leaned on his horn in expression of his or her ire.

'Jesus, that lady is all legs!' he mused, for it had been the alluring rear view of her tightly clad form which had caused him to stop. Big girl...easily five-nine or ten...a deliciously full rump...not fat by any means but delightfully full figured. "Sturdy" his father would have observed. He climbed down from the cab and ambled toward the legs.

"Hi! I'm Jake. I'd shake your hand but then you'd smell as bad as I do and that wouldn't be right. What seems to be the problem?"

"Taylor. I'm Taylor. I'm not really sure. It just stopped and then I think I ran the battery down trying to get it going again." Taylor was her given middle name; she had adopted her first name professionally even though some record producer had said her middle name sounded more "interesting." Today she was just Taylor, not Katherine.

Taylor quickly perused her new acquaintance. He was tall, easily six-four, sporting at least a two day growth of facial hair, bib overalls over a worn tee shirt and well aged boots. His unkempt hair was decidedly blondish; his shoulders were broad and his arms well formed. His smile was not threatening; in any event it was broad daylight on a well traveled stretch of road. He was obviously a man who worked with his body rather than his mind. The truck was an antique but certainly well maintained. To her surprise she did not find the strong smell of horse manure offensive. She had learned to ride at an early age and knew that she was in the heart of horse country.

"Taylor, do you know something about cars---any thoughts on what might be wrong?"

"Not really. I guess I thought if I looked at it long enough---the engine, I mean---it might start out of pity."

Jake knew something about engines; he examined the engine, checking for a possible loose wire, connection or hose.

"Taylor, is there the slightest chance that you ran out of gas?"

"The gas gage can be a little erratic...I wasn't really paying attention."

"Okay. I've got a can of gas in the truck; let's try that but I'm going to have to drive down and turn around---you need a jump and the cables in the truck aren't that long."

Jake added two and a half gallons of gas to her tank, then climbed back up into the truck. It took almost a mile before he found a place to turn around. Returning he pulled it in front of her vehicle as close as he possibly could. As he was hooking up the cables a police cruiser pulled in behind the stalled auto and turned on its reds and blues. Jake instantly recognized the deputy sheriff as he approached; they'd shared more than a few beers and the occasionally humorous war story at the VFW hall.

"Hey, Mike!"

"Hey, Jake! I thought it was you. You got everything under control here?"

"We're about to find out, Mike. Do you mind doing the honors? I'm pretty sure Taylor here would never get the smell out of her car if I got behind the wheel."

"You got it!"

In a matter of seconds the engine came to life. Jake disconnected the cables and returned them to the dump truck. When he returned to the car, Mike had engaged Taylor in conversation. She looked at Jake, smiled and thrust some crumpled bills toward him to pay for the gas. He just shook his head. She didn't push the point.

"Judging from your plates you are a long way from home, miss. You're not lost, are you?"

"I don't think so, officer---sheriff. Actually I saw the name of this town and was intrigued by it. I'm sort of on vacation...taking some time off...no real destination...just trying to get away from the hustle and bustle."

"You remind me of someone...just can't place it. Well, welcome to our little piece of heaven! The winters can be a little frisky but early spring is very special. Are you planning to stay for a while?"

"I think so...at least for a few days. Can you recommend a decent place for the night?"

"The University Motel---about a mile back---is clean and decent. Let me give you my card. My wife is in real estate; if you decide to stay on she can help you find a place. There are lots of vacancies once the school year ends. Here. I'll put her name and number on the back of my card."

"Thank you."

"I'll stop traffic so you can turn around if you want to go back to the University Inn. Be careful now."

Taylor executed her police assisted u-turn, leaving Mike and Jake chatting at the side of the road.

"Jake, is this old Bill Rogers' truck?"

"Yep; I borrowed it for the day. I've always wanted to have a big-ass veggie garden but my soil leaves something to be desired."

"You could have hired someone to deliver all the horse manure you could possibly want. You're not exactly on welfare."

"You know me, Mike; I love this kind of project and it just isn't as much fun if you hire it out."

"Well, one more skill set to add to your resume. Let's see what's it up to now? War hero, college professor, restaurant and bar entrepreneur, song writer and guitar picker extraordinaire---and now shit hauler?"

"It gives me something to fall back on if the other things fall through. As soon as I get all the manure tilled in it's going to be fence painter---next week, I'm thinking. War hero---my ass! I was there just like you were...fortunate to come home in one piece. The restaurant is not yet profitable and last time I checked, a college professor at a small regional state university is not exactly landed gentry. As far as the song writing goes, sure I've had a few successes but I'm not exactly a household name. As far as the guitar picking goes, since I play for free at my own place..."

"I'm not going to argue---except with the war hero part, flyboy. I came home in one piece because you hauled my busted up ass out of that fucking PZ and I'll never forget it---or let you forget it. Cute girl!"

"Young...very young."

"Oh, Christ, now you're sounding like an old man!"

"Hitting forty does that to you, Mike."

"Tell me about it. Speaking of old men, how's your daughter doing?"

"Jenny's doing great! She's helping out at the bar over the summer; she starts grad school in the fall at State. Having a twenty-two year old daughter really makes me feel old. She's an amazing kid! I wish her mom could have been here to see her...as a young adult."

"Well, don't hurt yourself painting fence. I better get back to work. Later!"

As Taylor settled into her room in the motel she thought back to her encounter with Jake. She had to laugh at herself. Here she was with several million dollars well secured in a reasonably conservative investment portfolio, whining about her lot in life and here was a man who evidently hauled shit for a living and seemed quite contented. From the reaction of the deputy sheriff, Jake was evidently not of the criminal element. There had definitely been more than a passing acquaintance; the two men knew each other...were friends...good friends. Taylor realized she had no real friends, certainly no one she really could trust. In that sense the man who hauled shit for a living had it all over her.

The next day she called the number on the back of the card that Mike, the deputy sheriff, had given her. It was the slow season. Mike's wife, Vanessa, was available immediately to help her find more permanent lodging.

"Rent or own, Taylor? I guess that does depend on how long you plan to stay."

"Own, I think; my father always told me that renting was foolish. Something outside of town? Maybe a few acres around it? Older rather than new? Something that would benefit from a little love and paint?"

"The ticklish question now, Taylor. How's your credit? Do you have financing? What's your price range?"

"My credit's fine. No, I haven't arranged any financing and as to price range, I really don't know. I don't need something that big---it's just for me. I would like a few acres...some trees."

"Do you have a job?"

"I am actually taking some time off from work---but I do have some investments...and some...royalties. I'm not really sure if a mortgage is what I..."

"Well, Taylor, thanks to the electronic age, you and I can enter a little information on the computer and we'll know what you can qualify for in a matter minutes---how's that sound?"

"Okay...sure."

The answer came back quicker than Vanessa had anticipated.

"Oh, my. Well, it would seem that, at least as far as this market goes, you can pretty much buy whatever you want. I suppose you could even pay cash for it---but tax wise that would be foolish."

"Vanessa, do you and I have anything approaching a, 'doctor-patient' relationship?"

"I don't discuss my clients' financial status with anyone---even my family."

"Thank you."

"Taylor, let's get in the car and go explore. I've got a couple of places in mind. They're former working farms---small, marginal and sadly now failed. The houses are solid, albeit in need of some modernization but certainly immediately livable. The bank owns 'em so that closing can be very quick---particularly with a cash or high down payment sale."

By lunch time Taylor had found exactly what she was looking for. A former horse farm of just under a hundred acres with a sturdy and mechanically sound, if somewhat dated farm house which still held the preponderance of its former occupants' furniture. While waiting to meet with the bank officer, she opened a checking account and ordered checks after depositing the bulk of the traveler's checks she had with her.

A quick cell phone call accomplished a wire transfer to her newly established account. She had alerted her financial advisor earlier that morning so the transfer was executed immediately. By early afternoon Taylor was a new homeowner, having elected to take out a mortgage in view of the tax implications, in spite of the fact that she could have literally written a check for the farm.

Two days later she moved out of the motel and into her new digs. Vanessa had helped her procure the services of a yard service and a cleaning crew. She added a few items---updated appliances and a new bed---but essentially, everything else was 'as is' until she decided where to begin. She decided to repaint the main bedroom before having the floors refinished. While she realized that there were many things she would need to hire a contractor to take care of, she wanted to give the place her own feel and painting was certainly well within her competence level.

On a lark, Taylor decided one day that she wanted to get involved in something---help people. Some sort of charity work---volunteer somewhere. She drove into town, aimlessly searching for something or some place. She soon discovered a small homeless mission/soup kitchen. As she was looking for a place to park she saw him---Jake. He was walking into the mission; he was shaking his head and seemed slightly disoriented.

So that must be his poison of choice, she thought to herself. He's a drunk, probably shaking off a binge. More than likely he had spent the money he had recently made hauling manure on booze and was now relegated to eating at a mission. She didn't want to embarrass him. She drove on.

"Jake! Thanks for coming in to fill in for me---what the hell happened to you?"

"Fred, my truck is in for service and the only loaner they had is a damn sardine can. I smacked my head getting out. I'm fine---more embarrassed at my clumsiness than anything else. You get out of here. I can stick around until six---no need for you to come back."

"You're a life saver, buddy. Two more weeks of this shit and then, hopefully, I'm done with chemo."

"You just get better, old friend---you hear?"

Seeing Jake in his state had shaken Taylor; her father had been an alcoholic. She herself had almost started down the same road right after high school. There but for the grace of God. She went home, intent on renewing her search the following day.

The next morning she was surprised to discover a small Veterans Hospital. As she walked up to the front door admiring the perfectly maintained rose garden, she was even more surprised when Jake popped up from behind a particularly sturdy specimen with Felcos in hand and a light dusting of blue powder which he explained was used to prevent black spot.

"We meet again!" he exclaimed.

"These roses are beautiful, Jake...quite amazing."

"They take a lot of care this time of year. They go a little crazy when spring comes and need to be pruned back into line. We have over five hundred bushes here of all types and varieties. The Hybrid Teas need the most attention. What are you doing here?"

"I'm looking for someplace to volunteer. I thought..."

"There are never enough volunteers. This is a fairly small facility, essentially long-term care for aging vets who just don't really have any place else to go. No families or certainly no families that care. Very few have diseases or injuries directly related to their war experience. Some have been crippled in accidents, others have incurable diseases...some are just getting old. A pretty face and a soft voice can mean a lot. Someone to listen to them...talk to them...read to them...laugh with them."

"Are you a veteran, Jake?"

"That I am! U. S. Army. Served back in a war that everyone has tried to forget. Most of the folks here are from the ones before that. Ask for Mary Roberts---she's the director here."

He certainly seemed to have recovered from his drinking binge, Taylor thought to herself. He seemed clear-eyed and lucid. She thought of asking the director of the hospital about him but decided it wouldn't be appropriate. Maybe after she had been involved at the hospital for a while. She ended up volunteering to come in three afternoons a week. In her ample spare time she decided to attack her first painting project---the main bedroom.

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