Terri from TonopahbyBogartsBoss©
This story is just about a relationship. There's no sex here.
For those who do take the time to read it, I hope you enjoy.
There is an Alternative version coming in a day or two. I hope you'll read it also.
Comments are always welcome, and if you wish to vote, that too is appreciated.
Terri from Tonopah
I met her in the McDonalds at Tonopah. She was trying to catch a ride north, but everyone she asked turned her down. Perhaps her looking disheveled had something to do with it, but most likely it's simply because we just don't help each other the way I remember us doing years ago.
She was wearing dirty looking jeans and a jacket that had seen better days, her boots looked pretty tired, and the floppy hat did nothing for her but provide shade. She was carrying a back pack with a bedroll tied on.
I guessed her to be in her mid-twenties; maybe 5-4, light weight; possibly 100 pounds. Her hair was light brown, medium length, needing a good wash. Her face was oval with hazel eyes, and a small nose and a medium sized mouth with well-defined lips.
When she approached me, she was trying to project confidence, yet there was an underlying aura of defeat. "Are you heading north? I could really use a ride as far as you can take me."
"How far are you going?"
"Well, I'd like to get up by Pasco, Washington, but I'll settle for anything that gets me farther north. How about Reno?"
"I might be able to help. What's your name?"
"Terri. Can you help? I'd really like to get off this desert." Desperation under laid her question.
"My name is Mike. Have you had anything to eat lately?"
She sighed and with a half-smile admitted to nothing since yesterday morning.
"Well, I'm about to head out. Let's get you something and we'll hit the road."
"This isn't going to cost me is it?"
"What do you mean?"
"I...I won't put out for a ride, I'd rather walk out of here."
"Not to worry, all I ask in exchange for the ride is pleasant company."
I bought her a large burger, fries, and a milkshake and while she waited for it I made a call. We strolled out to my van and when I popped the side door open, she was confronted with Hoover, my Keeshond mix. He looked at her, then me. When I gave him a nod, he leaned forward, gave her the sniff test and then sat back.
While I gave the dog the patties I'd gotten him, she put her stuff in the back. I'm sure she eyed the bed that was made up back there, but she didn't comment on it. She jumped into the passenger seat, buckled up, and was eating before we hit the highway. Her eating wasn't pretty, but it was effective; she'd pretty much finished the solid stuff before we hit the northern edge of town. Then she settled back with the milk shake, obviously relishing it.
She was quiet the first ten miles or so, but soon asked me where I had been, where I was going. "I've been visiting friends down in Chandler the last few weeks, now I 'm headed back home. What brought you down here?"
"I was living with someone, and then it stopped working. Now I'm just trying to go home."
I sensed that was all she wanted to say on the subject, so I just let it go and concentrated on my driving for a while. Things were quiet for a few miles, until she looked back at Hoover and then asked about him. So we talked about dogs, then cats and other pets, then the desert and weather, and just about anything else. She was a smart gal, aware of the world and her surroundings. I had to wonder what sort of relationship she was running from. Most people don't go trekking across the desert on a whim.
We neared the town of Hawthorne about three PM, and I was more than ready to pull off for the night. I told Terri I was going to find a motel for the night, and she was welcome to stay with me; no conditions, just a chance to sleep in a bed, get a shower, and a decent meal.
"I don't know if I should..."
"Are you on a schedule? No? Ok, I said no conditions, but I'll change that. You stay with me, separate beds, get rest and food, a shower if you want. Tomorrow we'll push up to Klamath Falls, maybe Bend, then the day after I'll have you in Pasco."
"Really? All the way home? Where are you headed?"
"I live in Olympia. I can drop you in Pasco, and then slid across the mountains and home. I'll pick up Highway 12, piece of cake."
"A shower does sound good. I must be pretty strong; it's been days since I had a shower of any kind. Would you mind if I just soaked in a tub? I've done nothing but wipe-down baths for months."
"No problems. I haven't met a woman yet that doesn't enjoy a long soak. Are those the only clothes you have? Most motels have laundries, and I'm thinking you'll want to put on clean stuff after a bath."
"I can't afford a laundry. And besides, how can I bathe and wash clothes at the same time?"
"I'll wash them for you. I'll even stay with them so you can soak in peace and quiet, and I'll leave you a t-shirt to wear if I don't get back before you finish.
"Is this some kind of trick? Why are you being nice to me?"
"No trick. As to the why; I had a daughter; she'd be about your age. An abusive husband killed her three years ago. I saw you and felt I should give you a hand. If it'll help, I'll leave Hoover in the room; he'll be quiet company."
"A bath does sound good; and clean clothes...just thinking about it makes these feel even dirtier than before. Ok...I can't pass up on your offer. Can we wait to eat until I have clean clothes to wear?"
"Sure, or I can pick up something and we can eat in. It's your call.
We spotted a Motel 6 sign for Hawthorn, so I pulled over and called them, reserving two beds on the ground floor. The thought of a bath had Terri twitching; I suspect she could feel every grain of sand on her skin.
We checked in thirty minutes later, and fifteen minutes after that she had water running in the tub. "Give me everything, underwear too, and I'll get the laundry going."
She gave me a long look, finally shrugging her shoulders and nodding, "I'll toss my undies out when I get in the tub."
The bikini bottoms, but no bra, came out, and a moment later I heard a long sigh through the door.
While she soaked I washed her laundry. The clothes were thread bare, her underwear basic and tired also.
I returned to the room almost an hour later. Hoover was asleep at the bathroom door, and Terri was apparently still in the tub. Tapping on the door and calling her name. I heard splashing and; "Huh? Oh, ok, I'll be right out."
Experience told me she'd fallen asleep in the water, and her rubbing her eyes when she came out confirmed it. However she had cleaned up and washed her hair and the difference was almost startling. Instead of a dirty waif, she now looked more like a cute girl with soft wavy hair. My shirt was baggy on her, and went half way to her knees, but still gave enough hint to the curves underneath. "Wow. You clean up pretty good. Here are your clothes, and there's a family style restaurant down the street."
"Thank you. Not just for the ride, or the food, but for the bath and the laundry; I'm beginning to feel human again. I wasn't kidding when I said I hadn't had a decent bath or shower in months. I did fall asleep in there, it felt that good. Now I'm ready to eat."
The restaurant was a small one with less than twenty tables and booths, and most of the patrons appeared to be locals, with just a few travelers. The menu was basic, but checking other tables I could see the portions were fair and well prepared. I ordered meatloaf and potatoes; she had roast beef, baked potato and a salad. She ate a little slower than earlier, but she ate it all, and with minimal talking.
When we had finished, I offered dessert; "Pie? Do they have apple pie?"
Soon she had a generous slice of apple pie ala mode, and I sipped another cup of coffee. Half way through the pie she started talking; "My boyfriend thought it would be cool if we joined a commune down by Sedona, you know, get all meta-physical, and communicate with the universe, all that New Age stuff. Only it didn't work that way. Being the Newbies in camp, we were assigned all the scut work. The crappy jobs no one else wanted. After about a month he just snuck out one night. Didn't say good bye, or come with me or anything. Just gone. Without him there I became the target of all the men in camp, and some of the women. It came down to my not even being able to eat without someone propositioning me, and nights always seemed to mean some one groping me. A week ago I finally got the nerve to walk away from them. It took me that long just to get to Tonopah."
"That doesn't sound like any valid commune I ever heard of."
"I don't know what the original philosophy was when it was founded, now it's just an excuse for a bunch of men to have women at their beck-and-call. I got used. I'm ashamed to admit it, but for a while, before Jason took off, I was almost convinced I had to be part of the sharing, but I knew better; I was just a warm body some man could plug into."
"That sort of makes me ashamed I'm male."
"So far you've treated me nicely, and I really do appreciate it. You remind me not all men are like that. Now, I'm tired, do you mind if we go back to the room and I just crash?"
She slept through the night; occasionally I would wake to her tossing and mumbling, but she slept 'til after eight. By then I'd gone down to the office and came back with several cups of coffee.
When she did wake, it was with a start. I gave her time to get re-oriented before offering coffee.
"Why are you being this nice? Won't your wife object to me being in your room?"
"My wife divorced me a year after my daughter died. She had to blame someone for what happened, and since she thought our son-in-law was perfect, she blamed her daughter, and by extension, me. I don't claim to understand her thinking. I fought it for a bit, then accepted and moved on."
Over at the restaurant we got breakfast, then hit the road. Terri was in a good mood, chattering away about anything and everything. I learned more about the commune; how they didn't have running water, used pit toilets, slept six to a cabin. I heard about the men lolling about the camp, being philosophical, while the women did the work. I also got hints of several people being abusive and in some cases outright sadistic.
We had lunch in Reno and then drove on north and west. As we passed into California she visibly relaxed more. Clearly, the farther we got from that commune, the better she felt. We pulled into the next rest area we came to, and for the first time, Terri played with Hoover. Every other stop since Tonopah she would watch me with him, but nothing more. This time she took him and a ball to a grassy area and played a good half hour. The way she was running around, I just knew she felt freer than ever. Hoover looked exhausted; he hadn't run that much in a couple years, but when he flopped on his bed in the back seat he looked like one happy dog.
We stopped in Klamath Falls for the night. After dinner we returned to our room where I grabbed a quick shower, Terri took a much longer one. As she stepped in front of the vanity, the towel wrapped around her fell, and I saw scars on her back from shoulder blades down onto her upper thighs. I must have gasped aloud because she spun half around, realized she was uncovered, spun back and pulled the towel back around her. Without thinking I blurted; "What the hell happened to you? Who did that to you?"
Her eyes got very large and then tears ran down her cheeks and she began silently crying. Quickly I moved to her, wrapping her in my arms, smoothing her hair, reassuring her that all would be well. Her arms encircled my waist, and she clung to me like a drowning person clings to a raft. We stood like that for several minutes before she calmed enough to release me. "Can I tell you some things? I need to tell someone, and I think I trust you to listen to me without judging me."
"Terri...You can tell me anything you want. It's all safe with me. But who the hell striped your back like that?"
"At the commune. They did this." She was quiet for several minutes, mulling what she wanted to say. And then in a torrent of words began; "We'd been at the commune about two weeks, when one night several of the men came up to me and Jason and told us it was time to be initiated. We followed them to the tables in the center of the camp, where everyone else was gathered. They had us stand before Rory and Lynette, the leaders. Rory asked the crowd if we were to be allowed into the group. Someone shouted we should be tested, and Lynette called for a voice vote. The crowd chanted for the test, and the men moved toward us. Jason and I thought they'd have us doing things like you see in movies about sororities and frats, so we weren't worried. But then the men grabbed me, pulled my clothes off and laid me on a table. Jason tried helping me, so they stripped him and forced him face down on another table."
She took a long, shuddering breath. The look in her eyes just broke my heart. "Then they raped us. I don't know how many men had me, I didn't count. And I don't know how many took him, but later he was bleeding. I wasn't, but I might as well have because I was that raw. He was different after that...withdrawn...haunted looking. A couple weeks later he was gone."
"How did you get the scars?"
"I fought those bastards as long as I could, but even the women were against me. I guess I was just supposed to accept it the way they did, but I wouldn't. So they whipped me. Some of the other women had some scars, But not as many as ME! Mike, I fought them as long as I could. And when they did fuck me, I gave them nothing; no emotion, no tears, not a word. And when I did get a chance to get away, I took it. My gear was packed in five minutes one night, and I was gone."
"What's next for you?"
"Go home. Hope my folks will let me stay until I can get on my feet. Then get a job and start over. I've got an associate degree in Dental Hygiene from Columbia Basin Community College, and some work experience, I'll get something. If nothing else, the last three months have taught me I can survive anything."
She had finally wound down. Slumped before me, the towel loosely wrapped around her, she looked like a little lost girl. Looking totally exhausted, she crawled into bed, curled into a small ball, and went to sleep. I turned off the lights, and sitting in a chair looking out the window at the parking lot pondered how cruel some humans can be to others.
The next morning we dressed, had breakfast and hit the road. This would be my last day with Terri, as we would be in Pasco in five hours or so.
She was quiet. Maybe last night had re-opened wounds. "Are you ok?"
She sighed; "Yeah, I'm alright. Thanks for listening to me. I'll have to tell my folks what happened, and telling you first may make telling them a little easier."
"I'm sure they'll be there for you. If my daughter had come to me I'd have moved heaven and earth to help her. Maybe I could have saved her life if I'd known..."
"What's that saying...'If wishes were horses, we'd all be kings'? If I'd known what they were like, I'd have never gone there. I'm sure Jason wouldn't either. I wonder how he's doing..."
At one of our rest stops I gave her my phone number; "If you ever need help, call me. Day or night. I couldn't help Jess, but I can help you."
"Mike, you're the best thing to happen to me in a very long time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
We crossed the Columbia a little after three, and the closer we got to Pasco, the quieter she got. She directed me to her parents' farm on the outskirts of town, and I took her to the door. The place had a seedy look to it, time, or the owner, had not been kind to that house, and the out buildings had the same run-down look.
I was getting a strange feeling, and I hoped I was wrong. "Do you want me to wait? You know; in case no one's home?"
"No...It'll be fine. I'm ok." I could hear the trepidation in her voice, but she was determined to come home.
"Alright. Remember, if you need help, call me. Anytime. I mean it."
"Thanks Mike, you don't know how much that means to me."
I waited while she knocked on the door, and a tired looking woman answered the door. Terri spoke to her for a moment and then stepped inside. The door closed behind her.
I was less than an hour down the road when my cell phone rang; "Mike? It's Terri. Is that offer of help real?"
"Of course. What's going on? Are you ok? Where are you?"
"My dad kicked me out. Called me all kinds of names, then threw me out. He wouldn't even let me get my pack. I don't have anything but the clothes I'm wearing."
"Where are you, I'm heading back at the next exit."
"Do you remember the white farm house with the green roof? That's the Robinsons. They let me use their phone so I could call you. He wants to go over and kick the hell out of my dad."
"I may just join him. I'm thirty minutes away."
The Robinsons were the prototypical grandparent types; cheerful and kind. They were visibly upset by the treatment Terri had received from her father. We talked a bit, Terri explaining how I'd helped her get home, and of my offer of help. Mr. Robinson and I determined to get Terri's few possessions. He was quite willing to punch out Terri's dad if he got the chance. This guy was a farmer; he may have been in his sixties, but he looked to be all muscle.
There was no confrontation. Not that Mr. Robinson and I didn't want one; her parents refused to open the door. Terri's few things had obviously been thrown out in the dirt driveway, and were covered in dust. We picked them up, and returned to his house where Terri and Mrs. Robinson were waiting anxiously.
Terri ran to me, wrapping arms around my waist, thanking me for coming back, asking what she could do now. All her determination had been washed away by her parents.
"You'll come home with me. I have a large house, and only Hoover and I to fill it. You'll find a job, and get on with your life."
I gave the Robinsons my contact info, and got theirs in return, promising that we would keep them informed.
We spent the night at Yakima, then came on to Olympia the next day.
Hoover and I showed Terri her room, and when she emptied her pack, her clothes wouldn't fill half of one dresser drawer. She moved through the house, oohing and aahing over the space, the style, the way it felt so welcoming. "Until the economy went bust, I built houses. This one encompasses all the best features."
"So, what do you do now? I mean besides rescue maidens?"
"Mostly living off investments, but the divorce did put a crimp in that. Fortunately my wife didn't want the house. Otherwise I've picked up the odd remodel job now and then."
The next day we went to the mall where she picked out some clothing. While she was busy at that, I called my Dentist, a man I'd been seeing for years. I explained, somewhat, about Terri and asked if he knew of anyone in need of a hygienist.
"Send her over on Monday, about three, and I'll talk to her. I can't promise anything, but I'll ask some of the other offices if they need help. When did you start picking up strays anyway?"
"Gary, she was like a bird with a broken wing. She needed a ride, and I couldn't turn her down. I kept thinking about Jessie."
"I'll see what I can do"
Gary hired her, beginning the following week, on a trial basis. She proved a good worker, and with his recommendation also joined another office twice a week.
She saved her pay and was soon able to buy her own clothes and after several months, a car.
Meanwhile my sister, Claire, had taken her under her wing. I had called Claire while Terri waited on her food at McD's in Tonopah: she liked to know about changes in my travel plans. The day after getting home, Claire came over to meet Terri, and when I filled her in she called her doctor, insisting Terri have a full checkup.