tagNovels and NovellasVision of the Spirit Ch. 18

Vision of the Spirit Ch. 18

bywilderness©

Tom woke up with a booming kettledrum between his ears. With every heartbeat, his temples throbbed. Gradually, the events from the night before replayed like glimpses through a fog, but he clearly recalled the climactic parts -- the Hannah parts.

The sun was already above the window frame and Hannah wasn't in bed. Rolling onto his side, Tom checked the clock -- 10:00am. He groaned, fell back and tried to lie still, hoping the ache would cease and desist. But the need to pee eventually surpassed all other bodily discomforts.

Forcing himself out of bed, he pulled on his white cotton briefs and wandered into the bathroom. After relieving the most critical need, Tom opened the rusted medicine cabinet and looked for an answer to his percussion problem. There were only two drugs to choose from. The first package held birth control pills (at least Hannah was acting responsibly). But Tom was in search of the morning after pill. He opened the other bottle, swallowed two Tylenol, and then gargled with mouthwash.

Wandering into the living room, Tom found Hannah sitting in the chair by the window, a notebook computer on her lap. Her hair was disheveled, and the baggy John Denver tee shirt had fallen off one tapered shoulder. The shirttail only reached to mid-thigh. Her bare legs, pressed together, looked toned and tempting. "Good morning, Beautiful."

Hannah's eyes flicked away from the computer screen to acknowledge his entrance and then returned moments later with a more studied gaze of his near nakedness. "Good morning. How does the Horse's head feel today?"

Her playful grin quickened the tempo of Tom's cranial drum. "You mean the horses ass, don't you? Shoot me now and put me out of my misery." He flopped onto the couch and pulled the slipcover over his face to blot out the needling sunlight.

"Remember Janice?"

"Who?"

"The cute waitress that brought you too many beers last night."

"Oh...yeah," he mumbled. "I remember... not."

There was a metallic click and the sound of shuffling objects, and then a shadow blocked the light that burned through the thin fabric and his eyelids. Tom pulled down a corner and peeked. Hannah stood over him, hair everywhere, lips grinning, and happy nipples at attention.

She put her hands on her hips, and scanned his length, from toe to head. "Janice thought you were cute. She was trying to pick you up, but you didn't act interested."

A recollection of Janice came to mind. "Yeah? She's nice... but she's not you." Tom flopped the sheet back over his face.

The couch sagged, as Hannah sat on the edge. "Aw, that's sweet. I think you're... nicer than nice, too." Her hand began to rub along the inside of his thigh, starting at his knee and ending at his briefs. "I've never seen you so drunk before. What happened?"

The caress was difficult to ignore, but he tried hard. "I was having a bad day. I got depressed when I saw you drive away from my truck like you were running from a tornado, and then I saw the grocery guy yelling at you, and then your truck was parked at Bouncing Betty's--"

"You bounced to a lot of conclusions." Her fingers worked under the elastic band of the leg hole and pushed in to rub the front of his hip.

Seconds passed. Tom finally said, "I'm sorry... about last night. I didn't make trouble for you, did I?"

"Well, Janice is upset with me. At the end of her shift, she pointed you out and said she was going to hang around awhile, to see if you'd take her phone number. I told her to back off or I'd claw her eyes out. You were already mine."

Tom pulled the sheet down to look at Hannah. "You said that?"

"Yes, but I said it with a little more diplomacy. After all, I have to work with her."

"I'm yours," whispered Tom. "I like the sound of that." He closed his eyes. The headache began to lessen. "So, if I jumped to the wrong conclusions, then explain what I saw yesterday."

Well... I did run from you at the mall. That's true. I was scared, because it was bad timing and... I don't know... I just wasn't ready to deal with everything." The hand left his leg.

"Who was the angry prick?"

"That was Earl. He's the manager at 'Betty's'. Their cook quit, and a bachelor party was scheduled that night. He needed to pick up the food last minute, but then his car broke down. Sam asked me to pick Earl up. Sam owns 'Betty's' and the 'Cranberry'."

Another quiet minute passed. Tom said, "I'm sorry for thinking the worst."

"Considering my history, I understand." Hannah sighed. "That's what hurts the most. Eventually, my past will ruin everything between us. Once a whore, always a whore."

"Not true!" Tom grabbed her arm and pulled her down to lie in front of him. He pressed against her back, hugged her tight, and kissed her neck below the ear. "The idea of other men seeing you naked made me jealous. I love you and I want you all for myself. It has nothing to do with the past. It's all about the future."

"The future." Hannah laughed. "I came back here because..." She rolled over and looked into his eyes. "Something happened on that mountain. I had to come back and find out if these feelings I have for you are real or just some kind of emotional delusion." She cupped his cheek, and said, "That's the second time today you've said you love me. Are you sure you're sober now?"

He kissed her softly. "Sober and sane."

"Sane? Don't push it." She buried her face in Tom's shoulder. "I got your email. The pictures were very nice... for real estate. But, where's the beefcake?"

"I sent you one."

"Are you kidding me? One fully clothed picture on a hay bale. I'll call it 'The Thinker in the Hayloft' and send it to Farmers Almanac. How... Mayberry RFD can you get?"

He pulled up her tee shirt and rubbed her bottom. "After everything that happened, I wasn't feeling... adventurous." The firm, smooth handfuls reminded Tom of a not so enticing derriere. "If I'd been quick, I could've sent you a picture of Chief Willie's ass."

Hannah lifted her head. "What?"

"That's another thing that freaked me out yesterday. I caught Penny Wentworth and the Chief half naked in the barn. Talk about sleazy. His wife just had a baby!"

Hannah sat up. "You caught them screwing?"

"Well, they were up to something that was clothing optional. I didn't see actual intercourse. But, it wasn't yoga. And there was a lot of moaning involved."

"Wow, that's huge. What did they say?"

"Hey, that's exactly what Penny said. 'Wow, that's huge.'"

"Funny. But really."

"Penny just said she was sorry, and basically asked me to be quiet about their 'indiscretion'."

Hannah bounced off the couch and began to pace. "Aren't you afraid?"

Tom sat up and massaged his temples. "Afraid of what?"

She wrung her hands, as she marched from wall to wall. "Afraid they'll... I don't know... kick you out, or make your life miserable, until they force you to leave?"

Tom watched and tried to understand her anxiety. He wondered if fear, along with a poor self-image, had kept Hannah trapped in a life of prostitution. Was it all part of a basic need to feel safe and protected? Was he just a substitute to fill that void in her soul? Is love just a matter of filling in the blanks?

Tom stood up and blocked her path. Wrapping her in his arms, he said, "If they do, then I'll deal with it. I didn't do anything wrong. I can't let their bad behavior ruin my life. All I can do is what's right for me," He kissed her forehead, and added, "and you."

Hannah looked up with a furrowed brow. "Me?"

"I just got you back. I won't let you disappear again so easily."

Her body melted against him. "You won't?" With her head on his shoulder, she wormed one hand under the elastic band to fondle his bottom. "Promise?"

"Promise. In fact, move in with me."

She squeezed him and kissed his neck. "And leave all this?" Tom felt her smile against his skin.

"I know. I'm asking you to give up a lot," he said, petting her hair, "but there are fringe benefits to living with me."

"Oh yeah? Like what?" she asked, tracing both hands around to the front and tickling his abdomen lightly with her fingernails.

"Well... I'd make breakfast, once in a while." Hair slipped through his fingers, as he pulled her tight. With one arm around her waist and the other hand teasing her ear, Tom said, "I'd wash your truck once a month." Kissing the top of her head, he added, "I'd even wash your back."

"Just my back?"

"Well, that's negotiable."

"Mmm, you make a good offer. I'll seriously consider it." Hannah pushed away and began to pack up the laptop. "I need to get ready for the lunch shift. Don't you have to work today?"

Tom stood there, unsure of what to do.

On the way out of the room Hannah stopped, pulled out his waistband and adjusted the stiffy inside. "There, that feels better, doesn't it?" she said, giving the bulge one friendly pat, before walking away.

"Thanks, much better." The drumming headache returned with cymbals. Tom followed her down the hall.

Hannah said, "I'm in a hurry," and kissed him goodbye, before disappearing into the bathroom.

Tom dressed, wondering if he'd said something wrong. Maybe he should've been more serious about the reasons she should move in. Maybe it wasn't a good subject to joke about.

Dressed and ready, Tom knocked on the bathroom door. "Hannah, when can I see you again?"

Hannah shouted over the running water, "I don't know. I have to work every night this weekend. I'll email you. I don't have a phone."

"Well... Okay. See you later. Thanks for... last night." Duh, that was dumb.

"Yes, it was fun. We'll talk soon."

Fun? Try as he might, his brain just wasn't functioning up to speed. There had to be an explanation for the sudden cold shoulder. He walked out, bewildered. The only conclusion he came up with was Hannah finally decided she could do better. She realized he wasn't good enough, smart enough, or rich enough to deserve a beauty like her.

Tom arrived back at the motel at noon and was putting away groceries when the front-desk bell rang. A scowling gray haired man stood at the counter. The frown lines on his granite face were deep and looked permanently etched. "Good afternoon. Can I help you?"

"Man, this dump hasn't changed in 20 years. How much a night for a cabin?"

First impression: This guy's a prick. Tom shrugged off the insult. "Fifty dollars."

"Fifty! I'll give you twenty, and I want cabin 10."

"The price is $50, and there is no cabin 10."

"No 10!" He walked to the window and checked for himself. "I'll be damned. That's too bad. I had a great time in there. Fucked my first virgin."

What an asshole. "Fifty dollars and you can have cabin 9."

"All right, but you're rippin' me off."

Money exchanged hands.

Tom held the key out of reach, and said, "Sign the guest book, please."

Grumbling, the stranger signed in. Tom looked at the name: Bob Smith.

"Satisfied?"

"Enjoy your stay," said Tom, and handed him the key.

"I won't. Hey, what happened to the geezer that used to own this place?"

"Retired."

"Any family still around?"

"Nope." Tom thought, 'This place is definitely on the fast track to Hell.' He'd have to find a way to improve the clientele. As the car pulled out, he jotted down the license plate number.

After lunch and a shower, Tom's head felt much better, and he began to make a list of materials he would need to begin painting. The bell at the front desk interrupted him. He wasn't surprised to see Penny Wentworth standing there. "Hi, Penny. Is this a surprise inspection?"

She gave him an embarrassed smile, and said, "No. I think yesterday had enough surprises, don't you?"

After an awkward moment, Tom changed the subject. "Did this place have ten cabins before?"

The simple question seemed to startle Penny. "Yes. But, Dad tore one down. Why do you ask?"

"This jerk that just checked in said he wanted to stay in cabin 10, because he had great memories."

Penny looked out the window. Her complexion paled.

"The guy asked if any of your family still lived around here. I said 'no'. And if you ask me, this guy's personality is about 10 degrees below normal." Tom looked at the registry. "He said his name is Bob Smith. Do you know him?"

"No." Penny continued to stare blankly out the window.

He waited, but she wasn't inclined to restart the conversation. "So, what's up?"

Penny said softly, "Nothing. I just came to say goodbye. I don't think I'll be coming back for a long time." She turned to face him and her eyes were flooded. "Please don't make trouble for Chief Morris and Annie. I made a terrible mistake. I apologized to them, and I'm apologizing to you, for putting you in such an awkward situation."

Tom walked over and hugged her. "Don't worry, Penny. Everything will be fine. Thank you for the opportunity to manage the Midway. You'll always have a place to stay, whenever you want to come back and visit."

"Thank you." She patted his arm and left without another word or backward glance.

Less than an hour later, the front desk bell rang again. Pleased at the prospect of another paying customer, Tom hurried out of the living room. The vision of Hannah standing at the counter stopped him at the office door.

They stared at each other for a few heartbeats, and then shared a smile, as the implication of her visit became understood.

Hannah broke the silence. "I heard this was a nice place to stay. A friend said you have some kind of weird fringe benefits package and personal services?"

Tom stepped to the desk and opened the registry. "You've come at a perfect time. I have plenty of room and hours to make your stay unforgettable." He flipped some pages, and asked, "Do you have a reservation?"

She placed her hand over his. "Not really... It was more of an invitation."

They entwined fingers and the warmth of her hand traveled up to his face. Tom felt flushed and his heart jumped. "Will you be staying long?"

Timidly, Hannah looked away and then focused on their hands. "I'll be here as long as I'm allowed."

"Okay then! Let me add you to the guest book." Tom clicked his pen. "Name please."

She smiled at his due process. "Hannah Roundtree."

"That's a beautiful name."

"Thanks, I made it up myself."

He wrote it down, along with the date of arrival, and then filled in the check out date. Spinning the book around for her inspection, he said, "If this meets with your approval I'll help you bring in your luggage."

Hannah looked at the entry information and then at Tom. She smiled and a tear squeezed out. "Check out: Never?"

"I'll do my best to make sure you never want to."

Hannah pressed his hand to her cheek and then kissed it. "I hope I won't overstay my welcome."

Tom came around to the other side and held her hands. "Hannah, you've made me a very happy man." They kissed tenderly and hugged. Then Tom put his arm around her shoulders and escorted her outside. "How much stuff do you have?"

"I just threw everything into the truck. Not too much."

"I thought you had to work today."

Hannah put her head on his shoulder. "I quit. There must be jobs closer to home."

"Are you kidding? Home is the job. You can help paint."

All of her possessions were packed in garbage bags. Tom grabbed two heavy ones and headed inside. Halfway across the living room, a bag ripped and shoes spilled out. It was several minutes before they were gathered up and moved into the bedroom.

On the way back outside, Tom heard Hannah yelling. "Stop it! Let go!"

A man cried out in pain and then Tom heard a loud slap.

Running to the truck, He found Hannah struggling with the motel guest, Mr. Smith. "Hey! Let her go!"

Smith pushed Hannah down, and said, "The bitch scratched me!" Gingerly, he wiped blood from his face. "You fucking whore."

Tom resisted the urge to punch him, and helped Hannah up. She rubbed her cheek and he noticed it was bright red. "Mr. Smith, what the hell were you doing?"

"I was just sayin' hi, and she attacked me. I don't know what her problem is. I guess I gotta show my money before I can talk to the bitch."

Hannah lunged, but Tom held her arms.

She screamed at Smith, "You son-of-a-bitch! I'd never let you touch me. I don't care how much money you had. You're a pig!"

"Fuck you!" Smith stalked away. "God damn, Semen-hole Indian!"

Furious, Hannah shrieked and tried to twist free. "Let me go!"

"Not until you settle down and promise me you won't attack him."

She stopped struggling, and he let go of her arms. "What just happened?"

"I knew coming here was a mistake!" Hannah began to pace the length of the truck. "I'll never be free from my past. I'm just going to drag you down with me."

"Not true. You can make a fresh start. I won't let anyone disrespect you like that." Tom wanted to believe it, but his stomach twisted into a pretzel. "You know him?"

"Oh yeah... I know Dewey. He was one of Toby Wentworth's 'business' associates." She emphasized the word 'business' in a way that hinted illegalities. "Last year, that prick drugged and raped me. But when you're a whore, rape is a little hard to prove. No one's going to believe a prostitute. The cops just assumed he didn't pay me for a trick and I was just trying to get even. But I'm telling you, that son-of-a-bitch is one sick motherfucker. He gets off on hurting women."

"You are not a whore. Stop saying that. Now come inside. Please." He touched Hannah's arm and she jerked away. This unrestrained anger was a side of her he'd not seen unleashed. But considering what this man had done to her, it was understandable.

She threw up her hands, and said, "I should go," and headed for the driver's door.

Afraid that touching Hannah would cause another outburst, Tom walked beside her, and said, "You can't leave. I have all your shoes. If you go, I'm keeping them."

That made Hannah glance at him, and eventually sigh. "I do like my shoes."

"I have a lot of closet space that needs filling." After a few moments of calm, something Hannah just mentioned struck him as odd. "His name is Dewey? He said it was Bob... Bob Smith."

"Then he lied to you. It's Jeffery Dewey. But everyone calls him Doo-Doo behind his back."

"Come inside. I'll call the cops. Maybe they'd be interested in someone who's using an alias."

Hannah looked at him with sad eyes and shook her head. "It doesn't matter. Once they checked my police record my testimony would be worthless."

"Maybe there's an outstanding warrant on him and your testimony won't matter."

She placed her hand on the truck door handle and paused. "You know, Toby said that Doo-Doo bragged a lot when he was stoned. If he was only telling half the truth, he's raped a lot of women."

Tom placed his hand over hers and lifted it from the door. "I won't let you go. You have to trust me." She gave in, and let Tom lead her back inside. Immediately, he called the police and reported an assault.

Fifteen minutes later, Chief Morris himself rang the office doorbell.

Tom greeted him alone, afraid that Hannah's presence would taint the seriousness of his allegations. "Chief, the man in cabin 9 assaulted my girlfriend. I want him arrested. And he's traveling under an assumed name. He must be hiding something."

The Chief didn't appear to be in a hurry. He removed a pad and pencil from his pocket, and said, "Tell me what happened."

Tom recounted the events, leaving Hannah's name out of the details.

"Where is this guy now?"

"He's in cabin 9."

The Chief walked to the window and looked out. "There's no car in front of 9."

"What?" Tom joined the Chief at the window. "He must've taken off. Doesn't that tell you he's guilty of something?"

"Maybe he just doesn't want any trouble."

"I'm sure he doesn't."

Both men turned at the sound of Hannah's voice.

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