A Red Leaf & Ten Orchids Ch. 14byTaLtos6©
***We continue now with Kayla and Joshua. 0_-
"Where are we going, Josh?" Jillian asked as they drove down the road. She sat in the back seat so that she could be near Daisy who was behind her wire mesh again.
"Well, we're going to get something to eat, and I need to make a stop first. I usually just poke along because I'm cheap, and I like to save gas, but I don't know which car the girls will be taking. Rosie drives slow, and Kayla is probably a speed demon" he said as they slowed coming into town.
They pulled up at the florist shop, and Josh cracked the windows down a few inches each for Daisy as they got out. Inside, he picked up two potted arrangements and a small potted flower for Jillian. They were back on the road in five minutes.
Having been successful in his getaway, Josh headed for a drive-through and treated them to a dinner that he was certain that Jillian had seldom had before. She was very pleased.
"Thanks Josh, this is great!" she exclaimed. "I always wanted to try this."
Josh looked at her, "You've never been to one of these restaurants before?"
"You mean where you stay in your car and get the food from a window?" Jillian asked.
He nodded and she shook her head, "I see the commercials on TV, but Kayla always says that we have to save our money and they cost too much. How come you just didn't cook dinner for us?"
He winked at her as they ate, "Well Jilly, first off, I'm just a lazy guy. Second, and probably more important, I can cook for myself, I just don't know if you would survive my cooking, 'cause I like you and all, and thirdly, just for fun."
Afterward, they just drove around talking for a while. Jillian was thrilled. When they got back, Josh sat on the porch steps as Jilly ran around with Daisy. When she came back to him needing a breather, she found him smiling.
"Come on," he grinned, "There's something that you need to see before it gets too dark."
When he'd pushed the tool chest out of the way and turned on the shed lights, he opened the doors and Jilly stared with her mouth open.
Josh thought that just that one second was worth all of the careful wrenching that he'd done over the past few days and the pain in the ass that it had been to keep this little secret from everyone -- most especially from Jillian.
In the dim incandescent lighting that shone in from behind them, she stood staring at an old motorcycle -- another one. She spun in place, her hair flying in an arc around her head as she looked to make sure that the first one was still there before she looked in front of her again.
It was old and tired -- and dusty as anything, but it was there, all the same.
"How come it has three wheels?" she asked, looking at the sidecar.
"So it doesn't fall over if you forget to put the stand down before you get off?" he asked, "That really embarrassing when it happens, and it can hurt a little when you find yourself under the bike like that." Jillian giggled.
"This one's got a sidecar," he smiled, "I think they made it for when you need to give a little girl a ride and you don't want to have to be afraid that she'll fall off or burn her leg on the exhaust. It's still a little dusty, but it does run and I was wondering if you'd like a ride this evening."
She gave him another of those moments where he fell in love with her again right there, just for the way that she looked at that instant. "Oh Josh," she sighed in a quiet little voice, "Can we? Please?"
"Sure," he smiled, "I just have to put in the seat that I re-stuffed and fixed up after I almost broke my neck trying to vacuum and sweep all of the mouse poop out of it. I kept coming back to check, and the old tires are still holding air. We can't go out on the roads, since it's not licensed yet, but I thought that maybe we could tootle around a little.
So I think that you ought to go grab your bike helmet Jilly, and while you're gone, I'll try to get it going."
He'd been looking at the bike at that moment, and hearing nothing from her, he looked over and saw that he was already alone, so he pushed it out into the main part of the shed and from there out into the late long rays of the early evening light.
Josh was a little amazed that it started on the second kick, since it hadn't been anywhere near this enthusiastic to be roused from its long slumber back in the shed earlier. Jilly came flying back as she got her helmet strapped on and he cautioned her about the way that she had to be prepared for a little jostling. He lifted her to get her in and she beamed at him as he got on.
The old Harley's engine clattered louder as Josh fed it some gas, and drove off. They drove around the yard a little as Daisy ran around them barking in her deep voice. After a few laps down the drive and back, Josh apologized to Daisy as he put her tether on, promising not to be gone long. She watched unhappily as Josh drove up the slope and around the bend with Jillian waving to her happily as she sat in the sidecar.
Josh was careful to keep it slow as they bounced along a little until they were near some standing boulders where he slowed to a stop, but left the engine idling for a minute before he shut it off, hoping that it would start again later. He scanned the ground for snakes before he lifted Jillian out.
"Hey, come over here, I want to show you something cool. Did Kayla ever talk about her uncle Sam? I think you came to his funeral last year" said Josh.
Jillian nodded. "I never met him, but Kayla told me that she loved him a lot."
"Well this was his favorite spot in the whole world. He found it when he was a boy, and always loved to come here. Just sit right here, and face this way. Here, come sit next to me. Now close your eyes, and listen to the wind."
"Is that the wind? It sounds like it's almost talking." Jillian said.
"I know. I think it has something to do with those rocks bouncing the sound back at us" Josh said. After a minute more, he suggested that they'd better be getting back soon, so they saddled up and puttered back. After negotiating the incline down to the yard, they got in a few more laps before Josh pulled up in front of the house and shut it off again.
As the evening came on, Josh went inside to get them some milk and a few cookies. As he was about to come back through the screen door, he saw Jillian sitting on the top step beside her playmate with her back to him. Daisy towered over the little girl, and looked down at her listening intently as she spoke quietly of her hope that Josh would stay.
The words that he overheard constricted his throat, and his eyes began to fill. He stepped quickly back into the kitchen. When he was sure that he had his act together, he opened a lower cupboard, and kicked a pot gently to make a bit of noise, before he walked out onto the porch.
They chatted about all sorts of things together. Jillian was most interested about riding motorcycles. Josh told her why he liked them, and assured her that it wasn't all that difficult, but he stressed the importance of safety and staying watchful on the road since most car drivers usually weren't paying attention a lot of the time.
As he tucked her into bed a little later, she thanked him for all of the fun that they'd had together, and then became rather introspective suddenly.
"Josh," she began, "I love you a lot. I don't have my daddy anymore. Kayla loves you too. She's like my mom now. Do you think that you and Kayla will stay together? I'd like that, because then I'd have parents again."
Joshua was stuck for a minute, and composed his thoughts as he hugged her tightly. "Jilly, I'd like that very much. I didn't know how much I needed you all. It's been a big surprise to me. I don't know about a lot of things right now. There are so many things that all of the grownups need to think about very soon. But I want you to know one thing.
You are so important to me. I love you too. You just don't know how much because I can't say the right words to tell you. You just need to know that I do, ok? I don't know what will happen; maybe we can be a family. I kind of want that to happen a lot, but it's too early right now to make that decision since it's not just up to me, and there's more than just myself and your aunt involved.
Let's just keep on wishing for now, ok?" She nodded, and they kissed each other goodnight.
Josh went into the other room and stared out the window into nothing for a long time. When he was certain that Jillian was asleep, he walked back to the SUV and retrieved their purchases from the florist. He placed one on the kitchen table in the house, one he placed on the dresser in Kayla's bedroom, and he snuck into Jillian's room to place her small plant on her nightstand. He lit a cigarette as he sat on the step looking at the old Harley with its sidecar.
Rose and Kayla arrived at Margarita's home, and she fussed over them as they entered. Kayla gave her the flowers that they'd brought along as a gift when they entered her kitchen. Kayla had met almost all of the players present with two exceptions. Consuela and Margarita's mother was there to the pleasure of both Kayla and especially Rose. After they were introduced, Rita introduced the interested looking stranger to them.
Maggie Griffin worked at the grocery store, and was a regular for these poker evenings, a confirmed member of the 'collective' as Consuela called the group. She was very pleased to meet Kayla, and laughed as she sat down at the table.
"You can't imagine how happy I am to meet you! I was there the other day when you came in with Joshua, but I don't think you saw me. I was the one who actually kept doing what I get paid to do. I'm also the only girl in the place who doesn't lose her mind and get all stupid when he walks in," she laughed.
"I've spoken to him before, but not often. I never get a chance, really. I usually get pushed out of the way as soon as the Snotties spot him. I guess I'm immune or something. I always thought that he was just a nice guy who comes in once in a blue moon to do some shopping. I didn't think that he needed to be tackled or anything."
She sipped her beer as everyone laughed. "God, I wish I could find a better job. I don't fit in there, and I can't stand those women.
Hey, I heard that you're dating him, and I'm so glad for that. Maybe now they'll talk about somebody else for a change. Till now, every time he's in town, it's the same thing."
Kayla laughed with the rest of them. "I'm pleased to meet you too, Maggie. I was afraid that somebody was going to tip over a shelf full of canned vegetables on me in there the other day. That was so strange. The girl at the checkout looked like she wanted to shoot me or something."
Maggie finished her sip, and lowered the bottle. "Ah, actually, she did."
The whole room erupted in laughter. Maggie continued. "When they all heard that you guys were 'official'. I thought they were gonna hang black wreathes on the door or something. I've seen more joy in the place when they announce a tornado watch. So is it true?"
Kayla smiled and nodded.
"Well that's great! I'm happy for you." Maggie said. "Some of them were saying that you were some slinky out of town bitch who came to steal 'their' Joshua. I also heard that you were his wife, and that this is the first time that you came around and that you'd brought 'his kid' along too, though I thought that was a pretty rude way for the Snotties to say it, not that there's much class there anyway."
Kayla looked over and spoke with a trace of defensiveness in her voice, though her smile remained genuine. "Maggie, Jillian is my sister's daughter. I took over raising her when she was orphaned. I've already adopted her officially. She means the world to me, and we both just love Josh to death.
I'll admit that I did a thing or two that day that might have led a few of the pointy noses in this town to conclude what you heard, but I really don't give a shit what they think.
I'll neither confirm nor deny that rumor if it comes to me, but that's the truth of it. She's not his daughter, but I know that she'd love to be. I'm very happy right now, and if it goes the way I hope it does, well, let's just see."
Consuela leaned on Kayla's shoulder at that point. "Uh, wait a minute here, Miss Living Legend, what kind of things did you do, exactly? I mean Rita and I know because Rosie told us, and then we peed ourselves, but the rest of the collective need to hear it for their benefit and entertainment. We pride ourselves in sharing our triumphs, you know."
Kayla looked a little uncomfortably at the rest of them, but smiled sweetly as she explained. "Nothing, really. I had my prescription of BC pills filled at the drugstore, and bought a ton of condoms."
The room erupted in gales of laughter. Once it had slowed a bit, Kayla went on. "The clerk looked a little slow on the uptake, so to be sure that she got the message, I dragged Jilly and Josh back to the counter to pay for some of Jilly's stuff. and then I explained that we were thinking about having another child. I didn't put it that way exactly. Josh had no idea what I was talking about."
They all had tears in their eyes now, laughing and chuckling.
Margarita held up a palm and struggled to speak. "Wait. I just gotta know this: Did you explain it to Josh?"
Kayla shrugged, and said "Well yeah, I did later that night after we all got home. He knew something went on in the store, and asked me about it as we were on the way to the cantina. I told him that I hoped he wouldn't get mad, and promised to tell him later."
Consuela jumped in, "So? Was he mad, or what?"
"No," Kayla answered, "he laughed a little when I showed him the prescription,..."
Rose interjected. "I heard him fall down and pee himself laughing when she dragged all the condoms out of the bag one box at a time," she said as she held up five fingers, "I took that as a good sign."
The room shook again.
As they settled in to play, they exchanged pleasantries and their own, less harmful brand of gossip, and the evening passed quickly. The subject to of Josh's phone call was brought forward near the end after several of the ladies had gone home.
"So he's bringing this friend of his down to help my aunt decide if the ranch could be made to run again," Kayla related, "I'm not that thrilled with it. He had the foulest mouth I've ever heard on anybody when he recognized Josh, though to be fair, he didn't know that we were listening, and he really smoothed out after he did know.
He asked me if it was true that Josh and I were together, and that it wasn't just a fantasy of his. He was pretty charming after that. I've learned enough in the past little while to try not to pre-judge him, and Josh said that he could really help my aunt."
The three women connected to the cantina were enthusiastic, and said that they couldn't wait to meet Josh's friend. They pleaded with Kayla to be sure that Josh brought him in during his stay as they broke up for the night.
On the drive back, Kayla's mind was churning over some details, and they didn't speak very much other than to express their enjoyment of the evening as a whole.
As they pulled in, Josh stepped out of the bunkhouse, and asked if they had enjoyed their evening. He also told them that his own had gone well, and that Jillian had dropped off to sleep quickly.
"Where did the sidecar come from?" Kayla asked, and before he could answer, she said, "This isn't Sam's old bike, is it?"
Rose smiled, "No, this is the other one that Sam bought to use for spare parts. In all of the years since, I've never seen it again after he put it away someplace, and I know that it's never run since. How did you do it?"
Josh shrugged, "A lot of elbow grease cleaning the crud out of the carburetor, some new fuel lines and the battery out of the other one. It'll need tires most of all, but they still make them in that size."
Kayla was putting things together and she was just about to ask if the evening had included a ride for Jilly when she noticed the sand still clinging to the spot where some oil had dripped onto the rim of the front wheel.
"The sand isn't deep here," she said, "Where did you -- "
"Help me in, Kayla," Rose said, "I've never had a ride in a sidecar in my life. You'll give me a ride around the yard, won't you, Josh?"
He nodded and smiled, wondering what would keep him alive after it ended, but as Kayla helped her aunt get into the sidecar, Rose whispered to her.
"He's gone to a lot of work and trouble to make a little girl happy. I'm sure that she survived the ride. Stop looking like you're about to skin him for this."
Kayla blinked and then she nodded with a sigh, "You're right, Aunt Rose."
Rose said nothing after, but she nodded once with what might be termed as a significant glance as Josh folded out the kickstarter.
As they pulled away following the dim glow of the headlamp, Jilly walked out of the house and stood with Kayla. "Please don't yell at Josh, Kayla. We had a lot of fun and he made me wear my helmet and everything."
Kayla smiled down at Jilly and decided that she'd been ready to get upset over nothing and everyone had seen it coming but her, "If you're going to keep riding with him," she said with a nod, "We'll need to get you a better helmet."
When Josh came back and after helping Rose out of the sidecar, Kayla put Jillian back to bed and Rose went into the house after saying goodnight. Kayla looked around and wondered where Josh had gotten to. Her head turned toward the shed as she heard him put down the tailgate on his SUV and she could just see him move to sit on it. As she turned in that direction, she saw the flare of his old lighter as he lit a cigarette and she walked over.
"You here to kill me for riding Jilly around?" he asked.
She shook her head, "No. I think that you must have gone to a lot of trouble for Jilly. How can I be mad at that? But I can see that something's changed. You're getting that look again. What's wrong, Josh?"
Before he could answer, she felt the cause of her upset rising and this time, she knew what it was based on.
"What's gotten into you? A few days ago, the only problem that you and I had was how we could arrange to fuck each other's brains out without being too obvious about it. I was under the impression that we'd decided, and that we were going to have to figure out some answers to things that could stand in the way of our becoming a family. I was pretty sure that you had the same thoughts since we seem to be on a mutual wavelength. Jilly and I both want that so much.
I know that there's something really bothering you. I'm sorry Joshua. I'm in love with you, and I'm not going to let go, ever. I've never been this in love before. By comparison, I've never been happy before if this is what it's like. I think that I need you around so that I can breathe properly. Please don't tell me that I can't have you now. That wouldn't surprise me the way that my life runs, but I need to know. Please tell me what's wrong?
There was more to that phone call than we heard, I saw your face! What's changed?"
Joshua's body lost its tension. "Jim is well-connected even in retirement. He hears everything before it becomes official. He told me that he had heard that there was a warning order coming soon.
They never bothered me before, I looked forward to them." He sighed, "Jilly told me tonight that she wants you and me to be together. She wants me to be her father."
He looked up at nothing but the stars for a moment as he spoke quietly, "I can't think of anything in the world that I'd rather be than her father and your husband."
Kayla's heart floated free in her chest. "Joshua, we both want that too. But what's wrong with that? I don't understand what your friend told you."