tagMind ControlDeep Look

Deep Look


The snowstorm sweeping down over the lakes, initially claimed to be headed for Illinois, was taking an easterly turn. Already Caitlyn could see the snow picking up outside the Quaker Street windows of BJ's Restaurant in the moldering village of Granville, New York, the colored slate capital of the world, with a population under 7,000 and declining. Colored slate was not nearly as important and popular as it once had been. Neither was Granville, New York.

Shit, she thought as she realized that this was not going to be a profitable day at the restaurant where she was the hostess and had spent several hours dressing up the dining room in its Valentine's Day decorations—if putting up dusty and wilted ruffled-paper Valentines hearts nearly two decades old could be called "dressing up." She had decorated with a smile for the occasion, though. She wasn't a fussy or demanding person.

She looked around the dining room; no one was here, on this side of the restaurant, other than Stacy, the waitress, standing around and waiting. Stacy was mid-twenties something, ten years younger than Caitlyn and a natural beauty to Caitlyn's still-working-hard-at-it-with-considerable-help good looks, albeit Stacy was on the skinny side and Caitlyn was as voluptuous as she'd been as Miss Granville High, cheerleader captain, and homecoming queen back in "the day." Just her luck that Granville men seemed to prefer bean pole these days. There was no way she'd even entertain the idea that they might like their women younger.

Mike Morrison was visible through the archway, where he was tending bar. BJ's was a restaurant plus. Most business that were still open in Granville covered more than one business. People—mostly men—came to BJ's to drink rather than to eat. Caitlyn didn't mind that a bit. She gave Mike a smile. He'd helped keep Caitlyn feeling young and desirable, seeing as how he was a mid-twenties hunk and a half and had been giving Caitlyn a tumble pretty regularly since he'd drifted into town and landed the bartender job here three months earlier. Mike smiled back. It took Caitlyn a few seconds, though, to realized his smile was cast at Stacy, not her.

Her eyes slid off him and to the white stuff coming down thicker beyond the restaurant's front windows. "Shit," she said out loud when she realized she hadn't come dressed for the snow. Valentine's Day was a big deal in Granville. Actually, the Greyhound bus having a flat tire on West Main Street in Granville would be a big deal. She'd had her hair frosted and had dressed herself up more than the usual for the occasion—sexy red-sequined dress and spike heels. Her snow boots were back inside the kitchen door to her double wide trailer in the Broadview Terrace trailer court up Pine Street north of town.

Well, maybe she could pull a party out of the hat—something here that went to tomorrow and would avoid making her get out into the snow to drive her rickety old Ford pickup, with its broken-down heater, the two miles across town to her place. Ralph—Ralph Rawlins—the owner of the restaurant and its head cook, having graduated from being a cook in the army in Iraq a couple of deployments, lived upstairs in an apartment. Caitlyn had known the "staying over" experience several times with Ralph, who was a good ten years old than she was and not too bad looking despite his age and beer belly, before Mike had come on the scene. They hadn't done anything recently, but Caitlyn hadn't done it with Mike recently either and she was itching for it. Valentine's Day would be a good time either to weather the snowstorm with Ralph upstairs—he always could be counted on to have bourbon available—or even to bum a ride back to her place with Mike. He had a newer pickup, with heat, than she did, and he also had a habit of staying the night when he drove her home.

It was Valentine's Day. Caitlyn was very much in the mood to having a guy in bed with her on Valentine's Day. She wasn't nearly as free and loose as she'd been in her twenties, but she was no nun, either. And it was Valentine's Day, snow or no snow. She'd actually given some thought to letting one of the men working at the whatever hush-hush manufacturing facility that had replaced the tractor plant south of town or out at the quarries who came here for dinner or drinks and to gawk at her and sweet talk her take her for a ride tonight after work. But with the unexpected snow—and the amount that was falling—she didn't think there'd be much of a selection of men blowing into BJ's today.

She left the hostess station and walked over to one of the bay windows out onto Quaker Street and looked up and down the road. Freezing rain had arrived first and laid down a coating of ice. The snow was beginning to stick on the street, and there were few cars and no pedestrians to be seen. Nope, there wouldn't be the anticipated holiday crowd coming in in a jovial mood today. Moving back to the hostess station, she saw that Ralph had come out from the kitchen and was in the other room, at the bar, talking and laughing with Mike and Stacy. The other waitress on duty, good old Marge, was putting her coat on. Chuck, the short-order cook was coming out of the kitchen door. He was dressed to go, as well.

So, Ralph was cutting down on the duty staff, Caitlyn thought. That was probably wise, given the worsening weather conditions, and the chances were that few would think of going out for a late lunch or early dinner. She was glad it wasn't her leaving early, though. She worked on salary, since hostesses couldn't count on getting tips, but Ralph paid strictly by the hours actually worked—no sick or annual leave. If you weren't there, you weren't getting paid.

She needed the money as much as the next person did; more than most. She'd been raised in a big house on one of the nice streets in town and had run with the rich—if anyone in Granville could be called rich—kids in high school, but she'd had too much of a good time in high school to have the grades for college and when her parents had died in a plane wreck twelve years ago, her dad's gambling problems had revealed that he had been up to his eyeballs in debt. Caitlyn had gone through two husbands, but no one in her past life had passed on money to her. She'd been scraping and saving herself since that glorious last few fairy-tale months in high school when she was queen of the world.

"It's turning into a real bitch out there." Caitlyn, who had been watching Madge struggle into her coat looked up as Ralph reached the hostess station.

"Yeah. Ring up another victory for the weatherman," she answered. "The snow was supposed to dump itself on Chicago, not here."

"We won't be getting much business today," he said.

"No, we won't," Caitlyn answered. She felt sorry for Madge and Chuck. They needed every penny they could coax out of the restaurant as much as she did. But at least it wasn't her.

"I'm sending Madge and Chuck home. You should go too. A cook, one waitress, and the bartender is all we'll likely need today. Most likely only the bartender will do any business. Only the drunks are crazy enough to come out in weather like this is shaping to be. And you should take off right now if you don't want to end up in a snowbank."

"You want me to go too?" She couldn't believe it. When she'd seen the expression he had on his face, which she kind of thought had something to do with the slinky dress and heels she was wearing and how carefully she'd applied her makeup today, expecting this to be Valentine's Day celebration at the restaurant today, she'd seen signs of the lust he'd shown months earlier when he had been nosing around her close. For a nanosecond she'd had the impression he'd want her to go upstairs with him, which would have been OK with her. The best job title in her life had been party girl.

"Afraid so," he answered. "You best go before it gets a lot worse out there. Stacy, Mike, and I can hold down the fort."

She looked through to the other room where Stacy and Mike were leaning into each other from separate sides of the bar. The expression on Stacy's face said it all. She had a little "victory" expression on her face.

Yeah, now Caitlyn understood the "gonna get it" look she'd seen in Ralph's face just now. Mike had the same look on his face. They'd handle whoever showed up, but they'd close as soon as they could and use the anticipated deep coverage of the snow as an excuse for Ralph to just offer shelter upstairs in his apartment for the night.

Caitlyn knew how that worked. She wondered if Stacy realized what she'd be in for with two men pawing at her upstairs. Caitlyn had been there, done that with Ralph and Mike, but she'd seen and done a whole lot more than Stacy had. Stacy was in for a surprise. Caitlyn gave a little laugh as Ralph walked back to the bar. Wonder what Stacy will think when she finds out that Ralph and Mike will be as much into each other as into her? Caitlyn thought. But then she frowned as she moved back to the hooks by the kitchen door to retrieve her own coat. She couldn't deny that she wished it would be her.

As it turned out, it already was too late for Caitlyn to get home in the snow. But after seeing the look in Stacy's eyes, Brad Pitt walking through the door looking for a good time wouldn't have been enough for her to try to stay unwelcome and pitted against Stacy at BJ's that evening.

Her pickup was parked just out back of the restaurant, but the alley already was snowbound and slick with ice and she was in spike heels, nylon stockings, and a tight dress. Even her coat had been chosen for style rather than warmth. No one had predicted that the artic-air-driven snow storm was coming to Granville today.

She made it only as far as the backdoor of the restaurant kitchen before she realized the spike heels would get her killed. If nothing else, they'd cost her two-week's salary and sacrificing them to the elements wasn't up for discussion. Streaming curses, she stripped the heels off and waded out to the pickup in her stocking feet, soaking and shredding them within the first two steps. She cursed again when the engine started right up. If it hadn't, she would have had a good excuse for having to go back into the restaurant for the night—although at the moment that wasn't exactly a welcome prospect either.

The streets were already treacherous, and Caitlyn only made it as far as the point where Quaker Street forked off to the right onto West Main Street when the pickup went into a spin and slid more left than right and directly, nose down, into a ditch.

"Shit. Fuck," Caitlyn said as she reached for her purse and pulled her cell phone out. This was followed by a vocalized, "Fuck. Shit," when she remembered that her cell phone was dead. It needed recharged. She had intended to do that at work, but she had been caught up in the change in the weather and had forgotten to plug it in.

She looked around the street, which now had businesses running down the right side and a series of large, old Victorian mansions running down the left. Most of the houses, though, had been turned into professional offices. Here and there, the commercialization hadn't been completed. There were still a few residences. All of the commercial properties and offices were dark, the snow having sent everyone scurrying home. No traffic was moving on the street. Lights were only on in one of the old houses, fortuitously the one set back on a long lawn from the ditch in which her pickup had landed.

She sat there, in the pickup, for several minutes, her eyes on the lights of the house, not liking any of her options. Nothing moved down the street while she was sitting there. The option that left her sitting in the truck, though, was one that would make her an icicle, and realizing this, she muttered another "Fuck. Shit" and, needlessly gathering her unhelpful then coat close to her body, pushed open the cab door. With an audible sigh, she laced the straps of her purse and her high heels around her left wrist and set her nearly bare feet in the snowbank.

She cursed throughout the long struggle up the lawn to the porch of the house, pulling herself up the steps and squishing to the front door. Even wet and frozen, she paused there. She hated doing this. She hated where she was and the snow and the village of Granville and her whole life—and, mostly, she hated having to ring the doorbell of this house and beg for help. It had taken a lot for her to get into this funk. She normally was a "So what, fuck it" kind of person.

She'd done everything she could in the last decade not to need anyone's help, not to ask for anyone's help—especially strangers. But here she was ringing the doorbell of a stranger's house, needing help.

She rang the doorbell. Nothing. She waited for a minute and then rang it again. She was about to turn go leave, having no idea where to go next, when the porch light went on and the front door opened.

"Yes, may I help . . . Caitlyn? Caitlyn Langdon? Right? You're Caitlyn Langdon, aren't you?"

What immediately came to Caitlyn's mind was "Fuck. Shit," and she half turned to retreat off the porch before she realized she really had no place else to go.

* * * *

It had been seventeen years ago tonight, half a life ago—the night of the Granville High School Valentine's Day dance—that Caitlyn had started her four-month reign as the Queen of the World—or at least the world that was New York's Washington County, on the western border of Vermont. She was anointed queen along with Doug Munson, the quarterback of the district-champion Granville High School football team, being anointed king.

The coronation happened after the Valentine's Day dance in the backseat of Doug's souped-up 1955 red-and-white two-tone Chevrolet Bel Air coupe two weeks after Caitlyn's eighteenth birthday. Thanks to slow development and inattention, Doug was twenty and experienced in popping cherries, his advanced age for a high schooler having something to do with his heightened prowess on the football field.

Caitlyn never excused how easy she was on not being ready for it. It was the last high school senior achievement she had to gather before graduating. She already had been homecoming queen, Miss Granville High, and head cheerleader. Being laid by the quarterback of the district-winning football team was the last of the trophies to gather. The check list was similar for Doug Munson too, so the event was inevitable.

Thus, when they were parked out at Rathburn Pond north on Pine Hill Road, nearly to the Vermont line and she said she was good with a little necking and Doug said it would be warmer bundling in the backseat, she made no move to stop him when the petting got heavy, he readjusted their clothing as they kissed, and then was on top of her, inside her, and pumping, oblivious to her pained groans and stifled sobs. She hadn't said no, though. It had hurt that first time, but Doug was a hunk and a half, and had confidence in what he was doing. He had even brought a rubber. Life was complete. The king and queen of Granville High were ascending their thrones even as Doug mounted her in the back of his Bel Air.

All of Caitlyn's girlfriends had declared that all of the "in crowd" girls lost their virginity by their senior year Valentine's Day dance. Caitlyn had barely made it under the line, although she had declared she'd been doing it since Christmas.

So taken with Doug was she that she let his best friend and favorite football receiver, Stuart Potter, fuck her in the back of Doug's Bel Air two weekends later while Doug watched and gave Stuart pointers. After that, she'd been passed around to the other Doug-chosen members of the football team, who were more than willing to lay the captain of the cheerleaders and "prettiest little piece" in the senior class.

Caitlyn might have minded if she didn't like to be wanted and to be laid, but the facts were that she did. God knows her parents didn't have time to give her any attention with all of their golfing and club meetings and work to be the king and queen of Washington County in their own realm.

Of course Caitlyn and Doug were voted queen and king of their senior prom and all eyes were on them at graduation. And when the football team seniors celebrated having graduated with one of their exclusive, focus-of-salacious-gossip "Woodsie" nighttime skinny dipping beer fests at Rathburn Pond the night of graduation, they took the queen with them, settling Caitlyn in a pup tent and taking turns fucking her between dips in the pond, pulls on the beer cans, and general buddy antics and bravado.

Caitlyn was good with it. It was all part of her reign as Queen of Granville High.

But it wasn't only Caitlyn the guys had taken out to the pond with them. The nerd, Price Pedersen, the late-blooming kid from the Broadview Terrace trailer park on the wrong side of the tracks, who just happened to be a scientific genius and the valedictorian of the Granville High senior class was brought along too. The guys told him it was his reward for being valedictorian and he now was part of the in crowd. In truth it was to play him because they resented nerds, in general, and valedictorians in particular.

Price had been named valedictorian early in the semester, there being no other competition in view considering that the main focus at Granville High was football, not academics. Riding on this honor, Price had been emboldened to ask the popular beauty Caitlyn Langdon to the Valentine's Day dance. Not graced with social skills, he'd made the mistake of popping the question in the school hallway during the change of classes, when Caitlyn was surrounded by her cheerleading squad.

Of course Caitlyn had turned him down very flat, very publicly, and very cruelly. He'd been crushed. But he hadn't lost his crush on Caitlyn. He "knew" it was because he wasn't good enough for her—yet. He life had then turned to becoming worthy of her.

It's unknown if Price was lured to Rathburn Pond on graduation night with a promise of having sex with Caitlyn. It was generally believed he was lured with the prospect of having sex, though. And whether or not he thought he'd be having sex with Caitlyn, being initiated in sex might have been, in Price's mind, another step in being worthy of her. The football team had gleefully pumped what they'd be doing at the Woodsie into the gossip mill, which ate it all up and sighed at not being good enough to be included. So, Price likely was on the top of the world when he was invited.

But it could have just been that, lacking all social skills, Price genuinely thought he was being honored for his academic achievement—and for the pride at which the principal announced during graduation that Price had been accepted into MIT for the fall term.

In any event, Price had been pickled in beer and stripped of his clothes by the time it was his turn to enter the pup tent. This was very late in the night—or rather long into the next morning not long before dawn—as the party was cranking down. As a naked Price was being ushered into one end of the pup tent, though, a bowlegged, head-spinning, not sober Caitlyn was being spirited out of the other end. Before he could realize, in the dark, that he was the only one in the tent, both ends were zipped up and the tent was collapsed on Price. By the time he had worked himself out of the canvas, he was alone—and naked—on the banks of Rathburn Pond. And he was facing a solitary trudge, naked back to town. The only saving grace was the Pine Street ran past the Broadview Terrace trailer park, where he lived, before it entered the village proper.

The hazing of Price Pedersen had been one of the low points of Caitlyn's life and had come back to haunt her from time to time—usually when she had the urge to be a little shit again. She often wondered if he'd realized she had been the girl in the tent—or even if there really had been a girl in the tent. He hadn't seen her. He could have thought it all was an elaborate plot that didn't involve a girl, in general, or Caitlyn specifically, at all. When this ran through her mind, she invariably thought that maybe he didn't know it was her, so it wasn't so bad. But she knew. She knew she'd been included with those little shits who had done that to him. She liked to think that it had made her a better person in later life, though—thinking back to what a little shit she'd been and trying not to be like that in later situations.

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