tagNovels and NovellasThe Outsider Ch. 19

The Outsider Ch. 19


Chapter 19 - The Sinclairs' Houseguest

Ruthie returned to her mother's apartment while Doña Lisette was still at work. In spite of the quiet, she had a premonition that something unpleasant awaited her as soon as her mother returned. The feeling was so strong that Ruthie was tempted to call Mike, apologize for being rude to him, and beg him to return and get her out of Salinas. She took a deep breath and decided that no...it would be better to see what was the problem. She assumed that her mother might be mad about her trip to Nebraska...or maybe it was something having to do with Mike.

When Doña Lisette returned home, she did not say anything to her daughter. No hello, no asking how the trip to Nebraska went. Ruthie knew right away that her premonition about a problem was dead-on. She could tell that her mother was furious at her. She had one of those dark looks that in the past would have preceded a vicious slap across the face, a lecture, and several hours sitting at the kitchen table. Ruthie, because she was an adult, no longer was subject to outright punishment, but it was obvious she faced a very unpleasant afternoon. She nerved herself to face whatever it was that had so upset Doña Lisette:

"Mom...what's wrong?"

"You really are a deceitful girl, aren't you?"

"Deceitful? Why? What'd I do?"

"Do you know where Rosa is?"

Ruthie took a breath, momentarily relieved it wasn't something else.

"I...I think she's in the Army..."

"Exactly. She's in the Army! She ran away! And you knew about it! You knew what she was planning to do!"

"Yes, mom...I knew."

"And you didn't have the decency to tell anyone...the decency to warn us!"

"She asked me to keep it a secret."

"She asked you to help her lie to us! And because of you and your lies, she's gone!"

"Mom...it was her choice! It's her life! She's 18! She's sick of things around here and she left!"

"She left because of you! If you had just said something, we could have stopped her!"

"Why? Why stop her? Why should I? Her life sucked...just like everyone's life around here sucks...and she wanted out...and the Army gave her that chance!"

"Now my brother's not speaking to me! Because of you!"

"That's his problem! Maybe if he'd treated her better she wouldn't have left! And I really don't give a shit about what..."

Ruthie was interrupted when Doña Lisette hit her across the face with a vicious slap.

"You will NOT talk to me in the language of the Devil!"

Ruthie stunned by the blow, covered her burning cheek with her hand.

"Stop hitting me! Stop fucking hitting me!"

Doña Lisette's eyes lit up with fury upon hearing her daughter swear a second time. She struck at the girl again, but this time Ruthie warded off the blow with her free arm. Ruthie's fist connected with the bone just above her mother's wrist. Doña Lisette fell back, shocked at the pain and at the fact that her daughter had actually struck her. She nursed her arm and gave Ruthie a tearful look.

"Mom! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to do that...but..."

"Get out of my sight! Just get out of my sight!"


"I mean it, Ruthie! Get your lying face out of my sight! If this is the way you want to be, if you are gonna lie and hit your own mother, then you're not welcome in my home! Get out!"

"Mom! Please! I didn't mean to hit you!"


Ruthie picked up her backpack and carry-on. It was very lucky that she had not yet unpacked. The moment she stepped outside, the door slammed behind her. She gasped from the shock of what had just happened. Finally she made her way to the main office of the apartment complex, sat down in the waiting area, and called Mike.

"I...kinda need you to come get me..."

"Right now?"


"Is something wrong?"

"Yeah. Everything here's fucked up."

"OK...on my way. Are you gonna be OK 'til I get there?"

"I 'spose."

As soon as she hung up, she buried her face in her hands. The receptionist of the complex glanced at her, so Ruthie picked up her stuff and went outside. She leaned on the sign of the main office, feeling too numb to even cry.

Welcome back to Salinas, Ruthie...


Mike was elated that his girlfriend had called him and that she had been forced to set aside whatever it was that had made her so silent and moody on the trip back from San Jose. Once again Ruthie's circumstances had forced her to be dependent on him. For the next half hour he drove southward in an upbeat mood, thinking about how the latest crisis in Ruthie's life would once again force her into his arms.

He pulled into the complex and immediately saw a very forlorn-looking young woman leaning on the sign near the main office. He popped the trunk and grabbed her luggage. She hugged him and started crying. Finally she took her place in the passenger seat and they departed. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she sat silently watching the vegetable fields pass by. Mike now knew his partner well enough to realize that he needed to stay quiet until she was ready to tell him what had happened.

They returned to the Sinclairs' house. Both of Mike's parents were still at work, much to their relief. He took her luggage to the guest room while she listlessly followed him. When he suggested a swim, she shrugged her shoulders and casually took off her clothes. She tossed her stuff into the guest room while Mike undressed as well. He grabbed two towels and she followed him to the pool. They didn't need to worry about taking anything with them to put on, because Mike knew his parents were at work and would not be home for a couple more hours.

For a long time she stood with the water up to her neck, feeling the comforting water against her bare body. She quietly watched the reflections of the sky and nearby trees shimmering on the surface. Mike said nothing. He just tread water at the other end of the pool and waited for his girlfriend's mood to change so he could talk to her.

Ruthie remained in the same spot for a very long time, gently waving her arms back and forth but otherwise not moving. Finally Mike got tired treading water in the deep end and swam to where the water was shallower. By then some of the numbness in Ruthie's brain was starting to wear off, and the usual swirl of disjointed thoughts resurfaced in her consciousness. Finally she was ready to talk.

"Have you ever been to Nebraska?"

"Through it a bunch of times. We did stop in Omaha, but not in Lincoln."

"You know most of it's totally flat."


"You know why?"

Mike shook his head.

"It used to be ocean...kinda like an inland waterway going between the two halves of North America. That's why they've got so many marine fossils from there. There's places you can dig up clamshells from the Cretaceous period."

Mike said nothing, wondering where Ruthie was going with the unexpected topic.

"There used to be all kinds of neat animals there...pterodactyls, big nautiluses, sea reptiles...but that's all gone. It's just a bunch of dust that gets plowed up every year and blown around. When you think about it, all those animals might as well have never existed, 'cause now they're just a bunch of dirt."

Mike thought about what his girlfriend might be getting at. He decided to counter her before her thoughts became too morbid.

"Those animals had their time. They were around for hundreds of millions of years. Now it's our time. And I think it does matter that those animals were around when they were...just like it matters that we're around now."

Ruthie did not respond. Mike added:

"I take it things did not go well for you on your trip."

"They went OK. My dad did break up with Debra, but now they've got a kid and he's taking care of him. But my dad...he's the same in a lot of ways...drinking with his friends, running around on his Harley, got a new girlfriend...it's like he doesn't give a shit about anything...and I was by myself most of the time I was in Lincoln...just kinda wandered around...it was fucking cold the whole time I was there...and I kinda realized that Lincoln was...I don't know if this'll make any sense to you...it was the way I remembered it, but totally different from the way I imagined it."

"So...you think you kinda idealized Lincoln? Imagined it to be better than it really is?"

"Kinda...not exactly...I don't know how to say it so you'll see where I'm coming from...but I guess that's sort of it."

Mike reflected for moment, remembering the details that Ruthie had told him about her life and how she saw herself.

"A couple of times you told me 'I'm not from Salinas. Actually I'm from Nebraska.' You went there and figured out that's not true?"

Ruthie's eyes filled with tears and she nodded.

"I'm not from Nebraska. I'm not from anywhere."

Ruthie then did something that surprised Mike. She apologized for her behavior on the way back from San Jose to Salinas. The apology surprised him because she had never apologized for anything before. However, she justified herself by explaining that she was struggling with what she had learned about herself in Nebraska and was not yet able to articulate her feelings when riding in the car. OK, Mike thought to himself...that's half of what went on with her...now for the other half...why she called him from Salinas and was standing outside her apartment complex leaning on a sign. He asked her how come she was waiting for him near the manager's office:

"My mom kicked me out."


"We got into a big fight...really big...at first it was about Rosa...'cause I helped her keep it quiet that she was gonna go in the Army. My uncle is pissed at both me and my mom, and my mom's pissed at me. And I told her that it was his fault that Rosa couldn't put up with his shit anymore and I didn't give a shit about his feelings...and my mom slapped me for cussing...and I told her to fucking stop...and then she was gonna slap me again...and I hit her on the arm...and she threw me out."

Mike held out his hand. Reluctantly she let him hug her in the water.

"I've got to go back to campus next Monday to finish my parking meter training. I'll be let back in my room early. You're welcome to stay with me...you know...until they open your dorm up."

Ruthie nodded.

"Until then, you can just stay here. We've got a guest room. You can crash there in the meantime."

Again she nodded.

He continued to hold her close, comforting her and enjoying the feeling of her body against his own. His emotions at that moment were very mixed. He was genuinely concerned about what had happened to her; however, he also was very pleased that she was so dependent on him. He would be her support in life: she would need him and because of that need, she would be unconditionally his. If she were cut off from her family and had no other friends, if he was the only person remaining in her life, then she truly would belong to him. He did not yet have enough experience in relationships to understand that love based on need is the same as love based on circumstances. His relationship with Ruthie would be every bit as fragile as the one he had with Lisa, unless he could somehow get her to love him for who he was instead of what he could do for her.


That night Ruthie and Mike had dinner with his parents. Mike was uncomfortable because his mother gave his girlfriend several disapproving looks while Mr. Sinclair and Ruthie talked about Nebraska. The topic drifted to the state's geological past and the fact that the state still looked like a flat ocean of dirt. From there Ruthie and Mr. Sinclair talked about extinction and the ultimate futility of life. After she talked about the fossil animals, he chimed in with his knowledge of the Indian tribes that lived in the area during the 1800's and how their fate paralleled the fate of Ruthie's pterosaurs. Mrs. Sinclair, irritated by the morbidity of the topic, cast angry looks at her husband and their guest, but they both ignored her. Mike found himself cut out of the conversation, but he knew better than to interrupt. He simply ate and pretended to not see his mother's hostile expression.

After dinner the Sinclairs and Ruthie sat in lawn chairs by the pool. The conversation about Nebraska became even more morbid, because Ruthie talked in detail about what happened to her grandmother. Mr. Sinclair was genuinely interested, because he knew enough about medical procedures to understand that much of what was done to Ruthie's grandmother was totally unnecessary. He pushed her memory back to various medications she had been given and was able to tell her which ones actually helped and which ones were prescribed simply to drive up the medical bill. Ruthie opened up to Mike's father about how she felt about her grandmother and the conflicting emotions she had experienced when she visited her grave. When she commented that she wished that she could believe that her grandmother's spirit was still with her, he responded:

"Maybe that's for the best, Ruthie. When you think about it...I can tell you I'm real happy that my dad didn't live to see me lose the pharmacy...and I'd like to think he'll never know about that...not even in Heaven, assuming there is such a place...maybe the way you think just makes more sense..."

Mrs. Sinclair excused herself and went upstairs, not interested in hearing any more of the morbid trans-generational talk about sickness, death, and oblivion. She was upset that her husband had openly admitted his doubts about Heaven to a stranger. That was not something she wanted to hear. It was clear her current life was never going to get any better and Heaven was the only hope remaining to her. She did not want that last hope taken away.

After some more conversation, Ruthie's father had a small surprise for his son's girlfriend. He took her into the living room and showed her his collection of records. (Yes, Mr. Sinclair still listened to records.) Ruthie looked dumbly at the large black disks, never having seen any up close before. Mr. Sinclair found the record he was looking for, by a '70's group called Kansas. He took the record out of its cardboard cover and handed the cover for Ruthie to look at. He carefully laid the fragile plastic disk on a turntable.

"Here. This is an old song...a bit before your time...but I think you'll like it. It was a favorite of mine when I was your age."

Mike's father delicately placed the needle into a barely visible grove that separated two songs from each other. There were some pops and snaps as the record spun and the needle moved inward slightly. Ruthie listened to the following song that, in spite of having been popular a generation before, reflected her outlook on life more than anything she had ever heard:

I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone All my dreams...pass before my eyes...a curiosity

Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind...

Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea All we do...crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind...

Now, don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy.

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind Dust in the wind, everything is dust in the wind.

"That's so cool, Mr. Sinclair! That's really neat! I wish I could get it on CD!"

"You probably can...but you know; I'm old-school. Still listen to records and 8-tracks. But I'd guess it's on CD too."

Ruthie borrowed a pen and copied the information from the album cover. Mike inwardly cringed. He hated the hopeless message of "Dust in the Wind", but undoubtedly within the next day or two he'd be spending some money to get a Kansas CD for Ruthie.


Ruthie spent the next four nights at the Sinclairs' house. She slept in the guest room, while Mike slept in his own room. Ruthie was very grateful for the space and for being able to have some time to herself. Once she closed the door, the room was totally hers, because it never would have occurred to Mike to go in there when his parents, especially his mother, were present. It was strange to think that, even though Mike was just a door away from her, the unspoken protocol of the household dictated that he keep his distance if anyone else was present.

The same was not true during the day. Mike's parents always were away during normal working hours, so the couple spent a lot of their time enjoying the pool and the house's other amenities. They spent almost all of their time during the days naked, especially Ruthie. She tried her hand at cooking several Mexican dishes for her boyfriend. When she cooked she put on an apron and Mike took pictures of her, finding her appearance wearing an apron and nothing else very amusing. They also spent a lot of their time enjoying the pool. Although the days were cool and overcast, the pool had a heater so it was comfortable to swim in. The only problem was getting out; withstanding the chilly air always was a challenge.

Mike wanted to take advantage of having sex with Ruthie as much as possible when his parents were not home. Her naked body, constantly in front of him and beckoning to be touched and caressed, was a temptation he couldn't resist. She did not object. She relaxed as best she could and tried to give Mike what he needed. As long as she was properly lubricated, there was no problem from him entering her.

Now that the couple could have sex in a relaxed setting, Ruthie made some discoveries about herself. She did not like being entered, but she did enjoy being massaged and caressed. Looking through the Sinclairs' collection of books, she found a manual on massage techniques. She showed it to Mike and asked him to try massaging her. They discovered that massages were something they both enjoyed. He liked touching her body and she enjoyed releasing control of herself and being touched.

By the end of their stay at Mike's house she started massaging him as well. She started clumsily, but got better after a few tries. He clearly enjoyed it, especially when she massaged his bottom and the area around his penis. His reaction to her touches gave her an idea. She started to wonder if there was any way she could get out of enduring sexual intercourse but still "do her duty" by massaging him.


Mike totally enjoyed having Ruthie to himself during the days. He never looked forward to his parents getting home, because once they pulled into the driveway, the fun part of the day was over as far as he was concerned. However, that was not true at all for Ruthie. She very much looked forward to seeing Mr. Sinclair in the evenings and talking to him. It was strange to watch what was going on during those four nights; that Mr. Sinclair and Ruthie were becoming friends. He spent a couple of hours showing her more of his old music. He seemed to know by instinct what songs she would want to hear: morbid or philosophical music from singers as diverse as the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger...all of it music that predated the classic Heavy Metal that Mike preferred.

One night Ruthie and Mr. Sinclair spent several hours talking about drug trafficking and violence in Sinaloa and Salinas. On the surface Ruthie seemed apolitical, but that was only true about events in the United States. It turned out she was very knowledgeable and insightful about what was going on in Mexico. She was able to share her personal knowledge about Culiacan and its most infamous residents: the drug cartel leaders. She talked about the city's dysfunctional culture and the criminals cruising around listening to narco-corridas. She repeated the outlook in life that she had given to Mike a couple of months earlier, that she believed organized criminal groups and the CEO's of large corporations would be the world's next ruling elite, and democracy as a system was doomed. That transition had already happened in Mexico, the drug cartels were in complete control and the ongoing violence amounted to little more than criminals consolidating their power over everyone else. Mr. Sinclair added his observations from what he had seen when he was still a pharmacist, about the diversion of medicine into illegal drug production and what impact it was having in central California. By the time the conversation wound down, Mrs. Sinclair had long since retreated from the living room. Meanwhile, Mike sat silent and envious that his father seemed so much better at getting his girlfriend to open up about her life than he was. In the conversations, Mike learned a lot about Ruthie, but only because he was present to hear what she was saying to his father.

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