Valley of Sinners Ch. 04byEgmont Grigor©
SO FAR: A jobless and sensitive young man becomes innocently associated with a bubbling woman in her late forties who lives alone on a vineyard out of Auckland, New Zealand. Nash is attracted because she drives a beautifully re-built and upgraded 1939 Chevy pick-up and with ease draws him from his 'shell'. Hope Honeybun's interest in young Mr Carson is that he writes a little and seems to have a worldly sense so installs him downstairs as resident author and commissions him to write a novel based on her colorful and turbulent life, much of which spans the time she has lived in the valley. Nash hears with interest about the development of the valley and of her lusty father and his women and reasons he must probe to find out about Hope's sex life. It appears this is a Valley of Sinners. He has indulged with one sinner and Hope's daughter Lisa arrives home and her interest in Nash appears heading for a lusty coupling.
When feeling in need of discreet male company, which happens about monthly, Hope Honeybun often stays with an old friend, Ivan Hicks, in Hamilton -- a city two hour's easy drive south of her home. Sex with Ivan had never been great and their latest two sessions Hope would rate about average, which still meant it was better than going without.
What Hope liked about Ivan was his ability to converse well on almost any subject that Hope threw at him. Ivan was also a charmer and treated her like a lady.
Although in Hamilton to attend a flower show that she'll not see, Hope knew if anyone asked all she needed to say was "The displays were wonderful, brilliant in fact, and so many of them, my mind is a blur. I didn't see anyone that I knew." Better being deceitful than having to try to explain to any inquirer why would she want to go all the way to Hamilton to be treated like a queen for the weekend; most people would never understand.
As she drove over the cattle stop crossing on to her property, Hope applied the usual quick visuals -- yes, the house was still there, not burnt to the ground; the leaves of the grapes all appeared to be a healthy green, and that little blur of lightening coming down the track was her little mate, Monty. All was well.
Hope drove into the opened garage, at the last second spotting Nash walking out of the orchard dressed only in very brief white shorts. Very sexy! She bounced from the car and kissed him. He smelt clean and 'orchardy'.
"Hi, Hope," Alayna called, her essentials just covered in a very small bikini. "We've had a lovely time and trust that you did as well and achieved all of the things you wanted?"
"Thank you dear, come in and help me prepare lunch."
"Ah, Hope, we'll stay in the orchard for a while and leave you two together," Nash said, with the devoted Monty at his feet.
Hope spun around, dropped her handbag and spraying tears raced across the concrete apron outside the garages to fling herself into the outstretched arms of her youngest daughter.
"I'm sorry, so terrible sorry, Lisa."
"Me, too, mum. I never should have been so unbending."
"Lisa, that's enough from both of us, Hope said authoritatively. "The bridge is mended, let's move forward."
"Agreed. How are you, mother?"
"I'm fine, really fine these days as I have been moving forward. I take it that you have met my employee?"
"Ah, yes, your Mr Carson. I must confess mother he's an exceptional find."
"Good heavens, you and he haven't..."
"No, unfortunately; he seems to have rather conservative scruples, mother. One girl at the time it is and at present that is our little nympho from next door, the rather delightful Alayna."
"Well, quite" Hope smiled. "Even he is a little up-market compared with some of the scruffies that she seems to take up with. I am, after all, her unofficial godmother so it pleased me to bring them together."
Hope walked upstairs arm-in-arm with her daughter, enveloped with the glow of being bonded once more. She was interested, very interest, at the attitude of Lisa toward Nash. It seemed to her that Lisa has formed some sort of attachment toward Nash and did not appear to be jealous over his association with Alayna. Lisa seemed comfortable with that pairing, and appeared to have been relaxing in the orchard with them when Hope had arrived.
No, it was something more. Can it be that Lisa was developing a romantic attachment of her own? Unbelievable as it seemed, it certainly looked that way to her -- Lisa's eyes, her body language and her just expressed emotional assessment, 'an exceptionally good find' point to that assumption. Something must have happened to draw Lisa to him like this. How extraordinary! She knew her daughter so well she would have expected Lisa to arrive and say, "What the fuck is this man young enough to be your son doing living with you?" Instead, her acceptance of him appeared complete; very interesting!
The question had to come. "Mum, what is Nash doing living here with you?"
"I've taken a rather likening to the lad in a motherly way and he's helping me out in managing things around here."
"He refuses to tell me, mum, telling both Alayna and I that it's your business. I was told to ask you if I wanted to know. He's writing an article, perhaps even a book about you, isn't he? I know because I've spent several hours reminiscing about my childhood."
"He's being doing that? That wasn't on his schedule."
"He's also been questioning Alayna intensively."
"Alayna, what does she know about me?"
"Gossip -- remember who her mother is? Also how the neighbors fit into your life.
"He asked me to talk about everything -- warts and all."
"And you obliged?"
"Good gracious. Lisa, I do have a book in mind. He was supposed to spend the first fortnight getting the feel of the place, and then I was going to discuss with him a broad outline. I want him to gather factual information which should help him to understand my background. I want him to write a novel broadly based on my life but with true characters concealed."
"Why do you want to do this?"
"In memory of my father; the recent history of this valley has a lot to do with him, much more than even you perhaps imagine."
"Wait for publication of the book, my dear."
"What if he's not a good enough writer?"
"Then I'll try again with someone else. I'll be asked him to transcribe all of his notes, research details and interviews on to CD that shall remain my exclusive property."
"Is that all?"
"Yes, Lisa. It is for the moment. And thank you for being a cooperative contributor."
"If he's any good he'll want to go to visit my two half-sisters, my step-father and my father."
"I suppose so. I'll talk that over with him if he wants to do that. I have him on a retainer and will pay his research and travel costs.
"I still don't understand..."
"Leave it, Lisa. I may send you drafts to read. Eventually the whole picture will emerge and my decision to undertake this project will be justified, at least to me. Now, darling, enough of that; how long do I have you?"
"I return to Sydney next Friday morning."
"Well, that's better than a couple of nights. I'll have time to get to really know my youngest and potentially the most loving daughter again."
"Potentially? I'm not sure that I am comfortable with the inclusion of that word."
"Then let's work at eliminating it, darling."
"You never were a simple country woman, mother, but now it seems you are determined to make yourself appear more complex. I find that rather agreeable."
A motherly smile appeared as Hope looked closely at Lisa, who seemed to be in peak health and very happy. What more could a mother ask? It was time to be hostess as well as a reunited mother. "I think we better call those two up for refreshments. With all the rutting, Nash will need building up."
"They have been at it, mum, but very discreetly I must say. Interestingly, at other times they act more like brother and sister, at least when I was around."
"Really? That pleased me as Alayna needs more stabilizing influences in her life."
"She's told me that she's not the marrying kind, and feels driven to play the field."
"That's a pity, what about you? Do you fancy him?"
"I am your mother."
"I don't find him objectionable, but let's leave it at that."
"Call them up please, Lisa. I'll get the coffee on. I purchased some food on the way through the city -- please collect it from the front seat of the car as you pass it. Oh, please ask Nash to bring up everything else from the car."
"Yes, madam. The lady of the house is home and back in charge!"
"Nice to have you home again, love, with that cheeky lip and all."
Hope was overjoyed at having Lisa home again, delighted that their feud had ended and thrilled that the reasons for installing a lodger have been accepted so surprisingly placidly. Now, that was not like Lisa at all so she must bail up Nash and squeeze out the information about his unexpectedly docile relationship with Lisa.
It was a delightful late lunch with Lisa relating some of her memorable experiences of living and working in Sydney. Nash had the women screaming with laughter talking about his worst moments in cinema. Equally absorbing was Alayna describing some of the weird males she'd dated. After Hope described some of her adventures in the Chevy, it was time for Alayna to go as she had a date that evening.
"Take her home in the Chevy," Hope said.
"No, if I'm to be a country boy I'm going to walk through the bull paddock -- I must lose my fear," Nash answered. "Come on, Alayna -- my baptism of fire."
"Thank you, Hope, I had a lovely weekend," Alayna said, kissing Hope and whispering, "He treated me so wonderfully."
"God she's a tramp," Lisa said, watching them walking into Montgomery-Block and turning to go towards the hill. "She's out with someone else this evening, probably some poor woman's husband."
"Yes, that's about it I suppose, but she's still a nice kid. There always have been women like Alayna in this world."
The both head upstairs for a nap.
Hope was making the gravy for the roast chicken when Lisa came down wearing only a nightgown, a lovely but very provocative looking creation.
"God, you have a beautiful body darling, I am so jealous, but grab one of my dressing gowns -- he's back, unharmed, and has just come out of the shower judging by the improved water pressure from the sink mixer.
"No, I'm fine. He saw me like this last night at dinner."
"What, you and he alone and you dressed like that?"
"No, I had less ornate gown on and Alayna was here. He took her home late and was gone for two hours, if you're interested in hearing that."
"You've never shown yourself like that to a man to my knowledge."
"Ah, yes. Things are a little different when I'm away from home, mum, and a whole lot hotter in Sydney, I assure you."
"Really? Well sit like a lady. I guess you have got panties on?"
"Don't even ask, mother. I don't want you getting blood pressure. He won't even notice."
And that was true. Nash came in looking very neat, wet hair slicked back. He kissed them both lightly on the cheek and looked over Lisa in her olive Carmeuse and matching lace long gown with a low back with crisscrossed straps and cascading lace trim down the elegant sweep of the back. He could not help but notice it and to Hope's astonishment Lisa performs a slow pirouette for him.
"Nice night dress, but would look better with a lower neckline," he finally remarked after feasting his eyes on this impromptu floorshow. However, thereafter his eyes did not seem to wander and for the rest of the evening Hope observed that her daughter and her house guest rather acted like...like...brother and sister.
Twice during dinner Hope mentioned her father, with Nash recognizing this is quite a pattern with her. Hope frequently mentions him during their evening conversations, occasionally the name cropped up during other times of the day if a memory is stirred.
After the leisurely meal followed by coffee and gentle conversation in the lounge, Hope went to bed to watch the Sunday night Playhouse on TV, leaving Lisa and Nash to clear away. They loaded the dishwasher, washed the pots and larger dishes, exchanged a light kiss on the lips and headed off to their respective beds.
Lisa called in on her mother and snuggling beside her watched the finish of the program.
"Nash would be the most unlikely unemployable man that I know or have every read about."
"I came to the same opinion myself, dear; most peculiar. We shall have a drinking session before you go, just the three of us, and squeeze the work history and attitudes towards work out of him. It's not proper for men to remain mysterious to women."
Lisa agreed with that and kissed her mother. "Good night mum. I love you." She walked off to her bedroom in a heavenly nightgown that the young man downstairs did not appear interested in removing that evening.
Hope called to the departing Lisa: "Wonderful to have you home darling. Now, don't you ever stop loving me; you know I've never stopped loving you, and never will."
* * *
With Lisa home only for a week, Hope felt it necessary to re-introduce her daughter to the local community. On the Tuesday a marquee was erected in the old horse paddock beside the Honeybun's orchard -- the type of marquee people hire for weddings with a false ceiling of white tulle following the interior of the canvas roof behind which glow hundreds of 'fairy lights.'
Late on Wednesday afternoon guests begin arriving and shortly after the village shops closed all 178 guests confirming acceptance of the invitation had arrived to welcome home Lisa.
Lisa was sure she knew nothing like 178 people in the valley but she became aware they all knew Hope who introduced Lisa to them. Lisa had been quite stunned that her mother would throw such an extravagant party for her, but then again who needs a reason to party?
"Ah Lisa -- remember me, Sharon? Megan? Paula? Marion? Pete? Steve? And so it continued. All old schoolmates, all married to seemingly unattractive spouses who were introduced, and all had children -- anywhere from one to five.
Lisa had her hair piled high, done by Maggie who although untrained, was acknowledged as being the best hairdresser in the region. Lisa was wearing bright floral tight clinging pedal pushers, very high-heeled white shoes with colored straps, and a totally see-through tunic with a see-through half-bra and looked magnificent.
The women boggled, the men couldn't keep their eyes off her. Realizing that her daughter's way-out dressage was being accepted, Hope took off her very dark sunglasses as if allowing more people to recognize her as the exhibitionist's mother!
Initially, Nash remained close to Lisa. He really had no option as her hand was locked around his left wrist and he was being pulled behind her like a trolley.
But Lisa had to let him go as women began crowding him. They'd seen Alayna kiss Nash, long and sultry, and then Maggie was all over him followed by a contingent of women golfers who knew Nash through his appearances at the golf dinner one recent Friday night. Many other female guests appeared to think this is a reasonable ritual to follow, so lined up to be introduced by Maggie.
Hope kept glancing at this melee and was quite fascinated; the popularity of her young writer was growing. Nash eventually appeared at her side. She took one look at him and suggests he should go and wash his face: "It's covered in at least twenty shades of lipstick, you Casanova," she giggled.
Moment later someone took Nash's photograph as he stood alongside Hope with Lisa attempting to wipe his face with her lace handkerchief. That photographer was from the district's community newspaper.
It was a balmy evening, with the sides of the marquee removed and people under canvas could see other quests flitting between the fruit trees, glass in one hand, nibbles in the other. It looks very much like a painting of a fabulous soiree in the Loire Valley or somewhere in Massachusetts
The quartet, which had being playing excerpts from the Classics, switched to jazz with rousing tempo, and the party buzz lifted. A continuous supply of hot finger food was available and all of the wines are premium wines of West Auckland wineries from grapes grown in southern areas, the exception being Te Henui's best wine ever -- the Montgomery cab/sav harvested after the great Indian summer of 1993, a wine that supposedly sold out upon release.
After a short speech of welcome by Hope, responded beautifully by Lisa, the older of the Bronkovic brothers called out, "Where did your'93 red come from, Hope? I believed I had the last case in existence."
"Oh," said Hope, "I put some cases away for Lisa's wedding, Neven. But nothing is in prospect right now so I decided to toss five cases in here this evening. That leaves me with five cases that I shall keep even at the risk of them turning to vinegar."
"Do you have a date in mind, Lisa?"
"It was always supposed to be next summer, Mr Bronkovic," Lisa, smiled. "But you're a winemaker, you know the score -- one can never pick a vintage year in advance. When someone proposes I'll know my time has come."
That produced laughter and Neven solemnly proposes a double toast to "Hope our Mayor and Lisa who's inherited her mother's charm."
"To Hope the Mayor and Lisa," came the toast by guests who were drinking away merrily. Apart from a few early leavers, most guests stay on well beyond midnight, with some spending the night under canvas or sleeping under the stars.
Nash was kissed awake in his bed by Lisa around 2:00 a.m.
"Hi, I just called in to see if there was anything you wanted?"
Although waking from a heavy alcohol-induced sleep, Nash caught her meaning. He was attempting to phrase a romantic response when they heard Hope calling: "Lisa darling, hurry along. You need to get a good sleep as you are taking me shopping in the city later today, remember?"
"Bugger," Lisa muttered.
"Saved by the bell," Nash sighed.
"Some other time then?" Lisa smiled "Come on, give me a big wet kiss."
Thereafter, Hope always seems to be everywhere, and if leaving the property she'd asks Lisa to drive her. The last chance of sexual union -- if that is what the young couple really intended -- came on Thursday night. Hope was to take Lisa to the airport next morning.
They dined at a restaurant in Henderson, a great, happy and light-hearted occasion. Lisa drove the Rover home because she'd consumed the less alcohol and Hope kindly told Nash to take the front passenger seat. He and Lisa held hands on straight stretches of road, Nash having initiated that intimacy. At one stage, when there were no headlights of any approaching vehicles to illuminate them, he gently stroked Lisa's thigh, catching his breath as he saw her nonchalantly draw up her skirt.
But then it was all over as they arrived home. Walking into the house Hope said, "This is your last night home, darling, probably for quite some time. Would you care to sleep in my bed tonight -- I'd very much like to know that you are sleeping beside me?"
"Of course, mum; anything that makes you happy."
Lisa made a last-ditch effort, quietly making coffee just after 5:30 am and taking the two mugs to Nash's room. But before she reached the door she heard a shotgun blast from Monty's block. Tears leaked through her eyelids, closed in frustration.
She took the mugs of coffee up to her mother's bedroom and shook the heavily asleep Hope.
"Coffee, mother dear?"
"Marvelous, did you make one for Nash? He's usually awake at daylight."
"Who?" Lisa sighed, causing Hope to look at her curiously.
Nash arrived late for breakfast. Lisa had finished her piece of bacon and a piece of toast and marmalade and was upstairs preparing for her departure.