Dry Valley Ch. 17bySEVERUSMAX©
This is a part of the chain story "Dry Valley", started by RedHairedandFriendly, and written by her, myself, Jushorny, Wyldbreeze, and gotwood49. We hope that you enjoyed this chapter.
Tom, Bailey, Mitch, and Jess all agreed to meet that Friday night for the Rodeo, which was opening that weekend. Like any good Texans, they had gone to the Rodeo every chance they had. It was more than just bull-riding, of course. There were food stands, concerts, drinks, and all other amusements associated with outdoors events. With any luck, they would all cut loose and enjoy spending time as friends and family. They were hanging out as couples on a double date, after all. It was time that they publicly behaved as couples, now that they were together.
Tom could sense that Mitch was still a little jealous about sharing the good news of wedding plans, so he wanted to make a point of getting his twin in a better mood. In time, of course, there would be no resentment and Mitch would focus on being happy with Jess. However, he wanted that to happen sooner. He didn't care to have any bad blood with his own brother. He discussed it with Bailey and she seemed to agree.
Of course, he didn't want this kind of discussion to ruin the fun that they were having, but he imagined that they could manage it. After all, it was just envy over attention. It wasn't that Mitch still felt that Tom wanted Jess. He knew better, or at least he should know better. All that would happen was that he would allow Mitch to show off and be the center of attention, without trying to steal his thunder.
"Hey, Mitch, still have that iron stomach? Bet you can't eat 3 bowls of extra-hot chili and chase them down with 3 beers at your age! Let's make it interesting. 10 bucks says that you'll get too full and too much gas first," Tom needled his twin.
"You're on, buddy. I always could do better than you at eating lots of spicy food! If I keep it down, I get to dunk you. I can't take money away from you right now. You have a wedding to plan, after all. Dunking you is more fun, anyway," Mitch replied.
"Fair enough, but I don't have a fresh pair of jeans on me. Someone will have to hold my valuables while I'm in the dunking booth, if you win," Tom taunted him.
"This is a completely macho bet, but I'll gladly hold your wallet. I need a new pair of shoes, and I don't want Mitch to have to pay for all of my shopping," Jess teased them.
"Jess! That's my boyfriend you're talking about robbing blind! You should be ashamed of yourself! Besides, you're a modern, independent woman with a career. You can pay for your own damned shoes, and probably want to, anyway. In any case, if you minded a 'macho' guy, you'd be dating some city slicker, not a Walker boy. You know how they are," Bailey scolded her, though admittedly in the same joking vein as her friend.
"All the same, I'd feel better letting my girl carry my wallet. She needs to get used to how slim it's likely to be. I'm not a rich man, after all. Well, Bailey, will you hold my stuff, in the unlikely event that Mitch gets to dunk me?" Tom winked at his fiancée.
"Yes, Tom, but you know that you're provoking Mitch, which means that he's more likely to try hard. On the other hand, he'll get less drunk if he eats something, so there is some benefit. You think that you boys might grow up and stop trying to outdo the other some time this decade?" Jess snorted, though she didn't really pretend that it wasn't amusing. Her man was trying to impress her, so that was flattering in a bizarre, subconscious way.
"What would be the fun in that?" Tom asked her in jest.
"For once, Tommy boy, I agree with you," Mitch chuckled.
"Who are you calling 'boy'? We're twins, right, Mitchell?" Tom retorted, knowing that Mitch hated his full first name.
"Are you guys going to taunt each other or carry out this bet, already? The sooner we get the eating and drinking done, the sooner we can watch the bulls and then get to listen to Mark Chesnutt sing. I've been a fan of his for ages," Bailey laughed at them, but she was a little impatient.
His concert was at 8 PM, so they had to do everything by 7:30 to get good seating ahead of time. It was 6:15 already, so there was a hurry in her mind.
"Oh, sorry, I forgot about your favorite country singer. My fault, I suppose, honey," Tom apologized.
"Get used to apologizing. Women have a habit of getting those from you," Mitch grinned.
"Speak for yourself. I don't plan to be in the doghouse any more than she is, if I have my way," Tom deliberately provoked both his girlfriend and his brother. He knew that it was harmless teasing, and it was a good sign, an indication that Mitch was letting go of his resentment and just taking part in the fun.
"Well, you will both be in the doghouse if you don't hurry up and do this best," Jess chimed in, not wanting to be left out of the joke.
"You're right about that, Jess," Bailey snickered.
"Girls, always sticking together. That figures!" Mitch complained.
"Naturally, since it tends to help us get our way," Jess smiled innocently, but her eyes were anything but angelic. They were still sober, and already into devilish mischief. The night would be full of it, at this rate.
Tom was worried for a while that Mitch would be able to hold his own with the hot Texas chili, but the third beer nearly defeated his brother. He managed it just long enough to keep his dignity, but his thirty something belly was not equal to its younger form. Mitch found himself being the dunkee, since they hadn't stipulated what would happen if he lost. A silver lining was that he now had room for dinner after being quickly dunked by Tom's fastball arm. Tom always did pitch abnormally well. Mitch had overlooked that fact, and he kicked himself for it afterward. Having Jess grimace when he belched was not a great highlight, either. At least he didn't upchuck, or even his dignity would have vanished.
Tom personally felt vindicated, not just about the bet, but also about making Mitch feel more like the center of attention. He winked at Bailey, and she grasped that was his real purpose. Well, that was and generally lightening up the mood. Both had succeeded, and he even got to duck Mitch. That was not bad for an evening.
Mitch handled himself and his embarrassment very well, being particularly glad that he did as well as he had. He secretly feared that he wouldn't pull off the third bowl and last beer without vomiting, so only belching and having gas (the determining factor) was a relief. He even felt like he had impressed Jess by not taking himself so seriously, despite her grimace and comments (and Bailey's) about "macho", "immature" behavior. That was all typical feminine teasing, he assumed. That was just another skirmish in the battle of the sexes.
Mitch didn't eat very much during dinner, of course. The chili and beer, despite not keeping him permanently bloated, took the edge off his appetite. He drank plenty of Gatorade, however, and had to visit the men's room more than once. It was a definite reminder that he was not a youth anymore.
Tom had a couple of beers and a nice BBQ sandwich, while Bailey enjoyed a turkey leg. Jess and Mitch ate hot dogs, but Jess also had a funnel cake with powdered sugar. The girls drank margaritas as well, after they finished eating. Most of the time, they walked around while eating and generally teasing each other.
Jess especially picked on Bailey for her crush on Mark Chesnutt and her urgency to attend the concert. It was girlish teasing, but Jess knew not to push it too far.
Bailey had the last word, "Just wait, Jess. You'll be a fan too. Speaking of that, it's about time."
Jess looked at her watch and noticed that Bailey was right. It was now 7:28, so they settled into the stadium for the concert. They certainly paid attention, because Bailey insisted on it, but Tom and Mitch made a point of picking on each other a lot off and on. It was just typical brotherly quarreling, merely a nuisance, so the girls ignored it. They were both fixated on the singer and thoughts of their respective lovers. They were also thinking about their lives would be spent in Dry Valley with those men, when they had planned to leave and not return.
As the concert ended and they walked toward their cars, Tom asked Bailey, "So, is this a lifestyle that you can see yourself enjoying for another 50 years?"
"Hell, yes!" Bailey declared, and saw from the look on Jess's face that she felt the same way. Both of them had made choices, and she was convinced that her friend would be as happy with a Walker man as herself. Settling down in Dry Valley wasn't as scary as she expected at first.
Tom and Mitch stared at them for a moment, and each realized what the girls were probably thinking. They both gave each other a boyish grin, as if to say, we snared them. What didn't occur to them at that point was that the "trap" was mutual. Then again, it didn't matter. It was best for all 4 of them.