I haven't tried anything like this before. My greatest fear as an author is becoming predictable.
Thanks to RoustWriter and Lady Cibelle for their assistance in editing.
I guess it was inevitable, the love that Cindy and I learned to share. We were twins born but raised as... just kids. Mother, bless her; miss her, died giving life to us. Dad was lost without her and raised us in a haphazard way – there at times, often not.
Early memories: Dad on the floor, asleep? No, the bottle by his hand belies the truth in that. Cindy, one hand, Lee, me, the other. Drag him, pull him. Grunting with our childish lack of strength.
"Push... Cindy, Pull! Get him on the bed and we can go to find food." Not an easy task.
Food? Kill the rabbit. Dad, bless his soul, raised rabbits. He sold the fur – we ate the rabbits. Like chickens which we had also... lard in the pan and fry very crisp. Chicken or rabbit – sometimes chicken and rabbit.
One day the rabbits were gone. We were twelve then and Dad was away for several months. I knew how to trap rabbits and found out they were just as damn dumb as chickens. We ate rabbits and stuff from the garden grown wild; planted by Mom, cared for by God.
Dad came back, gaunt, bearded, scars on his legs from shackles he said. Did Dad take care of us? We took care of Dad. We did love him and in his way, his very own way, we think he loved us. We knew, somehow, he loved Mom and died, slowly, without her. He loved us but we were not Mom.
We had a milk cow and from age six I milked. The milk probably saved our lives. When Bessie died we were thirteen. I walked ten miles to the Aaronson farm and in the dark of the night stole one of their hundreds of milk cows. We named her Bessie – we thought all milk cows were named Bessie.
"Cindy! Don't ever; don't ever let Bessie out in the daytime." I thought all cows looked the same but I didn't know. Cindy didn't either.
We were clean. Some memory when we were young and Dad had fewer bottles: fill the washtub with hot water from the wood stove, temper – yes I knew that word and many others – the hot water with cold water from the pump. Take the bath together, Cindy and I. Eight, we were just kids. Twelve, we were boy and girl... but still just kids.
Sixteen, the year Dad left forever – though it was two years before Cindy and I agreed that he was really gone forever – Cindy was embarrassed and turned away while she washed. I was embarrassed because she was, and after that I did twice the work and filled two tubs. You see; I had always loved Cindy.
When I was five Dad taught me to read – I read everything. I knew the difference between sloe gin and gin when I was six. I read the labels. I taught Cindy to read; Dad said girls didn't need to know but I loved Cindy and wanted to share with her. We looked for hours at the labels for Rye Whisky and Bourbon Whisky – searching for the mysterious, elusive difference. Sometimes Dad thought a bottle was empty but it was not ... Cindy and I shared. We liked the sloe gin the best.
Then came the day. Of course, we didn't know it was the day. Dad left, "... to find some work." Sometimes he was gone a week. We would mark each day on the John Deere calendar. Sometimes a month. We kept all the old calendars. They told about our Dad. How long he was gone. When he came back. This time, from Independence Day to Labor Day... the longest ever from reading the calendars (our poor man's Farmer's almanac) we decided after talking, discoursing, arguing that Dad was gone... forever. But we watched for him for a long time after that.
We found in the barn, in the loft, a box of books, mother's books. Eclectic. John Donne. Plato. Shakespeare – a collected works. A bible, old and worn with the now meaningless names in the front, but full of strange, mysterious stories. Chaucer – spelling a mess but with patience, wonderful stories. Poetry: Wordsworth and Dickenson. Books of wonder, books that staggered the imagination. Mother's books. Precious and needing to be read.
I was literal; Cindy was poetic. We talked, we argued. I found a book of Dad's on gardens. Cindy found a can on the top shelf full of coins and paper money. I walked the fifteen miles to town and smiled at Mr. Brown and said, yes, my dad was fine. I came back with seeds and sardines. I came back with cloth and candy.
One night I was taking my bath in Cindy's dirty water – yeah, I was lazy sometimes – and Cindy walked in. She was wearing a threadbare cotton nightgown of Mom's that was almost transparent. I was standing in the tub, proud of my lean, hard body. She looked at me and blushed – I knew this from books but it was new for Cindy.
She stared at me... I was hard and I couldn't help it. Truth: I didn't want to help it; it felt good, so powerful. She turned and ran for her room. I was now sleeping in Dad's bed. I knew he was gone forever – why did I miss the mom I'd never known more than the dad I had?
We didn't dare go to school. We never had. I knew we were smart. I also knew we were ignorant of "social interactions." I read about that in one of Mom's books. We were afraid of discovery. Somehow we knew that they would separate us. We also knew that would kill us: having each other was all we ever had.
On the night of the storm, Cindy came to my bed. She normally wasn't scared of things that were "natural." Tonight – the storm was fierce, frightening even to me. And Cindy came to my bed. We hugged and somehow we knew that the touching we did wasn't right. It felt good but – one of God's mysteries – we knew it wasn't time yet.
The calendar said on June 23rd of that year we were eighteen. From the books we knew what that meant. I walked over to old man Aaronson's place and told him that my dad was in prison and I needed a job. Yes, I was eighteen. Yes, I was a hard worker. And I worked hard. We were out of mother's money and Cindy had no clothes she could be seen in.
I made money, not a lot, ten dollars a week, paid in cash. I knew I was being cheated but I knew not to complain. I saved. I brought food and clothes for Cindy and me. Cindy didn't walk in on my bath anymore. At night I dreamed of what she looked like. I spilled my seed remembering her slim body, her pert breasts... almost every night. The sin of onanism: the bible told me the name and that I shouldn't do it... but I did. I knew I loved her... and always would. We were one. We were twins.
One day our lives changed. I knew about the war, about how the Japs had ambushed our boys in Hawaii. I knew how to shoot. I went to war. Killing a jap was the same as killing a squirrel. I sent all of my money home to my "wife." Small lie. I didn't care. Shoot me!
I killed Japs on Guadalcanal. And on Iwo. And on Guam. Yeah, Guam. That's where I lost my foot. I recuperated. I did something called therapy. I got a, well, what they called a prosthesis. I came home crying and hurting. Cindy took me to her bed and loved me. It was bittersweet. Her tender touches and the lingering, sometimes phantom pain were a strange combination. She grounded me and without her I would have been floating.
Cindy wanted to go to school. I had money from the army. I bought a ten-year-old truck. I taught her to drive – I had learned in the army. They gave her a test and said she could go to school. One day in her second year she came home nervous and worried.
"Lee, don't hate me. Please don't hate me – I would die."
In the army I had learned to wait and see. Some days that's all we did, was wait.
"Cindy, I could never hate you. I love you but you know you are not mine."
"Lee, there is a boy that wants me to go on a date. I swear that he is nice."
I felt sad but I understood. I had learned a lot in the army and killing people and almost being killed changed me.
"I understand Baby. Go ahead. If you like the guy, go ahead."
"Lee, you know that we can't..."
"I know honey. It was okay before but now I know it ain't right. Just make sure he really loves you, okay?"
His name was Bill Jenks. In a year he and Cindy were married. He had a sister, two years younger. When I met her I knew I had found my own special person. Her name was Colleen; maybe there was some Irish in her blood.
I still love Cindy... I guess I always will. It's a different kind of love now, deep and permanent. I would die for her – just as I would die for Colleen.
Cindy has two kids, twin girls, and I have a little boy. The four of us and our kids are close. I know now that there are some that would say what we done was wrong. I've talked about it with Cindy and it was just part of our strange growing up.
Colleen is a great woman, a nice blend of sweet and tough. She doesn't have to keep me on the straight and narrow... that's where I want to be.
Some nights I think a lot about Mom and Dad. I don't feel bad about anything that happened. I'm just glad that we found a way to survive and that both of us found our true loves.
God bless you, Mom... I wish I'd known you!