Charlie and Mindy Bk. 03 Ch. 07

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This is the last chapter of seven in Book 3 of the Charlie and Mindy tetralogy, which is a story of forbidden love between a brother and a sister.

This book stands on its own, but it refers to events that took place in Books 1 and 2. You may therefore want to read Book 1 and Book 2 before reading this book.

I value your comments and your feedback. I try to reply to comments.

—CarlusMagnus

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The news of our parents’ deaths devastated us. It felt to me much as I imagine that it must feel to the captain of a ship, riding at anchor off a lee shore during a hurricane, when his hawsers part. It was a feeling of despair I had never before experienced—and hope never again to.

Neither of us remembers much detail from the rest of that terrible hour in the Dean’s office—beyond the shattering sense of loss and grief we experienced. But in that desperate, forlorn hour, we had our first revelation that adulthood’s estate comprises more than just taking responsibility for your own choices—that there are some things that are beyond choice, beyond desire, beyond control. In short, we began, finally, to grow up.

I have confused memories of Mindy’s tear-streaked face; of holding her, right there in the dean’s office, close in my arms; of trying to give her comfort when there was no comfort for either of us; of telling myself—as tears flowed down my own cheeks—that now I, the big brother, the Big Person With The Muscles, had once more to be strong, as I always had been, for my little sister, the Soft Little Person.

I have learned since that the latter was, at best, a half-truth; the fact was that we both had to be strong for each other—and for ourselves. (And I know, now, that real strength has little to do with muscles or sex, and that she is stronger than I.)

Both of us were thinking “I must be strong for my lover,” and it’s likely that that shared conviction helped us—more than any other single thing—to pull through that experience of overwhelming loss. We learned then that each of us, even when in unbearable pain, will give unflaggingly to the other.

The dean was an ordained minister—as were most administrators at the college. I have vague memories of how he tried to console us. At first, he gave us platitudes about seeking solace from God. But he was too intelligent a man to pursue that very far when he saw that neither of us bought it—and that to the extent we believed in any God, we were more likely to blame Him than to seek His help.

And I recall—also vaguely—that after an hour or so we had calmed down enough for the dean to talk to us about what came next. Dad’s friend and partner, Quent Miller, had made travel arrangements for us. He would arrive the next morning to see us to Fort Collins. Amanda Watson, the other partner in Dad’s firm, was already on the way to Colombia to deal with the formalities of bringing our parents’ bodies back home.

Dean Stone had perceived that my sister and I were close to each other. (Though he never figured out just how close we were.) He told us that he thought it would be wise for us to be at hand for each other during the coming night. He offered to pay, out of his own pocket, for a motel room for each of us, so that we would not have to be surrounded by other students and could be close to each other. I was about to accept that offer when Mindy told him that the Young twins were our dear friends, and that they would surely put us up for the night in the house they were renting.

And I was ashamed of myself for not thinking of our friends and how much better it would be to have the support I knew they would gladly give us in their warm and familiar home than to spend the night in some sterile motel room, even with the other close at hand.

I remember that I thought that I could see the wheels turning in his head at Mindy’s suggestion. He was, I think, worried about the prospect of putting two young men and two young women together overnight in the same house. He, even more than most of the college administrators, was probably convinced that young men and young women, left together unsupervised, would Do the Naughty. So he must have been half sure that Mindy would let Buck into her pants, or that Stephanie would let me into hers, or, most likely, both. (He couldn’t have known that he was right about the four of us, but that he had the pairings wrong.)

He surely knew of Steph and Buck, and of their parents’ deaths during the summer that preceded the twins’ first year at the college. If they were our close friends, then they, he must have thought, were in a better position to help us than anyone.

Or maybe those were all my own thoughts, and I’m just projecting. But, after some reflection, he did tell us that he thought that spending the night with good friends was probably the best thing we could do for ourselves. He wondered if we would need help getting to their house.

By canlı bahis then we had collected ourselves enough that we were sure we could make the ten-minute walk by ourselves. And we wanted to be away from other people. He was doubtful, but we insisted.

His final words to us, as we left his office, were that we were not, for now, to worry about our studies. We should understand, he said, that we would not be excused from completing our course requirements, but that our professors would give us plenty of time to do so. When he told us that, I heard in his voice, for the first time, the steel of the disciplinarian he was reputed to be. And, even in my grief, I could be glad that I was not a professor who didn’t feel like making allowances.

An arm around each other for support, we walked slowly, dazedly, as if we were no longer a part of this world, to the twins’ house. We must have passed many people, but we didn’t see them—it was to us as if we were the only two people on the planet. We were in tears again when we arrived. We knocked on their door and heard them moving about in response; they were home. Belatedly, I looked at my watch, and I was surprised to find that it was already half-past three.

Steph opened the door and, seeing us, started to scold us for knocking—that behavior being contrary to the instructions they’d given us in January. And then she saw the tears that flowed down our faces.

“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed.

“Steve! Come quickly!” she shouted back into the house. And then, turning to us, trying to take us both into her arms, care and anxiety written on her face, she asked, “What happened? Are you all right?”

Buck had not been far behind her, and he arrived in time to hear Mindy begin, “Mom and Dad…Our parents…”

She could get no further. I completed the thought. “Our parents were killed in an airplane crash.”

“Oh, shit!” Buck said, taking Mindy from Steph, putting his arms around her, and holding her close. She sobbed into his chest as he drew her through the door and into the house.

“Oh, Charlie,” Steph said. Her eyes were tearing up, too. “I’m so, so sorry.” She took my hand and drew me, too, into the house, closing the door behind us.

After shucking Mindy out of the coat she’d been wearing against the late winter chill, Buck had picked her up like a baby. As Steph took my coat and brought me into their living room, Buck sat down in the nearer easy chair, with Mindy still in his arms. Mindy had drawn herself up against him; she buried her face in his shoulder. I could hear her sobs as he held her and patted her gently on her back.

Steph led me to the couch and seated me in the same spot where I’d been seated early on the evening that Mindy and I had first spent the night together in their spare bed. She was weeping, too, now, in empathy with our pain. She looked at me, and she said, “When you need to cry, too, Charlie, my shoulder is here. How can I help you now?”

“I don’t know, Steph,” I answered. “Please just sit with me for a while.”

“I going to,” she said. “Just a minute. I’ll be right back.”

She left the room for a moment and came back with a box of tissues. She pulled a handful out and handed them to Buck before setting the box on the coffee table and sitting down on the couch close beside me. Even when we were seated, my head was still substantially above hers. She smiled gently up at me through her tears and whispered, “You’re too big for me to hold you the way Steve is holding Mindy.”

Even grieving as I was, I could return her smile.

She went on. “But why don’t you hold me and let me put my head on your shoulder? Maybe that will help a little bit.”

I put my arm around her shoulders, and, turning toward me, she leaned up close, putting her head on my shoulder and her hand on my chest. We sat there for a while, and I found that the soft warmth of her body, the gentle rise and fall of her shoulders as she breathed, the faint beat of her heart, all did help.

I could hear Buck, across the room, whispering gently to Mindy, trying to give her what comfort he could. Her face was still buried in his shoulder, but her sobbing had subsided. Every now and then I could hear her whisper something in response to him.

Steph whispered to me, “Charlie, I know how much you hurt, and I’m so sorry. I really want to help you. I wish I could make the hurt go away. But I know I can’t—and I know there really isn’t much I can do even to make it less. But Steve and I will do anything we can for you, or for Mindy, or for both of you.”

“Steph,” I replied, “you’ve already helped us just by being here. And just knowing that you want to help already helps. Mindy and I know that as long as we have you and Buck, we aren’t alone.

“We don’t think we want to go back to our own places tonight—we’d have to be away from each other. But we want to be together. We’ll need each other tonight. Can we stay bahis siteleri the night here?”

She raised her head, looked me in the eyes, and smacked my chest with her open palm. “Charles Edward Magness,” she began, looking up at me, no longer whispering. She was angry! Buck and Mindy raised their heads to look over at us—wanting to know what I could possibly have done to get myself into trouble.

“Of course you and Mindy can spend the night here. And you should know better than to think you have to ask. This is your house, too. That bedroom belongs to you two now, and things have been that way since school started in January!”

“Thanks,” I mumbled, thoroughly embarrassed, now. “I’m afraid we won’t be very good company.”

She subsided, put her head back down on my shoulder, and relaxed. I began to relax, as well. Mindy rested her head on Buck’s shoulder and took a deep breath, expelled it slowly. She, too, was loosening up. Her tears no longer flowed, but her grief was apparent in every aspect of her body. I suppose that it was the same with me.

Whispering again, Steph said, “Let us worry about that. You and Mindy are always welcome in this house. We meant it—we really meant it—when we told you to think of the house as your own.”

Buck and Steph sat there with us, each of them holding and comforting one of us, for nearly an hour. During that time, quiet words passed between Steph and me, and I am sure that it was so between Buck and Mindy. Slowly, during that interval, surrounded by the love of our friends, our truly dear friends, Mindy and I re-gathered some of our strength.

Gradually, a pair of halting, two-person conversations became a single, halting, four-person conversation, and then a more fluid four-person conversation. Buck still held Mindy in his comforting arms; Steph’s comforting presence remained in my own arms. During the next hour or so, the two of them gently pried the details of our session with the dean out of us.

Buck was momentarily outraged when I mentioned the Dean’s suggestion that we seek solace in God.

“What an asshole!” he’d said. “What bullshit! Look for support from a God who’s always first in line to take the credit when things go well, but can’t be found when there’s blame to take!”

“It’s okay, Buck,” Mindy said then. I saw her squeeze him. “He only mentioned it once. It’s what he believes, and when he saw that we think more like you do than like he does, he backed off. And, at heart, he’s a good man. He offered to pay for a motel room for each of us out of his own pocket, so we could be near each other tonight.”

We talked, quietly, for a few minutes after that. It was nearly half-past five, then, and Steph raised her head and looked at me. “If you’ll be okay without me for a bit,” she said, “I think I should go fix us something to eat.”

I squeezed her, and she squeezed me back. “I’m not good,” I said, “but thanks to you and Buck, I’m a lot better than I was when we got here. I’ll be okay without you.”

I let go of her, but instead of getting to her feet, she raised her head again and looked right into my eyes. Raising her voice so that Mindy would hear her, too, she said, “Charlie…Mindy…I wish more than anything that I could tell you that the pain will go away.” She wept as she spoke. “But it won’t.”

She paused. Her dark brown, tear-filled eyes still commanded my attention, and I knew that she wept then not just for our pain, but also from the pain of the deaths of their parents a year and a half earlier.

“All that I can say is this: It will get better. Your lives will go on. It will always hurt, but the pain will fade. You’ll be able to be happy again. I promise you.”

“We promise you,” Buck echoed. Almost reluctantly, I broke from Steph’s eyes and looked over to see that Buck and Mindy were holding each other tightly.

Steph’s hand came gently to my chin and turned my face toward hers. Her lips pressed themselves softly against my own. My eyes closed, my arms enfolded her again, and my own lips responded. We had kissed many times before, but never deeply. Nevertheless, it seemed very natural and altogether right that, in the midst of that comforting kiss, her tongue should slip between my lips to wrestle with mine.

When our kiss ended, she raised her head and looked into my eyes again. I felt a gentle caress on my cheek. And then she stood up and turned to Buck.

“Steve,” she said, “why don’t you give Mindy back to Charlie for a bit and go to Krojer for me. I’m thinking that sandwiches would be a good idea for supper—but we need some meat and some decent bread. I’ll get things ready while you’re gone.”

Buck stood up, still holding Mindy in his arms like a baby—and impressing me with the strength of his legs as he did so. He crossed the living room in two or three steps. Arriving in front of me, he looked into Mindy’s eyes; she returned his look. He lowered his head, bahis şirketleri and, gently, he kissed her on her lips. She responded, and their kiss extended.

When, at last, they broke that kiss, Mindy looked up at him. He looked back at her, and bent to deposit her on my lap and in my arms, saying as he did so, “Here’s your woman back, Charlie.” Once his arms were free, his hand came up to rest, palm down, on my shoulder. He said nothing, but he looked directly into my eyes, and I felt his hand tighten in a squeeze.

“Thanks, Buck,” I said, returning his gaze. My own arms were full of Mindy, or I would have placed my hand on his forearm and returned the squeeze.

“It’s nothing,” he muttered—clearly uncomfortable with the necessity of dealing with emotions, wanting to do the right thing, but not wanting to violate the Fundamental Code. “I have to go get the stuff that Steph wants for supper. I’ll be back soon.” And he turned to leave.

“Thank you, Buck,” Mindy added, as her arms sought me.

He turned back and smiled at her. “You’re welcome, Mindy. I’m so sorry.” he said, and walked into the kitchen to see what Steph wanted from the store. No strictures of the Fundamental Code apply to dealing with a woman’s emotions.

Mindy’s arms found the purchase she needed, and, turning her face toward me, she pulled herself close and buried her face in my shoulder. I knew that her tears were close to the surface—as were my own—but they didn’t come to either of us.

We needed no words, then. Simply, we sat there, in close contact with each other, on Steph and Buck’s couch. Our friends had strengthened us, and we were at last able to give some comfort to each other. I felt some of the strength that Steph’s touch had given me flow into Mindy—as I felt some of the strength Buck had given her flow into me.

As my little sister and I began, finally, to comfort each other, Buck returned to the living room—with three small glasses and a bottle in his hands. “Dr. Steven R. Young prescribes a dose of good Scotch whisky for both of you,” he said as he set the glasses down in a row and poured a fairly substantial drink into one and two even larger drinks into the other two.

He continued as he re-corked the bottle. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for either of you to get drunk. But a good stiff hit will help you relax a little.”

He gave Mindy, who had to remove an arm from my shoulder to take it, the glass with the smaller amount in it. “You may think that this is a little too strong for comfort, Mindy,” he said. “But I want you to drink it anyway. Trust me: It will help you feel better.”

Mindy held the drink and looked doubtfully at him for a moment. Seeing that he meant what he said, then, she stiff-wristed it. Her eyes bulged a bit and she expelled air from her lungs in a long gasp. She looked at him reproachfully and said, “Jesus!”

His hand stroked her hair. “I didn’t expect you to gulp it all at once,” he said—but he couldn’t suppress a little smile.

He handed me one of the other two drinks and took the remaining one for himself. I sipped at mine. I couldn’t see the label on the bottle, but whatever this was, it was no ordinary Scotch. It was heavy with smoke, and in spite of Mindy’s reaction, it seemed to me to be as smooth and as silky as a baby’s bottom. I took a larger swallow—about a third of what he’d poured for me, and I felt the welcome burn as it descended. It hit my belly and exploded into a ball of fire; the heat radiated through my body.

Buck raised his own drink and swallowed about the same fraction of it as I had of mine. “Mmmm,” he said. “That’s good!”

I swallowed the rest of mine in one larger gulp. “It is,” I said. “It’s very good.”

Buck took the rest of his in a last gulp. Mindy, too, must have been feeling the indescribable glow that strong drink hitting an empty stomach brings. “I didn’t like drinking it that much,” she said, “but it does feel good once it’s inside me.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” Buck responded. “That’s why the doctor prescribed it.”

He took the bottle back through the kitchen and returned without it a few moments later. He went to the front door and threw on his coat. “I’ll be back soon,” he said, and stepped out the door.

Mindy and I continued to snuggle on the couch as mild haze from the drink spread through our minds and our bodies. Buck had been altogether right; a touch of good booze had been helpful.

A few minutes after Buck left, Steph came into the room to see how we were doing.

When she’d convinced herself that we were still all right, she smiled and said, “You two are very unusual people. That bottle is Steve’s special treasure. Even I don’t know where he keeps it. He brings it out only for very special events, and I’ve never seen him share it with anyone before.”

Mindy and I looked at each other.

“We’re flattered,” I said.

“You two are special people to us,” Steph continued. “I just wish I had a treasure like that to share with you.”

“You do,” said Mindy. “You share yourself with us.” And she put her head down on my shoulder and held herself tightly against me.

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