cozy mystery, spy novel, serial mystery fiction

Chapter Twelve

July 28, 1983

 

My church’s youth group holds a week-long retreat at a Christian camp on Catalina Island every summer. Most of the leadership comes from the single adult bible study that did the retreat I was on when Sid came to get me back in May. Father John decided I should be a camp leader too. Sid “just happened” to take off for the Bahamas this week, and doesn’t need me around.

It’s Thursday evening. The sun is slowly sliding behind the hill. The ocean laps peacefully on the rock where I sit, writing my journal. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought it with me. The fact that it’s ciphered won’t reveal any secrets, but it could make me look a little strange in that planned way that once made me very suspicious of Sid. That was before I knew about Quickline.

But perspective is why I wrote down the first one, and it’s why I’m here finishing this bit up. I’ve been working pretty steadily on it since we got home almost a month ago.

We stayed on a week yet in Paris to recover. Sid’s eyes were still a sick shade of green, and the scar on my forehead was a sight. And the cigarette burn got infected. But no one questioned us. Mae just raised cain with me for not calling her and wondered where I’d been. I told her we’d been in and out and all over the place, and never really answered her questions. I didn’t even tell her about Catalina. Like Sid says, we can’t call attention to our traveling.

The week we got back, Sid picked up a package from A12 and A45. It was a package of study tapes of French, Italian, and German. We had a good laugh over it. After all, being strictly domestic, the odds of us ever needing to speak those languages is pretty remote.

This morning I gave a talk on sex and the problem of temptation, another one of Father John’s ideas. When I told Sid I was giving it, he laughed and said I should use him as a bad example. I did, too. The kids loved it, but I don’t think they really believed me about him until lunch.

I sat at the scarfer’s table: Father John, Frank, three high school football players, and me. We all have phenomenal appetites and are on fourth and fifth servings before the rest of the camp has finished firsts. [It’s not a pretty sight, Lisa dear, and you are the worst of them – SEH] However, today we lingered over dessert. There weren’t seconds available.

“Is your boss really that bad?” asked Todd Wilkins, one of the football players.

“Like, you’ve got to be exaggerating,” said Jeff Childs.

“Not a bit,” I said. “If anything, I toned it down some.”

“She’s not kidding,” added Frank. “Every time I’ve taken her home from something, he’s got a different woman there. Which reminds me.” He got up. “I’ve got mail duty today.”

He picked up the bag of letters and called out names on the dining hall microphone. I didn’t get anything, which I expected.

“That’s it for today,” Frank announced. “Except for one postcard.”

“Read it!” someone yelled.

“Oh, I’m going to,” Frank snickered. “And this will be uncensored.”

Something about the way he said that caught my attention. I looked around. The card was blue, maybe an ocean.

“This hot little number is addressed to our own Lisa J. Wycherly.”

Cat calls erupted from the kids.

“He didn’t,” I groaned, though why I was surprised, I don’t know. “He didn’t.”

“It goes like this: My dearest ice maiden…” Frank was without mercy.

Some more cat calls.

“He did!” I sank my burning face into my hands.

“No offense, but glad you’re not here. Getting a great tan and lots of great dot, dot, dot.” The kids roared. “How are the horny juveniles?” Roundabout booing. “Still trying hard to understand. Please, don’t eat too much.” Cheers, which were accepted by the football players. “And stay away from the junk food.”

“Too late!” someone hollered to a big laugh. I’m told my candy bar habit is the stuff legends are made of.

“Your favorite reprobate.” More laughter and cheers. Frank held up his hand. “P.S. Don’t forget your sunscreen.”

The kids laughed really hard and cheered. I did not get slapped on the back because that would have hurt my sunburn.

“Now, Lisa,” teased Frank. “You wouldn’t happen to know who that was from?”

“He’s going to regret this, and so are you, Frank,” I called. Silently, I wished sand in Sid’s equipment. [So that’s how it happened – SEH]

Later, Father John caught me alone, sitting with my journal on my rock.

“Well?” he asked.

“What?”

“You seem to be doing a lot of thinking.”

“I guess I am.”

“About Sid?”

“Yeah.” I looked at Father. “Things got pretty wild on that trip we took.”

“Would it be fair to guess that scar on your forehead did not come from a fall on a coffee table?”

“Not quite.” I lifted my hair. “That was a cigarette burn. The whites of Sid’s eyes had just barely cleared up before he left. He got winged. I got beaten up twice.” I looked out over the ocean. “The funny thing is, the violence doesn’t seem to bug me. I mean I don’t like it, but I’m not scared of it anymore. And I’m not scared of Sid anymore. We tried making love. He asked me, and I couldn’t say no or yes. It didn’t work. But it really took the pressure off. I mean he still wants to.”

“And do you?”

“Yeah,” I said softly. “I really want to. And I really don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’d have to be married to him for it to work, and more than anything, I don’t want to be married. It’s like I’m finally finding out who I am and what I can do. This trip completely tested all my limits. I don’t want to submerge that in a man, and that’s what’s expected in a marriage. I like being independent and able to make my own decisions without consulting someone else.” I chuckled.

“What about Sid?”

“What about him?”

“Someday you might decide that you want to be part of his life in a way that does not submerge who either of you are, but does call for a deep, loving commitment from both of you.”

I smiled. “I might, but he can’t. I don’t think he ever will.”

“I guess at the moment, it’s much safer for you that way. I’ll talk to you later.”

I fished Sid’s postcard out of my cover up pocket, then pulled out my pen and started writing. Sid says there’s a kind of safety in keeping me mad at him.

I keep getting funny looks from the kids as they walk past my rock out here. Lots of people sit out here alone, and quite a few write, so that’s not it. I guess I’m the only one who comes out here and whistles “All Day, All Night, Marianne.”

Anne Louise Bannon

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