Mary Alexandra Wanzack, called Zandra by everyone who knew her unless she was in trouble, arrived in Koenigsburg just before dawn. The sun was just a suggestion of something that might become light on the eastern horizon. It was cold enough so that her breath was visible in the air, but not enough for frost.
She’d hitched a ride from the veterinary college with a trucker who was passing through—or could be induced to pass through—the town. He’d suggested some kind of sexual favor from her, once he’d seen she was a woman, but settled for half her pack of Lucky Strikes, and her driving for a few hours while he got some shut-eye. He’d been on the road since about this time the previous day.
When they arrived on the outskirts of town, he stopped; she thanked him and jumped down from the cab. The truck roared off into the scrag end of the night and she slung her duffle bag over her shoulder and started walking. She was tall and broad-shouldered, long of leg and narrow of hip, and she preferred to wear trousers, as she did now, rather than a dress. The most feminine thing about her, a head of luxuriant black hair, was braided and coiled up under a black beret. She could be mistaken for a boy at a distance or in bad light, which was not a bad thing, if you were taking to the road alone.
It was too early for anyone except people like that truck driver to be out on the road, but a few lights were starting to appear in the windows of some of the farmhouses, and lanterns being carried by people about their morning chores bobbed from house to barn.
Zandra was on her way home to see her family, but she had another stop on her route. When she came to the Kroginold farm, she left the road and cut across the fields to get to the barn. If she came up the path leading to the house, Anna, Mrs. Kroginold, would see her and then she would have to come in the house and make conversation, and Dennis had said he wanted to talk to her alone.
It was still too dark to read the letter she carried in her pocket, but she had read it many times and had it committed to memory.
Do you think you could make it home one of these weekends? Valentine’s Day is going to be Sunday, and besides, I think your little brother is having some kind of trouble. He won’t talk to me about it, and if he hasn’t told you I don’t guess Gene or Miss Marie is going to say anything either.
If you should get into town before the sun comes up will you come to the barn where we can talk alone and not have Ma hanging over us. I’ll be keeping something hot for you (and I might even bring some breakfast, ha ha).
Even if there wasn’t any problem at home, I want to see you anyway. I’m tired of (and here the paper was worn thin from repeated erasures) of spending so much time alone.
The body heat and breath of sleeping animals made the barn warmer than one might have expected. Dennis wasn’t there yet, so she sat down on the floor and went into a light doze, using the duffle bag as a cushion. She was awakened by footsteps and the light from the oil lamp Dennis had brought with him. The lamp illuminated a face that was more distinguished than pretty, with a wide, mobile mouth, bold and dashing dark brows that she refused to pluck except in the middle, and penetrating gray eyes. She grinned and sprang to her feet.
Dennis was a young giant of a man, nearly six and a half feet tall, and as sturdy as an oak. His light brown, sun-touched hair and his eyes glinted in the light of the lamp which he held up. They were a blue the color of a tropical sea that neither of them had ever seen, and somewhat round, which added to his appearance of corn-fed wholesomeness. Zandra looked at him with appreciation. So many of the men in town were overseas, fighting in Europe or the Pacific, that there were hardly any hale young men left; except for old men and boys who were still in school If Dennis’s father were alive, Dennis would have been with them, but he was exempt as a farmer and the only man in his family
“Well, are you going to just stand there and imitate the Statue of Liberty, or are you going to put that light down so I can greet you properly?”
Dennis took her hand and they went to the back of the barn, where there was a cattle stall and three stables in a row. One of them held a middle-aged mare named Jubilee and the other contained an evil-tempered mule named Hermann. The third was empty, and it was this one they walked into. Dennis hung the lamp from a hook dangling from the ceiling, pulled Zandra’s beret off, and took her in his arms. “Well, I love you, too,” he said, and the next few minutes were given to voracious kissing and then, groping through clothes on both their parts. “Christ, but I miss you when you’re gone!” he said when he came up for air.
“Me, too,” Zandra said. “I can tell you’re glad to see me. Unless you’ve taken to going around armed.” She grasped his cock through his trousers. She was not a small woman, but it filled akyurt escort her hand substantially.
“Careful, it’s loaded. If there’s anything I like it’s a woman who knows what she wants.” She put her free hand on the back of his neck and tugged his head down to hers again. In between kisses, they continued to touch and grab. Clothes began to fly. Zandra took time to look dubiously at the floor of the stable. Since it was unoccupied, there was very little hay in it. Lying down would be uncomfortable. “Where are you in your cycle, babe?”
“Safe. I went off the rag yesterday.”
“Good,” Dennis said. “I’m up for a good old-fashioned nailing. Fuck all these ways and means.”
“How about you fuck me,” Zandra said, and she put both arms around the young man’s neck and gave a little spring, wrapping her legs around his waist. He caught her ass in his big hands and lowered her onto his cock. He was the only man she knew who was tall enough and strong enough to do this. He stepped to the nearby wall and braced her against it. She clung to him like a lemur. They murmured and laughed and groaned as they formed the oldest engine in the world. His hard fleshly piston stroked deep up into her, hitting her just where she needed to be hit. She felt pleasure gathering within her like a thunderclap; it burst through her and she cried out, “Oh Dennis! Ah—ah–oh…!” Hearing her, seeing her ecstatic expression and feeling her strong, rhythmic grip, brought him to the point of no return. He rammed her with the mindless unconcern of a bull and spilled into her with a final thrust, pinning her hard against the wall. Jubilee woke up, whinnied loudly, and gave her side of the wall a vigorous kick. Hermann snorted.
“Now see what you’ve done,” Dennis said, still breathing hard. “You’ve gone and frightened the horses.”
It was too cold to stay naked if you weren’t doing something physical, so after Dennis had given Zandra a handkerchief so she could clean up a little, they got dressed. Plus, there were the chores that Dennis was ostensibly out here to do, so Zandra milked the cow, which had been awake the whole time but unfazed by the noise, while Dennis fed all the animals.
“We gotta quit meeting like this,” he said. “When’re you gonna marry me?”
“I told you. When I graduate and Dr. Muldaur takes me into his practice. And don’t worry, that’s a firm deal.” Dr. Muldaur was the veterinarian. She remembered something and said, “Hey, what about breakfast? You promised me breakfast.”
“I said I might could bring breakfast,” he said. “There wasn’t anything made up. We’ll have to go up to the house.”
Anna Kroginold was just putting a dish of grits and a plate of biscuits on the kitchen table, which had places set for three. There was already a plateful of bacon on the table.
“Look who’s here,” Dennis said. “Zandra’s back in town.”
“I heard,” Anna said, dead-pan.
“So what’s this business with Adam?” she asked as she put butter on her grits and jelly on her biscuits. She took two pieces of the bacon.
“I’m not clear,” Dennis said. “Like I said, he won’t talk about it to me. It’s been a while since I was in high school so I’m not up on the latest gossip.”
“There’s a girl at the bottom of it,” Anna said.
“Millie Beck,” Zandra repeated. “Little blonde thing? About two or so grades behind me in school? Harvey and Helen Beck’s daughter?”
“Uh-huh. More coffee?”
“Thank you. What’s she like nowadays?”
“Still little,” Anna said. “Curvy. Long blonde pageboy.”
“Pocket Venus type,” Dennis said dismissively, and Zandra smirked. She knew perfectly well what kind of woman he went for.
“She shot him down, I’m sure of that much,” Dennis said. “But it goes a bit further than that. I don’t know how to describe it. He might could explain it better than us.”
When the bacon and grits and biscuits were gone, Zandra thanked Anna for the breakfast, and said she had to be going. “Why don’t you let me run you home in the truck?” Dennis said, but Zandra did not want to impose on the Kroginolds’ gasoline supply, even though they did have a C card, and said she’d rather walk. Dennis came with her as far as the road. “Good luck,” he said, giving her a hug and a kiss. “See you later? I’ll try to find somewhere better than the barn.”
The sun was up and shining low, slanting winter rays as Zandra continued up the road. It became warm enough so that she took off her pea coat and slung it over one shoulder. When she arrived at the house, she walked in the front door, dropped her duffel bag on the front room floor with a thump, and went looking for her mother in the kitchen. Marie was gratifyingly pleased to see her daughter, even though she hadn’t been expecting her. “Is everything all right at school? How did you get here? The train didn’t come through last night.”
“I wish you wouldn’t ayaş escort do that. It’s not safe.”
“Aah, I was all right. Where is everybody?” Meaning: the men.
“Your father and Gene are in town. Adam’s out back somewhere. Supposedly mending the garden fence, if it hasn’t slipped his mind already. He can’t seem to keep his mind on anything these days. Well, there’s nothing new about that.”
Adam was, in fact, sitting on the back porch steps, gazing moodily at either a row of dormant rosebushes that grew near the house, or at nothing. She snuck up behind him and put her hands over his eyes. “Guess who?”
“Hey, sis, what are you doing here?”
“Visiting.” Good Lord, but he was thin, she thought. He had reached his full height, 6’2″, and if he weighed any more than 130 pounds, she was Shirley Temple. He had no more meat on him than a wild turkey. He looked very much like her in the face, and had the same kind of dense, off-black hair. No heavier than he was, he looked almost fragile, but she knew that he had a wiry strength that belied this impression. When she sat down next to him, his nostrils twitched, and a wave of pink passed over his face. Darn, Zandra thought. The boy had a nose on him like a hound. There was hardly anything he couldn’t sniff out, and it had been a real problem when he was younger, because not only could he smell almost everything, he tended to ask questions, pass judgment and make comments. The family had finally succeeded in impressing on him that this was Not Nice, but they had not ever succeeded in making him understand why. “Yeah, I was with Dennis earlier,” she said, feeling momentary heat pass over her own face. “You wanna make something of it?”
Adam shrugged. “No. Why should I? I’m not a selfish man. I’m glad that someone’s love life is going right.”
“I take it that yours isn’t?”
“You can’t talk about something going right or not going right if it doesn’t exist in the first place,” he said.
“What’s the matter, bro? Did some lousy dame shoot you down?”
“You could say that.” He looked at her suspiciously. “Did someone tell you something to get you to come home? Who was it? Mom? I told her not to worry about it. You’d think that if you minded your own business, everybody else would mind theirs.”
“What a quaint, eccentric idea,” Zandra said. “It was Dennis, if you have to know. He wrote me. I was coming home anyway.”
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, but little by little, she succeeded in drawing him out. The whole mess had started at a party he had gone to during the Christmas season. Millie had been there, too. She had a boyfriend, but she had quarreled with him; he went off in a huff and left her alone, and rather than endure that, she was perfectly willing to make conversation with Adam, even though she had never taken much notice of him before.
None of the subsequent events would have happened if the mother of the girl who’d hosted the party, and therefore was chaperoning it, hadn’t been taken with a migraine and gone to lie down. Once the young people were free of adult scrutiny, the event degenerated into a makeout party, and to his great surprise and pleasure, he found himself sitting on an overstuffed sofa in the hostess’s dimly lit parlor, with the petite and curvaceous Millie on his lap, engaged in deep kissing. “She said she hadn’t expected me to be such a—she said I was a good kisser,” he said, looking bemused.
“Yeah, we’re red-hot lovers in our family,” Zandra said. “So, what else happened?”
“Geez, Zandra! What do you think this was? A Roman orgy? There were other people in the room. As it was, I was just praying she wouldn’t notice how excited I was and be disgusted…”
“Hah! She knew. So, what did happen?”
“Nothing. Mrs. Reynolds got to feeling better, or at least she thought she ought to come out and make sure nothing bad was happening, so everybody had to scramble apart. It was what happened the next few days…”
“Yeah? What was that?”
“Whatever people may tell you,” Adam said, “I did not think that this made her my girlfriend! I figured the chances were at least 90% she would get back with Ritchie, if for no other reason than he’d hear she’d been…flirting with me, and get jealous. But I thought at least she—that she liked me a little. I thought at least she’d talk to me in school the next day.
“People are hard to figure out. They say one thing and they do another. And if you’re honest with them, they just find some way to use it against you. But I don’t have to guess whether a girl is hot and bothered—I know. Just like I knew…about you and Dennis…”
Zandra’s heart constricted. How frustrating it must be, she thought, to have an ability that everyone seemed to think was—well, unseemly. To have every passing scent tugging his emotions this way and that, and have to pretend not to notice. To smell truth and hear lies coming out of people’s mouths…
“The ankara escort world expects women to be like that,” Zandra said. “She’s young. If they have—feelings, they’re not supposed to admit to them, because they think that means they’re not nice girls.”
“You’re not like that.”
“I know, I’m different—I decided way back that it was a big con game, and said the hell with it. But not every woman has the nerve—it’s not like you can go back once you start. So she was ashamed the next day. What did she say to you?”
“She told me to just forget we’d been together at that party, and that if I didn’t leave her alone, she’d tell Ritchie I’d tried to get fresh with her and he’d beat me up. And then I found out that she’d gone around telling everybody that I was bothering her—that I was following her around, turning up everywhere that she was…what was I supposed to do? You can’t help running into people you know in a town with one main street going through it. What am I supposed to do, be a hermit?
“The next thing I knew, whenever I did turn up somewhere that she was, a little ring of guys would form around her, and they were all giving me dirty looks, like—like she needed to be protected from me. These were fellows I’d known all my life…” His eyes were unnaturally big and bright, and Zandra turned her head and stared at the barn, until she thought he had gotten himself under control again. Things suddenly got blurry for her, too, but she wasn’t about to let him see howshe felt—no good for him to know that the situation was every bit as ugly as he thought it was…
She blinked hard, and everything was clear again. “Well, it’s not the end of the world,” she said. “She’s having some pretty evil fun, but it can’t last forever. She’ll get tired of her game and it will blow over.”
“It’s February, Zandra. This started before Christmas. When?”
Oh dear, she thought. “Have you said anything about it to the folks?”
“Hell no,” Adam said. “And have them pick, pick, picking at me, saying well, I must have done something?”
“They wouldn’t do that.”
“Is that what you think? Do you think I haven’t noticed the way they look at me, and talk between themselves, when they think us kids aren’t around? There’s something wrong with me, Zan. It always has been. I can’t…nothing works for me. Well, there’s school, and track, but it’s not enough–nothing else works! God, I wish I didn’t live in this town.” He looked down at the ground between his feet. He spoke almost inaudibly, but she could hear him: “Sometimes…I wish I didn’t live at all.”
“Don’t say that!” she cried, banging her fist on the step they sat on. “Don’t you dare say that!” Thinking: there’s no place like a farm for ways to get hurt. Adam was not particularly coordinated, unless there were cinders beneath his feet; hardly a year went by that something didn’t happen to him that required stitching or setting, and those were accidents…She could not imagine life without him. There had always been a bond between them, something extra, even though the three siblings moved through their world like the Three Musketeers. She and Adam…she’d always fended for him; when she had been seriously ill as a child, his love had kept her alive. She wanted to jump up and scream at him. She made herself stay in place and fought to keep her voice casual.
“We seem to have a problem here indeed,” she said. She kept her voice light, although she was furiously thinking. “What does this belle dame sans merci do with herself on the weekends?”
“She stays with a bunch of girls,” Adam said. “You’re likely to see them out and about in town on Saturday.” Zandra got to her feet. “Where are you going?”
“Just for a walk,” Zandra said. “I need to do some thinking.”
Where she walked to was back to the Kroginold farm. Dennis had just started the truck when she loped up. “I’m glad I caught you,” she said. “Could you take me to town?”
“Why, sure, babe. Hop in.” Zandra climbed up into the cab of the truck and sat down next to him. Dennis gave her thigh an affectionate squeeze before putting the truck into gear. “Did you talk to Adam?”
“What did he tell you?”
“It’s crazy,” she said, and in a few words she relayed to Dennis what Adam had told her.
“Christ,” Dennis said, shaking his head. “Poor kid. What’re you going to do? What are you thinking?”
“I’m starting to get an idea. But if I told you, you’d try to talk me out of it.”
“I probably would.” By this time the road they were on had turned into the main street going through Koenigsburg. “Try not to get into trouble.”
“I’ll do my best. Could you drop me off here?”
“In front of Conrad’s? All right. Meet me at the garage when you get done with whatever you’re going to do. I was headed there anyway.”
Mr. Conrad, who had cut the hair of every man in Koenigsburg longer than Zandra had been around, greeted her cordially when she strode into the shop.
“Well, good morning, Miss Z. When did you get in?”
“Is that so? Well, you came in awfully quietly. How are you doing? How’s school?”
“Fine as always. I see you just had a bunch of people in here,” Zandra said. The floor was covered with all kinds of hair.