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Friday, August 29, 2014

Chapter 24

“Your mom pretty much gets her way about things doesn’t she?” I asked watching Roman take several boxes of supplies that his brothers had brought with them down to what he called the cellar. 

“Yeah, pretty much is right,” he said coming up for the last time before going over to the stove and stirring a pot of what he said was stew.  “I’m pretty sure Lizzie made this.  She’s the only one I know that puts them little things – capers – in her stews.  As for Mom, she’s convinced herself this is what’s going to make things right.” 

“Well, right for Bean … and us … but how does it make the rest of it right?  I’m just not seeing it.” 

“It doesn’t but there’s no telling her that until she comes to the conclusion herself.  And Alex is going to go bonkers when he finds out that you aren’t going to the mines and that you’ve been accepted as family.” 

“I wouldn’t go that far.” 

“You don’t think Alex is going to go bonkers?” 

“Alex already is bonkers.  No one sane messes up this bad when they have a family like yours.” 

“Uh …” 

“That’s a good thing, your family I mean.  I was talking about me being accepted.  Look at Peter.” 

“Look at Andrew … and Mom.  When the two of them get determined to pull something off smart people just get out of the way.” 

I shrugged.  “Just don’t get your feelings hurt.” 

“I don’t want your feelings hurt.” 

“I don’t have those kinds of feelings.” 

“I don’t want to sleep on the floor.” 

I took me a moment to figure out he really had said what I thought he’d said.  “Huh?” I asked confused. 

“There’s only the one bed.  And the floor is cold and hard.  I’d rather not sleep in the front room on the sofa because that will mean heating both fireplaces and with snow coming I’d rather conserve wood.  Not to mention the sofa is musty and hard.  Nearly as bad as the floor.” 


“Uh, that means sharing the bed.” 


“You sure you’re listening?” 

“Yeah.  Did you want to kiss again?  I’m not sure.  You sounded like I was squashing the air out of you.  If you want to try something else we …” 

“Ow!  God bless it!  That’s hot!” 

He’d grabbed the pot with his bare hand.  I got up and he finally let me look at it.  “I don’t think it’s gonna blister.  You might want to be more careful though.” 

“Yeah.  Well … uh … you wanna eat?” 


We were eating with I realized something.  “Uh oh.” 

“Uh oh what?  Is it the baby?!!  I’ll go get …” 

“Roman your hair’s on fire again.  I just meant I don’t know how to cook.  I remember some things but Mother Mary kept me in the office mostly.  Is there a book that teaches that stuff?” 

He got a closed off look.  “I wouldn’t know.” 

“Ok, geez.  I hate to ask … is there anybody that could teach me?” 

Peevishly he asked, “Did you ever thing of asking me?” 

“You?  Oh thank goodness.  I’d rather it be you than someone else.  I think I’d be sick if it was your mom.  Now what can I trade … let me think … no, that’s not good enough … we’ll you’ll get that anyway … duh!  I know!  Wait, no, you’ll get that too.” 

Roman’s face had progressively gotten more stupefied and his ears had gotten redder.  Then I asked, “What would you take for teaching me to cook?” 

His voice cracked, “Uh, it’s no big deal …” 

“Oh no, we’re partners.  Even stevens remember?  So what’ll you take?” 

“Thorn you really shouldn’t … uh … ask a man …” 

“I’m not asking just any man.  I’m not interested in just any man teaching me to … cook.  I’m asking you.  You can have anything I have to give.” 

Roman’s breathing started to sound funny again and he jumped up, almost knocked over his chair, then bolted for the door saying, “I need to get wood in.” 

“Roman, you need to think about it ‘cause I really need to learn to cook.” 

“Aw gawd, I’ll think about it all right.  Just … gotta … go …” 

Bean, I know it was kinda wrong to tease him.  I do. He’s just so … so teasable.  But I almost laughed when I heard him nearly fall off the porch.  I’d never done it before, never wanted to before, but there was just something about watching Roman’s ears turn red and his eyes glaze over that made my insides squirm worse than you do.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chapter 23

“Peter, it really isn’t appropriate to yell that kind of thing,” a man sighed. 

Roman and I had left quietly by the back door to come around front to see who all was there. 

“You know what the punk and the slut are doing.  You consider that appropriate?” 

Roman looked like he was about to explode.  I was in the mood for a fight so I opened the dance.  “Watch out, your morals are showing.”  The two men jumped and spun around.  “All Roman and I were discussing was the arrangement your brother Andrew there seems so insistent on.  Obviously he should turn his preaching on you instead.” 

Andrew surprised me by smiling and saying, “It hasn’t done much good up to this point.  How do you do Narcissa?” 

I looked at Roman who scowled and said, “She prefers to be called Thorn.” 

“Oh but Narcissa is so much nicer.”  He must have gotten a good look at my face because he added, “Child that life is over for you.  You can be something fresh and new.” 

“Well I can’t be Narcissa, that girl is gone for good, but if you don’t like Thorn pick something else.  Just don’t make it Dinah or Tamar.  Some things I don’t want to be known for.” 

Andrew paled and swallowed.  Guess he must have thought the rumors about my parents being missionaries were false.  “I’ll … endeavor to find a few names for you to consider.” 

Peter looked suspicious and snapped, “What are you going on about?” 

It was Andrew who said, “Nothing.  Let us finish our business and …” 

“Nothing doing.  I want to know what she …” 

I looked at Peter and told him, “Read your Bible.  And do like your brother said and get to your business.” 

Peter looked ready to argue some more but Roman asked me, “You ok?” 

“May I sit down?  Bean is bouncing around.” 

“Yeah.  And you shouldn’t be out with no coat.  I’ll get …” 

“No.  I’m fine.  I just want to sit down.” 

“Peter set up that other stump so I can set this cross piece across them.”  When it was done he said, “Now you sit down.  You got that funny color again.” 

I wasn’t playacting Bean.  It seems fighting takes more energy than it used to.  Or maybe you just don’t like it or something.  Either way I wasn’t feeling too good. 

Roman looked at his brothers and said, “State your business, it’s getting late and she needs to go back inside.” 

Peter said, “You’re turning into a frisky little peckerwood aren’t you?” 

Roman got angry and Andrew muttered, “Peter, enough.” 

I stopped Roman who looked like he was ready to bust Peter a good one.  I told him, “It’s me.  You and him might not always get along but he still doesn’t want to see his baby brother hooked up with a dock whore.” 

“Dammit, that wasn’t your choice.  You were only ten when you were stolen and then Alex had you locked up and watched and sometimes forgot to feed you!” 

“Roman this isn’t going to work if you pay me in pity instead of us being partners.  I agreed that we’d try not and fuss so much but you feeling sorry for me is just going to make me ornery and fight more.” 

Roman was stiff and ground his teeth before bending down beside where I sat.  “I don’t feel sorry for you.  I’m sorry that it happened to you.  And … I can’t … I can’t forgive him for … for betraying what the family is supposed to stand for.  And then lying about it and all the rest of it.” 

Taking a chance I put my hand on his balled up fist.  “You can’t change the past.  All you can do is not repeat it.  I’ve already told you I’m not ever going back that way.  No one can make me.  But don’t make me live with the pain of breaking up your family either.  I can almost remember what having a real family is like.  I know what it is supposed to feel like.  And I haven’t known you long or much but I know that it’s seeing things you’d rather not see in your family that is hurting you the most.  Just let it go.” 

“There’s things I can’t let go.  Things you shouldn’t just pass on.” 

“Ok, then start by letting some things go.  I am.  And if I can then you can.” 

Roman growled and then plunked down on the temporary bench he sat me on and turned to his brothers who were eyeing us like we were little green men and said, “Who wants what?” 

Quietly Andrew answered, “The Council wants to know if the situation has been handled.” 

Roman looked at me and asked, “Is it handled?” 

I asked, “Are we partners?” 

He nodded.  I stuck my hand out and we shook on it.  Then I turned to the brothers and said, “It’s handled.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Chapter 22

“A … a partner?” 

“Yeah.  Is that enough for me to buy in and be partners with you?  This way … I’m not … you know … kept.  We start out a little closer to the same footing though I don’t have to be the head partner or anything.  You see … uh … we’ll be throwing in together.  You don’t have to … be on the hot end of the skillet by yourself and I know … you won’t just …” 

“Break the deal?” 

“Yeah.  Exactly,” I answered relieved. 

“Ok, this last part you may not like but I … I gotta know.” 

“Uh …” 

“Do you think … could you let me … I mean I need to know if … aw hell.  I just need to know if we can work … the other … you know if you can stand me to … uh …” 

“What is it you want?” 

“Look, you don’t have to if you don’t feel up to it.  I just think it’s better if we know up front.” 

Bean, I was thinking a lot of possibilities but I didn’t expect the one he wanted. 

“A kiss?!  That’s what you want?” 

“Forget it.  You probably don’t feel up to it.  I should have …” 


“It was stupid to even …” 


“Really.  What was I think?!” 



“You can have whatever you want.  I’ll even … well … be willing.  I mean I won’t fight and that’s something I’ve never been is willing … with anyone no matter how much they paid to use me.  Just don’t be mad if you’re disappointed.  One of the house rules was no kissing customers.  Mother Mary said it caused emotional attachments and that those caused jealousies and other problems.  So I don’t have a good idea how it’s supposed to work so maybe you should pick something else.” 

Roman swallowed a couple of times and his voice cracked when he said, “No.  No I think we should try a kiss.” 

“Ok, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” 

Bean it sure did take him a long time to start.  First he locked the door, then the bedroom door, then he put a blanket over the window. Then because it was dark he tripped over the chair and wrapped his foot around the headboard and hopped around cussing almost as good as the customers would when they couldn’t pay and Mother Mary had Brian toss ‘em out on their heads.  Then he had to figure out where we were going to sit.  He wound up pulling his chair right next to the one I had been sitting in and then he just sort of sat there for a while. 

I’d never seen a man so nervous, not even the boys that would sometimes get brought by their dads or big brothers. 

“Uh … can I … can I …” 

“Roman, what are you waiting for?” 

“Can I put my arm around you?” 

I thought about it.  “How about we sit like when we were on the horse?  This way you don’t fall out of the chair.” 

“Uh … you sure?” 

“I’m the one that brought it up.” 

Roman may be a slow starter but he finally got going and almost settled down.  I was worried about him though.  His breath started to make a strange whistling sound and I was getting concerned I was too fat and was squashing him.  I was about to ask him when there was this terrific pounding on the door.  It reminded me of the guy who kept track of the time and he’d bang on the rooms if the men were trying to get free minutes. 

Roman stood up so fast I slid to the floor.  He was caught between feeling bad and checking on me and grabbing for his gun when a man shouted, “Roman!! Boy, ya done yet?!” 

“I’m gonna kill him.  I don’t care what Andrew says I am going to kill him so dead.” 

I grabbed his leg before he could stalk away.  “Help me up and we can go kill whoever it is together.” 

“Partners remember?”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chapter 21

“Thorn, as hard as it is for you to tell your story, it’s going to be hard for me to tell mine.  Not for the same reasons of course but …” 

“OK, just tell it.” 

It took him a minute to spit it out.  “Mom … she had never wanted to get pregnant again when she got caught with Alex and me.  She was getting older and wanted to focus on her career.” 

“She should have thought of that when she started banging so many kids out.” 

“She and Dad did.  They had an agreement.  They’d have their quiversful and then she’d go back to her career full time. Vicki was five , Mom was forty when her luck ran out.” 

“That’s not what ran out.  Sounds more like they ran out of condoms.” 

“Er … no.  The church my dad grew up in and he and Mom attended back then really didn’t believe in … uh … artificial birth control.  And that’s fine for people that really feel strongly about that sort of thing.  Mom … didn’t.  She went along with it originally because … well for Dad and because she liked being pregnant when she was younger or so I’ve heard.  But she drew the line after Vicki, it wasn’t fun anymore.  Dad kept promising to go get fixed but never did and Mom didn’t want to take the time off work declaring that Dad could be responsible for it.  Dad really didn’t want more kids either because he’d looked around at the world and didn’t like the direction things were going.  He got involved with … with some people.” 

“Became part of something bigger?” 

“It wasn’t at the time.  Mom says mostly they were just a bunch of good ol’ boys having BS sessions to relieve some stress.  The big stuff grew out of that later.  Basically Dad didn’t want any more responsibilities than he already figured he was going to have with a career wife, seven kids, and the hog farm and hunting club he ran.  Plus there was the economy, stiff regulations, and fruity animal-rights people to deal with.” 

“But your mom got knocked up anyway.” 

“Yeah.  Plus she found out it was a two for one sale.  Fast forward and things are ok … even great in their eyes.  Alex and I were two and he starts reading and showing signs of being a genius.  They kept waiting for me …” 

“The twin.” 

“Yeah.  They kept waiting for me to catch up or show some other extraordinary talent.  All of my brothers and sisters started school early and excelled in school, sports, socially … you name it.” 

“But not you.” 

“Nope.  They finally gave up and … just … I was like the one no one ever talked about.  A lot of kids in school didn’t even know I was related to the big Beauchamp clan with all the great kids.  I even wound up going to a ‘special’ school for a while.  You have any idea what it is like to be a boy and not even being able to take the written driver’s test, fill out a job application … even read the stupid eye chart?  I dropped out of school as soon as I was legally able to and wound up a field hand on Dad’s farm … but … I can’t even read a list of chores.” 

“You must have a really good memory.” 

“Whu …?” 

“I said you must have a really good memory since you don’t write anything down.” 

“Uh …” 

“What next?” 

“Oh.  Er … I had already dropped out of school by the time the revenuers – backed by the IRS and the government – started confiscating assets of farmers and cattlemen.  The first time it happened in our area it was a good friend of Dad’s who ran a fish farm.  They used some crappy environment laws and shut his operation down and put him and his brother and son in jail for contempt … eventually convicted them of assault on federal officers and we never heard from them again.  But you know what?  That place reopened less than a month later; it had been bought at auction by some environmental group who ran it into the ground in less than six months.  While that was going on it seemed the revenuers were picking farms off one by one and putting them under new management and instituting price controls and things like that.  I’m not going to give you a history lesson but Dad was hooked in deep with … like-minded people … and he started taking action.  By the time they came for us there wasn’t anything but the land to take.  Dad and David had even dismantled all of the outbuildings and the main house.  A few years earlier Dad and some friends had created a shell company and bought this old derelict logging land and in the guise of rehabilitating it for the forestry service.  It fooled enough people for long enough that we fell off the radar and were safe … or as safe as you could get … so long as we were careful.  And we’ve stayed that way.  The revenuers are still a problem but because their activities are no longer sanctioned politically or legally – though they still operate pretty much how they want to – we can keep them under control using the same methods you talked about for those dust bunnies you mentioned.” 

“Ok.  What has all that got to do with you?  It sounds like you’re involved in something big … and maybe important.” 

“Who me?  Heck no.  Pretty much I’m still just a field hand … a gopher for whoever needs one.  It was going to change if I had hooked up with Patty because her and Fletcher’s uncle runs the construction end of things in the enclave and that’s where I was working at the time.  Mr. Devlin even used to say I had potential.” 

“Used to?” 

“Like I said, I didn’t take the break up too good and burnt a few too many bridges.  Fletcher is still a damn good friend and back then is who kept me from totally self-destructing by getting me this place to rehab.” 

“Wait, you built this place?” 

“No.  My job was to make it livable for when someone would need to move into it.  No one has yet so it just sort of sat here and I’d work on it whenever I was at loose ends or needed to get away.  Needs work again but mostly just cleaning.” 


“Wow what?” 

“What do you mean wow what?  I’ve never lived in a place as nice as this and you’re the one that did it.” 

“Er … anyway …” 

“But your family must have thought you could keep an eye on Alex.  You were on him like white on rice.  He hated having to be careful when you were around.  You should have heard him cuss.  It really cramped his style.” 

“Actually, I wasn’t supposed to.  Alex wrote Dad and said I was creating problems for the business and that it was my fault revenue was going down.  I was impeding his ability to do business.  I called him a liar; something just felt off.  I was able to get some evidence on him but Alex claimed that I had hired someone to fabricate it for me.  Then that thing with the loan shark and I reported it to Dad and David and got blamed for that too because apparently Alex had been forced to put his personal safety on the line to meet other contracts.” 

“Sounds like someone BSing their way out of trouble if you ask me.” 

“Did to me too.  And not just me.  A couple of people the family acts as middle men for heard and got concerned.” 

“Also blamed on you.” 

“Also blamed on me.  I was ‘stirring trouble’ to get back at Alex over Patty or something stupid like that.  And that’s where Fletcher comes into it.  He’s a real good guy and thought I had some grounds for concern.  Plus he’s training under Saul and has business experience from working with his uncle.  Everyone agreed he was just the guy to prove how wrong I was.” 

“Only he proved the exact opposite.” 

“And then some which really made things worse and harder and somehow that was my fault too.  Especially from what I hear when they learned about you … and then about Bean.  Dad and David are under some serious pressure.  People they’ve done business with for years are asking to see our books, questioning our loyalty to the enclave, questioning how long the problems have been going on.” 

“Are they right?” 

“No.  Things look ok until about six months ago.” 

“About the time that Alex …” 

“Thorn, did Alex rape you?” 

I laughed but it wasn’t cause things were funny.  “You can’t rape a whore.” 

“Like hell.  And don’t call yourself that.” 

“Roman this is old news.  It is what it is.  If anything it just proves my point that ..” 

“Don’t start that again.  What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m at the end of my rope and I don’t have too much reason anymore to tie a knot at the end and hold on.  I loved my grandfather but I don’t want to wind up like him and I’ve come damn close to picking up a bottle the last few months … feeling like I did after Patty chose Alex.  And every time I feel it coming on the feeling is harder to get rid of.  I honestly like the oblivion a good drunk gives you.” 

“You’re saying … uh … that saving Bean is saving you.” 

“Pretty much.  I’ll never be what my brothers are.  It just isn’t in me.  But the road my grandfather took isn’t the answer either.  I gotta find something different.  I tried the city; it isn’t for me.  I’ve tried working with the family; I’m tired of being everyone’s less man.  I feel … I feel like this is the last solid opportunity I’ll have.” 

He got up and went to go stand and look out the window.  “We could both start over.  I know you’ve got a lot of crap to deal with.  I don’t expect you to just suddenly flip the switch and be ok with everything that has happened to you.  And no I don’t like to think about it and I may say dumb things sometimes … but I’ll try and do it as little as possible.  And I know I can’t make what happened just go away and it’s going to take time to figure out the bedroom stuff.  If you want to know the truth of it I feel kind of desperate and pathetic about coming to you like this.  How the hell am I supposed to measure up against all those men that paid for the privilege of having you?” 

“Roman?  If you’re keeping tabs, that was a dumb thing to say.” 


I sighed.  “Men weren’t paying for the privilege of having me.  They paid by the minute to use me.  And it wasn’t me they paid but Mother Mary … my pimp.  I might be all used up.  I may have willingly accepted the contract with Alex at the time but that’s before I found out I was going to be locked up even worse, only by then it was too late.  I was relieved when he stopped using me.  Sometimes it was a relief just to be forgotten even if it meant going hungry.” 

“They’re predicting a bad year.  Winter might last all the way into May.  It’ll mean spending a lot of time together indoors.  You think you might could handle that?” 

“If I can put up with my own company I can stand yours.  But what would we do?” 

“Fletcher talked his uncle around and they’ll let me take the worst of the broken furniture off their hands to rehab and make of it what I can.  I also run trap lines and work hides and furs in season.” 

“Where’d you learn to do that?” 

“On the farm.  Health codes kept us from being able to use the most effective poisons so a lot of the infestations had to be taken care of and controlled by hand.  Then some of the hunt club members only wanted the meat and I watched videos on how to tan and things like that … you know … grunt work.  But lately it has been a way for me to be independent.  I’ve got enough to set us up but it’ll be tight.” 

“I don’t want to be a kept woman no more.” 

His shoulders slumped.  “Oh.” 

“I’ll only do this if one of the conditions is that I’m not just kept … but that … that I’m a partner and get to have a say in things.  ‘Cause I can buy my way in.” 


I was taking a chance Bean, a real chance.  I know it.  But Roman had dealt fair and square to that point so I decided to.  I got my bag.  “First off, I never paid for the food I used up.  Here,” I said handing him what I’d set aside to pay for things.  “Next, it’s not much of a buy in because Emerald said Alex was cheap but here, this is what I could save back once Emerald got her cut.  She owed me the last month’s accounting but I’m thinking I can forget ever seeing it.  Is this enough for me to buy in as a partner in this deal?”

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Chapter 20

I told her, “I am pretty sure you shouldn’t be here.” 

“What did you do to Roman?  He looks sick.  Did you hurt his feelings?” 

“Not that I’m aware of.  We were making a deal … he kinda wandered off to think for a bit.” 

“That’s not what it looked like.” 

“Then go ask Roman.  I’m not his keeper.” 

“But he’s yours.” 

“We’re talking about the possibility.” 

“No.  Father B has already declared that is going to be the way it is.” 

“Well whoever Father B is, they can undeclare it until after me and Roman have a chance to talk it over.  I didn’t escape one pimp only for another to try and own me.” 

She gasped.  “You … you …” 

“Like I said, I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be here.  You might hear something they don’t want you to hear … like the truth.  Now go away.” 

“I’m free to do as I wish.  I’m not some two bit piece of trash that came in off the trail to make people miserable with lies.” 

“Don’t be stupid.  It doesn’t matter what you think of me or how much you want to hide from the facts.  Roman’s dad and Saul will crap the Chrysler building if they find you here.  And Roman probably will too.  I’m thinking though that Roman’s mother might be even worse and I don’t want a run in with that woman.  She can be scary when she wants to be and Roman says that she’s the best about some stuff and … and … well I won’t pay her back by being nasty.  She let me hear Bean.” 

“Bean.  That’s what you call … call that …” 

“Bean is not a ‘that’ or an ‘it’ now please go away.” 

“You can’t tell me what to do.” 

“Maybe not but you can tell yourself to use commonsense.  Now scram.  I won’t pay Roman’s mom back like this and I don’t want trouble from anyone else either.” 

Someone cleared their throat and we both jumped.  It was Saul and Mrs. Beauchamp.  Her look could have frozen Satan while he was sitting in a sauna when she said, “Patricia.” 

Just one word.  Not even an order or anything.  But that girl sure moved.  Mrs. Beauchamp reminds me more and more of Mother Mary and that is not a good thing I can tell you that.   

“I wish to have a discussion with you.” 

I was tempted to say so long as your discussion doesn’t involve hitting then go for it … but I didn’t.  She isn’t the type to put up with sass and I’m not sure I want to find out if her remedy is as interesting as Mother Mary’s could be. 

“Roman … is upset this morning.” 

“You mean just now upset or before we started talking he was upset?” 

“I presume it was something that just occurred.” 

“Oh … well I taught him how to read the word cow.  It seemed to perturb him.  He needed to go off and think about it for a bit.” 

“I beg your pardon?” 

“About what?” 

“Let me rephrase that.  My s … s … Roman has severe learning disabilities and cannot read.” 

“He has challenges.  So do lots of other people.  And he can read … or just did.  He just might not ever read really good.” 

“Well.  He may not ever read really well.” 

“At least you seem to be admitting that he can.  Before you said that he cannot.” 

I saw Saul turned his head away like he wasn’t interested in being blinded by the flash explosion that seemed likely to occur if Mrs. Beauchamp’s face was any measure of how things stood. 

“Are you being disrespectful?” 

“No, just stating facts.  Unfortunately you folks aren’t the only ones in the world that seem to lose sight of them on a regular basis.” 

“And what is that supposed to mean?” 

“It means that you came here looking for a fight and you did it by saying something stupid about your son … Roman, not the other ones that by all I’ve heard are actually archangels that came to earth ‘cause you and Mr. Beauchamp are just so special.  Only somehow you feel like Roman is the dud that got snuck in on you.  Well he isn’t a dud … he’s just a man like all other men and has his faults just like the rest of them too.  I admit he does annoy me by acting like I’m some stray he’s got to fix but I’m thinking about letting him so long as he and I get it straight that this is about Bean and not about me.  I’m not fixable.  Bean doesn’t need to be fixed, they’re just going to need someone that won’t object or get in the way of me teaching Bean about safe.  And Roman really has this thing about family so I figure that is good too.” 

“How would you know about the depths of connection in a family?” she asked. 

I glanced at Saul but he was still looking away so I figured either they had decided not to tell her or they hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  I shrugged.  “Maybe I don’t know personally but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have enough brains to figure out that the more people on Bean’s side the better.  If that’s what a family is for then that is what I want for Bean.  Roman can be family.  I just don’t like …” 

“Like what?” she asked and I got the feeling it was against her preference to ask. 

“I don’t like that it looks like he is having to sacrifice to do it.  Oh I know he doesn’t think you all really want him around to begin with and someone has to take the crap work, even in a family; but, Roman really isn’t all that bad.  Kinda a little bit soft hearted but some people just are I guess.  He reminds me of my brother in a lot of ways.” 

“You … you have a brother?” 

“I wasn’t exactly hatched and left under a cabbage leaf for Mother Mary to find.  She’s the woman that owned the whore house.” 

Saul growled and I told him, “Relax.  Mrs. Beauchamp is a grown woman and I heard she used to be a nurse.  And she sure as heck ain’t made of glass.  You want to know the truth she’s scarier than you are and you should really take some notes.  One word and she had that Patty girl moving and it was the same way with those others … Missy, Regina, and the one that Roman said was his sister Vicki.  I don’t see you doing nothing but growling and I sure ain’t moving for some man that can’t use words that can be found in a dictionary.” 

Saul glared and said, “In case Roman hasn’t gotten to this part of it yet, you are required to speak respectfully with members of the enclave and behave appropriately.” 

“Well la-dee-da Mr. Saul … haven’t you figured out yet that I’m too ignorant to know how to act.  Yes siree … I’m just a dock ho’ and …” 

“Thorn, can’t I leave you alone for two seconds without coming back to find you in trouble?!”  Roman stood shaking his head.  “Knock it off.  I told you to be careful around Saul and that you weren’t going to like some of the conditions.” 

“You also told me I wouldn’t have to be around any of the men.  Well unless I’m sadly mistaken Saul is one of the men and he’s around, so which is it going to be.  Do I have to put up with them or not?” 

“Saul is the exception.” 

“How many exceptions are there going to be and Alex better not be one of them.” 

“No, Alex will NOT be one of the exceptions.  That was one of my conditions so you don’t need to worry about that.” 

“You sure?  ‘Cause they let him run loose once and he tried to … to hurt Bean.” 

“I’m sure.  But that’s one more reason why we’re out here rather than back in the enclave.” 

“Where is here anyway?  I know it is a different place than the other one.  They didn’t kick you out did they?” 

“No Thorn,” he said with a sigh.  “They did not kick me out.  And we’ll talk about where here is as soon as we get some other things straightened out.” 

“Ok, so long as here is a place that is safe.” 

“Yeah, here is safe.” 

“Ok.  Fine then.  What’s the other stuff you need to straighten out?” 

“We need to straighten out.  We’re making a deal remember?” 

“That’s what I mean.” 

“That’s not what you said.  First thing first.  You aren’t a prisoner.” 

“Roman, get off it already.  I’m not some pathetic little whatever that you need to … I don’t know … whatever it is you think you need to do.  All I’m looking for is a place for Bean.  You aren’t half bad at this deal stuff so I’m willing to reconsider about around here being where I can stop and give Bean safe.” 

Mrs. Beauchapm obviously did not like being left out of the conversation.  “Young la … woman …” 

Roman surprised me – and from the looks of them Mrs. Beauchamp and Saul too – by saying, “Mom, I’ve got this.  Let Saul take you back home.  You and him are only making things harder.” 

“Well, that a son of mine would …” 

I rolled my eyes, “Roman, just let ‘em stay so we can get this over with.  But first I need to go to the bathroom so you better tell me where it is and get out of the way.  Bean is not making this sitting still stuff very easy.” 

Roman got red and said, “It’s out back.  Uh …” 

“No.  I do need you trailing me to the bathroom like some kind of pervert.  I’m not completely stupid.  I will go there and I will come back.  I will not run away.  I will not cause trouble.  And close your eyes, I don’t have to let men see me no more.  Besides, Alex pretty much let me know that I’m gross looking and the way I’m feeling right now I don’t want to have to clean up some man’s puke just ‘cause he got an eye full he didn’t want.” 

“Now Thorn …” 

I ignored him because I could and when I got to the front door I asked, “Left or right?  And stop looking.” 

“I’m not looking already.  Left.” 

“Then stop following me or is that part of your job?” 

He sighed.  “Knock it off.  I’m tired of fighting with you.” 

“Fine.  But that still doesn’t mean you can look.” 

“Will you just go already?!” 

I did but I came out feeling not so hot.  It must have showed on my face because Mrs. Beauchamp, who must have come out to make sure we knew how to do things, told Roman, “She is no condition to run anywhere so I can at least let them know that isn’t a concern at this time.” 

I didn’t say it but I could have told her that she obviously did not know me at all and underestimated my determination and how much I could take … and how much I would put up with.  Instead I used a little commonsense and kept my mouth shut which for some reason had Roman looking at me suspiciously before taking my arm and saying, “Just let me help without giving me any grief about it.” 

“Fine.  But I’m not helpless.” 

“You’re as helpless as a rabid panther but that doesn’t mean you don’t need help once in a while.” 

I could accept that and by the time we got back in the house I was shivering.  “You need a coat.” 

“I could have taken a cover but I didn’t want to get it dirty in the bathroom.  That place needs a serious scrubbing.” 

Mrs. Beauchamp said, “Yes it does.  I also expect you to clean the rest of this house.  I may not agree with Roman’s choices but I will not see him suffer because of some … some over inflated se …” 

“Aunt Margaret …” 

I told Saul, “Oh stop it.  Let the woman express herself.  She’s more polite about it than most would be.  All she is saying is that I best behave or she’ll know about it and get involved.  That’s fine by me.  It lays it all out on the table.  And besides, I don’t want on her bad side.  Roman says his mother is the best about baby stuff and that means she’s what is best for Bean.  If you want something in this life you gotta be willing to give something.  If I gotta give minding her to get her for Bean, that’s the way it’s gotta be.” 

“I cannot be bribed.” 

“I’m not talking about bribery.  I’m talking about paying what is due on account for Bean’s sake.” 

Roman said, “Enough.  Get back in bed.” 

“I can’t clean if I’m in bed.” 

“You can start that after you aren’t the color of a rancid mushroom.  Now get back in bed or I’ll put you there.” 

Mrs. Beauchamp must be the kind of woman that is the one that likes to give the orders.  “Roman Douglas Beauchamp.” 

“Mom, don’t take this the wrong way but your way isn’t going to work here.  Neither is Dad’s or Andrew’s … and Peter better just back off all together before him and me get into it again.  Saul probably understands better and even he don’t get it all the way.  Thorn and I will work this out, make a deal that works for us and the enclave and then everyone can go back to doing what they want to do.” 

“And Alex?  He’s left with this … this … scar … trauma …” 

“Mom, you and I are just going to have to disagree on this.  Alex was wrong.  Talk to Dad if he can even bring himself to tell you.  If not … Saul you do it.  Someone needs to but she won’t believe it if it comes from me.” 

“Hey!  I said …” 

Roman turned around and very quietly said, “Your story isn’t going to get spread around.  I don’t think they dare … for lots of reasons.  But Mom needs to know.  It’s not fair to keep her in the dark.  Not about this.  And she needs to know for Bean’s sake too.  It might make a difference.  Mom is always up in arms about young girls having babies and you fall into that category.” 

“What do you mean she falls into that category?” 

I rolled my eyes.  “Don’t worry about it Mrs. Beauchamp.  Roman is just hypersensitive.  It’s not his fault and it isn’t anyone’s fault that is still around to kick around about it.” 

“Excuse me?” she said like I was trying to fool her on purpose.  Honestly Bean, that woman doesn’t know when to give it up already. 

Roman interrupted.  “Saul, take her to Dad.  I don’t know, maybe they can work it out between them or something.  Just give me some space to try and make a deal with Thorn.” 

Saul sighed and said, “Patty is around here someplace.” 

“What?!  Oh that’s just great.  More for Alex to come unglued about.” 

I patted his arm. “I told her she probably wasn’t supposed to come around and I was nice about it.  Ask your mom.  I know she’s … something … to you I mean.” 

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?’ 

“I told you I could tell about people – human nature and all that – and Alex was having too much fun just egging you on about it and a couple of other people have let her name drop.  Now I know she is Alex’s wife so that must mean there is a story there but that’s none of my business.  But my business IS making sure you don’t think I’d get into your business and stir trouble so …” 

Roman just shook his head.  “You are a piece of work.  And we might as well get this out in the open right now before witnesses so you don’t get all sorts of dumb ideas and this just gets harder.  Yes, Patty and I were sitting on her uncle’s porch together after she came to live with him.  At least before Alex started showing up and then pushed me out of the way.  Patty is a sweet and likable girl and she wasn’t always treated very nice in her father’s house and I tried to … to make her feel better.  But I went and read too much into the time we spent together.  I … I thought there was more to it than there was and what went down was Patty’s choice, not mine.  I didn’t like it at the time and pouted like an idiot which just gave people more fuel to … to think less of me than I’d like.  But I was nineteen and have outgrown it and her.  And I swear that is all there is to it.  I have no clue why people keep bringing it up any more than I understand why they are forever making such a big deal out of Alex and I being twins.  Just because it is a big deal for some people doesn’t mean those situations have to be a big deal for everyone.  Including me.  Understand?” 

“Not particularly but if that means that I don’t have to step on eggshells around her then fine.  She sure don’t like me none but I thought it was because of you so I tried to … uh … defuse the situation so there wouldn’t be trouble.” 

“Patty could care less about me.  She loves Alex just like everyone else.  She’s probably just upset about the entire situation.”  He turned to Saul.  “Patty needs to know the truth too.  I’ve already talked to Andrew and he agrees.  So does David.  Dad is still sticking his fingers in his ears and going la-la-la.  The only way you people are going to be able to get the Alex back you want is to make sure none of this gets swept under the rug or it is just going to fester and maybe happen again.  You know how Alex can be about people … if he doesn’t have any reason to respect them he doesn’t.” 

To me he said, “In the bed … willing or not that’s where you are going to go.  If you won’t do it for yourself then do it for Bean.” 

Well I couldn’t fight him there and I wasn’t up for any more fighting of any kind to be honest.  I was all wore out again.  I must have fallen asleep and when I woke up everyone was gone … or at least I thought so.  I didn’t need to go to the bathroom but lying in bed wondering what was going on gave me an upset stomach so I got up and walked around.  The door was closed so I knew they meant for me to stay in the bedroom. 

Bean, this bedroom is about the nicest place I’ve ever been … at least that I can remember.  There is real wood on the wall and on the floor too.  The bed is a real bed and it is up off the floor.  There’s other furniture in the room too and I was real tempted to go snooping but I didn’t.  I was messing with the window and I thought I’d broken it until I figured out it opened and closed and could lock and unlock.  Me playing with the window let Roman and his sister Vicki know I was awake.  When Mrs. Beauchamp isn’t around Vicki is as bossy as she is but eventually she left and it was just Roman and me. 

“You up to finishing our deal?” 

“I guess.” 

“I wish I could make it easier on you.” 

“Don’t worry about that and just spit it out.” 

“You … you should sit down.” 

“That bad?” 

“I have a feeling you’re going to think so.”  He sighed.  “Andrew is being a total butthead.  I don’t care if he is a preacher that doesn’t exempt him from being one.  And after Mom got all the facts … she’s mortified.  And she’s really angry too but doesn’t know who to be angriest at.” 

“It isn’t exactly her business.” 

“Mom tends to make stuff her business.  Most of the time that’s a good thing.  This time?  She’s … she’s hurting.  I know you don’t think so but she is.” 

“I never said she wasn’t hurting.  I … well she’s just more angry than hurt from what I can tell.  And I don’t want to be in the blast zone when she blows.” 

“She … she won’t blow.  Mom doesn’t.  Ever.  She just gets … brittle … to deal with.  But right now it is Andrew being the biggest …” 


“Yeah,” he sighed.  “Thorn if it isn’t me they’ll make it someone else.  It’s the rules.” 

“Taking responsibility for Bean?” 

“Yeah.  But … more than that.  They expect the baby … look they are at least admitting that the baby is Alex’s.” 

“I told you …” 

“It’s just a figure of speech.  I’m in one hundred percent agreement that Alex isn’t ever going to have anything to do with Bean or you so drop that off your radar.  I’ll move us further up the mountain if they try that route.” 

“I’ll fight if they try that route.” 

“You won’t have to.  They think Alex will change his spots … he won’t.  I think he’s gone too far to come back.  Andrew wants there to be absolution and redemption.  It’s the other he said that has created this situation.” 

“What other?” 

“He says that if they’re gonna do that for Alex they have to do it for you.  Which is right but instead of just giving it they want to actively make it.” 

“Uh … what’s that mean?” 

“The rules of the enclave have to be followed but the family’s reputation is at stake also.  So not only do the rules have to be followed but the whole situation needs to be white washed.” 

“Are … are they going to disappear me?  Like they do in the city?” 

“No!  No they are not.  They … they say the baby has to be born a Beauchamp.  The only unattached male Beauchamp besides me is a cousin that is already seeing a girl who he plans to marry.  And Peter … but it’s a toss up as to who would kill who first, you or Peter.  He means well – in a dumbass older brother way – and he would do it but neither of you would be happy.  Ever.” 

“What … what are you … they …?” 

“Easy Thorn.  Trust me I know how this sounds.” 

“I bet you don’t.” 

“I bet I do.  I’ve been listening to them go at it almost since we arrived.  On top of the rest of it Missy and Mom have had their first big blow up ever.  Usually they are in lock step about stuff.  Missy says you are too young – which I agree with except you don’t act young – and too traumatized – which I worry about – to even be considering this.  Missy really got mad and even Vicki had a few things to say about it.  Patty is in some kind of denial which is sort of expected I guess but all her hysterics did was add to the noise.  What a nightmare.” 

“Roman?  Exactly what kind of deal are we talking about?  This isn’t … well … it doesn’t sound like what I had been thinking we were talking about.” 

“A deal that if you don’t accept it they’ll send you off to the mines to work as a housekeeper or something like that, then they’d try and take Bean away and raise him or her as a Beauchamp directly.  Only, regardless of what you decide, I won’t let that happen.  Like I said, we’ll move up the mountain and to … and to hell with ‘em.  I promised to look after you and Bean.” 


“It would be common law.  We don’t believe in having the government get involved in this stuff.  But there is no denying that problems could come from that, your age for one thing if it gets out.” 


“And for … uh … what?” 

Quietly I asked, “Is this … a contract?  Are you going to own me?  Like Alex?  For how long?” 

“No!  Definitely not that … at least not like that.  And we’ll own each other.  Basically as for how long?  It’s … it’s supposed to be forever.  Um … are you going to puke?  You look funny.” 

“No, I don’t think so.”  Hesitantly I asked, “I wouldn’t ever have to have to be with any other man?  Ever?” 

“That’s … er … the general idea.  And I wouldn’t be with anyone else either.” 



“Why would you say yes to this?” 

“I … Thorn I just am.  I don’t … look, thinking about it being anyone else is just not acceptable.  I promised to take care of Bean … and you … not some other guy.  I keep my promises.” 

“What happens when Bean is old enough to take care of themselves?” 

“What if we decide to … to have more Beans?” 

“What if I’m only good for one Bean?  What happens?” 

“I don’t know.  What if you don’t want to have Beans with me after you’ve had this one?” 

“I … I never thought about anyone wanting to have Beans with me.  And thinking too many tomorrows ahead makes me want to puke again.” 

“What about the tomrrows you can think about?  You have a problem spending them with me?” 

“Would we fight like we do now?” 

“Eh … I won’t lie, probably some.  But I’ll do my part to try and keep it to a minimum.  What about you?” 

“I … I …”  It was the biggest deal I have ever brokered Bean.  Seriously. 

“Thorn I’d give you time but …” 

“They want the mess cleared up, swept away, and out of sight?” 

“I hate to admit the truth of it but yeah.  That’s exactly how they see things.” 

“And it makes it easier on them that you … that you’re the one willing to fall on your sword?” 


“I read it in a magazine article once.  I think it means if you sacrifice yourself, you take all the blame and bad things with you.” 

“Let ‘em think that if they can.  I’m doing this for Bean … and you … and maybe me too.  This is something I know I can do.  Maybe it’s the one thing I can be good at.  I’ll try.  No … I will do it right.  I just need the chance Thorn.” 

I looked at Roman, I mean really looked at him Bean.  Looked at him beyond what he looks like on the outside which isn’t all that hard to look at to tell the truth about it.  But he’s the kind of man that always bothered me.  He’s the kind that would want to be nice and would wind up hurt when all I do is fight. 

“Roman, are you forgetting something?” 


“I’m a whore.  Do I really need to explain to you what that means?  I’m sure Alex …” 


“No.  I can’t let you do this.  I know whores are supposed to be ruthless and ..” 

“Thorn I said stop.  Now.  I’m not sacrificing nothing to do this.  I don’t have anything to lose.” 

“Yes you do.  Family and reputation and …” 

He took me by my shoulders and made me sit in one of the chairs and he sat in the other facing me.  Then we really got down to it.