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Clem froze. He had never considered the complications of really going out in public with her. A shopping trip was one thing, but a public restaurant was a completely different situation. The town was small. He had lived here a long time. Even though he stayed to himself, a few people knew him. There was a strong chance they would be seen together by someone who knew him.
If they went into town he would have to trust her and her acting ability. Once again everything depended on Sarah.
Clem said very little as he headed across the hall to the shower. Sarah continues an excited conversation as she dressed.
“How dressed up should I get, Scotty”
She hollered from the bedroom.
“Maybe I will just pick something out and see if I can make you proud of me.”
Sarah was downstairs when he finished his shower. Back in the bedroom he was putting on a blue shirt and tan Dockers when he heard steps on the stairs and Sarah appeared at the bedroom door.
She was beautiful. She was wearing a cotton summer dress and a light weight cardigan sweater. Her dress was quite thin, white with blue trim, short, cute. Her sweater matched her eyes and accented her long pony tail.
“How do I look? Proud of me?”
Clem emotions welling up in his throat; she was beautiful. She looked very special for a summer’s evening. It was a lovely conservative outfit until one noticed the dress was perhaps a little too short and quite thin. The outline of her panties was ever so slightly visible through the thin material.
He tried to relax a little; maybe he was just an over protective guy in love with her.
No one else would even notice; but he did and it was enough to drive him wild.
“You look good enough to eat,”
“Maybe I can be dessert if you are good,”
It was six when they pulled into Clem’s favorite place to eat…the Antlers Inn.
When they got out of the car in the parking lot, Sarah spun around in front of him as they came together behind the car. Her arms went around his neck and she went up on her tip toes to kiss him on the chin. She smiled,
“Scotty, this is going to be so much fun. Please do not worry. We are in this together. It is easy to see why it stresses you, but nothing bad is going to happen. I love you.”
She took his hand and they walked across toward the entry door. Clem was a nervous wreck. Sarah was way too cute. People here knew him, he ate her often. Once again his fate was placed in the hands of this young lady and her acting ability.
He released her hand as he opened the door for her. She looked at him with a little grin.
“You look so nice. I love you in a blue shirt. I am so excited. I like being with you, it’s like I belong to you. Don’t worry; this is going to be fun.”
They were seated next to a window which looked out toward the woods behind the restaurant.
Clem immediately wanted to talk to Sarah about who might possibly interrupt their dinner. He wanted to coach her on what to say and what not to say. For example, she should avoid any mention of staying overnight at his place. That would create too many questions. She was just here for a day visit. She was related, but do not say how….on and on he had to talk through these things.
But, before he could get started with the lecture, Clara, a waitress who knew him for sure, came over with menus and water. She had served Clem many times before and, truth be known, she had showed interest in getting to know him; but he was such an enigma…good looking but a real loner and his lifestyle had created so many rumors.
“Hi, Clem Warren how are you doing?
And who is this young lady?”
Before he could answer either question, Sarah looked up from her menu and offered,
“Hi, I am Mr. Warren’s niece from New York.”
For a girl her age, her expression was a real study; friendly, but firm. (This is the answer, no further questions are needed.)
Clara, who was normally quite a curious chatter box, seemed taken aback by the forthright answer. She smiled; said she hoped Sarah was enjoying being in the country and asked just one quick question about how long Sarah would be visiting. Sarah answered indicating she was really having fun, she said nothing about the length of the stay, and the waitress was off to get two ice teas.
Clara had not crossed to the kitchen door before a rather large good looking woman and her son came over and sat down at Clem’s table.
“Well Clem Warren how nice to see you. Just had to pop over here and say hello before your dinner came out. How have you been? We haven’t seen much of you in a while.”
This was a lady that Clem knew well. Jane was the divorced wife of the hardware store owner and had been living in a cottage out by the lake for the last five years.
As the visitors approached and seated themselves, Sarah sensed the dynamics right away. It was so obvious to anyone who read much. Jane had made several plays for Clem over the years. A good plot Sarah thought, but the real question was…had Clem ever had interest in her? For the first time in her young life she had a pang of jealousy. She looked at Clem and found it reassuring he was looking right back at her, but he did have a strange glint in his eyes and a little coy smile? At times he could look like a bit of a rascal. Did he understand how she felt?
Jane had been given full custody of her fourteen year old son, Bill. He was a handsome lad and a little tall for his age. From the moment they sat down his interest in Sarah was obvious. He was sitting across a corner of the table from her and his eyes never left her.
Clem noted that Sarah made no effort to close her sweater.
Jane started right in following introductions. Jane asked Sarah one question followed by another. Clem had no chance to speak. Clearly she wanted to hear her answers from the young woman. Meanwhile, her son sat staring at this beautiful city girl seemingly just waiting for a chance to get in on the action as well. The questions came very fast. She had Sarah cornered.
When would the kid stop being so obviously staring at her breasts? Why doesn’t she cover up a bit?
Wild mixed emotions welled up in Clem. One by one the questions landed. One by one she handled each one perfectly, but when would she slip up.
Bill’s stare was bad enough, but thing got worse when he returned from a trip to the restroom. He actually picked his chair up and moved it closer to Sarah’s.
Jealousy surged through Clem. He had never felt anything like it.
Jane’s questions had moved on to how long Sarah would be staying.
Sarah finally found a quiet moment and answered,
“Mrs. Jane I really don’t know. My parents are traveling…they are abroad, having the trip of a life time…I really like it here…I will probably have to go back home when they get back.”
It was a great answer, surprising in its detail without saying anything for sure.
Jane quieted for a moment.
Billy immediately started to fill the momentary silence. Right away he invited Sarah to come to the lake swimming on her first free day. Sarah just nodded in a noncommittal friendly fashion.
Jane jumped back in. Talking about the possibility of Sarah actually staying out at the cottage for a while where she could have a lot more fun. The lake was the place to be if she was just here for a short vacation. How could a big old apple orchard compare with the lake, a boat and the beach when it came to good summer fun!
Sarah looked directly at Clem and with a quick glance she communicated directly to him, her special definition of “fun”!
Clem had no way of knowing where Jane was going with all the questions and invitations. Did she know şişli escort how small his house was? Was she probing to just learn more? He was nervous as a cat.
Just then several things happened, one right after the other, to put the evening back on keel.
Sarah diplomatically declined the offer to stay in the cottage. She loved the smell of the apple trees, she loved working to save money for college, and she even enjoyed getting up real early in the morning for coffee at her uncle’s picnic table.
As she was talking, she moved in closer to the table and found Clem’s hand underneath. With one squeeze she set his mind at easy about Bill.
Then she closed her sweater and declined the invitation to go swimming as well.
“Thanks for the invitation to swim, Bill. Sounds like fun but right now I am too busy. It might be nice to do later once I have my feet on the ground with the work. Right now I am learning how to help with trimming and we are really going at it. It’s the big season for trimming. There is so much to do….”
Clem’s was amazed; she seemed so mature. Her answers could not have been better.
Finally, the food arrived and Jane and Bill said a friendly goodbye and moved across the room to their table.
Sarah was still holding his hand firmly under the table.
“How did I do?”
She asked with a quick furtive glance?
“Very, very good lady.”
“You handled everything very well. You may have guessed I never cared much for that woman. She is too pushy and bossy. Her son seems nice though.”
Sarah looked at him and tightened her grip; she could sense he was fishing,
“Scotty, you were jealous, weren’t you?”
A serious look came across his face as he answered,
“Listen mister, I love you. I slept with you last night and I think we are going to sleep together again tonight unless you throw me out. I love being with you. I love our house in the orchards. I want nothing to do with anyone else.
I’m starved and besides I don’t like to swim.”
She added with one of her impish grins.
With that Sarah stood up and pushed her chair closer to his similar to the way Bill had moved his earlier.
Sarah started to eat and for the first time her eyes came away from Clem. After several minutes enjoying the food, she looked up and for the first time seemed a little nervous,
“About your friend, Jane; all her questions were easy; all my answers came right out of Harlequin novels. But Scotty she really bothers me. You know she really wants to get it on with you. Did she ever…”
Clem cut her off sensing a little jealousy on her part as well,
“Listen, in the years since my wife died, I have never had a female I was interested in, in any way until you came along.”
She looked at him still with some doubt,
Listen lady, I slept with you just this afternoon and I think we are going to….”
He went on to paraphrase her earlier comment.
Finished with the conversation, they sat for a moment just looking at one another smiling. They had come so far, they could say so much to one another with just an exchange of glances.
Their loving smiles ended the jealousy thoughts for now and without another word they returned to eating.
Clem looked across at Sarah. She was obviously hungry. It created a unique time; he could look at her, study her, without her disarming smile and flashing blue eyes taking his mind away. She was so special in so many ways. Yes, she sat there looking like a million bucks, but there was so much more to her; such complexity. She was the definition of a woman/girl. Others in the restaurant, watching her (and everyone seemed to be) would conclude she was just a very attractive young woman wearing a special summer dress to dinner. Escorted by a guy who seemed to adore her. That is unless they got to talk to her. Then they would realize she was so much more. They would find they had met their match. She was a worldly woman; her thinking and responses were mature; educated, and organized.
Clem realized how very special this she was. It scared him terribly to think of how much he needed her, and how dangerous it was. He needed to talk with her and very soon. His heart swelled to bursting with love, jealousy, worry, and the tremendous responsibility her young life imposed.
Sarah glanced up, her fork posed over her food.
She carefully placed the fork beside her plate and went to her lap as if to get her napkin. Instead, she went beyond and grasped his hand.
“Listen mister, eat your food. You are going to need your energy. Quit thinking bad things. You have thought yourself back into a worry warp. We are together and everything is wonderful.”
Clem laughed out loud,
“You little vixen, you know too much.”
Around ten they were home. The restaurant thing had gone very well. The food was good.
Much later court records indicated that among the many town folks questioned by investigators, were both Clara, the waitress, and Jane.
Clara was not subpoenaed after the initial in questioning by police. Her responses during the initial investigation did not provide much negative fodder for the courts. She recalled vividly, Clem and Sarah coming into the Antlers not only that night, but afterward on a fairly regular basis during that summer and more infrequently later on. She had nothing but good comments. Sarah had impressed her as a healthy, good natured, happy, young woman; perhaps a little protective of her “uncle” Clem. Clem was his normal quiet, handsome self. Clara admitted to the investigator that she had some interest in Clem and might not be completely impartial. He tipped well.
Jane was subpoenaed after her initial investigative report got to the courts. Jane had indicated she thought there was something unusual about the relationship between Clem and Sarah right from the start. She felt Clem clearly showed way too much interest in Sarah and exhibited signs of stress. That portion of her testimony was discounted a bit when she too admitted she had an unrequited interest in Clem for some time.
It was her comments about Sarah that caught interest with the prosecuting attorney and in the press. She has seen Sarah and Clem together many times that summer and afterward. Her son had tried to date Sarah numerous times to no avail. Sarah came across to Jane as a young woman on a mission and that mission was to take advantage of an unusual bond. Jane told the court in her opinion Sarah was way too out going for her age. She was definitely trying to act older than she was. She has something going on with Clem Warren and was trying to cover thing up.
To substantiate her thinking she offered only the somewhat mature clothing she sometimes wore and the seemingly well thought out but nebulous answers she would come up with.
Sarah talked all the way back from town to the Apple Valley Orchards. She was excited. Eating out and meeting people in town, with Clem, had given her identity…a stronger sense of belonging. She had been in public with the man she loved and respected. For the first time in her life she felt like a real person. For the first time in her life she had been truly involved, and equal. At the estate her role was so nebulous, so artificial. She was a shadow. She never fit in. Everyone had other things and other people full time, with little time for Sarah.
This evening she went to town with a man, who loved her, she was important in his life and this evening that importance was unveiled. He was so proud of her and she was happy and proud as well.
Clem parked in the barn, closed the door, and together they walked up to the house in the dark. Sarah took his hand as soon as it was free or the barn door and held it tightly every step of the way.
As they passed the picnic table, Clem sat down and pulled Sarah down to sit across his lap.
“That dress is so cute on you; I don’t want to run the risk of it getting dirty on this old bench”
She turned in his arms and their lips met.
“Sounds like an excuse from a horny guy.”
She smiled and kissed him again.
Then things went silent between them. For some time the night sounds prevailed, neither of them moved, no words were spoken. There was such feeling flowing between them and both were aware of the ever increasing bond that was growing stronger by the minute. Two people who needed love, respect, appreciation and worth, had found it in full measure with one another. Two people with such emptiness in their lives had found so much in common, so many interests, so many desires.
It was a full hour of starlight and wonderful night sounds before they got up and hand in hand moved on toward the back door.
Up in the bedroom Clem took off his clothes and put on a light weight robe.
Sarah had gone directly to the bathroom. As he headed down the stairs he stopped outside the bathroom door. It was interesting to hear her in there. It was really nice to have her in the house. Even her bathroom noises communicated companionship.
Clem was down in the living room, seated in his favorite big chair, with the late news on when Sarah came down to join him. She was wearing another of his T-shirts and was smiling widely, as she came over and sat down across his lap, letting her legs dangle over the wide arm of the easy chair. Clem’s left arm went behind her shoulders and brought her in close. His hand came to rest high on her bare legs.
Her lips came over to the side of his neck and his right hand started to move along her legs.
She murmured her approval.
She stopped kissing his neck and looked up at him. Her happiness was so obvious, so genuine.
“In case I have never made it clear, I love it here with you, mister. I am happy. I feel safe. I know it sounds like a story book, but this is where we belong.”
Clem looked down; one more time feeling of dishonest, cheating and unfairness swept over him. Why did he think it was necessary to spoil this? He loved her so, he felt like he was the luckiest man in the world; but there were things he had to say. Things she had to know. Otherwise he was living and loving her in absolute dishonesty. She had to know the truth about him, about his past and the problems it imposed on his life.
“Sarah, I need to talk to you.”
Her face turned toward him, serious, reflecting the tone in his voice.
Clem removed his right hand to pull the T-shirt down as much as he could. Finished he reached down to bring her knees together against him. Her shoulders were cradled into his left arm and her head rested beside his.
“Sarah, please listen, these are things I want you know. These are things that are very hard for a young person to comprehend, but I want you to try.
We have gotten so close and we get closer with each hour, each day; and as I have concerns that do not go away, they grow stronger. We have got to have an understanding between us. There are things you must know about me; things I have not told you.
First, I love you more than you can imagine. I have never told anyone what I am about to tell you.
Our love is not without a lot of risk we both know that and have talked a lot about it.
I take my side of the risks, because I love you. I understand you. I understand the lonely times, the lonely life rattling around in that enormous house where essentially your parents deserted you. I understand why, at least for a while, living here is such a neat adventure. You may grow tired of this at anytime, but I will take my risks.
It is your side of all this that really scares me. You know so much about me now, but there are things about me you don’t know; important things that ruin the adventure. I am not who I seem to be. You think you love me, but you are young and impressionable and you are in love with only what you know about me. If this love were to continue, someday you would learn these other things and hate me for hiding them from you.
Sarah, when I graduated from college I was a married man and an officer in the Army. My wife and I were very in love and anxious to build a life together. But that was not to be. I was shipped overseas for a three year tour just a year after we were married. The tour of duty was way nasty and long. The army and the fighting change me, matured me into someone I did not like.
When I finally got back to California I had to wait over night before shipping on home from the west coast to Michigan. Me and my army buddies went out to celebrate. I got into a terrible fight with my closest friend. We were both drunk.
I killed him, Sarah. I killed him!
I woke up in a jail the next morning. It was a nightmare. He was my friend, my buddy, my fellow soldier. The trial was my worst nightmare.
I was convicted of man slaughter. The court gave me five year in prison and five years parole. It seemed like a life time and for me it almost was. Nothing changes a man like a long prison sentence.
When I was released I had been away from home a total of nine years, four in the service, and five in prison. My wife had given up on me long ago, divorced me while I was serving time, and found someone else. My parents were both gone. I was completely alone and broke with no job and as a convicted felon finding a job was impossible.
I came home and tried as hard as I could, but it took years for me to recover. I finally came up here and bought this old orchard with a big loan as a way to lose myself in something I could love. I had work as a felon if I owned the place. I became a recluse. Do you know what that is?”
She turned to him,
“Yes Scotty, there are lots of examples of recluses in books I have read; how about Weldon’s Pond? Ever read it?”
“Well Sarah that is not the end of my story. My life here was lonely but very good. I loved the apple business, except it was always a struggle to meet the mortgage on the orchard.
The former owner of this property was a wonderful attractive lady my age. This is Michigan and there was a lot of money made up here in the car business. She inherited all the land around here from her father, who was head of the Kaiser Car family.
The short version of the next chapter is that she was pleased I was willing to buy these old family orchards and try to work them again. She had owner financed the entire farm to me, as borrowing money from a bank to by land is impossible for anyone, let alone a felon. She came out several times to see my progress. We fell in love. She became my partner, then my wife. She loved it out here. She loved working the trees with me to make this succeed. Our years together were the happiest I had known, but five years ago she passed away. Just like that. Inherited heart problems she never mentioned.
I cannot tell you the loneliness, the pain, the depressing anxiety I went through.
Once again, it took me years to get back on my feet, to get back to what you found when you came riding down the road. I own the farm, I am beholding to no one, but I became a recluse of the highest order.
Now you know my background. I know you love me, but we must be realistic together. There is no way that we can become the next chapter for one another. Along with everything else you now know I am a convicted felon.
We must get you back to your normal life as seamlessly as we can. I understand it is very lonely at home now, but believe me it is going to change and very soon. You are beautiful, smart and witty. You have college ahead and that will take you to wonderful places with grand people. You will meet some great guy with whom you can truly fall in love and find the world.
I will help you; I will do everything in my power to get you back on track smoothly, we must let you take your pride back with you even if it means the penitentiary for me. I will be the villain. I will give you the gift of your innocence. I kidnapped you and forced you to stay with me. I can face the music. I faced it before as a result of a dumb fight; I can do it again for a young lady I love as much as I love you.”
There was a long silence. What was next? Would she just avoid the whole subject? Had she heard anything he said?
Sarah sat up a bit and tugged at the bottom of the T-shirt to assure she was as covered as possible.
She looked at him and smiled,
“Now I understand so much more. That is why you have no beer or wine and stuff here. That is so good. It caused so many fights at the estate. My mom and dad used to drink too much and then scream and yell at one another late at night. I am glad there is no drink here.
I understand all the stuff you said about my life and the future. I know you are right. I will leave when you are ready, Mr. Clem, when you are ready to get rid of me. I will do everything just as you want.
But I will not let anyone ever think you were a villain; you weren’t. I don’t want my “innocence”. I am not innocent. No way! You did not kidnap me. I wanted to be with you. I dreamed up at least half of our adventures. I have loved and cherished every moment we have had together. That is the truth and that is what I will tell anyone who asks.
Just keep me here as long as you can. I have grown to love the night sounds now. They no longer scare me. I can leave you alone. I will sleep downstairs; I will even sleep in the barn if it makes you feel better. I just want to be here with you as long as I possibly can.”
Tears were running freely down her young face when she finished.
Clem reached to turn off the TV and light by his chair, and cradling Sarah in his arms as he carried her up the steps.
“Just keep me as long as you can.”
Kept ringing in his ears.
They got ready for bed together, silently. Everything in the bathroom was done together; it was as if they were frightened to be apart, even for a minute; like they might never be together again.
The bed was so inviting. It had been such a long day. Clem lay on his side facing the center of the bed. Sarah shut off the light, opened the window completely and got in beside him. She lay very still for a moment facing him. He could hear her quiet sob. He drew her closer. She sobbed again. She wrapped her arms around his neck. Their legs intertwined at the knees. Her young beautiful face came to his chest. They were together, the world was right for one more night.
Her breathing calmed and then went steady. She was asleep.
Clem held her nude young beautiful body tightly and let his tears flood to the pillow. Finally, exhaustion over came him as well.
Morning came early as it always did at Apple Valley Orchards. Clem awoke first and looked down to see Sarah resting on her back with her beautiful head still on his right arm and her hair streaming up over the pillow they shared. She appeared to be still sleeping soundly.
During the night he had turned onto his back at some point, but she remained on her side facing him. She was still cradled tightly against him with her legs together elevated over his. Her arms were relaxed down at her sides. They must have gotten warm during the night the bed covers had been moved down to their waists.
He studied her beautiful body in the morning light. What a perfect little human being. There was not one flaw, one thing about her he would change.
It was a new day. What new chapter would be written in their story today?
Clem let his hand move to her waist and gently downward along her hip. He could not understand why he was doing it. She was asleep; let her have her rest. Then he realized he was driven by a very lonely feeling. She had to leave sometime soon. He could not tolerate wasting a moment of her time here. He needed her with him. He turned toward her and gently brought her to face him. She responded.
She stirred and his arm went around her waist to bring her closer. She reached up to caress his face. It was her first movement of the day.
She murmured something. Clem was so pleased she had awakened, in his arms.
Clem asked what she had said.
Her eyes came open,
“For the first time in my life I wake up in the arms of a convicted felon. How exciting is that; what fun!”
She said, smiling sleepily.
“Makes me feel like a wanton woman!”
As she awoke further, she first chuckled about her comments, but then turned serious,
“Good morning Scotty. I know what you wanted to do with the bedtime lecture last night. Thank you for telling me all that stuff. It had to be hard. I know you love me and you wanted no secrets between us. Things I might learn later after I loved you too much to leave.
Well, I just want you to know I love you too much right now. I have loved you since we met and knowing all that stuff changes nothing for me.
Way back when, you made a big terrible mistake. You paid the price and you set about correcting your life the best you could. I will bet you have not had a drink since. My mother and dad would still be married and I would be with them if at one point they had recognized what alcohol was doing to them as you did. I admire you. I admire what you have done. So there you are; changes nothing for me!”
She looked at him with her coy smile,
“How hungry are you? Can I love you before breakfast?”
Clem tried to turn things back serious,
“Sarah! I unloaded all that stuff on you last evening to be honest, to let you know who I really am, and help you change your thinking about me so it is easier for you to go back to a normal life. I wanted you to realize where we were with all this and the impossibility of a future together.”
She looked up at him with the same smile. He held her snuggly as she lowered her legs from on top of his and rolled over even closer to him. Her lips found his. Her tongue parted his lips a moment later.
He hugged her tightly. That was all it took. She moaned and it turned to a quiet murmur.
Soon, they once more lay wrapped together, in love.
It was twenty minutes before either of them moved.
Clem carefully returned to his back.
Sarah began to laugh as he slid out of bed in a crab like fashion.
She was still laughing as she followed him out of the bed checking behind her to assure the sheets were dry. They were.
“See how good we are?”
She added as an afterthought as she followed him toward the bathroom and the shower.
Clem was amazed almost startled by the manner in which Sarah had become accustomed to being with him every waking moment. It was most remarkable in the bathroom. He had been married to two different women and in both cases bathroom duties, with the exception of a shower together now and then, were a private thing, but not with Sarah. He was scrubbing his teeth as she sat behind him on the toilet. With him she had no apparent modesty what-so-ever. Finished she moved to the shower and on the way she gave his butt a pat,
He did not respond. He heard the shower door closed behind him.
In a few moments he finished and turned to join her in the shower. What a wonderful precocious girl he thought as he picked up the sponge and soap from the Jacuzzi.
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