Carole Mortenson



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CHAPTER FORTY-NINE – SNOWBOUND ( Wednesday, December 21 )

The snow continued to fall, piling up steadily, with only a brief break between snowfalls when the sun would try to peek through the clouds. There were no blizzard conditions with whiteouts and strong winds, however, so Interstate 80 going in both directions from Laramie remained open. Truckers, as well as other travelers, were not stranded as they were during the previous storm. That was a blessing in disguise, as many people were already on the road for the Christmas holidays. The Interstate highway crews were constantly on the move with their snow blowers and snowplows to make sure the Interstate remained open. The heavy snow was also removed from the city's main streets as quickly as possible. There were no cancellations of classes at local schools because they were all closed for Christmas vacation until January 3. There was just heavy, heavy snow.

The persistent and steady snowfall from a front that was stalled out and refused to continue eastward was enough to keep many residents inside and away from work and stores. It wore on one's nerves.

One person's nerves that were definitely frazzled were Sarah's. She waited patiently for Lindsey to talk with her 'later in the week,' like she said she would. Her heart was grieving because of what happened. She wasn't ready to argue with her sister again, or even try to sanely talk to her about Rich wanting a divorce.

Sylvia thought the confrontation on Sunday—in which Lindsey was the center of the controversy—was settled. Lindsey had not shown up on her doorstep since then, and it was already Wednesday. With all of her kids home for their Christmas vacation, she decided to stay home Monday and Tuesday because of the snow, but then thought she'd chance going to work today. She hadn't opened the store for two days, and lagging sales was no way to herald in Christmas—not that she expected many customers, of course. A dozen shoppers were better than none at all, which there would be if the store remained closed.

"You'll be all right here alone with the kids, won't you?" she asked Sarah.

"Of course," Sarah replied. "You should be out there working, if there's a chance you can even make it to the store. You'll never make any money sitting around home."

She was surprised Sylvia would even ask if she would be all right with the little brats , as she silently called the boys. They would mind her— or else! She vowed they weren't going to pull any crap on her! The girls were normally well-behaved.

As Sylvia pulled her coat on, she remarked to Sarah, "I looked out the bay window just a little bit ago and it looks like the clouds are finally breaking up, even though the snow is still falling. I don't ever remember a snowstorm lasting this many days. If it was a little warmer, the snow would be melting, not accumulating like it is. But when the temperature hovers around 20 degrees during the day and below zero at night, that'll never happen."

Sarah wondered why Sylvia was so interested in expounding on the weather. She had lived here long enough that it shouldn't bother her.

"I'm going to take the SUV today," Sylvia said, opening the back door to the garage. It was 10 o'clock. "I hope you don't have to go somewhere, because my little car won't get through this deep snow. Of course, you wouldn't be going anywhere, anyway, because you'll be watching the kids, won't you?"

So that's the reason Sylvia is talking about the weather , Sarah surmised. Her sister thought she might go somewhere—maybe skip out to see Lindsey or something—and leave the kids alone.

Doesn't Sylvia know I'm not like her? I wouldn't desert these kids like she does! Even though I can't stand those boys sometimes.

"Sylvia, do you suppose you might get something for my boss, Deb, in Denver?" Sarah asked, as Sylvia was about to walk out the door. "Since you work at a clothing store? Just some little thing, like a loose-knit sweater or a scarf or something?" Sarah accepted the fact that she would be staying in today, but she was upset with her sister's implications. She would be doubly upset if Sylvia refused her request.

"Sure, kiddo. Do you know what size she wears?" Sylvia asked. "What color?"

"I don't know what size, but I'm sure you could find a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, can't you, if you find a sweater? The color? Probably a nice shade of blue," Sarah said hopefully, remembering that Deb had long blonde hair and blue eyes. It would be after Christmas before Deb got her present, but Sarah knew she would understand. She didn't think Deb would be expecting anything from her at all.

"I'll see what I can find," Sylvia said, pulling her coat tightly around her. "See you in a few hours."

She closed the door behind her. Sarah heard the garage door open and Sylvia starting the SUV. It was sluggish, not having been driven for a few days. As Sylvia backed down the driveway, she closed the garage door after herself. Under Sylvia's continuous threat of no watching TV for a week if they didn't get their butts in gear, the two boys had been out an hour earlier and shoveled the snow in the driveway all the way down to the street. Their shoveling, however, did not begin without their arguing that they should be allowed to use their daddy's snow blower!

No, I'm not going anywhere, Sarah thought after Sylvia left. Where would I go? I have all four kids here. I work out of my home office. I have no reason to go anywhere. And now I don't have the SUV to drive, anyway, even if I did have somewhere to go!

She sighed with resignation when she realized this was the first time she was actually snowbound! When she lived in Denver, she never was forced to stay at home because of the snow. She wondered if it was like this every winter in Laramie. What a drag.

She leisurely drank another cup of coffee at the kitchen table after Sylvia left, reluctant to go upstairs to her bedroom or to her deck and work at her job. The continually cloudy skies and snow was getting to her. It had been a long time since she had seen the sun. Being shut up inside all the time was eating its way into her as she was suddenly overtaken by a dose of cabin fever . She slumped down in the chair, despondent because Lindsey had not called yet.

After a while, she started fixing lunch for the kids, trying to do something to occupy her mind and body, to keep her mind from focusing on another dismal day.

Sylvia had been gone for over two hours when Sarah's cell phone rang. She answered excitedly, hoping it was Lindsey!

"How are things going at your place?" Lindsey asked, glad to hear Sarah's voice. "I didn't want to call before now because I was waiting for things to settle down over there."

"Lindsey, I haven't been able to think straight the last couple of days. I haven't been able to talk to Sylvia about anything —not about Rich wanting a divorce, and certainly not about her angry words to you. I'm walking on eggshells all the time, afraid to open my mouth."

"I'm sorry that you're having such a difficult time," Lindsey said. "But things haven't been going so well here, either."

"What's the matter, sweetheart?" Sarah inquired. She felt ashamed of herself for feeling sorry for her situation, when Lindsey probably had problems, too.

Lindsey proceeded to tell her the move to her new apartment would have to wait until after Christmas, as Karin and Evelyn weren't ready to take off for California in this storm. They could hardly load a U-Haul when it was snowing so much!

"I hoped I would be moving into my new apartment today, just in time to celebrate Christmas with you over a bottle of champagne." Sarah could see her smiling as she said those words, and she was smiling back.

"I'm so sorry. But we can still celebrate over New Year's, can't we? What else has been happening with you?" Sarah asked.

"Because of the heavy snow, I haven't been out to The Old West Town at all this week. Yet I've been working at Scully's every night, and it's been unusually packed with customers. I think the word has gotten around that Scully's is going to have a new owner. In spite of the snow, many lesbians around town have been dropping in to support the women who work there, as well as each other. We've been busy."

"What are they going to do? They'll all be out of a job soon, just like you," Sarah said.

All of the help, of course, were scrambling to look for jobs elsewhere. Only Stevie, Scully's cook, had landed a new job right away. Her reputation as a gourmet chef had not gone unnoticed by other restaurants. They had looked with envy at her unavailability over the years. So when Stevie applied to one of the swankier uptown restaurants close to the center of town, she was hired on the spot. She would be starting right after the New Year and pulling in twice the money she was making at Scully's . It was definitely a step up for her. Lindsey was extremely happy for her. The other women were really down in the dumps and depressed. Lindsey tried unsuccessfully to cheer them up. What would happen would happen, and she was powerless to prevent it.

"I wish it didn't have to be that way," Lindsey said. "I wish there was something I could do to help them."

Lindsey was silent for a moment and then said, "You'll never guess what I did Monday and Tuesday during the day. I hooked up a snowplow to my truck and plowed some of the side streets around here which aren't normally cleared till after a storm. The city's snow removal trucks have their hands full just keeping the major streets open. When I offered to help, they said, 'Yeah, we can use all the help we can get.' So that's what yours truly did for two days. They can pretty well handle it now, as the snow seems to be letting up considerably, and the side streets in this neighborhood shouldn't have more snow piling up."

"I think that's wonderful, Lindsey!" Sarah responded. "At least you're keeping busy. Sylvia went to work today, hoping some customers will stop in at her store. But I don't hold out for anything spectacular."

"She's gone then?" Lindsey asked, her voice perking up. "For how long?"

"I don't know. I imagine until four o'clock or so." She glanced at her watch. It was slightly after noon.

"Would it be all right if I came over?" Lindsey held her breath, expecting a no answer, so she wasn't entirely surprised when Sarah again began talking negatively.

"Do you think that's wise, sweetheart?" Sarah asked. "I mean, I've still got the four kids and Sylvia might decide not to stay at the store that long."

"Sarah, I want to see you," Lindsey said insistently, interrupting her. "I need to see you. I'm going crazy!"

Sarah hesitated, wondering if she was doing the right thing. "All right. Will you walk down or drive your truck?"

"I'll walk. Then if Sylvia comes home before I leave your place, I can hide up in your bedroom till she's in another part of the house. She'll never even know I'm there." She started laughing, thinking Sarah would join her, but Sarah didn't rise to the bait and continued talking seriously about the situation.

"I still have the kids here, Lindsey. They would know you're here."

"Look, I'll drive the truck down then," she said. "We can sit and cuddle in the truck, if that's what you want. It's not the ideal place, but at least it'll be warm."

"Lindsey, I don't know what I want right now. Things are so messed up."

"I can't make up your mind for you, Sarah. And we can't change the circumstances. You're taking care of the kids, Sylvia is working, snow is coming down, you can't get away, and you don't want me to come inside the house. We can't always have things the way we want them. We have to go with what we have. So what do you want to do?"

Lindsey let those words sink in for a few seconds. Sarah was silent, so Lindsey went on, almost pleadingly, "Let me come over to your house, Sarah. I just want to see you. Let me sit with you in the kitchen and drink tea with you and just talk. We can do that, can't we?"

Sarah thought Lindsey sounded so heart-broken. "All right. And if Sylvia comes home while you're here, that's just too bad. I'll be waiting for you, sweetheart." She hung up the phone, giving in to the arousing sensations coursing through her body as she thought of seeing Lindsey again. It had been all of three days—

Lindsey excitedly closed her cell phone, stuck it in her pocket, and hurriedly put on her winter jacket and boots. Dressed warmly, she headed out the door to her truck. Her father had left an hour or so earlier—saying he had some errands to run. And Leslie had taken off for the day care center at ten o'clock—saying there were still people who were working and needed child care.

Lindsey's hands were trembling as she turned the key in the ignition and then waited for the engine to warm up for a minute. She was going to see her wonderful Sarah again.

Her cell phone rang just as she put the truck in gear. She answered it as she headed out for Sarah's house.

"Lindsey? This is Herman. Some snow removal equipment is on its way out to The Old West Town . They'll be here shortly. It's not snowing any more here, so I took the liberty of calling them. We need to get on the ball so the place will be ready to go for Saturday's Christmas program. The snow has probably let up in town, too, hasn't it? Would you be able to come out and tell the crew what you need to have done?"

"Right now , Herman?" Lindsey queried. How could she go now ? She was on her way to see Sarah!

She pulled onto Sarah's street and saw Sylvia pulling into the driveway. She stopped where she was and pulled over to the side of the road as far as she could.

"Well, I thought you'd want to make sure it was done right," Herman responded.

"Herman, can I call you back in a couple of minutes? I need to make a quick call."

"Sure." Herman hung up the phone, and Lindsey immediately called Sarah.

"Sarah," Lindsey said, "I'm at the end of your street, but I just saw Sylvia pulling up in the driveway, so I won't be stopping by. I don't want a run-in with her. But I have an idea. Herman just called and wants me to come out to The Old West Town and oversee some snow removal there. He says the snow has stopped, and it probably will stop here, too. Do you think you could drive the SUV and meet me there?"

Sarah hesitated. She heard Sylvia in the background coming into the kitchen, apologizing loudly to Sarah that she had forgotten to look for a Christmas present for Sarah's employer. Sarah was talking to Lindsey while she was on her deck and sensed an opportunity. She told Lindsey, "Yes, I'll be there as soon as I can." She hung up before Lindsey could say good-bye and before Sylvia looked up and saw her on the phone.

"What?" Sarah said, rushing down the stairs. "You mean you were gone all this time, and you forgot just a simple thing like that? God, Sylvia, now what? I'll be later than ever getting a Christmas present off to Deb." She tried to sound disgruntled and disappointed. Evidently it was working.

"Well, the snow has practically stopped," Sylvia said, "and the roads are relatively clear. Snow-packed, but not bad to drive on. So why don't you take the SUV—it's all nice and warmed up—and go on into town and get something? You can have it wrapped there and mailed all at the same time. The Post Office has boxes to mail stuff in."

"You don't mind, then, if I take the SUV?" Sarah could scarcely hide the excitement in her words. She wouldn't have to plead needing a present for Deb as an excuse to get out of the house to meet Lindsey. Sylvia had just eliminated her having to make up an excuse at all!

"No, I don't mind. You need to get away from the kids for a while. Get yourself a cappuccino or something while you're out. Take your time."

"Oh, thank you!" Sarah said with gusto, hugging her sister. "I promise I won't be too long."

She hurried back up the stairs and got into her winter clothes. She'd been lounging around in her sweats since Monday morning. It felt good to get dressed again—in a manner of speaking—and she didn't have to sneak out to be with Lindsey. Sylvia wouldn't have to know where she was going, and she could just pick up a little souvenir of something out at The Old West Town . Then she'd stop at Target and get some wrapping paper and mail the gift in an envelope at the Post Office on her way back to the house. She gave herself a pat on the back for things working out as they did, and she didn't have to do a thing !

"See you later," she said cheerily as she went out the back door.

Sylvia thought it was strange that Sarah was so upbeat about going into town to get a present. As for herself, she hated to drive in the snow, and was happy to be home. There were hardly any customers, so she left early, leaving two girls in charge—telling them to close up at 4 o'clock. She thought Sarah would be back before long, so began to pull leftovers out of the fridge to throw together a nice stew for dinner—ideal for a cold, snowy day.



Lindsey called Herman back on her way to The Old West Town and said she would be there as soon as she could. The roads seemed to be cleared, although snow-packed, and she should have no problem. After she hung up, she thought about Sarah, and didn't think she would have a problem navigating the roads in the SUV, either. Her heart felt lighter as she neared the edge of Laramie. She would be seeing Sarah again!

* * * * * *

Lindsey was about ten minutes away from The Old West Town when she heard a siren behind her. She looked in her rear view mirror and pulled over to the side of the road as far as she could to let the screaming fire engine pass her. Must be a bad accident up ahead, she thought.

She pulled back into the lane and saw the fire engine had stopped some ways ahead of her and joined an ambulance that was already there. There was a two-car accident on the other side of the road coming into town. Lindsey slowed down to look over at the mangled vehicles, as people in other cars were doing. That looks like daddy's car, she thought, but it couldn't be .

She slowed down a little bit more and realized it was her father's car! She almost slammed on her brakes and at the last minute remembered she was on a snow-packed road. She slowly made a U-turn in the middle of the road and went back to the accident scene.

The firefighters were extricating her father from the vehicle that used to be his car. It was now crumpled up almost beyond recognition. As she ran up to the rescue operation, she identified herself as the victim's daughter, and they let her through the barricade they had set up.

"How is he?" she asked a paramedic who was helping to load Hiram Hobbs into the ambulance on a gurney.

"He's hurt pretty bad. I won't mince words here. We need to get him to the hospital as quickly as we can. You can follow us in your vehicle."

"Was there anybody else hurt?"

"A woman that was in the same car as this man here was killed outright when the side of the car hit the concrete curve barriers. The man who slammed into that car is in pretty bad shape, too. We're getting another ambulance out here." The woman paramedic looked up at Lindsey with sadness in her eyes. "I'm sorry. Just follow us, ma'am."

Lindsey was in a state of shock as she climbed into her vehicle and drove back into town, following the ambulance as closely as she could. She couldn't think of anything but the accident as she focused on the red taillights and siren wailing in front of her.

Oh, daddy, what have you done? That paramedic said another man slammed into your car. And who was that woman with you?

The tears started coming, and she tried to choke them back. She wiped her eyes from time to time with her gloved hand as she continued to follow the ambulance to the hospital. She pulled up into the emergency parking lot and rushed into the ER. They were bringing the gurney in from the ambulance as she was filling out paperwork at the front desk for her father. She looked over at him and saw the ashen gray color under his blood-smeared face. They had him hooked up to different life-support monitors. Oh, daddy—

The tears started coming again as she handed the papers of insurance and permission to the person behind the desk. She hurried to catch up with the gurney as they took her father into one of the ER rooms. They told her to wait outside until they got everything hooked up and the doctor examined him.

Lindsey went back to the waiting room and paced up and down, trying to calm her heartbeat, concerned for her father. She settled down enough to phone her sister, who said she would be right over. Leslie was already starting to cry over the phone.

Lindsey sat down finally in one of the waiting room's cushioned chairs, wondering what was taking the doctor so long.

It wasn't more than five minutes later, however—an eternity to Lindsey—when the doctor came through the ER doors. He looked gravely at Lindsey.

"I'm sorry," he said. "There was nothing we could do. The massive internal injuries were too severe." He looked sorrowfully into Lindsey's tear-filled eyes and then motioned to a nurse who had come out with him. The nurse walked over to Lindsey, put her arm around her and led her to a couch in the waiting room.

* * * * * *

Sarah thought she saw Lindsey's truck on the opposite side of the road coming into town as she passed the scene of an accident. She decided that it couldn't possibly be her—that there were other monster trucks like hers in Laramie. She continued on to The Old West Town . That looked like a horrible car crash, she thought to herself. The cars all mangled together—

When she got to The Old West Town , Lindsey wasn't there yet, so she went inside and talked to Deanna, who was busy behind the counter straightening some things out.

"Have you seen Lindsey?" Sarah said.

"Not yet," Deanna replied. "Herman said she was on her way. Probably got held up a bit with the roads."

"That's strange. She left her house before I left. She should have been here by now."

Just at that moment, Herman burst in the door from the western town complex. "The guys are here with their snow removal equipment. Has anybody seen Lindsey yet?"

Deanna and Sarah both shook their heads. It suddenly dawned on Sarah that maybe that was Lindsey's truck she had seen on the side of the road at the car accident! Maybe I should call her on my cell phone. Her heart rose up into her throat.

"Herman, you know what needs to be done, where the snow needs to go," Deanna said.

"Well, you know how Lindsey is," Herman said. "Always wants to be at the helm with anything that concerns The Old West Town ." He took his woolen hat off and scratched the top of his bald head. "But I guess we can get started. It's costing us money either way—whether the guys take the snow away or just sit on their equipment." He put his hat back on and went back outside.

* * * * * *

Lindsey's phone rang as Leslie rushed into the ER waiting room. She started to answer it, then saw the anguish on her sister's face. She let the phone continue to ring, knowing it would switch over to voice mail. She noted it was Sarah calling. Leslie ran into Lindsey's arms, and as Lindsey told her that their father had just died from injuries sustained in the car accident, they both sat there on the couch, crying, trying to comfort each other.

When Lindsey didn't answer her phone, Sarah left a message, saying she was at The Old West Town , and to call her back. She sat down on a bench in the Visitor Center, then restlessly got up and fixed herself a cup of coffee at the new-fangled coffee center that Deanna had turned on, then sat down again, waiting impatiently.

Twenty minutes later, she called Lindsey again, and left another voice mail.

Deanna had switched on the radio to catch the weather forecast. The snow had finally stopped. She wondered if there was more yet to come. It had been a vicious storm.

"...special report. There was a two-car pile-up on Banyon Road a short while ago, believed to have been caused by the snow-packed road conditions. Both vehicles were totaled. Two men were injured and a woman was dead at the scene. The men were transported to Plainsview Memorial Hospital. [Pause] ....We just received word that one of the men, the Reverend Hiram Hobbs, passed away from massive internal injuries. The other man is in critical condition, his name pending notification of relatives. Reverend Hobbs was a well-known evangelical preacher at the Faith Community Church, famous for his fire and brimstone messages. Our condolences go out to the family for their loss. Now back to the current weather. It looks like this snow, finally, is past history, folks—"

Sarah gasped when she heard the name Hiram Hobbs, and realized that it was Lindsey's truck she had passed on the road out to The Old West Town . Oh, my poor Lindsey , she thought, tears welling up in her eyes.

Just then, her phone jingled and she frantically reached for it.

"Sarah?" Lindsey said, her voice breaking up amid her tears. She had gone into the ladies restroom for a moment to try to compose herself, leaving Leslie alone in the waiting room.

"Yes, sweetheart," Sarah answered, crying with her. "I just heard over the radio about the accident. I am so sorry. What can I do?"

"I don't know, baby," Lindsey said. "I'm kind of at loose ends right now. Why don't you go back home, and I'll talk to you later. Okay?"

"Do you want me to come down to the hospital?"

"No, that wouldn't be a wise thing to do. Just go home. Okay?" She was insistent that Sarah do what she told her to do. "Do what I ask, Sarah. Please. It wouldn't be proper for us to be seen together right now." She didn't want to get them both in trouble because of their feelings for each other. It would just complicate matters.

"All right. I understand," Sarah gave in reluctantly. "Call me later?"

"I will. Promise."

"I love you," Sarah said.

"Me, too," she heard Lindsey say as she hung up.

Sarah's eyes overflowed with tears then, understanding the emotional turmoil Lindsey was undergoing—not unlike what she went through when Melanie died in the auto accident. The only difference was that it was Lindsey's father , not her partner and lover. But love was love, and even though Lindsey had said some unkind things about her father, Sarah knew that Lindsey loved him. She wished she could be with her, to lend her some support.

"I'm sorry, Sarah," Deanna said, when Sarah closed her cell phone. She had caught only Sarah's end of the conversation. There was nothing more to be said. Sarah said thank you, let Deanna give her a hug and went back out to the SUV. She wiped her eyes and headed back to her house.



Lindsey went back out to the waiting room where Leslie was talking with another doctor.

"You mean the man in that other car rammed into daddy's car on purpose ?" Leslie was asking. "How could he do such a thing?"

Lindsey interrupted them and wondered what was going on.

"I thought you two might know something about this," the doctor said. "The man that was in the other car that rammed into your father's vehicle keeps saying over and over, 'That sonofabitch finally got what was coming to him. He finally got what was coming to him. I got him good, didn't I?' Do you have any idea what he's talking about?"

"I'm not sure, but I have my suspicions," Lindsey said, putting her arm around her sister. "But it's probably a matter for the police to handle now. I mean...my father is dead, and this man is still alive. He should be held accountable for what happened, as he's evidently admitted that he rammed into daddy's car." She was getting angrier by the moment and had to hold her emotions in check.

"You're right," the doctor said. "But I don't think the man will last much longer, either, especially with his sustained serious injuries and the attitude he has. I don't think I've ever seen such hatred written on a man's face as it is on Mr. Murray's."

Leslie all of a sudden went tense. "Lindsey," she whispered, shaking Lindsey's arm. "That might be one of the church members."

She squirmed out from under Lindsey's arm and turned back to the doctor. "Who was the lady that died at the scene?"

"That was probably Mr. Murray's wife—Cindy Murray—according to her ID. She was a passenger in your father's car. What a shame." He turned to go back through the ER doors. Looking back over his shoulder, he said, "If there's anything I can do to help, let me know. Someone will be with you shortly to make sure your father's body is taken care of from here."

"Lindsey, I demand to know what's going on!" Leslie shouted, pulling away from Lindsey, who had tried to put her arm around her again. "It sounds like you know what Mr. Murray was talking about. What's going on?" she reiterated.

"We'll talk about it later, Leslie," Lindsey said firmly, taking control again. She had to be in control now—over whatever followed. "When we get home. Right now, we need to take care of daddy." Oh, daddy, how am I ever going to explain this to Leslie? What have you done?

"You're right," Leslie agreed. "But you're not getting off the hook with this one!"

Lindsey saw her sister's face, livid with anger, and realized that she should have been up front with her from the beginning—why they had to move to Laramie. Their mother only told Lindsey, and made her swear that she wouldn't tell her sister. Lindsey was good at keeping things to herself. Leslie was not . Leslie was her twin sister, but the resemblance between them ended with their physical appearance. They were as different in personality as night and day. If Leslie had known why they left Cheyenne, Hiram Hobbs probably wouldn't have continued to preach. It was his life . Even though Lindsey was disgusted with her father at times, she was forgiving, but Leslie was vengeful in the deepest part of her. She wouldn't have cared if it were her father.

* * * * * *

I think I better stop and get something for Deb, Sarah thought. Sylvia might think it strange if I came home with nothing—not even a receipt for what I supposedly bought. I wonder if she heard the report on the TV. Her mind had geared down to neutral, and she didn't have much enthusiasm to do any shopping.

She stopped at Target like she'd planned to do just for wrapping paper and got Deb a nice scarf and gloves set—light blue with tiny white sequins. She had decided against getting Deb a souvenir from The Old West Town . She realized that would have been really tacky, even though she was going to do that because she was meeting Lindsey there. A scarf and gloves were a much better gift. She had the clerk wrap the set and then stopped at the Post Office, where she boxed it up and mailed it. With any luck—this being Wednesday—Deb would get it on Saturday—Christmas Eve. She also bought more wrapping paper at Target , already on sale, so she wouldn't have to come back into town again for any more shopping before Christmas.

"Sarah, did you hear the news about the accident with Reverend Hobbs?" Sylvia asked anxiously when her sister came into the kitchen. "I was watching the weather report when they broke in with a news flash."

"Yes, I heard it on the radio." Sarah looked so disheartened, that Sylvia went to her, wrapped her arm around her and guided her to a kitchen chair to sit down.

"I know you feel bad, because it's Lindsey's father. I feel bad, too. The church will now be without a great preacher. I just called Will, and he said they're going to go ahead with the mid-week prayer service tonight. They have an old retired preacher that can fill in. Most of the people will probably have heard of the accident when they get to church tonight. I think we should go to help support the family and the church. I'll find a sitter for the kids."

"We probably should," Sarah said absent-mindedly. She didn't know if Lindsey would be there, but was willing to go with Sylvia. The service was only a few hours away. She wondered what Lindsey was doing right at that moment. Probably having her father taken to the mortuary. God, what an awful thing to happen! She put her head in her hands and started crying, in spite of her sister's presence. "Poor Lindsey," she said aloud. She felt so helpless.

Sylvia was speechless and didn't know what to say. She hadn't realized Sarah felt that way about Lindsey....It certainly couldn't have been Hiram Hobbs she was crying for! Then she hugged her closer and asked, because she really wanted to know, "Did you get Deb a present?"

"Yes," Sarah said through her tears. "I mailed it, too."

What difference does it make now? Lindsey is hurting so much. Leave it to Sylvia to ask, anyway! Where are her feelings?

* * * * * *

Lindsey and Leslie were both at the mid-week prayer service. There was nothing more they could do until tomorrow, when they would arrange for the funeral. The service was very short because the old retired preacher was not prepared. They gathered hands over prayer and then Lindsey asked to say something. She walked up to the podium, her face wet with tears.

No mention in the service had been made of the other two people in the accident. Although Lindsey and Leslie knew who they were, the police had not divulged that information to the public yet. Therefore, the congregation thought Hiram Hobbs was the only one associated with the church who was killed. Lindsey wasn't going to say anything about the Murrays, either. Neither would she mention the circumstances under which the accident occurred. Better to leave it be.

"I know how respected our father was in this church," Lindsey started, "and I know how much he wanted the church to do well, to grow, and to be respected in the community. You may think it a bit strange, but I know the Reverend Hiram Hobbs would have wanted the church to see the Christmas program and wanted the whole town to see it. So in spite of what you might think about it, we're going to go ahead and perform our Christmas program twice on Saturday—just like we planned. It will honor the memory of our daddy and pastor."

She looked around at the congregation and noticed how full the church was this evening. The word had gotten around about the accident. Her tears were gone now, and she was in control again. The people started murmuring among themselves.

"I'm going to encourage all of you here tonight to spread the word around to everyone you see—in town, on the job, wherever you are—that Faith Community Church will have a Christmas choir singing at The Old West Town, in memory of Reverend Hobbs. I'm sorry to say that under the circumstances, there will be no choir practice tomorrow night as planned. I'd like the choir to meet at The Old West Town an hour before the first performance on Saturday to go over our music—at 2 o'clock. This will be a dress rehearsal. The program begins at 3 p.m., so choir members please be prompt. Marlene, would you notify those choir members who aren't here tonight?" She looked over at her, and Marlene nodded. "Thank you. Thank you all."

She glanced at Sarah as she came down from the platform and shook her head almost imperceptibly as Sarah got up and started towards her. Sarah halted, and Lindsey continued walking down the aisle toward the church entrance. Her sister Leslie joined her at the door. Sarah turned to Sylvia and took her arm as they went down the aisle, too.

Shaking Leslie's hand first, Sarah extended her condolences. Then she grasped Lindsey's hand fiercely, not wanting to let go, and looked up into the face of her lover. Lindsey was starting to cry again, and Sarah wanted to reach up and wipe the tears away. She finally lost control, put her arms around Lindsey and started crying. No one gave it a second thought, because other women were gathering around and hugging Leslie and Lindsey and crying, too.

The hug was brief, and as they broke apart, Lindsey whispered, "I'll call you." Sarah nodded. She wiped her eyes and went out the door with Sylvia.

I need Sarah , Lindsey thought, only halfway hearing the words of the members of the congregation as they passed her. I lost control again when she took my hand and then hugged me. Why can't I hang on to control when she's around me? She remembered reading a book one time where an author wrote that people desperately needed an illusion of control to give them the courage to get up in the morning. Lindsey had always had that control, but was slowly losing it to Sarah. Sarah's control over her now was what gave her the courage to get up in the morning. Sarah held her together. Somehow, she wouldn't have it any other way.



"You're lying, Lindsey," Leslie said, getting angrier by the minute. "Daddy wasn't like that!"

"Why would I lie about something like that?" Lindsey responded. "Don't you believe our mother?" Lindsey had deliberately kept putting off this discussion until after they got home from the mid-week service. She was not wholly prepared for it even now, as she knew what Leslie's response would be.

"I don't think mother ever said that," Leslie said. "She would have told me , too—not just you ."

"You need to understand why she didn't tell you, Leslie. If you had believed it, you would have kept daddy from preaching, with your almighty righteousness that thinks nobody should get away with sin. You would never have kept that a secret from anybody. Daddy would have been disgraced personally beyond anything imaginable because of your attitude toward what you think is unforgiveable—even when it's your own family! You would have turned on your own father!"

She paused to let that sink in for a minute.

"Leslie, I don't condone what daddy did, or thought he could get away with doing. I regret the fact that he was so blatant about it in Cheyenne that it drove mother away. She couldn't handle his indiscretions at the church there. When he was finally discovered having affairs with women in the church, he was an embarrassment to her, to the church, and to us girls. She had to leave him. That's why she told only me . She didn't want to tell you , for the reasons I've just stated. I know she just left one day and never came back, and you wondered where she was. But you would have ruined daddy's life. She didn't want that to happen. She knew how much the church meant to him. I did, too. It was a miracle that he was able to come and pastor in a small church in Laramie. Life would have been good, if he hadn't started doing the same thing over again."

She waited a minute, watched Leslie start to pout, and then went on. "I was hoping he had changed for the good when we moved to Laramie—hoping against hope, I guess now. Because of his insatiable appetite for sex, he couldn't seem to change."

When Leslie opened her mouth to protest, Lindsey stopped her with a raised palm. "Because of his insatiable appetite for sex, Leslie. That's what it was. That's what mother said. She couldn't handle it. When we lived on the ranch, she was the only woman around, and he had to have sex practically every single night , unless he or mother was ill or he was away from the ranch. It was more than any woman should have to live with."

"So Cindy Murray was just another woman in the long line of affairs?" Leslie stated softly.

"I guess so. I don't know if there were others before her in the church here. I kind of doubt it, because he would masturbate all the time."

"What?" Leslie was aghast.

"You didn't know that , either, did you?" Lindsey said. "Where have you been, dear sister? Have your eyes been so closed to who our father was and what he did? How could you be so blind to what has been happening?" She threw up her arms in despair.

"Our father was a godly man," Leslie responded. "I can't believe that he would do those awful things. It's not possible."

"Well, believe it or not , Leslie, it happened ! Wake up to reality! Pull your head out of the clouds! Our father was not a godly man, for all of his posing as one. He was a hypocrite, a reprobate, and according to the Bible he religiously upheld before us and the church family as the Word of God, he was a first-rate sinner!"

"Lindsey, stop talking about daddy like that," Leslie said. "I'm not going to listen to any more."

She put her hands over her ears. "I don't believe what you're saying. You're just justifying what you do." She uncovered her ears and looked over to see Lindsey's reaction.

"What do you mean...what I do?" Lindsey asked.

"You're a sinner of the highest order, Lindsey," Leslie retorted, turning to look her full in the face. "Don't talk to me about daddy. I've known for years that you're a lesbian, and that you take every woman to bed you can get your hands on. And the place where you work right now—that sleazy Scully's Tavern and Grill —is just a cover-up for your whorehouse operation. Just like you covered it up in Cheyenne. So don't talk to me about daddy being a first-rate sinner! You're got him topped by a long shot."

Leslie's words burned to the core of Lindsey's soul. When Leslie focused on her being a lesbian, what she said about Scully's didn't really register yet. She was at a loss for words. If Leslie had known for years that she was gay, why hadn't she said anything? Did her daddy know, too? Had Leslie taken him into her confidence?

"Did daddy know?" Lindsey asked softly.

"No. You were always his favorite. No matter what I did. It was always Lindsey this, Lindsey that—never me . He wouldn't have believed me."

Just like you don't believe me about daddy, Lindsey thought.

"But I made sure that Sarah Davis knows," Leslie continued. "You know—Sylvia Hammond's baby sister? Sylvia is my friend, and you won't be able to trap little Miss Sarah as easily as all the other women if Sylvia has anything to say about it. I couldn't let you do that to her baby sister. So I told Sylvia what was going on. There was no way I was going to let Miss Sarah Davis be just another sex-toy on your long list of conquests."

She turned away with a smug satisfaction.

"You were talking to Sylvia Hammond about me? What did you tell her?" Lindsey grabbed Leslie by the arm harshly.

Leslie jerked her arm away. "Basically what I told you. That you try to take every woman to bed that you can, that you've had sex with just about every lesbian in town, and that Scully's is actually a lesbian brothel."

"You don't know anything , Leslie!" Lindsey was losing her temper now, and shouting. "You don't know how I've changed since Cheyenne. I'm not that person anymore. You don't know anything about my life now. As a matter of fact, Scully's is a decent place, and I'm not running a brothel. Plus, you definitely don't know Sarah!"

God, how could my sister say those things? How vindictive is that? Is she spreading these rumors because she's been jealous of me all these years? Because I was daddy's favorite? Rumors? Oh, God, that must be the rumors Sarah was talking about!

Her heart sank. She needed to talk to Sarah. She couldn't let her believe what Sylvia was telling her, led by her misguided sister Leslie. What if Sarah did believe it?

Lindsey stomped up the stairs to her bedroom, leaving Leslie to look after her with that smug satisfaction lingering on her face.

Let Leslie think what she wants to think, but I'm not that person anymore. Sarah has to know that. She has to.

To Be Continued...


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