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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Drama · #1338207
Diane has lost her love, secrets are being kept, life might be about to change.
Diane found the door open and the television on. Roger had propped his filthy construction boots on the cherry coffee table, next to Grandma's cut glass candy dish. He was using it for an ashtray. Diane watched him slowly grind the butt out then give her a nasty grin, like spitting on Granny's grave.

Granny had used it for peppermint soft candies, the kind that melt in your mouth. They were a treat for every good grade Diane had brought home.

Granny Clare had seen right through him; she had told Diane's Mom.
"Scarlett, don't you be fooled by this one. He acts marshmallow sweet but he's filled with charred cancer."

“You make me sick,” Diane said to his back.

“Well, it ain't your house, is it now? You sweet thing,”

She check mated him.
“You know Jack Higgins and I go way back. He hates you. Don’t force my hand. Leave!”

Jack is the sheriff. In a little town like Remus rules can go both ways and Jack would love a reason to lock Roger up.
Without another word, Roger decided he would play games elsewhere. He could have fun with Diane later.

Diane got a soda out of the fridge.
'What was it with her Mom? Roger couldn't be that good in bed. He never contributed a cent, so why? Maybe Scarlett just didn't want to be alone.'
Diiane's Mom, Scarlett, was still attractive at forty-five with a trim figure and long brown hair with blond highlights. She had some laugh lines from sun and cigarettes.

She had bought this double wide mobile home by herself. She worked as a bartender at The Doll Palace. It was a strip bar. Scarlett had never stripped.
Harvey Keitel, the manager, had tried to recruit her as a dancer.
"I don't slither up and down a pole so some ugly dude can get off. I don't care how much money I'm paid".
She did have a way with people and if someone got wasted she could get them to agree to a free cab. They only had one bouncer in the place. Customers had better things to look at so it worked for everyone. Management slipped her good money under the table.

Scarlett had been a drunk for twenty years. Now she had ten years of sobriety and said the bar kept her that way. Lois, her AA Sponser had a fit about her being around booze and staying sober. Scarlett told her that it worked, watching her former life in living "sordid" color. She even talked some souls into meetings.

She would watch a woman come in and take a stool.
She would order a double vodka. That was a clue. If she needed that much it meant she was a seasoned drinker. Also vodka didn’t smell. All the time she was drinking, she was scoping the area for someone. The more she drank, the more social she became. She knew just how to use her eyes to talk and twist hair seductively around her fingers.
The target was usually a guy in an expensive suit by himself that looked anxious, like he could use a friend.

“So tell me about yourself. I’ll bet you have your own business."
They would start up a conversation.
He would start buying her drinks. After all, this was a sure thing and the women that were dancing were pure eye candy. They would suck up your money.

The woman at the bar is getting bored and the more she drinks, she flirts with other guys. She isn’t a sure thing now.
Scarlett recognized this woman. Her personality was beginning to change.
Sometimes she would get someone to sit her on the bar. Then the silk shirt was unbuttoned, taken off to reveal the lace chamoise underneath. She would attempt to dance on the bar and eventually wind up in someone's lap.
"Well, big boy, do you like what you see?"
Then if someone wouldn’t buy her a drink, Ms. Nasty came out.
“I been good to you all night. Now you're a jerk. What's up?”

This woman came in all shapes and sizes but the story was the same. Either she went home with someone she didn’t know. Now this guy could kill you, give you a STD or HIV. It was a crap shoot. If she was a real hard drinker, she would get in a fight with another customer, pick at a dancer which meant dragging their bouncer, Kurt into the middle. Sometimes after six doubles, she was too wasted and got cut off. That meant a fight.

A girl the other night, about thirty and attractive, decided to strip and show the customers she was better looking nude than one of the dancers.
It was sad and the cops were called.

So why did Scarlett need guys like Roger? She met guys at A.A. meetings and church. It was the reason she kept a loaded forty-five under the mattress. Roger knew something, a painful story from the past that would hurt people Scarlett loved. Perhaps someone had already paid the price.
The Dolls Palace did very well and it was a great cover for several illegal things that were going on.

Diane had been living with her Mom but she was breaking that tie. Earlier today, Diane signed a lease on a lovely new townhouse in the Chelsea area where schools had above average state scores, windows weren’t cracked and streets were clean. She had always imagined growing up there. You could ride your bike without the fear of a stray bullet or a crack deal going down around the corner. She loved her work as a Social Worker. She was making a difference for kids like herself; a drunk Mom and no Dad.

Diane couldn't bring friends home or get help with homework. Scarlett was there physically between jobs but absent emotionally. Since she had gotten sober, Mom had apologized and made up for it in a lot of ways but then there were the Rogers.

Last night, Diane had brought it up, "Mom, you are so pretty and bright. Why don't you go to school? You'd be a great nurse and there's a two year program at the community college. If you agree to work in the state, they will pay for it."

"Is there somethin wrong with me being a bartender? I went to school for that. Are you ever happy with anything I do, Diane?"
"Mom, I am just saying you'd meet nicer guys."
"Oh hey, you're right, I'd meet married doctors and old men with prostate problems. Always thinkin of the best for your Mama".

Diane opened the torn screen door. Above her was a dark blue velvet sky. She sat on the wooden swing and it was safe to let the tears come.

Today would have been Dane's twenty-ninth birthday.

They had made plans for tonight. Dane had wanted to drive up to The Royal Crown, the very top of the mountain where only service roads ran. They could see the city from there and drink a toast to their future. It was a ritual after every dance as teenagers.
"Isn't it all a miracle? The stars, sun, moon and Universe are amazing. God sure had a great architect,'" Dane laughed, "and then he made you, pure perfection".

She loved that goofy grin on his face.
He still acted like a five year old getting a puppy. It took so little to make him happy. He loved Oreo cookies, took them apart and dipped them in milk. Then he tried to kiss her with his messy mouth. He knew she hated messes.

She could still hear his voice, “How can you ever love someone like me?”
“Dane, there's no one like you. The world couldn't handle it and neither could I”.
She loved to tease him.

Was he watching over her tonight?
It had been years and her grief was still like a piece of glass in her chest. Depending on the time of the day it was sharper, but the pain never went away.

Love with Dane had been magical. She missed his quick wit, infectous laugh, dimples and constant encouragement to be her best.
Then there was the intimacy. It was like sitting in a cool stream as water ran gently over your body. His kisses; like butterfly wings, sweet and then exploring to find that special place of intensity. Making love was a tender journey ending with a mutual trembling. Just thinking about it made her wet.

There had been two other guys she had dated and she physically "withdrew" when they touched her intimately. Perhaps Dane would be her "once in a lifetime".

Greg Hardy stopped when he saw her in front of Mom's. They had all been friends since elementary school.
"You look like a lost little girl. How about "Doc's Ice Cream Shack"? Peppermint Stick, right?"

He opened the door of his baby, a black 66-Shelby Mustang. A girl didn't have a chance competing with his car. He spent two hours just detailing it on the weekend.

He had his heart broken recently by some multiple personality wench that Diane had set him up with. She had seemed like an angel, helping out at the school doing volunteer work . But the witch side had hurt Greg. He was beginning to like her a lot when he caught her in his bed with a cop. That is a story no one could make up.

Greg kissed her forehead. "Been a hard day?"
She nodded.
"You know I loved him too. I know it's not the same yet it hurts."

The tears were really running now.
"Diane, try to give me a smile. I will take those blues away for a while."
She laughed, he sounded just like John Denver.
“Now I want to request “Thank God I'm a Country Boy”.

“Please tell me I don't sound like that jerk. You know I hate that kind of music.”
“Okay, I won't. You know Denver was talking about the environment before Al Gore... even smoked weed since it was natural."
Diane continued, "He even mowed grass in the nude.....upset his neighbors. Gotta love that.”
Greg was laughing now.
She had gone from tears to chuckling.

She had missed Greg and how caring he could be.
But it was hard to stand in Dane's shadow and that is how Greg felt.

Greg had held Dane's bleeding head after a car lost it's brakes. The teenage driver panicked and didn't try to switch gears or pull the emergency brake so they were hit hard on the driver's side. Dane never regained consciousness. The driver got off with probation. There was something strange about the whole accident. Jack had tried to look into it and was told by powers higher up to leave it alone. There was a strong hint that Diane's Mom might get in trouble. Jack couldn't let Diane go through anymore.

Greg had gone to bed for two weeks with depression after the funeral. Diane had gone to his house and climbed in bed with him. They had sobbed together. They listened to Dave Matthews, Clapton, Maroon 5, Rage against the Machine and CCR. They drank shots of tequila and ate all Dane's favorite foods.
Finally they were so drunk they started a tickling game and ened up making love. It was sweet and so loving that they were both shocked and felt guilty.
"We are disgusting!"
So Diane went home and they had stayed away from each other since then.

Now, Greg touched her forehead pushing her bangs out of her soft brown eyes,
"Listen, for one night let me take you to the shore. We'll tell our troubles to the wind and waves."
She climbed in.
Greg had a poet's soul. Some woman would be lucky.

The two went toward the beach when Greg decided to pick up some fried chicken and biscuits and a couple six packs of beer.
They were the only ones in the parking lot. It was Autumn and the air was cool. The kids were back in school. They took the stuff out of the car along with a few blankets. Just like they had all done in high school.
The sun was going down, the colors exquisite; Orange slices,shades of rome apples, a hint of satin blue and turquoise. Like God was wrapping up a very special present of another day we will never get back.

She and Greg dug into the chicken, biscuits with honey and beer. All was perfect now except the ghost on the blanket.
"He's watching us, ya know?"
"That's okay. He always knew I was crazy about you so he's been watching me all along."
"I never knew that you liked me like that."
"Of course not, you were crazy in love, couldn't see anything but Dane. Then weren't interested in anyone since the accident".

He gave her a sweet kiss, tasting like honey and she kissed him back.
Greg said, "One thing Dane's death taught me was never to wait. Take a chance. It just seemed like you always had an excuse for not being with me or treated me like I was your kid brother."
His eyes teared up. "I know it is my fault that we lost control that night but we both hurt so badly."
Diane put her hand over his. "I think Dane understood that."
She took a deep breath.
"Well, maybe now that I am almost an old maid, I am ready. He loved us both and we have done penance, don't you think?"

She looked up at the stars and all seemed perfect for the first time in a long time.

The ghost on the blanket wasn't needed. He had earned eternal rest.

By Kathie Stehr
June 1, 2012

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