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                   WYNTER AND CINNAMON
 
This is an erotic fantasy.  It is the second sequel to
"Wynter" and the sequel to "Wynter & Jimmy."  It is not
necessary to read the previous two stories to read this one,
as events are recapped within this story, but it would help
in order to better understand the background and to see the
growth in the characters as they age.
 
The characters and the situation are purely imaginary, and
this story is *NOT* intended to be a guide for actual
behavior.  Any similarities between this story and actual
people or actual events you should be ashamed of are purely
coincidental.  If it is illegal in your part of the world to
access and read erotic fiction, or if you are underage, or
if you don't like underage sex stories, then you should stop
now.
 
This story is copyright 2006 by Russell Hoisington.  Please
do not remove the author information or make any changes to
this story.  You may post freely to non-commercial (free)
sites, or in the *free* area of commercial sites.  That does
*not* mean that this stories is in the public domain, nor
does it mean that I give permission for you to use them in
spam advertising.  I reserve the right to determine what is
"spam advertising" by *my* definition, not yours or anyone
else's.
 
Thank you for your consideration.
 
My sincerest thanks to Uncle Sky, the Night Hawk, and Wizard
for editing this story and, along with Old Man Ted, for
their input and for keeping the characters in character. 
Special thanks to the Night Hawk for being my musical
advisor.
 
This story is dedicated to the memory of my close friend for
thirty-five years, Billy Forest, the Middle School Science
Teacher who was the inspiration for the character of Mister
Shelby.
 
************************************************************
 
                   WYNTER AND CINNAMON
                         Part One
                             
                    Russell Hoisington
                               
                           Nine
 
   Wynter, her pursed lips pushed to one side, studied the
horrified look on Jimmy's face, and shook her head at
Cinnamon.  "I don't think he can handle it yet."  She was
afraid that maybe they had already gone too far with him.
 
   Cinnamon blinked at the deck of cards in her hand and
frowned at Jimmy.  "What's the matter?  You've already seen
everything I have.  I promise I won't laugh at how short it
is.  Huntly promises he won't, either."
 
   "Nah," grinned Huntly.  "I laughed at it in the showers
at PE back in the fall.  After a while a repeated joke stops
being funny."
 
   Cinnamon backhanded his arm.  "You aren't helping.  I
thought you wanted Wynter naked, too."
 
   While wide-eyed Jimmy's mouth worked silently, Wynter
gave his knee a gentle pat and squeeze.  "Who says I'd lose? 
I might be the only one with all my clothes on at the end of
the game."
 
   "Maybe," Huntly said.  He took the cards from Cinnamon
and, holding them up, cut them one-handed in his left hand,
then fanned them.  His other hand never left Cinnamon's
breast.  He turned the fan and looked at the fronts of the
cards, then frowned at his right hand.  He grabbed one of
Cinnamon's hands and put it over her breast where his had
been.  "Keep that warm for me."
 
   Then he shuffled a few times and dealt five cards face
up:  four aces and a king.  He grinned evilly.  "Or maybe
not."
 
   Oddly enough, Jimmy was the first to find his voice. 
"Where the hell did you learn to do that?"
 
   Huntly held up an empty hand and flicked his fingers. 
Another king appeared.  He placed it beside the first one
and repeated two more times.  Four kings lay beside the four
aces.  "You'd be amazed at what you can learn when you don't
have to waste time dating girls and enjoying yourself." 
He'd tried to say it as a joke, but Wynter heard the faint
disappointment in his voice.  She felt sad for him, but
happy that he'd finally found Cinnamon.  "Especially when
you've screwed up a knee and can't get out of bed most of
June."
 
   Wynter knew that the previous year Huntly had been
spiked in the knee while playing third base during a little
league game.  She had an idea of the boredom Huntly had gone
through from the times her father had been immobilized after
accidents, especially the one back in the spring.  Although
in that last case, the patient had been the teacher rather
than the learner.
 
   Huntly took Cinnamon's hand off her breast using the
hand with the cards in it and reached underneath the firm
little hemisphere with his other hand.  He pulled back a
face-down card.  "Well, whadda ya know!  Your mother's
here!"  He spun it over with a flick of his fingers and
revealed the Queen of Spades.  "The bitch!"
 
   Cinnamon squealed with delight and twisted to throw
herself atop him.  While she shoved her tongue down his
throat, Wynter nuzzled Jimmy's ear.  "I'm glad I named him
best kisser," she murmured.  "Now maybe the girls who were
whispering those mean things about him will learn what
they've been missing out on."
 
   Jimmy turned unreadable eyes to her and then whispered
in her ear.  "Would you really have played strip poker?"
 
   She shrugged, torn between what she knew she needed to
say and what she thought was probably the truth.  "I don't
know.  I guess.  Why?"
 
   "Um...."  He shrugged.  "I dunno.  It's not... you. 
Well, not the you that you used to be.  You've changed since
you first moved here."
 
   Fortunately Cinnamon and something Kenny had said
prepared her for that.  "Well, everybody changes.  Now I
love you, even more now than last week.  That's a change,
too.  And... um... well, I guess after the mine I sorta look
at things a little differently.  Sorta rearranged my
priorities of what's important.  Tonight's sort of a special
occasion, like Carnival in Rio de Janeiro or German
Fasching, where you have a blow out time and then go back to
'normal' life afterward."
 
   "Where did you learn about...."  His puzzled frown
warped into wide eyes.  "Oh.  The World's Greatest Authority
on anything having to do with sex."
 
   She giggled.  "I think Uncle Bozo Junior was hoping to
have a strip poker party with Suzie and us when he told me
about it."  She turned serious.  "But it's not like I'd run
around naked in front of Huntly or Kenny every day.  It's
just a special party occasion.  Like the one time I showed
Kenny my tits and you didn't mind, and then we went back to
normal afterward.  Understand."
 
   Jimmy's arms closed around her, but his mouth stayed at
her ear.  "Um, well, yeah, I guess so.  Well...  But I don't
think you want to play strip poker with anyone who can do
that with cards."
 
   She frowned and pushed her lips sideways in thought. 
"Hmmm.  No."  _Now what?_  Then she remembered something
else.  "Kenny said strip Monopoly was also fun."  She hoped
she didn't sound nervous.
 
   "He did?"  He looked at her for a very long moment,
arguing behind his eyes.  He sighed and turned his head to
the other couple.  Wynter did, too.  They were observing,
with Cinnamon wearing her "curious pose" look.  "Cinnamon,"
Jimmy said without releasing Wynter, "put your sweater on."
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Kenny simply couldn't understand it.  He should have at
least a dozen rubbers in his sock drawer.  Yeah, he'd been
using a lot of them since the mine, but he hadn't been
getting THAT much action.  He set his right elbow on the arm
of the couch and propped his chin up with his fist,
pondering the puzzling loss of prophylactics.  To his left,
Stephanie looked like she might climb up on the arm of the
couch to gain another inch farther away from him.  She
glared at the television screen, but Kenny knew she wasn't
seeing it any more than he was.
 
   He flicked his eyes to the screen and watched the
coyote load a bomb into a balloon and push it and himself
past the edge of a cliff.  The balloon dropped like a rock. 
Charlie, lying on his stomach on the floor, squealed and
laughed and kicked his feet.
 
   Kenny understood.  "CHARLIE!"  Even Stephanie jumped at
the volume and tone.  Kenny sprang from the couch.  "Come
here!"
 
   Charlie nervously followed him out of earshot.  Kenny
need a couple of minutes, but he finally got Charlie to
admit that he'd borrowed the "balloons" to use as targets
when he was throwing darts in the basement recreation room. 
Fortunately Charlie had buried them in the trash to keep
Mrs. Holland from learning that he'd borrowed Kenny's toys
without permission.
 
   "I'll forgive you," Kenny said, trying to mask the
feeling of relief that Mrs. Holland wouldn't discover them,
"but I want my _Doom_ game back."  That canceled one bit of
blackmail.  Finally, three hours before midnight, something
had gone right during Kenny's day.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   The band accepted the wild applause from the Bighorn's
dance floor, and then the lead singer held up a hand for
silence.  He announced that the band would take a fifteen
minute break.
 
   Richard said a heartfelt prayer of thanks to every
deity he could think of, bowed to Sunni Chang, and took her
hand to escort her back to their table.  He noticed as he
sat down that Henry Chang and Angie looked as winded as he
felt.  Sunni was barely perspiring and looked as if she'd
completed a slow minute waltz.  Did ten years really make
that much difference?
 
   When one of Henry's cousins approached and spoke to
him, Richard turned to Angie.  "I wonder how the other party
is going."
 
   Angie grinned and squeezed his leg under the table.  "I
suspect they've probably adjourned to the bedrooms by now."
 
   Richard wiped his brow.  "We got it backward, you know. 
The young ones should be doing this and us old people should
be the ones in bed."
 
   "Sure," said Angie dryly.  "They don't know how much
fun they're missing, all sacked out in bed together.  I need
another drink."
 
   "No problem, Mistress of My Heart."  He turned and
whistled at a waitress, beckoning when she looked around.
 
   Angie slumped down in her chair and sighed, using up
most of her reserve strength.  "I'm so glad that chivalry
isn't dead."
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Wynter held out her hand.  "Cough it up."
 
   Huntly removed his remaining sock, leaving him only his
funny underpants.  He looked at Cinnamon as he handed it
over.  "She's cheating."
 
   Cinnamon, wearing panty hose over a sheer thong,
agreed.
 
   Jimmy, wearing his underpants and both socks, asked,
"How can you cheat at Monopoly?"
 
   Wynter used a thumb and forefinger to pinch a square
centimeter of sock at the opening and toss it onto the pile
beside her, then made a show of wiping her fingers clean on
the rug.  She decided to say nothing and just give everyone
a smug look.  She leaned back and rested her elbows on the
hearth while she radiated a bushel of smugness.  Her
nervousness had evaporated.  She guessed being fully dressed
helped.  And as an MD she'd have to look at other people
naked every day.
 
   "Not only does she cheat," Huntly said in an
exaggerated voice, "she's closest to the fire!"
 
   As if to emphasize his point an icy draft followed
Dragon through the doggie door before it sealed itself. 
Wynter stopped him when he started to shake and told him to
shake in the hallway.  He trotted to the base of the steps
and shook, then bent to pick up his rawhide bone.
 
   "I sure wish the bitch would let me have a dog like
him," Cinnamon said with a wistful sigh.
 
   "Well, your new mother will let you share him."
 
   Huntly's hand stopped just short of the die.  "New
mother?"
 
   "Uh huh.  This is Cinnamon Brees-King, my new adopted
sister.  Mother decided that an adopted mother would be
better for her than no mother at all."
 
   Jimmy frowned at her.  He knew about the "adoption," of
course.  But her stern words about Mrs. Brees had surprised
him.  Wynter didn't care.  The truth was the truth, and Mrs.
Brees was Cinnamon's mother only in the postpartum sense. 
If Mrs. Brees didn't like what Wynter thought, well, tough. 
Doctors had to tell people things they didn't want to hear
every day.  Mrs. Brees should have been a better mother.
 
   His face changed, as if he'd heard her thought.  He
leaned forward and gave her a gentle kiss.  "No wonder I
love you," he said.  It made her heart do calisthenics.
 
   Dragon lay down beside her and resumed chewing.  She
scratched his ears and looked around in time to see Huntly
give a sigh of relief and count off his spaces.  He handed
her the die, and she rolled it.
 
   "Well, it's about damned time!" Huntly crowed, holding
out his hand.
 
   Wynter counted off the spaces, recounted to be sure,
and then pulled off her left slipper.  She handed it to him,
certain that he could translate the "You're still losing"
grin on her face.
 
   On the next circuit Cinnamon lost her pantyhose.  She
asked Jimmy to help her skin them down her legs.  Huntly
watched, shaking his head.  "Has it occurred to anyone else
that playing strip Monopoly on the floor at the lowest point
of the house on New Year's Eve in the Rocky Mountains isn't
the smartest thing to do?"
 
   Jimmy put her pantyhose between himself and Cinnamon,
on the side away from Dragon.  He picked up the die and
tossed it to Huntly.  "You're the one who wanted to play in
front of the fire."
 
   "Don't remind me."  He sat the die on the edge of the
board.  "The cold air on top of all the punch makes me go
more often.  I'll be right back."
 
   As he rose to his feet Cinnamon looked in his mug. 
"I'll get us more punch while you make room.  Don't spend
the rest of the evening playing with it, okay?"
 
   "Bitch."
 
   She reached up and stroked him through his underpants. 
"What did you say, shithead?"
 
   "Nothing.  I stand corrected."  He straightened his
shoulders and headed toward the bathroom with a springy
step, though with his jeans removed Wynter could see that he
slightly favored his injured left leg.  She knew the chilly
air wasn't helping it.
 
   "I'll get us refills, too," Wynter said as she rose.
 
   "Need any help?" Jimmy asked.
 
   "Um, no.  Why don't you stay here and make sure Dragon
doesn't bother the board."
 
   Jimmy knew as well as she did that all she had to do
was point at the board and say, "Avoid!" and Dragon would
leave it alone.  But he pretended not to know so that Wynter
could say whatever she had to say to Cinnamon alone.  He
wondered what it was, but knew that if he needed to know,
Wynter would tell him.
 
   Wynter looked in the pot.  "We may not have enough left
to make it to midnight," she said.
 
   Cinnamon grinned.  "I'm not surprised, the way I've
been going through it.  I gotta go drain the swamp again
after Huntly finishes.  My turn to pour."
 
   Wynter held the mugs while Cinnamon climbed up on the
low stool, dipped the ladle, and filled them.
 
   "I'm sorry your dad was on duty tonight," Wynter said,
"but I'm glad you're here with us."
 
   Cinnamon grinned at her.  "Even though we're second
choice?"
 
   "Yeah.  But that's because of Kenny and Suzie.  If they
hadn't been fighting, I'd have asked you as first choice,
too."
 
   "Well, they certainly wouldn't be able to resolve their
problem with me here.  Suzie'd never get his attention away
from me."
 
   "What's it like?"
 
   Cinnamon's brows pulled together.  "What's what like?"
 
   "Being so pretty that you're a distraction to everyone
else?"  She lowered the mug and picked up an empty one.  The
ladle didn't move.
 
   "Why don't you tell me?"
 
   Wynter managed to frown with wide eyes.  "Me?"
 
   "Sure.  You can't tell me that the boys at school are
so stupid as to ignore you.  I saw how they looked at you at
your birthday party.  And I talked to the girls, too."
 
   "Well, one or two got a little pushy at first, but
Kenny told them to back off and they did."
 
   "And word got around, I'm sure.  But what about the
rest?  Even though they don't get pushy, how about the way
they look at you?"
 
   Wynter's face scrunched in concentration.  "I guess I
never noticed.  I have trouble concentrating on anyone but
Jimmy most of the time."
 
   "Next time try opening your eyes."  She resumed dipping
and pouring.  "Do you have problem concentrating on your dad
now that you have Jimmy?"
 
   Wynter's heart suddenly felt too big for her chest. 
"Oh, no!  It's still wonderful.  I guess that's 'cause I
love him so much.  Neither one makes me love or enjoy the
other any less."
 
   Cinnamon's round cheeks pushed out again.  "Yeah.  I
feel the same for my dad when I'm with someone else.  If he
hadn't had duty tonight, I'd have stayed home to give him as
happy a new year as I could.  But he was off for Christmas,
so he's on tonight.  He has four potential first babies of
the new year, and two of those are twins."
 
   "You ever wonder what it will be like when you're
pregnant?"
 
   "Yeah.  Daddy and I have talked about it, but his
viewpoint isn't really first-hand.  You ever talk about it
with your mom?"
 
   "Uh huh.  And you can, too, since she's your adopted
mom now.  She makes it sound neat.  A little scary, but
still neat."
 
   Cinnamon paused in mid-dip.  "I'd like that.  I've
always wondered what it felt like having a real mother."
 
   "Well, now you get to find out!"
 
   Cinnamon grinned even wider than Wynter though
possible.  "Yeah."  She poured the third mug full.  "I still
can't believe your mother approves."
 
   "Yeah.  After she realized it was happening, Daddy had
her go for another walk and sort it out.  Daddy says
Mother's subconscious is the smartest part of her and that
it always puts things in place if she'll let it.  She's
still uncomfortable at times.  It's another reason she
doesn't mind my sexual activities with Jimmy.  She's hoping
Jimmy will make me forget Daddy.  Deep inside she still
doesn't like giving up her Friday nights with him."
 
   Cinnamon topped off the last mug as the bathroom door
opened.  Huntly started up the steps.  Cinnamon glared over
her shoulder.  "Fuck off!  You can't join this conversation
with that plumbing, so we'll remove it if you try."
 
   "Sheesh!  I was just looking for more cookies.  But if
you want to bring some, I'll be happy to let you serve me,
wench."
 
   "No problem.  Get out."
 
   "Bitch."
 
   "Shithead."  She watched him retreat down the steps and
then grinned at Wynter.  "Not many guys can hold their own
with me.  He's okay."
 
   Wynter looked skeptical.  "You sound like you're about
to kill each other."
 
   "Maybe later.  You know about black widow spiders and
their mates?"
 
   Wynter giggled and nodded.  "Some female spiders kill
the males right in the middle of intercourse, you know. 
Just like praying mantises."
 
   Cinnamon returned the ladle to its holder and reached
for the pot lid.  "I haven't tried that one.  Yet."
 
   "Ummm...."  She couldn't find the words to ask what she
was thinking.
 
   Cinnamon gave her the curious pose look.  "What?  If
I'm your sister, you should be able to talk to me about
anything.  And anyway, there's the rule about questions."
 
   Wynter relaxed.  "Yeah.  Um, how much of what you say
is talk and how many guys have you done?  It can't be as
many as you seem to say."
 
   "Ten or twelve guys and four girls, I think.  Plus my
father."  She shrugged.  "I don't keep score."
 
   Wynter gasped.  "You've REALLY done it with girls?"
 
   "Well, yeah.  I told you.  It's fun!  Sometimes guys
are more fun, sometimes girls are.  But it's all good.  All
except Buttfucker Bennie, but he's two thousand miles away,
and I hope to be lucky enough to never see him again.  What
a shithead."
 
   Wynter looked down the stairs.  Jimmy would be getting
lonely, even if Huntly was with him.  "Is that a long
story?"
 
   "Yeah.  Let's get this game over with and move to a
warmer part of the house.  Hey, is the hot tub finally
working?"
 
   "Yeah!  Hot water is a good way to restore lost
internal body heat.  Um, one last question?"
 
   "Sure.  You're my sister.  I'll always have time for
you."
 
   Wynter felt her heart suddenly get bigger.  "Thanks. 
Your dad?  I never asked because you didn't want to talk
about something.  How often do you and he, um, get
together?"
 
   "Whenever Millie gets drunk enough and passes out for
the night.  Maybe four or five times a week.  I'm sorry you
don't get to spend that much time with your dad."
 
   "Uh huh.  Me, too.  Four or five times a week sounds
pretty good."
 
   Cinnamon's eyes turned a little bit sad.  "It would be
if we could have fun every time.  But some nights he's more
wasted than she is, and it's because she's almost broken his
spirit.  But that's another long story, too."  She hopped
down off the stool.  "HUNTLY!"
 
   "What?" echoed up from the family room.
 
   "Come get your goddamned cookies!"
 
   "Bitch!"
 
   "Shithead!"  She grinned at Wynter.  "I like him."
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Wynter held out her hand.  "Cough 'em up."
 
   She liked the shade of red Jimmy turned.  She could
duplicate it with her colored pencils, but she couldn't do
so with her oil paints.  Yet.
 
   "Wynter...."
 
   She knew she couldn't give in to the look on his face
or the pitiful tone in his voice.  "You didn't mind when I
lost my other slipper.  Cough 'em up."
 
   "But....  Wouldn't you rather have Huntly's underwear? 
His boxers have Mickey Mouse on them.  These are just plain
cotton jockey...."
 
   "I have eyes.  No.  I want yours 'cause you lost 'em. 
I'll get Huntly's next.  Cough 'em up."  The only other
thing Jimmy was wearing was her arrowhead on the thong
around his neck and she'd never ask him to remove it.
 
   "It's a good thing I love you," he muttered as he
rolled onto one hip to start working his underpants down.
 
   She wanted to jump up and shout "YES!"  She'd been
afraid he'd back down at this point.  Instead she kept her
voice calm and said, "Sure is.  I can't think of anything
better in the whole wide world."  He looked at her, and she
made sure that her face said she really and truly meant it,
which wasn't difficult at all.
 
   "I can," he said.  "It's having you love me."
 
   "You two wanna sabe duh mushy stub fuh later?" Huntly
mumbled around a mouthful of cookie.
 
   "You in a hurry to see my dick?"
 
   "Unh uh.  I'b inna hurry tuh beat duh pants offa
Wynduh.  Liderally."
 
   "Well, I'M in a hurry to see it," said Cinnamon,
leaning forward as the white cloth slipped over his feet. 
"That's it?  Must be colder in here than I thought."
 
   Wynter laughed, spewing the punch she was drinking up
her nose.
 
   "That thing does get bigger, doesn't it?" she asked
Wynter.
 
   The hot punch in her nose had brought tears to her
eyes.  She wiped at them, coughed, and said, "You'd be
surprised."
 
   Huntly swallowed his cookie and waggled a finger at her
chest.  "You sprayed some out your nose and onto your
blouse.  You'd better take it off before you catch a chill."
 
   Wynter glanced down.  "I'm also wearing a bra, you
know."
 
   "It's wet too.  Need any help getting it off?"
 
   "Well, Jimmy's closer if I do."
 
   "No he's not."
 
   "He will be."
 
   Jimmy blew on his fingernails and then hesitated. 
Wynter stuck her chest toward him, and he buffed them on her
blouse over her left tit.
 
   Huntly leaned back against the piano bench and made a
moaning sound.  Cinnamon backhanded his right knee and
rolled the die.
 
   Jimmy held out his hand.  "Cough 'em up."
 
   She stripped the thong off so fast she was almost a
blur.  Instead of handing them to Jimmy she tossed them in
his face.
 
   Huntly shook his head.  "If you can't catch any better
than that, you'd better avoid the infield."
 
   Cinnamon leaned forward again, peered, and then shook
her head.  "Nope."  She sounded disappointed.  "It's still
the same size.  Maybe it needs thawing out.  You wanna put
it in here and warm it up?"  She spread her short legs.
 
   "No."  He wasn't quite as red as before.  "Um, thanks."
 
   Wynter looked at Cinnamon and shrugged one shoulder. 
It was a whole lot more than she'd expected out of him.
 
   Cinnamon winked at him.  "Any time."
 
   Wynter lost a sock before collecting Huntly's Mickey
Mouse underpants.  She leaned forward as he handed them
over.  "You make fun of Jimmy when you have THAT?"
 
   "Oh, so you're interested in my cock now?" he asked as
he puffed out his chest.
 
   "I'm a Future MD.  I haven't decided on my field yet,
but I might decide to specialize in genital abnormalities."
 
   Huntly flashed an annoyed look at Jimmy, who was
choking on punch and slapping his thigh.  "Can we go
someplace warm now?"
 
   Cinnamon nodded agreement.  "Wynter said the hot tub
was working.  Shall we adjourn and reconvene in the
basement?"
 
   The vote was unanimous in favor of the motion. 
Actually it was more than unanimous.  Huntly voted twice.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Jimmy exhaled in a contented sigh as the churning
bubbly water gently rocked him.
 
   Wynter squeezed his hand.  Jimmy was relieved that the
churning bubbles helped clothe him.  As was Wynter, he
realized.  All four were reclining with just their heads
above the water. Wynter's blonde ponytail draped over the
edge, but Cinnamon's hair churned around her.  She snorted
and gathered it, sticking it under one arm to hold it in
place.
 
   Wynter sighed, too.  "Sure would have been nice to have
had this in the mine, wouldn't it?"
 
   "Uh huh.  But I found a nicer way to stay warm in
there."
 
   Her responding giggle was the nicest thing he had ever
heard.  Sometimes she seemed way too old and worldly for
him.  The giggle made her human and his age, and it always
reminded him of how much he loved her.  And holding hands
like this, with her fingers intertwined with his, even if it
was underwater, always reminded him of the first high point
of his life, when she'd held hands that way in the Aspenleaf
Center's movie theater for the first time.
 
   He sighed again, then lifted his head when Huntly asked
to change places with Cinnamon.  "What's the matter?  You
wanna sit across from my girl so you can ogle her better?"
 
   "It does have that advantage, but I want to put my knee
up to that jet."  He pointed.
 
   Wynter spoke up in what Jimmy had starting thinking of
as her "doctor voice."  Whenever she used it, he always felt
good inside because he had a girlfriend who cared so much
about the well-being of others.  "Does massage help?"
 
   Cinnamon screamed.  She had stood up to allow Huntly to
scoot across to the other seat.  He'd bitten her on the butt
enroute.  She glared down at him.  "Shithead!"
 
   "Bitch!  You want me to kiss it and make it better?"
 
   "You can kiss my ass, all right."
 
   He did and then said to Wynter, "Massage usually helps. 
Sometimes nothing does.  I have some high-powered
painkillers, but I don't like to use them because they knock
me out."
 
   "Vicoprofin?"  Doctor Henderson tended to prescribe
Vicoprofin for his orthopedic patients.
 
   "I think so."
 
   Her face compressed in concentration.  Jimmy liked the
different looks she had to fit every occasion.  It was like
having a whole harem of girlfriends who he loved more than
life itself, and every one of them thought he was the
greatest thing on Earth.  He had to be the luckiest guy in
the world.
 
   "Okay," she said, removing the scrunchie from her
ponytail.  "Leave it there for about ten minutes and then
I'll massage it."
 
   "Damn!"  
 
   Jimmy tore his eyes away from Wynter to see Huntly
gaping at her.
 
   "You're beautiful with your hair down."
 
   "She's beautiful with it in the ponytail, too," Jimmy
said in reminder.
 
   "I knew that.  I didn't know how pretty she was with it
down."
 
   He watched Cinnamon's left arm move sideways
underwater.  She grinned really big at Wynter and said, "You
gave him a boner.  See what I mean?"
 
   Wynter said an embarrassed, "Thank you," to Huntly
while Jimmy wondered what Cinnamon was talking about.  It
had something to do with the "girl talk" in the kitchen, and
therefore was something he couldn't fathom.  He switched to
analyzing his feelings about his girlfriend giving another
guy a hardon.  He wasn't sure that he liked that.  But
Wynter had told him in the mine that people weren't
responsible if their bodies obeyed autonomic reflexes they
had no control over.  This was no different.  After all, he
sometimes got erections looking at Wynter naked.
 
   Heck, he sometimes got them looking her fully clothed.
 
   He guessed that if the circumstances had been less
emotionally turbulent, he might have gotten one seeing
Cinnamon naked.  She was the second prettiest girl he'd ever
seen and had that appealing impish charm about her.  If not
for Wynter, he might consider Cinnamon.
 
   Which was strange, because Cinnamon appeared to be more
like Caroline than Suzie, and he certainly didn't find
Caroline appealing.  Suzie... well, Suzie had no appeal when
she was... he hated to use the word "snotty," but that's
what she was at the time.  But Suzie had matured and become,
well, charming, after the mine.  He wasn't sure how much of
that was because the life-or-death situation had affected
her and how much was Kenny's influence.
 
   He had a hard time picturing Kenny as a favorable
influence on anybody, but he decided that he was being
unfair.  He wasn't seeing the Kenny within.  The hidden
Kenny, the one who...."
 
   He felt Wynter jerk his arm and turned his head to see
her grinning at him.
 
   "Did you go someplace else?"
 
   "Huh?"  He blinked and looked around.  "Uh, yeah, I
guess I did.  What did you say?"
 
   "Never mind," said Huntly.  "We'd have to recreate the
conversation before you could respond with anything that
made sense, and I don't think we could and get back to that
point.  I'm worried about you, Jimbo.  I certainly wouldn't
zone out and leave my beautiful girlfriend at the mercy of
someone like me."
 
   Jimmy glanced at Cinnamon and felt his grin spread. 
"Well, I trusted her virtue to the capable hands of her
older sister.  She'd certainly have little difficulty
keeping your ass in line."
 
   Wynter squeezed his hand.  He knew without doubt that
it meant that she was pleased that he'd acknowledged
Cinnamon as her adopted older sister.  Then she released his
hand.
 
   "Time's up," she said, scooting forward on the seat. 
"Let's have the knee."
 
   Jimmy frowned.  "What?  I thought you said ten
minutes."
 
   "Geez!" Huntly groaned.  "You gotta be two bases short
of a baseball diamond if you fell asleep with the two
best-looking babes in the whole school sitting naked in a
hot tub with you."  He centered his knee and moved as Wynter
positioned the leg the way she wanted it.
 
   He blinked at Huntly.  It sounded like something Kenny
would say.  And that reminded him that while he was
"someplace else," he'd felt like maybe he was getting close
to the Suzie-Kenny problem's solution.
 
   "Suzie," he mumbled.
 
   "No, I'm Huntly.  Suzie's shorter and has red hair--not
that red," he said with a nod toward Cinnamon, "but she's
almost as good looking as me."
 
   Cinnamon snorted.  "That's an insult to Suzie.  On the
way up here I saw those buffalo at...."  She gave Wynter a
blank look.
 
   "Genesee."
 
   "Thanks.  And they looked a thousand times better than
you!"
 
   "Bitch.  OW!"
 
   "Be nice to my sister," Wynter said with a fetching
evil grin, "or I'll pinch your leg again."
 
   "He can't help it because he's a shithead.  OW!"
 
   Jimmy sat back and tried to match Wynter's grin.  "Be
nice to my friend or I'll pinch YOU again."
 
   "Well," she said with a leer, "depending on where you
want to pinch, I might call him a shithead for the rest of
the night."
 
   He couldn't stop the groan from escaping.  Wynter, her
hands still massaging underwater, said, "You must be asleep
if you didn't see that one coming."
 
   "Look," Huntly said without lifting his head from the
padded headrest, "I don't care what you two do, but if you
stop Wynter from massaging my knee, I'll never speak to
either of you again."
 
   Cinnamon raised her eyebrows at Jimmy.  "That sound
good to you?"
 
   "Sounds fine to me."
 
   "You two deserve each other," Huntly said with a sneer. 
"I'll take the doctor here."
 
   Wynter giggled in a most un-doctorlike manner.
 
   Cinnamon looked horrified.  "I can't let something that
tragic happen to my only sister."
 
   "Cinnamon's right," Jimmy said with a nod.  "We like
Wynter."
 
   "Assholes," Huntly murmured before sighing and saying,
"Could you do that spot a little more?"
 
   Jimmy chuckled but felt good about knowing that the
love of his life was helping to ease Huntly's injured knee.
From the corner of his eye he saw Cinnamon adjust her
position, and then he felt her hands on his foot.  She
lifted it and placed it in her lap.  Her legs parted
slightly and his heel pressed against....
 
   "CINNAMON!"
 
   "Oh, relax.  I'm not gonna masturbate with it."  She
began massaging his instep with her thumbs.  Jimmy was
surprised at how good it felt.  "And your foot's too big to
stick up my twat the way you did your fingers."
 
   Jimmy's peripheral vision saw Huntly's head turn. 
"Look, I didn't stick them up your, uh, vagina.  They just
went into your crack a little bit."
 
   "WHAT?"
 
   "Later, shithead."  Her thumbs continued to massage his
instep while her fingers began working on the top of his
foot.  A few seconds later the evil grin spread.  "They went
in far enough to get nice and wet, though, didn't they? 
Remember how hot and wet it was?  Nice and slick, wasn't it? 
And, mmmm, remember how good my pussy juice smelled?"
 
   _Oh, shit!_
 
   "Hey, Sis?"
 
   Wynter looked up from her task.  She looked like she
was trying not to grin.  "What?"
 
   "You boyfriend has a boner."
 
   "I'm busy."
 
   Jimmy decided it was a damned good thing that he loved
her too much to call her a bitch.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   "Ponytail?" Wynter asked.
 
   "Unh uh," Jimmy grunted.  "Huntly's right:  you really
are beautiful with it down."  He held the covers up and let
her slide into bed under them.  He braced his hands on the
mattress to either side of her waist and vaulted over her.
 
   She watched his erection as he flew over.  "You could
have pole vaulted," she said.
 
   "No kidding!  You could have helped, you know."
 
   "You wanted me to handjob you in the hot tub?"
 
   "Well, no, but...."
 
   "In the shower room, then?"
 
   "No, but...."
 
   "While we were drying each other off?"
 
   "WYNTER!"
 
   She grinned.  "At least Cinnamon knows that you have a
bigger boner than Huntly's.  And I guess he won't be teasing
you about your size in the gym any more.  'Hey, look at
stubby,' he'll say, and you'll reply, 'When it comes to
shooting time, you've got a pistol, but I got a rifle,
bozo.'"
 
   She watched him try to keep a stern face but lose it in
a fit of laughter.  Finally he straightened, mimed tilting
back his hat, and put his hands on his imaginary six-guns. 
She thought he looked wonderfully manly kneeling there with
his erection pointing at the ceiling over her head.
 
   "Shucks, Miz King, ma'am.  I'd be mighty obliged if
you'd kindly help me unload this here rifle."
 
   She giggled.  "I'm afraid to touch it, sir!  Looks like
it'd go off in my face if I touched it!  Maybe you shoulda
let that there nice little Miz Brees-King unload it an hour
ago like she kindly offered to do."
 
   "WYNTER!"
 
   She put on her stern face and fought to keep the grin
from spoiling it.  "Well, then you wouldn't be so desperate
now, would you?  Here I am all set to make love, but noooo. 
I got a man who needs to get off and will before he ever
gets it in me. I got...."  She lost the fight and the let
the grin sweep the sternness from her face.  "Scoot up.  I
might as well blow you so that it doesn't go to waste.  Is
it uncomfortable?"
 
   He shrugged.  "Yeah, it's getting that way."
 
   She rolled to her side and grabbed it at the base.  She
knew that if she grabbed it any higher he'd probably shoot
all over her face and the pillow.  She stopped with her
mouth a millimeter from the tip.  "Jimmy, I have a
question."
 
   "Okay."
 
   She realized he was struggling to sound normal.  "Just
exactly how does Cinnamon's pussy juice smell?"  She giggled
and shoved her mouth around the head of his erection.  He
was cumming before her lips closed.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   _Drat!_  Semen trickled out of Wynter's vagina and down
her butt.  She hated having any of it leave her body.  Why
couldn't vaginas have storage pouches where women could keep
the ejaculate of the men they loved.  Why did it have to
trickle away to wet the mattress--or in her case, the towel
under her butt.  Why couldn't she keep a part of Jimmy
inside of her when the rest of him had to pull out?  She
thought about Cinnamon's comment about spiders.  Some
insects' penises broke off and stayed in the female after
sex.  Not a bad idea if they could be reattached later.  But
they couldn't, so it was better to leave Jimmy's attached to
him.
 
   Oh, well.  She had a distended bladder to take care of
anyway.  She looked at the dreamy eyes peering at her from
the pillow.  "I'm finished with the last of the punch," she
said.
 
   He grinned and nodded, which must have taken a lot of
effort after fucking her once and making love to her twice
after the blowjob.  "Go for me, too, so I don't have to get
up?"
 
   "I'll try.  Have I told you I love you?"
 
   He nodded.  "I think I heard that in the mixture of
Eskimo and Swahili you said the last time you came."
 
   She harrumphed.  "I don't know who's worse: you or...." 
She'd almost said, "Daddy."  Before she could think of
something to say the door flew open and the other couple
entered with all the grace and elegance of a tornado in a
trailer park.
 
   Jimmy raised up on his elbows.  "At least Suzie and
Kenny knocked first."  Wynter thought he sounded more tired
than cross.
 
   "Uh huh," Cinnamon said.  "Just like you did at
Kenny's."
 
   He muttered a soft, "Damn," and something about himself
as he collapsed to the mattress.
 
   "It's almost midnight," she said to Wynter.  Didn't
want you to miss it."
 
   Wynter gasped.  She had forgotten all about the time. 
"Jimmy, we have eight minutes.  Get up."
 
   "Okay," he mumbled.  He rolled to the edge of the bed
and began laboriously bringing himself to a standing
position.  Dragon rose and shook everything back into place
as Jimmy did so.
 
   "Man, you must be out of shape," Huntly said.
 
   "Or maybe," Cinnamon said with a frown, "HE hasn't been
asleep for the last half-hour."
 
   He started an excuse, but Wynter interrupted.  "Excuse
me, but I have some used punch to get rid of and a mess to
clean up."
 
   Cinnamon bent sideways a little and looked down. 
"Jimmy did all that?  Obviously he didn't have time to
sleep.  Here, let me help."
 
   Her hand shot out and swiped fingertips along the
crease between Wynter's thigh and her labia.  She pulled
back a glob of semen and glanced at it before popping into
her mouth.  "Pretty good!" she said.  "That's a Chateau
McCauley, vintage 1991, blended with a little Chateau King
of the same year.  Either excellent alone, positively
scrumptious when blended.  I'd be happy to take care of that
for you."
 
   Wynter forced her mouth closed. "Ummm...."
 
   "I know.  Gotta go drain the swamp and don't have time
for more fun."  She fluttered shooing motions with her
hands.  "Well, it's too close to midnight anyway.  Meet us
in the kitchen.  Come on lover boys."  She grabbed Huntly's
penis and reached for Jimmy's.  He grabbed her hand and
intertwined his fingers with hers.  "It's our first date,"
he said.  "I only hold hands on the first date."
 
   "Men!"  She shook her head.  "See you downstairs!"
 
   Wynter let the circus parade go first, then grabbed a
scrunchie and hurried to the bathroom.  She fixed her
ponytail while sighing with relief.  She was amazed at the
change in Jimmy since the evening had begun.  It wouldn't
last, and tomorrow he'd be back to the same, but the
prudectomy seemed to be enjoying some success.  Maybe he
wouldn't regress as far.  As the echo of the downstairs
toilet flushing reverberated through the pipes she douched
and then washed her exterior genitalia before heading for
the kitchen.  Halfway down the stairs she heard a POP!
 
   "Don't spill it, shithead!"
 
   "If you don't like the way I do it, you can ask Jimmy
to open it next year, bitch."
 
   She turned the corner at the bottom and saw Huntly
kissing Cinnamon as she waved a small champagne bottle at
Jimmy.  He took it.  She wrapped both arms around Huntly's
neck.  A few seconds later she convulsed.
 
   Jimmy looked at Wynter and shook his head.  "I didn't
know girls could cum just from kissing."
 
   Wynter frowned at the couple for a second.  "Well, this
is the first time I've seen her doing it naked.  I think she
helps it along with some thigh masturbation."
 
   "You're learning," Cinnamon gasped.  "Glasses.  Hurry."
 
   "Um, I can only have just a little bit of that."
 
   "One to three fingers depending on the size of the
glass.  I don't want much, either, in case Millie's
condition is hereditary.  But it's not New Year's Eve
without champagne.  We'll leave the rest for your parents."
 
   Jimmy helped carry the glasses in from the dining room
china cabinet.  Cinnamon poured while Huntly tuned the
television station to a New Year's Eve celebration.  The
countdown was at six when he rushed back into the kitchen
and grabbed his glass.
 
   "FIVE!  FOUR!  THREE!  TWO!  ONE!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!"
they echoed and then sipped the champagne.
 
   Wynter had sampled a few white wines she liked, but she
didn't care much for champagne.  This one, however, was much
better than the other two or three she'd tried.  She
suddenly realized that the small bottle on the table could
have cost as much as her diamond earrings, and maybe more.
 
   Dragon, nervous from the shouting, nuzzled her leg. 
"It's okay."  She dipped a finger in the champagne and let
Dragon lick it off.  "Happy New Year, Dragon."  He gave her
cheek a slurp, responding in kind.
 
   "You should get him his own glass," said Huntly, taking
another sip.  "I saw the Sarrell brothers get a dog drunk
once.  It was hilarious."
 
   "Nothing is funny when it's drunk, shithead!"  It was
the only time Wynter had heard the nickname when it didn't
have a loving tone to it.  Instead, Cinnamon's entire
sentence had been harsh, if not savage.
 
   Jimmy also sounded exceptionally cross when he added,
"Nothing Dick Sarrell ever did was funny."  Dick was one of
the two kidnappers who were going to rape Suzie and Wynter
and then kill all of them at the mine.
 
   It was Huntly's turn to look like an old sheep.  "Um,
yeah.  I'm really sorry.  Honest.  I guess I was still
asleep.  Didn't mean to start 2004 with bad memories and a
fight.  Okay?"
 
   They all forgave him.
 
   "Thanks.  Say, isn't the mistletoe still a New Year's
tradition?"
 
   "Yeah!" Cinnamon said.  "Who gets to use it first?"
 
   "I believe," Jimmy said while rubbing his chin in
thought, "that mistletoe's effects radiate down in a conical
projection.  Given the height of the ceiling, our individual
heights, and the fact that the Earth is a spherical surface,
I calculate there's enough room for us to use it
simultaneously."
 
   Cinnamon gave him an appreciative look.  "Brains!"  She
scowled at Huntly.  "Brawn."  She looked at Wynter.  "Brains
or brawn.  Which should I choose.  Hmmm.  Hey, Sis?  Wanna
trade?"
 
   "Okay."
 
   Huntly straightened, blew on his nails, and buffed them
on his chest.
 
   "But I get to trade back after I kiss him."
 
   Huntly deflated.  "Aw, man...."
 
   As Dragon headed down the steps to his doggie door
Wynter held out a hand.  "If you'd rather I not trade at
all...."
 
   "NO!"  He took her hand.  "Follow me, please."
 
   Jimmy brought his forearm horizontal and extended his
elbow to Cinnamon.  "Would milady care to join me under the
mistletoe?"
 
   She curtsied elegantly and looped her hand in place. 
"My pleasure."
 
   Wynter decided Huntly's technique had improved greatly
since his arrival thanks to Cinnamon.  She relaxed and let
herself get lost in the long moment of the kiss, her mind
drifting to thoughts of Jimmy, and coming back to earth when
she heard Cinnamon start her orgasm.
 
   Huntly's mouth jerked away to stop at her ear and
quietly gasp, "You keep that up and I'll be next."
 
   She frowned.  _ What in the world is he....OH NO!_  She
jerked her lower hand away in stunned surprise and started
to say something.
 
   "Shhh," he said softly in her ear.  "I understand.  You
went away and forgot it was me.  I won't say anything on one
condition."
 
   _Uh oh._  "What?" she whispered, fearing the worst.
 
   "You don't ask me to forget about it."
 
   She pulled back to study his face.  He really and truly
meant it.  That was all he was asking.  She nodded and
kissed him again, this time in sincere appreciation.  She
felt his knees go weak and his erection press against her
abdomen, but, miraculously, he didn't spurt.
 
   Cinnamon gasped for air.
 
   "Was it good?" Wynter asked.
 
   "For both of us," she cooed.  She held up a
semen-coated hand.  "After all of his goo that ran out of
your goodie box, he produces all of this, too?  Amazing!" 
She popped her fingers in her mouth and hummed a yummy
sound.
 
   Jimmy's eyes refocused on this world and he stared down
in horror.  "Oh, no!  Oh, shit!  Wynter!  Oh, no!  Wynter,
I'm so...."
 
   She shushed him.  "You went someplace else and forgot
who you were with.  Besides, midnight didn't change
anything.  It's not 'tomorrow' until we wake up."
 
   "But...."
 
   "James Evan McCauley!  Autonomic reflexes.  Okay?"
 
   He still looked terrified and apologetic, but he
nodded.  Maybe that would do the prudectomy more good than
everything else that night.
 
   Wynter glanced a silent question at Huntly.  He shook
his head.  "Chivalry isn't dead yet."
 
   She smiled thanks at him while Jimmy asked, "What the
hell is that supposed to mean?"
 
   "I was talking to the lady."
 
   Cinnamon switched from her curious pose to a nod of
understanding directed at Wynter.  "Come here, lover boy,
and I'll take care of that for you."
 
   Huntly politely excused himself and moved to Cinnamon. 
She plopped down in the end chair and deep throated him.
 
   Jimmy turned startled, disbelieving eyes to Wynter.
 
   "Kiss me," she said.  "I think I want to try that thigh
masturbation trick."
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Everybody shouted "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" except Stephanie
and Kenny.  She chose that opportunity to finally notice him
and to offer him a withering sneer.
 
   Kenny didn't care.  He knew his year would be anything
but happy until Suzie would let him explain.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   _Fuck._
 
   Her parents woke her up singing that stupid song about
some old lame sign.  How could she have a happy year if she
started it with the knowledge that the man she had loved had
made a fool out of her?  Even worse, Caroline had called
earlier in the evening to say she'd probably not be back
until after Monday.
 
   She was going to have a stupid miserable year, and it
was all... _His_... fault.  She rolled over and slammed her
fist against the pillow.  She'd pay him back for all the
pain and misery he'd caused her.  She didn't know how yet,
but Suzie Middleton would make him pay.
 
   She drifted off to sleep after the wet pillow grew much
wetter.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Kenny drifted out of the school cafeteria and down the
hallway toward his locker.  He'd barely touched his lunch
because he had no appetite.  He'd had two classes with Suzie
so far, and she refused to acknowledge that he even
breathed.  She didn't tell him to go away; she just acted as
if his space was occupied by empty air.  He didn't know what
to do.
 
   Several people spoke to him in the hall.  He responded
with a mumble that was as unintelligible as their words he
didn't hear.  He didn't care what they had to say.  Not
unless they had a way to get Suzie to listen to him.
 
   As he passed the side hall to the geography and history
classrooms he heard it.  There was no mistaking the voice. 
And for Kenny Taylor there was no mistaking the tone of
distress in it.  He spun around and started down that hall. 
Two classrooms down, on the right, he found them.  The doors
to the classrooms were set back in small alcoves a couple of
feet deep.  Matthew Wylie had his back to him and Suzie
pinned in the corner.
 
   "Come on," he said in a tone that made Kenny see red. 
"Gimme a little kiss now and then later we can see if you're
as good a slut as your sister."
 
   Suzie stamped her foot.  "Let me go or I'll...."
 
   "Or you'll what?  Who do you think they'll believe: 
the star of the school or the sister of the town slut?"
 
   "Hey!" Kenny said, tapping the taller boy's arm.
 
   Wylie looked over his shoulder.  "Fuck off, Taylor."
 
   "Hey!  Let her go!"
 
   Wylie shook his head and began a left turn to face
Kenny.  He suddenly brought his right fist around in a hook. 
Kenny ducked and slammed his knuckles into Wylie's crotch. 
As the older boy's hands began retracting to his damaged
goods, Kenny straightened and brought his knee up to meet
the descending chin.  He whirled about, whipped out his leg,
and dropped Wylie to the floor.  He jumped on the older
boy's chest and drew back his hand, ready to deliver a chop
to Wylie's neck if he didn't listen to Kenny and apologize
to Suzie.
 
   "What's going on here?"
 
   He glanced up and saw Principal Peters and Mister Ames,
the English teacher, working their way through the gathering
crowd.
 
   "Matthew?" Mister Ames asked.  "What's going on here?"
 
   "Ask Suzie," Kenny said, his arm still cocked and ready
to strike.
 
   "Miss Middleton?"
 
   Kenny didn't take his eyes of Wylie, but he heard
Suzie's expression in her voice.  "I was talking to Matthew
when Kenny got jealous and attacked him."
 
   He lowered his arm and turned in shock to look at her.
 
   The look Stephanie had given him at midnight had been
one of loving admiration by comparison.  His heart fell to
the soles of his shoes, and her barely heard Principal
Peters say, "Taylor, you're expelled."
 
 
 
                           Ten
 
   Wynter turned to see what Jimmy had suddenly frowned at
over her shoulder.  Suzie was taking a seat in Mister
Shelby's science classroom.  "Wait here," she said.  She was
sorry she'd sounded bossy, but class started in another four
or five minutes, and she wanted to hear what Suzie had to
say alone.  She was afraid that Jimmy's presence might keep
Suzie from talking.  But then she realized that he'd already
known that.
 
   "Suzie?"
 
   Suzie looked up from pulling books out of her pack. 
Her face showed no emotion.  "Look, I was talking to Matthew
Wylie and... _He_... attacked him, end of story.  Okay?  Why
is everyone so worried about... _Him_... all of a sudden?"
 
   Wynter wrung her hands in frustration because she
didn't know what else to do with them.  She was afraid that
if she didn't do something, she'd use them to strangle the
story out of Suzie.  "We're concerned about both of you,
Suzie.  Neither one of you is acting like yourself.  I'm
your best friend, remember?"
 
   Suzie's look was cool if not icy.  "Really?  I hear
Cinnamon's your new 'adopted sister' now instead of me."
 
   Wynter blinked in surprise.  "Suzie, you have a mother. 
She doesn't, except for that accident of birth that she
lives with, but that's not a real mother.  You also have
Caroline.  You don't need a sister and mother the way she
does.  It was Mother's idea of giving her someone she can
turn to when she needs a mother.  You're already like a
sister to me.  That's why I try to help you and get
frustrated because I don't know what's going on."
 
   "Fine.  But you're also on ... _His_... side.  Look, I
gotta get ready for class.  I didn't finish my homework
during Christmas break."  She opened her book and her
binder, ignoring Wynter.
 
   Wynter turned around in frustration and saw a streak of
red.  Cinnamon had entered the classroom and was on a
beeline to Jimmy.  As Wynter took her first step toward them
she thought she heard a giggle from Suzie, but she didn't
turn to look.  Jimmy was looking at them instead of
Cinnamon.  He could tell her, and she wouldn't have to turn
around.
 
   She arrived at the same time as Cinnamon, but held up a
hand to tell the smaller girl to wait.  "I thought I heard
Suzie laugh as I was walking away.
 
   "Uh huh," Jimmy said with a nod.  "She was looking
down, trying to not smile."
 
   Wynter turned to Cinnamon to say it was her turn.  She
saw the "curious pose" look on the girl's face.  "It fits. 
I gotta call Daddy."  She slipped off her pack and reached
for a zipper.
 
   "Cinnamon," Jimmy said in a warning tone as Cinnamon
turned, "you're not supposed to use cell phones during
school except in case of emergency."
 
   The look she gave him over her shoulder said that she
thought he was about as smart as Uncle Bozo on a bad day. 
"As far as I'm concerned, Kenny's getting expelled
qualifies."  She headed for a rear corner of the classroom,
digging into her pack.
 
   Sure enough, Mister Shelby entered the classroom before
Cinnamon was finished and saw her.  Wynter and Jimmy
intercepted him.
 
   "Wait a minute, sir," Jimmy said, holding up a hand. 
"You know what happened to Kenny?
 
   "Don't know anyone who doesn't by now," he replied. 
Many of the teachers would have brushed Jimmy aside, but not
Mister Shelby.  Wynter knew it was partly because Mister
Shelby treated all the students fairly and partly because
Mister Shelby trusted and respected Jimmy.  That second
thought made her feel warm and tingly all over.
 
   "But something's not right with the story, and surely
you know that, too.  That's Cinnamon Brees.  She's like a
female Ron Lopez, and she's onto something.  If you don't
let her resolve it, Kenny may not make it to Medical School,
and then you'll have one less name on your list of people
you helped make into doctors."
 
   Mister Shelby blinked at him and then turned to Wynter. 
"He never fought dirty like this before.  Have you been a
bad influence on him?"
 
   Wynter grinned.  "Uh huh.  I call him in the middle of
the night and give him ideas on how to fight dirty every
chance I get.  Um, since you're here, I need some help with
my photosynthesis project.  Could you look at my notebook?"
 
   Mister Shelby knew by now that Wynter's photosynthesis
project was something she done two years earlier while being
home schooled and that she could answer any questions he or
any other teacher raised about it, but he went along with
her ruse so that he'd have an excuse not to notice Cinnamon
on the phone.
 
   Cinnamon turned and approached them as the bell rang. 
"It's taken care of."
 
   "What is?" Wynter and Jimmy asked in one voice.
 
   "Later.  Jimmy, would you introduce me to the teacher?"
 
   Wynter took her seat and listened to the hoots and
catcalls.  Mister Shelby looked up from Cinnamon and
directed the class to "show that some vestiges of
civilization have influenced you at one point or another."
 
   "It's not fair!" complained Josh Carter.  "This is
twice McCauley has snapped up a good looking new girl.  The
rest of us have to see who gets stuck with Lardbutt Chisolm. 
OW!"  Josh had forgotten that Amy Chisolm was sitting behind
him.
 
   Mister Shelby stiffened and bowed from his hips. 
"Thank you for saving me the trouble, Miss Chisolm.  If he
misbehaves again, please repeat as necessary until he
evidences some civilized behavior."
 
   Wynter stifled a giggle and waited for Mister Shelby to
introduce Cinnamon to the class and then assign the seats. 
The hoots and catcalls, meanwhile, shifted to Josh.  She
noticed that Mister Shelby said nothing until someone else
said something that wasn't nice about Amy, and then he shut
everybody up.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   As Wynter stuffed books in her pack, Cinnamon
approached.  "There's a lot more going on than it seems,"
she said.  "I don't have much time. Jimmy, do you know the
band teacher?"
 
   "Uh, yeah.  Mister Howard.  Why?"
 
   "You need to introduce me to him first thing after
school.  Daddy will give you a ride home.  He should have
told your mom by now."
 
   "Um, Mom was gonna give Wynter a lift."
 
   "I'll look surprised next Tuesday, too.  Gotta run."
 
   "Your next class is just across the hall and one down,"
Wynter said.
 
   "Yes," whispered Cinnamon, "but I have to get Matthew
Wylie to ask me out on a date, and I don't know what he
looks like."  She vanished, long red hair pulled along in
her wake.
 
   Jimmy's open mouth reminded Wynter to close hers.
 
   "That asshole?" Jimmy asked as he motioned Wynter to
precede him.
 
   "Obviously she's up to something," Wynter said as she
watched Suzie leave the classroom.  She thought Suzie was
trying to keep from crying.  But... well, it looked more
like she was trying not to smile.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Wynter stood to the side as Jimmy introduced Cinnamon
and her father to Mister Howard, the band director.  "I
don't want to be an influence one way or the other," Doctor
Brees said, "so I'll wait outside in the lobby.  I need to
call the hospital about a couple of patients anyhow." 
Wynter knew he was struggling to keep a straight face as he
left.  There was no doubt about it:  Cinnamon was up to
something.
 
   As he left, Mister Howard smiled down at Cinnamon. 
Wynter had a hard time adjusting to the idea of a teacher
who was shorter than several of her schoolmates.  Seeing him
looking down at Cinnamon made him look more like a teacher. 
He was a young man, only a couple of years out of college,
and looked more like a student himself than a teacher.  "And
what can I do for you, Miss Brees?"
 
   "I'm your new drummer," Cinnamon said.
 
   Wynter was stunned.  She'd had no idea the little
redhead could play the drums.  She saw Jimmy jerk with
surprise, too.
 
   "Oh, how delightful!"  His face turned sympathetic. 
"But the marching band season is over."
 
   If anything, Cinnamon's bright smile turned brighter. 
Poor Mister Howard.  He had no clue what a warning sign that
was or he'd be running for the mountain wilderness.  "Not
the marching band," she explained.  "You're going to put me
in the stage band."
 
   Wynter gasped.  She hadn't expected to hear Cinnamon
acting as bossy as her mother.
 
   To her relief, Mister Howard chuckled.  "I'm afraid
Matthew Wylie already has that position.  This is his last
year at Griffin, though.  Maybe you'll be the drummer next
year."
 
   Cinnamon's smile never faltered.  "The stage band
season is just starting.  Isn't the position supposed to go
to the best qualified drummer?"
 
   Mister Howard's voice, unlike Cinnamon's smile, did
falter.  Wynter noticed the slightest bit of hesitation, and
she knew Jimmy had heard it, too, because the corner of his
lips twitched ever so slightly upward.  "Well, nobody has
done a better job than Matthew."
 
   "You haven't auditioned me yet."
 
   Mister Howard straightened and blinked at her.  "Well,
we don't have any other band members here...."
 
   Cinnamon cut him off, but in such a sweet voice and
with such a charming smile that Wynter knew nobody could
possibly be angry with her for doing so.  She thought of a
honeydew plant slowly encasing a trapped insect and about to
digest it.  "That's okay.  The music keeps you from hearing
me anyway, and that's what's really important."  She looked
at the drum set on the practice platform.  "Now is okay with
me, sir, if it fits your very busy schedule."
 
   Wynter thought Jimmy might be mad because of the way
Cinnamon was treating Mister Howard after he'd introduced
Cinnamon, but instead he, too, was trying not to laugh at
the look on the man's face.  This test had something to do
with Matthew and Kenny, and she was steering Mister Howard
like a new car to find an answer.  That was one of Jimmy's
thoughts, she knew, and it made her use her free hand to
cover her own smile.
 
   Mister Howard looked back and forth between the drum
set and Cinnamon.  He shrugged.  "Well, okay.  I have a few
minutes."
 
   "Great!"
 
   Matthew Wylie was taller than the girl.  She spent a
moment adjusting the seat, then sat on it.  She tried the
bass pedal.  "Only a single pedal?  How Twentieth Century." 
She shrugged before Mister Howard could respond.  "I'll
manage somehow."  She moved the high hat where she wanted
it.  She pulled drumsticks from the holder and put one in
each hand.  "Good lord!  Are these birch or pine?  They
suck!"
 
   Mister Howard's eyes bulged like he'd just tried to
swallow a whole watermelon.
 
   "Sir, don't you have any good sticks?"
 
   "W... well, uh, y... yes," he stammered.  "But we save
those for the concerts because of the cost.  We use those
practice sticks for band practice."
 
   Cinnamon's red eyebrows drew together precisely in a
practiced frown worthy of her mother.  "You don't use
practice cornets, clarinets, and trombones, do you?  You use
the regular concert instruments?  Well, you should also use
the regular drumsticks instead of these."
 
   "What's wrong with them?" Jimmy asked.  Wynter knew
that tone.  Jimmy's curiosity had been aroused.  He was
really and truly interested in learning something new.
 
   Cinnamon held out one finger and placed the two sticks
side-by-side.  They tilted in opposite directions.  She
caught them as they fell.  "Wood density isn't constant,"
she said.  "One is heavier to the front and one to the
rear."  She put the sticks back in the container.  "Could
you open the left side pocket on my backpack, please?"
 
   Jimmy pulled out a pair of drumsticks.  Wynter wasn't
surprised that they'd been in the pack.  That would explain
the call to Doctor Brees.  "No, the other ones.  Well, yeah,
give me those, too," she said, beckoning with her hand. 
"The nylon tips are better for the heavy cymbal work." 
Jimmy pulled out a second pair and handed them to Cinnamon. 
Wynter noticed that Mister Howard had suddenly become very
interested when he saw the two different sets of drumsticks. 
His eyes grew REALLY wide when Cinnamon said in a wistful
tone, "I should have brought some of the Vic Firth hickories
to go with this maple set."
 
   She removed the practice sticks from the holder and
casually dropped them to the floor at one side, putting the
nylon-tipped sticks in their place.  She turned to Jimmy
with the other set and held them up for Jimmy.  "See what
good sticks are like?"  Each balanced on her finger at the
same point.  She tapped one of the cymbals lightly with one
stick.  She frowned and tapped the others, some more than
once and in different spots.  "THAT'S what you have?" she
said, looking at the top of the cymbals.  "Sabians?  I
wouldn't use these for Frisbees."
 
   Wynter gasped, and Jimmy nervously looked at her.  _Is
she trying to lose the audition before she starts?_ was
clearly his thought, too.
 
   "These need to be replaced with Zildjans, preferably
the Avedises."
 
   "Zild... Aved...."  Mister Howard's face shifted from
interested to very flustered.  "Miss Brees, the school is,
unfortunately, on a very tight budget.  Do you have any idea
what those cost?"
 
   Cinnamon tapped another cymbal in various spots,
listened with her right ear cocked toward it, and murmured
as if to herself, "One ninety-nine ninety-five for this
twenty-inch ride.  Plus tax."  She looked at Mister Howard
and turned the charm dial up to maximum and the volume
control up to normal.  "But you wouldn't have to pay tax
since you're a school.  Anyway, I'll have daddy buy a set
for me to use and he can donate them."  She tapped the
others in different spots.
 
   "I...."  Mister Howard's eyebrows suddenly exploded
upward.  Wynter's mind flashed back to the time Daddy had
described Uncle Bozo as looking as he'd been poleaxed. 
"Donate?"
 
   Wynter and Jimmy exchanged another glance.
 
   "Sure.  Tax deductible, you know."  Her hands and
sticks dropped to her lap.  "Okay," she sighed.  "Well,
fortunately I'm good enough to overcome the limitations of
any third-rate equipment, including this.  Are you ready?"
 
   "DONATE?  I... I mean, yes.  Yes!  Go ahead."  Mister
Howard took a seat.  Wynter and Jimmy sat beside him. 
Wynter took one of Jimmy's hands in hers and crossed the
fingers of the other in her lap.
 
   "Just one thing," she added.  "Absolutely NO disco.  I
can play every disco beat ever used in two point five
seconds.  If you're going to play disco, then buy a drum
machine and don't waste real people's time."  She turned and
frowned at the drums.
 
   Cinnamon started with a medium beat on the bass drum
before he could respond.  After four bars, during which she
adjusted the position of a couple of the drums, she added
the snare drum every fourth beat.  Another four and the high
hat joined in on the two and four.  She held steady,
frowning at the drums, for eight measures.  Mister Howard
started to fidget in his chair.
 
   And then Cinnamon shrugged and slowly started adding
additional strokes for four bars, when she then began
increasing the tempo.  Eight bars later she was drumming
twice as many taps at twice the speed.  Another eight bars
and she'd doubled both the tempo and the strokes.  She was
hitting different drums and cymbals at different points,
creating different pitches.
 
   Wynter gasped as she felt the almost lyrical pattern
and heard musical notes in her head that would blend
perfectly with what Cinnamon was playing.  She glanced at
Jimmy, who looked at her with wide green eyes and then
grinned and nodded.  She knew that he was hearing the same
thing, and probably the very same notes.  She glanced at
Mister Howard.  All three were hearing the notes.  Cinnamon
shifted to 3/4 time almost without Wynter noticing it, and
her short arms became a blur.
 
   Cinnamon rose to her feet and tapped out four
medium-loud bursts of one-two-three and then, with large
movements of her short arms, a loud
one-two-three-one-two-three-ONE!  Wynter was amazed that the
drumhead didn't rupture.  The sticks twirled overhead in her
fingers.
 
   She paused six beats and resumed in 5/4 time, and again
Wynter heard musical notes in her head.  Cinnamon began
shifting between the 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4 beats in a furious
yet sensible pattern that left Wynter speechless and
goggling.  Then she wrapped it up by easing into a drum roll
involving all the drums and a multitude of cymbals,
frequently switching first one stick and then the other for
its opposite type in the holder.  She stopped, flipped one
stick in the air, caught it, and rose as she struck the
twenty-inch crash with the base of the stick on the fourth
beat.  The sound seemed to shake the walls.
 
   She dropped to the seat and looked at her audience. 
She was the only one not sweating.  "I could do better with
my own set, of course.  Still, this one isn't TOO shabby for
something this cheap.  But I'm really surprised Matthew
didn't ask for something better.  I think I'll have Daddy
just replace everything and we can use this kit for
kindling."
 
   Wynter heard Mister Howard mumble to himself, "Matthew
who?"
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Ron's grin slammed into place when Kevin Taylor yelped
and jumped in his seat.
 
   "I gotta start locking that door when school's out,"
Kevin said.
 
   Ron gurgled a laugh.  "C'mon, Doc.  Only a locked door? 
At least make it a challenge for me."
 
   The look on Kevin's face said that he wasn't sure
whether Ron was joking.  Which was as it was supposed to be. 
"I suppose you've heard, and you're here about Kenny again?"
 
   "Look, Doc, I trained him.  I know how he reacts.  The
story I heard isn't Kenny.  Now, come on.  He deserves to be
back in school.  Tell me what's going on, and I'll fix it
somehow."
 
   "I can't!  We've been over this before.  I'd love to,
but Kenny doesn't want anyone else to know.  He's pro...."
 
   The look on Kevin's face at the near-slip on
"protecting" was all Ron needed to know.  "I thought so. 
It's really the only explanation that makes sense.  See ya,
Doc.  I gotta go get through to a hardhead.  I'll try not to
bruise him too badly, but if I do, should I call you or
Wynter?"
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Ron shook his head as if trying to clear it and helped
Kenny up from the practice mat.  "Let's take a break."  On
their way to the Gatorade he said, "I thought it was a
simple question.  'Is.  Suzie.  Available.  Now?'  Which one
of those four words are you having trouble with?  Look, I
wasn't going to interfere if you two were still an item, but
if it's really over between the two of you, I'd be
interested in her.  She certainly has her good points. 
Loyalty and steadfastness are important to me.  And common
sense, even if she is a little light in the school grades
department.  I watched her at the mine.  She kept her cool
when most of the grown women I know would have been running
around screaming like babies.  Actually," he added with a
frown, "a couple of them WERE running around screaming like
babies."
 
   Kenny's eyes had a hint of pride in them.  "Well, she
did a pretty good job of screaming at Judge Wilson, you
know."
 
   Ron chuckled and nodded.  "That she did, but it was
directed anger, not panic screaming."
 
   "Well, yeah."
 
   Kenny had stopped in front of the refreshment bar and
lowered his head when he said that.  Ron needed to see his
eyes.  "I thought about Caroline, but since she's probably
not... well, clean, I don't want to take the chance.  I
figured Suzie would be just as good."
 
   Kenny's head came up enough for him to stare from under
a furrowed brow.  "What's that mean?"
 
   "You know," Ron said with a shrug as he focused on
Kenny's eyes.  "After all, the girls I've been dating are
all professional virgins.  The way I see it, she must have
learned something from Caroline, because she did a fairly
good job of keeping you satisfied.  Mostly.  I'd keep her if
she's good enough...."
 
   Kenny's scream of rage, accompanied by his leg sweep
and flying kick follow-up, was exactly what Ron was
expecting, but he nearly fell victim to them anyway.  Arms
and legs in a blur, Kenny launched himself at the older boy. 
Ron had his answer, but let Kenny continue for over a
minute, let Kenny vent the pressure that had built in him
even before Ron overloaded his safety valve, let Kenny spew
the emotional acid that was eating him alive.  Then, with
great difficulty, he pinned Kenny face-down to the floor.
 
   "Lemme up!" Kenny screamed.  "Lemme up, and I'll kill
you, too, you sonofabitch!  LEMME UP!"
 
   "Shhh.  Kenny," he said in a calm voice.  "Kenny, it's
me.  It's Ron.  You know me better than that.  I'd never
hurt Suzie any more than you deliberately would.  You're
protecting her the way I used to protect you.  The way I'd
still protect her if you weren't there to take care of her
yourself.  I'd no more hurt her than I'd hurt you."
 
   He thought that last was a little incongruous with
Kenny lying there beside a small patch of blood.  Then
realization sank it:  that wasn't Kenny's blood.  Another
drop fell from his nose into the pool, spattering tiny red
spots.
 
   Though he continued to gasp for air, Kenny slowly
relaxed.  Finally he said, "Okay."
 
   "If I let you up, do you promise you won't attack me
again?"
 
   Kenny sighed.  "You have my word as a future doctor
subject to the Hippocratic Oath."
 
   "That's not good enough this time.  I want your promise
on your honor as Suzie's guardian Angel."
 
   Kenny hesitated.  Then:  "On my honor as Suzie's
guardian Angel."
 
   Ron released him.  "First you take care of my nose,
Future Doctor, and then we'll talk."
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   _Fuck!_
 
   Suzie slipped on the stupid ice in her rush to get out
of the back seat of Mrs. McNeal's vehicle and barely avoided
falling by grabbing onto the door's arm rest.  Caroline's
little car, her Christmas present from Mom and Dad, was
sitting in the driveway!  Suzie grabbed her backpack and her
swimming gear bag, said a quick good-bye to Mrs. McNeal and
Megan, and slipped again in her dash to the house.
 
   She heard the yelling in the living room before she
reached the porch.  "YOUR FATHER AND I TRIED TO WARN
YOU...!"  Her mother must have seen her out the window,
because the argument stopped suddenly, as if someone had
turned off a television.  Suzie guessed it was because
Caroline had taken her car to Wyoming, even though she
wasn't supposed to drive it outside of town until after she
turned seventeen.
 
   Mom opened the door for her, dropped to her knees, and
hugged Suzie like she was a life preserver or something. 
Mom was crying.
 
   "Moooom!  Please!"  She HAD to talk to Caroline and
didn't have time for whatever it was they were arguing about
this time.
 
   Caroline whirled and stormed off to her room.  Mom
looked up and said, "You know this isn't over, young lady."
 
   Whatever Caroline's growled reply was, it didn't sound
very lady-like to Suzie.
 
   "Mom?"  Suzie was having trouble breathing in the tight
squeeze.
 
   Mom wiped her eyes and loosened the strangle-hold. 
"Oh, Suzie!  I...."  She sniffed.  "How was school and
swimming practice today?  Did you...."  And she started
crying again.
 
   Suzie stamped her right foot.  "_MOOOM!_  I need to
talk to Caroline!"
 
   The arms dropped away.  Mom's face was as white as the
snow.  "Yes, you do.  I'll wait in the kitchen."
 
   As Mom stood up, Suzie wondered what the heck THAT was
supposed to mean.  But she had more important things on her
mind than solving stupid unpenetrable mysteries like that. 
She skinned out of her coat and overboots and left them on
the floor with her backpack and swim bag.
 
   When Caroline didn't respond to her first special
knock, she glanced at the bathroom door.  It was open.  She
knocked again, a little harder this time.
 
   "Come in."  Caroline sounded like she was crying.
 
   When Suzie opened the door, Caroline looked up from the
end of the bed lifting her face from her hands.  Suzie had
her first good look at her sister.  Caroline looked
terrible.  She looked like she hadn't slept in days and was
all red-eyed and teary from the fight with Mom.  Mascara and
eye liner made dark, wet tracks down her cheeks.
 
   Suzie launched into a recap of what had happened
with... _Him_... while Caroline had been away, ending with
his being expelled that day.
 
   Caroline laughed.  It wasn't at all a pleasant sound
and sent shivers down her spine.  "Good.  You did real good. 
I'm very proud of you."  The praise made Suzie stand a
little straighter and beam.  "All men are pigs, Twerp. 
They'll fuck over you any chance they get, and they don't
give a shit about you.  They don't give a shit about anybody
but themselves.  I'm glad you paid him back.  There's
nothing better than revenge when they shit all over you." 
Her voice began softening and growing fainter with each
word.  "Nothing better at all.  Nothing feels better than
the satisfaction of payback to some bastard who deserves
it."
 
   Caroline's eyes unfocused from Suzie and looked
somewhere above and way behind Suzie's head.  "Yeah. 
Nothing IS better than revenge," she murmured to herself. 
"They DESERVE whatever happens to them."  Then she focused
on Suzie again, and her voice became normal.  "Thanks,
Twerp.  Thanks for reminding me.  For an obnoxious little
shit of a sister, you sometimes come in useful.  Who'da
thought that?"
 
   Suzie laughed at Caroline's playful put-down.  The
laugh died at the menacing look in Caroline's eyes.  There
was nothing playful in that hard glare.  "I gotta go take
care of some unfinished business.  I'll see you later."
 
   Caroline sprang to her feet, swept around her, and was
gone.  Suzie was startled.  She hadn't even had time to ask
Caroline how Annie's relatives were and why they had gone to
Laramie.
 
   She jumped when her mother and Caroline started
shouting again.  She scurried across the hall to her room
and closed the door.  If anything, the shouting seemed
louder, but maybe that was because she was closer to the
living room.  She threw herself on her bed and pulled the
pillow over her ear, drowning out most of the noise.
 
   Caroline had said she'd done good!  Caroline was proud
of her!  She basketed in the glow, whatever the heck THAT
stupid old saying meant.  But only for a minute, and then
her thoughts began drifting.
 
   She remembered how pissed off she was at that stupid
jerk Matthew Wylie's trying to get her to kiss him in school
hallway and then meet him after classes in the stupid north
wing janitor's closet for "a little dicky-sucky."  She
almost puked at the thought of the way he said, after
feeling her boobies through her clothes, that if she was
"good enough" and "swallowed like a good little whore" that
he'd reward her with a stupid date with him, where he could
show her "how a real man fucks."
 
   She was lucky that... _He_... had come along at the
point to interrupt the stupid dolt.  She couldn't believe
her good luck.  Not only did she get away from that stupid
shit Wylie, she also got the chance to fuck over the man who
had fucked over her.
 
   She remembered those times with... _Him_... before the
mine.  All the attempts to look down her blouse, all the
attempts to get her to put out.  The way... _He_... looked
at her whenever they were finally doing it together.
 
   Her thoughts, almost against her will, drifted to the
way... _He_... looked at her after the mine.  The different
way he looked at her whenever they were doing it.  The
occasions when there was barely enough time for her to
blow... _Him_... or maybe do a quick handjob with nothing
for her in return.
 
   The occasions when there was barely enough time for him
to eat her to orgasm or get her off with his finger with
nothing for him in return.
 
   Well, that was different.  _He_... was just setting her
up so that getting dumped would hurt worse.  She couldn't
believe she'd actually shared some of her chocolate chip
cookies with the stupid dolt after...
 
   ...after he'd risked his life to save her from that
stupid Will and Dick.  After he'd told her not to try to
rescue him from the collapsing mine shaft, but to go get
help.
 
   Well, obviously... _He_... thought she couldn't save
him all by herself so that... _He_... could make her life
miserable later.  She couldn't make herself forget that
she'd been so stupid as to want to be the dolt's girlfriend.
 
   She couldn't forget the look of happiness on Kenny's
face when she said he was her boyfriend.
 
   She'd never forget the rage she felt when Caroline told
her how... _He_... had planned to use her and dump her.
 
   She'd never forget the look of betrayal on Kenny's face
in the school hallway.  The dolt didn't even try to say she
was lying.
 
   Caroline said nothing felt better than getting payback
to someone who deserved it.
 
   So why did she feel so miserable?
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Wynter gave Jimmy a quick kiss before he scrambled out
of Doctor Brees' vehicle.  His mother had something planned,
so they wouldn't be able to study English together that
afternoon.  She would ask her new sister to study with her,
but Cinnamon had a different English teacher and didn't have
any English homework that night.  And Mister Shelby had
broken the class into groups and assigned different projects
to each.  Cinnamon was in a different group.
 
   Wynter frowned and leaned forward to speak to Cinnamon,
who was in the front passenger seat.  "I wonder what they'll
say when you want to change your classes after one day."
 
   Red hair shimmered when bounced by the shrugging
shoulders.  "They'll be more than happy to add me to the
band class after Mister Howard tells them about me.  Which
I'm sure he's done by now."
 
   Doctor Brees smirked over his shoulder at her.  "You
may have noticed that Cinnamon doesn't suffer from any false
modesty."
 
   "Yeah.  Does she get that from you?"
 
   "Of course not!  I am very humble about my magnificent
talents and skills."  He pointed ahead as Wynter giggled. 
"There's a perfect example of how great I am, though I'd
never call anyone's attention to it."
 
   The Ginleys lived in the house to the east of Wynter's. 
Pink balloons and ribbons decorated the mailbox out front. 
A thrill coursed through Wynter's entire body.  "Did Mrs.
Ginley finally have her baby?"
 
   "Melissa Susan. He's already calling her Missy Sue. 
Seven pounds, three ounces.  And just in time to interrupt
my lunch.  But I don't think she was two weeks late.  She
looked to me to be just right for a nine-month term baby.  I
think Kevin needs a refresher on first babies and lessons in
how to count.  Maybe next time he should take his shoes off
and use his toes to supplement his fingers."
 
   Wynter giggled.  She'd have to make a nice present of
some kind to give to the Ginleys.  Maybe a cartoon about
Mister Ginley working on his truck and Mrs. Ginley and Missy
Sue complaining.  He was always working on it in the
driveway or in his garage.  Mrs. Ginley was always
complaining that he was really married to the truck and she
was just a passing fancy.
 
   Kenny always said it was because Mister Ginley was a
nice looking guy and she was at best merely plain, so he
didn't want to look at her.  Wynter knew better.  They might
have been married for three whole years now, but they still
acted like newlyweds.  She filed her cartoon idea away for
further action later that night.
 
   Wynter gathered her things as Doctor Brees pulled into
the driveway.  She wished him and Cinnamon a pleasant
evening, thanked Doctor Brees for the ride, and organized
her thoughts as she climbed out of the vehicle.  She didn't
rush the way Jimmy did because rushing on ice caused
accidents.  As much as she loved seeing Doctor Taylor, she
didn't want to see him as a patient.
 
   Okay.  She could tell her parents that Kenny had been
expelled.  They probably knew that by now anyway.  She could
tell them about Cinnamon's "audition"--Wynter couldn't help
but picture it as Cinnamon holding a gun to Mister Howard's
head.  No, a pair of drumsticks, not a gun.  Another cartoon
idea was filed away for later.  She couldn't tell them why
Cinnamon had auditioned or that she had arranged a date with
Matthew Wylie.  Wynter didn't exactly understand that
herself because Cinnamon had been evasive about it, but it
clearly had more to do with Suzie and Kenny than was
apparent to either Jimmy or herself.  But what?
 
   She jumped when Dragon nudged her with his head.  She
was standing on the porch!  How did she get here?  She must
have gone someplace else and made it this far on autopilot. 
Then Dragon had given up on her opening the door and had
gone out his doggie door and come around the house to her. 
That had to be it!
 
   She wondered if that meant her deductive reasoning had
been improved by her exposure to Cinnamon.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Cinnamon kissed her father's hand as they passed
Jimmy's house.  "Thanks again."
 
   "I guess this means it's time to set up the drums in
the house?"
 
   "Yeah.  Time to drive her batshit again."
 
   Her father gave her a stern look for the language but
said nothing as he gently squeezed her thigh.  "She didn't
want them set up until she had a basement room soundproofed. 
Which, of course, she hasn't done."
 
   "Yeah.  She's hoping I'll forget about them and 'pursue
more feminine avenues of expression' if she doesn't call my
attention to them."
 
   "She absolutely will go batshit when she learns what
it's going to cost her."
 
   Cinnamon's smirk matched her father's.  "She may not. 
She never looks at her bills anymore; she just tells Mister
Oglethorp to pay them."  She hoped that her voice stayed the
same and didn't give away her glee at learning that fact. 
"She doesn't even review the summaries he sends her.  Takes
away from her drinking time, I guess."
 
   Her father gave her a long look.  For a moment she was
afraid he might have heard something in her voice that had
betrayed her.  Then he returned his eyes to the road and
gave her thigh a gentle caress.  "I just want her to leave
here and leave us alone," he said with a wistful sigh.
 
   That was a warning sign.  According to her plan, the
bitch would be out cold tonight and she would have her
father to herself again.  But he was starting to slip into
another of his dark moods.  She changed the subject to
Mister Howard's reactions to cheer him up.  By the time they
reached home he was laughing and tickling her goodie box
through her jeans with his little finger.
 
   She kissed him goodbye before she scrambled out of the
vehicle.  She wanted to wrap her arms around his neck and
soul-kiss him until he creamed his pants, but that couldn't
be.  "I'll see you tonight.  Good luck with Mrs. Kinzer."
 
   "If I am lucky it wasn't false labor and she had it
while we were auditioning and driving around.  The woman's
had four others and knows my job better than I do.  I don't
want a critique!"
 
   She was still smiling when Mrs. Vasquez opened the door
for her.  "Good afternoon, Mees Ceennamon!  How was jour
day?"
 
   Cinnamon thought for a moment.  "Satisfying."
 
   Mrs. Vasquez gave her a nice hug.  Mrs. Vasquez was
always showering her with affection, trying to make up for
what she didn't get from the bitch.  Except for Mrs. King,
Mrs. Vasquez was the closest thing she had to a mother. 
Cinnamon didn't really want to share her father with anyone,
but she'd make an exception in this case because Mrs.
Vasquez was only a year or two younger than her father,
still vivacious and attractive, and lonely as a widow. 
Cinnamon was the closest thing that she had to a child of
her own.
 
   "Would joo like me to feex you a snack?" she asked as
she helped Cinnamon remove her coat and boots.
 
   Mrs. Vasquez was laying the phony Spanish accent on
thick.  That meant that Millie was listening, and that Mrs.
Vasquez was paying back some unpleasantry from earlier in
the day by reminding the bitch that she was "one of those
foreigner riff-raff."
 
   "No, thank you."  That ought to lather the bitch's
hide.  Millie didn't believe in saying "Thank you" to the
help for doing what they were paid to do, else they might
start having wrong ideas about their place in society.  "I
have homework to finish, and then I have something else to
do."
 
   "Ookey."  Mrs. Vasquez frowned.  That probably sounded
as phony to her as it did to Cinnamon.  But the bitch
wouldn't know because she never associated with the "common
foreign trash."  Cinnamon saw her shrug it off.  "Joo got
some mail too-daye."  She pulled a letter and a small padded
envelope out of her apron.
 
   Cinnamon told her heart to stop racing out of fear that
she might show something on her face and tip off everyone. 
She took the offered mail, glanced at the return addresses,
and said, "Thank you.  I shall be in my room if anyone needs
me.  Which I doubt."
 
   She tried to act as normal as usual as she went to her
room.  She closed the door, felt the padded envelope, and
thrust a fist into the air.  She yanked it down as she
raised a knee, as if yanking a rope attached to it through a
pulley.  "YEEESSS!"
 
   She dropped into her desk chair and tore open the
padded envelope.  Out tumbled a small plastic bag of pills,
an adhesive prescription label, and a copy of a bill
indicating that the bitch had been charged for her
medication.  She stared at them for a moment, closed her
eyes, and giggled.
 
   At the soft rap on her door she swept the material off
her desktop and into a drawer.
 
   "Come in."
 
   Mrs. Vasquez had a tray with a large glass of milk and
a small pile of cookies.  "They're fresh from the oven.  I
didn't want you to miss out," she explained.  "Reminds me of
when I was your age.  Nothing beat cookies fresh from the
oven, especially with a glass of cold milk.  The classics
never die."
 
   Her genuine smile pushed out her round cheeks. 
"Thanks, Rosita."
 
   "I have another batch ready to shove in the oven when
your father gets home, so he can have some hot ones, too."
 
   "I appreciate that even more than he will."
 
   Mrs. Vasquez set the tray on her desk and then gave her
another warm, soothing, loving hug.  "I know you do.  If I'd
had a daughter, I'd have wanted her to be thoughtful and
loving just like you.  Well.  I saw that the package was
from Boston.  So did she, and she started acting snoopy
about it, so I put it away for you.  I thought it might be
something personal."
 
   "It was."  _Was it ever!_  "An old boyfriend wants to
stay on my good side in case I move back to Boston."  She
had practiced that line so that she could deliver it
smoothly, without causing anyone to question it.
 
   "OH HO!"  She smiled and nodded, a look of misplaced
understanding on her face.  "Keeping his options open. 
Clearly he knows quality when he sees it.  Now eat before
they get cold."  She turned to leave.
 
   "Rosita, I need a few minutes.  Could you keep an eye
on her and let me know if she starts up here?"
 
   Mrs. Vasquez smiled over her shoulder.  "Joo got eet! 
You'll know when she starts screaming at me."
 
   "No, Rosita.  I don't want her mad at you!"
 
   She shrugged.  "It's okay.  Turnabout is fair play. 
She can be mad, too."
 
   Three cookies later Cinnamon swigged some milk,
gathered the things from her drawer, and headed for the
secret stash, where she refilled the pill bottle and
switched the old label for the new one.  All she had to do
now was destroy the old label and wait until after her
father went to sleep.
 
 
 
                          Eleven
 
   Caroline banged her fist on the apartment door.  Ray
Simons' truck was in the parking lot, so he had to be either
asleep or passed out drunk.  When she heard the security
chain rattle she reminded herself to look natural.
 
   "Can't a guy take a shit in peace?" he snarled as he
jerked open the door.  His eyes focused generally in her
direction.  "Oh.  It's you, sugar britches.  Didn't know you
was back.  Guess I don't need to finish doing this," he said
with a leer, indicating his filthy jeans with the fly open
and the belt undone.  "C'mon in.  Wanna beer?"
 
   He staggered as he walked barefoot to the refrigerator. 
His hair and beard were filthy and matted.  His white
sleeveless undershirt was mostly shades of gray with a few
darker stains mixed in.  His feet looked like he'd wiped his
ass with them.  And he stank.  She wondered for the first
time if alcohol wasn't Ray's only problem.  Alcohol and, of
course, his medical condition.
 
   "Nah.  Fuckin' beer makes me dull, lover, and I don't
wanna miss nothin' tonight."
 
   "Yeah?"  He curled one corner of his mouth at her and
yanked open the door to the fridge, reached in, and pulled
out a can.  "Well, I ain't wearin' no rubber," he said as he
opened the beer.  "You got that, cunt?  I ain't wearin' no
fuckin' rubber!  Don't even start to ask.  Doc said all them
little clap germses was killed and I'm fuckin' clean.  So I
ain't wearin' no rubber.  You can just forget it!"  He
gulped a mouthful and belched.
 
   She had followed him into the kitchen, shedding her
coat and unbuttoning her blouse along the way.  "I ain't
plannin' for you to wear one, Ray.  I got myself cured of
the fuckin' clap, too.  But it sure was some nasty shit you
gave me."
 
   Ray's face turned angry.  "Now, what makes you think I
gave it to you, sugar britches?  Maybe you gave it to me."
 
   She gave him a sly smile and pulled the tail of her
blouse out of her jeans before she started unfastening them. 
"Ray, you're the only man I let fuck me without no rubber. 
But that's okay.  You ain't never gonna have to wear a
rubber to fuck me, lover.  You ain't never gonna have to
wear a fuckin' rubber again.  Okay?  Now, you just go finish
your shit, and when you're done, you wash that thing reeeeal
good.  I want it nice and tasty.  I need my tonsils creamed
again.  Mmmm.  Those Wyoming guys and their fuckin' little
short dicks aren't one-tenth the man you are.  Now you hurry
and shit and wash that little sonofabitch for me.  Okay?"
 
   He reached for one of her exposed tits.  She pushed his
hand away.  "Hunh uh!  Last thing I need right now is a man
full of shit.  You get your fucking ass back in there and
empty it, lover."  She turned him by his shoulder and pushed
him out of the kitchen.  "I'm gonna give you a fucking you
ain't never gonna forget if you bring me back a clean dick."
 
   "Well, all right now!"  He turned and bounced off the
wall twice on his way back to the filthy, reeking crapper.
 
   She quickly prepared, and she then grabbed the phone
when she heard the flush.  She punched the keypad three
times, then left a quick message.  Ray staggered back into
the kitchen, naked and erect, as she hung up the phone.  He
braced himself against a cabinet to keep from falling over.
 
   "Who the fuck you calling, sugar britches?"  His tone
was angry, and one hand balled into a fist.
 
   "Annie," she said.  "I thought she might like to come
over and help me fuck your brains out."
 
   Ray's face lit up with lust and his eyes almost
focused.  "She coming?"
 
   "Maybe.  Now:  on the couch, lover.  Seeing that
fuckin' hardon is driving me crazy, and I want it down my
fuckin' throat." She pushed him by the shoulders, steering
him to the only spot on the couch with room for him to sit
and holding him up when he almost fell sideways.
 
   As his ass hit the seat he started to rise.  "Forgot my
fuckin' beer."
 
   She pushed him back down.  "You ain't gonna care about
beer after I get started," she said.  "Or would you rather
have fuckin' beer instead of a blowjob and some pussy? 
Hmmm?  And you don't even have to give me no present,
neither."
 
   Ray blinked and tried to focus on her.  He gave up,
relaxed, and humped his dick at her.  "Well, get'er on,
bitch.  Let's have that fucking blowjob.  And it better be
as good as you fuckin' said or I'll thump your sorry ass."
 
   She dropped to her knees and pumped his erection in her
fist.  "Lover, you're gonna remember this blowjob for the
rest of your life."  As she expected, he'd done little more
than run cold water over it.  She held her breath and deep
throated him as the distant sound of sirens winked into
existence.  When the sirens pulled into the parking lot, she
reached under the couch by her knee.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Ron drove down the street, waiting until he knew Kenny
couldn't see him from the house before calling Cinnamon.
 
   She listened and then said, "I thought so.  That's the
Kenny I thought he was.  I spoke to Matthew Wylie briefly
today, and that matches my feeling about him, too.  He's
already been replaced as the star of the band.  I guess I'd
better take him down a few extra notches and let him see how
he likes being in Kenny's shoes for a change.  Thanks."
 
   Ron switched off the phone and grinned as he stuck it
in his pocket.  He scratched his head and decided he was
lucky that he wasn't Matthew Wylie.  When Cinnamon didn't
volunteer what she had in mind, he didn't ask.  He knew that
she was too much like him and that if she'd wanted him to
know, she'd have told him.  Asking would have wasted his
breath.
 
   If there was one thing Ron Lopez appreciated it was
someone as sneaky and devious as he could be and could mask
it from the rest of the world the way he could.
 
   His dad passed him, going in the opposite direction. 
Ron waved and then wondered if, when she reached high school
and he was in college, she'd be interested in going out with
him.
 
   In the rear view mirror he saw the emergency lights
come on and his dad make a U-turn.  Dad gave him a hand
signal as he passed.  Ron stepped on the gas and followed.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Kevin Taylor collapsed, more than he leaned, against
the door frame and rolled his head to ease the tension in
his neck.  Candis glanced up from the document on her desk
and held up one finger to indicate she was almost finished
with her phone call.  _Damn all insurance companies to
hell_, he thought.  He went to medical school to practice
medicine, not to be a goddamned accountant.  One more
meeting like the one he'd just finished and he was going to
demand the right to sign papers "Kevin K. Taylor, MD, CPA."
 
   Candis hung up her phone.
 
   And his vibrated.  He gave her a "just what I needed"
look, snatched it from his belt, and glanced at the display. 
The ER.  "Yeah?"
 
   "_Get down here._"
 
   Edie Erland was at the desk?  He was sure she wasn't
second shift.  If it was overtime, where was the friggin'
money coming from?  He sighed and held up a palm to Candis,
though she'd made no effort to rise from her chair.  She's
been through this too many times.  "What's up, Edie?"
 
   "_They're two minutes out with Ray Simons.  Trauma
case.  EMT says it's a surgical penectomy._"
 
   He jerked away from the door frame and threw a frown at
Candis.  "What?"
 
   "_Some girl took a _knife_ to his _willie_.  She said
to be careful about all the blood because he's HIV positive. 
Get down here._"  The phone went dead.  In a social
situation Edie could talk your ear off and catch her second
wind while it fell to the floor, but she was strictly
business when it came to business.
 
   Candis frowned at a spot over his head and drummed her
fingers when he told her.  As he turned to leave she said,
"I wonder which it was, Annie or Caroline?"
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   _Fuck_.
 
   Suzie threw her pencil down on her desk and threw
herself against her chair back.  First Caroline leaves
before she was through talking to her.  Then Mom comes in
and cries because Caroline didn't say something, but she
won't say what Caroline didn't tell.  So why bother
mentioning it?  Wasn't Mom always telling her to do her
stupid homework and not be distracted by stuff?  So, why
this stupid distraction that didn't do anything?
 
   Then Daddy comes home and they send her to her stupid
room while they start crying together.  So how could she
finish her stupid homework with all that stupid noise?  And
now the stupid phone just rang and whatever the stupid
problem was must have gotten worse because all the crying
got louder.  But has anybody told Suzie what the stupid
problem was?  Of course not!  They just left her in her
stupid room doing her stupid homework--or trying to do it
with all the stupid noise.  If that wasn't inconsiderate,
she sure as heck wanted to know what was!
 
   You could bet the bottom of your last dollar that when
Suzanne Middleton got older, she sure as heck wouldn't treat
people as inconsiderately as they were treating her.  She'd
show some concern for other people's feelings.  She'd show
other people some stupid respect and not treat them like
they were part of the stupid furniture or stupid animals or
something.  No sir, Suza....
 
   _Oh!_
 
   She frowned and looked out the window while the
thoughts battled each other inside her mind.  She slowly
rose from her chair without knowing why.  Her feet took her
to her dresser without her knowing why.  Her hand pulled out
the second drawer without her knowing why.  Her other hand
reached inside the drawer without her knowing why.  It
pulled out a small jewel case with a gold chain necklace
that had been a birthday present from Kenny.
 
   And then she knew why.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Wynter jumped slightly when the phone on her nightstand
rang.  She knew Mother would answer it downstairs, so she
shifted her weight to her other leg and went back to
frowning and pushing her pursed lips to one side.  Oil
paints sure were a lot harder than they looked.  She cocked
her head first one way and then the other, alternately
squinting and opening each one, and then both of, her eyes. 
Nope.  Nothing she did made it any better.
 
   She wondered what Jimmy would say.
 
   _Feel the paint with your fingers._
 
   The words echoed in her mind in his voice--well his old
voice that she knew so well, since he was mostly talking in
a deeper voice now--like he'd been standing next to her and
speaking.  She remembered Obi-Wan speaking to Luke in the
fighter as they attacked the Death Star.  It was like that. 
She knew it didn't mean for her to stick her fingers in the
paint.  It meant to let her subconscious do the work and it
would tell her when she'd blended the right pigments
properly.  She felt rather stupid having not thought of that
before now.  After all the times he'd told her to do
something similar whenever....
 
   The intercom sprang to life.  "_Richard!  Wynter!  Get
down here_."
 
   There was an urgency to Mother's voice that Wynter
didn't like.  It meant something was wrong.  As she put down
the palette and brushes, Dragon sprang to his feet.  Her
father stepped out of his office and stuck his head in her
door.  "Sounds like bad news."
 
   "Uh huh.  That's what I thought, too."
 
   When they got to the stairs, Mother was halfway up
them.  _Definitely bad news_, she thought.
 
   "We're having company tonight," she said.  "Suzie will
be here in a few minutes."
 
   "Why?"  Any other time and Wynter would have thought it
funny that she and her father had spoken in unison and in
harmony.
 
   Mother shook her head.  "Well, it seems that Caroline
learned that Ray gave her the HIV virus, and so she, well,
she removed the source of the problem."
 
   Wynter was a little faster than her father.  Her jaw
dropped first.  "She cut it off?"
 
   "Holy shit!" mumbled Daddy.
 
   "Don and Carolyn are bringing her over because they
don't know how long they'll be down at the courthouse with
Caroline tonight.  Sweetheart, would you open the guest room
door and the heat vents so the room will warm for her?"  As
Wynter dashed down the hall Mother said, "And as for you, no
dick jokes or you'll join the other scuzzbucket in the
emergency room.  Clear?"
 
   "Hey!  Don't I get a little credit for some
intelligence?"
 
   "No.  By the way, I think we should be available if she
wants to talk to us, but otherwise we leave her to Wynter."
 
   He looked down the hall.  "Isn't that putting a lot of
responsibility on Wynter?"
 
   "Yes.  It is.  But I think if we tried to do anything
else we'd have a fight on our hands, and we'd lose.  Might
as well concede and avoid the fight."
 
   He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed.  "I love a
smart woman.  I should marry you again."
 
   She looked up with an evil grin that made him wonder if
that was what Ray Simons saw just before it happened.  "You
can propose, but I'm holding out for a better deal this
time."
 
   "Oh yeah?"  He jerked a thumb over his shoulder in the
direction of the guest bedroom.  "You think you can get a
better deal than that?"
 
   She pressed her face to his shoulder and sighed. 
"Never."
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Wynter put Suzie's coat in the closet while she said a
tear-filled good night to her parents.  Suzie turned to her,
picked up her backpack and overnight bag, and then exploded
into tears, dropping her things and throwing her arms around
Wynter.
 
   Wynter waved a silent good-bye to Mister and Mrs.
Middleton and indicated with her head that she would take
Suzie upstairs.  They smiled the best they could under the
circumstances and nodded to her.  Then Wynter looked at
Daddy and indicated Suzie's things.  He gave her a
thumbs-up.
 
   "Come on, Suzie.  Let's go up to my room.  Yours may
not be warm enough yet."
 
   Suzie looked up at her and nodded.
 
   Wynter recognized the gold chain necklace around
Suzie's neck and tried to keep from reacting.
 
   Dragon was blocking the stairs while he sniffed Suzie,
as if to see if he could help with whatever was making her
sad.  "Dragon!  Upstairs."
 
   She held Suzie tight against her as they followed him.
 
   The phone rang again as Wynter sat beside Suzie on the
edge of the bed.  It cut off at the second ring.  Someone
must have answered it from the kitchen.  The indicator light
went out in less than a minute.  By that time Suzie was
beginning to control her emotions.
 
   She heard a slight noise in the hall.  Dragon, lying in
front of her doorway, lifted his head and looked.  Wynter
knew from the way Dragon acted that it was Daddy.  He put
Suzie's things in the guest room and then knocked on
Wynter's door, even though she was looking right at him. 
She thought he was being polite for Suzie's sake, and that
made her feel good all over, even while she was feeling so
sad for Suzie.  That was strange, she decided.  She guessed
emotions didn't HAVE to make sense because sometimes they
sure didn't.
 
   "I put your things in your room, Suzie.  Angie's making
some hot cocoa.  I'll bring it up when it's ready."
 
   Suzie sobbed out, "Thank you," and then buried her face
in Wynter's shoulder.
 
   Daddy made hand signals to Wynter.  Telephone.
Downstairs. You.  Me.  Talk.  Wristwatch. Sipping from a
cup.
 
   _He wants to talk privately about the telephone call
later when he brings up the cocoa,_ she translated.  She
gave him a slight nod, and he left.
 
   Suzie began to establish more control.  "Why did she do
it?" she sniffed.  "They might put her in jail or something
because she did it.  WHY?"
 
   Wynter squeezed her tightly and said, "I guess she
overreacted because she was mad.  People sometimes do that,
you know."
 
   Suzie sniffed a few times.  "You mean me, don't you?"
 
   "Well, no, I meant just people in general.  But, yeah,
I think it applies to you, too."
 
   Suzie sniffed again and adjusted her cheek on Wynter's
shoulder.  "I was mad.  I wanted to get even.  But all I did
was get him expelled!  I didn't cut his stupid pecker off!"
 
   "Well, I guess what Kenny did wasn't as bad as what Ray
did."  Wynter, Jimmy, Ron, and Cinnamon had been comparing
notes.  While she'd been struggling with the oil paints her
subconscious started fitting symptoms and tentative
diagnoses together.  Wynter thought she finally understood
what had happened with Kenny and Suzie, but she didn't want
to learn the hard way that she'd guessed wrong, so she
avoided any specific mention of her diagnosis.
 
   "Well," Suzie sniffed, "while you were still stuck in
the mine I thought he had done the same to me."
 
   An icy chill ran down Wynter's spine.  "How could Kenny
have given you HIV?  Where would he have gotten it?"
 
   "HIV?  No.  I meant I thought he'd knocked me up like
Ray did Caro...."  Suzie's body went rigid, like rigor
mortis had suddenly claimed her.  She pushed away from
Wynter.  She had the most sorrowful, pitiful, horrified
expression Wynter could imagine on her round face. 
"CAROLINE HAS AIDS?  SHE'S GONNA DIE?"
 
   Wynter's heart didn't stop at her feet.  It shot
straight through to the basement.  _Nobody told Suzie the
whole truth!_  She had assumed that Caroline was pregnant. 
Wynter knew that when she became an MD she'd have to tell
people bad news, but she didn't ever dream that she'd
stupidly blurt out bad news like this, without even
preparing the patient.  Or next-of-kin, in this case.
 
   "Oh, Suzie!"  Her own tears gushed.  "Oh, I'm so sorry! 
I thought you knew.  Please forgive me.  Please?  I didn't
mean to tell you that way.  I wouldn't have if I'd known." 
She squeezed Suzie to her and they sobbed together.
 
   Dragon's chin on her leg cut through her misery.  "It's
okay Dragon.  There's nothing you can do.  Go lie down over
there."
 
   That was the first time Dragon ever disobeyed her.  She
decided that having him for comfort was a good thing after
all and let him keep his chin on her leg.  Dragon wouldn't
make things worse for her, the way she had for Suzie.  She
felt so VERY bad about that.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Richard dropped into the recliner and stared at Angie. 
When he said nothing after several seconds she asked,
"What?"
 
   He sighed.  "I wasn't surprised to find them crying
together.  That seems to be a favorite female pastime.  But
after I borrowed her for a private word to tell her about
Ron's phone call, I learned that she'd been the one to tell
Suzie that Caroline was HIV-positive."
 
   Angie dropped her magazine on the coffee table and
straightened on the couch.  "What?"
 
   He pounded his fist on the recliner arm and struggled
to keep from shouting.  "Don and Carolyn couldn't be
bothered telling their younger daughter that the older
daughter had HIV, so they left it up to another
twelve-year-old girl to tell her, and without any giving
warning that Suzie didn't know!  So Wynter blurts out
something thinking Suzie already knows it, but she doesn't. 
Now Wynter feels like she's," he waved his hands and
searched for words, "violated the Hippocratic Oath.  She may
actually be more miserable than Suzie at the moment."
 
   Angie started to rise.
 
   "Sit down."
 
   Angie glared at him.  The look made him glad that no
sharp-edged objects were in her hand.  "My daughter...."
 
   "OUR daughter, Angie.  And her words to me were, 'Don't
let Mother come upstairs.  I'll take care of the patient.' 
Unquote."
 
   "But I need to..."
 
   "You need to remember what you told me about avoiding
the argument you can't win.  She has her hands full right
now.  You interrupt and you'll just make it worse for her. 
Do you know that she's told me a couple of times that she's
glad it was Jimmy and not you in the mine with her?  Not for
the obvious reason, but because she knows you'd have driven
her crazy trying to overprotect her.  Now, I'm already
pissed off to the max over what Don and Carolyn did.  Don't
make me mad at you, too.  Please?  None of us need that
right now."
 
   He was surprised that he didn't see steam coming from
Angie's ears, but she sat down and glared at him.
 
   "Thank you.  If it helps you, then think about this: 
Caroline acted emotionally and look what happened.  Don and
Carolyn acted emotionally, and look what happened.  Our
daughter is using her head and her common sense and is
slowly straightening things out.  In fact, she's explaining
that having the virus and having AIDS is two different, if
related, things.  Now, which example do you think WE should
follow?"
 
   She glared at him for several seconds.  "You really
piss me off when you're right."
 
   "Then I guess it's a good thing that doesn't happen
very often.  May I join you over there?"
 
   She nodded and patted the cushion beside her.  "Maybe I
could use some comforting myself right now.
 
   He flipped down the leg rest and moved from the
recliner to the couch.  He cuddled her close, stroking her
back with one hand.  Before he realized it his hand was
under her blouse and moving around to the front.  Their
tongues fought for the right to seize and occupy territory. 
Her hand slid up his leg, cupped around the swelling Beast,
squeezed gently, and then tugged at his zipper.
 
   And Pepperoni Pete's delivery rang the doorbell.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Wynter wiped away her lemonade mustache, set her glass
on her desk, and reached for another slice of pizza.
 
   Suzie, red-eyed and slumped in her chair, had finished
barely half of her slice, having spent most of the time
questioning Wynter about Caroline's chances of survival. 
She sighed and changed the subject.  "Do you think Caroline
will have to go to jail?"
 
   Wynter shrugged.  She wished she knew something that
would comfort her friend about that, too.  "I don't know,
Suzie.  I'm a Future MD, not a Future Lawyer.  But maybe she
could say temporary insanity or something like that?  I know
that it sometimes works."
 
   Suzie nodded.  Her eyes were focused somewhere else. 
"Her reputation isn't going to help her, is it?"
 
   "Well, it... I mean... well...."
 
   "Yeah.  I know.  But since she's an expert on men, how
come she got herself in trouble?"
 
   Wynter hesitated halfway through a bite, then finished
and chewed.  It wasn't polite to speak with your mouth full. 
She swallowed.  "An expert on men?"
 
   "She knows more about them than anybody else I know. 
That's why I depend on her for advice."
 
   Wynter had just heard partial confirmation of her
diagnosis of the problem.  It fit with what Suzie had said
at Kenny's the day they met Cinnamon.  "You ask her for
advice about Kenny?"
 
   A slice of pepperoni began sliding off the edge of
Suzie's pizza. Wynter pointed to it.  Suzie plucked it off
and pushed it into her mouth.  "Sure," she said around the
meat.  "She's the one who told me what Kenny said."
 
   _Said?_  "You mean what he did?"
 
   The pepperoni seemed to remind Suzie that she was
hungry.  She took a large bite out of the remainder.  "Hunh
uh," she mumbled.  Wynter tried to fidget until Suzie
swallowed enough to talk.  "He didn't do it yet.  I found
out too soon.  He was just waiting until it would hurt me
worst."
 
   Wynter reached for her lemonade while she reshuffled
the symptoms.  A new diagnosis arrived as she was wiping her
mouth.  "So, you decided to hurt him first?  Getting him
expelled was to make him hurt the way he was going to make
you hurt?"
 
   Suzie's hands fidgeted and she took another bite. 
Wynter thought she might try to tie the remaining edge of
crust into a knot.  "Yeah," she said with a sigh as she
focused on something beneath the floor.  "But tonight I
realized that I was treating him like shit.  I was mad
because of the way I was being treated, and then I realized
I had treated him the same way.  Did you know he didn't even
try to tell anyone what Matthew was doing to me?  He just
looked at me and... and..."  She sniffed and wiped her nose
with the back of her hand.  "And then he just walked off to
the Principal's office."
 
   She sobbed a couple of times, but shook her head when
Wynter leaned forward to comfort her.  "Can Dragon have
this?" she asked, indicating the pizza crust.
 
   "Sure.  Dragon!"  She made a sweeping motion with her
hand, forefinger extended and stopping when it pointed at
the crust.
 
   He rose from his spot between them and the bed and took
the treat.  He chewed a couple of times and then swallowed. 
He stretched his head up to lick Suzie's cheek before lying
down again.
 
   Suzie wiped her cheek and smiled for a moment.  As it
faded she asked, "Why did he rescue me from Matthew if he
hates me so much?"
 
   Wynter was stunned, though she knew that she shouldn't
be surprised.  She decided that what had stunned her was
actually hearing the words spoken by Suzie.  "Kenny doesn't
hate you.  He loves you.  That's why he's so miserable. 
That's why he protected you from Matthew.  Why would he hate
you?"
 
   Suzie inhaled and then exhaled noisily.  "He told
Caroline...," she hesitated and almost sobbed as she said
the name, "that he was going to fuck me and then fuck over
me for trying to... for when I... because I...."
 
   Tears gushed from Suzie's eyes.  "I'm sorry!  I really
am!  Can you and Jimmy ever forgive me?"
 
   The symptoms fell into place, and the diagnosis was
complete.  Suzie wanted Wynter's forgiveness as well as
Jimmy's.  It wasn't about the testicle massage, where she'd
made Jimmy's pain worse.  Wynter wiped her fingers on her
napkin, then wiped her mouth with it.
 
   "Suzie?"  She leaned forward and pulled Suzie's hands
away from her face.  "Look at me, please?"
 
   Suzie's head tilted up.
 
   "Is this about when you were trying to get Jimmy for
your boyfriend?"
 
   Suzie nodded, crying too hard to speak.
 
   "If I was mad about that, do you think you'd be sitting
here eating pizza with me?  Do you think Jimmy and I would
be worried sick about you?  You're my best friend.  There's
nothing to forgive."
 
   She wondered if someday Caroline would have the same
look on her face when somebody told her that they'd just
found an effective treatment to remove HIV from the body.
 
   "Do you mean that?" Suzie whispered.  She sounded
seconds away from another major crying spell.
 
   "Uh huh.  Of course."  When she saw the relief on
Suzie's face she resumed her autopsy of the situation.  "So
Caroline told you that Kenny was going to treat you the way
he thought you were treating Jimmy and me?"
 
   Suzie's eyebrows puckered while she sorted that out and
then nodded.  "Well, yeah."
 
   "Why did he tell Caroline?"
 
   "Well, because...."  Her eyebrows pulled together again
when she realized she didn't know why.
 
   "Uh huh.  And Caroline was always putting you down;
then suddenly she's the big sister and best friend.  When
did that happen?"
 
   "Well...."  She thought for a minute.  "It was right
after I caught them together in her bed.  Right after he
told her."
 
   Wynter said nothing.  A few seconds later Suzie's eyes
threatened to pop out of her head.  "He told her, but she
didn't tell me, even though she was suddenly my best friend! 
She waited to tell me.  He never did anything and then she
told me and I...."
 
   Wynter put her elbow on the desk and rested her chin on
her hand while the lights came on for Suzie.
 
   "Fuck!  That stupid cow!"  Suzie stamped her right
foot.  "She never changed.  She's the same as she'd always
been!  I thought she was teasing this afternoon when she
called me an obnoxious little shit.  She wasn't!"
 
   Wynter made sure she didn't look away.  Her eyes tried
to, but she made them look at Suzie the way Kenny's eyes
always looked right at you.  "But Kenny did change.  He
loves you now.  He wouldn't even contradict your story at
school because he didn't want to call you a liar."
 
   Suzie flinched at the last word, but she knew that it
was the right one.  She didn't complain about its use. 
"But.... But how am I going to tell Principal Peters? 
Matthew was right, you know."  Suzie stared below the floor
again.  "He's not going to take the word of the sister of
the town slut over the school's star pupil.  Especially not
now."
 
   Wynter took Suzie's hands in hers.  "Matthew Wylie's
shining star is a little tarnished now.  Cinnamon is already
working on him.  I'll tell you about this afternoon later. 
She won't say what she has planned, but I think Matthew's
life is about to become... um, difficult, if I know her. 
Um, it might help her if you told her exactly what Matthew
said and did.  If you don't mind."
 
   Suzie turned hard eyes to Wynter.  "No, I don't mind." 
Fury spread across her face and she stamped her right foot. 
"I don't mind at all!  FUCK HIM!"
 
   "Nah," Wynter said as the corners of her mouth curled
up.  "He's not my type.  I don't like creeps."
 
   Wynter thought Suzie's laugh was the best thing she'd
heard all day.  But it faded and her face scrunched into a
nervous question.  "But, how do I make it up to Kenny?  What
do I do about him?"
 
   Wynter rose to her feet and picked up the lemonade
glasses.  She indicated the nightstand with a jerk of her
head.  "There's the phone.  Why not tell him you love him? 
After you do that, it's not going to be any problem at all. 
I'll go get us some refills.  I'll try not to get lost, but
if I do, I'll be back eventually.  Maybe he'll keep you
entertained until then?  But, um, why not call Cinnamon
first, 'cause that won't take as long."
 
   Suzie bounced out of her chair and threw her arms
around Wynter.  "Thanks!  For... for everything."
 
   Wynter understood.  "Sure."  She returned the hug as
best she could with her hands full and then followed Dragon
downstairs to tell her parents what Kenny had left out of
his confession to Ron.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Cinnamon's eyes scrunched tight as she shuddered with
the second climax since he'd entered her.  She'd been in the
mood for a little doggie style, but the bitch had harped at
him from the moment he'd walked in the door.  By the time he
came into her room she was afraid that she would have to
comfort him as a mother rather than as a lover.  He was
hesitant as he stroked her leg and then the groove of her
goodie box.  When his hand stilled she waited to see if he
would stroke down her leg or work his finger inside her wet,
aching tunnel.  When he seemed about to stroke down her leg
she braced herself to begin the fourteen-second countdown. 
But then he teased open the groove and rubbed her throbbing
little button.
 
   She decided he needed the closeness more than she
needed his balls bouncing on her button as he slid all but
the last inch into her, so it was missionary time again. 
But she didn't mind.  She'd much rather have him
missionary-style than have him crying into her pillow again.
 
   As she came down from the second orgasm he grunted,
"Okay," as his signal.  She almost screamed with joy when he
began spewing into her depths, joy that he was finally
having something go right with his day, joy that she had
made him happy.
 
   They cuddled afterward and talked for a while.  When
his breathing became deep and slow, she waited, reviewing
her plans for the next day.  No doubt Matthew Wylie would be
waiting for her as soon as she arrived.  She wanted
everything to work just _so_.  She didn't want to overlook
any possible contingencies.
 
   Finally she knew he was almost as unconscious as the
bitch.  She slid out of bed, out the door, and padded naked
to the hiding place, where she removed a pill from the
container.  She carried it downstairs to the liquor cabinet. 
She expected to find an open bottle of Scotch.  Millie never
bothered filling the decanters any more, and she rarely quit
when a bottle was empty.  She always had to start the next
one before she quit, even if she could barely coordinate her
hands to open it.  YES!  One was three-quarters full.
 
   Cinnamon opened the bottle, dropped in the pill, and
swirled it until the pill dissolved completely.  She
re-capped the bottle and softly padded back upstairs to curl
up next to her father.
 
                          ~ ~ ~
 
   Wynter saw Suzie hesitate at the door to the guest
room.  "Um, Suzie?  Um, that room doesn't heat up very fast
after it's been closed off for a few days.  Would you, um,
well, would you like to, um, use the other half of my bed?"
 
   Suzie turned an expectant face to her.  She obviously
didn't want to be alone in the dark with her fears and
anxiety disorder.  "You don't mind?"
 
   Wynter shook her head.  "I already told you.  You're my
best friend and, well, you're already like a sister to me
even if you aren't 'adopted' like Cinnamon."
 
   Suzie looked like she'd just been told she didn't have
cancer.  "Thanks.  I'd like that tonight.  I mean, well, you
know."
 
   "Uh huh.  Let's bring your stuff in here."
 
   Suzie pulled a nightie out of her overnight bag while
Wynter removed one from her dresser.  Suzie pulled off her
sweater and started unbuttoning her blouse.  Then she froze.
 
   Wynter raised an eyebrow at her while she unbuttoned
her own blouse.
 
   "I guess it's silly," she said with a shrug.  "We
shower together at PE, Kenny and I were both naked when we
interrupted you and Jimmy after his birthday party.  I just
felt sorta weird undressing in your room."
 
   "Oh!  Well, do you want to change in the bathroom or
want me to go brush my teeth while you change here?"
 
   Suzie shook her head.  "Nah."  Her fingers started on
the buttons again.  "You ever have moments when you feel
strange doing things you've done before, but someplace
else?"
 
   Wynter slid off her blouse and tossed it into the
hamper.  "Sure," she said as she unfastened her jeans.  "I
think I've given up on being surprised by how weird people
can be because I'm just as weird myself."
 
   Suzie's laugh sounded good to her.  When they had
changed she let Suzie use the bathroom first.  Then she
voided her urine accumulation and brushed her teeth.  When
she returned to the bedroom, Suzie was holding up the cloth
over the painting and looking at her efforts.  Suzie started
to say something to Wynter, but suddenly looked stricken.
 
   "Oh.  I didn't think first.  Is... is it okay if I
look?"
 
   Wynter knew Suzie had remembered the day she'd looked
in one of Wynter's notebooks without permission.  Wynter's
notebooks were private, like a multiple-volume diary, and
Wynter had been very upset that Suzie had looked in the _Sex
Terminology_ notebook.  Though she was grateful that Suzie
hadn't looked in one of the picture notebooks that had
drawings which showed her having sex with Daddy.
 
   Wynter smiled at her friend.  "Sure."
 
   "Is that supposed to be Jimmy?"
 
   Wynter sighed.  "It's either him or the Hunchback of
Notre Dame."
 
   Suzie's head tilted sideways.  "Football teams have
hunchbacks?  Is that like a fullback or something?"
 
   "Um.... yeah.  Something."  She removed the scrunchie
from her ponytail and shook back her hair.
 
   "Oh.  And I thought linebackers were gross!"  They both
laughed as she dropped the cloth to hide the painting. 
Wynter noticed that Suzie hadn't removed her necklace and
that she touched it on the way to the bed.  It reminded her
of the way Jimmy sometimes touched the arrowhead she'd given
him as it hung from the thong around his neck.
 
   They slid under the covers, Dragon assumed his guard
post in front of the door, and Wynter turned out the light.
 
   "Wynter?"
 
   "Uh huh?"
 
   "Thanks.  For everything."
 
   "Sure."
 
   After a minute they rolled on their sides and scooted
back-to-back.
 
   "G'night."
 
   "Night, Suzie."
 
   Another minute later and Wynter heard a soft sob.  She
rolled over and curled around Suzie, wrapping an arm over
her and squeezing gently.  "It'll be okay," she whispered. 
"For both of them."
 
   Suzie took her hand and pressed a gentle kiss into the
back of it.  "Thanks for that, too," she whispered.
 
   And the only sound until morning was Dragon chasing a
rabbit in his sleep
 
   ************************************************************
 
               To be continued in Part Two.
 
Copyright Russell Hoisington 2006

-- 

Russell Hoisington
State of Confusion

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