Spring break was finally over. They hadn’t managed more than a few picnics out to the park because of cool weather. However, it gave Eric and Kate a bit of extra time to get life back into a schedule.
Kate hurried into the house from picking up the kids at school. They had heard the phone ringing from the driveway. Kate hoped it wouldn’t stop ringing before she got to it. They hadn’t replaced the answering machine after the attack and Kate wouldn’t get a cell phone. Eric had chided her about getting a cell phone, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do so. Kept saying it was too expensive and that she’d never use one. She dodged the dogs at the door and grabbed the phone mid ring.
“Hello?” she said trying to catch her breath.
“Hey Mom!” said a voice on the line.
“Hello Pat. What do you need?”
“Don’t need anything. Tammy and I called to tell you we drove to town this morning and got married by the justice of the peace.”
“W-w-w-what?” Kate stammered.
“We are married. Today. We decided we couldn’t wait.”
“Pat, I…. I don’t know what to say. I thought you two wanted a big family wedding,” Kate was still stunned by the news.
“Well, we decided that we didn’t want all that fuss. Tammy’s family and all of us. Just too much when all we wanted was to be together. So, we went ahead and did it.”
Kate just laughed. “I guess congratulations are in order then. Are you two going on a honeymoon?”
“Yeah. I called your friend Henry. He and Josie are expecting us in about an hour.”
“An hour? Wow. I guess you didn’t wait. Thats a six hour drive on a good day.”
“I know. Tell the rest of the family for me. Okay?”
“Okay. Does Tammy’s family know?” Kate wondered just how off the cuff this wedding had been and if Tammy’s parents were alright with this.
“Yeah. We called them first. They weren’t too happy, but not much they could do. Tammy’s mom wants to give us a party when we come home. We said we’d think about it. Gotta go Mom! Love you!”
“Love you too Pat! Kiss Tammy for me.”
“I will!” Pat hung up the phone.
Kate leaned against the wall and just smiled. She realized that the dogs were barking again and turned around to meet Eric coming in the door.
“Hello Kate. What’s up?”
“That was Pat on the phone. He called to tell me that he and Tammy got married down at the courthouse today and are nearly up at Henry and Josie’s for their honeymoon.”
Eric stood there stunned. He knew that Kate and Tammy’s mom, Sara had been planning a June wedding. He put his briefcase down and hugged Kate. “Are you upset?”
“No, to be honest, I’m rather relieved. It was the first wedding and I was so not looking forward to getting all the kinks worked out of the plans. Sara is a wonderful person, but she stinks when it comes to planning.”
Eric just laughed. “Well then, shall we go out to dinner in celebration of your liberation from wedding planning?”
“Yes! Barbecue or Mexican?”
“Barbecue sounds good to me,” Eric said as he turned towards the living room. “Mark! Jamie! Want to go out to eat?”
“Yes!” the two of them answered in unison as they came barreling into the kitchen.
“Sounds like we are going to Deke’s then for supper,” said Kate. “Let me write the others a quick note and off we go.”
Deke’s was a smoke house barbecue cafe that had opened up two weeks ago. It was good food with nice variety. It was almost as big a favorite as the Firefly. The waitress smiled as they came in and set down on the pine picnic table.
I bet you want the usual?” she asked Eric.
Eric blushed and nodded.
Kate just smiled. “Eat here a lot lately?” She knew full well that the hospital computer geeks had a standing lunch order here.
“Yes Kate. It’s good. Lots of meat and the sauce is wonderful.”
“Okay, then I’ll have what he usually has, only make my drink iced tea.”
The waitress nodded, took the children’s orders and brought out the drinks a few minutes later.
“So, Pat and Tammy are married,” Eric commented.
“Yes. Now if we can just convince Zach and Anne to decide where they want to live, I’ll be happy.”
“I can understand that. They must have changed their minds twenty times in the last few weeks. You’d think they were having a baby or something.” Eric smiled.
Kate laughed. After everything last month, Zach’s inability to decide where to live was frustrating, but almost trivial.
The waitress brought their food and Kate found that Eric’s regular was a small shredded pork sandwich with pinto beans, and potato chips. The small sandwich could easily have fed both of the children. The barbecue sauce was hot and savory.
“Mama Kate, this is so good I could eat it every day!” said Jamie with enthusiasm and a barbecue sauce covered face.
“Yeah, it’s pretty good,” Mark chimed in.
Kate just smiled. Both children had grown so much over the last year. Hard to believe they were the same two shy waifs she had met almost a year ago. She was so glad that neither child knew what had happened last month. Andy’s idea of taking them to the farm out in Levette was perfect, except for the fact that both children loved to go out and help Pat or Tammy clean up the barn. She drifted off in thought as she ate her food. Eric was right. The sandwiches were excellent.
Kate was startled out of her thoughts by Eric tapping her arm. “What?”
“I started to tell you about my interview with James and you didn’t answer. Wool gathering were you?”
“Yes. Sorry Eric. Tell me again.” Kate could feel the blush creep over her skin.
“James cleared it with the Sheriff’s department to have me attached to the Search and Rescue teams. He also approved the process to borrow tracking dogs and the like from their owners. Oh, and Zach is on the team too.” Eric smiled, knowing that Kate would pick up on what he was trying to say.
“Ah, so Zach and Max could go out in the field if needed?” she asked with a broad smile playing across her face.
“Exactly. Or, it could just be Zach and I.” Eric finished the last of his sandwich and reached for some chips off of Jamie’s plate.
“Daddy! Stop it! I huntedted those chips!” Jamie said.
“You did? I thought the waitress hunted those rascally potatoes.” Eric teased Jamie as he snatched another chip from her plate.
Jamie reacted by trying to fork Eric’s hand with her silverware. “Go eat Mark’s tater chips!”
Mark moved his plate back away from his dad’s reach. “These are mine.”
Eric reached around Jamie and grabbed a chip off of Mark’s plate as well. “Nope, I think that this one is mine.” He ate the chip and then smiled at Kate.
“There are days I don’t know which one of you is the adult and which are the children,” she said in mock disdain. Then she reached across and took the pickle from Eric’s plate and ate it slowly.
That made everyone laugh.
Three weeks later, Kate and the children were driving home from the school carnival when the doe jumped into the road. Kate was startled by the sudden appearance of the doe in the headlights. There was no time for evasive action. Kate hit the brakes, and the doe crashed over the top of the Subaru. Kate pulled to the side of the road and hit the emergency lights. After making sure that the kids were okay, she got out of the car and looked at the damages.
The doe was dead. She was off the road on the shoulder. Her neck was broken and there was damage to her forelegs and chest. Kate then took a look at her car. The windshield was smashed on the right side in a huge spiderweb of cracks. The front right fender and that part of the hood was dented and smeared with blood. There was also a large smear of blood across the top of the car which trailed off just after the passenger doors. Kate thought that it might be alright to drive until she saw that the front right tire was flat. Part of the bumper had bent inwards and pierced the tire. There was no way for her to change the tire because she couldn’t bend the bumper back out of the way. She was just walking around the front of the car trying to decide what to do when a car pulled up behind the Subaru.
“Kate! Are you okay?” asked James.
“Yes. We are all okay, except for the deer. “
“Is the car drivable?”
“No. It has a flat caused by the bumper bending into the tire.”
“Have you called Eric or Zach yet?”
“No. I don’t have a phone. I was just trying to figure out what to do when you pulled up.”
“Kate, I’m surprised that Eric hasn’t gotten you a phone. Especially after all the fuss a bit ago.”
“It’s my own fault. Figured that I didn’t need on. I think I’m going to have to apologize for that attitude now. He was fussing about it only last week.” Kate sighed.
“Don’t worry about it. Leanne didn’t want one either. I finally just gave her one for her birthday. Let me call the guys for you so they don’t worry about you being late. I think I have a tarp for the deer too.”
“Tarp? What do you mean?”
“Well, you did make a fairly clean kill. There is plenty of meat there and I know what your household is like. You could use the meat. Zach knows how to butcher.” He walked back over to his car.
Kate went to check on the children. They were sitting quietly. Kate told them that James was calling Eric and that they would be going home soon.
“Mama Kate, did the deer die?” Jamie asked.
“Are we gonna take it home to eat?”
“We will if James has a tarp. Are you okay with that idea?”
“Ewwww!” Mark said making a face.
“Poor deer. It will make yummy stew,” said Jamie with a tinge of sadness in her voice. “But there is more of it than there is rabbits.”
Kate just shook her head. She never knew where Jamie would go with a conversation. “Yes, it will be more meat than a rabbit. Mark, if you don’t want to eat the deer, I am sure we can make you a hamburger or a peanut butter sandwich.”
“You eat dead cow Mark! What’s wrong with deer?” asked Jamie.
“I don’t want to eat Bambi!” he shouted.
“Okay you two. Shush! Settle down and we will talk about this more later.” Kate closed the door and turned to find James heading her way.
“Just talked to Zach. He and Eric are on their way. I’ll stay here with you. Are you doing okay? Any aches or pains? Anything?”
Kate blinked. “Umm…. I’m okay. A bit upset that I couldn’t stop quick enough, and worried about the car, but I’m okay.” She leaned back against the car wondering just how long it would take for Eric and Zach to get to her.
Eric and Zach piled into Zach’s car so fast that Anne was left wondering what on earth had been said over the phone. She followed them out the door only to watch the car pull out of the drive and head out of town.
She went back in to wait for them to come home.
Zach headed up the highway at speeds that even made Eric nervous. Once they got past the fifteen mile marker, Zach turned on the high beams and slowed down. They both saw the police lights at the same instant. Zach pulled off to the side of the road and they got out to check on the damages.
“Kate! Are you okay?” Eric asked as he loped up to her.
“I’m fine. A bit shook up, but fine.” She wrapped her arms around Eric.
“Where are the kids?”
“In the car. We figured it would be the safest place for them.”
Eric went over to the car and peeked in on the kids. “Hey there! Hear you went hunting with Mama Kate’s car.”
“Oh Daddy! The deer jumped out and got hit cause she didn’t look both wayses,” said Jamie.
“And I’m not eating Bambi. Yuck!” said Mark.
“Not a problem Mark. Glad to hear that you are okay. We will be getting into Zach’s car in a few minutes and Zach will take you home. Get your stuff together.” Eric closed the door and inspected the damage on the car. Then he went to find James. James and Zach were behind the Subaru wrapping the doe up in a piece of tarp.
“Hello James. Thanks for stopping and helping Kate.”
“I didn’t do much. Just made a phone call really. Is she going to be okay?”
“Yes. She just seems shook up.”
“I figured, but sometimes strong women fall apart when you least expect it. Kate is a strong woman and I’ve known her a long time. Just don’t want her to surprise you by falling apart all of a sudden.” James crouched down to help Zach lift the doe.
“Thanks James. I’ll keep an eye on her. Which car are we putting the doe in?”
“The back of her Subbie,” said Zach. “I figure the tow truck can carry it as well as the car. That way we can get everyone in mine.”
“Makes sense. When is the tow truck due?” Eric asked James. “Is it too late to call it off? I’m pretty sure that we could pull the bumper out and put the spare on it.”
“I already thought of that, and the spare is really low on air. Not flat, but like it has a slow leak. So, I called the tow truck. Greg’s should be here any time now. I called them right after I called you. Where do you want it dropped off?” asked James.
“Well if we are putting the doe in the back, it had better be the house. Zach and I will have some work to do tonight before we go to bed.” Erik knew it wouldn’t take more than an hour to get the doe cut up, especially with the two of them working. Zach had worked with a local butcher for a few summers and was very handy with a knife. Eric was glad that the freezer wasn’t too full either.
“Alright. Then let’s get the children moved over and this in the back.” James lifted his end of the doe. Zach moved with him while Eric went to get the children.
“Come on kids,” he said as he opened the door. “Let’s go get in Zach’s car. Kate, grab your bag and let’s get moving.”
Kate nodded and grabbed her bag out of the car. She got the kids settled into Zach’s car while Eric went back to help the other two maneuver the doe into the back. They were struggling with the one end. She decided to distract the children who were watching the whole process. Kate asked them to see how many constellations they could see out of the skylight of Zach’s car.
The guys got the deer into the Subaru and the tail gate shut just before the tow truck pulled up. Zach gave the driver directions to the house and then he and Eric said their goodbyes to James.
Zach turned his car around and they headed home. He drove slower this time as they passed open fields where they could see deer cropping the grass in the scattered beams of the headlights.
“You go slow Zach! We can’t have no more deers gettin’ hit tonight,” said Jamie as he took one turn a bit fast.
She sat back with a smile on her face.
Twenty minutes later, Zach pulled into the drive. Both children were asleep. Eric carried Jamie in while Kate roused a sleepy Mark. Once in the house, they explained what happened to Anne and Andy. It took a few minutes to get Jamie and Mark into bed and then they had a moment to themselves.
“Kate,” was as far as Eric got before she buried her face in his chest.
“Just hold me for a few minutes. I couldn’t be weepy in front of the two little ones. And James is too reserved to just hug someone, no matter how long he has known them. I just want held.” Her voice was muffled by his shirt.
Eric held her close. He found himself brushing her hair away from her face. There were a few tears, but she was quiet.
“I’m sorry. I should have been more careful. I-I-I,” she stammered.
“Shush… It’s okay. Just shush.” Eric held her close, grateful that she was unharmed and that a bent bumper and a flat tire was the worst of it.
After a few minutes, she loosened her hold on him and looked up towards his face. “I’m sorry about the car. I’m.”
Eric interrupted her. “Stop. It was an accident. We can fix the bumper and get a new tire. Zach and I need to butcher the deer tonight and I want you to take a shower and get in bed.”
“No buts. If you don’t, I will make sure you sleep. Understand?” He gave her a look she recognized as one that brooks no disagreement.
“Yes, I would. I’ll check in on you in fifteen minutes. If you aren’t in bed and at least trying to sleep, I’ll be in to make sure you rest.” Eric was serious. He didn’t like to pull the sleepy vibes trick too often, but he knew Kate was still upset and would worry herself into a headache if she didn’t sleep.
Kate knew she had lost this battle. “Alright. Just don’t be too long.” She kissed him and then headed off to the bathroom.
Eric and Zach wrestled the deer onto the makeshift butcher rack. It was a good thing that Kate still had an end pole from an old fashioned clothesline in the back yard. The heavy steel pole with a crossbeam held the deer up so that they could gut it. The front quarter of the deer was a write off. The dogs would get a good meal or two out of it if they could remove enough of the bone splinters. Zach had just cleaned the cavity and Eric grabbed the liver.
“I’m going to take this in the house. The dogs can have the rest of the offal.” He headed back into the house.
“Fine by me.”
Eric’s real reason though was to check on Kate. He had seen the bathroom light go off, but the bedroom light was still on. He hoped that Kate had just fallen asleep with the light on, but he wouldn’t put it past her to still be awake. After putting the liver in a zip lock in the fridge, he headed quietly down the hall. Peeking into the room, he saw that she was sitting up in bed, still awake. She was writing on a pad of paper and didn’t see him.
“I thought I told you to get some sleep.”
Kate looked up guiltily. “I… I just had to figure some stuff out before I could sleep. I…”
Eric walked over to the bed and took the pad from her hand. On it were numbers, dates and a rough schedule. “Trying to figure out how to do without the Subbie?”
“Yes. I don’t know how long it will take to fix it and I have to be able to get everyone to work and school and…”
“Kate, it’s a simple fix. We will have it done tomorrow.” Eric put the pad on the nightstand and moved closer to Kate. He ran his fingers through her hair and cupped the side of her head in his hand. “You on the other hand are not an easy fix. Especially when you stay up when you should be sleeping. You’ve had a rough evening and you will go to sleep,” he said firmly. He took a deep breath and pushed the energy that had been building towards Kate.
“Eric, please. I just can’t sleep yet,” she protested.
“Yes you will. Now lay down,” he said and put his hands on her shoulders to make sure she laid down.
Kate complied only because she had no choice. Eric was a great deal stronger than he looked, and she was getting very heavy. “Eric, no…” was as far as she got before her eyelids began to flick closed. “I wan…” was as far as she got before she fell asleep.
Eric tucked the covers around her and sat with her for a few moments to make sure she stayed asleep. She started to wake up and he gave the energy another push. Her breathing slowed and she was deeply asleep. He tucked a pillow next to her so that it gave the illusion that he was still sitting next to her on the bed. Then he turned out the light and closed the door.
Eric walked back into the kitchen and got himself a drink of water as well as some trays for the meat. When he got outside, he found Zach taking a break. The deerskin was off and to one side rolled up to take down to a local tannery.
“Mom was still awake wasn’t she.”
“Yes. I figured she was when I saw the light on. There are days I just don’t understand her. She was worrying about the car and schedules and work instead of resting.”
“You’re a fine one to talk. I’ve seen you up late on the computer trying to balance 50 cents or working on some client’s computer at 5am. You both have this incredible drive to get things done or fixed. You wear me out some days. And to be honest, the two of you are so alike at times it’s funny. So, if you were out here fussing over a carcass, I’m not surprised that Mom was inside trying to get everyone to work or school on time. Just be glad she hasn’t figured out how you do the whole sleepy vibes trick. If she ever does, you’ll loose your only weapon.” Zach smiled and turned back to the deer.
Eric thought about it for a moment. “You’re right Zach. I also suspect that if I had sat with her for a few minutes when we first got home instead of coming out to help you with the deer, she would have gone to sleep. There are days I just get too wrapped up in the oddball stuff and forget the more important things.”
“We all do. We’re guys.” Zach chuckled. “Let’s get Bambi cut up and in the freezer. It’s nearly 11pm and we both have work in the morning.”
“Sounds good to me. Oh, by the way,…. She has you doing all the driving until the Subbie is fixed.” Eric picked up the boning knife.
“Yep. Had it all written down. You get up an hour earlier than I do tomorrow for a change.” Eric smiled at the thought of Zach being an early riser.
“Oh no! I’ll give her the keys.” Zach paused. The thought of letting anyone drive his new car gave him the shivers. Mom had him pegged. “Damn. You are so getting that car fixed tomorrow. I am not doing this two days in a row!” Zach shook the knife in his hand at Eric for emphasis.
“Fine! Just watch where you point that thing!” Eric ducked in mock horror from Zach welding the knife.
The both laughed and went to work butchering the deer.
Zach took his shower first while Eric finished packaging and then loading the meat into the deep freeze. He kept a portion of steak out for breakfast in the morning and put it in the fridge next to the liver. Eric was tempted to slice off a bit of liver, but knew if he started, there would be an empty bag left in no time. So, he closed the fridge and turned off the kitchen light.
Eric finished his shower and then crept into bed with Kate. She was warm and he snuggled up close to her. When he put his arms around her, she barely sighed. Eric kissed her on the back of the neck and was asleep in a few moments.