Chapter Twenty

Fortunately for Ben the jeep started right away. The old Willy’s had a starter on the floorboard that sometimes made it challenging to start, especially when in a hurry. He sure wasn’t going to win any speed races with the six cylinder and the low gears, but it got him away from his dad’s fury. He had never seen his dad that upset before and wanted to put some time and distance between each other for a while. This whole episode came about so suddenly throwing him for a loop. He needed some place to stay to gather his thoughts. His only refuge was at Susan’s place where she lived with her mom, Heidi, in Kuna.

Ben called Susan and told her what had happened. She wasn’t overly surprised that Ben’s folks responded like that. They were more conservative than most people.

“Wow Ben. What are you going to do?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I know I am not going back there until things calm down though. I have never seen my dad so mad. I really set him off.” Ben answered.

“I wonder if mom would let you stay in our barn for a while. We could clean out the loft and the old office. There is a bathroom and a shower in there too. That would be so awesome to have you here!”

“But Susan, how is your mom going to respond when she finds out that we got caught having sex behind the church?” he asked.

“Oh she would be furious for having sex and getting caught in the church parking lot, but not because we had sex. She thought we have been having sex for the last six months! When we went to Bend at Christmas, we talked about it. She didn’t believe me when I said we hadn’t done it. She even offered to put me on the pill. Some of that was to regulate my monthly period, but she did say that she didn’t want me having an accident.” Susan explained. “Let me talk to Mom. I bet she will be okay with it, she likes you. Come on over here and by the time you get here I will know something. Just don’t say her anything about getting caught in the church parking lot!” Susan laughed.

It was about an hour drive over to Kuna and Ben needed the time to process everything that had happened earlier that morning. It seemed like his whole life was falling apart. Now his folks were upset with him which would have an adverse effect on school. It was a strange turn of events and he didn’t know what to do. Why was having pre-marital sex such a big deal anyway?

Heidi was working with a three year old sorrel in the round pen when Susan came out to talk to her.

“Mom, can I talk to you?”

The sorrel was trotting around in circles clock-wise, then Heidi gave it a command turning it to gallop in the opposite direction. The horse had worked up a sweat and was getting tired. Heidi dropped her hands to her side and the sorrel stopped, turned and walked towards her. “Good boy” she whispered, clipping the lead rope to the halter she led the horse out of the round pen toward the pasture. “What do you need honey?”

Susan walked along with Heidi to the lush green pasture opening the gate for her. “Well, Ben and his folks got in kind of an argument and Ben left home. He just called me and told me about it. He is coming over here right now and I told him that I would talk to you.”

“Oh that’s too bad. What did they get in an argument about?” Heidi asked.

“Well, Ben told them that we were having sex.”

“Oh! Yeah, I bet that didn’t go over well with Robin!” Heidi exclaimed. “What was he thinking?”

“Obviously he wasn’t. Anyway, I guess they got in a huge argument and Sam got very angry with him. It scared Ben so bad he jumped in the truck and got out of there. He doesn’t have a place to go right now and I was wondering if it would be alright if he stayed in the barn for a few days?

“Hmmm… I am sorry to hear about that. He is such a good boy. I guess we can talk about it when he gets here.”

Heidi liked Ben a lot. He was hard working, smart and had more character than most grown men she knew. She had always hoped that Susan and Ben would stay together and eventually get married. With him heading off to school in Moscow next year would determine where their relationship was going. He was a good looking young man and the college ladies would be all over him. Susan still had one year of high school and Heidi hoped that she would stay focused on Ben while he was gone to Moscow.

Heidi had given birth to Susan when she was seventeen, Susan’s age now, and had raised her on her own. It hadn’t always been easy. There had been a couple of guys that lived with them over the years as Susan was growing up and Susan had gotten very attached to them. When they left, it had been difficult for the little girl. She had always wanted a daddy like everyone else and as she got older Heidi could see that Susan could tend to be a little promiscuous desiring that male companionship most girls got from their dad. It didn’t help that she was well developed and quite attractive. There was never a shortage of suitors until Ben came along. Ben’s calm demeanor had an effect on Susan and having him around made Heidi’s life with her daughter a lot easier. Heidi was surprised that Ben had left home over an argument. They were such a solid and stable family although she did think Robin was a little too strict with her Christianity sometimes.

“C’mon in Ben!” Heidi hollered over the barking dogs. She was pouring glasses of iced sun tea for all of them and offered one to Ben, “How are you doing Ben?”

Ben sat down at the counter next to Susan. “Well it has been some kind of day, that’s for sure!”

“Ya, that’s what Susan was saying. She said you left in kind of a hurry. Did you pack a suitcase?”

Ben laughed and said, “I forgot it under my bed; along with my toothbrush.”

“That’s a strange place to leave your toothbrush.” Smiling at Ben. “I am sorry you’re going though this right now Ben. Those rough discussions are hard on everyone and yet it is part of cutting the apron strings. I am sure your folks are concerned. Have you talked to them?”

“No, Dad is pretty mad at me.” Susan kicked Ben under the counter and Ben looked at Susan. She shot him a look that said, be careful what you say!

“I said some things that I probably shouldn’t have said.” Ben continued.

Heidi was at the sink washing up vegetables for dinner. “We all say things like that once in a while and it usually bites us in the butt. Then you have to go back later to eat crow.” Turning back towards them she said, “after you do that about half of your life, you learn that what you’re thinking is usually best left unsaid!”

Ben laughed, relaxing him. “The problem is that we don’t agree on a whole lot anymore.”

Heidi said, “Yup, every person comes to a point in their life where they have to stand up for what they believe in. But you can’t be standing in someone else’s front yard expecting them to change to how you believe.”

“Yeah, I think that is what dad was kind of saying.” Ben took a big drink of iced tea. “Heidi, I need a place to stay until things cool down a little.”

“Well Ben, you’re more than willing to stay in the barn. There is a shower and a bathroom out there. Susan will get you a towel and washcloths. It probably needs to be cleaned up some. You probably need to let your mom know that you’re okay. It isn’t fair to let her worry no matter how much you don’t agree with her.”

“Okay, thank you.”

Susan and Ben went to the barn to clean up the place for Ben.

Heidi texted Robin, “Ben is here n sleepn in the barn 2night. Wanted u 2 know”.

Robin responded immediately, “Thank u Heidi!”

After dinner Ben went to bed thinking of what Heidi said about calling his mom. He was still upset about her holding him to walking the Christian walk that he really didn’t want to call her, at least not yet anyway. He wanted to make her suffer a little bit. She just didn’t understand his life. It was too difficult to walk according to the standards that she held. Besides, it was easy for her because she already had a family. She didn’t have to go out in the world and deal with people like he did especially heading to college now. College was more liberal than her way of life. She had no idea how hard it was when you’re the only one standing out from the crowd because you did everything right. Ben was tired of getting teased all the time. His mom was out of touch with reality now days.

Truthfully what bothered him the most was he knew  if he went back home, his parents would make him talk to Pastor Mike about Cory and Monica living together. Tyler would think he was a snitch and Cory was a pretty popular guy in the church. He was the “Man of God” everyone wanted to be like. All of the youth group guys thought Monica was really hot too. If he said something about their relationship he could just imagine the crap he would take. The thought of all the guys in youth group coming down on him was too much.

Robin was in bed next to Sam who was sound asleep. She was praying quietly, tears in her eyes, a heaviness in her heart, like a piece of her soul was missing, “Lord please watch over Ben. Keep him in your hands and a firm hand on his path.” as she drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Twelve

Ben was looking around for Susan. She was supposed to be there fifteen minutes ago and youth group was about to start. Tyler, Monica’s son, was sitting next to him. He was two years younger than Ben and looked up to him with great admiration.

“When did you and your mom move into Cory’s place?” Ben asked.

“About a month ago, it’s been kind of weird. He acts like he wants me there but I feel like I am in the way a lot of the time. I have my own room and everything but it doesn’t feel like home, you know?

“Ya, so you didn’t have to change schools did you?” Ben asked looking over his shoulder again to see Susan walk in the door.

“No, he lives on the school district boundary so that was good. Mom said we are going to live there just until we can get on our feet. Our car broke down and she didn’t have the money to fix it so Cory said we could live at his place until Mom could save enough money to either get it fixed or get a new car.”

“What happened to Monica’s car?” Ben asked.

Ben was savvy when it came to working on cars and enjoyed it a lot. He had rebuilt an old ‘58 Willy’s Jeep for his senior project in shop class. Robin’s brother had sold the Jeep to Sam when they first started dating and it sat in the machine shed next to the barn covered up with a tarp for the last ten years. Sam and Robin had presented a deal to Ben that if he wanted to use the jeep for his senior project they would buy the parts and when it was finished he could either buy the jeep from them at a reduced price or they would match what he had saved for a newer rig provided he maintain a “B” average. Ben had to work much harder than his sister for the grades but had kept his end of the bargain.

Ben had rebuilt the motor, the master cylinder and upgraded the steering assembly, rewired the 6 volt electrical system fixed the dents and gave it a new coat of paint. The instructor was impressed with Ben’s eye for detail and tenacity.

Tyler was telling Ben something about how the Subaru head gasket had gone out, and how it overheated. But Ben was not listening, his eyes were on Susan.

He had known Susan since they were very young when Heidi, Robin and Sam all attended Seven Mile together. When she was in sixth grade Susan and her mom moved to Kuna where Heidi joined a practice with a dentist as their hygienist. She had purchased a small farm in the country where she and Susan taught riding lessons and boarded horses on the side.

Ben and Susan had met at a Fourth of July Christian Concert put on by the local churches and featured popular Christian musician groups. Susan had recognized Ben from a distance while she was working at the food stand through her church in Kuna. Ben was there with Matt, one of his friends from youth group. Matt had spotted Susan and was interested in her. Ben didn’t recognize Susan, she had changed a lot from the skinny sixth grader he once knew. Matt had spent a small fortune on fast food in an attempt to talk to Susan. Unfortunately for Matt there was a lot of competition for Susan but she had made it very obvious of her interest in Ben.

Susan had just recently started coming to Ben’s youth group on Thursday nights. Heidi let her drive the big red Dodge Ram flatbed pickup and whenever Susan made an entrance every guy in the youth group noticed. Her long blonde curly hair bounced when she entered the room; it was like throwing a shiny plug into a pond full of hungry bass after a long winter. Susan loved the attention and it had the tendency of making Ben jealous. She could have any guy in the room and she flaunted it. Ben was more reserved and Susan’s aggressiveness threw him off balance.

The youth leader called the gathering to attention and Susan made her way over to where Ben was sitting with Tyler. After the youth group was over Ben and Susan usually went to the Dairy Queen restaurant with a couple of the others for a shake. Ben and Susan were sitting in a booth when she nudged him. He looked at her and when their eyes met he followed hers to the open purse. There was a condom in a package in her purse. His heart panicked and he looked back at her eyes. Her eyes opened wide and her mouth opened in a dramatic “Oh dear!” and she laughed.

“Where did you get that?” Ben whispered.

“When I was in Bend at Christmas my cousin had several in her drawer so I took one!” Making her dramatic face again.

Ben’s heart was racing. He wanted to remain in control of this situation but felt like he was losing all resemblance of it. He didn’t know how to respond. They had talked about doing “it” but he didn’t know what to do. All of this was going through his head and Susan said. “Let’s go back to the church parking lot.” Susan was acting very aggressive and that was intimidating Ben a little but he wasn’t going to back down.

They had done some serious petting but had never taken it to that level. Robin had explained to Ben when he started dating Susan that having sex was much more than recreation. It was meant to be a covenant with God between one man and one woman. She had explained to him that if he would wait until he was married that the Lord would bless his marriage and his family immensely. She had stressed that it was very important not to give in to any temptation and had requested that the two of them always be in company with some of their peers at all times.

The problem for Ben was that his peers were having sex everywhere and the older he had gotten he figured that his mom had lost touch with reality and didn’t understand that things were much different than when she grew up. You couldn’t turn the television on without seeing sex on every channel or at the very least there would be some woman scantily clad talking about erectile dysfunction. Every one of Ben’s friends had experienced sex and frankly he was embarrassed when they all talked about. It was everywhere he went at school, on the football team, at work and even a lot of the guys at church had experienced sex. He figured that he was the only person on the planet had never had sex. He knew of kids at school who had sex when they were in grade school! Ben tried to talk big but really had no idea what he was talking about. Then when he threw Susan into the equation it got very complicated. She could have any guy she wanted and if he was not willing she wouldn’t have to look far to find someone who was interested in her body. He was intimidated because he really didn’t know what to do. His peers all teased him assuming that he and Susan were having sex often and the way she acted it seemed obvious to everyone. She had told Ben that she had never done “it” before but he wondered if she was being honest.

“Okay” he said nervously. It was 9:00 and it was pretty safe to say that no one would be at the church parking lot at this time of night. It was dark and there was a corner next to the utility shed in the back parking of the parking lot that seemed optimal.

Susan pulled the Dodge pickup around and backed it in facing the back of the church. There was one light on inside the church that someone had forgotten to turn off but there were no other rigs in the parking lot. She turned the radio on to a country music station and looked over at Ben who was nervously looking back at her.

“Are you sure this is what you want to do?” he asked her.

“Don’t you want to?” she replied. He could tell that she was nervous too. “Are you kidding? Of course I do” Sam said “I just don’t want to have God mad at me. I mean isn’t this sin?”

“Well, Jesus already paid for our sin and He knows everything so I am sure He knows that we are going to do this. Right?” Susan justified.

“Yea, I don’t know if that is how it’s supposed to work” Ben said.

“Are you chickening out Ben?” Susan teased kicking her cowboy boots off and moving across the seat closer to him.

“No, I just want to be right.” His hands were shaking and he took off his jacket. She started helping him and he was helping her in a heightened frenzy.  He caught the scent of her sweet perfume and it seemed to draw him in towards her, the heat of her body reeled him in numbing his senses. Turning back was impossible. They were both naked in the front seat and she grabbed the condom wrapper out of her purse and handed it to him. He fumbled with it and she finally took it from him and opened it. He told her that he wasn’t really sure how it worked and between the two of them got it figured out. The windows were completely steamed up adding a sense of seclusion to the heated situation. As he pressed in towards her she held him back nervously saying “I have never done this before Ben.”

“I am not exactly sure what to do either.” His whole body was shaking uncontrollably.

“Yeah me either except what they showed us in health class and watching the stallion with the mares.” Ben made the sound of a horse and they both started laughing breaking the tension of the awkward moment.

Their sexual desire had built up so intensely that it didn’t take long and he was done. The second they were finished conviction poured over both of them. They both started putting their clothes on without saying a word both deep in thought.

Ben was thinking about how it was over now and there was no going back. His mother’s words came back to him “This is a special gift between you, your wife and God. Wait until you are married and you both will be blessed.”

He looked over at her. She had her panties on and was putting her bra on. He smiled at her trying to make the condemnation go away and there was a wrap on the truck window. Susan screamed scrambling for her shirt on the floorboard of the truck and Ben jumped frantically pulling on his pants. His shirt was unbuttoned and un-tucked. It seemed like it took forever to find their clothes and get dressed. Fortunately the windows were fogged and Ben said through the door “Who is it?”

Both of them looked at each other in terror when the answer came back “Pastor Mike. What are you and Susan doing in there Ben?”

“Oh Sh…” Ben mouthed. Susan’s curly hair was all over the place and her lipstick was smeared on one side. She was zipping up her pants and he was trying to get a sock on and it was going on backwards. When she had her pants zipped up she hit the button rolling down the window on Ben’s side. Ben knew it was “time to pay the fiddler” and opened up the truck door and stepped outside in his socks. To his horror he saw not just Pastor Mike but in his car was his wife and their teen age daughter. Disappointment covered Pastor Mike’s face making Ben want to crawl under the truck. All he could do is look down to avoid his eyes. He felt like he had let down everyone he knew and loved.

“So, What’cha two doing?” Mike said knowingly.

Ben looked up at him. Pastor Mike was looking directly into his soul, he was so ashamed he just wanted to crawl off and die.

“I thought you were stronger than this Ben” Pastor Mike said and shaking his head he turned and walked back to his car and drove away.

Ben turned around and looked at Susan. Her hair was going everywhere and she was looking in the mirror attempting to get it to settle down. Her shirt was un-tucked. He looked at himself and realized that his shirt wasn’t buttoned properly, one button off all the way down. “Dog gone it…” he muttered and then saw the used condom lying on the floorboard of the pickup in plain sight.

Busted.

Chapter Six

It was the darkest sky he had ever seen and it unnerved him. The billowing black clouds were ominous moving quickly, churning like water coming to a rapid boil. Sam ran outside smelling the storm. Every direction he looked, the sky was closing in on them. There was no escaping it.

He had seen that kind of sky only once before in Wyoming many years ago when a tornado went through Cheyenne. The wind was so strong that you couldn’t stand upright. Hail the size of a golf balls pounded the earth breaking windshields in cars, stripped trees of their leaves and completely decimated entire wheat fields that night in a matter of seconds. The next morning looked like a war zone. Cars riddled with dents like they had been hit by a ball pin hammer.

This was different; he sensed something more sinister. Sam had the feeling that there would be no escaping this one. There was nowhere to hide and it was coming from every direction, closing in faster than he could react. Lightning and thunder wrapped around him in the sky tormenting him violently with each bolt that shook even the ground.

He had the sensation that he was losing his family and needed to reach them, to warn them but he was stuck and couldn’t move. He could see them, they were right there. He could almost touch them. They were sitting in a lush green park, completely oblivious to the tumultuous storm. In a panic Sam was desperately calling their names but they could not hear him. Robin and Erica were sitting on a blanket having a picnic. Their hair wasn’t even moving in the wind surrounding them. The sunlight covered them brilliantly shining on them. They were laughing. Oh his beautiful wife and daughter! Sam was screaming for Ben to pay attention and he was ignoring him off to the side, not on the blanket, but in the shadow of the storm. He was talking to Susan who was sitting in the grass. The sunlight was not shining on them and their hair was blowing in the wind. Susan held her hair down so it would not blow in her face. They were both laughing, ignoring Sam and the blatantly obvious storm quickly enveloping them.

Sam was angry now, yelling at the top of his lungs for Ben to pay attention but Ben acted like Sam didn’t exist. Sam was running towards them as fast as he could but could not reach them. It was like he was running in deep water, fighting every step.

He never got closer, remaining at the same distance. Sam was jumping over obstacles and ducking under flying debris. It was like a vine had hold of him pulling him back. Giant limbs of trees were hitting him in the face. He was doing everything in his power to break through to warn his family until he finally collapsed when a giant tree limb landed on him pinning him to the ground. No matter what he did he could not wriggle himself free.

Marty was barking and Robin was calling his name.

“Sam! Sam, Wake up Sam!” She was on top of him with both hands shaking him. He was drenched in sweat, shaking, breathing hard and his heart was racing. He looked at the clock and it said 5:55.

She rolled off of him and he sat up on the edge of the bed.

“Wow, I am so glad that was a dream!” I could not get your attention!” He said.

“Do you remember it? What was it about? Sam, I could not wake you up and it was like you were fighting me. That was really scary.” Robin was about to cry, visibly shaken.

She watched as he got up and went into the bathroom to get a drink of water. Looking in the mirror he saw the sweat glistening off of his forehead. His salt and peppered hair was drenched and matted. There was a red crease between his eyes; like he had grimaced so hard it left a mark. His eyes were bloodshot. All of his muscles were weak in his back and arms. He felt like he had just gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson.

Sam paced back and forth while he relayed the dream back to Robin who was sitting up in the middle of the bed listening intently. Looking at the clock he gasped “Oh man, I have to get going. I have a meeting at eight!”

Robin went downstairs to start the coffee and make breakfast for everyone. S

he had a busy day ahead too.