Authors: Jackie Calhoun
“Ah, that’s why. I went to Winter Park today and the American Legion yesterday. I wish I’d known.” Jennifer’s eyes glowed. “I would have had someone to ski the expert trails with. Where are you going tomorrow?”
“Standing Rock,” Edie said. “I want to get home before the storm hits.”
“Next time maybe we can go together. The Birkie is coming up. Got something I can write on?”
They exchanged e-mails, and Jennifer said, “I don’t know why we didn’t do this before.”
When Jennifer returned to her table, Pam said, “Wow. She’s an Amazon.”
Edie smiled. “She’s no bigger than I am. She’s a great skier.”
When they dropped Edie off in the hotel parking lot, she looked at the stars clustered in a clear sky, took a deep breath and her nostrils froze together. Across the road several snowmobiles zoomed to life and sped across the lake. The snow squeaked under her feet as she walked toward the hotel door.
When she was lying in bed, trying to stay awake long enough to come to a stopping point in her book, her cell buzzed. She looked at the display, sure that it was Lynn calling and saw it was Jamie instead.
“Auntie,” he said across the empty air, “do you think Sam and I could transfer to UWSP and live with you?”
“Why would you want to do that?” she said, coming instantly awake.
“Things aren’t going so good here. My roommate’s girlfriend has moved in and Nita, Sam’s roommate, brought a girl home after work.”
“Oh.” She flashed back to her college roommate on whom she’d had a hopeless crush. How would she have survived if her roommate had brought her boyfriend into their living space? “This is not a decision to make lightly or without your parents’ consent. You’re not really serious, are you?”
“I can’t sleep or study when they’re going at it, and Sam is desolate. The girl stays overnight.”
She was so glad she wasn’t young and helpless to control her environment. “Can’t you go to the hall advisor?”
“And be a snitch? He’s a jerk anyway.”
“Where are you?”
“We’re in my room. Nate and Betsy, the bitch, aren’t here right now. Sam doesn’t want to go back to her place.”
She glanced at her watch. It was after ten.
“Do you want to talk to Sam? She admires you.”
Not really. She wanted to go to sleep, and forget these problems that had been forced on her. “Well, that’s nice, but…”
“Sam, Edie wants to talk to you.”
“Jamie, I’m in Minocqua. There’s nothing I can do…”
“Hi,” Sam said. The one word sounded so forlorn that Edie wished she knew what to say to make everything better. Sam took a breath that became a sob. She’d obviously been crying.
“Have you got another place to stay, Sam?” Edie asked.
“No.” Said just as forlornly.
She experienced a twinge of anger at Nita’s thoughtlessness. “Sweetie, maybe Jamie could move in with you for a while?” She was thinking if Jamie were there, he could act as a buffer between Sam and Nita and her girlfriend.
“She wouldn’t let Jamie share an apartment with us.”
“Well, she has someone there now, so how can she say no if you have someone? It would also give Jamie a place to stay other than with his roommate and girlfriend.”
“Okay,” Sam said, just as sadly.
“This too will pass. Trust me. I know it hurts.” How astute, she thought dryly, but nothing more original came to her. “There should be someone you can talk to at the university. They offer counseling services.”
“I want to talk to Julie.”
“Julie?” She vaguely remembered Jamie talking about how Sam was looking for Julie, but she was tired. She wanted to sleep.
“My therapist, Dr. Julie Decker. She sort of disappeared.”
“I remember. Have you looked for her on the web?”
“Yes. She’s not there.”
“Keep looking. One of these days she’ll turn up, that is if she’s still working.” She didn’t know if she would turn up, of course, but it was likely.
Sam said, “Okay,” in the same sad voice.
Jamie came on the phone. “Can you come here, Aunt Edie, and help us out?”
“What do you want me to do, Jamie? You don’t change schools because your roommate is sleeping with someone. Get her out of there or go stay with Sam. Sam needs someone to give her moral support. Sleep at her apartment tonight. I’ll call you tomorrow night.”
“Thanks, Auntie. Sam says thanks, too.”
She slept in the next morning. Snow was falling heavily. She packed up, wishing she’d left the night before, and checked out.
The highway was covered with the white stuff. Traffic was moving at fifty miles per hour or less. Passing was hazardous. She got stuck behind two snowplows that crossed the southbound lanes, effectively blocking everything. Claire drifted into her thoughts as she chafed at the slow pace, but by the time she reached Point, she was thinking about the book and what changes she should make.
She stopped at Copps to buy groceries and headed for home where she fired up the snowblower and blew the driveway. The world was white and muffled, buried under at least six inches of fresh snow. She loved it. It could snow till April as far as she was concerned.
Inside, she listened to her messages—two from Lynn asking her to call and one from Jamie. He said, “We did what you told us to do, Auntie. There are four of us crowded into Sam’s teeny apartment. I have to sleep on the lumpy couch. Turn on your cell. I need advice.”
She took her bag to her room, turned on her cell and flopped on the bed to phone Jamie. His cell rolled to voice mail and she left a message. An hour later the vibrating phone woke her. It was loosely clasped in one outstretched hand. Samantha Thompson appeared in the display. “Hi, Sam. What’s up?”
“Remember the guy with the truck? Well, he found Jamie alone and beat him up. He went to UHS, but his nose won’t stop bleeding. I think it’s broken, and Nita wants him out of here, and his parents are in Mexico.”
“Let me talk to him, Sam.” She waited until Jamie came on. “I hear you got into a fight, nephew.”
“I was massacred.” He sounded nasally.
“Do you have cotton up your nose?”
“That and blood. Listen, it’s not good here. Nita thinks I’m trouble. She wants me out. My roommate’s girlfriend has moved in.”
“Well, she can’t do that.”
“You tell her and Nate that. I can’t take another beating.”
She sighed. “Look, I just got back from Minocqua. Can you wait till Friday? Give me Sam’s address.”
She was asleep when Lynn walked in.
“Since you wouldn’t answer my phone calls, you forced me to come here.” She lay on the bed next to Edie and looked at her out of dark oval eyes.
Edie’s anger had cooled, and her hurt feelings had healed.
“I apologize,” Lynn said as they stared at the ceiling. “I should have told you, but would you have told me? What if you had a thing for Pam? Would you admit it?”
She laughed. “Don’t try to turn the tide, Lynn.” For some reason she thought of Claire.
“I don’t have an excuse. It just sort of happened.”
Edie wanted to talk to Lynn about Jamie. Losing Lynn as a friend was not an option.
Lynn started to get up. “Do you want me to go?”
“No. Tell me about Frankie and I’ll tell you about Jamie.”
Lynn flopped back down. “You’d like Frankie. She’s a political animal.”
“What does she look like?”
“She’s kind of on the heavy side, but she has a pretty face and great hair. She doesn’t ski or hike like you.”
Big boobs and ass, Edie interpreted, and hair you could run your fingers through. Lynn would like that. “Neither do you.”
“True. We go to meetings together, and you’re meetinged out.”
“Yeah, I am. I thought after the election we’d get good universal health care and a green economy. What we got was a recession and more war.”
“We were already in a recession. You can’t quit, Edie. If we all quit, the party of NO will take over.”
“I want to talk to you about Jamie and Sam.” And she launched into the latest phone call.
“Poor Jamie,” Lynn said, rising on an elbow to look at Edie. “See what I mean? We have to fight for equal rights and respect.”
“I’m going down there Friday afternoon and see if I can straighten this out. He claims his roommate will beat him up if he tries to get the girlfriend out of their dorm room. God, I wish his parents were home.”
“What will you do?”
“I thought I’d talk to the hall advisor first, if they have one. Maybe he can put him in with someone else. I don’t think I can help Sam.”
“Could they room together?”
“Not in Sellery. The boys and girls wings are separate. God, why do I get stuck with my nephew’s messes?” There were no good solutions. She realized that. Her power was limited.
She left for Madison before three on Friday. It took a little over two hours from Point to Sam’s apartment on West Washington. The streets were cleared of snow. As she stood on the decrepit porch knocking on the door, she looked around at the rundown rentals that had once been two-and three-story residences.
Jamie opened the door. His taped, bloodied nose and bruised face shocked her. His eyes were lost in the swelling, and his violet hair made his entire head look black and blue. She figured Sam had been exaggerating about the beating, as Jamie would have, but now she wished she’d come when Sam called.
Inside were Sam and another girl, whom Jamie introduced as Nita—a slender, dark haired, dark eyed beauty. Edie stood in the doorway, wondering what should be done first. “Okay, let’s talk for a few minutes before I take Jamie to the health center.”
“I went, twice. All they did was tape my nose and give me pain medication.”
“Did you get this guy’s license plate number?”
“Yeah. We told the doctor,” Sam said. “He said he’d report it. Jamie doesn’t want to talk to the police.”
“He might come looking for me again.”
It was painful to look at him. “You don’t want to press charges?”
Jamie lifted his chin and said with a bravado he clearly did not feel, “The cops have his license number. It’s up to them to do something.”
She let it go. “Well, maybe we should start a conversation about the rooming situation.”
“Sit down, Auntie.” Jamie patted the empty spot on the couch next to him.
Sam looked at Nita. “Want to go first?”
Nita appeared taut with anger or something like it. She spoke in rapid-fire sentences. “I don’t feel safe with Jamie here. He’s right. That guy could come back any time and break in. This is a small apartment. I don’t want someone sleeping on the couch. You know? I want my space.”
“Your girlfriend is taking up my space,” Sam shot back.
“I ought to be able to have friends here. Jamie is Sam’s friend but he’s here all the time, like he lives here. He’s got a room of his own. He should sleep there.”
“Your girlfriend is sleeping here,” Sam said. She was sitting on the other side of Jamie.
“Jamie should sleep in your room then. This is living space that he’s taking up.”
“I can’t go back to my room,” Jamie said. “They’re always fu...making it right under my nose.” Edie had told him before she didn’t want to hear the F word coming out of his mouth.
“Tell the hall advisor. Don’t be such a coward,” Nita snapped.
He cringed. “Nate will beat me up. He said as much.”
Edie put up a hand to silence them. “I don’t think Jamie should or can endure any more beatings. I’m going to the dorm now. Jamie, I want you to come with me. Maybe we can get you in another room.” She felt badly for Sam, who sat with her arms hanging between her legs, but she couldn’t help her.
The knock startled all of them. Nita jumped to her feet and opened the door. She pulled the girl inside and whispered something in her ear. The girl’s dark eyes widened when she saw the others.
“Maybe I should go,” she said quietly.
“No. This is my friend, Carmen Jimenez,” Nita said, looking defiant.
“Hello,” Edie said, smiling at the girl who appeared scared. She introduced herself as Jamie’s aunt. “We’ll go now.”
“Come with us, Sam,” Jamie said in his stuffed up voice.
Sam grabbed her backpack and fled.
Sam felt as bruised inside as Jamie was on the outside. She wasn’t going to be left alone with Nita and Carmen and watch them making it, although she’d never seen them so much as kiss. She feared Nita’s caustic tongue as much as Jamie was afraid of the guy with the truck. She went with Edie and Jamie.
Because of heavy traffic, it took about twenty minutes to get to Jamie’s dorm and find a place to park. Sam settled down to wait. She’d brought a book with her.
“Hey, you can’t stay here,” Jamie said, when she opened the book.