Harper was hiding behind some metal barrels when he heard the shot. He thought
‘Well I guess things aren’t going well.’
He took a quick look over the barrels to try and see into the window of the bar. He couldn’t see Becka through the window, but he could see a very large man with his gun pointed in towards the other side of the room. He took another look at the street to make sure no one was around, and then he walked quietly over towards the window. When he was right under it, he took a quick look inside, and then ducked back down. Harper could see the man better now. The man wasn’t just large; he was exceedingly fat with his stomach hanging out under his clothes. The man was pointing his gun at Becka who had her hands up, and the rest of the people in the bar were staying away from them. Harper started towards the back door, where he knew he could sneak in and get behind the big guy. He was glad Becka had insisted that they go to the bar and check it out the day before. He stepped in the back, and he could hear them talking as he slowly got into position behind the guy.
Becka said, “Look, I said I was willing to pay you a good price for the seeds, I don’t see why your getting so upset Jaques.”
“That’s really funny Becka. A good price. Ha.”
Becka said, “Four hundred is a good price for seeds that no one else wants.”
“How stupid do you think I am? I know you’ll be selling the seeds for four times what you’re willing to pay me. Now I asked you a simple question. Who is buying it from you?”
“Now you know I can’t tell you that. How about you put away the gun, and we’ll see if we can negotiate a higher price for you.”
Harper had gotten to the man without much trouble, and now had his gun against the man’s neck. He said, “So, you must be our contact Jaques. It’s really nice to meet you. How about if you put your gun away, before I shoot you in the neck.”
Jaques put his gun back in his holster, and Harper took it out saying, “I’ll just hold this for you until Becka is done talking to you.”
Becka said, “Thanks Harper. Now lets settle on a price, and get those seeds loaded before you have a nasty accident Jaques. We can all be agreeable, can’t we?”
One hour later they had six boxes of seeds loaded up in the cargo area and
Jaques had four hundred and fifty dollars. Becka went to slip stream as soon
as they got high enough. She thought Jaques might be dumb enough to try to come
after them with his tiny ship.
As soon as they were out of slipstream Becka went to Harper and gave him a hug and said, “Great job Harper. Thanks for saving me back there.”
Harper said, “Man was that cool or what! That guy had no idea what he was up against. What kind of idiot would pull a gun on you without some kind of back up? Did you see the look in his eyes when he felt the gun against his neck? I bet he almost peed his pants.”
Becka smiled and said, “Well he did look surprised, but I wouldn’t go that far. I just hope Dunbar doesn’t want another shipment of these. I don’t think Jaques will be too willing to sell to us again.”
“Well if not, I guess we’ll just have to find a way to get around him; though that might be easier said than done with a stomach like that.”
Becka listened to Harper crack jokes about Jaques with half an ear while she headed for Dunbar.
Things didn’t go well on Dunbar. A delivery that was supposed to take
an hour took three days. Now Becka and Harper were finally leaving. Becka said,
“Harper, you’re a genius right? So tell me, why are the easy missions
Harper said, “Because nothing in the universe is fair?”
“Ya got that right. I mean what are the odds that our buyer would get kidnapped? How many cargo ship captains have to rescue their buyers to get paid?”
Harper said, “Well, at least we were able to find her and she still had the money to pay for the seeds. All in all, not too bad I’d say.”
Becka said, “I need a vacation.”
Harper laughed and said, “Like you could relax. You look for work every where you go.”
“You might be surprised. I’ve taken a vacation before, and I relaxed just fine.”
“How long ago?”
“Well…Um…I can’t remember.”
Harper laughed again and said, “Yeah.”
“Wait! I remember now. I went to Louties for a week not too long ago.”
“And how long ago was ‘not too long ago’?”
Becka thought for a while and said, “Now that I think about it, I guess it was almost three years ago.”
“I rest my case. You, Becka Valentine, don’t know how to relax.”
Becka rolled her eyes and said, “Go make lunch Harper.”
Becka headed to her room to put the money in the safe. As she put the money in, she decided it was time to pay Harper. It had been a while since last time, and they had made lots of money for delivering the green rocks a couple of weeks ago. She sat down at her desk to figure out Harper’s pay, and as she added it up, she realized just how tired she was. The more she thought about a vacation, the better it sounded, and she decided they would take one starting today. Soon she had Harper’s money in her pocket, and she was headed to the mess hall.
Harper was eating, and had a plate ready for Becka when she arrived. As they ate she said, “We don’t have anything pressing to do for a few days, so I thought we would go to Louties today and have a small vacation. I’ve been there more than once, and it’s very nice. It’s well known for beaches, warm weather, and surfing. Oh, and there are lots of girls in bikinis.”
Harper said, “Wow. I mean great, really great! I’ve never been to a beach before, but I’ve heard about them. My grandfather had been to one, and my aunt used to tell me stories about it. I would love to actually see one.”
Becka said, “It’s beautiful, and it’ll be my treat. Well, the hotel and the food will be my treat. If you find some other stuff you want, you can pay for it yourself. Which reminds me, I have some money for you. We made more than usual for delivering the green rocks.”
Becka handed Harper his money.
He said, “Jeez Becka, this is a lot of money! I didn’t know we’d made that much.”
Becka said, “Well I don’t take dangerous missions just for fun. I told you before that I give you a percentage of the profits, and not just a salary.”
Harper counted up his money. He said, “With what I saved from last time I have about two thousand dollars. That’s more money that anyone on Earth could even imagine having.”
Becka said, “Is there anything specific you want to do with your money?”
“Well, there is one thing, but I don’t think you’ll like it.”
“What is it?”
“I want to visit my cousin’s and give them some money. I want to check on them and make sure they’re okay. Maybe even help them move to a different planet.”
“Harper, you know we can’t go back to Earth. The Neitscheans know the Maru, and they’ll kill us if they catch us.”
Harper said, “Well maybe we could rent a different ship, and dress up as Neitscheans again.” He blushed and said, “I…I mean, if you don’t think it’s too dangerous for me.”
Becka said, “I don’t know Harper. I’ll think about it for a while. Is there anything else you want to do with your money?”
Harper said, “I think I told you about the guy on Earth who had the neural port right.”
“Yea, you’ve mentioned him before.”
“Well ever since I met him, I’ve thought about getting a neural port myself.”
Harper said, “I think it would be very useful to be able to get into computer systems and figure out the problem without taking everything apart. Not to mention very cool. Do you know how your old partner Bobby got his?”
“I asked him once, and he told me a little bit about it. I know you can get it done on several different planets, and I know Bobby got his done on Newmars. They have a great big hospital, and lots of specialist doctors. He said the operation took a full day, and the recovery took about a week. That’s about it. I have no idea how much he paid to get it done.”
Harper said, “Well maybe we could go there and look into it. I mean the next time we have no jobs to do. I still want to go to Louties to see the beach this time.”
“Okay. We can be there in a couple of hours.”
Once they landed on Louties, they locked up the Maru and went to find a hotel
room for the night. They got one close to the beach, and once they were settled,
they walked to the beach. Harper and Becka spent most of the late afternoon
just walking and sitting on the beach, enjoying the sun. Harper was blown away
by how beautiful everything was. He was especially interested in the surfers.
He wanted to try it, but he didn’t know how to swim.
After eating dinner out, and watching the sunset, they went to some of the shops by the beach. When Becka started looking at clothes, Harper decided to look at some surfing equipment. He didn’t want Becka to start thinking that he should buy some new clothes too.
Harper decided to ask the guy behind the counter some questions.
Harper said, “Hey I was wondering if you could tell me something about surfing.”
The guy said, “Sure kid. What do you want to know?”
“How can I learn to do it? Does anyone give lessons?”
“Yeah, at the south end of the town off Main Street there’s a little place that has all the stuff you’ll need. You can rent a surfboard, and a wet suit, and you can hire someone to give you lessons.”
Harper said, “Great. Will they give me a lesson if I don’t know how to swim?”
The man said, “They will if you also rent a special wet suit that keeps you afloat in the water, but I don’t recommend it.”
“Well, it just isn’t a smart idea. Being able to swim is much safer. I’ve lived here all my life, and most of the stories of people being lost at sea or getting hurt involve someone who doesn’t know how to swim.”
Harper thought that over for a minute. He asked, “How much would the whole thing cost? The rentals, and the instructor.”
“About 50 bucks.”
Harper saw Becka headed his way and said, “Great. Thanks for all the information. It was very helpful.”
The next morning Becka said, “So Harper, what do you want to do today?”
“I’m gonna rent a surf board and take a surfing lesson. It looks like lots of fun.”
Becka said, “That sounds adventurous for someone who has never been to the beach before. Where did you learn to swim?”
“I don’t know how to swim. There are special wet suits to rent that will keep me afloat if I fall off my board.”
Harper, who had been putting gel in his hair, turned around and looked up at Becka. He said, “What?”
She said, “I’m sorry Harper, but if you don’t know how to swim, you’re not gonna take a surfing lesson. I don’t care what they say about wet suits. You never know what will happen to you in an ocean.”
Becka could tell this was going to be an argument, because Harper was now fairly red, and his jaw was clenching. Harper said in a loud voice, “So just like that you can tell me what to do, even when we’re on vacation! That is so unfair. I’m perfectly capable of deciding what I want to do on my free time. We’re not on the ship right now; we’re just two friends on vacation. I am going to get the surfing lesson.”
Becka crossed her arms and said calmly, “Harper, you’re still seventeen, and until you turn eighteen, I will be deciding what you can and can’t do, both on and off the ship. Now in ten months or so you’ll be eighteen. Then if you want to leave the Maru and find somewhere else to live and work, I’ll let you. I would be really sad to see you go, but that’s your choice. If you choose to stay with me on the Maru, I’ll expect you to obey me until I think you’re mature enough to make your own choices. That may be when you’re eighteen, or it may be when you’re older. But until I decide you’re ready, there will be consequences for disobeying me. And if I remember correctly you didn’t seem to enjoy the consequences last time.”
Harper lost it and shouted, “That sucks, and so do you!”
Becka grabbed Harper’s arm, spun him around, and gave him five hard swats to the seat of his shorts. Then she turned him back around and said, “Are you finished with your little tantrum, or do we need to talk about it some more?”
Harper was now bright red. He realized they were still in the hotel, and that if anyone was next door, they could hear her smacking him. He still thought she was wrong, but he didn’t want to ‘talk’ anymore. He glared at her and said, “We don’t need to talk anymore. Don’t worry Becka, I won’t do the one thing that I really wanted to do on this trip. I’ll just follow you around all day, since that’s what you’re gonna make me do anyway.”
Becka took a deep breath and tried to stay calm. She said, “Harper don’t pout, and don’t overreact.”
Harper looked down at the floor with his jaw clenched to keep from saying the things he was thinking.
Becka sighed and said, “I know how to swim, and I can teach you. We can spend the morning in the hotel’s pool, and if it goes well, then this afternoon you can take the surfing lesson. Maybe I’ll even do it with you.”
That made Harper feel a little better, and he said, “Okay.”
Later at lunch Becka said, “For someone who has never been swimming,
you picked it up very fast. It’ll be fine with me if you still want to
take that surfing lesson after lunch.”
Harper’s face lit up with a huge grin, and he started talking a mile a minute telling her all the things he had learned about surfing from just going to the stores.
Harper was still talking about an hour later when they reached the surf shop that offered lessons. As he opened the door he asked, “Are you gonna come out with me?”
Becka thought, ‘What better way to make sure he’s okay?’ Then she said, “Sure, why not.”
Harper went up to the counter and said, “My friend and I would like to take a surfing lesson today. Is that a possibility?”
The woman said, “Sure let me get Dave.”
A short, muscular man came out and said, “Hi, I’m Dave, and I’m available to give you both a surfing lesson now if you want.”
Becka said, “Sounds good.”
Dave said, “Do you have any equipment, or do you need to rent it all?”
Harper said, “We need it all.”
Dave said, “Do you both know how to swim?”
Harper said, “Yes.”
Becka gave Harper a glare and said, “I have been swimming many times. Mr. Harper here had his first lesson today, and he can stay afloat.”
Harper glared back at Becka, but didn’t say anything.
Dave said, “Okay, so one floating wet suit, and one normal. Lets get you two suited up.”
Soon the three of them were on the beach with their boards. Dave said, “Okay, before we get started there are three things to always remember when you’re surfing. First, make sure you have someone with you. Especially if you are new to surfing, but even when you are an old pro like me, you should always have a partner either in the water, or on land watching you. Second, balance and strength are what you use to surf. If you can balance while in motion, which takes strength, then you can surf. Third, if you aren’t enjoying it, don’t do it. Any questions so far?”
Becka and Harper shook their heads.
Dave said, “Let’s get out there then.”
By the time the lesson was over, Becka could stay up once in a while, and Harper could stay up almost every time. When they were back in their regular clothes, Becka said, “Well, Harper, I thought that was pretty fun how about you?”
Harper said, “I loved it. Surfing makes me feel free and in control at the same time. I want to go again tomorrow, and I want to come back here to Louties every chance we get.”
Becka laughed and said, “I’m sure we can come back here sometimes. If you want to go surfing again tomorrow, I’ll watch you from land. I think my legs will be in too much pain for me to surf again tomorrow.”
Harper laughed, and said, “I’ll probably be in pain tomorrow too, but it’ll be worth it. I’ll take some aspirin.”
Becka said, “You know, you have enough money to buy a board and a wet suit if you want to. We have plenty of room in the Maru to store it. Then if we landed on some other planet that had places to surf, you would already have your equipment with you.”
Harper thought about it for a minute, and said, “I’ll do that next time we’re here, but for now I want to save my money for a neural port, and my cousins. They have to come first.”
That evening Becka went to the hotel’s bar to relax while Harper was playing computer games in the hotel’s game room. She sat at the bar, and the bar tender soon came over to her and said with a smile, “What can I get you?”
Becka thought ‘He’s hot.’ She said, “I went surfing for the first time today. Can you make me something that will make the pain go away for the next day or two?”
The bar tender laughed and said, “No, but if you drink enough of anything, the pain will go away for the night. Of course that may make tomorrow’s pain much worse.”
Becka smiled and said, “Okay, I’ll have a beer.”
There weren’t many people at the bar, so the next time the bar tender got close she said, “So, how long have you worked here?”
He said, “About three years. I started off cleaning tables, but now I’m the night manager for the bar. What brings you to town?”
Becka said, “I’m just here on vacation.”
He said, “What do you do when you aren’t on vacation?”
“I own a cargo ship.”
“Yeah. You sound surprised.”
He said, “I am surprised. Surprised at my luck that is. I may have a job for you, if you’re interested. My name is Max by the way.”
Becka held out her hand to shake and said, “Becka Valentine. It’s nice to meet you, and I’m always interested in new jobs. What did you have in mind”
Max shook her hand and said, “I’ve been getting quite a few customers from Leeds recently, and they all seem to want a drink that I don’t have the supplies to make. It’s made from the milk of one of the native animals on Leeds. I’ve asked my regular supply guy to bring me some of this milk on his regular weekly stop here, but he has some personal issues with going to Leeds, so he won’t do it.”
Becka said, “I’ve been to Leeds before, and it isn’t the most pleasant place, but it’s not horrible either. I could get that for you, for the right price.”
To Becka’s surprise, about an hour after she started to talk to Max, she had a contract to deliver this milk to the hotel once a month. After that, she thought he was even cuter.
Soon Max was off for the night, and they sat in a booth getting to know one another a bit more. The more Becka found out about Max, the more she liked him. Pretty soon, Harper came to find Becka, and said, “I’m going up to bed.”
Becka looked surprised and said, “Are you feeling sick? It’s pretty early still.”
Harper said, “I want to go surfing again tomorrow morning, so I’ll need all the energy I can get.”
Becka smiled and said, “Okay. I’ll be up in a couple of hours.”
Harper left and Becka turned back to Max who looked a bit distant when he said, “Was that your boyfriend?”
Becka laughed and said, “No, that was my engineer, and my friend. I don’t have a boyfriend.”
Max smiled and said, “Would you like to go to my place for a while? It’s right across the street in that set of apartments.” He pointed to some apartments that could be seen through the window.
Becka smiled and said, “Sure that would be nice.”
A few hours later, Becka got back to the room she shared with Harper, and found him asleep. She tucked him in, and went to sleep with a smile.
The next morning, Harper rented a board and went surfing, while Becka sat
on the beach and watched him. After an hour of watching Harper surf, she walked
up to the shoreline, and motioned for him to come in as he finished a ride.
Harper came in and said, “What’s up Becka?”
She said, “You’re doing really well out there. Are you having fun?”
“You bet. You know Becka; you don’t have to watch me the whole time. If you wanna do something else, you can.”
Becka said, “No Harper. Don’t you remember what Dave said? ‘Always go with a partner’ ring any bells?”
“There are lots of people around. It would be fine.”
Becka said, “Well it wouldn’t be fine with me. In fact that’s the reason I had you come in. I want to get my headphones so I can listen to some music while I watch you. I think I’m going to get a snack, and go to the bathroom too, so you’ll need to take a break for about a half an hour. Do you want me to get you anything?”
Harper said, “No that’s okay. But try to hurry okay? I only have the board for three hours.”
While Harper sat in the sand and waited for Becka, he saw a really huge wave, and thought ‘Great. I missed the best wave of the day. Thanks, Becka.’
After about ten minutes of waiting, and thinking less than pleasant thoughts about Becka, Harper thought, ‘I don’t care what Becka says. It’s perfectly safe with all these people. This is our last day here, and I am wasting it sitting on the sand. Forget this.’
With that thought Harper got up and went back out in the water to catch another wave.
About half an hour later Becka came back to the spot she thought she had left
Harper, but she didn’t see him. She looked up and down the shoreline first,
and then she looked in the water. Soon she saw Harper riding a wave. She just
stood there staring at him for a while, getting more and more angry. When he
got close to the shore after riding that wave in, he waved at her, but she didn’t
wave back. She stood with her arms crossed and looked at him with a glare.
Harper saw Becka’s glare and thought ‘Maybe this wasn’t the best idea.’ He didn’t want to come in, but then he got an image of her coming in after him, and he decided to come ashore. He reached her side and smiled at her. He pretended not to notice she was mad and said, “Wow surfing is great! Did you get what you wanted.”
Becka said in a calm voice, “Go return the equipment, and then you and I are going back to the hotel room to have a little talk.”
Harper’s stomach started to feel a bit uneasy, and he said, “Why?” in a quiet voice.
Becka said, “I thought I made myself very clear about staying out of the water until I was back to watch you. We are going to talk about the fact that you chose to ignore me.”
Harper said, “But…”
Becka interrupted him with a whack to his arm and said, “Return the equipment now, and meet me back in our room.” Then she walked away from him and towards the hotel.
Harper watched her back for a while as she walked away, and then he slowly went to return the surfboard and wet suit. He was feeling a mixture of guilt and anger. He felt guilty because he had known she didn’t want him surfing without her there. He was angry, because he thought she was getting all worked up over nothing, and now he was missing out on the last hour and a half of his rental time. After he returned the stuff, he walked slowly back to their hotel room, and thought about what she might do to him.
Becka watched Harper come inside, close the door, and stand with his back
against it. He was looking at the carpet. Becka said, “Harper come and
sit at the table with me for a minute.”
Harper thought this sounded promising, and he hoped talking would be the end of it. He looked up and saw her sitting at the small table. She motioned for him to sit in the chair across from her. He went over, sat down, and looked at the table.
Becka said, “Look at me Harper honey.”
Harper had been expecting anger, and looked up quickly.
Becka wasn’t smiling, but she didn’t look like she wanted to hit someone either. She said, “Harper did you understand what I said to you before I left?”
“So you knew I didn’t want you to surf without me there?”
Harper said very quietly, “Yes.”
“Why did you go back in the water?”
Harper said, “Well I thought maybe you were just suggesting that I wait for you, not really telling me to wait.” It sounded pretty lame, even to him, after it came out of his mouth.
Becka said, “Is that what you really believe, or is that what you want me to believe. Remember how I feel about lying before you answer that.”
Harper’s stomach twisted, and he looked down when he said, “Okay, I knew you were telling me to wait.”
Becka said, “Thanks for being honest Harper. Now, can you explain why you didn’t wait for me to come back?”
Harper said, “I saw a really great wave, and I knew I was missing it, and my rental time was getting wasted. I guess I just got mad.”
Becka was quiet for a few seconds until Harper looked at her. He could clearly see she was not happy with that answer. She said, “You tell me pretty often that you’re an adult even though you’re seventeen. Do you think you acted like an adult today?”
Harper turned bright red and looked back at the table while he mumbled “I guess not.”
Becka said, “Well that’s the whole issue now isn’t it. You say you’re mature enough to be on your own, and I say you’re not. You decided to disobey me, and you did something dangerous, because you got angry. Is that correct little boy?”
Harper was getting angry now. He didn’t like where the conversation was heading, and he certainly didn’t like her calling him ‘little boy’. He hated it when she thought he was acting like a kid, and he hated it even more when he agreed with her. He said, “You’re overreacting. So what if I went back out before you came back. There were lots of people out there. It wasn’t dangerous.”
Becka narrowed her eyes and said, “It most certainly was dangerous, and I thought we had a similar conversation yesterday morning. When I tell you to do something, you will do it, until you’re eighteen or older, and if you don’t obey me there will be consequences.”
Harper said, “Whatever.” Harper realized that probably wasn’t the best thing to say, after he said it. He wished he had said something like ‘Sorry Becka’ or ‘You’re Right Becka.’ He thought to himself ‘You’re a dumb ass Harper’ while looking at the table again.
Becka said, “I see we’re back to you acting like a child. I think we’re done talking about this. I think it’s time for an attitude adjustment.”
Becka stood up and went over to the dresser. She picked up her hairbrush and turned towards Harper.
Harper jumped out of his chair, and started backing towards the door. He said, “No way Becka! It isn’t fair. You shouldn’t s..sp… do that to me for something so … so unimportant.”
“Your safety is very important to me.”
Becka walked to Harper who had backed himself against the door. She grabbed his wrist, and pulled him to the corner of her bed. She sat down and pulled him face down across her lap.
Harper moaned and said, “Becka please don’t.”
Becka ignored his comment and brought the hairbrush down twice.
Harper yelped with the first swat, but then tried to keep quiet. He was angry with Becka. He decided she was being unreasonable, and that he wasn’t going to cry.
By the tenth swat Harper was squirming. By the fifteenth swat he was grunting with each swat, and by the twentieth swat he was kicking his legs a bit.
Becka stopped but held him in place. She said, “Okay Harper, we’re almost done here. What are you going to do the next time I tell you to do something?”
Harper gritted his teeth and said, “I’ll obey you.”
Becka said, “Thank you.” And gave him six more fairly hard smacks concentrated on his sit spots.
Harper was still mad, and it helped him not to cry out.
Becka tossed the brush on the bed, and stood them up. She hugged Harper, but he didn’t hug her back. Becka said, “Okay Harper you’re forgiven. Go get cleaned up.”
Harper went to the bathroom and washed his face off with cool water. He was grumbling to himself the whole time about how unfair it all was, and about how Becka was over reacting. He pulled his shorts down, and looked at his butt in the mirror. It was bright red all over, but no welts or anything that would become bruises. He was in a fowl mood when he went back out to see Becka.
Becka could tell that he was not at all repentant, so she decided he needed some time to think about it. She said, “I’m going to go get us some lunch. I want you to stay here, and think about what just happened. Think about what you could have done differently to avoid it. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Harper nodded his head and stared at the carpet. As soon as Becka left, Harper flopped, face down on his bed and thought about what had happened. His thoughts were all about how Becka sucked, and about how he should be able to do whatever he wanted. He soon fell asleep.
……Harper was running. He could hear the pounding footsteps behind
him. He knew that if the Neitscheans caught him, he would be a slave by the
end of the day. He turned another corner, and found the hidden door behind the
dumpster. He had used this escape route before. He hid, and soon he heard the
footsteps go past him. He sat there breathing hard for a while. About an hour
later he crawled out, and looked through the dumpster before heading for home.
He found a head of cabbage that was half-rotten, and two potatoes with some
black spots. He carried them home.
At home his Uncle Jim and his two cousins were waiting for him. Jim had found work and had been given half a chicken. After they all ate, Jim asked Harper where the food he brought home had come from. Harper told him about trying to find work, and he had just gotten to the terrifying part about the Neitscheans chasing him, when his Uncle stood up and slapped him so hard he fell out of his chair. Harper stayed on the ground covering his head while his uncle took off his belt. His Uncle yelled at him while he started beating him, “How many times… Thwack… have I told you… Thwack …to stay away from the city!…Thwack, Thwack… If you get caught…Thwack… and they don’t kill you…Thwack…you idiot …Thwack…they’ll ask you questions. Thwack, Thwack… Once you start talking…Thwack… they’ll come after us. Thwack… I told you to go to the outskirts of town. …Thwack… You are worthless! Thwack, Thwack. You’re going to get us all killed!”
Harper was screaming and trying to protect his head. On the other side of the room, his cousin James was holding his cousin Amy who was crying.
His uncle put his belt back on and told Harper to get to bed. When Harper didn’t move fast enough, his uncle kicked him in the side. Harper crawled as quickly as possible to his bed, and his uncle went outside to cool off. James went to Harper and said, “Do you need anything Harper. A drink of water or something?”
Harper said, “No thanks James. You better not be talking to me when Uncle Jim gets back in.”
James said, “Why did you go to the city?”
Harper said, “I didn’t. He just assumed I was in the city. I was on the outskirts where he told me to be, when the Neitscheans came after me. I don’t know what they were doing there, but I knew they would catch me if I ran towards home, or worse I would draw them to you, so I hid. He didn’t let me finish. I thought he would listen to the whole story. I think I hear him coming back in. Go to bed.”
Then Harper felt a hand touching his forehead. Harper thought ‘Who would
do that?’ He turned over onto his back, but instead of the sharp biting
pain all over his back, all he felt was a dull ache in his butt.
He opened his eyes and saw Becka smiling down at him. She was sitting on the side of his bed, and smoothing the hair off his forehead. Becka said with a teasing voice, “I thought you were supposed to be thinking. I brought us some soup and sandwiches, and even some cookies. Come to the table and eat, and let me know how you’re doing.”
Harper sat up and hugged Becka hard. He started to cry, and he kept mumbling, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry…”
Becka hugged him back and said, “Harper what’s this about? You’ve already been punished, and I’ve forgiven you.”
Harper continued crying while she held him. Once he had himself under control again he said, “No Becka, you were right. I have no right to question your authority. You got me off Earth, you give me a place to live, and food to eat, and money to use however I want. I’m an ungrateful shit to…Whack
Becka had whacked the back of Harper’s head. She said, “Harper you know how I feel about you calling yourself names. No more of that please.”
Harper started to cry again. Becka said, “Harper sweetie, what were you dreaming about?”
Harper said, “U…Uncle Jim.”
Becka glared at no one in particular while she thought about the man who had abused Harper mentally for eight years, and physically for two. She really hoped she would get the chance to meet him someday, so she could kick the shit out of him. Becka said, “You want to tell me about it?”
Harper said, “It was just about this one time that he punished me for something I didn’t do. Nothing all that unusual.”
Becka said, “Want to tell me about it?”
Harper told Becka the story, and then he said, “Jim didn’t give me the chance to explain, and I don’t think it would have mattered anyway.”
Becka said, “I know I’ve told you this before, but I’m gonna say it again. Your Uncle Jim should not have beaten you at all. From what you have told me, it is pretty clear that he hit you, because it made him feel powerful, and because it got rid of his anger. He never tried to teach you how to be a better person, or how to avoid getting into trouble.”
“Thanks, Becka. I feel better now.”
Becka said, “I just want you to know, that I’ll never punish you without getting all the facts from you, and I won’t ever spank you when I’m angry…. Well, let me rephrase that; I’ll always give myself time to calm down before I spank you, if you make me really angry.”
Harper said, “Or, you could not spank me at all.”
Becka smiled and said, “And you could follow all my orders, but somehow I don’t see that happening. Now, come to the table and eat, before the food gets cold.”
Harper was quiet while they ate. Becka noticed he was eating the way he used to eat when she first met him. He was eating as fast as he could, and he was eating everything in front of him. All his concentration was on his food. He was shifting around in his chair a bit, but it didn’t affect his focus. Becka said, “Hey Harper, no one’s going to take the food away, and if you’re still hungry when we’re done, I’ll get you some more.”
Harper stilled with his spoon half way to his mouth. He looked down at his food and said, “I guess I was hungry.”
After that he slowed a bit, but he still didn’t talk until all the food was gone. Becka said, “Do you want to go get some more?”
He said quietly, “No. I’m full now, thanks anyway.”
After a minute Harper looked at Becka and said, “Becka, I want you to know I really am grateful to you. I know you’re looking out for me, and I shouldn’t make things harder for you by being a pain in the ass. I’m really sorry about today.”
Becka said, “Harper, you’re not a pain in the ass, and you don’t make things harder for me. You make my life better just by being my friend. Actually, it feels more like you’re a part of my family, so I have to look out for you. I hope you aren’t mad at me for spanking you.”
Harper said, “Well I was mad, but then I remembered what life was like before, and now I just feel guilty. You have every right to do whatever you want to me if I don’t do exactly what you tell me.”
Becka sighed and said, “No that’s right Harper. No one has the right to do ‘whatever they want’ to you. That’s what your Uncle did. It’s okay to be angry with me. It’s okay to disagree with me too. If your parents hadn’t died, and your Uncle hadn’t been such an abusive creep, you would probably realize that.”
Harper said, “Okay.”
Becka said, “You had lots of adult responsibilities when you were still a young child, and I know that’s why you feel like an adult. You do know how to behave like an adult, and most of the time you do.”
“Now, here’s the part you may not agree with. I think it will be good for you to have some time to be a kid. If you know I’m in charge, and that I’ll always be here for you, then you have a chance to let your emotional side catch up to your logical, more adult side. Hopefully you’ll have enough time to find out what it’s like to have a stable home, and to feel secure. I think the next few months will be confusing for you, because your logic and your emotions will conflict. Like today, your emotions tell you to go back in the water, and your logic tells you that’s not such a good idea.”
Harper said, “Do I get a say in this?”
“Not really. It’s a done deal. But, I want you to know that it’s fine with me if you get angry with me for punishing you, or for telling you what to do. It won’t stop me from doing what I think is best for you, and it won’t change my mind about punishment. It also won’t make me kick you out, and it won’t make me love you any less.”
Harper could feel his emotions swirling around, but the most powerful thing he could feel was a sense of belonging. He said, “I don’t know what to say.”
Becka said, “How about we stop talking about it for now. Let’s go down and lay on the beach for a while and soak up the sun.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach. Becka noticed that Harper
was more quiet and thoughtful than usual, but other that that he seemed to be
When it was close to dinner time Becka said, “Hey Harper, do you remember that guy I was having a drink with last night?”
“Do you mind if I ask him to join us for dinner?”
“It’s okay with me.”
They went to Max’s apartment and asked him to join them for dinner, and he accepted.
Soon Harper found out that Max also liked to surf, and they spent most of the evening talking about it. When dinner was finished Becka said, “Well it’s been a long day, so I think Harper and I will be calling it an early night.”
Max said, “Thanks for inviting me for dinner. I guess I’ll be seeing you in about a month with some milk.”
Becka said, “Yep.”
Harper looked confused and said, “Milk? What milk?”
Becka said, “While Max and I were talking yesterday, he asked me to deliver some supplies for him.”
Harper almost fell out of his chair laughing. After he had calmed down enough to talk, he said, “I told you that you didn’t know how to take a vacation without working Becka.”
Becka glared at him, and he started to laugh again. Then she realized he was right, and she laughed too.
They said good night to Max, and headed up to their room.
That night Becka tucked Harper in and kissed his forehead as usual. Then she sat on the edge of his bed, and started to rub his back, but Harper was already asleep. Soon Harper was dreaming about surfing with Max next month.