Where Winter Sits

Warning: This story deals with sensitive subject matter.  

Kate could feel winter sitting on her back, resting its weight between her shoulder blades and reminding her of the burden she was carrying.  It was hard to stay motivated after spending the last 3 months hunching her back while pumping gas for her uncle’s petro station.  No one wanted self-serve, it was too cold to get out of their trucks.

The thick wool scarf that her Aunt Daisy knit to help keep Kate warm did it’s best to ease the burn of the minus forty degree weather but the days on end of wrapping it around her face wore away at its thick mane of protection.

Kate pushed her shoulders towards her ears one more time in hopes that the scarf would cover her nose and rescue it from completely falling off.  The winter had made her look like a circus performer in full makeup, red in the spots that stood out and white on the parts that got covered.  Her beautiful west coast skin was burning from the east coast winter that just would not quit.

“Fill her up buddy.”

If she heard one more person call her buddy she thought she might explode.  Inside the big blue down stuffed jacket her feminine parts got lost.  In a way she enjoyed the anonymity, but deep down losing herself inside her winter coat was becoming far too comfortable and she was beginning to fear its soul clenching arms.

Before she made the move to Labrador her only knowledge of its existence was from a picture on a map at her school.  It was not until her mother passed away and social services told her she would be moving east with her only living relative that she got to know the rocky province almost by heart.

Kate’s first day on the Labrador was one of the few balmy days that the north won.  To a first timer there could be no better place on earth.  Its lush colours from the evergreens made Kate feel like she was someplace foreign but it’s beauty spoke to her in a way that made her feel like she was part of the earth itself.  Like she really belonged there, even if she “came from away,” as the others often said about her.

Her mother’s great aunt, Daisy Pike, was a woman who never had any children of her own and saw Kate’s arrival as God’s blessing.  Her husband Roland always wanted a boy and Kate would have to do even if he shrugged his shoulders at the thought of having another female around.  Daisy was the master of the house while Roland was the master of his garage.  What Daisy said while she was inside her four walls would have to be even if her husband didn’t like it.  As long as he had his petro station he was content to let her rule the roost.

The rules around the Pike house were indeed not that hard to follow but they were different from most around the coast.  Daisy was a deeply religious woman, no scissors on Sunday and no booze or cigarettes ever.  Kate had never even known what rules were until she moved in with the Pike’s but she welcomed Daisy’s deep devotion to God and the stability of having a home that never changed.  She missed her mother and the west coast weather but she loved not having to watch her mom binge on the drug of the day or the man the hour for that matter.

Kate had no idea what a home cooked meal looked or even tasted like until she showed up on Daisy’s doorstep.  Kate was nine when her mother died from an overdose but Kate only looked about half her age as her tiny frame spoke volumes about her life up until that point.

“Well mother of God what have you brought to me today?”

Daisy asked for guidance as Kate’s big brown eyes looked up at her for hope on that first day.  After Daisy took a deep breath and held back the tears that were mixed with several emotions she brought Kate to her room and showed her where she could keep her things.  When Kate looked back up at her holding only a 7-11 grocery bag Daisy knew she had a lot of catching up to do with her little niece.  Daisy had no idea that the child’s life had been like something from a Dickens novel.

“Well then my girl, we are just going to have to go the Sally Ann and find you some decent things to wear.  Maybe we could even find you a book or two as well.  I use to be a school teacher you know.”

Daisy’s pride in her profession sparked something inside of Kate that first day on the Labrador.  Daisy had an air of calm about her that transferred itself onto Kate almost in an instant.  With her troubled brown eyes and her crumpled grocery bag Kate instinctively knew her life’s course would be changing.

Kate never spoke much in the beginning, her emotions were still locked up inside her leaving Daisy to guess at what her needs were.  At first Daisy thought that Kate was mute and left her alone until she was ready to break from her shell.  Hearing the sound of her own voice all day long made Daisy tired but she would not give up on God’s blessing, how could she, it was His will.  Daisy couldn’t wait for each and every Sunday to come to take Kate with her to church hoping for a miracle to occur.

Roland always tinkered in his garage on Sunday, he had no time for church going but he didn’t dispute the matter with his wife as long as she didn’t in turn urge him on to accompany her.  He promised to keep the shop closed as long as she was ok with him working there on his own.  It was their funny way of reaching a compromise.  It was also the day of the week that he felt most alone in the world with only the comfort of the pit to make him feel whole again.

The pit, as Roland called it was the big hole in the middle of his garage where the magic happened.  At least a dozen cars and or trucks drove over that pit in the run of a week to be worked on by the great hands of Mr. Pike.  God blessed Roland with the ability to navigate an engine like a brain surgeon would a patient.  The thing about Roland’s hands that boggled the mind of most of his customers was the fact that they were the size of large boulders and as tough as flint.  No one dared to cross Mr. Pike when he had a point to be made, they were terrified of his hands likening them to God’s wrath-never knowing what they were capable of.

When Kate came to the house she did not fear Robert like most did upon meeting him.  When she saw the size of his big hands she was intrigued by them, longing to have them pick her up.  Her big brown eyes had a way of pulling him in even when he didn’t want them to.  On that first day, standing in her oversized clothes Robert found it hard to turn her away.  Her hair was cut short and in a lot of ways she resembled the qualities of a small boy and that only made her even more endearing to him.

Kate held up her crumpled grocery bag and handed it to Robert and without saying a word he knew that she wanted him to look inside.  As Mr. Pike fumbled with the handles trying to open it, the weight of the bag took him off guard.  Inside, was a dirty stuffed puppy that had for sure seen better days and in under the puppy a metal object peered out that put a half-smile on Robert’s face causing Daisy to inquire about the contents?  It must have been something good to put a smile on her husbands rugged face she thought, “What is it Rol?”

“Something we can put to good use little one,” he pulled out the metal object that made Daisy question his expression.

“A wrench, sure what good is that to a little girl,” Daisy didn’t understand why such a silly thing would give her husband so much joy but she left it at that and went about helping Kate feel at home.

 

 

 

Part Two: Where Winter Sits

 

Roland waited until Kate was 13 before introducing her to his one true love, his Big Claw Gas & Garage.   Kate could see the pride on his face when he took her through the rugged door behind his counter.  Who would have thought that a broken piece of plywood would lead to a wonderland of hidden treasures?  Kate had seen the store front before, but always wondered what was behind the grease smeared door that she was never allowed near until her thirteenth birthday.

Kate was born on Canada Day and Roland thought it would be a good day to take her behind the mystery door.  She was more than ready even if Daisy protested.  “Dem savages will have her for sure if you takes her over dere Rol.  Leave her be.”

Roland didn’t give any heed to his wife when it came to what he wanted for his garage, he never did and never would.  Roland took his niece over to his shop and told Daisy not to worry, “dose boys knows what side dere bread is buttered on, don’t worry Daiz, no one will touch her as long as I got dese,” Roland held out his two fists which gave Daisy comfort and uneasy feeling all at the same time.    Roland’s hands bore witness to many stories.  Stories marked by the burns, scars and the small patches of raw skin nicked by hot engines and wires that sparked when they should not have.

Hands like Roland’s were great weapons but they did not bode well when trying to work on delicate machinery.  Roland got used to the blisters as his skin was thick as rubber and small cuts and scrapes didn’t even phase him.  He did not let the electric shocks stop him from getting into places that were intricate.  However, with Kate showing an interest in his trade he knew full well that her tiny hands would fit perfectly in some of the places that his could not.  With Kate by his side he would have the perfect partner.  He knew on that very first day that she came to him that she was as much a gift to him as she was for his wife.  He could not resist her dark eyes and the way she offered her only prized possessions to him.  When he felt the weight of her wrench in his hands he knew it was a sign.  Kate never spoke of how she got the shinny metal toy but when she saw the smile it brought to Roland’s face she knew it had bonded her to him forever.  He groomed her from that day on to be his little helper.  Bringing Kate to his garage for the first time was a rite of passage for both of them.

The giant whole in the concrete floor where Roland hid while he tinkered on the under bellies of the Fords and the Chevy’s was what he enjoyed talking about the most.  Kate could see that he had a little station set up down in the pit for his radio and his mug of tea.  When she looked more closely she could see his pack of Rothman’s tucked away behind the radio, a place where her Aunt Daisy never spy them.  His deepest and darkest secret laid inside that blue and white cigarette package.  If Daisy found out he smoked she would drive him back home to his mother.

Roland’s anxious hands could not wait to teach Kate how to drain a fuel tank, her first lesson of the day.   Roland worried that Kate wouldn’t take to his mechanics like he had hoped, and he thought some of the men around the shop would take offence to a girl learning what they believed to be only a mans trade.  But Kate took to the grease like it ran through her veins.  The men learned to shut their mouths once Roland laid down the law with his scared knuckles as he shook them loud and clear at anyone who dared to pass judgment.

Daisy didn’t like the idea of her niece being around the “savage men” as she called them but Roland reassured her that he would never leave her alone and chauffeured her to and from the shop whenever she asked to come along.  As Kate got older she longed for the rides to the garage and Daisy knew her Kate wanted other things that didn’t involve making a pie from scratch or stitching quilts with the United Church Women.  She reluctantly let Kate go her own way as long as she still went to church every Sunday which Kate would have done anyway even without the promise of getting to play at the garage.

It wasn’t until Kate’s first winter of pumping gas for her uncle that her play time began to feel like hard work.  It was a winter for the record books, it was beyond harsh as Shakespeare himself would have deemed it to be full of discontent accompanied with heartache that ran deeper than the snow itself.

Kate was 16 and blossoming for the first time into the women that Daisy longed for her to become.  Everything came late in Kate’s life including the desire to explore her sexuality.  She never fully identified with becoming a women or anything for that matter until her belly started to ache and her breast went from being pancakes to homemade bread rising in the oven.  She welcomed her uncles oversized gas jacket as it hid her lumps, as she called them, and her insecurity about it all.

When the cramps came Daisy prayed all night and day to God but she didn’t say a word to Kate about it.  Her aunt left a box of Kotex in the bathroom and then left her on her own to figure it out.  What Kate picked up about being a women at the garage helped very little now that there was a red stain on her “step-eens” as she heard one older lady call them one time at the Bi-Way store in Labrador City.  Other than that, her knowledge about a ladies undercarriage was very little.

On her first ever day of becoming a woman, Kate was in the bathroom for well over an hour before Daisy checked on her.  “Katie girl, can I bring you a cup of tea?”

A cup of tea, Kate thought, what the hell was a cup of tea going to do?  Kate may have not picked up much about her feminine whiles while at the garage but she certainly picked up a few colourful words.  She never really felt bad about thinking them as long as she never said them out loud she would be ok.  Her church never really frowned too much on cursing, it was more concerned with keeping your legs crossed while your pocket stayed open.  As long as she kept going and Aunt Daisy filled the wooden plate she would be just fine.  If she only knew what to do with the box of Kotex than everything would be even better.  Kate read the box then shouted to Aunt Daisy for a new pair of underwear then the rest she had to figure out as she went along.

Daisy didn’t have much knowledge herself about the matter of it all.  Her knowledge came from a nun who told her that when the blood came it was God’s way of punishing her for being a women and to keep her legs closed for fear of a lightening bolt striking her dead.  At least Daisy left that part out when Kate got her visitor.  The tea was her way of saying don’t be ashamed of yourself but she didn’t know how to say those words without appearing ignorant.  She didn’t want Kate to see the side of her that didn’t feel smart, like a teacher should be.  Daisy told her to stay home for a couple of days until it went away, even letting her miss church.

Those first two days off for her monthly became a regular occurrence as the following months came and went.  Katie wasn’t shamed by the blood just mostly inconvenienced by the amount of it.  Daisy did her best not to make Kate feel bad about being women, she just gave her the space she needed to figure it all out for herself.  Kate spent her time of the month lying in bed with her eyes closed while she explored the parts of her body that were growing.  Kate became excited by her own touch for the first time.  Was this what it meant to be a woman, she thought over and over again?  Kate really enjoyed it when she was alone with herself while her aunt and uncle were away.  When she had to leave the house that was a different story.  Winter would became her friend, as the many layers of clothing allowed her to hide her body, protecting her from showing the world that she was indeed a girl.

A switch happened as Kate began to put more time and effort into trying to protect her skin from the wind that loved to kiss her cheeks.  Her love affair with winter was bitter sweet.  It hid her curves but scared her face, making her appear rugged, which caused the customers to call her “buddy” and mistake her for a boy.  As much as it bothered Kate it reassured her Uncle Roland as he would not have anyone ogling his niece, be it a stranger or a neighbor.

It wasn’t until Kate put on a short skirt to wear to church that he began to worry.  Kate had not thought anything of her blue mini, it use to fall beneath her knee but her legs had grown long even if her hips didn’t budge an inch.

The skirt didn’t make it out the door.  Daisy told her to go back into her room and not to come out until her skirt grew, it confused Kate at first until she caught a glimpse of herself in the reflection from the bay window.   It was 8 o’clock in the morning but it was still dark outside in that part of the province.   Kate could see why her aunt didn’t want her wearing the blue mini.  Her image in the bay window was distorted enough that Kate thought she looked a super model even if it was only from the waist down.

Kate took a dress out of the closet and changed out of the blue mini.  The dress adequately covered most of her legs but it clung to her lumps and pushed them together making her shoulders want to fall forward in an effort to hide them.  Nothing seemed to work or make her feel appropriate for church.  She took the dress off and opted for pants and a nice blouse that her aunt had given her for Christmas.  It still had room for her to grow into and it gave her a square shape, fit for any pew or parish men.

There was one man in particular that Kate wanted to make sure steered clear of her.  Mr. Boreas may have preached a good word or two as pastor of their congregation but when heads were turned he presented a very different side of himself, especially to Kate.

“My Kate, you are looking lovely today,” he squeezed her hand firmly as she greeted him before service.  He had a way of making her want to crawl out of her skin but she kept her feelings to herself.  Her aunt thought that Mr. Boreas was a saint and would never allow anyone to say a bad word about him.

Even when Mr. Boreas preached from the alter Kate could feel his eyes on her.  His words full of hell fire and damnation all while his eyes did things that Kate was not even old enough to imagine.  Kate tolerated his longing gazes for Daisy’s sake and because she only had to put up with him for an hour a week at church.  Every now and again he would show up at the station to have her pump gas for him.

“Hi Kate, lovely day,”  he would always say, then hint at something inappropriate before speeding off in his black station wagon that sometimes was used for transporting a coffin to the graveyard.  Even his car gave her the creeps.

“My, you are getting too grown up for that jacket now aren’t ya?  Maybe you should take it off.”

It was comments like that that made Kate want to light a match whenever she left the gas nozzle in his tank.  That would really fill him up, she thought. But the good natured girl inside of her ignored his comments.  The worst part was when he would hand over his money to her, “Thank you Katie,” he would say while reaching in a little too close to “accidently” touch the inside of her breast.

“Opps, sorry,” he would say, as if he had done nothing wrong, “see you on Sunday.”

The first time he had touched her like that she ran to the bathroom and threw up.  Her body shook with anxiety and her stomach turned until it was empty.  She couldn’t tell Daisy, she wouldn’t believe her and if she told her uncle than she knew he would be sent to jail for murder.  For the time being she would not say anything, much like she did anyway.  Her silence was a mask that she wore to protect the people that she loved most.  As long as she only had to see Mr. Boreas once in a while she thought she would be ok.

Kate began faking cramps a lot more as time went on.  Daisy could sense that Kate was no longer interested in church and questioned Kate on her wellbeing.  “You are sick a lot on Sunday’s these day it seems.  Wouldn’t have anything to do with church now would it?”

“No, it’s not church,” Kate didn’t lie as such but she wasn’t being entirely truthful.

“Well if it’s not church than what is it, you aren’t sneaking off to meet some boy are you?  You better not be taking up with those savages at the garage.”

“No Aunt Daisy, don’t be so foolish.”

“I won’t have any of your saucy tongue now missy.  Tell me what’s wrong,” Daisy was not about to let up.

“Nothing, I just don’t feel well.”

“Leave her be Daiz, if she don’t want to go than that’s her choice, stop pushing it,” with Rol laying down the law Daisy left Kate alone and went off to church.

“Want to come with me to the garage, I will have you back before she gets home,” Roland was now speaking Kate’s language.  A day at the Big Claw always made her feel better, especially when she got to sneak there on a Sunday and work on an engine with her favorite person.

“Sure, let’s go.”

The solitude of the garage made both Kate and Roland’s day.  The radio kept them company as Eddie Eastman and Harry Hibbs played frequently over the airwaves.  They were Roland’s favorite singers and Kate knew to turn them up whenever they came on.  When Eastbound 401 started to play Kate went down in the pit to turn up the dial and when she did her tiny hand knocked Roland’s pack of cigarettes from its hiding place.  As the box of Rothman’s fell open Kate was expecting to see her uncle’s secret stash but instead something else revealed itself.  There was a picture tucked neatly inside the box.  When Kate pulled it out her head began to spin.  It was a picture of her uncle Roland and her mother.  How could it be, she thought?

“Katie, what are you doing down there?”

“Nothing Uncle Rol just turning up the radio.”

“Alright,” he called back.

Kate climbed back up and out of the pit after tucking the picture back into the blue and white box.  Her ghost like expression would be hard to keep hidden from her uncle which was why Kate ran to the bathroom as soon as her feet were steady enough to carry her there.

“Kate, you have been in there a long time now, we got to get you home luv.”

“Ok, Uncle Rol be right out.”

Kate splashed some water on her face then high tailed it to her uncle’s truck.  Once inside she kept her eyes focused on the snow falling outside and away from her uncle’s concerning watch over her.

“You still not feeling well my girl?”

“Yeah, I should go to bed when I get home.”

“Ok darling.”

Kate spent the rest of the day on her bed.  She laid there wondering about the hidden snap shot she saw earlier.  Her mother was only a young girl in the picture but Kate would never forget her mother’s smile or the dimple that was perfectly placed in the middle of her chin, Kate had the same mark.  Her uncle was standing alongside her mother with his arm wrapped firmly around her waist like only a man would do if he had loving intentions.  His eyes were fixed on her mother and were not looking at the camera but she recognized him by his hands.  There was no mistaking her Uncle Rol’s hands.

The next morning Kate waited for Roland to leave the house before coming out for her morning tea.  Daisy was humming a tune still stuck in her head from church and it took Kate a while to muster up the courage to ask her aunt the question that had been on continuous play inside her head, “did my mother spend a lot of time with you and Uncle Rol before she moved away.”

Daisy was taken off guard by Kate’s all of a sudden interest in her mother but she complied with, “yes, she spent a lot of time with me and your uncle while we were courting.  She always seemed to come around needing your uncle to fix something or another for her.”

Maybe it was all innocent then, maybe Kate was reading too much into the little picture hidden in the cigarette box.  She decided to leave it at that and went on to school.  While crossing the street outside her front door Kate recognized a vehicle parked a little ways down the street.  It was Mr. Boreas’ station wagon.  Kate walked to the other side of the road and pretended not to notice it there.  But when Mr. Boreas noticed her he started the engine and slowly stocked her as she sped up to get to school.

“Lovely day Kate, we missed you in church yesterday.”

“Yeah I was sick.”

“Need a ride?”

“No, it’s not a long walk.”

“Katie, come on, let a fella do a good deed.  There is too much snow to get through today my darling, hop in,” the tone in his voice suggested a lot more than just a ride to school.

“No thank you, I want to walk.”

Mr. Boreas hurried away leaving Kate to breathe a little easier knowing he was gone.  As Kate cut through the path leading to school her mind wandered on the picture of her mother and her uncle.  She thought she might have gotten the wrong idea about it and planned to sneak a look again the next time she was there.  Before Kate could finish her thought about the picture a hand reached out from the bushes and frightened her.  Before she had a chance to scream the hand was on her mouth, holding her from behind.  She couldn’t see who it was but the fingers that were now gagging her seemed all too familiar.   Mr. Boreas, she knew it had to be him.

The strength of her attacker was firm, much like Mr. Boreas’ hand shake and it only took him seconds to rip off her pants and push himself inside her.  Stealing her innocence was done and over with in about thirty seconds but it felt like an eternity to Kate.  As soon as the man behind her was done he pushed her hard down the embankment of the snowy path and was gone before Kate felt safe enough to open her eyes.  But it didn’t matter, she knew who it was even if she had never seen his face.  The smell of his hand was still on her lips, it was him, it was Mr. Boreas.

Kate crawled as fast as she could but kept sinking into the snow that now felt like it was slipping away from underneath her.  When she finally reached the road a passerby called out to her and when she cried out for help he came running.

“I gottcha, I gottcha,” the passerby said it over and over as he gallantly bent down to help Kate up but she was having none of that.  She screamed louder as he came at her even if his actions were heroic in nature.  Kate was scared and could not make sense of anything around her anymore.  In her state of mind the gentle man was still a man and the incident down the path was playing out over and over again until she lost herself some place deeper than the very snow that surrendered her.  Kate fell backwards and hit her head on a large tree stump.  Her damaged body laid unconscious in the snow and the passerby felt he had no choice but to bring her to safety, even if he knew what the consequences might be.

The man that picked her up and carried her home was one of the “savages” that Daisy always worried about.  His name was David or at least that was his “white” name.  If anyone with native blood wanted to walk freely in the streets of their town they had to adopt what was called a white man’s name.  There were a lot of Gordon’s, Michael’s and David’s it seemed.  He was David number 1 and he did his best to stay away from the trouble that came with having brown skin.  David knew that helping the pale, frightened girl might give some people the wrong idea but he took the chance and brought her home for help.  He took faith in knowing that once the tiny person in his arms woke up that she would tell her story and he would not be in it.

To David, Kate reminded him of a wounded animal, beaten by its prey.  Her ghostlike complexion saddened him as it bore witness to her lost innocence.  But the blood pumping through her veins told a different story.  The rhythm of Kate’s pulse was all too familiar a beat.  David’s own, animal like instincts could sense a kinship with the creature whose blood was now all over his hands.

“Oh my lord, oh my lord in heaven I knew it, get your hands off of her you beast, put her down now,” Daisy was speaking so fast that David thought could barely understand a word.  He could not get a word in to even explain where he had found her.  Before long the neighbors all heard Daisy’s yelps and slander towards the man that now had two shot guns pointed at his head.

David didn’t move a muscle but waited for a quiet moment to say only two words, “Get Roland.”

The tone of David’s voice was calm.  It was as if he knew what was going to happen next, like he had been in the same situation before.  One man lowered his rifle while the other one stepped back.

“He’s right, get Rol,” Daisy took Kate from up off the ground and with the aid of her neighbor she brought her inside to nurse Kate’s wounds all while trying to mend her own broken heart.  How would she tell Rol what state his Katie was now in?  He would have none of it and would kill the man that did it to her.  Which was the reason why Daisy doubted her own suspicions about David after she got to thinking about it.  If he hurt Kate than there is no way in hell he would ask for the man that would most likely kill him.  Daisy decided to leave her thoughts for the moment and concentrate on taking care of Kate.

“Oh my father in heaven, please watch over my Katie, she is in a fine mess Lord, but I know she loves you deep in her heart just like you love her.  Please God in heaven give me the strength I need to make her well again.  Amen.”

Praying always gave Daisy the strength she needed and without fail Daisy found the strength she needed.  When Daisy saw Kate’s torn pants she feared the very worse and when her fears were realized her heart wanted to collapse.  The helpful neighbor brought Daisy a shot of whiskey, Daisy drank it faster than holy water and put all her book learning to the test.  Kate would never get better from this but she would get stronger, Daisy would make sure of it.

Roland’s truck was heard two minutes before it actually arrived home.  There was fire in all cylinders as he rushed to Kate’s side.  He would check on her first then decide what he would need to do next.  Bobby told him at the shop that there was an Indian involved but to Roland that meant he would for sure find out the truth.  His wife may have thought of them as savages, she couldn’t help it, her father always called them the same.  But Roland knew them as his family.

Once Daisy reassured Roland that Kate would be ok he rushed outside to talk to David.  All the town were now at arm’s length.  “David, we need to talk, privately.”

When Roland uttered the word privately everyone turned and pretended not to be listening.  Roland knew enough to bring David inside his truck before they started talking.  “I know you didn’t do this Opie, so just tell me what you know, from the beginning.”

“Well I was going for a walk to see Old Pete for some eggs, but I ran into the lady from last year at Sammy’s and we got to talkin…”

“Not from the beginning of your day Opie, when did you first see my Katie?”

“Oh, right, right.  I heard her first, well heard something not sure what it was then I saw her, she was crying and screaming, I was so sad for her, I am so sorry Roland, I tried to help her but she was so upset she ran away from me and tripped and fell and hit her head.  I brought her home as soon as I could then they all thought it was me, as usual, blame the Indian, so typical.  I was just going for some eggs man, I swear.”

“Opie I know you would never hurt her.  But I need to know who did, did you see anyone, just out of the ordinary, like anything around that didn’t belong?”

“No, I don’t think so, wait a minute,” Opie closed his eyes and went quiet for a few moments.

“I remember now, that guy, you know the church guy, just moved here a while back.  I remember seeing him drive away really fast because he has that car, you know the one that looks like a hearse.  I still don’t get the car thing, why do guys need to ride around in cars all the time.”

“Thanks Opie, you can go home now.  I owe you buddy.  I gotta go and take care of some things now ok.  Anyone asks you anything about anything you tell them to come see me.  Ok?”

“Got it Roland, thank you man, I hope Katie is alright and I hope that the son of a bitch that did this to her meets his maker soon.”

“Oh don’t you worry son, he will once I get my hands on him.”

With that Roland was back inside to check on Kate again.  She had woken up but was crying so hard that she couldn’t get her words out.  Roland’s heart felt like it was being cut over and over again with razor blades as Kate’s cry hit him with such a punch that he could barely stand up.  “Daisy, give me a minute with her.”

Daisy did as she was told even if leaving Kate was the last thing she wanted to do.

Roland laid his hands out to hers and before long her tiny fingers found strength in his.  He wrapped her broken body gently in his arms and rocked her until she found her breath again.   “Who did this to you my girl?”

Kate took a deep gulp instead of a breath and caught herself falling deeper into her uncle’s arms.  The safety of her uncle’s hands was all she needed for the moment.  Once she found a single breath that she could call her own, she whispered a name into Roland’s ear.  It was the only thing he needed to know.  He stayed with her until she fell asleep then left to let Daisy have her turn with Kate.  She had no idea where he was going but she knew what he was about to do.  Whatever it was it would be in Kate’s defense.  As Daisy rocked in her chair next to Kate she sang a song from church and thought of Pastor Boreas and the sermon he gave the day before, “The Lord shall not have mercy on those of us that sin, he will bring the sinners to their knees and damn them to hell,” Daisy prayed that whoever did this to her Kate would be damned to hell, just like Pastor Boreas said.

When Roland returned home Daisy was fast asleep in her rocking chair.  Kate was awake but lying quietly holding her aunts hand in hers for comfort.

Roland’s presence brought his wife to her feet, “I will go put the kettle on for ya, stretch me bones,” Daisy left the two of them alone as she knew that was what her husband really wanted more than a cup of tea.

When Roland leaned in to place a single kiss on Kate’s cheek she moved into him and whispered something into his ear.  It was a question she had wanted to ask him all day.

Roland quickly stood up after hearing the shock of the words that had just been sung into his ear.  Before answering Kate he moved the right side of his lip up just enough to be considered a smile and said, “No, I am not your daddy, sweet girl…”

Roland hesitated for a moment before finishing his thought, “But I am your grandpa and I can tell you this, no granddaughter of mine will ever get hurt like that again.”

Kate ached from the top of her head to the very bottom of her toes but the tightening of her heart made everything else fall away for a few seconds.   Kate didn’t know why Roland had to pretend to be her uncle but she did know that he was now her Poppa.  For Kate, there was no better feeling on earth than knowing she actually belonged some place and to someone.

Kate’s true story would have to remain tucked away in a cigarette package while Roland’s  story would remain buried deep, just six feet below it.