After Cade left the next morning she phoned Mary. She had to have some place to stay until she found another apartment. Hopefully, she could get her job at the diner. Swallowing her pride, she dialed Mary’s number.
When Mary answered, Cynthia stammered around about the weather and every other subject she could think of. But Mary wasn’t fooled.
“What’s the matter, Cindy?”
Cynthia pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose with an index finger and cleared her throat of that nauseating lump. “I need a place to stay,” she finally blurted out.
“You’re always welcome here. I told you that.” She waited a moment, but curiosity got the better of her. “What happened? Did you get fired? I can’t believe that.”
“No, he didn’t fire me, but I can’t stay here any more. Not the way things are.”
Mary was silent again for a few moments and when she spoke it was in a controlled voice.
“All right Cindy. Out with it. What happened? Did you two...?” Her voice trailed off suggestively.
Cynthia wiped a tear off her cheek and when she spoke, her voice didn’t sound like her own. “You tried to tell me, but I was too arrogant to believe it could happen to me.”
In chopped off sentences she explained the situation to Mary. “I don’t know how it happened. He was always so... disinterested, and then all of a sudden... “ She started to cry. “Oh, Mary. You were right,” she sobbed. “It’s all my fault. I shouldn’t have come out here. I shouldn’t have flirted with him. I put the idea in his head. I can’t believe I actually... twice. I feel so ashamed. I’m such a hypocrite.”
Mary’s voice was compassionate. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. After all, you were half asleep and thought you were dreaming. Remember, he woke you.” Mary sighed. “It’s probably the strongest urge you’ll ever experience. What’s worse, you were so naïve - and you love him.”
“But after the first time, I should have known. I did know. I just convinced myself we were going to make it right. I rationalized myself right into his bed - right where I wanted to go. Am I some kind of a nymph? Am I completely lacking in self discipline?”
Mary was silent a long time and then she finally spoke. “Cindy, sleeping with Russ isn’t the worst thing that has happened to you. Listen to yourself. You’ve lost almost all of your self-esteem. You’re asking questions I can’t answer. They’re questions you’re going to have to answer for yourself. Maybe it would be a good idea for you to stay out there a while and find the answers.”
“Stay here?” Cynthia gasped. “You’re the one who told me I shouldn’t come out here in the first place. Or is it because now I have nothing to lose?”
“It’s because you have everything to lose.” Mary answered quickly.
“Every day I stay in this house I degrade myself further. He doesn’t want to marry me.”
“Why should he? He has everything he could want, without the commitment.” She ignored Cynthia’s horrified gasp. “Don’t look at the past so negatively. You’ve gained some valuable experience about how things can get out of control so quickly. You can run away from him, stay in the same relationship, or set your foot down and get things back into control. Which way do you think will help you regain your dignity?” A short pause, then: “Of course, it’s your decision. You’re welcome here no matter what - just pack up and come over. But think about what I said, OK?”
And so it was that Cynthia decided to stay on the ranch. Things returned to normal - almost. Except now there was a strain on their relationship. It was obvious that Cade couldn’t understand her sudden change of behavior, but he made no further attempts to seduce her. She couldn’t say he was less attentive - on the contrary. Maybe he knew he was about to lose a good housekeeper. Maybe he realized their relationship was immoral. Whatever the case, he kept his distance. That created another problem. If he refrained from making advances, how could she know if she was capable of resisting him? But then, hadn’t she already done so when he tried to kiss her at the sink two weeks ago? Had it been that long since she talked to Mary? Tonight she would have to call her - after she and Cade returned from their ride.
This time they started out heading west, into a maze of arroyos and low brush. Occasionally they ran across small herds of cattle and she began to realize how large his ranch actually was. No wonder Cade was gone all the time. She glanced at him as he rode beside her.
“Why don’t you drive out here with your truck? You could cover more area that way.”
He nodded. “Sometimes I do, but most of the time it’s simply impractical. I’d travel so far and then I would be stopped by a gully or a creek. If I didn’t bring a horse or something, I’d be afoot from then on.”
“But you could put an ATV in the back of your truck.”
“I know.” They rode in silence for a few minutes and finally he looked up. His lips twisted into a wry smile. “I know people think I’m crazy, but I’d like to keep the ranch as near its natural state as possible. I’m not opposed to technology, I simply enjoy the work.” He turned his horse and beckoned for her to follow. “Come here. I’ll show you something. I think you’re one of the few people who would truly appreciate it.”
They rode up a long slope and topped out, overlooking a small fenced-in valley. It was situated in such a way that it collected all the moisture from the hills and appeared to be planted in alfalfa. At one end of the field was a lean-to shelter with some kind of equipment stored under it.
He kicked his horse into motion and she followed him down the hill to the shed. Inside the lean-to was a menagerie of antique farm equipment. All were in excellent condition and she suspected that he probably used them regularly. An old sickle mower and rake with their high metal seats were the only items she recognized. She glanced at him and smiled.
“Horse drawn equipment. I remember seeing some pictures of Granddad on an old rake like that.” She dismounted and examined the equipment more closely.
Cade joined her and climbed up into the seat on the sickle. “You use this lever to lower the sickle, like this and then lift it over stumps and such.” He went to the rake. “You lower the tines until they touch the ground. When the tines get full of hay, you lift it. If you dump them evenly you have rows of hay. Then you use the old baler to scoop the hay up. You have to tie the bales by hand, though. It gets tedious, but I get a kick out of doing it that way.”
She ran her hand over the smooth clean surface of the baler. How did he manage to keep everything in such good condition? Cade was a worker; there was no doubt about that. No wonder he wasn’t interested in a wife. He didn’t have the time. Yet he had found the time to invite her on this ride. She glanced up again and realized he was waiting for some kind of response. She smiled.
“You keep it all in such fine condition. You obviously appreciate it. Has it always been on the farm?”
“No, I searched a long time before I found each one and I paid dearly. I suppose there are some people who would consider it unthinkable to keep it in operation. Actually, I’ve had to have some replacement parts specially made.”
“I think it’s wonderful that you have preserved an old way of life. It’s just too bad that you’re the only one who gets to enjoy them. You know, Cade, there are others who feel the same way you do about the old ways.”
He frowned. “So what do you want me to do, make a museum out of this place? No, I may be selfish, but I don’t want a bunch of tourists traipsing around my property.”
“I know; you like your solitude.” She mounted again and watched him swing lithely into the saddle. “If you opened the place up to tourists, the ranch would lose its purity ...but it seems such a waste.” She shrugged. “It’s such a big ranch and...well; haven’t you ever considered hiring some help?”
He stared out across the field. “Mom always told me I was vain enough to think I was the only one who could do things right. If I had paid more attention to her and spent a little less time out on the range, she might be alive today.” He stared at her. “You remind me of her sometimes.”
Whether that was a good or bad thing she couldn’t guess, and she didn’t have time to ask. He turned his mount and started up the hill at a lope. It was difficult enough to stay with him - conversation was impossible.
Again they traveled across the wild country. Several times they scared up a covey of quail and once even a wild pig. As the sun reached its zenith, they put their horses down a steep slope. Below them a creek wound sluggishly through a narrow valley. Was this the same creek they had stopped to eat lunch beside that first time? It was a good thing Cade was with her, because she had no idea how to get back to the house.
At the creek Cade drew up and dismounted. “This looks like a good spot to eat lunch.” He lifted his arms to help her down.
After a slight hesitation, she leaned forward and gripped his shoulders. He grasped her waist and lifted her bodily from the saddle. It all appeared innocent until her feet touched the ground, and he pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her as his lips sought hers hungrily. She struggled, but his grip was firm - and then he released her.
She backed away from him, wiping her mouth as she threw him a poisonous look. Had he brought her all the way out here to force himself on her?
He shrugged, turning to his saddlebags for the food. “I thought you might have thawed out a little by now. Obviously I was wrong.” He jerked the saddlebags from the back of his horse and glowered at her. “You know, Cindy. It doesn’t always have to culminate in sex.”
She stared at him. “What?”
“You said you didn’t want to sleep with me again and I respect your decision. Does that mean we can’t indulge in a little innocent affection now and then?”
She moved away from him and contemplated the creek absently. It might be innocent to him, but it was far from that for her. But he did have a point. The only thing she had been proving lately was that she could successfully avoid him. He wasn’t the first man she had kissed and she had never considered herself promiscuous with other men. Had she carried things too far in the opposite direction? She sighed and turned.
“Maybe you’re right.”
He smiled. “I know I’m right. Now let’s eat lunch.”
For the next week she cautiously accepted his occasional displays of affection. The ugly feeling was beginning to leave, but there was still that other thing. They were making no progress in their relationship. It was plain that Cade was content with things the way they were, but she wanted more. She wanted a permanent relationship with him - marriage. If that wasn’t an option, it was time to leave. But as time progressed, his obvious reluctance to propose marriage presented a far more difficult problem. Mary showed up one morning in time to witness that fact.
Cynthia was spending her third morning hugging the stool when someone knocked on the door. Wiping her face with a cold rag, she composed herself and answered the door.
Mary gasped. “You look terrible. What’s the matter? Are you sick?” Realization flooded her face with horror. “You’re not.”
Cynthia nodded. “I’m afraid so. I was hoping I was simply a few weeks late, but it’s been over three now and then this started.”
“What did Russ say?”
Cynthia dropped to the couch and held the cool rag to her face as a new wave of nausea clutched her stomach. “He doesn’t know - and I’m not going to tell him.”
Mary gaped at her. “Why not?”
“Because he doesn’t want to get married and I’m not going to force him into it by making him feel guilty.”
Mary shook her head. “Then what are you going to do?”
Cynthia removed the rag from her face and stared at her friend. “Move out. Do you think I can get a job at the diner again?”
Mary nodded. “Sure. Chet never did hire anyone else. He’s still short-handed. You can move in with me. But don’t you think you should tell Russ? After all, he has a right to know.”
“I know I’ll have to tell him eventually, but I’d rather wait until I get a job and an apartment. I’ll just write him a note and...”
“A note? For crying out loud, Cindy, he’ll be devastated,” Mary interrupted. If you’d just tell him about the baby...I can’t believe Russ would shirk the responsibility of his own child. He...”
“He doesn’t want children and I’m not about to manipulate him with guilt. If he’s honestly interested in me, he can come courting the proper way. Otherwise, it’s just as well we never see each other again.”
“I see. So when do you plan to leave?”
Cynthia clamped the rag to her face again. “As soon as I can get packed. At this rate it may take a week.”
“Do you want me to help?”
Cynthia lowered the rag again. “I could use the help.”
Between the two of them, they managed to get her things into Mary’s truck. Before she left, she took a piece of note paper and wrote a short note:
I’m sorry to leave you like this without proper notice, but I simply couldn’t stay any longer. I hope you find someone to take my place soon.
It was the cowards’ way out, but right now she wasn’t up to confronting him. It was going to be hard enough to work at the diner, but it was something she was going to have to do. There were more important things to think about at the moment - like how she was going to support a baby on her meager wages. The money she had saved would have to go toward doctor bills now. All her dreams had been dashed - all but one. She had always wanted children - although this wasn’t the way she had intended to start.
Inside of a week she started work at the diner. Every morning she crawled out of bed and retched for a while before getting ready for work. A doctor appointment confirmed what she already knew, and that everything was normal - as normal as it could be under the circumstances.
Cade never came to visit - a fact that sent her into a down spiraling depression. For the first three weeks she became tense as it approached 8:00 pm each Friday. After the fourth week she knew he wouldn’t be back. She would have to accept the fact that she was on her own with the baby. It was hard enough to make ends meet before she took the job at the ranch. How was she going to feed a baby? She couldn’t stay with Mary forever. She was faced with three basic choices: Abortion; raise the child herself; or give the baby up for adoption. Abortion was out of the question as far as she was concerned, and nothing Cade might say would change her mind. That left a choice between raising the child on her own or adopting it out. Much as she wanted the baby, she felt adoption was the best choice. What kind of future could she offer a child? She wanted the best for it - better than what she had. And that left only adoption.
In a state of deep depression, she stopped by the social services office on the way home and picked up some literature and a form. Mary was still out, so she sat down and read the pamphlet. Until now she had been thinking of no one but herself. It was time to grow up and consider the needs of the baby. She placed the form in front of her on the counter and began filling it out. They would have to get Cade’s consent, but he would probably be glad to give it. Tears flowed freely as she filled out each blank space. How could she give up the baby? It was a part of Cade. How could anyone love the baby the way she could?
She stopped writing. She was thinking as if she alone were responsible. Cade should accept the responsibility of his actions as well. The baby was half his and he should be sharing equally in its financial needs.
She folded the form and stuck it under the cookie jar. This weekend she would drive out and talk to him. He was a reasonable man and she had never known him to shirk his responsibilities. Still, it disgusted her to think of telling him. She straightened her shoulders. It had to be done sooner or later. She might as well pick the time and the place.