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The Journal Chapter 1
By Marie Wadsworth
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Not rated by the Author.
This is the prequel in the Malan and Lathal romance series. It tells about the pair's lives and how they fell in love.
Entry, Lathal Harvey’s journal
I grew up in Graham, a small farm community in Wisconsin. The reason it was a community was it only had a few thousand people living there. The small town only had a few of the necessary features of civilization. It had an elementary, junior high and high school but if you want to further your education you had to travel about 45 minutes to Chippewa Falls where there were vocational/technical schools as well as a junior college. Off the main drag in the community’s center was the public library located next door to Sav-On grocery store, Hamm’s Tavern and Scoops, an ice cream shop. Those leaving Graham drove over Fisher’s Bridge over Lambeau River which was home to Howard Park and Burger Time, a family owned diner with the tastiest fried cheese curds and most frosty and delicious root beer floats.
Both menu items were personal favorites I ordered many afternoons during the summer after swimming in the river. My younger sister, Ginger, and I took swimming lessons offered by the American Red Cross. Our instructors would let students swim out to the wooden platform in the deep, turbulent part of the river if they could swim the ropes. Or if they were brave enough to swim all the way out to the platform by themselves, which was the unspoken challenge.
Even though smaller and younger than me, Ginger beat me by being the first to swim out to the wooden platform while I struggled to swim out to the rope. I had to use a kick board just to make it out to the deep murky waters by the rope but I don’t know if it was fear or I just didn’t want to put in the effort to make it out to the deep end and the wooden platform where all the athletic or cool kids swam. Maybe I felt if I accomplished the feat it’d take away the fun of the water. I didn’t care about swimming. All I wanted to do was get play around getting wet on a hot summer day.
Feeling defeated and sick to my stomach watching Ginger’s stellar swimming abilities and successes that seemed, to me, impossible to accomplish, I sat on my beach towel spread out on the sand to dry. The sun’s rays beat down on my skin and I saw the swarm of friends around my younger sister, the champion swimmer, and felt lonely. A sigh escaped my lips.
A shadow fell over me blocking the sun and I gazed up at a chubby girl with in a two-piece bright pink bathing suit with frills. Her black hair was cropped in a pixie cut. I hadn’t really noticed her but she’d been swimming with the Tadpole Group, the slightly more advanced group than mine. She had a couple of books in her hands. Graham’s Public Library had a summer reading program, but most kids would never bring their reading to the swimming hole. It just wasn’t done. Still, I felt an instant connection to her since I’d stuck a couple library books, Nancy Drew mysteries, in the basket of my bike chained to the rack by the beach.
“Hi! My name’s Katarina,” she sat down beside me without being invited. I noticed the books she’d checked out were Nancy Drew mysteries. “My friends call me Kat.” Her emerald eyes twinkled as she gazed at me. “Wanna be my friend?”
Up until that moment, I only befriended the neighbor kids. There was creepy Clare whose basement stocked with shovels, burlap sacks, racks, clippers, saws and other tools I’d never seen before might have come right out of a horror movie. For almost a month that summer, I liked playing with Jamie and her older brother, Ben, but then Ginger told me she and Ben had been kissing each other a lot in his parent’s camper/trailer and they were boyfriend and girlfriend. It sounded gross so I stopped playing with the siblings but I always had the disobedience of playing with the excitingly rebellious, unconventional Harmish boys.
On Jasper Lane lived the three Harmwish sons, Jack, Dan and Scooter. It was two streets up from my house on May Street at the top of the hill. My parents didn’t like me playing with the Harmwish boys, often saying they were nothing but trouble. That’s probably why I liked playing with them so much. I think they found out Ginger and I had tagged along with the boys when they set fire to farmer Wilson’s cornfield. Or maybe they didn’t approve of us playing doctor with them in a burned down house surrounded by the multitude of weeds, high grasses and thorny bushes occupying the field behind our house.
All I knew about friends was they shared many interests and likes in common and Kat seemed to fit that bill. “I’m Lathal, and I like Nancy Drew too,” My fingers grazed the spine of her books. “I haven’t read these ones yet.”
“I have the whole collection at home.” Kat said with ease. My eyes bulged like saucers. Her family must be rich if she owned the whole collection of these classic book series. “I can invite you over for a sleepover and you could borrow some from me.” I had never been invited to a sleepover and I was almost out of breath since I’d forgotten to breathe at the prospect of an invitation to a sleepover, the ultimate friend activity. “Say, why don’t you come have lunch with me at Burger Time and I can introduce you to my other friends?”
For a moment I felt out of my league. Katrina had other friends and she was the only one I had, but she didn’t seem to care. My face fell and my gaze flickered over the rippling waters where my sister and her friends were enjoying their swim in the deep end. My toe dug a hole in the damp sand. “I can’t. I have to stay here and watch my sister.”
Katrina’s gaze followed mine to the spot where my sister frolicked in the river. “She looks fine. I don’t think she’ll care that you’re gone.”
Her offer was tempting, and I wanted to take her up on it. At that moment, I was angry at my mother. She thought it was frivolous to eat out so our family rarely went out to eat at a restaurant. A pink flush made my cheeks rosy. “I can’t. I don’t have any money.”
Kat laughed loudly. “Don’t worry about that. It’ll be my treat.”
Ginger exited the water and dripping wet she walked across the sand over to my towel. I had to share it with her because my mom refused to give us two towels because she thought we only needed one towel. Besides, she didn’t want to clean two towels.
I told my younger sister I was going to go eat lunch at Burger Time with Kat. My sister looked at me as if I’d gone crazy and seeing the defiance in my eyes Ginger told me I better come home with her or our mom was going to be angry with me. My mother expected us to come home and eat lunch; my sister and I would probably have our typical lunch fare, sandwiches, potato or macaroni salad, pickles, chips and fruit punch drink.
Kat had given me a rain check and dejected the three of us pushed our bikes up the hill. As we entered the pavilion area where the state’s and Graham’s historical displays were displayed and most of the adults congregated we had the good fortune to run into my parents and Kat’s parents.
Kat was new to Graham, she and her mother had only been there about a month. Her parents were divorced so I only met her mother, who my father said worked with him at the hospital. Her father was a lawyer in Chicago but he’d been hired at a firm in Eau Claire so he’d be nearby soon.
Nervously I glanced at my parents asking them if I could have lunch with Kat at Burger Time. To my surprise they agreed and I was thrilled to learn neither my sister nor my parents would be accompanying me, thanks to Kat’s mom, Mrs. Kitts informing them she’d be chaperoning. I was overjoyed that my sister, Ginger was excluded because for once I got to have all the attention and have something I didn’t have to share with her.
At the restaurant, I met Kat’s other friends, who would be my friends until my father, Stephen Harvey, joined the military after my freshman year of high school. Alex was an skinny, athletic basketball African American basketball player who was a grade older than me; Scotty was a muscular blonde boy who played flute in the band; Dwayne was a short dark haired kid who always wore a leather jacket and hung out with the rocker or biker crowd and finally Zoi (short for Zoilya) was a fiery Hispanic young lady who was very outspoken who I also seen at church and sat with in CCD class.
My childhood was simple. I went to St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and Church with most of my friends. In junior high I developed a crush on Alex who caught a girl’s attention with poetry, his dance moves and his intelligence. I started seeing him at church and I’d always made a point to talk to him during the donut, cookie, coffee and orange juice fellowships after Mass. My parents didn’t approve of the way I was fawning all over Alex. My mother told me she feared he’d corrupt and lead me astray because he was older and therefore, more experienced in the ways of the world. Personally I think my parents didn’t want me involved in any romantic entanglements because they hoped I’d join the convent.
He started dating a girl in his confirmation class and that brought my romantic fantasies involving him to an abrupt end. I forgot about boys for a while and started to seriously consider my father’s jest of joining the convent seriously. Boys buzzed around my younger sister, Ginger, who looked like her namesake from the classic TV show “Gilligan’s Island;” I had no interest. Maybe, I thought, I was destined to dedicate my life to God, who loved me.
In ninth grade, my family fell on hard economic times. My father’s cousin had convinced my parents to invest in some business venture and later on they discovered it was a pyramid scheme. Even though they thought any of us knew, I’d heard my dad’s hushed angry words, some of which were profane, and my mother’s panic and sobs behind their closed doors. They’d lost quite a bit of money.
Sometimes I heard my parents arguing about it when they thought we weren’t around to hear. My mother would cry, annoyed they’d fallen for something they both had known was too good to be true . She clearly conveyed her hurt. My father’s family had caused all this trouble, and being hurt by family was outside my mother’s experience. Then my father shouted at her saying he hadn’t deliberately meant to bring them misfortune and his soft sorrow expressed how much the situation had hurt him too. Grief in his tone he relayed his distress and unhappiness about how they’d never be able to get their money back.
The loss of the money wasn’t the only reason my family had financial strain. Graham Hospital had closed because most of its patients chose to go into Chippewa Falls or Eau Claire for health care. That meant my father was without a job. My mother, who had been a housewife, insisted she help out and find a job but my father told her no because he had a job teaching nursing at a college in Eau Claire.
Despite my parent’s problems, I seemed to be fitting into high school better than I had elementary school or junior high. I had three honors classes and a few of my friends were in them. I’d also started Confirmation class and Kat, Dwayne, Zoi and Scotty were in it. We were like the Five Musketeers and we went everywhere together.
That’s when I started crushing, as teenagers call it, on Scotty. Scotty was in my honors classes and he always walked me to class, defending me when jerks made fun of me. He was very sweet and kind; he took me on mini dates to the movies, bowling alley or lunch at the fast food restaurant near our school.
Every Friday night at the end of Confirmation class when we prayed over candlelight, I swear I caught him flirting with me from across the room. Scotty and I talked a lot because we shared something in common. I had begun dabbling more with my interest and passion I had just discovered in writing and he loved playing a variety of instruments. He’d been studying music since kindergarten and his plans were to go to college and study to be a band teacher.
One day at school, Dwayne, wearing his typical leather jacket even though it was a warm spring day, took me aside and confided in me that Scotty was gay. I became angry because I believed Dwayne was slandering his friend for no reason. What a mean, cruel name to call a friend! Of course, I didn’t talk to Dwayne for several days.
A week later, Scotty took me aside after Confirmation class and revealed that what Dwayne had said about him was true . He was gay. At first I was in denial. I didn’t really understand what he was saying because I didn’t know anyone who was a homosexual. After that I was angry because I was hurt. What had I done wrong? Why didn’t Scotty like me? Why did he like boys than me? I began to believe there was something seriously wrong with me. After I’d let it go, Scotty and I were still friends but I carried a sadness with me. That I’d never know love and that I might be destined to become a nun.
During my turbulent emotional rollercoaster, I didn’t expect the curveball my father threw into my life. It took me totally by surprise. To solve the family’s financial problems, he’d joined the Army. He’d make a lot of money because he’d been commissioned as a Captain since he’d be a nurse. But that meant we’d be leaving Graham at the end of September.
When I heard the news, I was dismayed and devastated. How could my father do this to me? Yeah, he’d said he was doing this to provide the best for his family. I didn’t see how it was best for me. I never imagined leaving Graham and now that was imminent. I read books and watched the news and knew how dangerous and cruel the world was; I definitely disliked and was uncomfortable going to unknown places. I’d also have to leave my family and friends behind. Even though my parents regularly assured me I’d make new friends I didn’t believe them. I’d always had problems making friends; I was sure that wouldn’t change now that I was starting a new life as a military dependent.
The movers came to pack up our belongings; my sisters and I had appointments to get IDs made as well as passports in case our father was stationed overseas. My mother had to get copies of all our school and shot and medical records that had been sent to a hospital in Chippewa Falls. Of course the Harveys spend more time with family, particularly Grandma Mabel Winter, who definitely didn’t approve of Stephen Harvey’s decision to be in the military since it meant dragging her daughter and grandchildren far away from home.
Since I’d be leaving soon anyway, I became silent and withdrawn from my friends. Kat thought I might be thinking of suicide so she went to talk to our school counselor, Ms. Bird. Of course, teenage suicide was serious so I was called into the young woman’s office since I was so distraught that I just spilled the truth. Tears streaming down my cheeks, I hiccupped confessing I didn’t know how to tell my friends goodbye so she helped me.
Word of my impending departure from Graham travelled like wildfire around the school. A couple of days before my last day, Scotty invited me to join him for lunch at the fast food restaurant near the campus. As we munched on burgers and fries and sipped our sodas, Scotty presented me with a flat shaped present wrapped with glittery dark blue wrapping paper.
When I opened it a black composition book lay in the paper.
“I thought you could keep a journal,” Scotty laid his hand on my arm. “Maybe someday I’ll read about your experiences and adventures if you ever publish it.”
I gave him a kiss on the check. Scotty was one of only a few guys who had been good to me until I met Malan. I remembered him fondly even after I’d married and had kids.
My adventures and experiences with Malan Hamel, that’s where this story really begins.
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