Lake 33 Killing Relic
Chapter 20
Cemetery Walk

Like the others, this is Draft 1, with all the expected errors to be fixed....sometime

Chapter 20

Cemetery walk 

“Here, let me help you,” I said.

I held Amber’s hand as we waded across Dardenne Creek.

“Do you go anywhere where it’s dry?” she asked.

But once across the creek, we did not unclasp our hands and walked down the old gravel road toward the cemetery.

“It’s so beautiful here,” said Amber when we walked around the bend and saw the old cemetery in the rusted iron fence.

“Some of the graves are of people who came to Missouri with Daniel Boone, and others came overland to settle the Howell Prairie, where your interpretive center is.”

“The myrtle is so pretty,” said Amber.

And full of copperheads, I did not say out loud.

“When Uncle Sam, in all his wisdom, confiscated the 17,000 acres, the government graciously agreed to let the cemeteries remain.”

“Can we go inside the fence?” asked Amber.

We walked through the cemetery, looking at the names and dates. The familiar names reminded me of all the times my friends and I had visited this place, often at night.

But mostly, because I could not think of anything else, I thought about the warmth of Amber’s hand. 

When I looked at her, I saw that her eyes were leaking.

What did I say this time?

“What’s wrong?” I asked softly.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t expect the gravestones to affect me this way.”

She wiped her eyes, but the tears did not seem to be slowing.

“My father is buried under one of these rocks in East Texas after a long battle with cancer. We had been estranged for the previous nine years and hadn’t spoken to each other. He was stubborn, and I was an asshole.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said, at a loss for words.

“He was a petroleum chemical engineer, and when I went off to college my freshman year, I joined one of the anti-oil groups.

When you’re young, you know better than anybody else? I protested against big oil and considered my father an evil monster. We became alienated-all my fault; I was pigheaded on a mission to save the world.

I came home from college my first year and hurt his feelings.

We never spoke again. He was too stubborn to concede he was killing the planet, and I was probably a jerk.

“It’s too late to tell him I’m sorry and make up for how I hurt him. I can never apologize now.” 

Amber began weeping, and I hugged her, her tears wetting my shirt.

The tears were not in my plans; I had been thinking of old girlfriends I had brought to this cemetery. The cemetery and girls had always been a good master plan.

I hugged her as she sobbed, and she felt good, felt too good, and I had an embarrassing reaction below my belt buckle. I could do nothing about it, and she did not pull away.

After a long while, her sobbing and tears stopped, although my reaction to her body did not subside.

“I have another confession,” said Amber. “I have been thinking about getting back into horses. Not the barrels, just an ordinary horse because I miss my old pal Peirce. 

Did you know that being the Director is lonely sometimes; everyone is scared of me. I think they call me the Ice-Queen.”

“I’m not scared of you,” I said, not letting go of her hug.

“The god of fire is not scared of the Ice Queen,” she said, turning her face up for a salty kiss.

Her next words were also not in my master plan, “Can we get our dry shoes? I think my feet are prunes.”

We walked back to Dardenne Creek, and Amber asked, “How many other girls have you taken to this cemetery?” 

She had a coy smile, and her eyes drilled into me, waiting for a reply.

“Careful,” I said, taking her hand and helping her wade across Dardenne Creek.

“The cemetery?” I said at last. I have been in jail and then overseas for a long time.”

“Perhaps the best nonanswer I have heard from you in an hour?” said Amber.

She caught me smiling when I tried to look away.

“You want to get back into horses?” I asked. “My mother leases horses at our stable, a reasonable price that includes board, tack, and food. And you get to ride on the prettiest land outside the valley near the arrowhead spring; actually, it is the same valley, just upstream.”

Amber’s face turned to pure joy, something I had never seen from the Director.

“Let’s go see your mother!” she said and hugged me.

“Well, there is a small problem,” I said. “Actually, I have not been home yet to see my parents after getting out of prison.”

Amber raised an eyebrow, and I wanted to say, close your mouth.

“What do you mean?” she said.

“It means I have not gone home to see my parents,” I admitted. “I’ve been too embarrassed to go home.”

The look on Amber’s face was that she had judged me and found me lacking.

“Your mother carried you for nine months, and you haven’t gone back to see her?”

“Technically, she carried me for seven months.” 

“You are a fucking jerk, aren’t you?”

I nodded my head, praying for a seizure to strike me, which did not happen.

“Let’s go talk to your mother right now. I can ask about leasing a horse. I can’t believe you told me that. I want to call you an asshole.”

We changed into dry shoes, and Amber gave me the silent treatment as I climbed into her truck.

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