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Authors: Lucy Lacefield

The Season of Shay and Dane

BOOK: The Season of Shay and Dane
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The
Season of Shay and Dane

 

 

by

Lucy
Lacefield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright
©  2013  Lucy Lacefield

All
Rights Reserved

 

Without limiting the
rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be
reproduced without the prior written permission of the above author of this
book.

This is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, and incidents are either the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author
acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products
referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission.
The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or
sponsored by the trademark owners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

for

 

. . .
first loves

 

 

 

The
sweetness of his breath whispering past my cheek and ear, as his soft, sure
lips warmly grace my skin, makes my stomach feel like a thousand dainty
butterflies swirled into flight.

 

 

 

1

 

 

shay

The smell of bacon
frying wafts up the stairs. I’ve only been home one day and the feeling of
never having left comes over me; it feels like I’m eight again waking to the
scents of a devoted mother in the kitchen, lunches being packed with care, a
check of the clothing to make sure it’s weather suitable, and a kiss on the
forehead as she sees me off.

My mom is as
intelligent as she is domestic, though her dusty degree in biology came second
to having a family. She had wanted a house filled with children and instead got
blessed with,
“The most beautiful gift of an angel.”
Now it was my turn
to see how far the degree would take me.

I try to come home
every break, but sometimes the backlog of low priority tasks for the department
professors gets dumped into the laps of the not-so-unsuspecting graduate
students and we find ourselves inventorying labs and ordering last minute
supplies, instead of sleeping in until eleven in the secure comfort of our
parents’ home, savoring every moment of nearly thought free existence.

It’s my second year in
the graduate program at Yale. The university is a lot different than the state
university I graduated from in southwest Virginia, a twenty minute drive from
home. And for me, it’s every bit the timeless splendor that I would daydream of
after having visited it for the first time with my parents. . . the ominous,
carved stone buildings that anchor the landscape like museums, with their large
lawns sprawled out between them. . . and the trees. . . the mere size of them
alone is magical; all of the students seem to especially look forward to spring,
with the new, soft, green grass cushioning the blankets of people lazying about
in love scattered across the view under these giant canopies of nature. I find
my place alone among them and try to study, but like all others, my eyelids
eventually close to the warmth of the sunlight and my thoughts float up.

I was raised with all
of the love a child could ask for, considering my parents were a little older
when they had me.  I had been so longed for that the sweetness of their devotion
was encapsulating, and I couldn’t be the luckier for it.

When I think of the things
that I could best describe my childhood as, it would be of joy and morals, and
I never doubted or took for granted one. Just as in the old term of courting,
my father was and still is a gentleman. And to this day, my mother’s eyes continue
to sparkle with each simple kindness he shows her. And my mom—she must have
been what any new mother-in-law would have wanted for her son, proper and
gentle, and quiet in her strength.

My father was the first
person she had dated, meeting him just after college.  She was a greeter at our
church, the little red brick one, a walking distance from our front porch that we
still attend today, and he was new to the area, and on the suggestion of his family
he decided to join the church to meet other young adults. They married three
months later. And the tenderness of how it must have begun seems clear in their
love for each other now.

It would seem strange
to most people someone my age never having had a boyfriend, not even a dinner
date. . . and yet, I could sometimes see them looking at me when I let a moment
pass before subtly turning my head their way as to not alarm myself or one of
them at the onset of their ogling or curiosity. It was just that I was afraid
of them, and it seems they knew to be a little more upright with themselves
around me.  It wasn’t that I demanded it, but I don’t think any boy would want
to be known for making a conquest of the banner child for kindness and modesty;
the girl this charming small community knew as the student food drive organizer
and hospice volunteer—and intelligent enough to see it dared to them. And to be
honest, I didn’t mind to get to hide behind the veil of safety that this gave
me.

At twenty-two and
studying laboriously, trying not to define a true competition among other
students wielding their intellect and flattery trying to keep the professors’
attentions by it, I find it’s my solace and only focus being a student.

“Shay? Honey, are you
up? Breakfast is ready.” The light tapping at the door lulls me from my waking
daydream state. I’ve heard mom’s considerate knock by now thousands of times
and I’m glad for the familiarity after a challenging start to the semester.

“Sure, Mom, be right
down.  Smells wonderful!”

“Hurry, okay? While
it’s warm.” I hear her call back as she descends the stairs.

I roll over on my side
to face the sunshine and stay snuggled in for one lingering moment. The giant
oak tree outside my sitting window dances in the breeze, and I can feel the
soft morning air on my face. Reluctantly I move aside the blankets. I don’t
want to keep her waiting too long.

I languidly make my way
around my room—everything in its same place as if I’d blink and the door would
open with Abby hurrying me along, holding chalk for us to go and draw hopscotch
on the sidewalk.  She’s been my one true friend since we were five and bonded
in kindergarten. Her family’s large, white colonial house is just across the
street and looks nearly identical to ours—with the same wrap-around front porch
and black shutters on every window. Our breaks coincide most of the time, but she
loves living in Raleigh where she’s finishing her degree, and more often than
not her parents take a mini-vacation and travel there to see her.

I take my robe from the
reading chair by the window and slip it comfortably around, loosely looping the
belt. As I pass the mirror I catch a glimpse of my tousled auburn hair and
reach for a brush. A couple of strokes and I gather the length into an elastic and
make a ponytail that’s presentable.

I make my way
downstairs, passing by the large dining room on the right that will be filled
with family friends and beautiful food on the holidays. To most, the scale of
this house would seem unnecessary for only the three of us, but somehow it always
seemed just perfect. . . I knew every creak in the shiny wood floors, and every
difficult window to get open, as much as I knew the pattern of our day.

I cross the hall moving
through the large sitting room on the left that is at the front of the house
and takes up almost an entire side of the first floor. Dad calls it a sitting
room, not a family room, and the explanation was that somehow when families
came here from England there was a misinterpretation, and long ago a “family”
member’s room was actually a
bedroom
. And a bedroom wasn’t referred to
as a bedroom, it was a
room
.  Shay’s room. 
Bathroom was lavatory
.
. . I knew Dad would be reading the paper waiting for us to eat together. I
creep up on him, walking lightly in my slippers. The top of his head barely
seen in the red wingback chair that’s one of a pair facing out over the side
garden. . .
yard
,
garden
. I cover my hands over his eyes and he lets
his paper lay into his lap and cups them in his.

“Feels like the
softness of youth.” His smile evident through his tone.

“Morning, Dad.” I kiss
the top of his head. “Let’s give Mom a hand in the kitchen—I’m monkey hungry.”

“Let’s,” he says,
smoothing his paper to fold it back into place.

I can smell the effort
of a large breakfast as I get nearer the kitchen and mom humming in her
movements.

“Can I help?”

She smiles and passes
me a stack of pancakes. “How was your sleep?”

“Good. . . and yours? I
heard someone up late last night.” I walk to the refrigerator with the plate of
pancakes, balancing them in one hand and reaching in to grab the syrup.

“I had a bit of a headache
again, must just be the change of season.” She slides the last pieces of bacon
onto a platter. “Will you be going on your hike this morning?”

“Our hike,” I remind
her. It took years for her to become accustomed to the thought of trekking
through the forest that outlined the town. She’d rather be painting it from
memory after passing through it in the car with the windows up and the air
conditioner on. “And yes, I’m going. Dad?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.” He
passes each of us a mug of coffee. “I think your Mother needs to sit this one
out. I know it’s our Saturday morning start, but we’ll let her rest today.” He
casts mom a soft smile.

The breakfast food was
beautiful, and I could feel every morsel of overeating in the gorge of a full
stomach—a welcome change from the last seven weeks of hot coffees and cold
granola bars served up on the run from my studio apartment, two blocks downhill
from campus. I was lucky enough though, I felt, to have the small space to
myself on the meager earnings teaching the two undergraduate labs that I was
assigned to as part of my curriculum..

Dad and I insist that mom
go lie down and we begin to clear the dishes to get ready for our hike.

I make a pot of tea as
we are finishing up and pour mom a teacup full and fill a thermos with the rest
to take along with us. I put two aspirin on the side of the small saucer and
head off to her room.

I carefully walk
through the slightly open doorway. She’s fast asleep, but I’m sure I see what
appears to be a tear in the corner of her eye. . .

I sit the small cup and
saucer softly down on the bedside table, and slowly pull the blanket up higher
on her arms and leave quietly for my room.

 

 

dane

“Coach was a real
asshole today—and I can feel it in my legs.”  I check for the tightness of the
white towel around my waist, my skin still damp from the steamy shower in the
locker room. The stadium was mostly quiet.  The football team wasn’t starting
pre-season practice until the end of the week and that gave us runners plenty
of time to have full use of the facility, including the services of the
masseuse that somehow we seemed less entitled to.

“Layin’ it on heavy?”
Kip sympathizes as he reaches for the disposable paper roller under the massage
table and streams a new length over it.

“Sure. You could say
that.” I watch and wait for him to be ready for me.

He slaps the table. “Hop
on Dane. Let’s see what we can do for you.”

My whole six feet two
inches feels as lifeless and hard as the table I’m laying on.

“Where shall we start?”
he asks.

I take my right arm out
from underneath my resting head and reach around to press my index finger into
my thigh. “Here.”

The tightening in my
upper leg hadn’t let up since practice. Just standing in the shower took it out
of me. I hadn’t complained to Coach Lewis, with him being new this year I
didn’t dare show weakness. I’ve been running for the university for three years
and I didn’t want to spend every practice turning it into a trial and getting
the smackdown of punishment I’ve seen laid onto some of the slackers that party
hard and are just milking it to the end, for all of the glory that comes with
being a Yale athlete.

I’ve worked my ass off
to get here. I don’t go booze it up on Friday nights at a frat house, or look
for a cheap good time. There’s too much riding on this scholarship—a humble kid
from Kansas making a name for himself, with the help of a small town coach who
put a dream in front of him. I owe it to my first coach to do well as much as I
owe it to anyone.  Without a father around, one who I knew was a complete
deadbeat even if mom stopped just short of saying it the few times she did
mention him—who leaves their wife and two little kids to go off and find
themselves?
What a loser
.  Coach gave me time and attention, and that,
I’ll be grateful for for the rest of my life.  He became more than a coach; he
became a friend. One that showed me simple hard work can amount to something.
In his words,
“Everyone’s got a hidden talent. You find it, you cultivate
it, and you let it shine—and that’s living.”

And I listened.

In the early days when
my scrawny body would step onto that track alongside other guys, I doubted every
fiber in me, but coach would remind me, “They aren’t your peers—they’re nearly
men. You’re just a freshman. Those other boys—they’re juniors and seniors—years
ahead of you in conditioning.” And when they’d get to the finish line just two
steps ahead of me, it fed me, and I was on my way.  Sure, there were times I would
cry, especially in practice. My feet throbbed, my knees ached, I’d see all the
other kids heading down to hang out at the local burger joint and fill their
stomachs with shakes—and I was left in the schoolyard, after a full day—still
working, and cry I did. I’d stop mid-lap after what felt like the twentieth
time around the track and just lie down, my sweating back sticking to the pea
gravel, tears streaming down the sides of my face, and I’d lay there for a bit,
long enough to convince myself it was worth it and wait for coach to wander
over as I stood up. He’d reach up, brush off the blue-gray gravel bits that got
pressed into my skin, and nudge me on. It’s like he had a glass ball to the
future. “Cry it out, shake it off—and let’s go again,” he’d ruffle my damp hair
and say. Without him pushing me because he saw what level it could take me to, I
would never have travelled east, let alone to Yale.

BOOK: The Season of Shay and Dane
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