Chapters : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | Epilogue
My sister has a vivid imagination. She still swears that's why she ever agreed
to do anything sexual with me in the first place. She says she closed her eyes and imagined us
doing what Vlad was suggesting, and all she could see was a warm, sunny place
where she didn't have to be afraid, and could try out some things she was
intensely curious about.
I have often wondered if that was the only
true thing Vlad ever told us ... that in Russia, this attitude about trying
things with someone you know already loves you is more acceptable than it is
Anyway, she had no problem whatsoever
adopting Aunt Maureen's idea of a possible future for us as her own. In fact, ten minutes after she heard about
it, she was making plans with Aunt Maureen about how to make it all happen.
I'm making it sound like it was all
sweetness and light. That was not the
case. Addison wanted to stay at the
ranch, and finish school there. Aunt
Maureen wanted no part of that, insisting that her sister needed to help raise
the baby, not her. I think some of the
terror childbirth had caused in her remained, hanging around in Maureen's
brain, and the thought of the horrible unknown of having a tiny, helpless baby
in the house, and that she might have to be responsible for that tiny, helpless
thing's health while Addie was at school, just scared her to death.
That part was out of our hands anyway, which
became clear when our parents arrived, having driven straight through, without
stopping for anything except food and gas, changing drivers every four or five
hours while one slept and the other drove.
While they hadn't been in favor of the making of this baby, once he was
out into the big, wide, world, he instantly had two loving, doting
And my mother made it crystal clear that her
grandson and his mother were going back to Hastings, where her daughter was
going to finish high school.
About that, both parents were firm. The rest of the "plan", however,
fascinated them as much as it fascinated Addie and me.
I don't think either of them had ever
envisioned me as a veterinarian, which was what Aunt Maureen's intentions
were. As an alum from the school of
veterinary medicine at the university, she had pull and access to programs in
that field. She was correct in her
belief that she could not only get me into the university, but that, if I
declared a major in Biology and then went on into the vet school, I could get
scholarships to help me with that plan.
Of course it wasn't as easy as just
that. I had to take all kinds of tests,
to see if I was well suited for that course of study. I had to sign papers that, if I changed my
major or failed to complete it, required me to pay back the money. I had to maintain a 3.0 grade point average
in all courses that were required for the degree, and a 3.5 grade point average
in all other courses.
And then there was vet school, which was
another four years of unbelievable hard work.
Of course, as an eighteen year old who
suddenly has the hope of fulfilling his dreams on multiple levels, I had no
idea how hard the suggested course of action would be. I suppose that's why teenagers reach so hard
for the stars. They do look like they're
not all that far away.
I'll be completely honest. If I had known then what I know now, I doubt
I'd have been brave enough to try it.
But three things got me through my college education.
The first, but not the most important, was
the concept that I would own the ranch one day.
The second was that, through it all, Addison never doubted that I could
do my part. Every time we saw each
other, she reminded me that what I was doing was for us, and our family, and
that she loved me for making the sacrifices I believed I was making.
By far the most important, though, was that
each summer I got to spend on the ranch with Addison and Bernie, as we commonly
called him. Bernard was named after our
ancestor, who spent his life creating the Broken B Ranch. And those months, where I finally got to be
with her again, and catch up on everything that had been done while I was off
in Minnesota, were what kept me going.
Meanwhile, Addison graduated from high
school in Hastings, and went to Tech to start a business degree. Two years later she moved to the ranch for
good, and finished her degree online.
Actually, she never actually graduated.
Basically she took the courses needed to understand how to run the
business and invest for the future and things like that. And since Aunt Maureen had never done any of
this, it was quite helpful. The Broken B
stock had always been sought after, and she had two stallions people would pay
to have their mares put with. She had
never been what she would call "rich" but when Addison started
applying what she learned in school, the books began to look a lot better.
It is difficult for me to describe this
stage in our lives. For one thing, I was
gone eight months out of the year, and what I was doing took every ounce of
concentration I owned to get through. In
one sense, it was good I didn't have a family with me, because if I had, I'm
not sure I could have pulled it off.
And I also have to admit that I didn't make
it any easier on Addie. That's because
every summer, and during the break every year between semesters, I went home to
that feather bed, and tried to make up for all those nights I had to sleep
And that didn't help because my sister never
went on the pill.
And by the time I graduated as a doctor of
veterinary medicine (with emphasis on large animals) I had visited two more
children on the poor girl.
I don't know whether it was because
everybody knew how hard I was working, or because they finally threw up their
hands and gave up, but our parents, while they frowned about us having more
babies, never flagged at accepting them into the family. They did draw aside, when Addie admitted to
them she was pregnant for the second time, with Vanessa. Their question was, "We know the first
time worked out ... but are you sure you want to go on this
Our answer, though disapproved of, was
accepted. What else could they do? Our children, who now consisted of Bernie,
Vanessa, and Jordan, were spoiled rotten by their grandma and grandpa. Their other "Grandma", who they
addressed as "Granny Maw", was over her fright about having babies
around, and had become thoroughly embroiled in raising them.
But I want to make it crystal clear here
that neither Addison nor I were happy while we were separated. Had we been normal people who got married and
then did all this, we might have ended up in divorce. But we didn't think about it like that. She was my sister. She'd always be my sister, and nothing could
ever change that. And it was the same
for me. We couldn't get divorced. That word didn't even make sense when it came
to our relationship. And I knew there
could never be another woman for me, while she was convinced that no other man
would ever lie in that bed, or any other, with her. And while that sounds like a positive thing,
it only made the separation more painful for both of us.
So when I finally got back to the
ranch, there was practically an orgy of relief and relaxation. Not that everything went smoothly.
When children are raised in a matriarchy,
with a mother and two grandmothers doing the vast majority of all child
rearing, the children can tend to view men as "those odd people who show
up once in a while and say and do interesting things." They all obeyed their grandfather, for the
most part, but it was the women who called the shots.
They knew who I was, of course. True, when I'd been gone for a semester, and
suddenly came back, they were confused about things for a little while. But they knew who "Daddy" was. And they knew they had to do what Daddy told
them to, but I'll be honest. That was because Mommy insisted they do what Daddy said.
And when I got back there permanently, and
the whole dynamic changed, because I was finally fully integrated into both the
running of the ranch, and being a full time father, there were some bumps in
the road. But that only lasted six
months or so. When daddy expanded chores
into areas that were both more fun and more dangerous, he won the hearts and
minds of the children. Mommy wasn't so
happy about it at first, but she got over that too.
Over the next nine years, we had added
another boy and girl to the family, and built a new house which was ten times
more energy efficient and probably a hundred times cheaper to maintain. Maureen couldn't bear the thought of
demolishing the old house and, while it wasn't efficient to cool and heat, it
was structurally sound. So Addison came
up with a business plan to renovate it and turn it into a bed and breakfast, to
draw on the tourist trade. Tourism
brings what are called "new dollars" into the system, meaning you
aren't recycling something already there, and the micro economy involved draws
in funds that would not otherwise be available.
It's a little like prospecting for gold.
You don't spend any more money doing that than you would just staying
alive, and if you find gold, you get rich.
You have nothing to lose except time and energy, both of which you would
spend doing something anyway.
Of course renovating a hundred year old
farmhouse does take both time and money, which has to come from the micro
economy involved. It's a gamble as to
whether that will pay off or not. And
putting money back into the infrastructure had tax advantages, so even if it
didn't work out, it could still be less than harmful. But Addison thought people might want to spend
some time in Big Sky country on a horse ranch.
She was right, as it turned out.
People did want to spend time on a horse
ranch. And it also turned out they loved
Denise's cooking. Martha, the cook when
Addie and I had first arrived, had, indeed, retired. Addison hadn't taken her place, though. Instead, her daughter-in-law had been invited
to come learn the trade while her husband was overseas on a tour in
Afghanistan. She had taken to it
happily, needing something to do to keep her mind off of worrying about her
husband. When Dennis got out of the Army
and came home, he liked it there, hired on as a hand, and became our expert
I won't say the B and B was too popular,
but by the time Bernie was ten, it was booked solid two years in advance, and
Maureen was complaining that it was taking too much of her time to administer.
That was when Mom announced she was taking
early retirement from the university.
She'd been complaining about not getting enough time with her
grandchildren, and intended to visit much more often. While the kids had been down to Hastings for
a few days every once in a while, that's hard to make work when what is
basically a single mom is raising them, and working on a ranch at the same
So when she called and announced she'd have
more time to spend at the ranch, she and Addison got to talking and the next
thing I knew we had hired a new host and hostess for the B and B. Dad could do his job anywhere, and besides,
he was thinking about retirement too.
And that's how it turned out that, some
eleven years after Vlad Zharkov "destroyed" our lives and disappeared
into the ether, we were all together as a family on the Broken B Ranch, raising
the results of Vlad's criminal interference in the lives of two teenagers who
fell in love with someone they weren't supposed to fall in love with.
You might wonder how the surrounding
community viewed all this. Well, as it
turns out, working as a ranch hand isn't for everybody. It's hard, dirty work, and there aren't regular
hours. The time the horses need you the
most is when the weather is the worst.
Of course anything that threatens them, threatens you as you try to help
them survive, whether it's getting them out of the way of flash floods, or
helping them get through deep snow to feed, or driving them off the hilltops
during a lightning storm. And even
though horses can be very affectionate, when they don't want to be herded or
caught, they are very capable of avoiding both.
So a lot of men who sign on for that kind of
work don't last all that long before they decide they want to look for
something a little more conventional.
Some stick around longer than others. Being invited into Aunt Maureen's bed can
have that effect on a man, even if she's old enough to be his mother. She's trim and shapely and, as I said,
apparently a tiger in bed.
But by the time I graduated from vet school
and moved back home permanently, there wasn't a single hand left on the ranch who was
there when Addie and I first arrived.
The foreman was a man named Cody Burns, and he was quite possibly the
only hand on the ranch who hadn't spent the night in Maureen's bedroom. That was because he was happily married with
three kids, and lived in Tipper's Corner, the town twenty miles down the
blacktop road from the ranch. He
"knew" I was Addison's step brother, but had not been told the
original cover story about our parents "accident." He had met them, in fact, before he met
me. And while there were a few people in
the area who might remember about the accident they'd been told of, all of them
had also been told that, eventually, the parents would recover. My dad, in fact, had a limp. It wasn't from the fictitious accident, of
course, but people who saw him later didn't know that. And by this time, everybody who had seen them
had forgotten about all that anyway.
So when our mom and dad showed up to run the
B and B, and live on the ranch in their retirement, nobody thought a thing
There was one other thing we had to make a
decision about. When the children were
born, Addison left the names of the fathers as "unknown" for obvious
reasons. At least to us. But that denied me any legal claim to having
the right to provide for their care, or make medical decisions and things like
that. Even though there were probably a
couple of people around who suspected that her step-brother was responsible for
Addison's pregnancies. Even if their
suspicions were true, it wasn't illegal, but they could understand why we
didn't feel like we could get married.
Addison and I, of course knew we couldn't get married.
So Addison had papers drawn up making me the
children's guardian, should anything happen to her, and granting me the
authority to make decisions that required such authority in legal basis.
Of course their grandparents make decisions
too, as they provide guidance to the children.
I'm the only veterinarian within a hundred miles, now that Maureen is
retired from that line of work, at least away from the ranch. So I'm often gone for hours at a time. And Addison is busy with her duties as CEO of
the Broken B.
So it's not at all odd for Grandma or
Grandpa to ride herd on the children, who range in age these days from Bernie,
who is in his last year of attending the same high school his "Uncle
Bob"went to, down to Annie Mae, who is four now.
And I suppose that's why, while I was
helping Addison set the table for supper one night, Vanessa, who just turned
sixteen, asked her grandmother the question, instead of asking her mother.
"Grandma? Now that I'm sixteen, and can drive, can I
get an after school job so I can make some spending money?"
I think it scared the poor girl half to
death when both her grandparents yelled "NO!" at exactly the
<< Previous Chapter
Thoughts or comments you'd like to share with the author?
Fill out the form below to contact Bob.
A valid e-mail address is required so the author can respond to your feedback.
Bob feels your opinions and thoughts are important.