The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Fifteen
We’re Getting Close Now
Not that far to go for Katie and Max. They asked me to thank you for your loyal following, and so consider this a “thank you” from the three of us.
The bus is in Washington State now. One final obstacle to do, the Cascade Mountains, and then a new life awaits them.
What will that life look like?
Back on the Bus
We crossed over the Fourth of July Pass in the early morning as the gray horizon spread east to west. Heavy snow on the Pass stopped abruptly as the City of Coeur d’ Alene spread out before us, then behind us, the snow tapering to showers, the showers tapering to a mist, and then stopping as we crossed the border into Washington State, the Rockies behind us, giving way to the flatness of Washington farmland reaching for the Pacific.
Katie slept with her head on my shoulder, snuggled close, the bus’s heater working overtime to stave off the drafts of a tired and battle-scarred Greyhound. Spokane, Cheney, Medical Lake, Sprague, town names meaningless to her passed by as the lighter shades of gray illuminated large farms, new red barns contrasting with the weather-beaten, shiny John Deere’s contrasting with rusted remnants, the old and the new, the restored and the abandoned, roads leading off in perpendicular fashion from the I-90, leading off to farmers and farmhands, early morning breakfasts before teeth-rattling days, the way it is, the way it always was in this tabletop country.
“How much longer now, Max?” she asked me, stretching her arms, working out a kink in her neck, her curly red hair brushing against my face.
“Maybe six hours, Katie. More likely seven. Never know with Snoqualmie Pass how bad the weather will be there; it usually means delays this time of year. But we’re getting closer for sure.”
“It looks like the Plains States, Max.”
“Yep, but it will change once we cross the Cascades. Then it will be green as far as you can see, green reaching its hand to the ocean, the evergreens kissed by swift rivers and hugged by crystal-blue lakes, a different world from this for sure.”
The bus driver told us about an hour stop in Moses Lake, a little over an hour away, time enough for breakfast for those interested. Katie was watchful, and quiet, letting the tires make the only sound in our little world.
“I’m worried your family won’t accept me, Max. I doubt they’re accustomed to sharing a table with a hooker.”
More Miles in the Rearview Mirror
She was quiet as Washington continued to lighten, the hidden sun doing just enough to beat back the darkness. A good half-hour before she spoke again.
“I was twelve the first time he came to me in the night, Max. What could I do? I’ve asked myself that question for twenty years now. He was stronger. Told me he loved me, loved my mother, wanted to show me how much he loved me, but love like that should never happen, Max, his lips pressing down hard, his body so heavy, his hands, God, his hands, taking everything away from me, and afterwards him telling me he’d kill my mother if I told, kill her dead, and how would I like it if that happened?
“But I did tell my mother, Max, I was scared, and mothers protect their daughters, don’t they, somewhere in this world that happens, doesn’t it, Max? Doesn’t it? Not my mother, though. She didn’t believe me, called me a calculating little bitch, told me I was jealous of my step-father, told me to hush now with the lies or I could just leave her house. Her house? Her house?”
The tears were flowing silently for my Princess Kate, and I did what I could, I draped an arm over her, held her tight, gave her whatever false comfort those actions provide.
“By thirteen I was hooking, and you know what, Max? I liked it. I liked the fact that I had the power over men, and I learned to shut it all off internally. I went outside myself, you know, and I could watch it all unfold, with each one of them, but not feel a thing, and I laughed at every one of them, laughed at their weaknesses, even managed to convince myself that I was better than them in some twisted way.
“But I’m not better than them, Max. I’m a hooker, and your family is going to hate me.”
I held her tighter, let the quiet spread over us, carefully chose my words, for they just had to be the right ones.
We were about ten minutes out of Moses Lake when I finally spoke to her concerns.
“My mother, all the while I was growing up, once a week she would drive south to the city of Tacoma, doing what she called her ‘volunteer work,’ cooking and serving meals in the kitchen at Remann Hall, a sort of prison for kids. Every Wednesday morning she would make the sixty-mile drive south, help the kitchen staff, serve the meals, and then, while the kids were eating their meals, she would sit and talk to them, some of them ten, some fifteen, all there for burglary, sexual assault, crimes against society, incorrigibles they were called, putting in their time before being released, many of them immediately returning to the streets to more criminal activity. And every Wednesday night at dinner she would tell me, dad, and sister Jeannie about her day, how she loved all those kids, many of whom never had anyone love them, and how she wished she could take them all home and show them the power of forgiveness and love.
“My family won’t hate you, Katie. My family is going to show you the power of love, and teach you how to forgive yourself.”
We had eggs and bacon in Moses Lake, then back on the bus, passing more farmland, the land brown, free of snow, the sky a lighter shade of gray, we crossed over the Columbia River, a huge gorge reaching north and south, then rose up to another tabletop of land and in the far distance, a hint of elevation, a smudge of the Cascades in view, the last physical obstacle in front of us.
I smiled. The pull of home was strong as familiarity settled into my mind, and I felt my breathing slow and the tension leave my shoulders. Katie must have sensed the change in me for she squeezed my hand and kissed my stubbly cheek.
“I don’t know if I can remember how to be me, Katie. My family is expecting Max of ten years ago. I don’t remember that guy, don’t know if I can call him up and have him make an appearance tonight,” and my words hovered there, in that bus, and rode with us as Ellensburg finally came into view and the Cascades were no longer a hint but the real thing.
“Did you ever meet Sailor Pete, Max? He used to hang out near the Mission in Pittsburgh, a real character with his sailor hat and always singing ‘Anchors Away?”
I nodded. Anyone on the streets of Pittsburgh would know Sailor Pete.
“Do you remember what Sailor Pete would always say, to anyone who would listen, no matter what the circumstance or no matter what you asked him?”
I nodded again, and smiled as I thought of the old man with the white cap, teeth long gone, a tattoo that said “Marilyn” on his left bicep.
“What did he say, Max? Tell me what Sailor Pete always said.”
“He always said ‘trust in your ship, boys, if she’s been built with loving care.’”
She squeezed my hand again.
“That’s right, Max, and you need to trust in your ship. It was built with loving care.”
Seattle Is in Sight
One more leg to the trip, my friends, and then Katie and Max will be safe. Relax, now, I won’t let any harm befall them, not this close to home.
See you next week?
I hope so.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor