Broken Promises – Part Four
While the guys were down in the man-cave playing pool over bottles of beer, Nicki poured out her heart to Annie, who sat and listened. Nicki told her how conflicted she felt, fighting with her head over her heart. It felt good for Nicki to air her thoughts out loud.
Annie was sympathetic. She told her Dean had been their friend for a long time. Though she had never seen Dean with any other women, she informed Nicki about a lost love in the late 1970s when Dean was in Bolivia working on the pipeline.
She was a native Indian girl who disappeared mysteriously, along with the rest of her village. He searched for her to no avail. He surmised the government had something to do with it since the village people were not happy about the pipeline going through their land. As an American, there wasn’t much he could do except look for her when he had the time.
Months had passed and still no sign of her. Dean heard rumors from random people in the city the government was executing the Indians for voicing their displeasure. The militia hung the bodies from trees as a warning to others who dared speak out against progress.
After completing the pipeline, Dean stayed in the country as long as his work visa allowed. He trekked through the jungles, checking other native villages hoping she had escaped. But his efforts proved fruitless. He wrote long letters to Chuck detailing his experiences. Chuck loved Dean like a brother, and his heart broke for him. In all his replies back to Dean, he encouraged him to book a flight to Alaska, telling him he could secure a job for him on the Alaskan Pipeline.
“After several months, we received a letter from Dean stating he would take Chuck’s advice and to expect him in the next 30 days. When his plane landed, it was the first time I had met Dean, though, from his letters, I felt as if I had known him all my life. He was thin from not eating properly, having spent all his time in the jungle searching for her.
“We took him to our home, where I fattened him up for the next couple of weeks. Chuck then took him down to speak to the supervisor on the pipeline. He was hired on the spot. Dean shared with me what he had gone through. It broke him up. After his time in Vietnam and then Bolivia, the Alaskan way of life seemed to suit him, helped him heal.”
“Wow. I had no idea,” said Nicki. “He briefly spoke about his time in Bolivia. In fact, his nonchalant attitude proved to be a good cover–up. I never would have suspected.”
“Men are good at hiding their feelings,” said Annie.
“And I’m the first woman he’s brought around?” Nicki asked.
“Yep. I’m guessing you must be special.” Annie smiled.
Annie got up to stoke the fire. “I’m glad you’re spending the night. I say, let’s open another bottle of wine and ditch the tea.”
“I’m game,” laughed Nicki.
The men came up shortly after wanting to play a round of penny poker. When it was time for bed, Annie gave them a choice of one-bedroom or two. Nicki chose two. Dean looked a little disappointed. When Annie went upstairs to fetch Nicki some PJs and socks, Dean looked over at Nicki as she stood in the doorway of the room where she would be sleeping. “If you get lonely tonight or cold, I’ll be right over there,” Dean said as he pointed to the room he’d be sleeping. “I won’t lock the door.”
Walking over to her, he put his arms around her waist. Looking into her eyes, he leaned down to kiss her. It was a soft, lingering kiss. No one had ever kissed her like that before, gentle yet passionate. With her eyes closed, her head spun, and her body melted into his. She pushed her tongue past his lips. She could taste the beer he’d been drinking. The smell of his cologne lingered on his face, and it excited her. His hand rose to grip her face.
“So, I’m guessing you’ll only need the socks tonight?” Annie laughed as she witnessed their embrace.
Turning their heads to face Annie, they both looked embarrassed. “Just giving her a goodnight kiss,” Dean said as he took a step back from Nicki.
“Yeah, that looked more like a ‘good’ night kiss, but what do I know, I’ve been married for fifteen years,” she joked as she handed Nicki the folded PJ’s and fuzzy socks.
They heard Chuck shout down from upstairs. “Come on, Annie, let the two love birds alone. Your husband needs you up here.” Annie looked at them, raising her eyebrows with a smile on her face. “See you two in the morning.”
* * * * *
The rest of the weekend flew by, and before Nicki knew it, Dean had dropped her off at the Anchorage Airport to catch the private jet awaiting her and the rest of the crew. But before saying goodbye, he drove her to a park commemorating lives lost in the earthquake and tsunami in 1964.
As they stood above the beach, he gave her the history of what had occurred that Good Friday. “It registered 9.2 and lasted 4.5 minutes—the most powerful recorded earthquake in US History. The cost was in the hundreds of millions. There used to be a town here,” he said, pointing out what was now just an overgrowth of trees and plants. “It triggered killer landslides causing these homes to fall into the ocean or just break apart from the tsunami.”
Nicki stood in amazement, trying to picture the destruction. “Why isn’t anyone walking on the beach?”
“That isn’t a beach, it’s more of a bog. It’ll suck you under like quicksand.”
Nicki shivered at the thought. “Why don’t they have warning signs?”
“They used to, not sure why I don’t see any right now.” Dean looked at his watch. “I should get you to the airport, so you don’t miss your flight.”
“Thank you for showing me this. Alaska is full of stories. I’ve loved listening to them.”
Pulling her into his arms, Dean looked into her eyes. “Maybe I could come down to San Francisco someday soon?”
“I’d love it,” Nicki said excitedly. “My apartment is kinda small compared to Chuck and Annie’s place.”
“Well, nothing is quite as enormous as their house, especially for two people.” They both laughed. Dean bent down to kiss her. Tears sprung up in her eyes.
“What’s the matter?”
“I’m going to miss you. I don’t want to leave. I want to stay. But I know it would be irresponsible of me to throw my life away.” A look of rejection on his face, Dean released her from his grip. “That’s not what I meant. I meant for me to walk away from everything I know on an impulse; it just isn’t me.”
“I get it. Why don’t we make a plan? You go back to your life in California. And say, in two or three months, if you still feel the same, we can discuss it and make plans then? What do you say?”
In her mind, Nicki thought two or three months was a long time. What if he met someone else?
“I say we stay in touch by phone. In case either one of us changes our minds,” Nicki said as she pulled him close to her again.
“Sounds like a plan. You may change your mind after doing a little more research on our winters.”
They walked back to Dean’s truck. Both were silent on the drive to the airport, which wasn’t far from the park. Nicki watched out the passenger window with tears in her eyes.
* * * * *
Three months seemed like an eternity. Dean called her every night. When Nicki got home from Alaska, she canceled her appointment with the realtor and put her money in a savings account. When Nicki went back to work at the radio station, she played songs reminding her of Dean. Her decision to freelance her music gigs rather than contract anything long term would pay off if she chose to leave the lower 48.
When spring came around, she knew she was in love. Dean had shared aspects of his life, including the young Indian girl. And Nicki shared things about her during their nightly conversations. They got to know each other on a more intimate level. The night she told him she loved him was the same night she decided to move.
He had mentioned the longest day of the year, June 21st, and how everyone he knew celebrated it as if it were the 4th of July. He really wanted her to experience it.
The apartment manager was surprised to receive a 30-day notice since she lived there the longest of any tenant. The ad on Craigslist stated:
Moving sale! Everything must go! Name your price, if it’s reasonable, it’s yours.
Nicki packed up a few things of sentimental value and put them in a separate suitcase. Her plan was to buy new stuff since most of her clothes would not be suitable for Alaska weather.
As she wandered around her clean, empty apartment, she knew it was a big step for her to leave everyone and everything she knew.
All her friends hijacked her the last night of her radio show, took her to the Blues Club, giving her a proper farewell. Cheering her on to take the stage and sing Judy Collins, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” the lights dimmed. The familiar guitar, plucking the strings, she looked out into the audience. Her voice cracked at first, but then, composed, she sang, while couples slow danced cheek to cheek, while tears filled her eyes. She would miss them.
* * * * *
Sitting in first class with her one-way ticket, the flight attendant, holding a tray of flutes, asked if she would like a drink, she gladly took the champagne offered her. The bubbles tickled her nose as she took a sip. A deep sigh escaped her lips. In a few hours, she would be running into Dean’s arms. She missed his smell. Giddy with happiness, she finished up her champagne and asked the flight attendant for a refill.
As the plane lifted off, she looked out the window. She could see the buildings below and the San Francisco Bridge. Under her breath, she whispered, “Goodbye, SF, it’s been fun.” Sitting back to relax, she looked at her watch, then closed her eyes. Just a couple more hours, and she would be home.
* * * * *
Funny the things you remember when you’re grieving, Nicki thought to herself.
Like the way, his lips moved when he was telling a story.
Or how this one strand of hair always seemed to escape the elastic tie when he pulled his hair back into a ponytail.
The twinkle in his eye whenever he looked at me.
Or the noises he made when we made love.
The steadiness of his hands on his rifle going for the big game kill.
He told me there was something sensual about washing a woman’s hair. It turned him on. And so, he always washed my hair.
Our late-night talks while we lay in bed, looking out at the stars.
We were perfect together.
Why did you leave me alone?
Today had been an especially rough day. The memories played in her mind as if she were in a movie. At times, the pain in her chest was unbearable. Her only reprieve, getting stoned and sleeping. Tonight was one of those nights. She climbed into bed. A jar in her nightstand drawer held the joints he had rolled. Lighting one up, she watched the end burn a bright red as she took a hit. Crushing it out, she pulled the covers over her head. See you in my dreams, love.