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“Oh, hey, Leyton! I was hoping you’d call. How’s everything going up there, cuz?”
“Good. We’re getting close to making our quota for the entire season a couple of days early. Best season ever,” he told his younger cousin.
“I knew you’d do a great job. You should have had your own boat a long time ago.”
“That’s very kind of you, Meghan, but I wasn’t ready until this year. Thanks for the vote of confidence, but there’s so much to learn and know about running a crab boat, it still scares the hell out of me.”
“Well, I had no doubt! You’re probably the smartest guy I know. And the cutest, too!”
He let the comment, one in a long and growing string of such comments, pass and said politely, “Hey, is your mom around by any chance?”
He heard his 18-year old cousin sigh then say dejectedly, “Yes. She’s here. Hold on.”
A second later he heard her holler, “Mom! It’s Leyton. He wants to talk to you!”
“She’ll pick up in a sec. So…when will you be home?”
“In about five days if all goes well. A week if not. We’re pretty close to full and this string we’re hauling right now is solid gold. We’ll pull the last pot in about 32 more hours then head in and offload the crab. We’ve got some maintenance to take care of and we’re completely out of supplies so we’ll need a couple of days in port. But yeah, no more than a week no matter what.”
“Cool! Well, good luck and I can’t wait to see you!” she said just as they both heard a click.
“Leyton?” he heard as Meghan signed off.
“Yes! Hi,” he said almost too enthusiastically.
“How are you?” she asked. It sounded perfunctory, but they both knew it had a deeper meaning.
“I’m okay. The better question is, ‘How are you doing’?”
There was a lengthy pause and he could tell she was having trouble speaking.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to talk about it,” he assured her.
“No. I’m fine,” she said as she did her best to pull it together. “Or at least I will be.”
“I wish I had something to positive to say,” he told her sincerely.
“There’s really nothing to say, Leyton,” she told him. “He’s gone. It’s over.”
“I swear to God I don’t get it,” he replied. “You’re the nicest, most beautiful woman I know and he just walked out on you? I mean, what the f…hell, is wrong with him?”
There was another long pause and the unmistakable sounds of a woman trying not to cry.
“I guess I should let you go,” he said not knowing what else to say.
“No. Please don’t hang up, Ley. Please?” she said her voice still thick and heavy with sadness. “Now that your mom is gone, you’re the closest thing I have to a best friend. So please, don’t hang up. And…and we need to talk.”
He wanted to mention that she had a daughter, but he knew Meghan was a typical 18-year old girl who was both flighty and boy crazy. His cousin had even brashly let him know she found him—her first cousin—very attractive. Like her mother, Meghan was gorgeous, no doubt about it, but just the thought of it gave him the creeps. Whoever first glibly said, “Incest is best,” must have been a pervert or had a few loose screws. Leyton found the idea utterly disgusting. At least with his cousin anyway.
But his Aunt Laurel was a different story. Well, kind of. He found it strange that his own mother, a nice-looking woman herself, looked nothing like her sister. They’d joked about one of them being adopted or switched at birth many times, but their mother, his grandmother, told them until the day she died they were her baby girls.
She’d always give them ‘the look’, squint her eyes, and say, “Both of you!”
Leyton smiled as he thought back on how many years he’d had the worst kind of crush on his Aunt Laurel. His mom’s younger sister had always been, and even now at 38, was still what he called ‘a total babe’; a cougar who seemed to have no idea how hot she was; a sexy MILF in the most unsuspecting way. And although he’d sworn to never, ever tell her, let alone act on his feelings, he’d had the worst kind of crush on her for her for as long as he could remember. Even so, he’d come very close to saying something just before he left for his first King crab season as the skipper of a boat he’d be paying on for many years to come. Even worse, he’d actually done something he feared he might never live down.
Laurel was hurting so badly from the breakup that it hurt him, too. Deep down, he knew something else…no, he knew exactly what else…was bothering her too, and that’s what she meant by ‘needing to talk.’
Her husband of 19 years, his Uncle Denny, short for Dennis Granger, had come home one day from work and out of the blue told her he was leaving. There’d been no warning, no hints, and nothing to make his beautiful wife suspicious. He just announced that turning 40 made him feel like his life was over. He felt trapped, he’d told her. He ‘needed space’ and worst of all, he needed to be with other people.
Laurel was still in shock as he went upstairs and packed. She was too stunned to even ask questions as he nodded to her without saying a word before leaving. bahis firmaları
Evidently, it hadn’t taken long for ol’ Uncle Denny to be with ‘other people’ as Meghan saw him with a girl who’d graduated from high school three years before her within a week of her father walking out on them.
At first, she couldn’t make sense of what she was seeing. It looked just like her dad’s car parked a little ways down a side road, and the guy sitting in the back seat looked a whole lot like him. But that guy was kissing someone who looked exactly like Amanda Cooper, who was just 21-years old, and well, that just couldn’t be.
It made no sense to the point she drove right on passed the car and kept on going as her brain tried to find an alternative explanation. Finding none, she made a reckless U-turn in the middle of the busy highway and went back to see for herself.
This time, there was no absolutely no doubt. She saw the sticker on the his front windshield that allowed him to park in the faculty area of the university where he was a professor of English literature. He was indeed the man in the backseat and he was very deeply engaged a full-fledged lip lock with Miss Cooper.
Meghan pulled in behind his car, got out, and walked right up to the rear passenger window and tapped on the glass. She ignored the shocked look on their faces as well as his lame attempts to explain what he was doing as he rolled down the window.
“I’ve taken your side since the day you walked out on us. I told Mom this was temporary; a phase. I said, ‘He’ll be back because he loves us both.’ I’ve listened to her cry herself to sleep every night since then and you know what? I’ve cried, too. But as of right now, I’m done crying. And I’m done believing in you.”
“Meghan. Honey. Listen,” he tried to say.
“Save, it…Dennis,” she said calling him by his given name for the first time in her life. “I don’t know who you are, but you are not my father, because my father could never do this to us. My mother deserves someone who’ll love her and you most certainly don’t deserve her!”
She looked around him at Amanda and waited until she looked back at her before Meghan said to…Dennis, “I hope this…floozy, or some other…bitch of yours…breaks your heart like you did ours. You two deserve each other.”
She hadn’t spoken to him since and vowed never to do so again.
And then there was ‘the incident’.
Leyton’s mother, Lisa Kirkland, had passed away a little over a year ago from breast cancer, and he’d leaned on her sister, Laurel harder than he’d ever leaned on anyone. He’d never known his own father, and he had no brothers or sisters, so his Aunt Laurel was his only real family and the one who’d been there for him day in and day out for months just as he’d been there for her as she grappled with the lost of her sister and her best friend.
And then her husband had walked out leaving her even more devastated than the loss of the best friend she’d ever had. After that, she’d needed Leyton even more than he’d needed her and needed her terribly. Even so, things stayed relatively normal, even when they poured their hearts out to each other late at night, until the night before he left when it nearly got out of hand.
Leyton shook his head and ended the rehash of the past playing out in his head as he heard her voice on the phone.
“Leyton?” she said quietly just in case Meghan could here her. “I don’t even know where to begin. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is so…completely inadequate. But I am so very sorry. I just don’t know what else to…”
“I kissed you,” Leyton said as the shame welled up inside him again. “So don’t blame yourself, okay?”
“That’s irrelevant. I’m the adult here,” she said before catching herself. “Sorry. I know you’re 23 and an adult in your own right and you’ve been mature beyond your years through it all. But still, I’m the one who should have never allowed that to happen.”
“It’s not your fault, Aunt Laurel. We were both in a bad place. We were emotionally wrung out and, as much as I hate making excuses, we were both vulnerable. We’ve poured our hearts out to one another more times than I can count since Mom died. And then after Shit-For-Brains walked out on you…”
That always made his aunt laugh, and it had the desired effect when he needed it most.
“Right. The Human Dick With Feet,” she said repeating another of Leyton’s names for his aunt’s soon-to-be ex-husband.
He’d always called him ‘Uncle Denny’ but he wasn’t actually related by blood and wasn’t therefore really his uncle the way his late mom’s brother would have been had she had a brother. Now, he was just Shit-for-Brains.
“Feel better?” he said cheerfully as though he’d just kissed a child’s boo-boo and made everything go away.
“For a few seconds,” she said sweetly. “But I don’t know how I can face you again, Ley,” she said the sadness in her voice returning.
“By accepting it for what it was. A mistake. One made in a moment of weakness. That’s it. We look passed it and forget about it,” he said as confidently as he kaçak iddaa could.
There was a very long period of silence.
“Aunt Laurel?” Leyton finally said.
“I’m here,” she replied quietly.
There was a shorter pause before she said, “I’m just not sure I can. Look passed it, that is.”
Leyton’s tone softened considerably.
“You have to. I…I still need you. And you know you need me. If you turn away from me because of this…”
For the first time in months, his own voice cracked. He stopped talking immediately hoping she hadn’t noticed, but he knew she had.
The emotion showed through in her voice again when she said, “I won’t turn you away, Leyton. Ever.”
“You’re all I’ve got…Laurel,” he said omitting ‘aunt’ the way he’d done…that night.
“I know…sweetheart,” she said giving in and replying with the word she’d used in return.
“Look, I’ve gotta go. We’re on our last string so…”
“I understand,” she said quietly. “When will you be home?”
“Less than a week,” he said without providing the details he’d given to Meghan.
“I miss you,” she said hating herself for saying it because while she did miss him, she couldn’t stop herself from ‘missing’ him, too.
“Fuck!” he said after making sure to turn away and cover the mouthpiece so she couldn’t hear him.
“So um…I’ll see you…both…in a few days, okay?” he said hanging up before she could reply.
He’d avoided calling the first three weeks he was gone for this very reason. He knew she’d be worried sick and he also knew he was being a shit for not at least letting her know he was okay. But no matter how long he’d fantasized about his beautiful aunt, there was no way he was ever going to allow anything like what happened that night to happen again.
“How long will you be gone this time?” Laurel asked.
“A month, give or take,” he told her.
He saw the sadness in her eyes and it killed him to think of her being in that big house with only Meghan who was not only no help but more than a handful. Laurel hoped that in another year or two she’d come back to her senses and settle down, but for the last year or so her daughter had been out of control. There was a short pause after her dad moved out, a brief calm like the eye of a storm that was marked with depression and sadness. But within a week, she was back to partying all night and sleeping all day.
Laurel didn’t know for sure what her daughter was doing, but she had her suspicions. Oh, she knew she was drinking—a lot. She was pretty sure Meghan was getting high and most likely doing other drugs. As much as that worried her, Laurel was worried sick she was sleeping around with a lot of guys, and the fear of her getting some kind of incurable STD drove her crazy. But was also she doing other things that might land her in jail or, unthinkably…dead?
Through it all, at least she’d had Leyton. He was always there for her. She’d even given him a spare room in the house even though he still lived at his mother’s place most of the time as he worked his heart out to pay the mortgage and other bills. He needed to sell the place and find an apartment, but he just couldn’t leave the only place they’d ever lived. At least not yet anyway.
Leyton was everything Denny wasn’t. He was ambitious, hard-working, intelligent, kind, caring, and incredibly handsome. Denny had been hired as an associate professor at Seattle University, but he had little interest in publishing and unless he started getting published, he would ‘perish’ and never be granted tenure. He was a very handsome man when she married him, but over the years he’d let himself go. He’d gained a ton of weight and was drinking more with each passing year. The one possible sign she’d missed was the way he’d started taking care of himself that last year. He stopped drinking and started going to the gym—a lot. He bought new clothes and spent a lot of time at the office, ostensibly writing papers. Only later would Laurel realize where he’d actually been and what he’d been doing—just not with her. With her, he was cold and distant and very unavailable and she’d all but lost interest in him.
And then Meghan had gone off the deep end, and several months after that, her sister had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She was at an all-time low that night before Leyton went to sea.
He’d been gone several times before for a month or more as he’d worked on a crab boat since he turned 18. One of those trips took place not long before Denny left and she’d handled it reasonably well. Denny didn’t talk about things like feelings or emotions and especially not ‘the relationship’ so Laurel didn’t even bother explaining how devastating the loss of her sister had been to her. After all, he’d told her he was real sorry—twice—after Lisa died, so what more could she expect?
And that’s where her very attractive, very young nephew came in. She found it hard to imagine that he was still single, let alone not even dating anyone. Then again, she knew that after the death kaçak bahis of his mother, he hadn’t felt like making conversation and sitting through boring first dates listening to social chit chat as they got to know one another, and she was the lucky beneficiary of his availability.
From his perspective, it had been so much easier to just hang out with his aunt who needed to talk about their loss as much as he did. She’d always been special to him, and the older he got, the more he appreciated her intelligence and insight. Maybe one day, Meghan would, too. For the time being, she was off being a teenager while he and Laurel hung out sharing their misery night after night.
It was getting late that fateful evening and Leyton said he should probably get back home. Laurel objected and asked if he could stay there.
“You’ve got your own room, Leyton. Why drive all the way home?”
“Because I have a bunch of little things I’ve got to get done before I leave,” he explained yet again.
“I know,” she admitted. “I guess I just can’t bear the thought of not seeing you for an entire month.”
Leyton stood up and Laurel walked him to the door in silence.
“It’s not going to be easy for me, either, but at least I have my work to keep me distracted,” he said when they ended up by the door just standing there and not even looking at one another.
Laurel finally spoke.
“It’s funny, you know? I…I feel closer to you than I ever did to my husband. In fact, other than your mom, and perhaps our mother, I’ve never been this close to anyone else in my whole life, Leyton.”
He still couldn’t explain why, but he’d sort of extended his fingers and touched her hand with his as they stood very close to one another. At first it was just a touch. Then her finger was gently rubbing against his. Up and down. Slowly and softly. That turned into her hand in his and moments later, he was holding both of her hands as they stood face to face.
He was looking down, neither of them speaking, as Laurel finally looked up at him. Leyton had slowly raised his head and when their eyes met she leaned over and put her face cheek to cheek with his for a second before kissing him softly on it. And although that’s all it was physically, there was an unmistakable kind of…tension…between them. A strong, almost palpable…sexual…kind of tension.
As she pulled back, Leyton inexplicably turned his head ever so slightly causing Laurel to pause briefly. When she did, he softly kissed her sort of half on the lips and half off. He felt silly and ashamed but before he knew it she did the same thing to him and then it happened.
He kissed her. It wasn’t a friendly peck between nephew and aunt. It wasn’t a goodbye kiss. It was a very real kiss on the lips and Laurel was most definitely kissing him back. Shame welled up in him even now when he found himself getting hard as he recalled the way her tongue had touched his for the briefest of moments.
Somehow he’d managed to find the will to pull back before anything more happened, and although neither of them wanted the moment to end, she did so, too, albeit very slowly.
Neither of them could look at the other even after he’d gently let go of her hands. They stood their in silence for another moment before Leyton cleared his throat then quietly told her goodnight.
As he struggled each day to understand what happened and why, or perhaps to try and pretend it hadn’t happened, he was sure she had battled the same kind of emotions he’d felt ever since…the incident.
They hadn’t spoken since, and Leyton knew this had to be addressed before he came home so he’d fired up the ship-to-shore radio and called her. Unfortunately, the call hadn’t resolved anything and he would be heading home to the same situation still not understanding anything any better than he had when it had happened.
Within 36 hours after hanging up, every tank onboard the crab boat was stuffed with some of the best King crab Leyton had ever seen. He needed the money in the worst way, yet he was most happy for his deckhands who would each take home just over $40,000 for a month’s work. Well, it was 32 days total, but they’d worked an average of 20 hours a day and while hauling pots, many worked well over 48 hours straight without sleep and very little food. But that kind of money was the reason crab fishermen endured some of the worst weather and the harshest and most dangerous working conditions on earth.
Before he headed to the little airport to board a plane back to Seattle, the boat was cleaned, maintained, and fully stocked except for perishable foodstuffs, and ready to go for the Opilio Crab season which ran from October 15 through the 15th of May of the following year. That meant he’d have just under a month back home before heading back to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and back out to the Bering Sea.
His last official act was handing each of his guys a check for $41,312.08. Well, his greenhorn, the one new member of the crew, was only entitled to a half share. But for a 19-year old kid, twenty grand was a fortune, and when Leyton told him he was welcome to come back as a full crew member for Opilios, the kid nearly knocked him over when he bear hugged the young skipper, promising him he’d be there ready to go.
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