Hi. My name is Teejay and I’m an idiot.
If this was an IA meeting (Idiots Anonymous) that’s how I would introduce myself.
The actual name on my birth certificate is Thomasina Joseffa Bishop. It’s just easier to go by Teejay or just Tee.
By nature I am quiet, modest, shy and unassuming. Don’t believe it? Just ask me. I’m forty years past birth, five feet nine inches tall and on the slender side since I lost a lot of weight two years ago in a battle with lung cancer. I won. The weight is returning slowly.
The type of cancer I had may return at any time. My doctors assure me if I make it five years beyond my last treatment I can consider myself cured. To that end I have varying tests every six months and so far I’m winning that race.
Most side effects from both cancer and treatment fade away. Some become permanent. The hair that is lost usually regrows. In my case I have a halo – a bright, white circle of hair on the top of my head, crowning the dark blond hair that grew back, replacing the brunette hair I had. It’s hair. After being bald for over a year, it stays, even if it’s green.
My life was pretty common – married young, two kids, divorced and happy. I didn’t much like the cancer, or the treatment. I survived. Now any day that starts off above ground is a good one.
You probably know other women with a similar story.
Mine only tipped off the tracks when Tim came along.
He’s one of those side effects I mentioned, one that stayed.
For some reason neither of us can explain Tim can talk to me. Inside my head. Like a telephone call without a telephone. Over long distances.
Not even sure how far away he can be and still reach me. Maybe we should check that out one day.
Anyway, during radiation treatment I was told some patients see a flash of blue light; some experience a strong smell of ozone. I’m lucky. I got both – a brilliant flash of bright blue and the stench of ozone.
I can smell lightning half a mile away.
In the case of Tim, I see that same flash of bright blue, smell ozone and get the same effect you get answering your phone. Without the phone. He can talk to me, hear my answers, without a physical instrument of any kind. How? No idea. He just does it.
Tim is gorgeous. Model handsome and then some. He’s three inches over six feet, has hair the color of wet sand, smoky blue gray eyes framed by thick dark lashes. Wide shouldered, narrow hipped, sculpted body. Oh, and he’s also a very well-known and wealthy celebrity. Did I mention he asked me to marry him? Am I Cinderella or what?
He did, I said yes, and then things got sticky.
Tim is one third of a popular country group called T Three, a fact he kept to himself when he first arrived in town. We have a local band named Bullseye that has done pretty well for itself and tours regularly.
When their travels bring them into our vicinity they throw in a performance for the home folks. The last time they were here, their lead singer,
Jerry Mead, recognized Tim, as T. Tom Tanner of T Three and outed him in front of the home town crowd.
Tim in turn invited me up on stage, where he proposed marriage, was accepted, placed a ring on my finger and sang me a song in front of that same home town crowd. I was there, I have the ring, and was so stunned I remember very little of it.
The sticky part was Tim asking his future wife to stand up, me standing up, and some gal none of us had ever seen before standing up at the same time. Then my friends got in the act, and they all stood up, too.
Tim got it straightened out, got the ring on my finger, accepted all the congratulations and got me out of there as quickly as possible.
My first thoughts were who was that woman and why did she stand up. Tim’s first thoughts he kept to himself. When I voiced my questions, he promised answers as soon as we got home, and he got fed.
I managed bacon and eggs while he made coffee once we were home.
“And now,” I said, pouring a last cup of coffee, “who was that lady?”
Tim sighed, stretched out those long legs and leaned back in his chair.
“Long story, Muse,” he began, using his pet name for me. “You sure you’re up for it tonight? Pretty late.”
“I can manage,” I answered.
“Not a pretty story, and it’s gonna ramble, take a while.”
“I have all night,” I said.
He took a deep breath and blew it out.
“You know my dad died when I was fourteen,” he began. “He drove trucks with my uncle Merle. They had started their own business when he went over the side. They were just getting started. My brother Matt took over Dad’s half, started driving trucks with Uncle Merle. Luke, the middle brother, was in college at the time, and Mama insisted he finish. She used the insurance settlement to pay for school, so she waitressed at the truck stop on the highway to keep us afloat.”
He paused to sip coffee.
“Pretty much left me on my own. Tried to keep up with stuff at home, do my homework, all the usual stuff. Then Lurlene came home. Her and her family had lived on the other side of us for ages, just down the dirt road. She was the youngest of three kids, all older than me, so our paths never really crossed beyond a howdy or a wave. She took off when I was ten or eleven, ran off with a farm hand from across town. Big scandal then, different times.”
“Still a scandal,” I put in. “Even now.”
“Well, she was gone for a few years and then she came back. Had two boys, the youngest still in diapers. Her folks took her in of course, her and the boys, although they could ill afford more mouths to feed. She took over the household chores so her momma could work the fields with her daddy.”
“No social life,” he said. “The men around there didn’t want to saddle up with a built in family so they pretty much kept their distance. I don’t think she ever read a book. She was pretty well strapped into the lonely train by the time she was 22.” He grinned at me. “Told you it was a long story.”
“I’m still here,” I said and he continued.
“You know what’s coming. She was a lonely, experienced woman and I was a curious teenager with raging hormones. Should have known better and didn’t. I have to admit, I thought I was pretty hot stuff at the time.”
“You were fourteen?”
“About there. Didn’t even have a driver’s license.”
“So what happened?”
“She showed up one evening at the house, all dressed up. Uncle Merle was there at the time, back from a trip with Matt. So she sat them all down, said she was pregnant, I was the culprit and she was ready to marry up and settle in. Mama said that wasn’t gonna happen. Merle said he’d take her to the doctor for a second opinion. My daddy raised us to be responsible. To my way of thinking I did the deed, I had to take responsibility for it. Next morning I was up and down the road before Mama’s feet hit the floor. I proposed, and we headed for town. Had to walk. I didn’t have my license. We got to town before the court house opened and were sitting on a bench outside. She was giggling and I was sweating like a mule pulling a plow uphill. About then, Mama and Uncle Merle showed up, along with Lurlene’s daddy. They took her straight to the doctor, left me waiting in the truck.”
Tim sighed and reached for my hand. “I’m sorry, babe. I told you it wasn’t a nice story.”
“And what happened? Did you marry her?”?
“Oh, hell no. Mama never would have signed for me. It turned out she wasn’t pregnant. Couldn’t even get pregnant again, some kind of problem when her second was born. Her daddy took her home and Uncle Merle took us all back to our house.”
“Was that the end of it?”
“Nope. Just the beginning really. She would walk past the house two or three times a day, every day, until Mama went to the sheriff. He had a talk with Lurlene’s daddy and she slacked off. Years went by. I took up guitar, started singing in bars to make a little money. Long story short, I hooked up with my cousin Mark, Merle’s boy, and another guy we picked up along the way and formed T Three. We got really lucky. Hit song at the right time. Got an agent, a contract and headed uptown. Thought we were stepping in high cotton. Mama quit the truck stop, Luke finished school and passed the bar, became a full-fledged lawyer and joined a firm in Austin. First time since daddy died things were really looking up.”
“Then Lurlene showed up again. Started calling radio stations, television studios, even some magazines. Told people we were married, that the boys were mine, all kinds of stuff she dreamed up. Earned a label as a nut job, and a restraining order from my brother Luke. Then she started showing up where we were performing, followed us all over Texas. Then it was all over the country. She even got into my hotel room one night.
Had to have the police get her out.”
“Wasn’t there anything you could do?”
“Not really. Just call the cops. She went to jail a few times before she finally knocked that off. Things would go along great for a while, and then, there she was again. That woman is just barefoot mean.”
“What happened to her?”
Tim sighed again, and squeezed my fingers. “That woman at the Gem? The one who stood up?”
“Her?” I said, and felt a knot in my stomach.
“Yep. That was her.”
“How did she know you were here? In Monarch?”
“No idea, babe. None at all. Haven’t seen her in years. Thought that was all behind us. Just when you think it’s over and forget it, it’s right back.”
“Do you think she’s going to start again?”
“No idea. My biggest concern right now is you.”
“Me? Why me? She doesn’t know me.”
“She does now, Muse. I had to be the big shot, and propose right there in front of God and everybody. Wanted everyone to know you were taken. Showing off for Sheriff John.”
“You did a bang up job of that,” I smiled at him.
“Yeah, I did. And I put a target right between your shoulder blades.”
“What happened to her boys?”
“No idea. Her dad died the next year and her mom sold the place. Don’t even know where they moved. Lost track of the family till she showed up after a show a couple of years later. That’s all I know. We weren’t at the Christmas card stage.”
I stood up and stretched. “Not your fault, Tim.”
He stood up, too, and carried his cup to the sink. “I could have handled it better,” he said, rinsing the cup.
“Hardly. You were a child! A fourteen year old boy is not ready to get married! And certainly not ready to be a father! This one I win, babe.
There is no way that was your fault.”
He gathered me against his chest and dropped his cheek on top of my head. “Well, maybe this will put an end to it. She heard me propose, too.
Now that she knows I’m actually getting married.”
He lifted his head and tipped my chin up. “I am, you know.”
“You are what?”
“Getting married,” he grinned. He took my hand and turned it so the light flashed off the lilac colored stone. “You said yes.”
That ended a long day.
~ ~ ~
We were up so late we slept in the next morning. By the time we got to Kelly’s it was closer to lunch time. I was a little surprised to see Sharon in her usual booth. We grabbed cups and slid in across from her.
“Good morning,” she fairly sang. “That was quite a show you put on last night. Congratulations, again.”
“Thanks,” Tim smiled.
“So when’s the big event?”
“What event?” I asked, in need of caffeine.
Sharon shook her head. “The wedding, doofus. When’s the wedding? Will it be here or back in Texas? You did say you were from Texas, right?” This last she looked over at Tim.
“Yes, ma’am,” he agreed. “Born and raised.”
“And is everything really bigger in Texas?” She asked with a smile.
“Can’t testify to everything,” Tim smiled back. “Just a whole lot of it.”
“I was kidding,” she said. “So, seriously, when’s the wedding? And here? Or there?”
“Good grief, Sharon,” I answered. “We haven’t decided yet. You’ll be the first to know when anything is settled.”
“Okay, I get that. So, who was that woman? Did you know her? I’ve never seen her before.”
Oh boy. Like a bulldog with a pork chop.
I shook my head and looked around for Sally, who was making her way back with the pot of life giving fluid known as coffee.
“Well? Did you know her?”
I clutched my cup and looked at Tim.
He took a deep breath and sighed it out.
“She’s a fan,” he said. “Been around a while.”
Sharon sat back and looked at me and then at Tim. Reaching across the table she lifted my left hand and turned it to admire my ring.
“This is beautiful, Tim. You did very well with this one.”
“It was my grandma’s,” he smiled at her.
“Shouldn’t that go to the oldest? I thought you had older brothers.”
“Yep, two of them. Luke and Matt.”
“Then how did you wind up with Grandma’s ring?”
“Asked for it,” he grinned. “I loved the story when I was growing up. Decided I wanted it for my wife one day, and when I asked, she pulled it off and handed it to me.”
“Oh, a story! Some family history with it. That’s always special.”
“It’s pretty old fashioned. If Tee doesn’t like it we can get another.”
“I love it,” I said, folding my fingers around it. “It stays.”
“You going to share the story? Or is it just for family?”
Tim leaned back against the seat. “It’s a neat story,” he began. “My grandma was named Amethyst. Amethyst Amelia. When grandpa decided to propose he wanted an amethyst ring, although he had never seen one. He couldn’t find one in town, so he went into Austin, the big city. He found one in a second hand store there, only he didn’t have enough money. He asked the clerk to set it aside for him, said he would be back to get it.”
“Did he save up for it?” I was as curious as Sharon.
“Nope. The rodeo was in town. That was the excuse he used to get to town in the first place. He entered the bull riding and won twenty bucks. He took that to a backroom poker game in a bar and won the rest of it.” “That’s a nice story,” Sharon said.
“Not the end of it,” Tim grinned. “He found out after he gave it to her that it wasn’t an amethyst. Turned out to be plain glass that had turned color sitting in the window for so long. By the time he found a real one, and bought it, they had two kids and another on the way. She never wore it. That one went to my brother Matt. Grandma wore this one. She wore a silver chain around her neck with a safety pin on it. When she was cooking, she’d clip this ring on the chain with the pin. Always said she didn’t want to bite it in a biscuit. She was buried with the chain and the safety pin.”
We sat for a minute absorbing the story.
“That’s wonderful, Tim,” I said, reaching to squeeze his hand.