Chapter 1: Days of Splendor
Jeromy Jenkins was an old hermit who use to live in a cabin amongst a stand of white pine trees deep inside of the Mark Twain National Forest near the town of Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Old Jeromy didn’t much like other people and stayed as far away from civilization as he could. Jeromy was a veteran, serving in the army from 1968 to 1990. He had survived two tours in Vietnam and was an avid survivalist living off the land as he had during his times in the jungle. After leaving the army Jeromy quickly landed a job with the butler county sheriff’s department in Poplar Bluff. This was a happy time in his life. He had not had time for a family having been married to his career, but was now looking to find the right woman and start a family. This opportunity came about two years later while he was on vacation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Janice Green was a local to the area having grown up there and spent much of her free time on the beach when not teaching at the local high school. Janice had no kids and was married only once until her husband was killed in a car crash only a few months after they got married. She never even considered getting involved with another man after that and buried herself in her work. One fateful day while at the beach Janice decided to go for a swim, but was unaware of the strong undertow that day and did not realize she was slowly being pulled out to sea. By the time she realized it, she was nearly an eighth of a mile from shore. Janice panicked and began to scream. She tried desperately to swim back toward the shore but the current was too strong and continued to carry her further away. It was then that Jeromy was walking down the beach when he thought he heard a faint scream.
“Help me!” cried Janice. Jeromy stopped in his tracks and began scanning the waters just past the nearby pier but saw nothing. Once more he heard the scream but it was a little fainter. Again, he scanned the water. This time he saw what appeared to be someone’s head bobbing in and out of the water. Janice was too far out for Jeromy to swim so he frantically looked around for a boat but there were none to be seen. Quickly he stepped onto the pier, ran as fast as he could and took a dive off the end into the water. Jeromy was determined to save the woman in distress. By this time the lifeguards were alerted to the danger and called for a boat to help in the rescue but it would most likely not arrive in time to prevent Janice from drowning. Meanwhile Jeromy swam his hardest to reach Janice before she was lost to the sea. He reached her just as her head sank beneath the waves but he was too late as she had already swallowed too much water and drowned. Jeromy knew he had to get Janice to the shore quickly if he were to have any chance of reviving her. Jeromy put his arm around Janice’s waist and began pulling her toward shore but his efforts were in vain as the current continued to pull both further out to sea. Jeromy had no options left other than to keep Janice’s head above water for as long as he could but soon his strength had left him so he just lay his head back in the water and awaited his fate. Just as he thought all was lost a lifeguard boat came up next to them and pulled them from the water.
“I’m fine, work on her,” ordered Jeromy. Soon Janice was breathing again and her heart began to pound in her chest.
When Janice woke in the hospital, Jeromy was the first person she saw as he peered down at her with concerned eyes. Janice looked at him curiously having only just seen his face for the first time.
“Who are you and where am I?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. My name is Jeromy and you are in the hospital. You were caught in a rip current and it was taking you out to sea. By the time I got to you, you had already drowned but the lifeguards were able to revive you.”
“So, you got to me before them?”
“Yes, but not very long before them.”
“So, if you had not got to me when you did I might have been lost to the sea?”
“Well, let’s not speculate. You are alive, that is all that matters.”
“You are my hero Jeromy. Thank you.”
“Your welcome. Well I suppose we should let the doctor know that you’re awake.”
“Sure, I suppose so,” answered Janice. As Jeromy stepped out into the hallway he was met by several reporters.
“Mister Jenkins. How does it feel to be a hero?” asked Emily Emerson a reporter for the local news station.
“Oh, I’m no hero. I just did what anyone else would have done,” answered Jeromy.
“I understand that you are a war hero and that you served two tours in Vietnam,” continued Emily.
“Now how do you know all that?” asked Jeromy, a little aggravated.
“I guess that you are used to risking your life for others,” said Emily disregarding Jeromy’s question. Just then more reporters stepped out of the elevator and went straight to Jeromy pummeling him with questions.
“Now look here people, I just came out here to find the doctor and inform him that Janice is awake,” said Jeromy feeling overwhelmed.
“She’s awake? You mean she was in a coma?” asked Emily.
“Coma? No, I mean, I don’t know. I need to go back and check on her,” said Jeromy now highly annoyed. He was not much for crowds or being in the spotlight.
Doctor Gant overheard Jeromy talking to the reporters about Janice being awake so he asked the reporters to step into the waiting room.
“Mister Jenkins, can you come into the waiting room for an interview please?” asked Nick Mason, a reporter for CBS news.
“No sir, I just want to check on the lady. Excuse me please,” answered Jeromy before turning to follow the doctor into Janice’s room.
“Well hello Janice. How are you feeling?” asked Doctor Gant.
“Fine, thanks to Jeromy,” answered Janice while admiring her rescuer.
“Yes ma’am, you are very fortunate that Mister Jenkins was nearby,” said the doctor looking over his shoulder at Jeromy. Jeromy just smiled nervously not knowing what to say. He watched anxiously as Doctor Gant examined Janice noticing that every time he looked into her face she was staring back.
“You know Jeromy, you’re a very handsome man,” said Janice.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” answered Jeromy.
“You seem to be in pretty good condition Miss Green. I think I could let you go home now if you would like,” said Doctor Gant interrupting.
“Really? That would be great Doctor,” said Janice.
“The nurse will be bringing dinner around in a few minutes. You can wait until after you eat if you would like.”
“Oh, yes doctor, sounds good,” said Janice not taking her eyes off Jeromy. Feeling like a third wheel, Doctor Gant then stepped out of the room.
“Can you take me home Jeromy?” asked Janice.
“Um… sure,” answered Jeromy with a little hesitation not knowing what to expect.
“Oh, I’m sorry. A little forward? I did not mean to make you uncomfortable Jeromy.”
“Oh no, you just caught me by surprise. I’m used to being the aggressor but I thought that it was a little early.”
“I’m so embarrassed. You probably think I’m a slut now, don’t you? Oh my god,” continued Janice.
“Oh, no not at all Janice. I’m totally taken by you and I secretly hoped that would happen someday but I wasn’t expecting so soon,” answered Jeromy. About this time a nurse walked into the room with a tray of food.
“Hello Janice. Let me just pull up your table and we’ll get you fixed up,” said the nurse.
“Thank you, nurse.”
“No problem ma’am. Once you’re finished eating let me know and I’ll get you a wheel chair so you can go home.”
“Thanks nurse, that would be wonderful,” answered Janice. Janice looked down at her food and then at Jeromy.
“You know Jeromy, I’m not really that hungry. Maybe we could just go ahead and leave,” suggested Janice.
“Hey lady, just cool your engines. You need to eat something after the ordeal you just went through. You need to regain your strength,” ordered Jeromy.
“Ooh, so I need all the energy that I can get huh?” Jeromy did not answer, he just thought to himself; ’Oh my god. What did I get myself into?’
“Oh, there I go again. I probably sound like a drunken prom date.”
“Oh my god, I do sound like a drunken prom date. I’m sorry. You probably think I’m a fruit loop, don’t you?” asked Janice.
“Oh no, not at all,” lied Jeromy.
“It’s just that I have been alone since my husband died and I haven’t been with a man for years. I just thought that since you risked your life to rescue me that perhaps it was a sign from God. Oh well. I feel stupid now.”
“Janice, I’m sorry for your loss. It must have been very hard for you. Perhaps we could get to know each other first and when it does happen, it will make it all the more special.” Janice stared into Jeromy’s eyes and could see his sincerity. Tears began to stream down her cheeks. Jeromy stood up and walked over to Janice’s side. Janice reached out and pulled him close laying her head on his shoulder.
“It’s okay darling. You just let it all out,” said Jeromy patting Janice on the back.
“Is everything okay?” asked the nurse, while entering the room.
“Yes nurse. She’s just a little emotional right now,” answered Jeromy.
“Oh, do you need a minute ma’am?” asked the nurse.
“No. I’m okay,” answered Janice releasing her death grip on Jeromy.
“Okay. Do you need more time to eat ma’am?”
“No. You can take the food.”
“Okay. I’ll be back in a moment to take out your IV and bring a wheelchair, then you will be free to go.”
“Thank you, nurse.” Janice then turned to Jeromy still somewhat sobbing.
“You don’t have to take me home Jeromy. I’m sorry for acting so psycho. I’ll understand if you just want to get away from me as soon as possible,” said Janice.
“Nonsense. I know that you have gone through a lot, especially this most recent trauma. I do understand and yes, I will be glad to take you home. However, I will not take advantage of your emotional state, although you are such a beautiful woman. I think that I would rather get to know you first. You are definitely someone that I would like to know long term. A phone number would suffice for now,” said Jeromy.
“Oh sure, no problem,” answered Janice somewhat anxious. Just then the nurse reentered the room.
“I bet you are ready to get that IV out now Janice,” said the nurse.
“Yes ma’am. I am so ready to go home.”
“I’ll be just outside the door while you get dressed,” said Jeromy.
“Oh, you can stay. I mean, yes that would probably be best,” said Jill.
While Jeromy was waiting outside the nurse stepped out of the room returning shortly thereafter with a wheel chair. At about that time Janice walked into the hallway.
“Please have a seat Janice,” asked the nurse.
“May I push her out,” asked Jeromy.
“Sure. You certainly can sir. You two have a wonderful day and behave yourselves,” said the nurse grinning. Jeromy only blushed while Janice had a vibrant smile radiating from her beautiful face. Jeromy pushed Janice into the elevator and then into the lobby.
“Wait here. I’ll be back with the car,” said Jeromy.
“Okay. I’ll be right here handsome.” A moment later Jeromy pulled up and helped Janice into the car.
“So, where do you live?” asked Jeromy after he took a seat behind the wheel.
“Oh, 1211 south tenth street. You will come in and let me cook dinner for you, won’t you?”
“Now Janice, you are in no condition to cook anything right now. You are lucky to be alive and you need to rest. Leave it to me Janice. I will cook dinner for you,” suggested Jeromy.
“Oh, no Jeromy. You saved my life today. I should be cooking dinner for you.”
“Trust me Janice you did save my life today from all the boredom that is my own. I insist but don’t expect any desert.”
“Ah! Don’t be such a fuddy duddy.”
“Behave yourself please ma’am.”
Upon arrival to Janice’s house Jeromy just sat motionless in the car.
“What’s the matter?” asked Janice.
“I’m scared Janice,” answered Jeromy. “What are you scared of?”
“You.” Janice smiled.
“Okay, I promise that I will behave Jeromy.”
At that Jeromy got out of the car and walked around to open Janice’s door. He offered Janice his hand and she gladly took it.
“You know Jeromy, I owe you my life and I feel obligated to repay you. I don’t normally offer myself so freely. In fact, I haven’t been with a man in years but there is just something about you that I can’t resist. Come on inside Jeromy and I will tell you what is on my mind.” Jeromy followed Janice into the house hoping that he could remain a gentleman.
“Please sit down Jeromy and make yourself at home.”
“It’s a beautiful place you have here Janice.”
“Oh, thank you. Now what I wanted to tell you is that when I opened my eyes and saw you, I instantly felt safe. I thought for a moment that you might have been an angel.”
“Oh, I’m no angel,” replied Jeromy.
“Oh, but you are. Most men would have left once they saw that I had been revived. If they did stick around like you and were offered sex, they would have eagerly accepted it.
I am a pretty hot lady after all,” said Janice looking up at Jeromy through her eyebrows to see his reaction. Jeromy just smiled.
“You were a perfect gentleman and that is rare in a man these days. So, either you’re gay or a genuine godsend.
“Well I can assure you Janice I’m neither. Look Janice, this is too much information too soon. I only just met you. Let us have a nice dinner and then I must leave. I will call you and we can go out some time. For now, let’s take it slow because I can see something in you that I haven’t seen in a woman before. I do not want to ruin a good thing with sex. Sex on a first date is meaningless. It’s only an act of lust. How can you care for someone if you have sex with them on the same day you meet them? It’s meaningless. It’s just a way of satisfying one’s physical yearnings. I have done that plenty of times and then afterwards either I leave or they do and we never see each other again. Loneliness then sets in until the next one-night stand. Look Janice, I want to do things right. The way my parents did. The way God wants me to. I want a woman not just for one night, but for a life time.” Janice was stunned to hear such words from a man.
“You were sent from heaven. I really want you to stay in my life. I have always wanted the things that you just mentioned but the world such as it is has dealt me the wrong hand over and over again. I am now convinced that God has finally answered my prayers,” said Janice. Jeromy just smiled.
“So, what would you like to eat?” asked Jeromy. A tear of joy streamed down Janice’s cheek.
“I think that I have the fixings for spaghetti. I hope that it is not too much trouble.”
“No trouble at all pretty lady.” Jeromy easily persuaded Janice to come back to Missouri with him at the end of his vacation where he set her up in an apartment with a female colleague from his department. From that day forward Jeromy and Janice spent a lot of time with one another falling deeper in love day by day. They dated for several months remaining abstinent and true to Jeromy’s wishes. One weekend Jeromy surprised Janet by flying her back to Virginia where he took her to the beach that night. The same beach where Jeromy had saved her life. Laying a blanket out on the sand Jeromy took out some food that he had brought along and carefully placed it on the blanket.
“Well this is really romantic. A midnight walk down the beach. A romantic dinner on the sand. It is a little dark though don’t’ you think honey,” asked Janice. Jeromy just held up his index finger then reached into the basket and produced some candles complete with holders. He placed one on either end of the blanket and lit them.
“Well you’ve thought of everything,” said Janice.
“Let’s eat,” Jeromy responded.
“Okay, so what do you have there, Jeromy?”
“Well, I have some oysters on the half shell and some caviar. Enjoy.” After eating a few oysters and feeding each other caviar Jeromy suddenly became very serious.
“I love you with all my heart.” Janice just melted at hearing those words for this was the first-time Jeromy had ever told her the magic words she so longed for. Jeromy then reached into his pocket and pulled out a beautiful one carat diamond ring.
“Janice Green, I would be so honored if you would become my wife. What say you Miss Green?” asked Jeromy. Tears streamed down Janice’s face.
“What say Miss Green?” repeated Jeromy. Janice smiled through her tears then suddenly leaped on top of Jeromy knocking him backwards to the ground.
“yes, yes, a million times yes,” said Janice as she repeatedly kissed Jeromy all over his face. Two months later, on May 3rd of 1983 Janice’s father gave his daughter a lavish wedding. It was the happiest day of the couple’s life. As Jeromy and Janice finished their vows the pastor pronounced them man and wife. After a long passionate kiss, Janice whispered into Jeromy’s ear.
“You are so getting laid tonight over and over and over again.” Jeromy just smiled and said back into Janice’s ear.
“I’m ready for you.” The next morning Jeromy woke up and opened the window and took in a deep breath of the fresh mountain air. The couple had flown into Springfield, Missouri and then drove the short distance to Branson where they had decided to spend their honey moon. There were clothes strewn from the front door across the condo all the way to the bedroom. The bed was messed up in all kinds of ways and Janice lie naked with the covers and the sheets hanging over the side of the bed and into the floor. Jeromy covered his wife then went to the kitchen to cook breakfast. Janice soon woke to the smell of bacon and fresh coffee.
“Oh honey, aren’t you sweet,” as she walked into the kitchen.
“Good morning honey. I was going to surprise you with breakfast in bed,” said Jeromy.
“Oh honey, it is a good thing I found you in the kitchen because if you get anywhere near that bed you’re in for it,” said Janice.
“Didn’t you get enough last night?”
“Jeromy, you made me wait for many months and we have a lot of lost time to make up for. You just took a tiger by the tail so get used to it.” After breakfast the couple went for another round and then fell asleep in each other’s arms.