Elaine and Donna:
A Love Story
Part 2: Northeastern Allies
Elaine and Donna sped eastward through Illinois, headed toward Indiana, oblivious to what was happening at that exact moment back in Childers. Their thoughts were on putting miles between themselves and home as quickly as possible, both geographically and emotionally. As they finally relaxed in the realization that they had pulled off their plan of escape, neither girl was consciously aware of what was occurring in each kitchen of their respective childhood homes at that exact moment. Both of their mothers were still sitting in semi-shock at the checkered cloth covered tables when their husbands arrived for breakfast and were made aware of the situation. All four just sat mute for a long time, not knowing exactly what to make of it all, both sets of parents unaware of what had just unfolded in the other household.
It was well into the day before Elaine’s or Donna’s parents thought to call the other to see if they might know of the whereabouts of their daughters……maybe Elaine knew where Donna had gone…..maybe Donna knew where Elaine had gone. Partly this was embarrassment over the event itself, but mostly due to the shock from the suddenness—neither had any inkling that this might be coming—they were just stunned, not thinking rationally. When Elaine’s mother finally worked up the courage to call Donna’s parents she was further taken aback that they were facing the same situation at their house. Elaine was right……these were not stupid people and they immediately saw what had happened and knew that wherever their daughters were that they were together.
Donna’s parents drove over to their neighbors’ farm and together the four of them sat at the kitchen table with coffee in hand wondering what to do. Their daughters, while young and impulsive, said one father, were technically adults and it was not like they were runaway children. Another wanted to initiate a massive search right away……but another immediately brought up the fact that they had no idea which direction they had gone, where they might be heading, or even how they were traveling. They had all seen the note telling Elaine’s father how to recover his pick-up, so they obviously were in an unknown vehicle. The biggest mystery another chirped in was what they were using for money……both girls had received small amounts of cash as gifts for graduation, but certainly not enough to finance a road trip of any length. Donna had abandoned her cell phone in her room, so it was obvious they did not want to be found until they were ready said her mother.
Donna’s parents suggested prayer and pleading with God to bring them back……that they all go to church now and pray. While not atheists, the religious blather annoyed Elaine’s parents almost as much as it did Donna. They just rolled their eyes at each other and let it slide……pray away thought Elaine’s mother…..whatever gets you through this. In the end, in a rare show of what might have seemed like enlightenment from the outside, but was in actuality more along the lines of resignation and throwing in the towel, Elaine’s father stood up and made the pronouncement that they just sit tight and see what transpired. He said that he did not see that they had any real clear legal control over two young adults in full command of their faculties……most likely this was just to blow off some steam following graduation and that they would most likely come running back when they had run out of money….maybe a day or two……week at the most. They were together and that was a positive, and both girls were smart and practical. No one disagreed or agreed as he sat down…..the silence was deafeningly loud……they looked at each other and just nodded and Donna’s folks went home.
The girls’ plan had worked perfectly……they had anticipated the possibility of being discovered soon and to give themselves some breathing room they purposely left in the wee hours of the morning. The abandonment of the cell phone they were hoping would be seen as the message that was received…..that they would be in contact in their own way and on their own schedule. They were also counting on the adult stature of their legal age as a positive—this they knew was a slight gamble—but it had worked well also. The one huge advantage they had was the trust fund…..neither set of parents had any idea that it existed and Elaine had already brought up to Donna a key point that had been discussed in the kitchen of her parents’ home: they all thought the girls would have no money and therefore would be back quickly after a few days of running around. Maybe, Elaine said, they even think we borrowed a car from someone in town. The trust fund changed everything and she was sure that at some point the parents’ concerns would escalate when they remained gone for days and then weeks. At that point she reasoned, they will most likely consider mounting some sort of search, but after all the time that will have passed, they will be more lost than ever in terms of where to look.
The thought of this bothered both girls as they did not want to cause their parents any undue stress and worry over them and their whereabouts and welfare. As they drove they pondered this issue. Finally, Donna suggested they just send another letter at some point…..maybe after getting to Massachusetts……saying they had found jobs elsewhere, and needed to just be on their own for a while. They could send it together since their folks would obviously know by then that they were together. Maybe send it from another state to try and cloak their location she suggested. Elaine liked the idea but suggested they simply make it electronic from a dummy e-mail account that they could disable once they composed and mailed it. They could do this on a regular basis so that there would be no worries but at the same time would conceal their location and what they were really up to. She was not sure anyone would think to check postmarks, but after all their preparations and plans, she did not want to take any chances, however small.
Maybe one day, Elaine had said, we can go back and tell them all the whole truth…..once we’re done with school and famous and independent…..she laughed at herself as she spoke. In all seriousness, though she flew the idea of staying in touch electronically from temporary accounts to keep them from worrying themselves into cancer and Donna saw the inherent pluses of this approach. And, said Elaine, one day, somewhere down the road, when the time is right and attitudes have evolved a bit in Kansas, we can go back and explain our relationship and see how it is viewed. Either they will accept us as we are because we are their daughters and they love us or they will find our situation unacceptable and throw us out, and we will be in no worse of a situation than we are now.
Donna thought this over as they moved through Illinois and neared the Indiana line as late afternoon was transitioning into the evening. They had shared the driving as they moved along, but they had both been up since 2 am and were exhausted. It had been a good first day and they had wanted to put many miles between them and Childers on the first day out. As they saw signs for the Indiana line just a half hour or so away, Elaine suggested they call it a day, get some good sleep and push on tomorrow. There was no real rush now and they could make each day a bit more leisurely now……maybe look around some as they went.
Donna’s school year did not start until August 28th and all they really had to do was get her there for all the orientation stuff and make sure her stipend was in order as well as register for classes. Obviously they would need to find a place to live, but they were not looking for anything extravagant and Elaine was sure that would be a minor issue. Most kids she figured would be on campuses and Donna did not need to snag dorm space……finding a small apartment or a studio should be just a formality. As Donna rolled over the next hill in the road, they spotted a small inn that had individual cottages associated with it……it looked quiet and cute, and best of all the vacancy sign was lit.
The girls took cottage #4 which was at the far backside of the complex, away from the road noise as well as the other scattering of cottages available. They dumped off some overnight stuff on the bed and walked over to the small diner that was attached to the area to grab a quick and well-needed dinner. The diner was about half full, a few older couples and a family of four, but it was a REAL diner, something both Elaine and Donna loved from their childhoods in Kansas. It served just basic, simple food with great friendly service with no-nonsense-booths and tables. It was relieving to be away from anyone that might recognize them and to be well on their trip to the east coast. They were tired from the day’s travel and the stress of all the planning and secrecy and deception, but the diner was like a welcoming set of arms wrapping around them comfortably.
All the anxiety and worries and tensions of the day just melted away as they feasted on roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a killer apple cobbler for dessert. They talked quietly over dinner---still an ingrained habit from Childers—about fluff… nothing big really. For so long they had been planning and questioning and hiding the truth that it was nice to have some time to just relax and enjoy the time together like normal eighteen-year-olds. They left the diner after dinner, their bellies full and their minds spinning with the aftermath of their successful escape as they wandered leisurely back to their cottage. As they walked, Donna slipped her arm around Elaine’s waist and puller her close, the pair walking in coordinated steps. Elaine leaned her head on Donna’s shoulder as they walked, both finally glad to be able to exhibit at least a minimal degree of public affection at long last.
Meanwhile back in Childers, everyone had decided to take Elaine’s father’s advice and just take a deep breath and relax. The girls, while adventurous and headstrong at times were not, they agreed, reckless or irresponsible. They were convinced that within a few days or a week at most that the whole escapade would be over and done with, Elaine and Donna returning to begin normal and leading respectable lives in Childers just like the four of them. Elaine’s parents were glad to finally be rid of Donna’s folks as all the speeches of the “devil at work” and “greater need for religion in the schools” were making them nuts. The one thing they all agreed on was to try and keep this under wraps as much as possible. Childers was small and talk moved in lightning speed; the last thing they wanted was for this to get out making them the focus of whatever it was that Elaine and Donna were up to.
Fortunately for everyone, Elaine and Donna had been very successful at making their relationship as a couple a complete secret…….this would most likely have destroyed Donna’s parents completely and made their standing in the church quite untenable. Otherwise, it would have just made it really difficult for all of them to go out and about in town as normal……all the things Elaine and Donna had known would evolve if the truth came out would materialize: the finger-pointing, being ostracized and shunned, gossiping behind their backs. However, the one leak they did not account for was the two young boys that remained behind…..Donna’s older brother, Ed, and Elaine’s kid brother, Jimmy.
When two weeks had gone by and there had been no sign of a return or any communication from either girl, the parents grew more concerned, but still kept the situation just among the four of them. They were busy keeping two struggling small farms afloat and so far they had not had to explain anything to anyone else. The younger brothers though had overheard some smattering of details about their missing sisters and bit by bit word got around town…..the small size of Childers was indeed like an old party line phone and soon Elaine and Donna’s absences were well known. As soon as Elaine’s mother made her next shopping trip into town it was clear that the secret had been leaked and hiding her embarrassment as best she could she smiled and ad-libbed some nonsense about the girls wanting to spread their wings and see some of the country before settling down in Childers.
She quickly called Donna’s mother and filled her in on the unfortunate situation, giving her the details of what she had been telling people that asked in case she was approached as well. If nothing else she said, we need to be on the same page with this thing….as unified as possible until it is resolved. What the parents did not know, however, was that these few initial weeks were to be just the beginning…..that their daughters would be “missing” for a long time. The mothers were of a completely different generation, with vastly different motivations and desires and needs than their daughters and quite frankly were at a baffling loss as to why they were doing this—whatever that might be—and why anyone would want anything that Childers, Kansas could not provide.
As their secret departure was being revealed back home, Elaine and Donna continued their journey to Massachusetts, thoroughly thrilled and excited with each new day of the adventure. They moved gradually through Indiana, Ohio—which both found to be very forgettable—, the long expanse of Pennsylvania, and finally into Connecticut. They had toyed with the idea of taking a side trip to New York City just to see all the sights first hand, but in the end, decided that for now it might be a better idea to go on and get to Amherst and get settled in an apartment. Despite Elaine’s strong feelings that finding a place would be no big deal, they did know that the wave of students would be a factor and that they did not want to have to settle for something less than desirable. Besides, Donna pointed out….they could always take the train down to NYC any time after their house was set up.
The girls liked Connecticut quite well…… a nice mix of rural countryside with urban spots they thought. The towns though more congested and dirty than they were used to back home, were smaller than a lot of the cities they had passed through and driven by. Elaine liked the small feel of the towns that were dotted around in the western and central parts of the state, the fact that a shoreline was accessible—even if it was a few hours’ drive from some locations—and that it afforded some nice access to mountains as well. Being close to NYC was kind of a kick as well…..nice having the urban monster near but not in your face.
They made their way over to Hartford from Waterbury and Danbury, passing through the college town of Middletown. It was not at all what they had expected……it was nice…..sort of a “busy-quiet” Elaine thought. After a brief stay for a couple of days around the coast staying at a delightful little inn in Old Lyme—a small present to themselves—Elaine and Donna headed back northwest and then on to Massachusetts. Old Lyme was one of the most picturesque places that the girls had seen so far on their drive…….beautiful coastline with boats galore and just a peaceful and serene little village overall. As they drove north up I-91, the girls got a good taste of the overall congestion and traffic headaches that residents of the Hartford area knew well. It was a shock to both of them having come from a small rural farm town and even more so after their wonderful stay on the coast in Old Lyme. Elaine gritted her teeth and just pushed through the mess and as they moved north by a very uninspiring Springfield and into Amherst.
They arrived late in the afternoon and went to look at possibly taking a room for a couple of days at this quaint and secluded B&B that they came upon. Donna had pointed it out as they drove, just liking the looks of the historic house. Elaine pulled over so they could look closer and they discovered it was not just a private home, but a B&B. Elaine suggested that it might make a good base for them from which to get a feel for the town, see how both UMass and Hampshire were located geographically, and just begin their search for a new home. Donna nodded eagerly having been captivated by the house itself and they spun the car around and went over to check for any availability. Unfortunately, they were told, their late arrival was too late for a room in the house. However, if they were interested, the owners had a small carriage house out back that they had just finished renovating that she could offer them. It’s sort of like a small apartment over an old carriage barn, she said, not as fancy as our regular rooms, but they were welcome to take a look and see what they thought.
Elaine and Donna really liked the feel and looks of the house itself and the idea of having their own self-contained place away from the main house appealed to them both. The woman handed over the key and they jogged up the stairs that led to the elevated apartment on one side of the building. Elaine opened the door and they both stood, staring in disbelief, mouths hanging open at what they saw. The interior of the apartment had been done over in the style of a throwback to the late 1800s. There were kerosene lamps, an elaborate, highly frilled 4-poster bed covered with a thick hand-made quilt, an old jet black wood stove, tons of woven rugs, and tastefully arrayed decorations and accessories all over that made you feel as if you had walked back in time. Elaine glanced sideways at Donna and out of the corner of her eye she got her answer. Donna did not need to say anything…she could see she was in love with the place.
“Think we can afford this?” Donna asked with
expectation in her voice.
“Have no idea…..” Elaine responded, “let’s find out.”
They returned to the main house where the owner was offering her guests tea and some scones on a delicate blue china setting. When Elaine saw that her heart sank a bit thinking the place would be way out of their comfort zone. There was plenty in the trust fund, but the trip had not been cheap and she certainly did not want to spend the funds on a whim. They inquired as to what the rate for the carriage house might be and again were pleasantly shocked when the woman told them she would be happy to rent it to them for the same rate as a room in the house.
“Just got the thing up and running,” she said, “and it’s kind of inconvenient, being away from everything
The girls could not believe their ears. The carriage house accommodations were far beyond anything they had ever seen or stayed in before……and the separation from the main house to them was a huge plus. They still had no idea at how their relationship would be received…..being in an unknown location and all. They could not have asked for a more perfect situation.
“All I ask girls…..” the woman continued, “is that you stay at least 2 nights. Easier on the upkeep
and cleaning and all.”
Donna explained the reason for their being in Amherst and that at least 2 nights was exactly what they had in mind as they hunted for a place to live as they got ready for school. The girls felt like they had stumbled into a bargain, and the woman was pleased to be able to rent out a space that no current guests had been remotely interested in. They paid in advance for the 2 nights, letting her know they would know by then if they would need a longer stay. They moved the car to a parking spot just behind the carriage house so they would not have to walk through the main house for access, dumped their stuff in the room and returned to the main house at the invitation of the owner for tea and scones.
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