Justine took a job in town as a receptionist at a car dealership. The owner offered to pay her college tuition if she’d sign up for an accounting course so twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays Justine went to the local college for two hours after working all day. Jimmy said he didn’t want to be tied to a job… instead he stayed home finishing the cabin’s interior and tending the vegetable garden they’d planted and smoking marijuana.
They had the cabin up by the middle of July. It consisted of a plywood covered frame with a roof covered in tar paper to keep the rain out and windows to let in light and a door to keep out the varmints… and best of all they had a bathroom with running water in the sink and a toilet that flushed, scavenged from the front yard of a house in one of the better neighborhoods. The shower only ran cold unless the sun shined and warmed the water tank painted black and nestled on the roof.
Several people they’d met at the cabin-raising in Mendocino had come over to help them with their cabin, including a young girl who seemed quite smitten with Jimmy, a plain-looking thing with yellow teeth and small breasts and a large butt and a nose that looked broken twice and badly set each time. She called herself Lila. Jimmy told Justine that she shouldn’t be jealous… that all the young people these days practiced free love. Justine thought to herself that she should do as Jimmy said and not to be jealous but she couldn’t help it… she didn’t want to share her man with anyone… especially this girl. Justine had formed an instant dislike for her the moment she set eyes on her.
“You’re not going to sleep with Lila, are you?” she asked Jimmy one night while they lay in bed. “I wouldn’t sleep with anyone else besides you.”
“If you wanted to, I wouldn’t mind,” Jimmy told her. “I feel our relationship is solid enough that we can see other people, don’t you?”
“Well, I guess,” Justine said, not sure what else she should say. “So if I wanted to sleep with Patrick you wouldn’t mind?”
“No… but that’s beside the point, Jimmy.”
“No, I wouldn’t mind,” Jimmy said after a few seconds. “I think sleeping with other people is all part of what we are doing here… we’re building something special, Justine… a whole new way of life. Why should we shackle ourselves to one person forever… until death do us part? It doesn’t make sense. That is part of the old ways… they have communes not far from here where everyone sleeps together… dozens of people.”
“Is that what you want?” Justine wondered. She couldn’t see herself in that type of situation. She knew what Jimmy tried to visualize but deep down she wanted a life with just one man. Maybe, she thought, it had been the way she was raised. But she didn’t want any part of group sex. It sickened her to even think about it.
“I don’t know what I want,” Jimmy said. “I guess I want to experiment.”
“You want to sleep with Lila.”
“Yes, I do,” Jimmy said. “I don’t know why it upsets you. It’s our way of life, Justine. You know that.”
“You should do what you feel is best, Jimmy. If you’re going to sleep with other people though, I’m leaving. I never signed on for that crap.”
Jimmy rolled over to face the wall, the way he did when he grew angry and no longer wanted to talk. In a few seconds he started to snore. Justine slipped out of bed going to the door. A full moon showered silver light into the surrounding fields and trees turning them grey. In the distance a campfire burned. She walked out into the yard naked looking back at the cabin remembering all the love that went into its building. A tear rolled down her cheek landing on her breast. She fought off the sudden urge to walk over to where the campfire burned offering her body up to whomever the strangers were sitting around it. Maybe that’s what Jimmy wanted… maybe it would excite him to hear about such an encounter. She couldn’t do it. She went back inside slipping into bed with her back to Jimmy’s.
Justine wondered why Jimmy had to be such a traditional lover if he wanted to experiment with other partners… he insisted exclusively on the missionary position abhorring oral sex. When she had tried to give him a blow job right after they met he acted shocked.
“How could you even think about doing that?” he said with a look of distain that all but accused her of being a whore… pulling his penis away from her mouth. As soon as she took it in between her lips it had gone limp anyway. "That's disgusting, Justine. I don't want to be kissing you after my thing has been in your mouth."
Her first lover, Randy, loved trying different positions and going down on her for hours and laying naked with her in the sunshine. But Jimmy made a conscious effort never to let Justine see him without his clothes on… he made sure to turn out the light before coming to bed and their lovemaking had to be at night… he wouldn’t hear of doing it in the morning or the afternoon. It had to be dark. Jimmy wouldn’t even take off his shirt when he worked out of doors.
“What the fuck is she doing here?” Justine demanded. Lila sat on the front porch rocking in a chair Jimmy had constructed by weaving branches and sticks together. She seemed quite at ease sitting there when Justine arrived home from her college course after working all day. “I’m not working my ass off all day to come home to this.”
“Nothing is going on, Justine,” Jimmy explained, as if he were weaving a lie the same way he weaved the chair. “She stopped by to see how the cabin is coming along, that’s all. If you want her to leave, I’ll tell her to leave.”
“Of course I want her to leave,” Justine said. “You know how I feel about you being around her.”
“So now you don’t trust me… is that it?”
“I trust you’ll fuck her first chance you get, if you haven’t already.”
“This isn’t going to work out, is it Justine.”
“What do you mean by this?” Justine asked. “Are you saying you want me to leave?”
“I’m saying what we have together isn’t strong enough to survive us seeing other people,” Jimmy said in a low voice. “Maybe you should go.”
“I’ll go, then,” Justine said. She took her suitcase packing her belongings. It astonished her that she didn’t feel more angst at their breaking up. She tried to decide how she felt… she thought she had loved Jimmy but now she wasn’t so sure. She felt free… free of his manic rage at The Man… free of his lust for Lila or any other woman who happened along… free to pursue her own destiny instead of following Jimmy down the hippie trail into some sort of weird multi-partner sexual oblivion. He had never once told her if he thought she was pretty. She wondered if he had even noticed her at all. She had no idea what lay in wait for her and that excited her all the more.
After packing she looked around the place seeing very little in the cabin that belonged to her… that surprised her too. Jimmy spent money on books and furniture that he had to have while she tried to put aside what she could out of her paycheck. The money from his mother, Rita, gradually dwindled away to nothing. But at least Justine had a small nest egg to start out life on her own.
“Drive me into town,” she said when her suitcase had been packed.
“Why don’t you wait until morning?” Jimmy suggested. “Lila’s going to go soon. It’s late now and you won’t be able to get a bus until morning anyway. Stay one more night.”
“If you don’t want to drive me, I’ll walk.”
“Come on then… I’ll take you,” Jimmy relented.
When they got in the car to leave Justine noticed Lila still sat on the porch. Justine imagined she’d be there waiting for Jimmy when he got home, an ugly little thing who’d probably enjoy making love with the lights off as much as Jimmy. She put down the sun visor looking into the mirror mounted on the back. She always considered herself a pretty girl… some people even called her gorgeous but her modesty wouldn’t allow that. Still, looking at her reflection she couldn’t help wondering how Jimmy could prefer a girl like Lila. When they arrived at the bus station, Justine got out, retrieved her luggage from the back seat, and walked away without saying goodbye. Though she had been tempted for just an instant, she didn’t look back.