Storm Shelter (PG-13)

My parents divorced when I was six. My father was in the Air Force at the time stationed in Texas and my mother headed home for Hillsboro with me in tow. The divorce agreement stipulated that I spend six weeks every summer with my father which I came to resent because I had to give up most of my summers with my friends in Hillsboro to travel to Oklahoma where my father ended up living after he got out of the Force.

What made it worse was that my father rarely spent time with me even when I was there. He had remarried and gained a step daughter so I was a third wheel at best when I visited. Plus Dad was a successful business man who was on the road a lot so even when I was there he was often not.

Jones Oklahoma (where my father lives) is most famous for being located just south of where Washington Irving described as "The Ringing of Horses" in the book A Tour on the Prairies. In 2007, a huge ice storm caused a fire at Jones High School which burned to the ground. Two years later, there were six earthquakes, the strongest registering a 3.7 magnitude on the Richter Scale. The following year there were four more earthquakes, the strongest of which registering a 4.0

Jones is smaller than Hillsboro and far less interesting. It is basically a one street town with boring store fronts and not much going on although I do like the iron bridge.

I had been coming to Jones for eleven years and I couldn't tell you much about the place except that it is hot and flat with lots of cowboy hats. I learned not to discuss politics in the red state especially given my mother's ultra-liberal views which I had grown up with. I was not my father's second wife Lydia's most favorite person. She saw me as excess baggage and a reminder of my father's previous life which she did not want to know about. I tried to be polite but I learned early on that it was best to stay out of Lydia's way and to keep my mouth shut.

Lydia's daughter Kynda was a few years older than me and we had absolutely nothing in common. She wore cowboy boots and Stensons with skin tight jeans. She rode horses and talked with a twang and she saw me as someone who flew in from a different planet whenever I showed up for a visit. Lydia told me that Kynda was "a good Christian girl" but I never exactly knew what that was supposed to mean except that it was code for "stay away from my daughter you heathen!"

Dad's second wife was a younger widower who met my father at some mutual friend's house. She struck me as holier-than-thou with a real condescending attitude about her. She was not my most favorite person.

I might as well have been Cinderella the way I was treated by both Lydia and Kynda but I learned not to take it personally and I spent most of my time reading books, surfing the web, and watching television. At least I had my own room even though it was small and tucked away in the back of the otherwise modern and fancy home.

I couldn't really complain. My father took me to some interesting places over the years when he found the time and inkling. I would come home at the end of the summer sun-browned and with a twinge in my voice and tell my mother and my friends of my various adventures. I was a big hit when I told my pals about The Museum of Osteology, "America's Only Skeleton Museum". I also saw the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma City Zoo, The Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the Science Museum (Lydia's ideas), the 45th Infantry Division Museum (the nation's largest military history museum), the Bricktown Ballpark (minor league baseball), the National Stockyard Exchange, the American Banjo Museum, the Oklahoma Fire Fighter's Museum, Frontier City Theme Park, and the World of Wings Pigeon Center. I also saw the Oklahoma Memorial too, of course.

Nobody could say I didn't experience some culture!

Oklahoma was also famous for tornados and other violet storms and my mother fretted every time I boarded the plane to head for the southwest. Since 1950, there had been more than 3200 recorded tornados in the state (more than 1200 of those considered "severe") with more than 300 recorded deaths and 5,000 injuries as a result of Mother Nature's fury.

I had been through a number of storm warnings and a few close calls but I didn't get all that excited over the constant concerns and storm approaches. Maybe I had been desensitized by watching 'The Wizard of Oz' all those years! I must have seen Twister about ten times too.

The tornado awareness turned me into a bit of a historian and a tornado buff and I kept track of memorable storms. The granddaddy of all twisters came without warning when death descending from the sky on April 9, 1947 and that storm still ranks as the deadliest ever to hit Oklahoma with 185 dead and more than 1,000 injured.

A warm Pacific low had come ashore and collided with a strong cold front near Amarillo, Texas. Winds were clocked at more than 100 mph. Six major tornadoes dropped out of a storm that many described as resembling an atomic mushroom cloud. The ravaging twister first touched ground near Canadian, Texas. Its base measured two miles across and it retained that killer dimension for six hours as it traveled for one hundred miles at speeds reaching 50 mph.

At 7 p.m, the storm hit Glazier, Texas killing sixteen people and destroying twenty-five structures. In nearby Higgins, the tornado destroyed all but three buildings but no word of the approaching disaster reached Oklahoma towns just across the border because of a national telephone strike.

At 8:15 the tornado leveled the small farming town of Gage. The two-mile-wide funnel rapidly churned through western Oklahoma, erasing sixty farmhouses and killing eight people as it raced northeast. The distinct funnel form came upon Fargo and leveled it.

Many in Woodward (Population: 5,000) had remarked how muggy the air was that night. The wind began blowing hard and large raindrops spattered the sidewalks, followed by hail. Fully grown trees were bending all the way to the ground. The barometer had bottomed out. Then the lights went out. A chill filled the air as sleet and snow began falling. What sounded like a roaring train could be heard inside movie theaters. Downtown was ablaze as factories, warehouses and the grocery store were in flames. Trees were torn out of the ground. Deadly debris filled the air, falling along with the hail, snow and reddish rain. Streets were blanketed by rubble, bodies, power lines and downed trees. Telephone poles and timber beams were driven into the walls of the Woodward County Courthouse. The sky rippled with an unearthly lightning display.

The two mile-wide tornado leveled one hundred city blocks with wind speeds ranging from 225 to 440 mph as it traveling close to 45 mph toward the Kansas border. There were no fatalities along its new route, but thirty-six more farmhouses were destroyed and thirty more people were injured. Somewhere to the west of Alva, the Woodward tornado lifted back into the storm cloud that had generated it.

The front lawn of the hospital was transformed into a temporary morgue as trucks collected the dead. Scenes of gruesome death were everywhere. The Woodward storm also left oddities in its wake. Hundreds of chickens were roaming around without feathers. A milk bottle sat upright and undisturbed at the top of the back steps to a house that was no longer there. The grown Smith children picked their way through the debris field that had been downtown Woodward, bracing for the worst. The Smith home was at the center of the destruction but they found it unscathed. Their elderly parents were just waking up, unaware the tornado had even taken place!

Help rushed in as three inches of snow blanketed Woodward. With telephone lines down, local Boy Scouts delivered messages around town on their bikes. Giant bulldozers moved the remains of what had been homes and businesses only hours earlier. The closed Woodward Army Air Base was reopened for housing and was quickly dubbed "Tornado Town." Barracks were divided into apartments. Families stood guard over rubble in order to prevent looting. The badly injured were flown to Oklahoma City while the less serious cases were loaded onto freight cars and taken by train to the hospital in Alva.

That tornado story fascinated me and I became a bit of a tornado nerd when I was in Oklahoma. I would watch the Weather Channel and Storm Stories all the time and whenever there was the threat of dangerous weather I would hop in the car with a video camera and become a storm chaser. I couldn't help myself!

###

I was back in Oklahoma for the required six weeks following my high school graduation from Hillsboro High. It was probably my last annual sojourn as I would be turning eighteen soon and I would no longer be required by the divorce degree to visit my father. It was more of the same – Lydia ignoring me and my father too busy to pay all that much attention either. Kynda was now a Junior at OSU and she wasn't around much either, busy with her horses and her social life and I mostly did my own thing.

About a month into my stay, Dad and Lydia took off for a few days at Lake Wagner leaving me basically home alone to do what I wanted (they didn't want me tagging along!).

One day I woke early and I began following the weather reports – threatening weather was heading north from Texas with "straight-line winds" and I began to get excited by the prospect of capturing a storm on video. I watched out the garage door as the birdhouses hanging from the tree started to go wild. I noticed that the sky was darkening. The color changed to something like dark purple and it got really cold really quickly.

There was a blast of cold air whereas it had been horribly oppressive just a few moments before. I looked up at the sky and noticed that the clouds seemed to be jumping up and down. There were several wisps of cloud that reminded me of a spring going up and down. There appeared to be several of them and I turned on the video camera and began filming from the open garage door. Several of the Slinkys came together. There were two or three of them but then all at once there was only one.

"It is a tornado!" I marveled with unusual calm.

I could see that the tornado was coming toward the house. Dirt and debris was flying up in the air but I stood still and continued to film even as the funnel cloud headed directly at me. All of a sudden it became huge. It blew up a barn, turned over a truck and spun the roof off of a house. I looked up and I could see a boat, a garage door, and some broken boards floating above the ground. I could also feel the sand blasting my face.

"I wonder if I'm going to die," I said to no one in particular.

Then the hail came followed by waves of water that left me slightly disoriented. I couldn't see out of the door. Everything appeared as if yellow was covering it. I realized it was the combination of rain, hail and winds like I had never seen before.

Suddenly, I heard a voice. I turned to see a yelling Kynda coming out of the house in a pair of yellow panties and a white tee shirt with a drawing of a horse on it. I hadn't realized she was even home.

"Are you crazy?" She screamed in a panic. "Come on, take cover. A tornado's coming!"

She rushed for the storm shelter door in the back of the garage and I followed even though I was transfixed by the weather swirling around us. Kynda pushed me down the ladder and closed the door over us just as a freight-train roar boomed around us.

"Our Father who art in heaven hallow be thy name," Kynda was saying as she grabbed my arm as I stood in the small storm shelter and her fingernails drew blood. "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen."
"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Praying, of course!" She cried. "In case we die."

"We're safe here," I assured her, squeezing her hand.

It was the first time I had ever touched the girl or stood this close to her. The power went off in the storm shelter and then the emergency batteries kicked in and we were bathed in a dim yellow light.

Everything was quiet and we heard nothing from above.

"Do you think it's over?" Kynda asked, still standing so close to me that I could smell her perspiration.

"Let's just wait a few more minutes," I advised and we stood quietly in the dimness of the tiny room.

The storm shelter was perhaps seven feet deep, ten feet long, and seven feet wide. There was a cot and a couple of lawn chairs along with a small shelf stocked with water and non-perishable foods – slim jims, chips, cookies, and tuna fish. There was small portable radio and a weather radio but that was about it.

Kynda went to the weather radio and turned it on. We heard that the tornado approaching Jones had "suddenly veered to the left and then disappeared into the sky."

"Well, I guess we're safe," Kynda said. "My prayer worked!"

She went up the wooden ladder and tried to open the shelter door but it wouldn't budge.

"Ummph," she groaned, trying to turn the knob and putting her shoulder into it. "It seems to be stuck."

"Let me try," I offered, staring up at her above me with her shapely tanned legs and her tight buns covered by her under panties that seemed to be sucked into her ass crack.

She climbed down the stairs and I went up, trying with no success to open it.

"Do you think the garage collapsed on top of it?" I wondered.

"Who knows?" Kynda replied with a sigh. "Shoot, I left my cell phone in the house!" She realized. "You have yours?"

I shook my head no.

"You grabbed your stupid camera but not your phone?" She accused.

"I was thinking video," I explained.

"Great," she groaned. "It looks like we're stuck here for a while."

"I'm sure our parents will come back when they hear about the storm," I said hopefully.

"If they hear about the storm," Kynda replied. "They might be hiding out."

And so there we were, strangers in the storm shelter, two step-siblings who had barely said a word to each other in the eleven years I had been coming to Jones. Some summers, Kynda hadn't even been home, off at some horse camp or horse training seminar, or horse show somewhere.

And even when she was home she was barely in the house. I think we may have shared a dozen meals together in all those years and not many more conversations. I wasn't her step-brother – I was just the kid who came to visit her step-father.

She took a seat on the cot and sighed. "Now what?"

"What do you mean?"

"What do we do now?" She asked with annoyance.

"I don't know," I admitted. "Talk?"

She looked at me like I was crazy. "Talk? About what?"

"Do you even know my name?" I asked, taking a seat in one of the lawn chairs.

"Of course I know your name," she said with a frown. "It's Devin."

"Oh," I said, slightly surprised. "I don't think you've ever called me by my name before."

"That's not true!" She protested defensively.

"I don't remember you saying my name," I said.

"That doesn't mean I haven't," she pouted.

I studied her for a moment. Her long brown hair hung down across her face. She obviously had been sleeping when the sounds of the storm awoke her and she ran for her life d without dressing, grabbing her cell, or brushing her hair.

"Do you realize I've been coming here for…..I think eleven summers now?" I asked.

She shrugged. "Whatever."

"Do you know anything about me?" I tested.

"What does it matter?" She sighed.

"Doesn't it strike you as slightly odd?" I wondered.

"My mother said you aren't a good Christian Boy," Kynda explained.

"What's that supposed to mean?" I frowned.

"You know," she replied sheepishly.

"You mean a nice boy?" I guessed.

She looked embarrassed.

"Your mother doesn't know anything about me," I said with resentment. "She doesn't want to know anything about me."

"You're from Massachusetts," Kynda commented as if that was supposed to explain it all.

I laughed at the despairingly way she said Massachusetts.

"And you're from Oklahoma," I replied effortlessly. "So what?"

"Look, I'm just a good Christian girl who dreams of getting married and having children," Kynda said. "My mother wants me to be a princess in God's eyes and He wants the very best for me. So I've committed myself to high standards and I'm waiting for the good Christian man that God is going to bring me."

"I see," I said sarcastically. "But what does that have to do with me?"

"My mother didn't want me dating at all," Kynda continued. "And she wanted me to avoid boys who weren't good Christians. I was supposed to be just friends with the good Christian boys until God brought the right one for me. Mom said that dating was unbiblical and that a truly righteous young Christian man would initiate a courtship with marriage as the goal."

"Your mother is nuts," I replied.

"I learned patience," Kynda said, ignoring my remark. "I concentrated on my education and horses without worrying too much about boys. All the guys at my church were waiting for the divine signal to initiate courtship so I really didn't date much knowing how my mother felt."

"You dated your horses," I remarked unfairly.

"I dated some when I got to OSU but nothing seemed to work out," Kynda sighed. "I still had my high standards and I tried my best to be faithful to them. I wasn't going to settle for someone who wasn't strong in his faith."

"You're way too picky!" I laughed.

"Some of my girlfriends said that I was spending way too much time just being friends with guys instead of letting them know that I was romantically interested so l tried to smile and flirt and be nice and dress pretty but my mother warned me that I was being too forward. I was supposed to let the man pursue me."

I looked at her with surprise. "A pretty girl like you should be fending them off," I remarked.

"I was too passive," She admitted. "I was quiet and meek and I got few dates."

"You've spent way too much time and energy on school and horses," I advised. "You were too busy trying to be your mother's good Christian Girl that you forgot to have fun."

"I've had fun," she protested defensively.

"You wouldn't go out with anyone!" I laughed. "I think you watched too many Disney movies waiting for Prince Charming to show up like you're some princess hoping to be swept you off your feet but it really doesn't work that way."

"I wasn't about to run off with the first non-Christian man who showed some interest, asked me out, and treated me with respect," Kynda rebutted. "I'm still a good Christian girl."

"And what am I?" I asked accusingly, staring at her for an answer.

She blushed and didn't say anything.

"Did your mother tell you I was Satan?" I demanded. "A heathen?

"She said you had issues," Kynda mumbled.

I laughed. "I think your mother is the one with issues."

"She can be a little forceful, stubborn and righteous," Kynda admitted.

"I'm not a bad guy," I said defensively. "I might not go to Church every week but I don't drink, smoke, cuss, shoplift, listen to bad music or surf the net for porn. I've worked hard at being good."
"Why?" She asked. "If you really don't do the Church thing?"

"I felt I owed my mother that much for the tough life she's had."

"Why has she had a tough life?" Kynda asked.

"Her marriage fell apart," I reminded her. "She had to raise me as a single mom. She has to struggle to keep a roof over our heads. She works hard to make sure I have a fair shot."

Kynda nodded in understanding as if she had never considered this part of my life before.

"And while I manage to look pretty good on the outside I've struggled on the inside with some stuff," I admitted.

"Like what?" Kynda asked with surprise.

"I've always felt lonely and isolated, especially when I come here," I confessed. "I feel different when I'm here. Shunned. Unwanted. I feel like my father picked your mother ahead of me and that I'm always the third wheel when I'm here. I feel rejected."

"My mother said you didn't even want to be here," Kynda revealed. "That your father made you come."

"The divorce agreement made me come," I clarified. "I'm not even sure if my father cared if I was here or not to tell you the truth."

"I thought it was you," Kynda admitted.

"I've pretty hurt, lonely and wounded but I've come here anyway year after year, ignored by my father, shunned by your mother, and avoided by you."

"I wasn't avoiding you," Kynda said defensively.

"Oh yeah?" I challenged.

"I just didn't think you were a good Christian boy," she said lamely.

I laughed at her. "I still have no idea what that means."

"Me either," Kynda replied honestly.

I nodded in understanding, seeing her in a different light for the first time.

"So, horse girl," I joked.

"That's my story!" She laughed proudly and I could see her face light up. "I really do love horses."

"I can tell," I said.

"I was taking lessons by the time I was five," Kynda said. "It just came natural to me and after a while being involved with horses was a good distraction from worrying about finding that good Christian boy."

"I understand," I said.

"Then my mother decided that it was time I get my own horse," Kynda said. "To be honest, I didn't really want one because it's a commitment for the entire horse's life and I wasn't sure I would be able to take that on."

"But you did," I said.

"The lesson never really stops when it comes to learning how to be around horses," Kynda said. "The horse is always the teacher and I feel like I'm in the right place with that."

"I always admired the way you committed yourself to your interest and passion with horses," I said.

"I kind of substituted Good Christian horses for good Christian boys," Kynda joked. "Horses are my daily living proof that God is awesome and provides joy. No matter how long or hard of a day I've had, I always have enough energy to go to the barn. Walking in, smelling the smells, and seeing the horse poke his head out of his stall to greet me, accompanied by maybe a whine or two makes all my stresses and anxieties instantly dissolve. Horses are a blessing to me and I see the glory and greatness of God in simple things like watching the horse or the incredible feeling of a nice ride on a beautiful. The beauty and might of horses never ceases to put a smile on my face."

She really did look happy as she said this.

"With horses, there really is hope, joy, love, security and a real relationship," she continued. "Christ's love and compassion and motivation is there and His goals for my life are so much bigger than I can even imagine. I enjoy spending everyday learning about Him and horses. Christ is truly amazing."

I nodded with respect for her beliefs. "Have you ever been scared?" I asked.

"The Good Lord protects me," Kynda replied. "I had a near death accident when a horse reared and fell back and it was miracle I didn't get killed but I decided to be a witness and ride for His glory after that because God is good."

"You are an amazing rider and you know what you're talking about when it comes to horses," I observed.

"Thanks," she said. "The bottom line is that it doesn't matter how many times you fall off, it matters how many times you get back on when it comes to life."

"That's good advice," I remarked.

"It's funny how I have an easier time talking to my horses than I do with guys," Kynda realized with a laugh. "I guess that's why I spend all my time in the stables."

"You're doing a good job talking with me," I observed. "Finally," I added, a bit tartly.

She looked chagrined. "I'm sorry about that," she said sheepishly. "I guess I do listen to my mother to much!"

"Did you ever even think about me once in a while?" I wondered.

"Did you me?" She wanted to know.

"Sure," I said. "I'd go and watch you ride, usually when you weren't even aware that I was there," I said.

"I knew you were there," she replied, surprising me.

"You did?"

She nodded. "Thanks for coming."

I smirked, realizing that maybe I wasn't so invisible after all.

"You know, horses have taught me to push myself to do the things I would never think of doing otherwise," Kydna said. "I'm glad that horses have made me do stuff I'm not comfortable with and I need to apply that lesson to more of the rest of my life."

"With guys, you mean?" I guessed.

She shrugged and looked away.

"So, you talk to your horse more than you do with guys?" I teased.

"Goldie has always been there for me when I needed someone to talk to or even just to be with," Kynda admitted. "She is the most amazing horse and I wouldn't trade her for even the perfect Christian boy!"

We both laughed.
"Maybe you should just apply your horse lessons to your guy lessons," I suggested.

"What do you mean?" Kynda asked.

"You don't seem to have a problem gaining a horse's trust," I observed. "You don't make the horse afraid of you so that should be an excellent example for you when it comes to guys!"

"Horses don't expect anything from you except their oats and hays and a pat once in a while," Kynda remarked. "Horses don't talk back or make demands or have expectations…."

She stopped rambling and looked at me. "Sorry."

"It's okay," I smiled. "It's just that you've obviously made a bond with your horse and maybe that can help you when it comes to guys."

"The only problem is guys are usually horses asses," she observed.

"I'm getting the impression you got hurt by some guy," I said.

She looked away and sighed. "Yeah," she mumbled.

"Do you want to talk about it?" I asked gently.

"Let's just say that not all good Christian boys are really good Christian boys," she said sadly.

"I'm sorry," I said sincerely, feeling like I was finally getting to know Kynda after eleven years of non-interaction.

"How come you never got into horses when you were down here?" she asked with interest.

"Nobody asked," I said with a shrug, remembering the times I fantasized about being able to ride with Kynda. "But I've read some good horse books."

"Oh yeah?"

"I always envied the kid in the Black Stallion books," I admitted. "I always wished I could ride a wild Stallion across an Arabian desert!"

Kynda laughed. "Oh Gosh, don't get me started on horse books. I bet I have everyone ever published in my room."

I, of course, had never been in her room, or anywhere near her room. She was on the east wing of the second floor of the large house while I was stuck in the back room on the first floor.

"I've watched horse movies and read all the horse books I could get my hands on," Kynda admitted.

"Nothing wrong with that," I told her. "I like to read."

"Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry was a favorite of mine growing up," Kynda revealed. "Perfect for horse lovers of all age and it's a series too. I loved Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen and that became a series following the Annemarie character through several stories. Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans does a great job. Walter Farley wrote the Black Stallion books, of course. Any of the books by Dick Francis have some connection with horses. Then there's the trilogy of My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and Green Grass of Wyoming books. National Velvet. War Horse. Black Beauty. The Man From Snowy River. The Horse Whisperer is an amazing story, Chosen by a Horse by Susan Richards too. Night Ride Home by Barbara Esstman. Monday Horses by Jean Sloughter. Ride a Dark Horse by Laura Moore. The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. Lady of Horses by Judith Tarr. Horses Never Lie by Mark Rashid. The Man Who Listens To Horses by Monty Roberts. Runaway Horses by Yukio Mishima. Horse Miracles by Brad Steiger. Wild Horse by Sharon Siamon. The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle."

"Wow!" I exclaimed, impressed by her ability to rattle off book titles and match up their authors. "You really are an authority."

"The only Danielle Steele book I ever read was Palomino," Kynda giggled. "I thought my mother was going to have a stroke! And of course, there's also Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul!"

"I think there's a Chicken Soup book for every kind of soul," I replied.

"Have you read any of those Chicken Soup books?" Kynda asked with interest.

"Oh sure," I replied honestly. "They're pretty uplifting."

"Wow, I'm surprised a guy like you would read that stuff."

"A guy like me?" I tried not to sound offended.

She blushed. "I'm sorry. I'm judging again, aren't I?"

"So what happened?" I wanted to know.

"What do you mean?"

"What happened that turned you so off to guys?" I asked. "What did that guy do to you to make you so bitter?"

Kynda sighed heavily. "You know, I did everything my mother told me to do," she said after a long pause as she gathered her thoughts. "I brought home a 'nice Christian boy' who went to church and Bible study and he charmed my mother and everything was great until we went back to his dorm and he sat at his computer looking at porn and masturbating."

I was surprised by her blunt revelation and that she would share it with me.

"I realized that it is difficult to lead the charge against the gates of hell with your pants around your ankles," she sighed.

"I suppose," I said awkwardly.

"And then I started looking at my 'nice Christian girl' friends, most of who weren't having intercourse but weren't afraid to have oral sex and then justify it by saying, "well…we didn't 'do it!'"

"Oh," I said nervously.

"We don't need nice Christian boys and girls," Kynda lamented. "We need Soldiers of Christ who are with Jesus just don't care about all the other stuff."

"I'm sorry you're having a hard time finding the right guy," I said.

"Have you found the right girl?" Kynda wanted to know.

I scratched the side of my neck nervously. "I was always kind of shy," I admitted.

"Really?" Kynda asked with interest. "Didn't you date?"

"Not all that much," I revealed. "I played football, socialized with my teammates, hung out with my peers, had plenty of friends and I even dated a little but the relationships didn't really go anywhere."

"How come, do you think?" Kynda asked.

"I guess I wasn't assertive and aggressive enough," I realized. "I sort of waited for the girl to make all the moves."

"That doesn't sound very romantic," Kynda reasoned.

"And that's probably why I wasn't very successful," I groaned. "One time I snuck out with Roberta on a summer night. I was drunk and I spent an hour selling her on the plan of having sex on a raft in the swimming pool and she seemed interested at first but then she changed her mind—buyer's remorse, I guess."

"That was God stopping you," Kynda remarked.

"My confidence was shattered," I sighed. "My friends seemed to be doing well but I struggled. It wasn't like I didn't have the chance because I did. I guess I just didn't have the game. All I could think about was how I'd never get laid."

"That's not what it's all about, Devin," Kynda told me.

"Then there was the prom with Betsy Davison," I said. "I tried to get her drunk afterwards but she refused. I went with my hand to her breasts sticking out from her prom dress but she intertwined my fingers in hers and shook her head. I tried to unzip my pants but she kissed me deep and shook her head. I tried to say something dirty but she kissed me deep and shook her head. So we just made out for a while and then I took her home and we never went out together again."

"That's okay," Kynda assured me. "So, you're still a virgin?"

I blushed.

"Its okay, Devin, I am too and I'm older than you."

"Oh," I said, glancing at her. "That's okay, I guess."

Kynda stood up and stretched. Her tee shirt lifted up and I could see her smooth stomach. Her breasts were also tight against her shirt and her panties were exposed. I couldn't help but swallow at the sight.

"How long have we been down here?" She sighed, grabbing one of the water bottles and plopping back down on the cot.

"I don't know," I admitted. "A couple of hours?"

"Are you hungry?"

"I shrugged. "We should probably wait in case we're stuck down here for awhile."

"Why didn't your father put a toilet down here?" She grumbled.

"He probably didn't think anybody would be down here all that long," I reasoned. I pointed to two five gallon buckets filled with kitty litter inside odor protection trash bags. "That's the toilet!"

"Well, after spending a life time around stables, I guess I can't complain," Kynda remarked.

"Urine can go into the empty water bottles."

"That might be a little hard for me," Kynda said.

I gestured to the funnel sitting on the shelf.

"Oh man," she replied.

I laughed with amusement.

"I've been praying that the horses are okay," Kynda revealed. "I sure do hope God took care of them."

"Were they in the barn?" I asked.

"They say that horses are actually better off outside," Kynda replied. "They might be out of the wind in the barn but they're done-for if there's a direct hit, trapped in/by their own stalls. Outside they can in theory run if necessary."

"We would have had a hard time getting them down the shelter stairs," I joked.

"That's not funny, Devin," Kynda complained. "My stable put halters on with little ID tags that hang off the bottom with the stable name, the horse's name, and a phone number so the horse can be retrieved if they bolt away."

"That's good."
"Horses bolt a few minutes before a tornado hits," she told me. "They know. They'll break fences and do whatever is necessary to escape danger. The halters are only there to catch them afterwards if necessary."

"I'm sure they're all fine," I replied.

"Is it getting hot down here?" Kynda asked, wiping her brow with the back of her hand.

I had to admit that it was.

"This will be a tomb if we don't have air ventilation," I said. I pointed to the vents high in the wall and the intake close to the floor and the exhaust up high. "This is designed to create a draft. Maybe its clogged or something."

I examined the vents as best I could but couldn't see anything that might be hindering the system.

"Your father should have strung some hammocks," Kynda said. "And I should have made sure there were some books down here."

"Too late now," I rebutted.

Kynda had been drinking from a bottle of water for a while and now that it was getting stuffy and impressive in the shelter she was drinking even more. It was only a matter of time before when went in would have to come out even if we were both sweating like pigs.
We got quiet for a while. I rested my head against the shelter wall and closed my eyes for a second while Kynda lay back on the cot and sighed.

"I'm sorry I wasn't nicer to you all this time," she said.

"It's okay," I replied.

"No it's not," Kynda was quick to respond. "If I'm really a kind and thoughtful Christian I shouldn't have listened to my mother so much and done the right thing on my own. You never did anything to me so why was I such a creep to you?"

"You weren't a creep."

"I ignored you," she reasoned. "That's bad enough."

"Well, this is probably my last summer here anyways," I said. "So don't worry about it."

She propped her head up on her elbow. "What do you mean?"

"I'm turning eighteen soon," I let her know. "I don't have to come back if I don't want to."

"You don't want to?" She asked with surprise. "What about your Dad?"

"He'll live," I replied.

"Oh, come on, Devin, you need to be a better son than that!"

I glanced at her with amusement. "Shouldn't he be the better father?" I asked.

"I really think it's up to you first," she replied. "Besides, I want to see you again."

"You do?" I asked, glancing at her with a smirk.

She smiled. "Turns out you're not so bad."

We both laughed.
A little more time passed.

"I really shouldn't have drank so much water," Kynda said after a while. "I'm about to burst all of a sudden."
She sat up on the cot and squeezed her legs together, pressing her hand into her crotch.

"I've got to pee so bad."
"Well, try not to think about it," I suggested.
"Easy for you to say," she groaned, crossing her legs harder and sighing.

She rose up and slid her ankle under herself, pressing down hard between her legs. After a few minutes, her breathing was shaky and she was rocking back and forth.

"Just go," I advised.

"I can't with you here," she protested. "That would be….unlady like."

"I'll turn my back."

"You'll still hear…..and know," she sighed.

"So what?"

"It's not…..Christian."

"It's natural," I replied.

She was pressing her foot even harder against her crotch as a stronger urge to pee hit her.

"Oooohhh," she whimpered, trying so hard not to leak.

"You don't want to get the cot wet," I warned.

It looked like her panties got a little wet.
"I don't know what to do," Kynda groaned. "I feel like I'm going to explode." She was bending over now. "Oh gosh. I can't hold it much longer." She tightly pressed her together legs.

"So go," I said, turning my lawn chair so my back was to her. "It's okay."
"No," Kynda protested but then I heard her stand up.

She must have grabbed the funnel from the shelf and I heard the steady whiz of her urine filling the bottle.

"Okay," she said with obvious relief after a few minutes.

"Feel better?" I teased.

"Shut up."

I turned my chair back around to see her sitting shyly on the cot, hiding the bottle behind her.

"Just put it on the floor, Kynda," I said calmly.

"You'll see my pee," she said.

"It's okay," I assured her. "It's understandable under the circumstances."

"Good Christian Girls are supposed to be modest," Kynda sighed, finally putting the bottle filled with urine under the cot. "Don't look."

I laughed mostly because I couldn't help myself.

"It's not funny," She grumbled. "This is serious stuff."

"Oh, for heaven sakes, Kynda," I said. Adam and Eve were the first nudists. I'm sure they even peed in front of each other. Because it was natural."

"That's sacrilegious," Kynda complained. "And Adam and Eve were guilty of Original Sin. That's why we have to be modest now."

I laughed again. "So now nudity outside of marriage is about as unacceptable as sex outside of marriage?"

"That's right," Kynda reasoned. "Except for the person you are committed to by marriage to gaze at anyone naked dishonors that person. In the original Hebrew, God uses the expression to uncover someone's nakedness to mean having sexual intercourse with that person like we use the expression to sleep with someone. Just as in our society it is most rare for a couple to sleep together if they never relate sexually so among God's people it was most rare to see naked anyone with whom you do not have sexual relations with. Nakedness cannot be tolerated outside proper sexual relationships."

"I don't think I heard that one before," I admitted. "So, how much should seeing other people naked be an act of indecency?"

"As much as a sin can carry," Kynda replied knowingly.

"How come reproductions of ancient Egyptian drawings prove that in everyday life some women walked topless or naked?" I asked. "Moses must have grown up being regularly exposed to bare-breasted high-ranking women surrounded by nude attendants. I bet slaves probably worked naked in the heat."

"The Bible maintains its stance on nudity," Kynda insisted. "'Cover your shameful nakedness' and 'that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed' both in Revelation. Deuteronomy says 'to be naked is to expose that which should be covered.'"

"Yeah, but nudity would have continued had there been no sin in the Garden of Eden," I argued.

"Yes, but not the kind found in men's magazines," Kynda replied. "Porn degrades human bodies with a fleeting and hollow sexual high. People would be better off truly enjoying each other's bodies without shame only in the context of marriage."

I looked at her like she was crazy.

"There's nothing wrong with the beauty of the naked human body, Kynda," I said. "It's called Art."

"You don't peek at those things God pronounces holy," she replied.

"But if everybody was naked there would be much less erotica," I argued.

"There's a difference between nudity and modesty," she told me. "The fact that Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed was considered exceptional. Thereafter, the Bible repeatedly associates nudity with shame, not because there is anything about the way God created us to be ashamed of but because, like sex outside marriage, it is shameful to violate the sanctity of marriage. The Bible regards it as humiliating to be seen naked or semi-naked by anyone not your marriage partner."

"Yeah, but that takes all the fun out of it," I joked.

"You don't look at the female body for the same reason that you look at sunsets," Kynda said. "You're doing it for sexual pleasure and deriving pleasure from the body of a woman who is not your wife soils the sacredness of the marriage bond. It is training you to pervert what should be lovemaking which is the selfless giving of pleasure into a cold hearted self-obsessed self-pleasuring. It is stealing from your wife or your future marriage, denying her the right to be the sole person who gives you sexual pleasure. It is craving new bodies to use up for your gratification, conditioning yourself to reduce every woman to a cheap thrill instead of someone you could find lifetime enjoyment with. It cheapens not only you but the wife you are meant to derive a lifetime of satisfaction from."

"Wow, no wonder you never get a date," I replied with annoyance. "You're as frigid as they come. A religiously affected prude."

She reacted as if I had slapped her across the face, physically recoiling as she sat on the cot. "Excuse me?" She finally managed to say.

"Look, it's perfectly natural to ogle at women," I said.

"Well, it is perfectly natural to sin and as a result death is perfectly natural too," she said bitterly, clearly insulted and angered by my remark. "But by becoming spiritually one with our supernatural Lord we don't have to be victims of the unnatural. ' . . . you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.' Like the righteous man who 'shuts his eyes from seeing evil' you can avoid destruction. 'For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.'"

"I'm sure that goes over real well on your dates," I replied with annoyance.

"Every time we sacrifice momentary sensual pleasure for the sake of the Lord it is a deep act of worship," Kynda was quick to respond.

"Yeah, but it's also a pretty quick turn off to your potential date," I said.

"We sell ourselves short if we don't realize that the cry from our innermost being extends far beyond craving orgasms," she said. "Too many of us are so disturbingly superficial that we reduce the height of human intimacy to an animal act."

"I'm just saying you don't have to be such a turn off prude about it," I countered.

"Sex is so powerful that it is divinely designed to superglue you to one person for the rest of your life," Kynda said. "God entrusted this treasure to empower you to maintain exclusive intimacy with the one person you are selflessly committed to for life. To use sex for any other purpose is emptiness. Whether it be in thought or action, to fritter away your sexuality on someone you are not committed to for life is a true waste because in God's eyes, sex is the sealing of a lifelong contract. You are bound not by the giving of your word but by the giving of your very body. The consequences of casual sex cannot be undone."

"Suit yourself," I replied, waving my hand away. "You're the one who has yet to have a relationship. You sound programmed and delusional."

I peered at her as she seemed to be sulking on the cot.

"Has any guy even seen you naked?" I asked.

"Of course not," she answered quickly.

"And you've never seen a guy naked?"

"Not really," she muttered, looking away.

"Don't you feel like you're missing out on something?"

"I can wait for the right Christian man," she replied confidently.

I nodded. "Well, good luck with that."

"I didn't know you were such a pervert," she said after a few quiet moments.

"I'm not," I replied with a laugh. "It just strikes me that you're awfully lonely and you're missing out on some stuff by setting your standards so high. It's okay to let loose once in a while."

I could tell she was seething. Her arms were folded across her chest defiantly and she was stewing in her anger and resentment.

"You don't know nothing," she complained.

"I'm sure I don't," I agreed with a sigh.

It must have been about a hundred degrees in the shelter now. We were both sweating profusely and I knew I had offended Kynda with our conversation. I had called her a frigid prude and she probably thought I was that heathen her mother had warned her about all these years.

There are moments in life when something happens that is so unexpected that it leaves you unable to react. That is exactly what happened when Kynda stood up from the cot and glared at me.

"You can go to hell," she said angrily as she peeled her shirt off over her head to reveal her sweaty bra.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Proving a point," she answered with determination as she unsnapped her bra, letting it fall to the floor to reveal her naked breasts.

"Kynda…"

She pulled down her panties and stepped out of them, revealing her bushy bush.

"Are you going to ogle now?" She demanded.

I knew I was red faced and I tried not to look at her. "You're embarrassing both of us," I said uncomfortably.

She turned away so her back was to me and I saw the lovely shape of her backside.

"You shouldn't be doing this," I said weakly. "It goes against everything you believe in."

"It was the only way to let you understand what I'm talking about," she replied as she turned around to face me. "This isn't sexual. Or even sensual, is it?"

"No," I had to agree.

"So, there. Don't give me any more of your crap about naked beauty and all the rest of it."

I glanced at her and smiled with appreciation. "It is art though," I whispered.

"What?" She asked with surprise as she stared at me.

"You're very beautiful, Kynda," I replied. "You're a work of art in God's image. The Christian guy who ends up with you is going to be very lucky."

She burst out in tears with a suddenness that surprised me.

"I didn't mean to upset you," I said. "You were trying to shame me and make me feel bad but it's not working," I said. "I really do think you're beautiful and I don't think you should be ashamed of that fact."

She stood naked in front of me staring at me with confusion, not sure if she should cover herself up or revel in her own beauty.

"When you're totally naked like this you should be shameless," I told her. "You should relax in your beauty and be open to feeling good about how natural you are. You look infinitely beautiful when naked. To me, in our nakedness, we look beautiful. It's not the kind of infinite beauty that comes from a perfect shape, perfect skin or perfect form. It's the beauty of being who we are and I think that makes us beautiful. You look so wonderfully radiant and beautiful naked, so open and natural. When totally naked and totally happy and relaxed, you look like an angel. So I prefer you naked, open and endlessly beautiful."

Her mouth had dropped open and she was staring at me as if she had some sort of revelation. "Really?"

"Yes," I said.

"Gosh, thanks, Devin," she said, smiling now. "That's the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me."

I nodded in understanding.

Then we heard noise from above.

Kynda quickly dressed and a moment later the door to the shelter opened and my father was peering inside.

"You two okay?"

"The door was stuck," I reported. "We couldn't get out."

I could see Lydia peering over my father's shoulder suspiciously.

"Any damage up there?" I asked.

"Nothing major," my father reported.

I picked up my camera and grinned. "I got it on film!"

"Kynda, you come up from there," Lydia ordered.

Kynda looked at me and smiled. "Thanks, Devin," she said.

"What are you wearing?" Lydia wanted to know.

"I was sleeping mother," Kynda replied with a sigh as she started up the ladder.

I followed her up the ladder and smiled at my father. "Thanks for rescuing us Dad. The vent wasn't working. We could have suffocated."

He looked at me and nodded his head. "Everything okay?"

"Everything's fine, Dad," I assured him happily, feeling good about being in Oklahoma for the first time in my life.