Goodbye Cedilla Martindale

( Very Strong PG-13)

Bill Branston learned of the passing on Facebook during his morning computer check.

"So sad to hear about my old classmate, poor Cee-Dee Martindale, RIP," posted Gwen Addison and Bill stared at the screen for a good ten seconds trying to fathom the news.

He had grown up with Cedilla and although he had moved away thirty years ago he thought about his hometown and his childhood often. He went to the website of the Donnelly-Nolan Funeral home and found Cedilla's obituary.

Hillsboro- Cedilla "Cee Dee" Marilyn (Martindale) Turner, 48, formerly of 22 Elm Avenue died Wednesday from cancer at her childhood home under the care of Hospice. She was born in Hillsboro, the daughter of Simon and Helene (Nelson) Martindale. Cedilla attended local schools and was a graduate of Hillsboro High School. She continued her education at Blue County Community College.

Cedilla was the long time office manager at Martindale Insurance in Greenville. She loved playing cards, reading, and listening to Big Band Era music. She was an avid Red Sox fan and she was a volunteer at Beano Field in Hillsboro for many years.

She was predeceased by her father. Among her survivors, Cedilla leaves her daughter, Jane F. Turner of South County, her mother of Hillsboro, her former husband, Thomas Turner of Portland, ME, two brothers, Simon of San Francisco, CA, and Michael and his wife Yvonne of Riverside, and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be held Monday at eleven o'clock at the Donnelly-Nolan Funeral Home, Hillsboro. Burial will be at the convenience of the family. Calling hours will be Monday from 9 a.m. until the time of the service at the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to The Serguci League, Box 714, Hillsboro. Sympathy message available at .com

Bill sighed in sadness as he tried to remember the last time he saw Cedilla. It must have been at the funeral for neighborhood friend Karen Vasser two years ago. Cedilla didn't look to be in poor health then but he had only talked to her for a few minutes.

"Another kid from the old neighborhood bit the dust," Bill told his wife Andrea as he came into the kitchen for his morning coffee.

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," Andrea replied, dressed in her business suit and busy typing away on her laptop.

Andrea was from White Plains and she didn't meet Bill until they were in their late twenty so most of what she knew about Hillsboro was from his stories and a few infrequent visits. Bill's Dad was dead and his mother retired to Florida so there wasn't any real need to head back to Blue County very often. Bill's siblings were more than happy to visit them in their nice house in New Rochelle for trips into New York City.

"I think I'll go the funeral," Bill announced, taking a seat across from his wife with his coffee cup.

"When is it?" Andrea asked.

"Monday."

"I have meetings," she replied.

Andrea was a news producer for MSNBC and she worked long hours.

"That's okay," Bill replied. "I can go alone."

"Work will be okay with that?"

"Yeah, Sam will understand," Bill replied.

Bill was a senior branch manager for one of the metropolitan bank chains.

"Who died?" Andrea asked after a few moments, almost as an afterthought as she pecked away on the laptop.

"Cedilla Martindale, Simon's kid sister," Bill reported. "You met her a few times."

Andrea looked over the computer screen at her husband. She blew a strand of her blond hair off her forehead. "Simon's the Army guy, right?"

"Retired, now," Bill confirmed.

"Your families were pretty close."

"Yeah," Bill sighed. "See, the great thing about growing up in a neat neighborhood like Hilltop is that there were plenty of kids to share the fun with."

"So you've told me."

"From my pee-wee eyes, my oldest brother Stan and his friends were Gods and when I was included any of their adventures I knew I had made the big time."

"Good for you," Andrea mumbled, busy typing away.

"My brother Dan and his friends were a few years younger than Stan so he's more in my frame of reference and I often got to tag along with those guys on their various adventures although I was just as easily shunned when their activities might have included peril or illegalities!"

"Knowing Dan I can understand that," Andrea replied.

"My sister Emily was only a year older than me but she and her friends were much more sophisticated and mature than I could ever hope to be so I mostly avoided them!" Bill laughed. "But my kid sister Nellie was two and a half years younger than me so I was better equipped to be more comfortable with her friends seeing how I was allegedly older and more knowledgeable then them!"

Angela looked up over her screen again. "I bet," she said sarcastically.

"So that's why I knew Cedilla better than some of the others. She was Nellie's friend and also because her brother was my good friend. Our families did a lot of group stuff and his family was always inviting me and Nellie on day swimming trips, sleep outs, and camping trips."

"Sounds very Brady Bunch," Angela observed.

"When I think of my childhood growing up on Hilltop, I fondly recall hide and seek, tag, one-two-three Red light, whiffle ball, and dodge ball with various and varying groups of neighborhood kids, Cedilla usually among them. In the summer, we would pile into Mrs. Martindale's station wagon and go swimming with a picnic and at night we often went to the outdoor. The parents would sit in one car while all the kids piled into the old yellow Chevy station wagon and watched the movie as a group."

"Very nice," Angela said, lost in her work.

"It was a time of innocence and meaning even if we didn't know it at the time," Bill concluded. "We all grew up and went our separate ways and although most of us left the neighborhood, the neighborhood never really left us. Even now when I think back on the honor roll of names I grew up with I realize just how great it really was being part of the Hilltop neighborhood."

"You've told me before," Angela remarked with disinterest.

"I feel like a small part of my childhood and a little piece of my heart died along with Cedilla," Bill sighed.

"You're fifty years old, Bill," Angela reminded him. "Leave the past behind once and for all, will you?"

"Whatever," he sighed, leaving the kitchen, once again feeling slightly annoyed at his professionally driven wife who had little sentimentality for his past memories.

Bill glanced at his watch and wondered if it was too early to call Nellie in Chicago but he figured this was important enough to disturb her.

"Hello?" His sister answered on the third ring.

"Did you hear about Cedilla?" He asked.

"Yeah, Emily called last night," Nellie sighed. "Bummer."

"Did you know she was sick?"

"Not really," Nellie answered.

"You coming for the funeral?"

"I can't get away," Nellie sighed heavily. "I feel awful."

"I'm going," Bill let her know.

"Emily said she'd stop in too," Nellie informed him. "Please give everybody my condolences."

"Of course."

"You okay?"

"I don't think it's really hit me yet," Bill admitted.

"Me either," Nellie replied. "Thanks for calling, Billy."

"Sorry for your loss."

"You too," she said sadly. "I'll see ya."

The line went dead and Bill stared out the window for a long time remembering what once was.

### ###

Bill arose at a little after five o'clock on Monday morning to head north. He was careful not to disturb Angela who worked crazy hours and slept when she could but she rolled over as he finished dressing and was about to leave the bedroom.

"I hope it's not too tough," she said quietly in the dark.

"It's not going to be easy," Bill sighed in reply.

"Do the best you can."

"You have a good day," Bill replied. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Stay as long as you need to," she said.

"I don't want to be driving back late at night," he told her.

"Okay," she said.

Bill was on I-95 in a matter of minutes and soon he was heading north on 91 toward his hometown. One of his biggest disappointments about his marriage to Angela was that she simply didn't share in his enthusiasm for his past. She hated making trips to Blue County to see his family and she had no appreciation or sentimentality for his memories. Sometimes Bill regretted leaving Hillsboro in the first place and he wished he had stayed like some of his siblings.

College was the initial lure away and then a relationship and then some choice career opportunities. By the time he met and fell in love with Angela, it was too late to change paths. Angela's television career had already gotten off the ground and he followed her to markets in Providence, Hartford, Boston, and finally New York while pursuing his own career. Now Angela was climbing the ranks at MSNBC and this was their life – a half million dollar house in New Rochelle and professional jobs in the city.

Bill could drive his way to Hillsboro blindfolded and he never got tired of seeing the view of the Blue River as he crossed over the bridge into his home town. Ironically, none of the Branstons actually lived in Hillsboro any longer. Stan owned a house in Mt. Griffin, Dan moved to North Carolina years ago, and Emily and her husband owned a house in Riverside. The family home had been sold years ago and these days Bill felt like a nomad when he came back because there was no place to call home.

It was only a little after eight o'clock as he drove down the main street of town, so Bill took a brief riding tour around town, past familiar sights from his past and eventually up the hill to his old neighborhood. There were several cars in the Martindale driveway and parked on the street, many with out of state license plates. A wave of sadness suddenly overcame Bill as a flood of childhood memories came rushing back to him as if he was twelve again.

The huge Victorian Martindale house was still painted its familiar bright yellow, "the color of sunshine" Cedilla used to say. Bill kept driving, passing his old house three doors down. There had been a couple of owners since his mother sold the house following his father's death and the current occupiers had replaced the once familiar white with an ugly green siding. They had also torn down the old garage and built a new one with an apartment above it which they rented out. But the essence of the structure was still the same and Bill slowed to take in the view of his childhood home. His mother had offered to sell the house at a reduced price to any of the children but Angela had no interest in pursing that option, even as an investment. To this day, Bill wished he had bought the place.

Some familiar names and old families still resided in the neighborhood but most of the kids Bill had grown up with were long gone, living their own lives, married with children, many in different towns and states. Bill went to the occasional class reunion but he had lost touch with most of the kids he knew best. Besides, they had little in common anymore except for their memories.

Bill circled around the hill and returned downtown, driving along the river where they used to ride their bikes along the path and take hikes into the woods. He remembered how Cedilla loved the river and they would often sit on her favorite rock skipping stones along the river surface.

Cedilla had been his favorite for a variety of reasons. Her brother Simon was a bit of a tough guy, never sensitive or touchy-feely and Bill often played the nice guy brotherly role with Cedilla when she was younger. Simon was more into GI-Joes, Army and other "boys" activities but Bill had no problem hanging out with Cedilla and Nellie playing "girlie" games like house or tea from time to time.

When they played group games, Bill often tried to make sure Cedilla was on his team. And when they were on opposite sides, he went easy on her, cut her breaks, and helped her out if need be. He wasn't sure how old he was when he first began developing a crush on her or when she first started crushing on him. The two year age difference made it awkward sometimes but because Cedilla idolized him Bill really didn't have to go out of his way to impress her.

Things weren't always rosy between them. Cedilla was known to get moody from time to time. She also formed other peer groups outside the Hilltop neighborhood that took her away from the gang. She partied a lot when she got older and because Bill was big into sports and didn't want to risk getting kicked off the team, he avoided those settings.

But until Bill left for college, he maintained a special friendship with Cedilla. She was the first to express a sexual interest in him and while they were never romantically involved they definitely experimented sexually together and they enjoyed several sexual encounters. That was why Cedilla remained Bill's favorite long after he left the neighborhood and whenever they bumped into each other as adults, they shared that distant sparkle in their eyes remembering their beginnings. They married others and Cedilla became a mom but as a drunken Cedilla had once told Bill shortly before he left for college "you never forget your first fuck".

Bill was pretty sure nobody from the neighborhood was aware of their sexual history and Bill certainly wasn't going to bring it up now. It would feel disrespectful and slimly to talk about Cedilla in that way in death so the wonderful memories he held in his heart of their personal interactions would have to remain his secret.

Bill could almost hear Cedilla's laugh as he sat in the car staring out at the river she loved so much. She had a distinctive laugh that still echoed in his ears all these years later. She also had a terrific smile and a fun sense of humor. She could be sardonic, sarcastic, witty and even vulgar, almost all at the same time! Bill smiled as he recalled some of the times she made him laugh. She was great at being funny at the most inopportune time in an effort to break up a tense moment or to change the topic of conversation. She could also be vicious in her insults when she was pissed off or felt offended.

The thing about Cedilla was that there was never a boring moment as far as Bill was concerned. He always looked forward to seeing her because he knew something would likely happen when she was around. She was sweet and innocent when she was young and then she morphed into a tough tomboy by the time she turned ten or eleven. Cedilla didn't take shit from the other kids and she gained legendary status when she was twelve and beat up fourteen year old Teddy Felton who was beating up defenseless nine year old Johnny Kreg. Later, Cedilla became a partier and that's when Bill started to distance himself from her in order to protect his own saintly jock image around school.

Bill sighed as he thought about the various stages of Cedilla Martindale. He missed the sweet young Cedilla but he probably admired the tough tomboy Cedilla the most. He was smitten with the sexually emerging Cedilla and he would always be grateful for her sexual interest in him. He felt saddest for the older teen Cedilla who partied too much and seemed bitter for some reason although he never figured out why. Later, he felt redemption and a certain sense of reconciliation with Cedilla whenever he bumped into her in their adult lives.

Bill was saddened when he heard that Cedilla had divorced but it was the death of Mr. Martindale that was the huge blow to the entire family. Not only was he a strong father figure for the kids, he was also the anchor that made the family insurance business such a success. Youngest son Mike took over and kept the business going with Cedilla but it was never the same.

Bill wished he had known that Cedilla had become ill. He would have liked to have visited her and have a chance to say goodbye. Now he was saying goodbye to her spirit and that made him feel sad and lonely. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was after nine. Calling Hours had started and he wouldn't be the first one there so he started the car and slowly drove to the Donnelly-Nolan Funeral Home where he had attended way to many wakes and funerals, including his own father's.

### ###

There were a fair amount of cars at the funeral home and Bill heard the Big Band Music playing as soon as he walked inside. He signed the guest book, took a prayer card and entered the parlor. There was no coffin (which made it a little easier) - just an urn with Cedilla's ashes from cremation. There were several vases with flowers and at least five poster boards of photos capturing Cedilla from her first birth picture to the final photograph taken a few days before her death, looking stunningly frail with a bandanna covering her balding hair and skin hanging from her arms.

The wasting transformation took his breath away and Bill preferred looking at the photographs of the Cedilla he knew best - from her childhood. There she was as a youngster when she wore her black hair short. She grew her lovely hair out when she was nine or ten and it was full and rich well into her twenties when she cut it short again and colored it a light shade of brown. Bill had forgotten the freckles that adored Cedilla's cheeks when she was younger and he smiled at her youthful look as she grinned back at the camera in most of the shots.

Bill was happy to see himself (and plenty of other neighborhood kids) in many of the collected shots, including a couple he had no memory of - Cedilla sitting in his lap on the swing set in the Martindale's back yard, a shot of the two of them holding a fish they had caught while camping, and what might have been the last photo of them taken together - after the Hillsboro-Greenville Thanksgiving football game his senior year. Bill was in his Brown and White Hillsboro Hurricanes uniform and Cedilla was giving him a victory hug, her hair blowing in the wind and her lips on his cheek.

Bill recalled the special and unique nickname Cedilla had given him early on: BB (his regular nickname was Bran). Nobody else called him BB but her. Cedilla's nickname was Cee-Dee but he called her La.

Bill involved himself in the picture boards partly to avoid having to greet the Martindale family that was lined up in the traditional receiving line at the front of the parlor. But he couldn't put it off any longer so he approached Mrs. Martindale and gave her a hug. She looked exhausted and wiped out, appearing much older than her actual age despite her frosted hair, loads of make up, and tons of jewelry.

"I don't know what to say," Bill sighed heavily.

"None of us do," Mrs. Martindale replied with a forced smile. "But her suffering is over."

Cedilla's daughter Jane was standing to Mrs. Martindale's right. She was in her mid-twenties and she looked strikingly like her mother at that age although her hair was some shade of red and quite curly. Bill met her a few times over the years, mostly as a child.

"Jane, your mother was such a wonderful person," Bill said as he took her hand in his. "I adored her."

"Thank you," Jane said politely. "This is my Dad."

"Yes, we've met," Bill replied, shaking the hand of the man standing to Jane's right.

He was shorter than his daughter, around Bill's age with a receding hairline and graying hair and he looked to weigh maybe 150 pounds.

"Nice to see you again, Tom," Bill said politely.

"It's been a while," Cedilla's ex said but there seemed to be just a touch of annoyance in his voice.

"I'm sorry for your loss," Bill said before moving on knowing it was awkward to continue the conversation with him.

Mrs. Martindale's kid brother Scooter Nelson was standing on Mrs. Martindale's left. He had no idea who Bill was until he introduced himself.

"Billy!" Scooter laughed. "Wow! I haven't seen you in forever."

Uncle Scooter was the cool member of the family. He drove a neat '68 Camaro convertible and it was always a thrill when he gave the neighborhood kids rides in it. He worked a cool job managing a night club by Green College and he played in the amateur Serguci Baseball League well into his thirties. His once long black curly hair was short and gray and he wore glasses. Scooter married later in life and he introduced his wife Janice to Bill.

Standing next to Janice was Bill's good friend Simon, Cedilla's older brother. He had been quite the character as a kid, getting into trouble, flirting with the law, and earning the reputation as a party fiend, but he joined the Army two days after graduating high school and became a twenty-five year lifer with more medals, citations, and awards than most. His marriage failed after twenty years and four children and when he retired from the discipline of the Army, Simon moved to San Francisco and worked as a counselor at Berkley College.

"Marty!" Bill said with a wide grin. "You look...different."

Simon was wearing a Hawaiian shirt under a Salvation Army suit coat, jeans and sneakers. His curly gray hair was down to his shoulders and he was puffy and bloated from plenty of beer drinking.

"I'm living my second childhood, Bran!" Simon laughed as the two old friends hugged and fist pumped each other.

"Sorry you had to come home for this," Bill sighed.

"What are you going to do?" Simon said sadly.

Standing next to Simon was his kid brother, Mike, wearing a three piece suit and shiny black shoes. As a kid, Mike was squirrelly, burly and a bit of a brat but as an adult he was serious, stogie, and somewhat fake and Bill had a hard time relating to the guy. His Dad was much more personable, both as a mentor in the neighborhood and as an insurance guy but Mike was much too much of a stuff shirt.

"Sorry for your loss, Mike," Bill said as they shook hands even though Bill hated walking the receiving line like this.

"Yeah," Mike replied without much emotion or affect. "You remember my wife, Yvonne?"

Standing next to Mike was his wife, a middle-aged overweight woman with fake red hair cut short and mascara around her eyes that made her look like she was dead too. Bill barely knew her but he tried to act as if he cared.

"Hi, Yvonne," Bill said. "This is just terrible."

"Yes, it is," she agreed, taking his hand. "Thank you for coming."

Bill was glad the line was over and he glanced around the parlor to notice several familiar faces sitting in the rows of chairs and the couches and arm chairs in the back of the room. There were plenty of family members and friends, as well as people from the old neighborhood and school. Bill recognized Skinny White, Lisa Grant, Mrs. Felton, the Danielsons, Frank Hamilton, and Turkey Mason from the hill, as well as several of Cedilla's friends from high school. Just about every employee still alive who worked for Martindale Insurance at one time or another made an appearance and several of Cedilla's friends from her adult life also showed up, as did the hospice nurses.

Bill made the rounds saying hello to several individuals, making small talk and quickly catching up as well as sharing Cedilla stories. Bill's sister Emily entered the room and Bill joined her in the receiving line again so she wouldn't have to pay her respects to the family alone.

"Emily!" Simon grinned when she reached him. "My first crush!"

Emily laughed and gave Simon a hug. She had been a regular babysitter when the kids were young and she told a few quick babysitting stories that got everybody chuckling.

Bill heard several stories about Cedilla that he had never heard before. How she got hit by lightning not once, but twice! Once when she was on the phone during a storm and the current went through the phone line and a second time when she was standing in the garage and a bolt hit the roof, knocking her on her ass. There were several accounts of her partying in high school and the story of the time she almost drown at Sun Rise Lake.

Bill was hit with an overwhelming wave of sorrow, sadness and loss as he realized how much he was grieving Cedilla's passing. It was strange because they really hadn't seen much of each other in their adult lives but she had played such a vital role in his childhood that he was now feeling cheated to have lost her. Reminiscing with so many old friends and people who had known Cedilla through the various chapters of her life was meaningful and moving and it made Bill miss her all the more.

"I'm leaving," Emily announced. "This kind of stuff depresses me."

"Well, thanks for coming," Bill replied, walking his sister from the parlor to the front door.

When she was gone, Bill took a seat in one of the chairs outside the funeral director's office for a few moments of quiet alone time. He didn't expect to be so emotionally affected by the wake but here he was on the verge of tears. Cedilla's mom saw Bill sitting there on her way back from the bathroom and she took a seat next to him for a moment.

"I know the two of you had a special something," Mrs. Martindale said softly as she took his hand in hers. "I don't want to know what went on between the two of you but I am happy that you found each other during a meaningful time in your lives."

"We had an understanding," Bill admitted.

"Those were special times on that hill in that neighborhood with so many wonderful families and kids," Mrs. Martindale acknowledged. "I loved being friends with your parents and I'm glad you kids were friends with my kids."

"Thanks, Mrs. Martindale," Bill said, trying to smile.

"I need to get back to the torture chamber," she said, standing. "You go ahead and feel sad if you need to, Bill," she advised.

Bill watched Mrs. Martindale disappear into the parlor and then he resumed thinking about Cedilla. He remembered the exact moment he first saw her as something more than a cute kid in the neighborhood, as his kid sister's friend, and as his friend's kid sister.

He had come upstairs in the Martindale house to get Simon for something. Cedilla was coming out of the bathroom wearing a silky long white nightgown with nothing underneath. The material was thick enough to cover her particulars but it was a bright sunny morning and as she walked down the hall toward her room, the light spilling through the windows hit her in just the right way so that Bill could make out her buns pretty clearly and when she reached the end of the hall and entered her room, she turned to close the door and he could clearly see her nipples through the suddenly transparent sleek material as well as a hint of her pubic hair.

It was almost as if Cedilla knew what he had seen because she hesitated for just a moment and gave him a look of seduction and amusement as she slowly closed the door. He was fifteen and she was thirteen.

Bill smiled at the memory. It was his sexual awakening and after that he saw Cedilla as a sexual being and not just as one of the neighborhood kids. Cedilla was well aware of this new reality because after that morning in the sun she treated Bill differently, teasing him in subtle ways, making light innuendos, and even overt sexual comments that let him know that she was on to him.

There was a daring game of spin the bottle one night in the Martindale cellar with a bunch of neighborhood kids and Bill made sure he got to make out with Cedilla. He jokingly kissed her under the mistletoe that Christmas and she responded by sticking her tongue down his throat.

Cedilla was getting old enough now to look sexy and desirable in a non-perverted way. Her long black hair hugged her round face, her freckles were disappearing, her form had filled out and Bill was more than aware of her appeal and his newfound desire for her.

And then it finally happened. Bill had come to the Martindale house one Saturday morning looking for Simon but Marty had gone with his parents to watch Mike play in a little league game. Fourteen year old Cedilla had stayed behind and she called Bill upstairs when she heard him yelling for her brother.

"Where's Marty?" Bill asked when he reached the top of the stairs and found Cedilla standing there in a pair of short shorts and a revealing halter top.

"Gone," Cedilla replied happily. "It's just you and me, kid."

The sixteen year old Bill eyed Cedilla with interest. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," she answered.

Bill was wearing gym shorts and a tee shirt and he wasn't expecting what happened next: Cedilla squatted down, put her hands on the elastic band of the shorts and tugged them and his underwear down to his ankles.

"Jesus, La!" Bill exclaimed with disbelief.

"What, BB?" She asked innocently as she eyed his penis practically hitting her in her face. "I've wanted to see that for a long time."

She reached up and squeezed his balls, causing Bill to jump back with surprise and he had to grab the banister so he wouldn't fall down the stairs.

Cedilla laughed with giddy delight. "Sure, go ahead, break your neck. What will I tell my parents when they find you lying on the bottom of the stairs with your dick hanging out!?"

They heard the car pulling into the driveway.

"Ah, rats," Cedilla groaned. She kissed the tip of his penis. "Until next time!" she giggled.

Bill pulled up his pants and nervously hopped down the stairs to greet Simon while a laughing Cedilla went to her room. Bill hoped he didn't look too flustered or overexcited but Simon didn't notice anything weird with his friend, including the pup tent in his shorts.

Bill knew then that he and Cedilla had crossed into another dimension, one he had never experienced before and he wasn't sure if he was frightened or turned on by the possibilities that lay ahead.

The Martindales frequently went camping and the kids were often allowed to bring friends. Simon usually brought Bill, Cedilla often brought Nellie, and Mike always brought his best friend Johnny Kreg. In the early days, there was a large twelve person canvas tent. Then the Martindales got a fold out camping trailer where the parents slept and the kids continued using the tent. In later years, however, as Bill and Simon grew older, Cedilla and Nellie started sleeping in the trailer with the parents to avoid any hanky panky in the tent.

The frequency of the camping trips had started to dissipate by the time Bill turned sixteen but a few weeks after the incident on the stairway, Simon invited Bill along on what turned out to be his last camping trip with the family. Cedilla brought Margie Anderson this time (Nellie had a summer job) and the family set up stakes at a campground by a scenic lake in New Hampshire. Cedilla and Margie slept in the trailer of course but the two girls still found plenty of time to hang out with the boys during the day.

Simon was happy to flirt with Margie who was a good looking girl with long blonde hair and bulging breasts and Bill was hopeful that Cedilla would continue her pursuit with him. Just seeing Cedilla in her bathing suit was worth making the trip!

There wasn't a lot of alone time for the teens and they were always trying to find opportunities to be away from the adults but those chances were far and few between. It was tough being horny and unable to act out on those feelings!

There was one time when Cedilla and Bill were alone together, following a trail through the woods to catch up with Mike and Johnny who had gone ahead. Cedilla saw a huge rock off the trail and she ran to it, scaling it and then taking off her halter top to let the sun warm her naked breasts. Bill stood at the bottom of the rock looking up at her and admiring her beauty.

"Do you like my tits, BB?" Cedilla wanted to know with a smirk on her face.

"Immensely," he replied. "But you'd better cover them up before somebody sees you."

"I want you to see me," she said.

"Oh boy, do I ever see you!" He groaned.

"Well?" She wanted to know.

"Hey, if it was up to me I'd be climbing up there and grabbing them," Bill responded. "But there's only about a million people staying at this camp ground."

"You're a chicken shit," she protested unhappily.

"Johnny's a little tattle tale, La," Bill reminded her. "You want him telling your parents you were flashing me?"

"I guess you're right," she pouted, picking up her top.

"Wait!" Bill groaned. "Let me have one last look!"

Cedilla laughed and she shook her breasts at him before she put the top back on and climbed down the rock. Bill grabbed her by the waist when she got to him and he lifted her off the rock. She turned in his arms and gave him a hearty kiss.

"I want to see all of you," he whispered into her lips.

"Patience, BB," she giggled.

"You're driving me crazy!"

"Good!" She laughed before breaking from his embrace and running off.

Mike and Johnny came around the corner just as Cedilla reached the trail and Bill was relieved that the two little squirts hadn't seen anything.

"You okay?"

The present day Bill was pulled from his memories by a voice. He looked up from where he was sitting outside the funeral director's office to see Margie Anderson-Zielinski standing in front of him. She was still blonde and her ample breasts were more than noticeable in the tight black dress she was wearing.

"This is turning out to be a lot tougher than I anticipated," Bill admitted with a sigh.

"I always knew you liked her," Margie said with a smile as she took a seat next to him. "She liked you too."

"How are you?" Bill asked.

"Okay," she said with a sad smile. "I saw her about a week ago. We said our goodbyes." Her eyes watered up. "Look at me, a nurse and I still get all emotional."

"I wish I had known," Bill sighed.

"She didn't want a lot of fuss and drama," Margie explained. "Sharon my friend the Hospice nurse said it was very peaceful and beautiful at the end. Jane was there and Mrs. Martindale. Cee-dee just sort of floated away."

"Now she's playing in heaven," Bill said bravely.

"Yes she is," Margie agreed warmly. "Come on," she said. "Let's go be with people even though Simon is in there."

"Why do you care about that?" Bill asked as he stood from his chair.

"We went skinny dipping at the lake that time I went with you guys," she whispered.

"And I missed it!?" Bill teased.

"It was like five o'clock in the morning. Nobody was around. Froze my ass off!"

Bill laughed and took her by the hand, leading her into the parlor. Margie insisted that he sit with her and some of the other girls from the neighborhood and school, including the graying Lisa Grant, Brandy Gallagher, Robin Fein, and Betsy Taylor, although Margie had to tell Bill who Robin and Betsy were because he hadn't recognized them thirty years later. They were all attractive in their middle age, some in better shape and appearance than others.

"Hi, Billy," Brandy said. "Long time no see."

"Where's that good looking wife of yours?" Lisa wanted to know.

"She couldn't come," Bill explained.

"Well, we're glad you did," Margie remarked. "There are no words to ease our pain but being together like this sure does help."

"I wish we could do justice to Cee-Dee's amazing character, strength, and passion for life," Lisa sighed. "She touched everybody so personally."

"Cee-Dee sure did," Brandy agreed. "The littlest things could bring her such great joy. Her smile and laugh was infectious. She made everyone around her more feel good."

"I find it ironic that her joy for life was cut so short," Margie sighed. "These last several months she struggled but her strength and her passion for life never failed until the end."

"Look at her stupid ex up there," Robin grumbled. "All Cee-dee ever wanted was a knight in shining armor to marry who understood and loved her."

"He's here for Jane," Margie pointed out.

"He's still a two-timing worthless asshole," Robin decided.

"Cee-Dee thought she knew love when she saw it but boy did she get it wrong with him," Margie sighed, glancing at Bill. "All she ever wanted was a nice house and a loving family. Sounds simple and for a while she thought she had everything she wanted. She loved her house on Elm Avenue and she loved being a wife and mother. I don't think she ever got over her marriage failing."

"That sucks," Bill mumbled.

"She obviously married the wrong guy," Margie observed, staring hard at Bill as if it was somehow his fault.

"Cee-Dee was the strongest person I ever knew," Brandy volunteered. "She fought through every adversity, never gave up, never took the easy way out. Even when she got sick, I was awed by her strength. She was a fighter who lived each day with strength and dignity."

"I remember how quick to laugh at a joke she was and how quick she was to tell one of her own," Bill told them. "She enjoyed the humor of life and I admired her for that."

"We sure were lucky to have her as our friend," Lisa noted. "She never hesitated to offer it and she was the meaning of friendship. She was compassionate and she cared deeply for those in her life. If you had a problem she was eager to help in any way she could. If you were sad she could cheer you when it seemed impossible. She brought joy and happiness to all of us."

"She was a bright light," Margie agreed. "So as long as we remember her, as long as she lives in our hearts, she will live on as a vibrant part of our lives."

Bill really wanted to cry now but he sucked in his breath and didn't say anything. His focus drifted off to some of the photo boards in the room and his eye caught a shot of Cedilla sitting on the hood of his car in the school parking lot with Lisa, Brandy and Besty. He smiled at the memory and recalled how important he became around the neighborhood when he got his license.

He was a year older than Simon so he was the first in their peer group to have access to wheels. Sometimes he borrowed one of his brother's cars and sometimes he got use of one of his parents' vehicles and whenever he was behind the wheel of a car Cedilla and some of the others were quick to ask for a favor. He liked the prestige and power the position brought him! Unfortunately, Bill rarely got Cedilla in the car alone as she was always with her friends or tagging along with Simon who took every advantage of his friend!

The funeral director entered the parlor with a female minister wearing a white collar under a blue shirt with vestments over her clothes. The director introduced her as Pastor Crocker, who had been a friend of Cedilla's for years. The gathered grew quiet and took seats and Pastor Crocker stood in front of the podium to deliver her Eulogy:

I would like to thank everybody for coming out to celebrate Cee-Dee's life. I would also like to express the family's gratitude and appreciation to the three amazingly awesome women professionals who helped Cee-Dee in her final illness with their outstanding Hospice care: Cheryl, Elsie and Diane. Thank you for being with Cee-Dee during this difficult time. You allowed her to die with dignity.
Helene was so happy to see so many folks from the insurance company stop by to pay their respects. Those who worked with Cee-Dee's Dad over the years and of course those of you who worked with Mike and Cee-Dee. Cee-Dee loved her job with the family business. She was thrilled to be able to work with her Dad and she felt she owed it to him to do the best she could after he was gone. I know Mike believed that too. Cee-Dee had passion and drive that allowed her to excel at her job. She was a good manager of people and she cared for her co-workers. The support you showed her today and your outpouring of love is proof of Cee-Dee's bond with all of you and her gift to touch those she met.

I was able to spend extra quality time with Cee-Dee during the past few months. I must say I have never seen a more determined person in my life. She never let her illness beat her or defeat her. She stayed true to herself even in the darkest days. She believed in God and she asked me to pray with her and for her.

Cee-Dee was a loving wife and a devoted mother. She had many other roles but being a wife and mother were the two most important. Cee-Dee lit up a room. She made us want to be a better person. We are less with her gone but I know that every single one of us were blessed to have known this amazing woman. We are lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of her life and watch her handle her illness with Grace and Dignity. She now lives in our heart, thoughts and memories. Most importantly, Cee-Dee lives on through Jane who she loved and adored so much.

I asked that they keep the big band music playing softly underneath my words. Do you hear it? I'll never be able to listen to it in quite the same way. I know it is easy to slip into deep grief, sadness, loss, anger, frustration and bitterness now that she is gone from our lives but we should be joyful for the gift we were given: The gift of Cedilla Martindale Turner. May God Bless her and keep her safe in heaven.

Pastor Crocker asked those gathered to recite the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary with her and then she offered a couple of other prayers over the sounds of the sobbing in the room before leaving. Then Uncle Scooter stood to say a few words.

I'm Cee-Dee's Uncle and Godfather and Jane asked me to say a few words. I've been thinking about the times I've questioned the existence of Heaven and God. But during painful times I can't abandon my beliefs without regard because God has spoken to me. The cynic in me is silenced by the voice of God especially at a time like this.

Cee-Dee often experienced that same annoying persistence in her tumultuous relationship with the Almighty. There were times when she challenged God like Job challenged Him. Many times she pushed Him but He was unmoved. She cursed Him and He spoke words of love. She raged against Him and He listened to every word. And at the end of her life, sick and dying, love won out because God never left her side. God let her slip into eternity peacefully, safely in his arms.

Ecclesiastes states: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Cee-Dee lived all of those verses during the various chapters of her life. She was a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, niece, cousin, and friend. She made a difference in all of our lives. She was never perfect but she was always loved. She wasn't always loveable but she was always loved. And we love her still.

Cedilla's daughter Jane stood and thanked the group for coming. She invited them to a reception at the Elk's Club and then the funeral director asked those gathered to leave through the back door, row by row.

Bill walked out with Margie and the other four women, some of whom were wiping tears from their eyes.

"You coming to lunch?" Marge asked Bill.

"Yes," he answered.

"We'll see you there," she smiled before walking off with the others.

### ###

Bill thought about getting in his car and leaving Hillsboro, skipping the reception altogether in order to avoid the continued sadness he was feeling thinking about (and being reminded of) Cedilla but he realized that would be the "chicken shit" thing to do in La's words.

The neighborhood had been mostly spared from death growing up. Grandparents and great aunts and uncles died but most of those seemed removed and distant. There were a few deaths around town but none that directly affected the Hilltop neighborhood when Bill was growing up.

Ironically, it was Bill's father's death that brought the old neighborhood back together in grief. Bill was only 28 when his 53 year old father was killed in a bizarre traffic accident when some 93 year old guy lost control of his car and smashed through the store front of the Greenville Dunkin Donuts killing two and injuring three. Bill's father was pinned and crushed by the vehicle and he died several hours later.

The entire event was still a blur to Bill who barely remembered those bleak days but Cedilla was very kind to him in his grief, showing up for the wake and funeral and spending time with him, Nellie and the rest of the family. He never forgot her kindness and he was able to return the favor ten years later when Mr. Martindale dropped dead of a heart attack at age 60.

Mr. Martindale's death was the last time Bill and Cedilla spent meaningful personal time together. Bill and Angela came home for the wake and funeral and they spent time with Simon and his then wife Georgeanne and Cedilla and her then husband Tom. The group went out for drinks the night before the funeral and even the presence of their spouses didn't stop Bill and Cedilla from picking up with the banter like the old days.

Bill recalled taking a late night walk around the old neighborhood with Cedilla the night of her Dad's funeral and it felt special being with her during her time of grief and loss. They never spoke of their past (sexual) exploits and instead relied on their special understanding relationship to be supportive and caring to each other. Bill remembered standing under the huge tree in the front yard of the Anderson place hugging Cedilla for what seemed like forever.

It never occurred to Bill that he would return to Hillsboro twelve years later to do it all over again, only this time for Cedilla. He sighed heavily as he put the car in gear and drove the three blocks to the Elk's Club where the reception for Cedilla was being held. Bill walked into the building with a few other people he recognized from the service and he tried to mingle as best he could with the Martindale family and other friends.

"Good job, Rabbi!" Bill joked to Uncle Scooter who seemed amused by the characterization but saddened by the task.

The catering was top notch and the meal terrific (for a funeral). Simon insisted that Bill sit with the family - Mrs. Martindale, Simon, Uncle Scooter and his wife, Jane and her dad, and Mike and his wife. There were plenty of laughter and tears as the group told more Cedilla stories.

"Come on back to the house after this," Simon told Bill. "We'll visit and reminisce and have a toast."

"We're going back to Robin's house to get drunk," Margie let Bill know as he stood at the dessert table trying to figure out what kind of pie he wanted. "You in?"

The idea sounded interesting but Bill knew better. "I'd better pass," he said with a smile. "But thanks for thinking of me!"

"You were always such a party pooper," Margie frowned before kissing him on the cheek and heading back to her table with the other girls.

That was pretty much the mark of debarkation for Bill as a teenager with Cedilla and her friends like Margie. They were the party girls while Bill was serious about his sports and he didn't want to risk getting in trouble so he avoided most of the social settings Cedilla liked to partake in. He heard plenty of stories about their drunken escapades, most from Simon who was in the middle of most of them but Bill wanted nothing to do with that stuff and he didn't see much of Cedilla his last few years in high school, although she went to many of his sporting events and still talked to him when they passed in the halls of Hillsboro High.

The reception hall began to thin out as the meal was finished and mourners returned to their regular lives. Margie waved to Bill as she and the others headed out the back door and Bill said goodbye to a few other familiar faces as people left. Soon, it was mostly only the Martindale's standing around and Bill helped them bring the picture boards and flowers brought from the funeral home out to the cars.

Then he was driving up the hill to the old neighborhood, parking in front of his old house for old times sake and walking back to the Martindale house. He sighed with sadness as he walked up the driveway and he stopped by the garage as a very clear memory came rushing back into his head.

He had made the same walk as a seventeen year old, stopping by the Martindale house looking for Simon but nobody was home.

"Hey, BB!"

He heard the voice coming from the garage as he stepped off the back porch having gotten no response ringing the back door bell. He glanced up at the small window on the side of the garage. There was a small room above the bays that had been turned into a fort years ago. It was great in the spring and fall, but it was too cold to use in the winter and usually too hot to hang out up there in the summer. But there was Cedilla sticking her head out the window with a smirk on her face.

"What are you doing up there, La?" Bill asked.

It was July and at least 90 degrees so it had to be at least a hundred in the garage fort.

"Come on up and see," she giggled.

Bill climbed up the rickety old stairs in the back of the garage and stepped into the small attic that had a couple of old couches, a few busted chairs, and a table in it. There was also an old stereo, magazines, (including Simon's hidden stash of Penthouses) and old posters hanging on the wall.

Cedilla was sitting topless on one of the couches with a quart bottle of Boones Farm Apple wine in her hand. The bottle looked half empty. It was hotter than hell and she was soaked in sweat, her drenched tee shirt tossed on the floor.

"What the hell are you doing?" Bill asked with surprise.

"What does it look like?" She smirked.

"Getting drunk?" He guessed.

"Well on my way," she laughed.

"It's two o'clock in the afternoon! He exclaimed.

"So what?" She asked indifferently. "It's summer. Par-ty time!"

"Geez, La," Bill sighed.

"Oh, lighten up, will you, BB?" She protested. "Don't you want to finally feel these?"

She put her hand on one of her breasts and shook it.

Bill eyed her breasts with appreciation for a long moment before slowly walking across the attic floor and taking a seat next to her. He tentatively reached his hand out and placed it on her right breast. Her skin was hot as fever.

"Aw, fuck yes," she mumbled, laying her head back against the top of the couch. "What took you so long, BB?"

"I don't know," he admitted with a sigh as he rubbed and massaged her breast with fascination.

Cedilla let him play with her tits for a while, occasionally taking a sip from the wine bottle. After a while, she appeared to get bored and she slipped off the couch onto her knees, positioning herself between his legs, facing him. She looked up into his eyes and grinned before reaching up and pulling down his shorts and underwear just like that day on the stairs, only this time he was seated and didn't have to worry about breaking his neck!

"La?" He asked nervously. "What are you doing?"

"Shut up," she replied as she leaned into him and took him into her mouth.

"Oh my god," he whimpered, placing his hands in her hair and keeping her close to his groin.

She sucked on him the same way she had sucked on the wine bottle a few minutes before and Bill squirmed on the couch as he started to moan and groan. She didn't say anything as she continued to work her magic and Bill knew he was going to explode at any minute. Cedilla timed it perfectly and at the exact right moment she spit his penis out of her mouth and watched as he ejaculated all over her exposed breasts as Bill screamed out with pleasure.

They were both soaked in sweat. Cedilla's hair was matted to her forehead as she stared up at him and smiled, rubbing his semen and her sweat across her chest while playing with her nipples.

"La," Bill said with disbelief.

She grabbed the wine bottle she had set on the floor and took a long swig from it before standing and putting her tee shirt back on. "I'll see you around, BB," she said with a smile before disappearing down the rickety stairs.

Bill had no idea how long he sat on the couch with his shorts down around his ankles trying to comprehend what just took place between them. It was his first actual sexual encounter and his head was still spinning, and not from the heat.

"You coming in?"

Mike Martindale was standing on the back porch with a beer in his hand, his tie loosened. He was looking at Bill strangely.

"Did you just see a ghost or something? Mike asked.

"Kind of," Bill sighed as he shook off the memory and followed Mike into the house.

"The Martindale Estate" as Cedilla used to refer to her home hadn't changed much over the years. The kitchen had been remodeled and there was new paint and wallpaper here and there but basically the home was the same as Bill remembered it from his childhood – the kitchen, bathroom formal dining room, living room, study, and front play room on the first floor, and the four bedrooms and bath on the second floor, plus the half done over cellar and neat attic.

The house was full of Martindale cousins and other family members and Bill drank a beer while listening to various family stories but all around him memories of his childhood danced in his head as he thought about all the times he spent in this house.

The study had been converted into Cedilla's 'death room'. The hospital bed, portable john, walker, and wheel chair were still there as Mrs. Martindale had purposely left the door open for everyone to see. It was a sad reality to see the shrine.

Later, Bill went upstairs to tour the second floor. Simon's old room had been converted into storage although there was still a bed in there for guests. Mike's old room hadn't changed that much and of course Mrs. Martindale still slept in the master bedroom.

Bill walked down the hall toward Cedilla's room at the end, recalling that time he saw through her nightgown as she walked the same way. Her bedroom was virtually unchanged and Bill took a seat on the edge of the bed and glanced around at her make up table, desk, double wide dresser, and huge closet.

Simon frequently referred to his sister as "The Queen" or "Princess Cedilla" because his parents had always treated her differently than the boys and her room definitely reflected that reality. It was the largest of the four bedrooms and was always in the best condition and appearance.

Bill lost his virginity on this very bed. It was his senior year of high school, the day after the football game against Miller City which happened to be the best game of his career. He stopped by the Martindale house looking for Simon but nobody was home except for Cedilla who answered the door.

"Nice game yesterday," she let him know.

"Thanks," he smiled.

"You coming in?" She asked.

"Simon's not here," he said.

"So what?" She wanted to know.

Cedilla was a sixteen year old sophomore but she was much more worldly, experienced, knowledgeable and forward than Senior Bill could ever hope to be. He followed her into the house and up the backstairs to her bedroom. He stood shyly in the doorway and watched as she pulled off her Hillsboro Hurricanes Sweatshirt and peeled down her jeans, standing before him in her bra and panties.

He watched as she slid her hand inside her panties and made a motion between her legs. Taking that as his cue, Bill stepped into the room and grabbed her breast through the material of her bra.

"Ahhh.." Cedilla moaned with approval.

He helped her remove her bra and then he began rubbing her exposed nipple. She slid her panties down her hips and stepped out of them, finally revealing all of herself for him to see.

"La," he said happily.

She turned her back to him so he could appreciate her rear and he quickly stripped out of his clothes. Cedilla turned to see his erection pointed her way.

He grabbed her breast with one hand and her ass with the other and he rubbed his member across her stomach while pinching her nipple and rubbing her ass. Cedilla stepped back until she reached the bed and she promptly fell back on it, spreading her legs for Bill to see. He had never seen such a view before and he stared at it with wonderment.

Cedilla was patient with him that day. She was generous and understanding and she helped him find his way and she taught him what to do even though he was older than her. It was the greatest moment of his life and he never forgot the feeling he had when he entered her, the sounds she made, the way she felt against him, the feel of her round buns and soft breasts, the warmth of her breath against his face.

Bill rubbed a tear from his eye as he sat on the now dead Cedilla Martindale's bed remembering that special moment in his life.

"You okay?"

He looked up to see Cedilla's mother staring at him from the doorway, her eyes red and wet.

"I should have stayed here and gone to Green College," he sighed.

"There's no guarantee you two would have ended up together, Billy," Mrs. Martindale told him as she stepped into the room. "She was too busy partying back then to appreciate you and by the time she matured and got her life together you were long gone."

"I guess," he said sadly.

"It's always easy to look back and say 'what if' but things happen for a reason."

"Maybe," he agreed.

Mrs. Martindale sat on the bed next to him and patted his knee. "You have a good life and you're married to a woman who cares about you. I wouldn't have Jane if things had gone differently."

"I suppose," he sighed.

"Be happy for what you had with Cedilla and remember those times," Mrs. Martindale advised. "But live the life you have now with gratitude and don't look back with regret."

He nodded as he wiped another tear from his eye. "She was something special though."

"Yes, she was," Mrs. Martindale agreed.

"Why didn't anybody tell me she was sick?" Bill complained.

"She didn't want you to see her like that, Billy," Mrs. Martindale answered.

They hugged for a long moment before returning to the gathered family downstairs for more visiting and reminiscing. Bill didn't want to leave but he knew he had to. It was nearly six o'clock and most of the cousins had headed out, as had Uncle Scooter and his wife.

Simon wanted to go out drinking with some old high school friends and Mike was ready to go home. The brothers discussed Cedilla's house with Jane and arrangements were made to have the place cleaned out and put on the market.

Bill shook hands with Mike and gave Simon another bear hug. He kissed Jane on the cheek and gave a teary Mrs. Martindale another long hug before leaving the Martindale house with sorrow.

### ###

Angela wasn't home when Bill arrived nearly three hours after leaving Hilslboro. He took a shower, warmed up some left overs, and then went to bed. Angela often worked late hours and long days and he was used to going to sleep alone.

Bill didn't hear Angela until she slipped into bed after midnight. He realized she was naked as she rubbed against his back as he was turned away from her. Their sex life had become routine, stagnant and hit or miss in recent times and Angela rarely got naked like this anymore.

Bill rolled over and looked at her as she propped herself up on her elbow.

"Rough day?" She asked.

"Emotional day," he answered. "Glad it's over."

"Did you love her?" Angela asked with curiosity as she pushed him onto his back and rolled on top of him.

"We never dated."

"But you had sex with her," Angela said.

"She was my first time," Bill admitted.

"Well, I'm your last time," Angela whispered as she reached down and pulled his pajama bottoms down his legs.