by: Marty Chrisman
“I didn’t find out until almost a year later that he killed my mother that night and then killed himself.” Kelly told Luke in conclusion. Tears had welled up in her eyes and she sat there trembling, her hands cold as ice. Luke could feel her pain as he listened to her account of what had happened.
“Why didn’t you call or write after you found out that he was dead?’ He asked her, the hurt showing plainly in his voice “You were safe, he couldn’t hurt you anymore. We all thought you were dead too. We just figured your dad had killed you first and hid your body somewhere.”
“Maybe it would have been better if he had.” Kelly told him in a sad, forlorn voice devoid of much emotion. She hadn’t told Luke the whole story, not yet and when she did, she knew that he might never forgive her.
“What are you talking about?” Luke asked in a puzzled voice, wondering why she would make such a statement. .
Kelly looked at him with eyes so full of pain and dispair that Luke wanted to take her into his arms and comfort her just like he used to do when they were kids. In a barely audible voice, she said “He didn’t just kill himself and my mother that night, Luke.” She took a deep shuddering breath “He killed a part of me” she hesitated then continued in a trembling voice “And he killed a part of you too. He killed our baby.”
Luke stared at her in disbelief, his mind struggling to make sense of what he had just heard. Swallowing past the lump that had suddenly got lodged in his throat, Luke said “You were pregnant?” As an adult, Luke had always been careful to avoid the complications of an unwanted pregnancy (shotgun weddings were still pretty common in these parts) But, at 17, he hadn’t been quite as cautious. The thought of Kelly possibly getting pregnant had never really crossed his mind. Even if it had, it wouldn’t have mattered. He loved her back then and wanted to marry her. A pregnancy would have given them the excuse to speed things up a little.
“Yes,” Kelly told him quietly, afraid to look into his eyes. “Almost three months”
“You should have told me.” Luke said, trying to keep the edge out of his voice but only partially succeeding. “I had the right to know.”
“I did what I thought was best for both us, Luke” Kelly said quietly. “Maybe it still is.” Without another word, she slid out of the booth and turned away. Luke didn’t try to stop her from walking away. Not this time. He was too stunned by the things he had just learned. He needed time to sort it all out in his mind. He needed to talk to Uncle Jessie.
Luke pulled some money from his pocket and left it on the table for their food. Shoving himself to his feet, he slowly walked out of the café, deep in thought. He hoisted himself through the open window on the driver’s side of the General Lee and settled beneath the wheel. Turning on the engine, he pulled away from the curb and headed for home.
The Duke farm was located on Old Mill Creek Road, a ten minute drive from Hazzard. The drive was long enough to give Luke more time to think. He was hurt because Kelly had never told him about the baby. Yet, in a way, he understood. Still, he found himself mourning the loss a child he had never even known about until now. Part of him had always felt guilty because he had not overruled Kelly’s objections that night and insisted that they tell Jessie the truth. He had taken it hard when she disappeared and it was even harder because he couldn’t talk to Jessie or Bo or anybody else about how much he was really hurting because nobody had known about his real relationship with Kelly.
Luke knew that Jessie would be alone at the farm. Daisy was at work at the Boar’s nest and Bo had left early that morning to go Boar hunting. When Luke arrived back at the farm, he found Jessie sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper and enjoying a cup of coffee. He looked up as Luke came into the house. From the expression on Luke’s face, Jessie knew that Luke needed to talk about something.
“Where’d you take off to this morning?” he asked his nephew, as Luke poured himself some coffee and sat down at the table beside him.
“I went to Hazzard to talk to Kelly” Luke told him
“Did you find out what you wanted to know?”
“I found out more than I wanted to know.”
Jessie raised his eyebrows quizzically but remained silent. He knew that Luke would say what he had to say in his own way. Briefly, Luke told Jessie what Kelly had told him about that night, about the beating and the fight with her father over the gun. He avoided mentioning the baby, at least for the moment.
“There wasn’t anything you could have done to stop what happened.” Jessie told him in a reassuring tone.
“I could have made her stay here instead of letting her go back home that night” Luke said, finally revealing the secret he had kept about that night for so many years.
“You saw Kelly that night?” Jessie said, mildly surprised.
“Yes, sir.” Luke admitted “I was with her out in the barn. She was hiding in the loft.” Luke took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, there was no easy way to say what he had to say next “She was pregnant, Jessie.” He looked at his Uncle, his emotional pain showing clearly in his eyes. “She lost the baby that night. I never knew about it until today.”
Jessie sat in solemn silence for several minutes. When he spoke, he chose his words carefully. “I’m sure Kelly had her reasons for not telling you back then. But it sounds like she came back to Hazzard to try and make things right.”
“I just don’t know what I’m supposed to feel right now” Luke said in a confused voice, looking to his uncle for reassurance and guidance. Of the three cousins, Luke had always been the one who had been reluctant to share his feelings, keeping his emotions in check and under control. He said half of what he thought and nearly nothing of what he felt, until he was ready to say it.
“I reckon you’ll figure that out for yourself soon enough.” Jessie told him. “Did you love her back then?” Jessie asked a question he already knew the answer to but he wanted Luke to say it out loud for his own sake.
“Yes,” Luke admitted, the slight waver in his voice the only indication of his true feelings. “And I guess there’s a part of me that still does.”
“Love can do funny things to a man.” Jessie said sagely “And no man ever forgets his first love, no matter how many years its been.”
“I better get to them chores.” Luke said abruptly, standing up and cutting their conversation short. Jessie nodded. That was Luke’s way. He’d shared as much as he was able to share at the moment and now he needed time to think. Jessie knew that Luke was a mature and responsible young man. He would make the right decision for himself and for Kelly.