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Billy Jo half-listened to the drone of her answering machine until she heard a firm, deep, masculine voice say, "I'd like to leave a message for Billy Jack. I need a driver at once. Since you have no experience, I'll start you off at twenty-two fifty an hour. If you work out after this run, your salary will go up according to your worth. I'll stand for no boozing and no run-ins with the law. There's no loading and unloading, just straight driving. Be at the Flying G Truck Stop at five in the morning. Be prepared to leave at once and to be on the road for at least a month. Ask for Jason Conrad."
Billy Jo just stood for a moment before her face broke into a large grin, and she whooped, "Hooray!" Quickly, she dialed her brother to tell him the good news. "I got a job, Joel. I'll be on the road for a month, at twenty-two fifty an hour. Can you believe it?"
"That's great, Sis. What company?"
"Well, I'm not sure. He said to ask for Jason Conrad." With a small sigh, she added, "I guess I don't know much about the job. I only know we can use the money, and Joel, I'll send some as soon as I'm able. I'll miss you. But don't you get too lonely without me there to visit."
"Billy, there's a nurse here who will see that I don't get too lonesome. Rose sure keeps me busy all day doing one exercise or another. A real slave driver, and she's sitting right here on my bed at this minute."
"Sounds like you won't miss me after all."
"I would like to know more about this trucking line, Billy Jo. I'd hate for you to become mixed up with some fly-by-night organization."
"I'll phone you as soon as I know more," she promised, then rushed on, in a dither, "Igotta get packed now. I'm supposed to leave at five in the morning. If Mom calls, let her know I have a job. She won't be too happy about my driving, but it pays well, and it's about all that I'm able to do."
"Don't worry about Mom," Joel said. "I don't suppose I ever told you, but I've always thought you are the best driver I'd ever seen, except for me, that is."
"Ouch!" Joel gave a muffled cry.
"What's the matter? Are you in pain?" Billy Jo asked in concern.
"It's Florence Nightingale. She just threw a pillow at me. She didn't take too well to my self-praise. Rose wishes you well, too. You take care of yourself, Sis." His tone of voice told her of his concern for her. "I just had a thought, Billy Jo. Is this Conrad guy going to be driving with you?"
A perfectly reasonable question, she thought as she answered her brother. "He didn't say, but I assume I'll be handling the rig by myself."
"Be careful, Sis. You are rather naive."
Billy Jo laughed. "Naive or not, I can drive a rig and that is the only thing anyone is getting from me. Even if the man is my partner, I still remember all of that judo you taught me. I'll be all right."
"You always have been able to handle anything you set out to do, but a big brother can still worry about his little sister."
"Joel Bob Jack, you just worry about yourself. Do what the doctors and that pretty nurse on your bed tell you, and we'll soon be driving an eighteen-wheeler together. I've got to pack now, and I have no idea what to take. I believe this is the coldest I have ever seen it. It's seventeen below here in Edgewood!"
"It'll be colder in the morning, too. Dress in layers, Billy Jo." She laughed as she listened to her brother's advice. "Wear heavy sox and boots. Wear long johns under your jeans, you hear?"
"Yes, I hear. We've lived in New Mexico since we were kids, but from time to time, we still talk Texan. I suppose it is true, you can take a Texan out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the Texan."
Billy Jo sighed as she replaced the receiver. She hated being away from her brother for a month, but he appeared in good spirits. She was happy that the nurse had taken an interest in him, and she was not surprised. Joel had gotten the best of the looks in the family. He was tall and blond with blue eyes. She had inherited her dad's height, too. Until she tried her hand at truck driving, she had never been happy about her five feet nine inches height. Billy Jo knew she was fashionably thin, maybe too thin, but she believed she had an unfortunate shade of straight dark brown hair and brown eyes to boot. Joel had always been the popular one, the extrovert, and she the wallflower, drawing into herself unless pulled out by Joel. Now he lay in bed most of the time, perhaps forever. She felt tears well in her eyes. She shook her head. That would not do. No more feeling sorry for Joel or for herself. She had a job!
As she carefully packed a small suitcase and duffel bag with items for her trip, she idly wondered about her employer, Jason Conrad. He sounded a no nonsense type of man. Was he old? Young? Fat? Thin? Bald? And what would he think of her? He had hired her sight unseen. Well, it mattered little what he looked like. She hoped he would be an older fatherly type of man. He must be a modern thinking man. He hired her. She laughed mockingly in a fit of denigration. He must be desperate!