Martin Bishop opened the door to his apartment, glad to finally be home. It had been a long week for the twenty-five year old photographer, having had three major projects to complete. Now he was looking forward to a quiet night at home.
The door hadn't even fully closed behind him when a tall, long-haired redhead, appeared from the kitchen. With a warm smile on her face, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. The press of her body against his was enough to make all the problems of his day simply fade away.
"I missed you too, babe," Martin said as his wife of four years finally released him.
Jennifer Benson had first met Martin Bishop during their freshman year of high school. It had hardly been love at first sight; which in the long run turned out to be a good thing because it gave them time to become friends long before they became lovers. When they finally tied the knot, two days after her twenty-first birthday, they had a relationship built on a much stronger foundation than simply physical attraction. That was not to say that there hadn't been any of that involved as well. Both had been popular in school and neither came to the marriage bed inexperienced.
"Dinner's almost ready," Jennifer said as she turned and headed back to the kitchen. "The mail is over on the table."
Martin took a few moments to watch the five foot, six redhead walk away. If anything, she looked even better than the day he had married her. Only when she was totally out of sight did he turn to the small table in their combination living/dining room.
That the table was set for a special occasion immediately sent his curiosity into high gear. Since they led a pretty casual home life, having no problem eating off paper plates in front of the television at times, the presence of the wedding china only meant one thing - his wife wanted something.
Not that he viewed that as a bad omen. It had been his experience that whatever it was, it would be something that he would've said yes to without all of the fuss. Not that he was about to tell her that. It was too much fun being convinced. As he sorted through the mail, he wondered if the convincing was going to include his getting laid tonight. With both of their schedules, Jennifer was a nurse and worked worse hours than he did, they hadn't had sex in two weeks.
"Martin, can you give me a hand?" Jennifer called out from the kitchen.
Ever the dutiful husband, Martin put down the mail and headed for the kitchen to do just that.
Entering the small kitchen, Martin wasn't surprised to find that dinner turned out to be lamb chops, mashed potatoes, and cream corn, one of his favorite meals. It was all part of the game Jennifer liked to play.
"I put a bottle of wine in the refrigerator to chill," Jennifer said as she transferred the chops from the pan to a large serving dish, "could you get it?"
Removing the bottle from the small wine rack they kept on the bottom shelf, Martin noted that it wasn't one of the ones they normally drank. It was a much more expensive brand, one that they hadn't had in over a year. They could afford to splurge once and a while, but the sudden extravagance began to turn his thoughts in another direction. What if rather than wanting to ask him for something, Jennifer was going to all this trouble to tell him bad news? The time she jumped the curb and ran the car into a fence came to mind. That was the last time they'd had this particular wine.
Dinner was as excellent as he had expected. Although both of them took turns cooking, Jennifer had the better culinary skills. Yet even as he enjoyed the meal, he couldn't keep his mind from wondering when his wife was going to get to the reason for it all.
"I stopped by and saw Mom this afternoon," Jennifer said as she changed the subject of their discussion from work.
"How is she doing?" Martin asked as he took a sip of the wine. His concern was genuine as he really liked his mother-in-law.
"She still has her bad days," Jennifer said, then paused as she took a drink from her own glass. "But I think I've come up with a way to do something about that." she added.
Nineteen months before, Jennifer's father had succumbed to a fatal illness. Since then, her mother had gone through several long periods of depression. Both of them had been very worried about her, having heard of too many people who lost any desire for life after the passing of a spouse.
"Whatever it is, I'm all for it," Martin said, giving his wife his full attention.
"Well I think you'd better hear what I have to say before you're so quick to agree," Jennifer cautioned.
That only made Martin more curious. To help Jennifer's mother, there were few extremes he couldn't imagine himself going to. And that would include having her live with them, an offer that had been made a few times in the last year, only to be turned down.
"Well, you know that I've been trying to get Mom to start dating again," she began.
Martin nodded his head in response. No sooner had a respectable period of mourning passed than men who had only previously looked at her as Mrs. Benson had tried to come to call. It was a response to her widowhood that neither of them had found surprising.
At fifty-seven years of age, Allison Benson was, as Martin's Grandfather liked to say, still a fine figure of a woman. Five foot, five and only a dozen pounds heavier than her daughter, she also shared the same red hair. Although hers was cut to just above shoulder length and he suspected its hue was helped by Lady Clairol. Allison was also a little more endowed than Jennifer.
Another of his grandfather's favorite sayings was, before you married the daughter, to take a good long look at the mother. Because, he pointed out, that was what your bride was going to be in twenty years or so. If that turned out to true in Jennifer's case, Martin was definitely looking forward to the next two decades.
"Well, I just about convinced her to take Josh Miller up on his offer to take her to the Labor Day dance at the American Legion post," Jennifer continued.
"That's great," Martin said, thinking that Josh Miller was the best of the half dozen men who had shown an interest in her.
"But," Jennifer continued, "she does have a small problem. At least she's convinced it's a problem."
"What's that?" he asked.
"She's worried about sex."
"Excuse me," Martin replied, the answer taking him totally by surprise.
"She's worried about having sex with Josh Miller." Jennifer explained further.
"Well I'm sure he doesn't expect her to sleep with him on their first date," he offered.
"That's not the problem," she said.
"I'm a little confused."
"It's not that she doesn't want to have sex, believe me, she does," Jennifer tried to explain. "She's afraid that she can't."
"That doesn't make sense," Martin replied. "Why wouldn't she be able to have sex? Unless there's some medical problem..."
"No, she's healthier than I am," Jennifer cut him off.
Before he could ask what the problem was then, Jennifer tried to explain. She started off with saying that it wasn't really rational but her mother had this terrible fear of going to bed with another man. She had been a virgin when she got married and for thirty years, had only known one lover. For lack of anything else to call it, Jennifer described it as performance anxiety.
"I'm sure that neither Josh Miller or any other man is going to find her lacking in any way."
"Actually, it's not so much the men that she's worried about," Jennifer said, "it's the women."
"Excuse me?" an even more confused Martin replied.
"I told you it didn't really make sense," Jennifer repeated. "but evidently, Mom has this morbid fear that if she sleeps with any of the men in the neighborhood, and fails to satisfy him, then that is going to get back to all of her female friends."
"But how would any of them..."
"Trust me, things like that do get around," Jennifer answered before he could even finish the question. "You don't know these women. A few years ago, that actually happened to one of the women in their circle. She lost her husband and when she tried to share another man's bed, it was a disaster. The man never called her again and the reason why quickly got around as well. After that, no man wanted any part of her. The women never said a word to her about it but she could tell when they looked at her that they thought she was less than a woman. Eventually, it was too much for the woman to take and she moved."
"This is all crazy."
"I said it makes no sense, but that's what she believes."
Martin just kept shaking his head. This had to be the biggest piece of nonsense that he had ever heard.
"I thought you said you had a solution to all this?" he said as he remembered what started the conversation.
"Actually, I think I do," Jennifer said. "Do you remember Heather Esposito?"
It took Martin only a few seconds to remember the rather plain girl who had been part of Jennifer's wedding party. She had a nice personality but always let her looks overshadow everything else.
"What about her?" he asked.
"We got her laid the night of the bachelorette party."
"Good for her," Martin said, "but what's that got to do with anything?"
"We paid the stripper at the party to screw her," Jennifer confessed. "She never knew of course, but it did wonders for her self-confidence."
"You're going to hire a stripper for your mother?" Martin said in disbelief.
.... There is more of this story ...