WARNINGS: This story includes explicit descriptions of sexual acts. If reading this might involve you or another person in an illegal act, or you are offended by the exploration of adult themes in literature or on the Internet, do not read further.
Copyright ©1998 by Jane Urquhart. The author is a member of the Net Authors and Creators Union (NACU), which defends the rights of Internet authors and creators. NACU intends to bring suit against any person or corporation infringing copyright.
Specific permission is granted for publication in the news groups Alt.Sex.Stories and Alt.Sex.Stories.Moderated and for archiving by the Alt.Sex.Stories.Moderated archive, Deja.com, and RemarQ.com. All other rights are reserved. Do not repost or distribute by any other means without express permission from the author.
When my friend Beth, sitting across the too-small table in the Trident Café, dropped her bomb, I was eating those yellow raisins that for some reason they put on your plate along with an omelet. I choked, coughed, and just had time to grab a napkin before the weird little things came flying out of my mouth. My eyes and nose started gushing. In the middle of this fit one part of my mind was already telling me that my life was going to change radically.
When I finally calmed down, maybe three minutes after the first explosion, I said, "What did you say?"
"I said I think my husband has a crush on you." She grinned.
Actually, I knew what she had said, but I thought maybe I had raisin poisoning or something.
Nobody gets crushes on 33-year-old slightly overweight vocational counselors who live in the suburbs with two kids in school and perfectly adequate husbands. Except maybe nerdy college boys who have too many hormones and not a clue what to do with their nerdy lives. And probably not them, either, as far as I can tell. And, especially, not a quite pleasant young engineer who happened to be married to a gorgeous Mediterranean type who happened to be my best friend during my freshman year in college.
I wiped my mouth again and sipped my tea, which was cold because they don't have sense enough to use boiling water in their leaky little hot water pitchers.
"I don't think so," I said, "and besides, even if it were true, why would you tell me? Why not just sock him in the chops and keep quiet?"
"Well," she said, "I quite like the guy, and I don't mind his wandering eye. After all, I robbed the cradle to get him--it's not fair to monopolize his early youth and then not let him try to get some of it back."
"You astonish me!" I said. Fair? I liked Beth a lot, but I didn't think fair was one of her big things.
"Look," she said, "He was only 22 and just out of college when I met him, and we got married two years later. I'm four years older than he is, and far more experienced. I'm sure he's not planning on leaving, but I'm not surprised he looks around a little."
I remembered Beth in college. She had a succession of boyfriends--she looked around all the time. But I hadn't seen her since she transferred to a different college. Then she moved to Boston a year ago and we picked up pretty much where we left off. My husband and I both enjoy Beth and Steve, maybe because they're so different from us. They don't have kids, we do. Steve is an engineer with a short haircut who works for an oil company, in the field a lot, and Beth is an accountant with a real career; Bob is a history prof at one of the better local universities, and I'm a part-time counselor with no ambition at all. We got to going to movies together, then they talked us into going skiing with them in Vermont and sailing in the summer. Beth has pretty much slipped into the role of best friend for me, even though they have a good deal more money than we do. But this kind of statement was a shocker.
Kind of a nice shocker, though, I found myself thinking.
"Tell me more," I said. "How do you know about this so-called crush?
"Oh, he says little things. Like, at least twice he's mentioned casually that you looked awfully good in your bathing suit last summer. And he saw this blonde bombshell in some TV movie that other night and said she looked a lot like you."
"Oh, sure," I said, "She was five feet ten and had no tits and raggedy-looking hair and freckles, is that right?"
"Come on, Janey," she said, "Don't put yourself down. You look great when you dress up. Your hair is just curly, and some guys salivate over women in those long skirts you wear."
My skirts aren't that long, maybe three inches below the knee, but to tell you the truth I think they look better than the crotch-high minis that Beth and half the other women I see on Newbury St. wear. Leave a little to the imagination, don't they? But there was no denying the five feet ten, the scraggly dishwater blonde hair and the freckles. Maybe Steve had a fetish for freckles. And Beth is probably seven or eight inches shorter than I am. Maybe he yearned for the mountaintops.
"I'm just realistic, friend. Besides, my husband likes the way I look. Or at least he used to."
"What do you mean?" Beth said. "Something wrong there?"
"Not really," I said. "I don't know why I said that. You know, we're old married people with a family. Not so much hot snuggling as there used to be."
"Poor baby, you're in a rut. Why don't you give Steve a little encouragement when we go to the opera Friday night. Just a tiny bit. Might wake you up. And might wake your husband up."
I was gobsmacked. Learned that word in an English mystery I read, and it was definitely appropriate here. What you do in that situation is change the subject. So I asked her whether she thought this Baby Doe opera would be any good. It worked, and the subject didn't come up again
Back at work I was so busy I almost forgot about the conversation. But not entirely. One of the kids looked a little like Steve--muscular, blond, tight T-shirt, you know. But, unlike Steve, green as grass. Steve might have been a baby when Beth snatched him, but he isn't now. I kind of thought about Steve for a minute, until we got to discussing software companies this kid might work for.
That afternoon, driving down Great Plains Avenue with the kids in the back seat, I looked at Needham for the first time in a long time. Of course I lived there and saw it every day, but this afternoon I looked at it. It was okay. Not much different from the town I grew up in, except it was full of little people and where I grew up they came bigger. And most of the houses were kind of old, while my suburb was a bare field that was growing houses instead of cotton. Still, a lot alike. Same kind of things going on--not much, that is. It gave me a strange feeling I couldn't quite put my finger on.
But home is great, really. I love Alan and Judy, and I heard all about what was going on in the first and third grades and then Bruce the weather man said it was going to snow a whole lot and I wondered if there would be school on Friday and whether we would get to go to the opera after all, and how I couldn't very well encourage Steve if we were snowed in. Oops! I guess I must have been doing some thinking I didn't know about.
Bob was full of news about the department, and how he couldn't stand the new guy they were going to hire for English history but he didn't have enough clout to stop the appointment, and by God, one of these days he'd be a full professor and he was going to be a tyrant. He wasn't very happy, but all his colleagues at the history convention in December envied him because the school was so prestigious, and I couldn't do a lot about the fact that the department was run by a bunch of knuckleheads (I think that's what he called them), so I kind of tuned out a little. He gave me a goodnight kiss like I was his mother, and then tossed and turned that night and didn't sleep very well. I had some kind of strange dream about the sailing trip we went on but I don't remember anything more about it.
They did cancel school the next day, but it turned out the snow wasn't such a big deal so we went to the opera anyhow. The fourteen-year-old girl next door likes to babysit because we pay well, and she's a nice kid. We had to pick up the tickets at seven, so we drove in early, parked at the Hancock and ate at Chili's in the bar. I had some kind of watery beer with supper. I didn't like it much, but I got a little tiny buzz on, so I didn't care. Bob doesn't drink at all, but he doesn't mind if I do. He has some kind of stomach problem. I wish he could loosen up a little, and stop worrying about his job and life in general, and maybe he'd get over it. I loved the guy, and hated to see him work so hard, but that's what he says he has to do, and what do I know?
.... There is more of this story ...