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?
We walked about ten blocks to the Emerson Majestic and waited around inside for Beth and Steve. It was too cold outside, and I was nearly frozen, but the theater was warm, even if they still hadn't finished rehabbing it. They got there ten minutes after we did. Naturally I air-kissed Beth and Steve, and I think I might have held on to Steve just a second or two longer than normal. Maybe I got a little closer than usual, too. He felt kind of good, even if I did have to lean down to get at his cheeks. Kind of a hard body. My boobs hit him just below the shoulders. I do have boobs, they just don't stand out like the prow of the Cutty Sark; they're there, all right. I had on a black dress I liked and I had my coat unbuttoned by that time. Now, you know, all of this went through my mind, and usually when we met I just did the routine and didn't even know I was doing it. Must have been those damn raisins. Naturally Beth practically slobbered over Bob, but she's that way, so it's normal. I think she had some kind of fancy vegetarian sandwich, anyway, without raisins.
We sat way up in the mezzanine because the orchestra cost $98. I don't see how people can afford to spend that much on a show, but the mezzanine seats were really good and of course I brought my little binoculars so I could see the principals very well whenever I wanted to. The first act was terrible, really, like they didn't know whether it was a comedy or a tragedy. But I knew, because I knew the story, and I got kind of involved not with Baby Doe, but with Horace. Anyhow, the lead soprano couldn't stay quite on pitch and that drives me nuts.
I seriously considered suggesting that we leave during the intermission, but I could see everybody else wanted to see it through. Get their $38 (mezzanine seats) worth, I guess. It was getting hot up in the rafters where we were, so I wanted a drink of water. Beth said she wasn't about to walk down three flights of stairs for anything, but Steve said he wanted to go, so I said come on. Bob seemed to be happy to just sit and read the program. We got down and Steve bought me a bottle of water for only a dollar, can you believe it? OK, I can't help it if I worry about money, I just do--maybe I'm like Horace's wife. I'll tell you about her in a minute. Anyhow, the lobby was jammed, so Steve suggested we go outside for a minute and get cool with all the smokers. It was still cold as it could be. I shivered and Steve put his arm around me and held me close to him. That turned out to warm me up quite a bit more than I'd figured it would. In fact, I felt a little tingle or two in places that normally don't get cold at all. Then they flashed the lights and we went back in. Steve went off to the men's room and I just watched all the people. Mostly they looked pretty ordinary, but maybe nicer than the ones at the movie last week when we saw Titanic. A lot of gray-haired intelligent looking men who probably taught at Harvard and women who looked like their wives--kind of thin lips. I still don't understand why people in Boston don't dress up when they go to the opera; it's the frumpiest city I was ever in. When my parents took me to theaters at home the lobby looked like a peacock farm. Steve came back and we headed back up the stairs. He had to take my hand to get me through the crowd. He actually had calluses on his hand, like the farmers back home. For some reason I got those tingly feelings again. I think he must have, too, because he looked kind of sheepish when he let go as we turned into the mezzanine seats. I guess it's just as well that Beth and I were sitting together, with our husbands on the outside. the way couples seem to do at the theater. She raised her eyebrows a little when I plumped down beside her, but I just kept a straight face. Nothing to wonder about, was there? Maybe I did smile just a little.
You probably haven't seen this opera unless you're from Colorado, but Horace is a miner who strikes it rich. He has this wife who's very sharp and knows how to take care of money, which he doesn't, but she has no vision, and he does. Then he meets Baby Doe, who is divorced, and they fall in love. He leaves his wife and marries Baby Doe, but the snobs don't like Baby Doe because they think she's after his money. Anyhow, he loses all his money because he can't believe his silver mines will lose their value when William Jennings Bryan loses the election. He's broke, but Baby Doe stays with him because she really loves him. It's kind of a stupid story, in a way, and I'm smart enough to see that, but the odd part is it's really true. Sometimes life is kind of a stupid story, I suppose. It's a tragedy, all right, and the second act was tremendously better. The baritone that plays Bryan at a big political rally could sing like a dream, and by this time the authors had realized it was a tragedy and it hung together a lot better. Poor Horace.
Steve and Beth had their car in a garage on Stuart Street, just around the corner, so Steve went and got it. They offered to take us back to the Hancock garage and I was so glad I could cry. It must have been fifteen degrees. Bob and I rode in the back seat and Beth turned around and talked at us all the way back to the garage. She invited us for dinner the next Friday night. Monday I had lunch with one of my other friends and I insisted on the Trident. Their omelettes are pretty good, and I thought I'd like some more raisins. I even figured I'd probably buy some at the Star Market.
Friday night. Of course during that week I'd gone to church and shopped and played with the kids and cooked and talked to poor forlorn about-to-graduates who didn't have any idea what they were going to do after they finished college. And had lunch with my friend at the Trident. That time the raisins gave me no trouble, but then I didn't have Beth sitting across the table. Of course I didn't think at all about Steve and Beth and Friday night coming up, oh, of course not. Maybe a few thousand times is all. Maybe I don't have enough to keep me busy.
Friday night finally arrived. I spent about three hours that day--I didn't have to work--trying to decide what to wear. Me! This was not a big thing; it was going to be just us and Beth and Steve, and we swap dinners all the time and afterward play Monopoly or watch a movie or just talk. So I dithered. One of the things about me is, I don't dither. But I dithered on Friday. Thank God it didn't snow, so the kids were off at school at least part of the day, leaving me alone to dither in luxurious quiet. On top of that, I don't exactly have a wardrobe like the one Imelda Marcos has. I could give you a complete itemized list right now but it would bore you. Looking through it ten times bored me. I have dresses and suits and skirts and sweaters and jeans and stuff like that. We usually try to be clean for these dinners with our friends, but we don't dress up. I don't dress up for much of anything. So I couldn't put on something slinky and get away with it. Come to think of it, I don't have anything slinky. I finally ended up wearing a gray wool skirt, just ordinary, a white blouse, and this vest thing I got at Nomad a couple of years ago. With little glass jewels on it. Same old underwear, naturally. You think I had time to go to Victoria's Secret? Well, I did, but I didn't go; in fact, I blushed when I thought of it. This is called serious dysfunction. I tried to comb my hair but it wouldn't. OK. It's sort of curly and unruly. But I did manage to get dressed by the time Bob got home and got himself ready.
So we go way to hellangone out to Beverly, where Beth and Steve live in a great big Tudor house. Got there around six. Rang bell. Got hugged by Beth. She hugs awfully hard for such a little person. We sat around for a while drinking good Italian red wine. Good for the heart. Yeah, right. For some reason mine kept kind of skipping, doing funny things. My pulse was somewhat higher than usual. All this on the basis of a smart remark by a woman I didn't fully trust, even though I loved her dearly, a perhaps unusually warm greeting, a held hand and a funny look. Can I help it if I'm crazy? I had refused during the week of the thousand thoughts to veer onto the subject of why I was acting this way.
Beth went out to twirl the spaghetti or something. She cooks these great Italian meals. Bob was looking at the books in the bookcase. He does that. Then he sat down on a stool and started to read one of them. He does that, too. He's an expert at disappearing right in front of your eyes while you're still looking at him. Steve looked over at him, then at me, and rolled his eyes. He smiled. I was sitting in this big goddam couch that takes ten minutes to get out of, but I struggled until I was standing up. Bob looked up at me from his book and chuckled.
"They put that thing there to trap maidens," he said. "Why don't you sit somewhere that doesn't eat you up?" Then he went back to the book.
"OK," I said. Then I sort of sloped over to Steve's chair and looked down at him. He looked up at me. Then I calmly sat right down on his lap.
"Oof!" he said, and set his glass on the floor next to the chair.
I said, "I bet I can get up from here in a tenth of a second."
"That depends," Steve said, putting both arms around my middle. "Maybe I won't let you up." Bob didn't even look up. Good book, I guess.
Steve sat there with this little grin on his face.
"Do you really want a slightly overweight suburban housewife with two kids sitting on you?" I said.
He gently lifted one hand up until it just touched the bottom edge of my right breast.
"After deep consideration," he said, "yes, I do. You aren't a lightweight, but you feel pretty good to me."
Bob swam up out of the book again, looked over and grinned. "Better you than me, buddy. She can hold you down in that chair all night if she wants." I don't think Bob could see where Steve's hand was, but I surely could feel it.
I leaned down and gently kissed Steve on top of his head. That was when Beth came tripping back in. By the time she got there the hand was back down around my middle, but I was still sitting there like a great big doll.
"Hi, guys," Beth said. She looked over at Steve and me and smiled beautifully. "I'm sorry to say dinner is about to be served." She was wearing a frilly apron over her sweater and jeans and looked like a million dollars. If I'd just cooked a big meal I'd look like something out of Dickens. I was out of that chair in a millisecond. Frankly, I was just a little dizzy. Wine does that. So does Steve's hand, I'd just discovered.
We ate. Usual small talk. Steve had been in Indonesia a couple of weeks earlier and he started to talk about the environmental horrors and Bob was about to get right up on his soapbox and orate, but Beth just quietly slapped them down. "Not at dinner, she said. "No way. I'll send money to the Nature Conservancy but I won't have endangered species at the dinner table." Instead, she got us talking about Baby Doe, which was just as bad in my opinion, and then Bob, of all people, brought up the mosh-pit scandal. Two quarterbacks in a night club, etc. I don't know whether he was for or against, because I'd had another glass of wine and was playing footsie with Steve under that table, and that kind of distracts me from significant conversations. Not real footsie, of course, shoes-on footsie. But he knew I was there, and I knew he was there. I got the idea that somehow Beth knew we were both there and was laughing without cracking a smile. I didn't care, then I did. I hadn't played any kind of footsie with anyone in so long I couldn't remember when. This was awful. It was like high school, only embarrassing. But, just like it was in high school, it was kind of thrilling.
After supper I offered to help with the dishes, but Beth said to just put them in the sink, so we all got them off the table in a hurry and went out into the living room. We watched some movie about a nasty American woman and some English wimp she finally married. I liked the scenery, but I couldn't follow the movie. Something was going on in my head about, is this all there's going to be? Just footsie, and me sitting on Steve's lap for two minutes while Bob reads a book in the corner? Now, wait a minute! Here I am all hot and bothered and I really am crazy. I made up my mind something else was going to happen. I wasn't sure just what. I had to find out at least whether Beth was telling the truth.
Beth declared an intermission and went out to the kitchen to make popcorn. I followed her.
"Well," she said, "how's it going?"
"Going?" I practically screamed, but it was really a loud whisper. "What's to go? I thought you said Steve had a thing for me! He sure isn't much of a fast mover."
"God, girl, are you dense," Beth said. "You don't think men have the guts to make a move in a situation like this, do you? I kind of liked you in his lap, but I'm sure he thinks it was a joke. You've got to do better than that."
"Well, I'm not ready to start a conversation on oil fields or football," I said.
Beth looked exasperated. "I don't see how you ever got married, even to a bookworm like Bob. You don't talk to men, not at this stage, you do something physical. And the only kind of body language they understand is touch. So get in there and reach out and touch somebody."
"You're not much help," I said. I grabbed a bowl of popcorn and stomped back into the living room. I was out of my element. My element was more like the laundry room. Or javelin throwing. I did that in college. Maybe I could challenge Steve to a javelin throwing contest.
The guys were slumped down in their chairs looking bored, talking about some oil find in Alaska. So I sat down in the maiden-grabbing couch and said, "If you guys want any popcorn you better come over here. I'm not going to pass this bowl around."
Steve did move fairly fast when told. He was sitting next to me in a second. Bob moseyed over to the fireplace and stood with his back against it, getting baked. "When's Beth coming back," he said. "I want to see the rest of the movie."
"Ugh!" I said. "Not much of a movie."
"Oh, well, there are lots of sexy women,:" Bob said.
"Nah," said Steve. "This is not a sexy movie. You ought to see the ones the guys out in the oil fields have--especially the Asian ones." He took a big handful of popcorn and stuffed it into his face. "I don't think the women would enjoy 'em, though. They tend to be made for men."
"You try out any of those Asian women while you're out there?" Bob asked.
"Oh, my God no!," Steve said, shaking his head. "Every time a thought like that crosses my mind my equipment freezes up completely. Not just AIDS, they've got diseases out there you never even thought of. I just watch the movies sometimes, and think about getting home to my demure little accountant."
"The college boys have those movies, too," I said. "And you're right, the girls don't much like most of them."
Beth came in and turned down the lights, and Bob came over and sat down with us on the couch. Beth crossed her arms and took off the blue cashmere sweater she was wearing over her white T-shirt. "It's too hot in here," she said. Then she sat over in the big easy chair Steve had been in. "Let 'er roll," she said as she punched the play button on the TV control. I was wondering who the show she put on getting that sweater off was for. Unlike me, she did look like the Cutty Sark under full sail when she pushed her chest out.
As soon as the movie started I just casually put my hand on Steve's thigh. I noticed it had a big fat wedding band on the ring finger. He didn't react at first, but when I pulled my fingernails an inch or two up toward his groin he sort of grunted and put his hand on mine. Bob was watching the movie and eating popcorn. But both hands moved away after a very short time.
Nothing else happened, but when Steve helped me on with my coat when we left, he just barely brushed my little nipple with the back of his hand. I nearly jumped out of the coat, but I calmed down enough to get it on and get us out of the house. On the whole, I wasn't convinced anything had happened at all.
Life went on. Beth told me Steve was out of the country again, floating around Asia. I'd hate to have a husband gone as much as Steve was, but it didn't seem to bother Beth. Thinking about it, it seemed to me my husband spent a little too much time in medieval Europe. Anyhow, Steve was Beth's problem. But about ten days later, on a Tuesday morning, I came out of a morning counselling session and found a note from the secretary telling me to call Steve with a phone number. That had never happened before. Being cool and calm as always, I ran back in my office, sat down and passed out. Well, not really out. I shook a lot. My face got hot. Somewhere considerably below my waist got sort of warm. I figured I must be excited. So I sat there a while reading department notices until I got back to room temperature. That took maybe ten minutes. My next appointment was coming in another ten minutes, so I went to the women's room and then got a drink of water and came back to the office. Then I called the number.
I got a snooty secretary, but she deigned to connect me to Steve's office.
"Steve Walters," I heard.
"Jane Urquhart here," I said, primly.
"Oh, Hi, Janey," he said. "Uh,... I was just wondering if we could have lunch or a cup of coffee or something. I could come down your way."
He didn't sound the way I felt. Maybe just a little bit hesitant. I held the phone at arm's length and took three big deep breaths. "I'm honored," I said. "I have to catch the train in time to be home at three, so lunch is O.K. if you want. I'm free from about 11:30 till 12:45. You know where Newbury street is? I can get there by 11:45 and we can have a quickie--I mean a quickie lunch, at the Trident bookstore. It's not too crowded on Tuesday."
"Great," he said. "I'll be there. Uh, where is the Trident? I don't get down there too often. Do they serve lunch at a bookstore?"
"Yeah, they do. It's between Hereford Street and Mass Ave. Just up from Tower Records."
"O.K., I'll take a cab. See you at a quarter to twelve."
"OK, see you. Bye-bye."
He mumbled something and hung up. I very carefully put the phone on the hook. I was delighted with myself. I had enunciated clearly and crisply. I had not sounded like a high school girl. I had just made a lunch date with my best friend's husband. Oh, God! I pulled myself together and started reading the notes for my next interview. I decided it probably wouldn't ruin the kid's life if I was a little unsettled when I prattled on about test scores. After I saw the client I was sure he would ruin it satisfactorily without my help. What's more, I got rid of him fifteen minutes early--legitimately--and had time to dive into the ladies for a minor overhaul before I had to leave.
Lunch was unusual. For instance I had a cheese sandwich instead of the omelette. Steve said it was so cold he'd almost rather be in Indonesia. I said sometimes we went to Florida during the college breaks. Hot stuff, huh? Finally, after we had finished eating and I had succeeded in pouring a second cup of lousy weak tea, Steve reached out and took my hand.
"Listen," he said. "I'm no good at this. No practice. But I think about you all the time. I have a bad case on you. What am I going to do about it?"
My hand was red hot. My face was kind of pink--I could tell because I felt each blood cell as it rushed up past my neck. I was full of witty repartee, so I said, "I don't know." Neat, huh?
Steve took a deep breath and said, "Would you consider joining me some afternoon for a little experimenting? My company has this suite at the Four Seasons where we put visiting VIPs, but it's usually empty. I'm the guy with the key." He put his other hand on my knee under the table.
My heart was going like a triphammer, whatever that is. I found that I was answering him.
"Yes. Ten o'clock Friday morning."
Then Steve looked like he was the one who might faint. I smiled and reached under the table and put my hand on his.
Now the next part was really romantic. He took both hands back and dragged a little black book out of his pocket and opened it to where there was a little ribbon. I watched, fascinated. I put one hand on his knee just to see what happened. Nothing did.
"I'll be there before you get there. Room 607. OK?"
"Have something strong for me to drink," I said.
We got up--I left the tea--and he paid the cashier. He helped me on with my coat and this time his hand brushed my nipple hard. My knees didn't buckle, they just felt like the were going to. Outside the store he took my arm, pulled me close and gave me a little tiny kiss. He grinned. I blushed again and smiled.
"Bye, Janey," he said. "See you Friday."
He scurried off toward Mass Ave and I stood there a minute collecting my wits. I finally started picking my way through the ice chunks toward the scene of my helping endeavors. All I could think of was Room 607. Room 607. Room 607. Room 607. I got back to my office without getting run over.
I succeeded in putting Room 607 out of my mind the rest of the afternoon. When I got home, however, I got supper, got the kids off to do their own things, and found myself with time to think. All of a sudden this thing was real.
Bob was involved with some book. Normally I'd have left him alone, but I wanted to talk to him. I still had time to call up Steve and call the whole thing off. Did I want to? Yes, I did. No, I didn't.
"Hey," I said, "I want to ask you something."
He looked up in a daze and said, "Sure. What's up?"
"Do you still love me?"
He got this funny what's-she-on-about-now look he gets. I read it as saying that I'm some kind of weirdo, probably retarded, and certainly an emotional basket case. It's not an uncommon look. It always made me feel weird, retarded and emotionally a basket case. Usually I sort of dry up and drop whatever subject produced the look. I resolved to be resolute.
He finally spoke, looking back down into the book. "Of course I love you! What's gotten into you?"
Nothing yet, I thought. "Well, you haven't given me a real kiss since last summer. Occasionally you take me to bed, or, rather, once we're already in bed you grab hold and we have sex, but you haven't really made love to me since last summer, either. If then. Maybe I've done something wrong, I don't know. I just want to know what's going on."
"Oh, God, Janey, nothing's going on. I just got tenure, now I've got to produce. On top of that I'm on the Faculty Senate, as you well know, and I have to sit on at least five committees. I'm working harder than I did while I was in the Navy. It doesn't have anything to do with you. I married you, and I'm still here, aren't I?"
"I know you're busy, and I know you worry a lot. But we don't have any fun. I work, I take care of the kids, we go out now and then, but you don't talk to me and you don't make love to me." By now I was looking off into the distance--that is, not at him.
He put the book down, got out of his chair, came and stood alongside me and put his hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry, Janey, I really am. I just get so involved I never think about anything but the next problem. And I don't think you really understand how important all this is. I'm doing it all for you and the kids. One of the these days I'll be a full professor and we'll have more time."
"You said that when you got your Ph.D. we'd have more time. Then you said when you got tenure we'd have more time. Now it's when you're a full professor. Maybe when you retire?"
"I don't know how to please you, Janey. I do my best."
"I guess you do," I said. Then I opened the book I'd brought to read and turned away from him, sniffling a little.
"I wish I could make you happy, Janey, I just don't know what else to do. I really do love you."
"Yeah," I said. "OK." I'd stopped sniffling. He patted me on the shoulder and stood there a minute. Then he went back to his chair and started reading. I closed the book and got up, saying, "I think I'll get on the computer and check my mail."
He didn't hear me.
When I got back into the little room we keep the computer in I just sat there for a while. Thinking maybe I won't cancel Steve. But I didn't think I wanted a full-blown affair--maybe a one-morning stand? I didn't know. I knew I was getting in over my head if I went to the Four Seasons at all. I didn't know anything about sex except what I'd done with Bob about 400 times and a very few others before that weren't much. I've read a lot of books, but they weren't very helpful. I sure as hell didn't want to end up like Emma Bovary. On the other hand, some of the books had some scenes in them that were hotter than anything I'd ever done. Maybe I could learn something from this. Might as well enjoy it.
So I got to thinking maybe I'd better learn a little before I ever went to the Four Seasons. I had two whole days. Well, minus the usual round of stuff I had to do. I clicked on the news button and got a page that showed me Bob was subscribed to some medieval history group. Show all groups, I told the damn machine. Went down the list. Clicked on alt.sex.stories. Ugh! Eight thousand ads. Great stuff like "Want to see my pussy?" Actually, I didn't. Back to the news group list. "Alt.sex.stories.moderated." Maybe it would be better. It was. A long list. I skimmed one on some little kid getting seduced by his mother. Ugh! Then one that said "MF, rom." Not so bad. I was getting the hang of this thing. It was about some guy rescuing a woman who wrecked her car in a snowstorm. Oh, yes, he rescued her all right! At this rate I'd take a long time to find very many stories that would teach me anything. But the snow story was sexy, so I read a couple of others. They made me feel sexy. Maybe I learned a few things. My God, I couldn't believe there were so many. I got started on one where he was getting ready to tie her up. Not me, buster. People have some strange tastes.
The next day I went back to the Trident at lunch and bought a little book I'd seen on the cashier's desk the other day--The Pocket Kama Sutra. It was more to the point. Indeed. I took it home and examined it carefully. Nice pictures. I kept it in my pocketbook all the time. What if I put it away and somebody found it? But what if I was in an accident and they looked in my purse to find my name and address? This whole thing was getting more complicated by the minute and I hadn't even done anything. Except make a sex date with my best friend's husband. Well, I was getting prepared, anyhow.
Maybe you don't understand this, I don't myself, quite, but as those two days passed I got more excited but calmer at the same time. The decision was made; no more thinking about that. I finally tried to look at myself and understand what was going on and I concluded that basically, I was just needy. Physically. The kids touched me all the time. But Bob didn't. I wanted to be touched--thoroughly. Wrestled with by a man. OK, I was a pathetic creature. Yes, I was being totally reckless, taking a chance on wrecking my marriage to a good husband whose only real failing was that he was a workaholic. So be it, I thought.
Then I started picturing what was going to happen. I had never been in a room at the Four Seasons, so I couldn't picture the room very well. But a bed is a bed, and I figured the room wasn't going to be squalid, not at the prices they charge. But would it warm enough? I wear sweaters at home all the time in the winter. I could see myself hiding under the covers trying to keep warm while Steve scrambled around trying to find me. And I couldn't imagine how we were going to get to the bed. Was he going to offer me a drink and chat a while, or would he leap on me the minute I got inside the door and poke himself in before I got my clothes off? In the latter case, would I be ready? Riding the train from Needham does not usually stir me to heights of sexual anticipation. I went to Victoria's Secret and bought new underwear--nothing fancy, just new. I stewed.
I have this habit of getting everywhere early, but on Friday I showed up at Room 607 at 10:20 a.m. EST. If anybody was going to stand around waiting, it wasn't going to be me. My heart was racing. Steve opened the door. We stood there for about ten seconds. Then he took my hand and gently pulled me into the room. He shut the door. He turned and took my hand again.
"Hi, Janey," he said.
"Hi," I said. At least he hadn't thrown me on the floor and ravished me. Heck.
"Let me help with your coat," he said.
"Thank you," I replied, starting to shuck the gear. I was wearing a fur hat, a wool muffler, and a beautiful white parka I didn't wear much because it got dirty so easily. It was clean. I was so clean, top to bottom and inside out, that I would have glowed if it had been dark. Under the circumstances I had decided not to wear my woolly knickers, so I was cold, but I didn't notice it because I was so hot, if you get what I mean. We got the coat off and he put it in a little closet by the door. I reached down and one at a time pulled off my boots. This was not graceful, but it was necessary. I was wearing a beige wool jersey dress that clung to me like skin with a little blue scarf at the neck and a little gold bird pin. And a diaphragm. No shoes.
Steve came back and held out his arms, then he kind of lurched forward and I was getting the hug of my life. I bent my head down a little and kissed him on the lips. He kissed back, hard. I could feel his tongue searching around so I opened my mouth a little. The tongue entered, the hug got tighter, I opened my mouth some more and enthusiastically tangled my tongue up with his. I started feeling the most extraordinary bulge gouging into my belly.