WARNING: This is a story for adults. If you are under 18, please stop reading immediately.
This story may be archived but is not to be distributed without the name of the author, changed in any way, or sold. Copyright 1998 by Jane Urquhart. Completed 3/14/98.
NOTE: This is the second in a series of stories about my adventures. The first was "Janey's January." Later stories sometimes refer to earlier ones, but may be read as standing alone.
Florida is all right in the spring and fall, but nobody goes there in the winter--it's too crowded! (Apologies to Yogi Berra.) Nevertheless, when Bob said we could get a free four-day trip to Sarasota to attend some medieval history conference I wasn't entirely against it. I can always get a few days off from work, and the weather in Boston was dreary, as usual, even though there wasn't any snow left on the ground. Then the Weather Channel showed a picture of Florida that looked like a volcano erupting--big orange blobs all over the state--and I got less enthusiastic. Florida in the rain is the pits. If you can't get to the beach, or at least a swimming pool, what's Florida? Strip development. Yuck! Still, when his mom, who lives in Belmont, said she'd be delighted to house sit and take care of the kids, I gave in. Bob seemed to want to go, so what the hell.
Naturally I told Beth we were going, and then things got complicated. Beth said she and Steve ought to go with us--they could be with me while Bob was at the conference, and we could explore the area. She said there are some great birding places just outside Sarasota, and it would probably be warm enough to picnic at least part of the time. I don't know if you heard, but our January was pretty weird. Beth is my best friend, but we got rather more intimate last month than I'd ever dreamed we would. I mean we were spending time with each other's husbands in different hotels. (See "Janey's January.") I don't know how much more intimate you can get than that. Well, I didn't then.
Beth is kind of a take-over type, and I tend to go with the flow, so of course she immediately decided that we could all stay at the Holiday Inn on Longboat Key--Steve had a bunch of air miles or whatever you call them that would pay for all of us. It's only half an hour from there to the college where Bob's conference was going to be, so it would work out fine. Steve travels all the time--he's in the oil bidness--so he gets all this free stuff. Bob thought it would be a great idea. He said he likes the beach, but I don't remember his being so hot for it anytime before. I had this sneaking feeling that maybe he hadn't quite finished with Beth after all. All this efficient arranging in such a short time kind of bemused me, but, after all, I was only along for the ride. Even if it rained part of the time, it would probably be a lot better than slouching around Boston all wrapped up against the cold.
Anyhow, we finally flew to Tampa, rented a car and drove down to Longboat. Beth and Steve had already been there for a day and had gone to the Pelican Man's place, where you can see all kinds of hurt birds and animals recuperating, and the Mote Marine aquarium. We got in about 10 o'clock, had a drink with them, called Mama, and then toddled off to bed so Bob could get to his conference by nine the next morning.
Well, he did, and I spent all day lying around by the pool, swimming and reading the first of my mystery hoard. I took along all six of Mollie Hardwicke's Doran Fairweather mysteries--got them at Spenser's Mystery Book Shop and saved them for a trip like this. Doran's kind of weird and unstable, but I never mind spending time in England as long as I didn't have to live there. Bob got back around two and joined us. He almost relaxed. Bob is a workaholic, and I'm used to it, but it's nice when for some reason he cuts loose. Naturally that meant he slept most of the afternoon, but what the hell, he needed it.
Beth showed off her new bathing suit, or, maybe, Beth's new bathing suit showed off Beth. She even got wet, probably to give everybody a better view of her nipples. A lot of the pool loungers enjoyed the show. Fortunately, I've long since gotten over competing for attention with the cuties. I figure my body, which is 5" 10" tall, well muscled and nicely rounded, is meant to work for me, not to advertise bathing suits. My hair is sort of dark blond, and curly so it looks like a mess all the time. My face won't launch any ships, but some people like it. Let's not talk too much about boobs. And I can outswim any of the cuties any day, if necessary. I did notice a few of the guys gazing at me when they could take their eyes off Beth, and of course I didn't mind that at all. They weren't much to look at themselves, as far as I was concerned. Several sleazies and numerous wrinklies.
We got enough dressed to go to the Gulf Drive Cafe, where you can eat on an open porch right by the beach, then came back to the hotel to watch the sunset. When I've spent December and January and half of February in Boston and I find myself someplace warm, I don't mess around--I soak up every bit of sun available. I could feel the vitamin D. We talked about our jobs and made jokes about Monica Lewinsky and had a couple of drinks and it was bedtime. Bob was tired, too, even though he'd slept half the afternoon, and he had to give a paper the next morning.
The weather forecast was iffy. There was this zillion-gallon pile of crud off the coast; if it came in, we'd get wet; if not, it would only be gray. So Beth and I decided that if it wasn't raining when we got up, we'd go to St. Armand's Circle, where all the fancy stores are, and shop. Steve was going to plug in his laptop and sell oil to some Arabs or something. Bob, who was leaving early to make his conference, would pick Steve up and they would meet us around one.
No rain in the morning, so off we went. Beth being crazy, she's great to shop with. At her office she wears her accountant suit--the whole dress-for-success thing--and sensible heels and hair tastefully arranged and a little red scarf at her neck to indicate she's still aware she's a woman. Not that anybody else would miss it for a minute. But once she's out of there she might look like anything, as long as it's wild. Hippy clothes, sweatshirts and baggy shorts, saris, you name it. No matter what she wears, she's five-foot-two of sex bomb. Long black hair, a figure I'd kill for, red, red lips, that little hook in her nose, her olive skin--she gets stared at all the time. She loves it. When we're together, I'm so tall compared to her that I look like maybe the porter she brings along to carry her bags. Except we laugh all the time and either make the clerks nervous or make them think we're long lost friends of theirs.
Beth and I were delighted with our loot--I'd even bought a new bathing suit, which led to major convulsions on both our parts and weird looks from the other customers when I tried it on and put on my discus thrower act. Beth has a strange effect on me; most of the time I'm a prim, if large, suburban matron, but with Beth I get almost as nutty as she is.
So we fell into chairs at the Hungry Fox at one o'clock, lumbered with bags full of perfume and T-shirts and knickknacks. It was getting darker all the time. Steve and Bob showed up five minutes later. Bob was high because they liked his paper, and Steve was happy because he'd figured out a new way to bilk some third-world government.
Just as we started to eat our hamburgers, the rain came. There we were, on the open balcony on the second story, looking out at the bougainvillea getting its petals knocked off, palm branches floating around the circle, and shoppers running for cover. Fortunately, we weren't on the rail, so we could enjoy it without getting wet. It did, however, make the afternoon of beach bumming we'd hoped for look unappetizing. So as we ate we started talking about what we were going to do. Bob kind of wanted to hit the bookstores on Main Street in Sarasota. Steve wouldn't have minded getting back to his computer, and, of course, I had Mollie Hardwicke to entertain me. Still, Florida in the rain is basically the pits.
Finally, Beth wiped her mouth daintily with her napkin and said, "Or--we could go back to the hotel and fuck each other a lot."
I cringed and glanced at the nearby diners. Nobody looked shocked. Bob put his sandwich down and stared at her. Steve just ate.
"Well?" she said.
Nobody said anything for a minute. Sorting out my thoughts, I finally discovered that I was a little curious about what she meant.
"I don't do women," I said.
Steve stopped chewing, looked at me thoughtfully, and said, "I do."
"Me, too," Bob piped up.
Beth actually giggled and said to me, "You're not my type, honey, but we have these two guys here and I think we could probably manage to enjoy ourselves some way, don't you?"
The rest of us all masticated thoughtfully.
"You've already got some books, Bob," I said finally. I could see how the wind was blowing. and Mollie would wait.
"Let's do it," said Steve, "but first why don't we just have a nice cup of coffee and consider the possibilities?"
.... There is more of this story ...