WARNING: This is a story for adults. If you are under 18, please stop reading immediately.
This story may be archived on free web sites but is not to be distributed without the name of the author, changed in any way, or sold. Please do not re-post without consulting the author. Copyright 1998 by Jane Urquhart.
NOTE: This story is part of a series. Later stories sometimes refer to earlier ones, but each also is meant to stand alone. Three stories have appeared previously--"Janey's January," "Janey's February," and "Janey's Trip."
I got dragged to the pen show.
Every year, all these fountain pens, old and new, put on their best rags and roll down the ramp in the ballroom of the Swissotel, located right in the middle of downtown Boston next to a huge closed-up mall that looks like one of Saddam's bunkers. They're just pens, but the atmosphere is as tense as it must be at Versace's Spring Opening. Pen fanciers of all stripes come to feed their addictions. Unfortunately, my husband Bob is one of them. He's a medieval historian, and now that he's got tenure he wants to spend money like water on--fountain pens. Some of the pens that are on sale do look medieval. Me, I can't write anymore--I just beat on the computer keys. Why doesn't he collect Model A Fords, or Empress Josephine's letters, or maybe campaign posters from the Holy Roman Empire? I don't know. He collects fountain pens.
I'm a very nice person, even if I am a five-foot-ten 33-year-old part-time vocational counselor with messy hair and no tits. So every year I go to the pen show with Bob. He likes company on the trip into the city, and he likes to gloat when he makes a particularly spectacular purchase. This year we got poor Betsy, our wonderful sitter, to drag herself over on a freezing cold Sunday morning after church when it was snowing like mad--after all, spring had come to Boston, so naturally we had a snowstorm. We kissed the little ones goodbye after I made sure there was some gruel for them and slithered off down Route 128 (America's Technology Highway, don't laugh) and the Mass Turnpike and wound up at dear, departed Lafayette Place. We put the car in a nearly-deserted parking lot, trudged through the slush and entered the hotel. Then the fun began.
Actually, fountain pens make my teeth hurt, so, even though I'm a very nice person, there's no way I'd do this except for a large reward. Now, the Swissotel (they spell it all lower case, but that looks silly on paper) has, in fact, a very nice Sunday buffet brunch. That's my reward. We got seated, ordered cups of tea, and then marched to the buffet. I piled about eight pounds of scrambled eggs, a peck of hash browns, twelve sausages, half a honeydew melon and a few garnishes on the teeny little plate they gave me and then we ate in a leisurely manner. I usually have a second helping--all this for only $14.95 apiece--and at least one more cup of tea, and I'm in rare good humour, ready to battle the pen show. That's how it was on March 22.
We collected our gear and headed for the elevator. Suddenly I saw someone I know.
"Oh, my goodness, hi, Janey, I didn't know you were a pen person!" Air kisses from one of the dear PTA mothers. My teeth started to hurt early.
"Hi, Marilyn," I said. "It's not me, it's him." I pointed at the culprit as we piled into the elevator.
"Oh, Bob," Marilyn said. "I didn't know you were a pen person!" Very high quality simper. "Do you two know my husband John? Janey Urquhart, this is my husband John. Bob, this is John."
I looked at John and said, "Are you a pen person, too?" Somehow a tiny sneer crept into this statement, right about where "pen person" got mentioned again. The elevator door opened. Marilyn and Bob were out of the starting gate like Secretariat. As we sidled up to the registration desk, John turned to me.
"Actually, no," he said. "I'm just along for the ride."
Notions began forming in my head.
Obviously, Marilyn wasn't aware of it, but Bob and I both knew John from the Little League fields. His and Marilyn's boy Nicky is a fall crop, as we say down home, just as I was. John is a very handsome man, if you like the Mediterranean type, and I do--they're male, aren't they? Besides, nearly everybody in town knew John because he was prominent in all sorts of town affairs. He's a stock broker; a good deal older than I am with nice wavy hair, even though it's mostly gray. He's maybe a little thick at the waist, but still quite attractive. I'd enjoyed talking to him at the games. Of course, he's only four feet tall, like most men, but I've learned to make allowances. He's tall enough sitting down, anyhow.
The notions coalesced into a grand plan of action.
"Marilyn, dear," I said, "Why don't you and Bob keep each other company inside? I know Bob always feels guilty and hurries when I'm standing there bored out of my mind and tapping my foot. But John and I can go down to the bar and get drunk, then you two can feel free to spend as much time at the show as you want."
Said John: "Excellent idea!"
Said Bob: "Are you sure you don't want to come in, Janey?"
Said Marilyn, in her little-girl voice: "It's all right with me."
Said Janey (that's me), dripping syrup: "Oh, no, Bob, you go right ahead with Marilyn and you two can pick us up when you're done. Take your time. We'll see you when you get there." Turning to John, I said quietly, "Let's get out of here before somebody sells us a pen." He nodded and we headed on tiny feet for the elevator.
I said to John, "Doesn't she know we know you?"
"Guess not," he said. "She never comes to the games."
"You mean she voluntarily misses the opportunity to cheer her son on to victory in the greatest Little League franchise in Boston's western suburbs?"
"She does," John said, rather defensively. "She's not really stupid, you know, she can't help the way she talks. She's smart enough to get out of going to the Little League games."
The elevator dumped us in the lobby while I pondered this piece of intelligence. We found the bar and found a seat. We ordered. Scotch for him, red wine for me.
Both of us, Bob and I, go to way too many Little League games. From what I had just heard, it's possible to send only one of a pair to these contests and still avoid being considered unnatural parents. Maybe Marilyn really isn't as dumb as she sounds.
We chatted a little about the wrestling season--our sons are in that, too. We deplored the weather. That done, we got down to business. Or, at least, John did.
"I can't get over my luck," he aid. "I've been dreaming for six months about getting you off by yourself."
Oh, my, thunderstruck again.
"You have?" I said intelligently.
As I said before, John is handsome, charming and probably quite rich, all great qualifications for almost anything. Obviously, the only problem with him was that he'd just gone bonkers.
"Yes, I have," he said. "You are an Amazon, an Artemis. I see you standing out there at those horrible ball games in your jeans and sweater and I drool. I have this perfectly rational desire to leap on you and ravish you right there on the sidelines." He smiled. "So far, I haven't done it, but it's always a possibility."
This man has cojones, unless he carries around a ladder and a blackjack. Brains, I wasn't so sure.
"Amazon, huh?" I said. By now you may have noticed that witty repartee is my strong point.
"I wish I had a room here, right now," he said. "We could get in that elevator and be wafted off to bliss."
Wafted? Artemis? He must have a classical education, too.
"Well," I said, "let's consider this. How would you go about persuading me that getting wafted was such a good idea?"
I was beginning to feel a little apprehensive. This fine man, despite his wonderful vocabulary, apparently not only had designs on my fair white body but thought he had a fair chance of bringing them to fruition. I was not familiar with this kind of situation. My tiny, hardly noticeable affair with my friend Beth's husband Steve was in the nature of a friendly little get together. Just a nice game among friends. Despite our having shared Little League torture, however, John was a relative stranger. Did I want to get involved with a stranger, even a rich, handsome one? Would I end up testifying before Ken Starr's grand jury?
He toyed with his Scotch glass, then answered my question.
"Probably the first thing I'd do," he said, "is accidentally brush your hand, like this." He accidentally brushed my hand. I liked it. A little song went skipping along in my head--brush my hand, brush my hand. To hell with you, Ken Starr. "Then I'd say, 'Oh, pardon me."
"Of course," I said. Of course, of course! Do you think I'm going to get all huffy just because some really nice man accidentally brushes my hand?
He took my hand in his.
"That wasn't really an accident, you know," he said. "I just wanted to touch you." What a shocking confession! Actually, I had already figured that out.
My hand stayed put. "I don't mind." Nobody ever got prosecuted for holding hands, did they?
He lifted the hand in question off the table and kissed it lightly. "That wasn't an accident, either," he said. Then, with his other hand, he brushed my cheek. Brush my cheek, brush my cheek, the little song went. "If this place weren't so public, I'd lean over and kiss you."
"I might conceivably allow that, if this place weren't so public," I said. My God, he does subjunctive, too, I thought. This man has potential. I really like men who know about the subjunctive--they have a sense of the unknown, the possible, the conditional nature of the universe.
"Being equally unwilling to do that here in public, however," he said, "I'd take your hand and say, 'I have some delightful etchings up in the room that you really ought to see.' Looking soulfully into your eyes, of course."
"And I'd say, 'Oh, how nice! Etchings are my favorite form of art. Could we go up right now?'" Like hell I would. I wouldn't say that, would I? I'm a law-abiding citizen. Nobody is going to pull this on me. But I do like etchings. If they're the right kind. And this did seem to be a whole new vista upon which even an underachieving mother of two ought at least to gaze.
"Why don't we just assume we're doing it," he said. "Then we could cut out all this 'And then I'd do this' stuff? I'll go first."
"You mean pretend--sort of like a run-through?"
"Exactly," he said. "Please." He stood and pulled out my chair as I began to rise. He's at least a head shorter than I am. (Pretend, pretend, the little song went.)
"Are you sure we should do this?" I said. I thought, am I sure we should do this? Have I ever been sure about anything? Well, no. I usually go with the flow. Maybe just this once. And it's just pretend, isn't it?
"Why not? Marilyn is good for two hours in that show, at least. And I imagine Bob is just as bad."
He took my arm and led me off toward the elevator. "This is happening awfully fast," I said. I paused. "But, on the other hand, if it doesn't happen fast it won't happen at all."
We pretended to enter the elevator. The doors closed, and we were wafted up to his floor.
As we entered room 607, he said, "I owe your friend Beth a great debt of gratitude. She told me that I should be direct with you. I'd never have had the nerve, otherwise."
"You know Beth?" I said, shocked. "How do you know her, and what else did she tell you?" Beth is a squat little monster who--I mean a lovely, successful accountant who owns her own business, lives in a palace on the North Shore, and occasionally leaps into bed with my husband. She is my dearest friend, I might add. At least I think she still goes to bed with my husband now and then. He has a special kind of "I've been fucking Beth" sheepish look when he comes home late from class some days. This all started a while back, and I won't go into detail, but Beth and her husband, Steve, are the people we pal around with--you know, go to the opera or the movies, sail in the summer, feed each other dinner, throw the occasional orgy, the ordinary things people do together.
"She's my accountant," John said, "and I'm her broker. I've known her for years."
"Oh," I said, mulling that over. "So what else did she say?"
"I quote: 'Janey's not bad for an amateur, but she does require a lot of stroking.'"
"She's not exactly a pro herself, the little bitch." I paused. "I think."
"I think she was speaking figuratively," John said. "Given what I hear about you-- pillar of the community, perfect wife and mother, role model for the next generation, and so on--I was astonished to hear that you and Beth are friends."
"She's the role model," I said. "Get rich and have fun is her motto--woman of the 90s, maybe the double-zeroes. And we're friends because I need a bad influence. How would you like to be a 'pillar of the community'? That gets boring after a while, and, whatever else she may be, Beth is never boring. Without her, I'd just go on holding up the roof."
"My dear," he said, taking my hand--we were still standing by the door of the room, chatting away--and gently pulling me close to him, "as you well know, I'm a pillar of the community myself. But I really didn't bring you up here to talk about Beth."
"You're right," I said. "Show me your etchings."
He pulled me closer and put his arms around me. I lowered my face toward him and he hesitated, then kissed me, thoughtfully, rather calmly. He ran a hand down my back, stopping just below my waist. It was a nice kiss, but I was puzzled--where was the fire? So I asked.
"Hey, you dragged me up here. You wanted this. What's wrong?"
"I think I'm frightened," he said, looking down. Then he looked up. "I never thought this would happen. I'm not used to this sort of thing. And I think maybe you're being kind to me. I don't think I could take that."
Was I hearing right? Was this some kind of generational thing? He couldn't be more than fifty or fifty-one.
"Listen, John. I am a nice person, but I'm not THAT nice. You dragged me up here, don't go all funny on me."
I grabbed the hem of my sweatshirt (my Longboat Key sweatshirt--I only wear the Harvard one for yard work) and struggled to get it over my head. Looking John straight in the eye, I then unbuttoned my white blouse and shucked it. I reached behind, unhooked the bra, and dropped it on the floor. I unzipped my jeans. He got the message. By the time the jeans were around my knees his shirt was off and he was trying to catch up. I kicked the jeans away, slipped out of my knickers and stood, waiting. While he was still trying to get his socks off and at the same time ogling me, I went to the bed, threw the covers back, and sat down. Kind to me, kind to me, went the little song. I shook my head--didn't need that.
He stood up, having finally shed the raiment. I reached out and took his hand, pulled him down beside me.
"Better," I said. "I take it back. You didn't drag me up here, you wafted me."
He laughed, a little self-consciously. A fairly good sign. I reached toward him, pushed. He lay back on the bed and scrunched around so there was room for me alongside him. Then I gave him a little kiss. Not the other way around. Now I've had some odd surprises in my life, like the time one of my fellow athletes accidentally stuck a javelin in my butt, but this one was unique. I am not the aggressive type. That's Beth, not me. I go with the flow. But not this time--there wasn't any flow.
So I kissed him again, this time with verve and panache. It worked. He woke up and began taking part in this operation. He kissed back, mouth open, tongue exploring and all. Put his arms around me. Not bad. Warming up around here. So I slipped down a little and kissed a nipple. Wow! Old Albert down there coming to life. But, somehow, it wasn't right. I'd swear he flinched when I first touched that nipple--not frisson flinch, scared flinch. I stayed right there and licked a little. Something told me to take this slowly.