© Copyright 2003
This work is copyrighted to the author (email@example.com), with all rights reserved. -- This work may be archived and displayed on non-commercial web sites without permission, but please do not remove the author name or e-mail address.
Hayley stood before the mirror, working her brush through yet more tangles in her hair. As the brush pulled free, several drops of water fell from the ends of her hair, dripping onto her shoulder and down her breast. She looked at herself in the mirror. Age 40. Assessment. She wasn't 30 anymore, or even 35. Her breasts sagged a bit, but then, 38C was a mature size. Her skin wasn't quite... well, it was just looking aged. Not old, just older. Not clouded with spots, but not blemish-free either. A stretch line here and there. It didn't bother her. If she repeated that long enough, she would believe it, surely.
Her breasts retained their roundness, however. They hadn't gone flat like some of her friends. Steven would think it an ultimate irony, she supposed... his utter fascination with her boobs compared with what she felt was her own disinterest. They were boobs. Stuff them in a bra and you're done for the day... no need to dwell on them. But still, she did so now, and although she looked fine, she didn't really want to contemplate how her body would change over the next 10 years.
The feel of Steven's hands as he grasped under her breasts caught her by surprise. His touch was familiar, weighing he breasts and kneading them softly. She hadn't heard Steven come up from behind her. But he always seemed to show up for a look and a grab whenever she was naked. That was definitely a good thing. She wouldn't want him looking elsewhere. He now looked at her nude form over her shoulder, as they both shared in her reflection in the mirror. While she didn't receive any satisfaction from being groped, his fixed interest confirmed that 15 years of marriage had done nothing to lessen his interest in her breasts.
Her thoughts were interrupted as he offered, "I think they're heavier."
She wasn't at all embarrassed at being nude in front of him, but sometimes he certainly made her feel... She wasn't sure, maybe she felt like a specimen, subject to periodic tests. She recalled a few weeks earlier when she had gotten out of the bath, dried, and stood on the scale, putting her exercise and diet to the test. He had entered the bathroom, looked briefly at the scale reading, and issued a "hmmmmm." As now, his hands cupped both her breasts, and he had raised them slightly. "Ahh, three lbs!" He then tested the measurement by releasing one breast, watching the scale adjust, switching breasts, weighing again, and confirming the total. "Nice." Whatever that meant. Was there a certain breast weight that was now in vogue? Did he hear it on the 6:00 news? Did the New England Journal of Medicine publish a study? Ok, Cosmo then? Was this the kind of thing that guys talked about when they went bowling or played golf? In which case...
"I am NOT getting on the scale." This was just plain awkward. She pulled his hands away and returned to brushing her hair. He admired her breasts a little longer as she kept her arms, and therefore, breasts, raised, while working through her last of tangles of hair.
"Sorry, I just really like holding your breasts."
"Well, Steven, it's not like I haven't told you this before. Little girls don't grow up imagining about boys groping their breasts and squeezing them like they're those foam stress relief balls. And it's not like we grow into the idea. I put up with it because I know you like it, but it doesn't do anything for me."
"Ahhh, well maybe that's it. It calms me. I'm still stressed. Can I squeeze them some more?"
She gave him a playful sneer, effectively communicating her response. "Well, at least your groping feels better than what's coming in a few weeks."
Steven immediately looked interested. "What's that?"
"My annual mammogram."
"You've never really said much about them before. Is it awkward to show your breasts to a physician?"
She considered her answer. "Well, yes, it is, and it seems like doctor's offices are always cold." She regretted giving him the mental picture he was now surely forming... Wife, half-naked, hard nipples, distinguished doctor fondling her breasts. It was time to turn him away that particular thought.
"I've done it often enough. I suppose I'm used to it, but what the test involves..."
Steven interjected, "Ah, great! So you don't mind when others see your breasts. Topless beach, here we come!"
"No, we don't. I don't think you understand what a mammogram is. So look at it this way. You're having your penis examined. A doctor, and you can choose male or female, but let's make it a female just to fit the scene, puts on a latex glove and then not just fondles your privates, but forcibly presses her fingers into your flesh, looking for anything that doesn't feel like it belongs."
"OK. Well, that would be a little different, I admit, but it sounds like something some guys would pay for."
Hayley continued. "And then, after probing firmly into your flesh, you get an x-ray. The doctor or nurse has you place your penis on, let's say a vise, and then closes the vise on you, tightening, and tightening, and tightening, and... oh dear, your balls are blue. But now that you're penis is nice and flat, hold still while they take the picture. Get the picture?"
"Ya. Sounds painful." He looked thoughtful for a minute. And how in the hell had he managed to get his hands on her tits again? She saw him looking at her in the mirror again, and he added, "But, well, see, at least exposing your breasts to others can be beneficial! You should do that more often."
He was hopeless. She vaguely recalled several times when he had asked her to flash her tits in public places, where only he could see them. She squashed the thought. "Dear, no one wants to see my breasts, and there's more practical ways of helping humanity." She released his hands and turned to get dressed. Steven remained where he had been, looking thoughtful.
She was just cutting into her filet at Ferrell's, their favorite steakhouse, when Steven asked her, "So, only one more week until your workout?" She had no idea what he was talking about. He smiled at her, "Your... ," he lowered his voice, "breast workout."
Huh? Oh! "I hope somebody sits in that booth behind us quickly, so we can drop this subject. Steven, I'm 40. I know you love my breasts, but, what happens as I move closer to 50? My skin is changing. They're going to sag more. I'm fighting stretch marks already. For fifteen years, I've been putting up with your groping. Still, I'm afraid of that day when you stop, because then I'm going to feel very unattractive. I just worry. I'm getting older. I..." Her thoughts trailed, her breasts not such a distant thought as she might of guessed in mid-life assessments. He probably touched them every day they hadn't been separated by his business travel. She looked at Steven, who suddenly looked worried, but his face quickly cleared as his eyes lowered to her breasts. She didn't even want to consider the number of men she had talked to that couldn't maintain eye contact because of her breasts. It irritated her that Steven, at times, was one of them.
"Hayley, I love you. I can't say that I don't love your breasts, because I do. But that's the point. I do love YOUR breasts, not somebody else's. For 15 years, yes, I've enjoyed you and them. They've changed from the girl of 25 to the mom at 40, but they're still wonderful. In fact, if you wanted to show them to me now..."
He inflected the "now" to a point where she couldn't tell if he was serious or joking. She chewed on a bite of steak, savoring the flavor and appearing as if she was considering the idea. She put her silverware on the table, put both hands on her lap, and looked around the booth seat down the aisle as if she was... She fixed on his eyes and gave a stern "No." Men! No, that wasn't quite it. Kids... He was a grown up kid...
Steven joined her in bed, and they cuddled. "Good luck tomorrow."
Huh? Ohhh. "Thanks, it'll be fine."
"I'm sure it will be. You've never complained about them before. I know it's just an evaluation... clinical, and all that. It's just a turn on that you're showing someone else your breasts."
Well, that wasn't quite the way she felt about it. "It's not 'showing' my breasts. It's just... necessary."
"'Necessary, ' huh?" He changed his voice to a professorial tone. "'Necessary exposure of your breasts' doesn't sound like any fun."
That got a short laugh from her. She thought for a moment. "I think you've finally gotten the point. Well, it's more fun than visiting the gynecologist." Let him chew on that.
Hayley awoke late, hazily remembering Steven's earlier departure for work. She stretched, shifted slightly, and stared upwards, her eyes trailing the slow moving blades of the ceiling fan.
She couldn't help but think about the love play that they had shared the previous night. Steven had managed to push most of the right buttons, and it had been years since he had whispered in her ear as they enjoyed, for a while, anyway, a slow pace.
She really, really had no desire to show her body to anybody else. Yet, in the heat of passion, she had certainly seemed to. Was it just that, the saying of sweet... but that wasn't quite it, was it?... well then, naughty nothings during the moment to drive their lusts? Why was she thinking about it now? How had that ever come out? She thought a bit, trying to remember... She pulled the sheet down slightly, absently noticing the slight draft across her breasts. She glanced at them. Her nipples became erect as she looked, and her breasts still maintained a roundness, although they slipped to the side a bit more than they used to, she knew.
Oh yes, he had said how much of a turn it would be to watch her bare herself to another man, in a safe situation, whatever that might be! That was a necessary prelude to her own fantasies of a threesome, but Steven hadn't let the story go that way.
Instead, he had suggested the vulnerability she would feel of showing a man her breasts for the first time, giving way to a feeling of power as the man succumbed to her glorious assets. And while she still felt the idol worship Steven felt towards her breasts, it had been a long time since she had felt the newness of stripping for another man. Well, other than doctors. And that was where all of this had started, wasn't it? She didn't want to think about that just now. She returned to Steven watching her bare herself to another man, rolled over, placed a finger where it needed to be, and played out the scene to her own desired ends.
Damn Steven! Yes, it was necessary, and it hadn't bothered her before. But somehow, he had twisted her thoughts around, and it wasn't the cool temperature that caused her nipples to be erect as the doctor pressed into her breasts, making small circles with his fingers. Here she was, without a blouse or bra, and a reasonably attractive doctor, roughly about her own age, was looking at her breasts... and manipulating them between his incredibly tactile fingers.
At last, his probing stopped. He began talking. "I didn't feel any indications of any problems." She noted that he was talking to her breasts. Yes, his eyebrow movement suggested that he was still being professional, as if, perhaps, discussing a sample in a vial. But the fact was that he was looking at her breasts. He was still saying something to her breasts, so she inhaled deeply, thrusting her chest perceptively outward. Why had she done that!
She noted his demeanor change immediately, as he betrayed a quick expression of surprise and, she thought, appreciation. Maybe that was why... Then his eyes quickly found their way to her own. "Nurse Powell will assist you through the X-ray, and we'll be in touch after they're reviewed in a week or so. Nurse?" And with that, he gathered his clipboard and gave a final nod to both her and her tits before turning towards the door. She couldn't believe it. A doctor who sees breasts all the time had given hers yet another look. Huh!
The attending nurse left with the doctor, and it was a few minutes before Nurse Powell entered.
"Mary! Hi! I didn't know you worked here."
"I have for years, but I worked with two other doctors in the practice. How are you?"
They quickly caught up with each other, it having been a couple of months since they had met at the neighborhood Labor Day pool party.
"Actually, Hayley, I didn't know you came here either until very recently, when I received a very strange request."
Hayley expected her to say something, but instead, Mary took an envelope from her clipboard and handed it to her.
Hayley opened the letter, which was sealed. She could have said she recognized Steven's handwriting, but it was typed. Still, it was Steven's typing:
Guess what? I love your tits! Surprised? I tried to think of occasions when it might be necessary for you to expose your breasts, aside from medically. I couldn't think of any! Well, quickly, anyway... But then I kept thinking about it, and, you know me... All I can tell you is that you will be well rewarded. That reward includes travel, arranged kid care, great food, warm climes, and intimate companionship. However, I've made an adventure of it. I can't tell you more, as it will all be gradually revealed as you move from clue to clue.
Steven and his games. She'd prefer it he just said he'd take her on a beach getaway if she'd flash a trucker on the way. She hadn't done that before, and she didn't particularly want to, but it would be so much simpler. She saw Mary looking at her, interested. "Sorry, not finished yet."
At any point, you can say "no." And I'll understand. Just dial my cell phone, and it's "quits."
But before you do, you should know that your breasts inspire my lusts, and it's my proposition that I'm nowhere close to being unique among men in my admiration.
The doctor came to mind far too readily.
I see it every day when we pass men - in the mall, in parking lots, in restaurants. Their eyes always drift to your wonderful tits, and I think you know it. And, too, I think you have the self-confidence to proceed through the points I have planned. I think...
But what fun is this for me? Ahh, glad you asked! You'll be collecting a record of your travels, for my benefit, of course! If you're game, it begins with removing the camera I placed in your purse this morning and handing it to Mary, telling her "okay." She has no idea what this is about, but is playing a small part.
What if she didn't say "okay?" He didn't give an option, but apparently, the trip would be off. What could he have possibly planned? It seemed like months since they had been on a date. She really wanted to dwell on this, but Mary was looking at her expectantly. "Hang on, let me read this one more time." Mary grinned, adding somewhat quizzically, "Sure."
She re-read the note, focusing on the saying "no" at any point. Mary looked pressed for time. With mental reservations still unexplored, she said, "Okay!" for Mary's sake. She could always back out later. She retrieved her camera from her purse, and handed it to Mary.
Mary asked, "Steven said he was curious to see what this X-ray was about, so you're okay with it?"
"Sure, I think."
"Okay then, tell me how to operate your camera. Is it digital?"
"Yes. Power on here, zoom here, depress here slightly for focus, then the rest of the way to take the picture."
"Ok, hang on a sec." Mary retrieved her cell phone from her waist and dialed. "Hey, it's Mary. She said 'okay.'" She listened briefly and hung up. "I take it there's more to this than he's told me."
"It's the start of some grand adventure, he tells me, but I can truthfully say he hasn't made it clear to me. Apparently this is the first pebble in a trail that leads somewhere fun. I'm thinking it's a beach somewhere. Not a bad ending to day that begins with a mammogram, I think."
Mary looked impressed. "I'll say. I wish Stan would be as considerate."
"Considerate? I'm not sure that's the right word. He's creative, anyway. But, sometimes Steven gets weird ideas. I'll wait and see how this turns out."
Mary was as efficient with the camera as she was with the X-ray process.
"I hope I took enough pictures."
"Trust me. I think five should be plenty. Thanks, I think. You would think if he wanted pictures, he'd want complimentary ones instead of..."
Mary laughed at that. "Well, it certainly made my day a little different. I'd appreciate you not telling anyone about this. I'm not sure the doctors would like it."
"I'll keep quiet if you keep quiet. How's that?"
"A deal. It's not something I'd want to tell Stan, anyway. He might want some pictures too." Mary winked at her and turned to leave. "Oh yeah, one more note. I wish I could hang around to see what it's about, but you'll have to tell me later. Gotta go. See ya."
She opened the envelope. "Thanks for playing! Please go to the first floor of Westcott Mall. Near the common mall entrance adjacent to Rich's is a Fotoflash machine. You'll find $2 worth of quarters in the change slot in the car. Take a set of pictures of "the subject matter" and await further instructions."
This was a far cry from passing secret messages like a CIA agent, but, still, Hayley found herself surprisingly excited about the next, hmmm, link, in Steven's sinister plan. His note wasn't specific, and she could aggravate him by taking a picture with her blouse still on, but... this wouldn't be so hard, would it?
The mall in question was one of the nicest in the city, and the food court drew large crowds at lunchtime, which it now was. She found the photo machine, but she was less enthusiastic about it due to the number of people walking through the area. She saw that the machine required $2, so Steven had carefully scoped this out. Which she guessed was reassuring. A view screen on the side showed a series of pictures of two teenage girls hamming for the camera... Not exactly the best photo quality in the world.
Instead of sitting and waiting for the lunch traffic to diminish, she went to the food court for a bite to eat, and then returned to a mall bench near the machine. The foot traffic finally slowed, and she couldn't see anyone in the area other than an almost elderly black man at a shoe shine stand near the entrance. She quickly walked to the machine and inserted the coins before ducking into the booth and closing the curtain as fully as it would extend. She removed her blouse, and just before removing her bra, she pressed the start button. She barely got into position before the first picture was taken. Three others followed in 10 second intervals, amidst nervous jitters, and she quickly redressed. She parted the curtain cautiously, for no reason than the slight fear that some man may have seen something around the curtain. But there was no one walking in the area.
She was excited again, not in the sense of being turned on, but rather having done something "naughty," especially now that she was past the moment and hadn't been caught. Mall security guards! She hadn't thought about them. Probably a good thing. That Steven...
She stood outside the machine while waiting for the pictures. It took a full minute for the pictures to eject from the machine. She looked at them... Good, her face wasn't in them, although her chin was on the first one. They weren't crisply focused, but did she really care? The last couple came out decently, she guessed. Decently indecent.
Now, she was supposed to await instructions. There was still nobody around. After several minutes, the shoe shine man walked up to her, almost apologetically. He was well dressed and had the look of a man who had been in his trade for many years. His head had a way of nodding, and she wasn't certain if it was an affected mannerism or a nervous habit.
"Excuse me, ma'am. I think I might have something for you."
He had a hard time maintaining eye contact, and seemed to look over her shoulder often. His hands didn't look rough or smooth, just experienced from his trade. And this was clever, Steven, clever, involving a third person. "I am waiting on something, but I'm not sure what. Maybe an envelope?"
"Yes ma'am, yes ma'am. I have it here, but you have something for me?"
She looked at him, not certain what he might expect. A tip? Did Steven pay the guy? "I'm sorry. I'm not sure what it is that you want. I wasn't told. "
"Yes ma'am." He opened his jacket and retrieved a pair of scissors from a pocket full of small tools. "The photos. I need one."
Hayley immediately flushed, but found herself handing over the set. Necessary exposure, indeed! This wasn't clinically awkward. This was embarrassing. The man clipped the top picture and studied it momentarily before returning the rest to her. Then he inserted the picture into a jacket pocket, replaced the scissors, and removed an envelope which he handed to her.
He smiled broadly and appreciatively, again, missing eye contact. This was just as well, because she remained embarrassed, and she was certain that her face was flushed. "Thank you, ma'am. Thank you." And with that, he walked back to his stand, where a customer had just arrived. She couldn't believe it! She had just given a picture of her breasts to a complete stranger!
Hayley stood there a moment trying to grasp where Steven was going with this whole escapade. She sat on the bench and opened the envelope. As she began reading she became aware of two men standing nearby, their backs to her, but discussing something quite animatedly. She looked beyond them to see what it was that they were talking about. She was momentarily frozen with shock. She hadn't noticed that the pictures of the teenage girls were on a view screen. She thought it was just an advertisement. But it was much more than that! It showed the last set of pictures taken, and she felt as if she was going to die. The men looked her way, and she decided it was definitely time to leave.
But she couldn't just leave. What if a group of kids came by? Instead, she stood and acted as if she just became aware of the pictures of her tits. She faked an outraged expression at whoever would such a thing and gave a stern look back to the two men, whose smiles, she decided, indicated that they had already concluded that the pictures were of her. Steven! She walked to the machine quickly and jerked the power cord from the outlet with her foot. She could only hope that the machine didn't maintain a memory. It was time to exit the building.
She risked a glance at the two men, hoping they would be going the other direction. Instead, they were still in the same place, and one said overly loudly, "Those are awesome!" Hayley was fuming as she left the building, both because she should have figured out that screen and because the man had said his "compliment" while staring at her chest. Men!
She sat in the car a few minutes, briefly exploring the possibility of mall security cameras zeroing in on her tampering of the machine, recording the view screen images... She just didn't want to think about it. The flashing lights of a mall security truck in the next aisle startled her into action. It was time to leave the mall property.
As she was waiting at the exit light, she opened Steven's envelope, needing a direction to turn.
"Congratulations! I'll assume you took the pictures, but I'm quite pleased that my "contact" plan actually worked. Tip a guy $5, you still don't know what you're going to get. Anyway, please proceed to 2357 Howell Avenue, where you'll ask for Kristyn, the proprietor of "More Than Meets the Eye." Time is of the essence. I estimate that you should be done there at 1:15. Please plan accordingly."
Hayley looked at her watch. 1:00. Oops. He probably hadn't planned on her eating lunch, but she had no way of knowing that. Fortunately, this store wasn't far, although she didn't recognize the name of the store. As she found the store, she remembered it being vacant for at least the better portion of a year. An Opti-World store had been there; that was it.
As she parked and was about to get out of the car, it was only then that she realized why the shoe shine man hadn't maintained eye contact. He had been looking past her to the view screen. She was such a dummy! She wondered if taking a picture had even been part of Steven's agreement with the man. She was going to have to be much more careful.
She entered, finding that the store remained similar to the way an eyeglass store would be furnished. Mirrors remained on the walls, interrupted by a somewhat sparse offering of wall mounted clothing racks with what appeared to be very provocative erotic attire. There were also several dressers with open drawers, with panties and other hosiery. Was this a stripper's fashion shop? She wondered if there was such a thing. There were no other customers and only one salesperson, so she asked if her name was Kristyn. She was directed to a small office at the rear, presumably where the optometrist's exam room would have been.
"Ahh, you must be Hayley?" She nodded. "And you're running a bit late!"
"I didn't find out until I was on the way here that time was a factor. Sorry if I kept you from other things. Is the name of the store a play on words?"
Kristyn was surprised. "I was wondering if anyone would get it! I used to work here as an optical associate. Or, more simply, a salesperson. When they closed, I had to find another job. My roommate is an exotic dancer, and, although she couldn't talk me into joining her career, it was always fun trying on her outfits, and, at times, shopping with her for her costumes. That led me to a Frederick's of Hollywood store, which turned out to be a fun place to work, and I mostly enjoyed trying to guess what a customer would want when they entered the store.
I got to be pretty good at it, but there were a lot of women who were extremely uncomfortable being in a mall shopping for "dirty lingerie," and the vast majority would probably agree that while the lingerie was good for play, it's just not practical for wearing under clothes for any length of time. I guess for men, that's sort of the point, isn't it? Anyway, I came into a little money, did some research on current styles of lingerie, found access to finer lingerie suppliers, and now I'm doing this. There's no "one size fits all" stuff here. There are some flashy costumes here, as you probably saw, but everything we sell is practical too, at least that in that it fits right, doesn't itch, rub in those wrong places, things like that.
Hayley was curious. "Does your roommate shop here?"
"No. Most of the outfits we have aren't useful for strippers." Kristyn laughed. "They're too hard to remove in a hurry! But, obviously, we're not just an undergarment store either. Our offerings are high end exotic wear, and we seem to be drawing customers from all walks of life, from fetishists at one end to, well, women like you who are in search of some spice in their lingerie."
Hayley laughed, "I think you're trying awfully hard not to say housewives whose sex has gone stale."
Kristyn laughed with her. "Well, it's amazing the intimate details some women will tell us, but you're pretty close when it comes down to it, regardless of marital status. Many of our customers are referrals from vanilla stores, like Frederick's and Victoria's Secret. We don't compete on many products, so when they have a customer that needs what we have, they send them our way. But enough about us. We need to get you on your way."
"Sure. What has Steven got planned for me here?"
"Ah. Well, as you might guess, or may not, I don't know! But, your husband has already chosen. It's only the size that has to be determined."
"Oh, no. I'm afraid to find out. What has he chosen?"
"Something very well suited to his tastes, anyway. Step over there, please, and take off your blouse and bra."
Hayley laughed. "I think that's about all he has planned. Me taking my bra off in front of others."
Kristyn laughed too. "You know, I think you just may be right, although I think it has less to do with what you're taking off than with what you're showing."
"I think you have him figured out, Kristyn."
As Hayley removed her blouse, Kristyn uttered what sounded like a painful cry... "Get that outta my sight! Bali classic? After we're done with this, come back sometime and we'll dress you properly, girl! I don't want to even think what you're wearing under that skirt! Jockey probably. Argh! I shouldn't have thought about it. You'll have to come back another time."
"I'll bet you tell that to all your customers!"
Kristyn laughed again. "Most," she said, "most."
Kristyn located and held up Steven's choice. It was a black shelf bra, one that would leave her nipples exposed, theoretically while offering support. Hayley had seen the like before. "Well, he is persistent. He bought me one of those before. It didn't quite fit right. It made my breasts stick straight out in sort of a grotesque way. As you said, it itched and pinched in the wrong places. I wear it for about 5 seconds in our bedroom on rare occasions, those being when he searches through my drawer and specifically asks for it."
"Yes, he mentioned that. Just give me a few minutes."
Hayley considered how efficient Kristyn was. The third bra she tried on fit pretty well, and Kristyn made several adjustments that made it feel... acceptable, anyway. Her breasts had adequate support, and hung approximately where her everyday bras placed them. Not bad. She was drawn from her preoccupation when it occurred to her what the sound was that she heard. Kristyn had just cut her Bali bra into pieces.
"You're wearing your bra. You'll come back for more." Kristyn asked about the fit and made a few more minor adjustments to it. It now felt, well, comfortable!
Kristyn was pleased to hear that. "For future reference, you'll note that when you're wearing this properly, your cleavage is lifted only slightly, but the line of your breasts isn't pinched or bunched. They're supported, but otherwise look very natural."
Hayley understood what she meant, and she quickly recovered from a short tingle when Kristyn had traced the line of her breasts with a fingertip as she talked.
"Now, I understand you have a camera?"
Hayley rolled her eyes, removed the camera from her purse and handed it to Kristyn.
"Over here please."
Hayley had been concealed by the office wall, but now stepped out into the open area of the store. There were no other customers still, but it was still a bit awkward being in the open, with the other salesperson now looking at her. What if a customer came in?
"Okay, strike a pose." Click. "No, strike a better pose." Click. "You're kind of missing the point. You need to remember that for your partner to enjoy the picture, you have to at least look like you're enjoying posing for him. Try again." Click. Click. "Better." Kristyn zoomed in for close-ups.
"How many of these did he ask you to take?"
"Oh, only two. One is the waist up shot, but for the other I wanted to make sure we get it done right the first time. Your husband paid handsomely for your bra, but there's still a risk remaining for me as a business owner. Here's the deal. I'm going to go out to the street, turn around, and take a picture of the front of the store. After I've been pointing at the store for a few seconds, you'll open the door and lean on the door frame with your arm reaching up to the corner. One take, right?"
"But..." Kristyn was already out the door. She walked to the street turned and... waited. Hayley decided it was best to get this over with. She looked through the door just to check for passing vehicles. There were several, but none were coming to the store at least. She quickly opened the door and gave the pose that Kristyn, or rather Steven, had requested. She counted to three, quickly turned and came back inside, wondering if anyone...
Kristyn came quickly through the door, laughing. "You follow instructions to a 'T, ' whatever that means. I've gotta tell you though, I think those Latinos in the bed of that pickup truck are still whistling!"
Hayley's heart leapt to her throat. "What pickup truck?"
"The one that... oh, never mind. It's done. Let me get you your package." She reached under the register. "Here we are. What's the matter?"
Hayley had put on her blouse. It was white, but it wasn't thick material or the tightest of weaves. As she looked in the mirror, her black bra was clearly visible, as were two critical areas where the bra should be visible but wasn't. "He's crazy. I can't do this!"
"I see what you mean. We don't sell blouses though. But, hang on. Kristyn glanced at the door then removed her own top, a huggy short- sleeved black top. It revealed a tortoise shell bra that looked... nice. Kristyn understood at once. "Ah, well, I told you that you would come back for more. Here. Hand me yours. I think our sizes are very close, although you're slightly larger in the chest."
The top was tight, with a deeper V-neck than Hayley would have chosen on her own. Still, it wasn't a bad fit, and it was infinitely preferable to the white blouse. And it was fortunate that she wore a tan skirt, as the black looked even better than the white had.
"I'll want that back sometime." Kristyn looked at herself in the mirror. "You're leaving me with your problem, but I can get away with it in here. What does your note say?"
"Another address. Just down the road. 4250 Howell Avenue. All it says is, 'trust me.'"
"He seems imaginative. You're a lucky woman."
Hayley pondered that as she went to her car. Was she lucky? Really, she knew she was, but was this... challenge... or adventure... the kind of thing that would make her seem lucky to others?
She gave a heavy sigh when she reached the address. A handwritten poster on the door said, "Beauty is skin deep." Of course, she already knew what the store was due to the large neon letters saying "TATTOOS." No way, Steven. No way!
The guy behind the counter was wearing a sleeveless shirt, which showed off the various tattoos winding around both of his arms. Labels of beer bottles. It was hard to imagine why anyone would...
"Can I help you?"
"Probably. My husband sent me. My name is Hayley."
"Ah, good. You're here. I was wondering if that guy was for real or not. You have a camera?"
Hayley nodded, pulled it out of her handbag, and handed it to him.
He immediately connected it to a USB port on a computer. He clicked his mouse several times as he concentrated on the computer screen. His face gave a concerned look and then became completely impassive as he scrolled through, she assumed, her pictures. Oh dear... The pictures of her breasts. She had handed the camera over just like that... what was she thinking?
"Okay, give me just a few minutes."
Her face was flushed again, she realized. It eventually occurred to her that his initial wincing had probably been from the mammogram. That seemed like so long ago.
She became aware of all the pictures of, she guessed, clients, and their tattoos. Strange that so many would want such things on their bodies permanently, or even... She became aware of where some of those tattoos were actually placed. Ouch. And she couldn't even dare to look at the section that displayed their piercing work. But like a moth to the flame, she shuddered when she saw that women got pierced down... there. Why had Steven ever come to a place like this?
After a bit, the man turned the screen towards her and began a slide show, all of which featured her breasts in a single pose that Kristyn had taken, from the waist up. The difference was that he had digitally applied tattoos to the picture of her breasts. "Here, go ahead and look. Then you pick your favorite." He sat down and picked up a "Spin" magazine. He wasn't going to win any customer service awards, that was for sure.
The pictures cycled several times. There was no way, no way at all. She had expected to see a rose, a cross, or other standard tattoo images, but she realized that they really didn't look like tattoos. They were like paintings. Some looked like animals - a frog, a dragon, a cat, a dog, a tiger. The eyes of each one, usually overly large, were located at her nipples, only they were colored to fit the picture. Others were really no specific image at all - a cosmic scene with planets and meteors, intersecting shapes, one that could only be described as a random application of brush strokes. Others included a flower, a group of flowers, coconuts, watermelon, ahhh... a man's genitals, and even fried eggs, sunny side up. What was the purpose of this?
"What's the purpose of this?" she asked hopefully.
The guy didn't look up from his magazine, saying only, "Can't say."
Idiot. Well then, as tempting as fried eggs were... "The tiger." Similar to the cat, but it had better eyes and head shape. "But I'm not getting a tattoo."
"Ah. Yes. Well, just work with me." He turned the screen then punched several keys, then a printer stirred, processing the image. He clicked a few more buttons, disconnected her camera, and handed her the camera. The photo finished printing, and he handed it to her. "Here. Keep this. I take it you'll need it later. Now, I need you to sit on this stool and remove your shirt."
Hayley sat, but that was all. "I told you. I'm not getting a tattoo. And I doubt seriously whether my husband would have wanted me to get one."
The guy grinned at her briefly. It occurred to her that he hadn't even introduced himself. A license on the wall said his name was Peter Gosford. Peter, as in Dick. How appropriate she thought.
"You will be getting a tattoo, one that your husband has chosen, though I have no idea why. You'll be happy to know, however, that it's a rub- on. Give me just a minute, and, like I said, remove your top. He disappeared briefly, and she heard a beep. He reemerged with a bowl of water, which she realized he had probably just warmed. He stood in front of her, looking at her face.
"The top? Your husband wanted me to put these on your breasts." Of course he would...
"What are they?"
"I will tell you that I haven't figured it out. It's been a mystery that we've been talking about the past few days around here. Maybe after I give you the note you'll let us know what it says. And what the purpose of all of this is."
He continued to look at her. She wasn't sure for what reason.