The sun blazed high in the late August sky. It wasn't the hottest day of the summer. The heat was oppressive because it touched that nerve of fatigue at the end of summer, when a person tired of hot weather. It was two o'clock. Paul had finished everything. He had taken his work-out in the cool, early morning. He finished mowing the lawn at about eleven. He had some lunch after that and completed packing after that.
In a larger sense, Paul was finishing up a big chapter in his book. His summer job was over. High School was behind him. With it went schoolboy sports. The proms and graduation parties that had been so important seemed like long ago. His friends were going separate ways. None of them would admit it, but the inevitable distancing was starting already. In three days, on Monday, his father would drive him to State University where he would start writing the next chapter.
The road that Paul chose was not the easiest one that had been open to him. Chemical Engineering and Division I football was a tough mix. Paul could easily qualify for either one at any institution. The coach at State was the only adult who thought that Paul could do both, so to State he would go on Monday. The upcoming rigors didn't frighten him. He would prove himself to all, not to show them that they had been wrong, but to relieve those who cared about him, so they could once again share in his adventure.
He disliked his current status, of being on a blank page between chapters. He regretted quitting his summer job at the beginning of the month. The idleness was annoying him. At the house his parents would revocalize their worries and doubts time and again, even though all decisions were behind them. He had no new answers to offer them. The heat of the day added to the fraying of nerves. He decided to steal away to a secret place he knew. There, he could relax among the trees. He could not begin to write his new chapter, but perhaps he could outline the prologue. The idea suited him, so he slipped out the front door and made his way to the end of the street.
Once clear of the house, Paul had no expectation that anyone would pay any mind to him. He often stole away to his retreat. He liked solitude at certain times. He could think about his real life or submerse himself into his dreams. When he would return in a few hours, his head would be clear again. He would be patient with his parents' repeated questions; his younger siblings' rants in search of parents' attention; the lack of meaningful activity and the August sun. He just sought some peaceful place to center himself for a little while.
Paul was not walking aimlessly. He was certain that his place was known only to him. It wasn't too far from his house, but not too close, either. It was out of line of sight from any house or road. If he walked at a normal gait he would be there in twenty minutes.
His private place was a grove of pine trees at the edge of a wood. Preceding the grove was a rolling field of tall grass. The hot, dry weather had had turned the grass a shade of tan. The greenness was waiting within for the trigger of rain to start recoloration. That would signal a restart of growth. It reminded him of his life at the moment. He had lost his greenness in his idle waiting. He looked forward to turning green again.
Like the waiting grasses, he had no control over when or how robustly he would spring back to life. He could do little more than the dormant blades, stretching their roots ever deeper in the soil, searching out moisture. Paul sunk his roots in his fertile mind, and therein was his prison. He was unable to escape the bonds of control and logic. He didn't understand well enough to want to do so. The perquisites of youth, spontaneity and abandon, had never found a comfortable resting place in his soul.
The tall pines formed a canopy of shade. The tops of the trees were knitted so densely that when it rained he could remain there and usually stay dry. The boughs of the trees were ten or twelve feet from the ground and there was about eight feet between each trunk. The floor of the grove was covered in pine straw from years gone by. Sometimes it was a little prickly to sit on, so Paul had brought an old blanket in a plastic pouch and hid it there. He spread it out between the trees.
When Paul went to his secret place, he would always shed his shirt and whatever he wore on his feet. If there was a breeze, it would feel relaxing as it passed over his bare skin. It helped his mind immerse into any subject he chose. A few times, he had nodded off to sleep with the gentle caress of passing zephyrs.
Once in a while, when he felt like it, Paul stripped all his clothes off. He would lie on the blanket completely nude. It did not excite him, rather relaxed him, to do so. He felt that he had seized the freedom to be nude by escaping the bounds of the mundane world.
Paul's experiences, for a young man of eighteen, had been extensive. He had played in the state championship football game, and given a valedictory speech. He had met with universities seeking him out to study at their schools, or play football at their schools. He had sifted through the wheat and chaff of the offers. It taught him many things, especially to trust his own instincts. Yes, he had done many things for an eighteen year-old.
There was something that some of his friends had done, that Paul was yet to experience. He had never been inside a woman. He had never been inside a girl, either. It was true, that at the age of those females to which he was acquainted, the traits of womanhood and girlness blended together in the same person. Without warning, one side or the other could erupt. There was no way to predict the volcano. The pouring forth would defy the analysis and logic that forged Paul's instincts. A young man could only hope to deftly react. It required great skill, indeed, to master the field. Paul was good at football and calculus, but never had found the time to learn this other strange game.
He observed his mother and other grown women. He sensed little of girlhood immaturities in them. He didn't know how well they hid them. Certainly they had once been eighteen, and suffered from the same girlish nonsense, but had now outgrown it. Instinct told him to be patient. A balancing equation would ensure future equilibrium. It would enable him to reach his hands out and find two gentle female hands reaching back. For now, he would bide his time.
Paul's virginity didn't shame him, but he sometimes felt stirrings that are natural for a man. The girls in their bikinis excited him. Often they would flirt with him. His physique and notoriety attracted them. If a girl could claim him, Paul's status would belong to her by association. Paul's introspective manner, however, put the girls off. After the initial foray, the girls would give up their quest. As they expected Paul to reciprocate in flattery, he would respond on an intellectual plane. It was confusing. For the bikini girls, this was too high a price to pay to be on the arm of a former sports star for a summer.
There were times in his secret haven in the pines that Paul would dream about these sirens that sang off-key. If only there was a harmony, something might happen. In those nude moments in the trees, Paul would link his mental wanderings with a physical pleasure that he could bestow on himself. It was his secret; he only did it once in a while. It allayed that burden of wondering and freed him for more important thoughts.
As he spread out his blanket he decided to forego a complete disrobing. There was no breeze to caress him. Sex was not on his mind. Football and studies occupied his thoughts. He left his cutoff shorts on. He settled back on the blanket and proceeded to do that which he came for.
As Paul stole out of the neighborhood to his pine haven he had no idea that there was a set of eyes taking note of his every step. They followed him on his walk down the road and out into the field. For the eyes to continue their surveillance a body would have to follow. The eyes dragged it along, following Paul at a distance. They were unsure if they were right or welcome in their following. There was a force of instinct guiding them, so neither ethics nor fear of rejection had any power to cause the eyes to reconsider the action.
The pair of eyes belonged to Glenda, a classmate of Paul's. Although they lived in the same neighborhood, their acquaintanceship never blossomed to friendship. Glenda was interested in neither sports nor academics. She also disdained the bikini flirtations that many of her peers engaged in. She had neither the body nor mind to support any ambitions of success in that game.
She was of medium height on a thin frame. Her complexion was freckled and pale. The facial features were quite plain. There were no pronounced cheekbones or dimples. She was a redhead, which may have explained her untanned skin. She looked vulnerable in the hot August sun. Most women with red hair allow their manes to grow. Glenda did not, opting for a more manageable, shorter cut. If she had allowed her tresses to develop, she might have rubbed away some of her plainness. It would have added some depth to her countenance.
.... There is more of this story ...