The Blameless Bystander
Chapter 1: Into the Valley

Caution: This Drama Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Slow,

Desc: Drama Sex Story: Chapter 1: Into the Valley - A man at a crossroads exchanges an old life for a new one

It was late in the afternoon on a day in late August. Summer freedoms were melting away, which meant that things would soon get back to normal. A small sedan pulled over and parked on the side of the road at the crest of the ridge overlooking the village that was the center of the town. The driver shut off the engine and sat looking at the panoramic scene.

Lying neatly on the opposite hills, basking in the summer sun, the farmers' fields arranged themselves into a patchwork on the slopes. Every block tucked exactly into the space assigned to it, like grandma's quilt. Each performed its function without complaint or troublesome disturbance. As the summer wore on the colors of each field turned away from the greens of spring. A soothing tan showed where hay was growing. In fields of wheat was a golden hue, signaling the richness of the coming harvest. The acres of corn retained their greenness until much later in the year. Only in the pasturelands did the painted fields vary from their assigned monotones. There, one could see speckling of weeds among the untended grass, where sample colors of anything conceivable might interrupt the order of things. It was there that cows roamed about with little control. An untrained observer might think that the pastures were the most beautiful, but that person did not know about farmland. In the spring to come those fields would be plowed under for crops.

The neat village rows below reflected the manner of the fields. White houses, row on row, arranged themselves on strings of narrow streets like pearls on a necklace unclasped and stretched to its limit. Under each gray roof lived a family, a cog in the village society. Each person had a purpose in the family, each family a place in the village. It was a neat arrangement that no one wished to disturb.

To make sure it stayed that way were the institutional buildings, the churches, the Town Hall, the banks. They sat in the center, built of stone and brick. They were gray, brown and red-orange. They growled and grumbled every day, every week, month after month, unchanging and unbending, year after year. They all had cornerstones with ancient dates, proving that they had always been there and would always remain. The tall spires posed authority to the fields, to all people in the fields, the houses and anywhere else within line of sight.

At the edge of the village resided their stepchild. It was made of brick and glass, sprawled across acres with its proprietary fields around it. It was a low, newer building that hadn't quite grown up to look like its foster parents, but emulated them in its own way. The school tutored the young in the proper ways and received sustenance from the resources of the town in return. Everyone paid great attention to everything in or about the school.

"What do you think he wants?" a young girl whispered to the muscled youth next to her. She was lying on her belly at the edge of a grove of trees. It stood isolated in a grassy field about fifty yards from the road. The teens hid in the shadows from the unknowing interloper. They had preceded him to the lonely hilltop and didn't appreciate the intrusion.

"Forget about him. He can't see us. He doesn't even know that we're here. If he did, he wouldn't care," the young man ordered.

The girl was blond and pretty. Her wavy locks fell over her shoulders and tee shirt. The youth was good looking in a different way. He wore curly brown hair, just a little bit too long. He was heavily muscled. His face was changing form, straddling the tender features of a boy to the thicker ones of a man.

The girl gave a last look to make sure of the stranger's indifference. She resumed her place—lying on her back. The young man hovered above to kiss her, or taste her, or possibly possess her. They continued while the man in the sedan continued looking out over the valley, oblivious—or choosing to be so—to the scene being played out just yards away.

The young man bent lower to kiss her. It was gentle at first, seeking to convey emotion and caring, just as he knew she would be expecting. It turned rougher, more demanding. A hand went under a tee shirt and traveled upward to the brassiere. The girl paused in her reaction, a moment of indecision. She didn't want to break the kiss. Passion and convention warred within her. She was breathing heavily, enjoying the feeling and the thrill.

"Um-umm!" she protested weakly, as though to a child snitching a lollipop. He ignored her and continued advancing. Finally, she pulled away from him, grasping his hand to stop his advance.

"Brad!" she scolded more strongly. "I thought that we agreed that you would stop trying to do that."

"Becky, I can't help it. I want you," he pleaded. "You do this every time we're together!"

"I know—I know," she consoled him, stroking the locks from his forehead. "I'm just not ready yet."

"All the other cheerleaders are doing it with their boyfriends," he lamented. "I'm the quarterback and I haven't even done it yet." He paused so that she could absorb his frown of disappointment.

"I got a 'Trojan'!" he announced. He brandished a light blue foil packet.

The girl gasped. "Where did you get that?" staring at the threatening package.

"At a drugstore in Corning. We all got them when we went over after morning practice."

"I'm just not ready," she pouted, changing her tone but saying nothing new.

"Well," he demanded, "when do you think that you will be ready?"

"I don't know," she whined. "Soon—it'll be soon."

The youth exhaled loudly and rolled off her onto his back.

"Do you really think that you'll be the starting quarterback?" she cooed, changing the subject.

"The coach made the announcement at practice today," he assured her.

"That will be wonderful!" she exclaimed. "I'll be so proud to be cheerleading for you!" She turned to him and kissed him lightly on the lips and then rested her head on his chest.

"But Becky, what about..." he made one last try.

"If I let you put your hand under my tee shirt, will that be enough for today?"

"Okay, but what about... ?" he pressed harder, but the girl put her mouth on his to silence him. He took advantage of his small winnings and snaked his arm under her shirt, placed his hand on a bra-protected breast. She purred in delight—at the attention and sensation.

"It will be soon," she whispered.

Jamie O'Toole started up his small sedan, his respite over. He had spied the young couple hiding in the trees, but ignored them. It didn't take a lot of imagination to guess what they were up to. Whatever happened was none of his doing. He was new in town; it was pointless to get started by interfering.

He would have preferred a job in an urban locale, but his change came so late in the hiring cycle that all the sought-after teaching jobs had been taken. This opening, in this little town of Bates, was all he could find. It was a farming town, tucked inconspicuously in southern New York State, between the Finger Lakes and the Allegany Plateau. He was lucky to find it. He was a teacher of mathematics—all kinds. He could do any of the big three—Algebra, Geometry and Trig. He could handle Calculus or Statistics, as well, if they had a desire to offer Advanced Placement. He didn't imagine that they did. He would give them what they asked of him.

He paused before putting the car in gear. It was as if pointing it over the crest and down the hill was the final decision to leap over the precipice—but it wasn't. Perhaps he could just turn the car around and go back to his former life. That, of course, was not the case. He had started on his journey to this place long ago. The point of no return was not a place on a map, but a scribbled line of ink on a document, his signature that closed him from his past and hurled him into unknown time and space.

He was single—no attachments. He was required to fend only for himself and no others. As long as he performed his duties no one had call to question his motives or circumstances. They could not ask him for more that he had agreed to give. It was freedom and captivity joined together, for in the emancipation he treasured so deeply, he closed himself to all else. He had thought of that. He resolved to live with the paradox until and if he could figure out more.

He checked the folded newspaper on the seat beside him. It was opened to the classified ads, with circles around potential places to rent. He sighed as he put the car in gear, leaving behind all that he had rejected. Becky and Brad, lying in the grove, were too busy to notice his departure.

"Jamie, you'd better get down there," he said to himself out loud.

Jamie stopped in front of the big Victorian house on Whitman St., in a quiet, residential area. The house sat back on a double lot in the older part of the village. It was far from derelict, but its grandeur was certainly in days gone by. A porch encircled the ground floor. That feature, and its round turrets on the top floor, made the grand old place look like a white fort. The scallops and gingerbread trim of the house were ruined by the black iron jacket of the fire escape attached to the side, as though in prison for superfluous joviality, making what was once cheerful appear grim.

Jamie paid the aesthetics no mind and turned into the gravel driveway. They were none of his concern. He just needed a place to lodge. He stood waiting on the porch for several minutes. He was nearly ready to leave when a portly woman answered the door. She looked to be about seventy, wore her grey hair in a bun and a Betty Crocker apron. At first glance one might have assumed her to be a sweet old lady who would offer hot cookies out of the oven.

As she drew closer, it became apparent that the first impression from afar was a mistake. She had a permanent scowl pasted on her round face as she peered out at him from behind her wire rimmed spectacles. The corners of her mouth turned down slightly. The nose was scrunched to make her eyes take on a beady, suspicious look.

"Here about the room?" she asked, skipping the pleasantries. "Wait here a minute. I'll get the keys," she ordered, not waiting for his answer.

She reappeared about thirty seconds later.

"The entrance is around back," she mumbled as she moved past him and down the stairs of the porch. She walked with a waddle and a slight hitch in her step. Jamie attributed it to the burden of her excess weight. There may have been some arthritis at play, too. Still, she got around quickly enough. He followed her command.

There was a stairway in the back that led to a small platform and a single door on the second floor.

"You have your own private entrance," she called out as she led the way up the stairs.

"Who's in that one over there?" Jamie asked as they reached the landing. There was an identical arrangement at the other end of the house.

"The company that owns the cheese factory on the State Road keeps up the rent on it. They use it when the bosses come down here to check things out," she explained. She fumbled with a keychain and a score of keys. "If they've got so much money for such things, you'd think that they'd pay more to their workers," she mumbled as she searched for the right one. "The other I rent to hunters in Deer Season and to snowmobilers in the winter. I've got my regulars." Finally she produced it and opened the door and motioned Jamie in.

"Fully furnished—brand new mattress on the bed!" she called after him as Jamie made his inspection tour.

"Who had the place before me?" Jamie asked. "Do you mind my asking?" he quickly added.

"A retired man," she answered. "He had to go to the County Home. He ran out of money. It took me forever to get him out."

Jamie looked into the cupboards and the refrigerator. It was clean and there were pots, pans and a set of dishes and utensils.

"I had a right to evict him. It's not like I didn't give him extra time," she uttered the justification even though not asked to provide one.

Jamie nodded that he understood and kept inspecting.

"You have to get your own account for your utilities. That would be propane, electric, telephone and cable TV, if you want it. The gas and electric are on now, but you would have to take care of that within the week," she informed him.

"I saw the electric meter under the stairs," he confirmed.

"Well, do you want it?"

"I guess I do," Jamie answered. "What do you need?" In fact, it was perfect for him. Small, neat and private; it was within walking distance from the high school. The entrance was invisible from the street, so he could exist unseeing and unseen.

"Before I let you have it I have to have some things from you. I need a copy of your license and proof of your employment. You can get a copy at the library. I go strictly month to month—no leases. You have to pay the first month in advance and one month security. The propane tank is full, and you have to leave it full when you move out." she recited the litany of demands.

"I was hoping to stay here tonight," Jamie said. "I don't know if I can get to the library before it closes."

"Where are you working?" she queried and squinted her eyes a little tighter.

"I've got a teaching job at the high school. I have a letter in the car I can show you."

"The rent has to be three-fifty."

"The ad in the paper said three hundred," Jamie protested.

"That was before I bought the new mattress,"

"I can give you a check right now, but I was thinking three hundred," he answered.

"Get that letter and your checkbook; and let me see your license—and be sure to get me a copy in the morning," she demanded and they filed out of the room

"I'm Ethel Wilkinson. This is my place," she declared as Jamie followed her down the stairs. "And, what do I call you?"

"Ethel, my name is Jamie O'Toole. I'm pleased to meet you."

"Mr. O'Toole, my rules are these," she yelled out as she continued down the stairs. "Rent is due on the first of each month. Pay on time. Whatever you do in there is your business, unless it causes me trouble or bothers me, in which case you have to stop or leave," she recited. "Fair enough?"

"That's fair enough!" Jamie answered back. He wrote a check for most of the money his parents had loaned him. It took him less than an hour to move in.

That night, Jamie sat in the chair in his living room. He finished reading for the night and turned off the light. He was delving into Descartes, trying to comprehend how to fathom the meaning of life from lines and planes and algebra. So far, it escaped his grasp, but so had everything else that he tried. No matter how futile and abstruse the writing, he decided to give it a second chance the next night. He was running out of philosophies to latch onto, so it would be unwise to discard any without due consideration. He was, after all, a teacher of mathematics. A kinship of understanding should evolve across the centuries. At least, he hoped so. At the same time realized that the odds were against it.

Except for his books and a modest set of clothing he owned nothing. Even the car he drove into town really belonged to his brother who told him to keep it, but Jamie insisted that it be strictly a loan. He wondered to himself if he shouldn't have taken a motel room for just one night. At least it would have a television. He decided not to forestall the inevitable, and he really couldn't afford it.

It was a new moon. In the back of the big house there wasn't any source of light to cast a beam or shadow through the small window next to him or the tiny one in the door. The 'cheese factory' guys obviously weren't around that week. Even Mrs. Wilkinson's lights weren't visible, if indeed, they were still on—and he didn't know if they were. To the world, and perhaps to himself, he was a non-entity sitting in the darkness. No matter what sound he might utter, or action he might make, either on purpose or accidental, it would not matter. It was the isolation that he sought, or so he had assumed.

He looked back to those long, hot nights during his two years in Guatemala a long time ago. Those days, when he felt like he mattered, were long in the past. He had been recently ordained, assigned to the missions. He was young, hopeful, idealistic, dedicated, self-important. He taught God and Math all at one time. "Just like Descartes," he said to himself with a chuckle and a smirk at the comparison. He left Guatemala fourteen years ago to teach at a boys' prep school to the sons of the well-to-do. Of course, they needed God and Math, too. It wasn't the same. He was just turning forty-two and those happier days were long past. He sat in the chair, in the dark, alone, wondering how solitude would suit him.

"I wanted to stay," he said out loud with some conviction. The prefecture turned him down. It was predictable. Assignments were made to serve God, and the Order, not to suit individual desires. He accepted the judgment as he had been trained to do. Still, the Guatemala days were his best.

He wondered why he had spoken aloud, with no one but him to hear the words. Surely, he did not need to convince himself. He had just read Descartes' "I think, therefore I am." Was his existence narrowed to this? Perhaps it was his protest to any Power that could hear that there had once been a spark in him that was sure and happy and delighted to be who he was. Perhaps his soul rejected solitude. Did anyone hear him? He thought not, but ached to be sure.

He was too agitated for sleep. He thought he might read some more, but thought better of it. He realized that it was warm and stuffy in the small apartment. He stumbled to the window and pushed it up. The air outside wasn't much cooler, but it was fresher. The only sound was the crickets chirping. A glass of water might be a good idea. He realized that he should have bought some groceries, and maybe some whiskey, but the double rent of that afternoon left him with little money. He would have to make it last until his first payday.

He sat back down with the water, listening to the crickets outside his window. They kept up their ceaseless monotone. It made him feel more alone. They just kept at it ceaselessly, not caring if he heard them or not. Jamie settled back in his chair contemplating solitude.

Jamie was up early the next morning. He was hungry because he had skipped dinner the night before. He wanted to take his morning run and then shower. That would leave him with just enough time to find a diner for breakfast and then make his meeting at the school. He decided to devote the afternoon to errands. As he stepped out the door the weather was sunny, but pleasant and cool in the early morning. The clear sky promised a hot day later.

He started on a slow trot out the driveway of his rooming house, not sure which way to go. He decided he would see if he could get onto the High School track, so he jogged over the few streets to where the back of the school grounds adjoined the private residences. He found an easy gait on the flat street. He could see the school grounds, but was unable to find any back way access to the fields. A chain-link fence guarded the perimeter. He could have hopped over it, but didn't. The fence was a silent sentinel, an unspoken warning to trespassers. Entrance to the grounds had to be done properly, though the appropriate gate, where authorities had predetermined the best means of entry. Jamie shrugged and jogged on. He would find the entrance another day. This first day he would take a running tour of the neighborhood.

It was lonely in the early morning. He was a little surprised. It was the Friday before Labor Day. Perhaps the residents were beginning their holiday. He ran on, looking from side to side at the houses. None were as large as the Victorian edifice where he now resided. These houses were smaller. Most had two floors, either in the split-level or Cape Cod style. It appeared that many had been built in the 50's. It made Jamie wonder what had preceded them. Perhaps Mrs. Wilkinson's house was a last remnant of days gone by. All the houses seemed to fit with those around it. Even the oversized house on the double lot blended in. Maybe it was a reminder that as the old gives way to the new, few things really change.

In the distance Jamie saw a fellow early morning jogger approaching him. It was a female figure. She wore gym shorts and tee shirt, like he did, and a baseball cap. She was tall for a woman and had a gait and posture that gave the impression of an athletic figure. Jamie reckoned that her pace was faster than his. She had blond hair leaking out from under her cap and wore sunglasses.

As she came nearer he made her out to be in her mid-twenties, although it was hard to tell for sure with her face hidden behind her dark glasses. Lithe strips of lean muscle flexing in her thighs pointed at him as she lifted her knees with every stride. They were covered by soft woman's skin, but there could be no doubt of their strength and flexibility beneath the veil. They were long legs that demanded a man's attention and Jamie responded as a man as he drank his fill from the fortuitous cup. It was the movement and the shape, especially as the legs approached the juncture with hips, combined together that would not allow his eyes to travel elsewhere. He judged her to be nearly as tall as his own six feet. Unlike him, her skin had a bronze tone that told of hours in the summer sun.

As she drew closer Jamie noticed that she had large breasts, which finally allowed his gaze to escape her upper thighs. They rode high on her chest beneath broad shoulders. The tee shirt stretched over them like a glove. A hint of nipple asserted itself slightly through the fabric of the shirt. Even so encased, they bounced slightly as she ran. It was a woman's body of steel bands and velvet covering. It made Jamie stir in his groin and in his brain.

As their paths drew together Jamie raised a hand to say 'hi', but as he did she looked away; her face wore a displeased look. It was obvious that she wished to avoid acknowledgement of his friendly gesture. He didn't doubt that she was correct in doing so. Her rejection was disappointing but not surprising. Then, the encounter was over all too soon as they passed.

Probably, he thought, her contempt arose from her perception of his pale, freckled skin and slender form. His red hair was thinning at his brow, giving away his age. He was too old for a nubile young woman with a honed physique. She was angry that he had even tried to make contact with her, disrupting her private space. Or, he thought, maybe she noticed his unabashed gaze traveling from thighs to breasts and back again.

Jamie shook his head and chuckled. "Either way, I insulted her." It occurred to him how inexperienced he was. "I've got a lot to learn," he said to himself. "She would find that I'm not as feeble as I look." Indeed, he was not. He had always worked out nearly every day. There were no bulging muscles to show for his efforts, but he never carried any extra pounds. His years in the Order barred him from excess and his training for the missions left with a physical hardness that he never lost.

As he slowed to walk up the long driveway of Mrs. Wilkinson's rooming house it dawned on him that the brief encounter with the jogging woman was part of his new life. He was permitted to enjoy it—even pursue it further if he could find the combination of nerve and opportunity. He had no experience in sexual matters. He had never disobeyed his vows. Over the years he had pushed desire and fantasy out of his mind.

He wondered how many forty-two year old virgins still existed in the world. He winced as he thought of himself as a 'virgin'. It wasn't a shame over sexual inexperience. It was the remnants of his devotion to the virgin, and the unwanted comparison of him to her.

The ultimate paradox: his years of celibacy gave him great experience in being at ease in talking to women. Secretaries, lay teachers, students' mothers all gravitated to him. They liked his freckled, boyish looks and his celibacy made them feel secure. They would murmur, mumble and twitter their secrets to him. He would listen, and then forget. He learned to relax them and ease them into their divulgences; not because he longed to hear them, but he knew they were coming out eventually and it saved a lot of time.

Perhaps soon, he mused to himself, his abnormality would get straightened out. He wondered how and who would do it. The vision of the blond runner had been pleasant enough. He could picture himself resting comfortably between her smooth, muscled thighs waiting for the exact moment to push into her. She, once so disdainful, would be lying under him, waiting. In the meantime he would have his hands clamped on her breasts, feeling the nipples stiffen. She would breathe ever-harder, then whisper in an excited, desperate hush, "Please..." He would slowly move forward and not disappoint.

As he showered he glanced down. The warm water cascaded on his penis and it rose respectfully upward as if to signal its readiness, if only he could be ready, too. He dared not touch it. He had never given in to the urge to do so, and would not. He looked again. It stood straight out—a harbinger of future pleasures? Perhaps, but possibly it would turn out to be yet another disappointment in life—to be absorbed and accepted, and eventually evaded.

Jamie entered the school building through the front door. In the empty hallway his heels snapped a loud click with every step. He didn't mean to, but he found that he could not avoid it without practically walking on his toes. He reasoned that the School Office had to be somewhere near the front door, and finding it would be the only way to end his noisy, conspicuous presence.

He walked by one classroom after another. All of the doors were closed, but through the windows he could see that it was a school just like the others in which he had spent so much time. Since it was before the start of the school year the walls were without the usual banners. The ones that announced the after-game dance or the particular football game that weekend. They would appear soon enough. He also passed by a "Ladies Room" that reminded him that he would be teaching girls as well as boys. That would be something new for him. He noticed right away that there were no crucifixes on the walls of the classrooms, it being a public school. It seemed ironic to him, as some said that he had turned his back on the cross with the renunciation of vows. He didn't think so, but there many who said that he had. He would have to reason that for himself later. It was difficult to go anywhere without a reminder of that which he wished to forget. He strode to the end of the hallway, and nearly gave up when he spotted a tarnished, brass sign mounted on the wall. An arrow pointed the way. 'Office' was inscribed above it. Grateful for the direction, he turned and finally found an open door.

Jamie stood at the open door. Across the room there was a woman working at the filing cabinets. Her back was to him. She was short with a petite frame, with wavy, chestnut-brown hair of medium length in the traditional Donna Reed style. She wore a sleeveless blouse and a denim skirt with a pair of loafers on her feet. She kept at her task, oblivious of Jamie's presence.

He knocked on the door and she spun around, surprised, with a questioning expression.

"Hello, I'm..." he started.

"You must be Mr. O'Toole. We're expecting you," she declared, suddenly brightening. "I'm Abby McIntire. I'm the Principal's secretary." She extended her hand as Jamie approached her. "Nathan will be back shortly. He just wanted to check on the gym renovations."

Jamie took a seat near her desk. The Principal's office waited beyond.

"Care for some coffee?" she asked. "Please have some. I just made a fresh pot."

Jamie saw that she was still smiling at him, but couldn't help thinking that her eyes looked tired and sad.

"Well, alright." He rose to serve himself.

"Stay where you are. I'll get it," she insisted as she bound to the coffee maker on the little table across the room.

"Just black—thanks." Jamie would have gladly served his own, but acquiesced to her insistent hospitality. As she bent to reach into a cupboard Jamie looked at her more closely. He made her out to be about forty. She had a neat, tidy appearance, as a secretary should. At first he thought that she was not wearing any makeup, but on second glance he could see that she did, but in a subtle way that allowed it to do its work while remaining inconspicuous.

"Here you go!" she said in a sing-song voice as she handed him the ceramic mug. "I'll just go back to my filing. Nathan will be here any minute."

She pivoted around, causing her skirt to twirl and reveal a trace more flesh of her leg than it had beforehand. With nothing else to do Jamie watched her as she bent to her task. He noticed that her bare arms were thinly hewn, in keeping with the rest of her. He couldn't help it; he took a good look at her top, covered in cotton. A quick glance through the sleeveless armhole of the blouse yielded no information. Finally, he deducted that her chest was as slightly built as the rest of her. A large set of breasts wouldn't fit her well.

She bent from the waist to drop a few folders into the lowest cabinet. Her back was turned completely toward him. Jamie wondered why she reached it that way, instead of folding herself down by bending her knees. At any rate, the a-line of the denim skirt allowed him to learn nothing new of her form. Nevertheless, once self-indulged to his perusal of her top half, it was easy to let his mind paint a picture of what might find waiting underneath the heavy fabric. He could see it in his mind's eye as clearly as if she was a dancer in a thong rotating on a pole and he had a seat along the stage. Of course he knew nothing of such venues, but he could see the slender thighs and smooth buttocks quite clearly.

Jamie's lascivious ogling gave him a guilty feeling. He forgave himself in the knowledge that it was only his silly fantasy, to be shared with no one. He had no designs on the female under his inspection, but was glad to find her. There would undoubtedly be others like her—and she didn't look bad. She seemed more his speed than the blonde Amazon he passed while jogging that morning. It was food for thought. He glanced at the clock and then around the room to be sure that another sudden pirouette wouldn't catch him in his partaking that which was not offered.

As he was running out of trivial things to take notice of he heard steps in the hallway. He turned to the doorway to catch sight of his new mentor entering.

"Hello, Mr. O'Toole," the man said. "Thanks for coming in. I'm glad that you're with us." He thrust out his hand and Jamie took it.

"I'm glad to be here," Jamie replied. It was only a half-lie, if a polite one. He wasn't sure if he was glad to be there or not, but he was glad to start finding out the answer. Hearing himself called 'Mr.' O'Toole made him feel strange, however accurate. It had been 'Father' O'Toole for so long.

He was motioned into the inner office by the older man.

"Thanks Mr..." he started.

"Call me Nathan!" interrupted the Principal. "No need for formality here. You won't find that in a small town." Jamie carried his coffee into the room and the secretary placed one on Nathan's desk on cue.

"What do we call you?" Nathan continued.

"My nickname has always been Jamie."

Nathan peered at him, as if expecting a further explanation of Jamie's answer. He paused several seconds, neither frowning nor smiling. He sat ramrod straight in his executive chair and took a sip of coffee, prolonging the pause even more. Jamie knew that he was displeased with his answer, but unable to understand why.

Nathan Smithling, Principal of the High School, starting his fifth year in the position, had been a teacher and Chairman of the Social Studies Department. He gave confidence to those who answered to him and those who appointed him. He had been tested many times for his constancy, adherence and knowledge of what was expected. He passed every test, as it was his job to do. His subordinates followed him because they wanted to be where he was.

He was in his mid fifties, tall at six-four and slender. On this casual day before the start of school he wore jeans and a polo shirt, but looked like he belonged in a white shirt and striped tie. He had dark brown hair and glasses with black frames. Jamie had met him before when he interviewed for the job, but that had been on one of the Principal's trips to Rochester.

He leaned forward, looking Jamie in the eye and winced slightly. "Why don't we come up with a different name? It sounds a little too 'ethnic' for folks in these parts."

Jamie was startled at the frank demand and searched for a response. Nathan sat back in his chair and raised his hands in front of his chest, with open palms facing out.

"Of course, it would be your decision. It's just a suggestion. I only want to help you get to know the people easier. Why don't you think about it?"

"I—I guess that I'd like to think about it. I've always been called that—my parents gave me the name after my great grandfather in Ireland," Jamie pleaded.

Nathan nodded appreciatively.

"Let me just tell you where you stand," Nathan continued. "You're on temporary contract until the School Board votes to give you a 'tenured' contract. Then you will be in the teachers' union. Until then, they will bargain for you."

"You mean the union represents me but I don't belong to it?" Jamie asked.

"Exactly!" Smithling replied, appearing glad that the student was taking to the lesson. "You pay dues just as though you belong, of course. In the meantime, any decisions about your employment are up to me. Naturally, I consult with the union steward, since your goal is to join the union," he explained. "You see what I mean, don't you?"

Jamie nodded that he did. It was another half-truth.

"We have you slated to teach four sections this year," Nathan changed the subject. "Two of Trigonometry and one each of Geometry and Algebra. Our goal is to get the students to pass the State Tests—or as many as possible, I suppose."

"I enjoy Trigonometry," Jamie declared.

"To be honest, not many of the teachers do. That's why you have it," Nathan confided. "It can be frustrating," he explained. "By the time they get that far most of the students wonder why they have to learn about sine and cosine just so they can graduate, when all they plan to do is work on the farm or get a job in the feed mill."

"What about students who need it for college?" Jamie piped up.

"Not many of them," Nathan admitted looking away. "For those that do, they hire the teachers as tutors for enrichment and extra help."

"I think that's part of my job," Jamie asserted. "I'll do that for no..."

Smithling stood his hand up like a traffic cop. "No!" he interrupted sternly. "We have our system. The teachers look forward to that money. We have to respect the system."

Jamie sensed that he was making trouble and was sorry for the unwise assertion. "Okay," he weakly replied.

"Now," Smithling smiled and leaned forward across the table to the edge of Jamie's space, "how about that nickname?"

"I guess the 'James' would be alright," Jamie, now James, conceded in instant surrender.

Smithling sat back relaxed in his high-backed chair. "Good!" he drawled slowly as he grinned broadly. "I knew you'd see it once you had a chance to think about it. It will be for the best. It will help you to fit right in." Nathan remained leaning back in his chair. James wondered if he had pleased his mentor, but couldn't be certain.

"Now, I have something for you," Nathan grandiloquently announced as he reached into the top drawer of his desk and drew his hand out with a flourish, a white envelope attached to it. "I'm sure that you can use it. I arranged for an advance of a thousand dollars on your salary. They'll deduct it over the month of September." He handed over the check.

"Oh, thank you, Nathan," James exhaled, truly relieved. "This really helps. You were right. I'm a little short. I had to put up a security deposit in my rooming house and it just about cleaned me out."

"I was glad that I could help out," Nathan continued smiling. "I think that you're going to do real fine here in Bates."

"Another thing," Nathan added, "about being a former priest. I wouldn't say very much about that. You never know how people will respond—and it's none of their business! I'm alright with it, but I'm more open-minded than some."

"What do I tell them?" James questioned. "People are bound to ask."

"Just say that you taught in that Catholic High School in Rochester and you decided to get into the public schools for the retirement plan and benefits." Nathan had obviously thought up the answer in advance. "See? You don't have to lie—that's the truth! You just don't go around telling people things that that aren't their business."

"Now I'm going to turn you over to Abby out there. I have business outside of the school," Nathan said, rising from his chair. She has some forms and things for you to sign. After that she'll give you a tour of the school and show you the classroom where you'll be teaching."

James stood also, and shook Nathan's hand as he offered it to him.

"Abby knows about everything in your file," Smithling told him. "Around here, anything that Abby doesn't know is not worth knowing, and whatever she does know she doesn't talk about. She and I are the only ones in the school who know your background. Of course the Board members and Superintendent know, too."

James sat at the side of Abby McIntire's desk. He filled out one form, then another. Abby took each from him when completed and inserted it in the correct file or envelope. It all had to do with taxes and benefits and was quite tedious. The only saving grace was that with the repetition James memorized his new address.

"What does the F-X stand for?" Abby asked idly about his middle initials as she checked a form.

"Francis-Xavier," James answered. Abby looked confused. "St. Francis Xavier was a founder of the Jesuit Society of priests," James explained. "My parents are very devout."

"And you're not?" Abby challenged.

"Well, I was—I should be. I'm just not very much right now." James was surprised that he uncovered himself to this person that he did not know. He felt strange—annoyance at the intrusion or relief in confession—he could not say which he felt. He ignored his feelings and went back to the forms.

"Would you like some more coffee?" she asked him as he completed the next-to-last form.

"No, thank you just the same," he answered politely. He decided to test his nerve. "Don't you want to know why I quit being a priest?" he asked.

"No," was the answer. James breathed a sigh of relief. He didn't really want to tell her, or anyone at that moment. He did want to plumb the depth of her curiosity.

"Nathan wouldn't have hired you if it had been something bad," she said in a soft voice.

He handed her the final page. Abby put it neatly into an envelope and set her things at the side of her desk.

"How about that tour?" she asked.

It wasn't a full tour. It started in the Faculty Lounge, where she outfitted James with his own locker, and wound its way to the Math Department Office and settled him into his desk.

The Chairman of the Department just retired so the position is vacant now," Abby informed him.

Next, they walked down the hall to his classroom. James followed her lead down the hall and his eyes followed the sway of her hips under her denim skirt as he took up where he left off earlier in the office. With such a petite body her sway was more compact than many women, but it was there. Abby found the key and opened the door. James was at home for the first time in a while. Classrooms all seem to be the same. She pointed out the intercom and overhead projector.

James walked over and looked out the window to the football field beyond.

"You'll have a hard time keeping their minds on their work until football season is over," she mused.

"You can hardly blame them," he replied. "I was never big enough for football. I ran cross country."

"What do you do for fun now?" she asked.

"I've been so busy that I haven't gotten that far yet," James answered absent-mindedly. "What does everyone else do?"

"I don't imagine that you hunt or fish," she speculated. James shook his head. "Well, there are other things to do. Some like to go out to the bars." James winced slightly. "There are plenty of ways to spend time," she added apologetically, as though she thought it her duty to provide James with a diversion.

"I'm sure that I'll figure something out," James agreed.

"Indoor sports!" she blurted out, but didn't blush or turn her head way as the words sallied forth and she raised her eyebrows.

"Huh—you mean bowling?" a naïve James queried.

Abby stifled a chuckle at James' expense.

"Why don't you ask around at Nathan's Labor Day Party?" she suggested. "You're going aren't you?"

"I hadn't heard about it before now. He didn't invite me," James answered.

"You don't need an invitation!" she waved dismissively. "All the staff from the High School is invited. I'll be there with my husband. Just come as you are. I'll give you the address when we get back to the office."

That afternoon James cashed his check and performed all his errands. He thought how kind it was for Nathan to arrange for an advance. He drove to Corning and looked at television sets and other things, but decided to forego it, since he hadn't had the cable hooked up yet. He bought a clock-radio instead. Later, he reckoned that passing on the television was a good idea, since it would have conflicted with the reading that he wanted to do.

He did buy a bottle of Scotch and a few other items for personal diversion. Late in the afternoon he went shopping for food and learned what it was like in a grocery store, as he laid in a supply of food. He didn't know much about cooking, but figured to learn. For that night, though, he walked down to Main St. and treated himself to the Meatloaf Special at the Village Diner.

It had been a long and tiring day. James decided that Descartes could wait. He was too tired to concentrate enough to appreciate him. He stripped to his underwear, peeled back the covers on his bed and lay down, propped up by the pillows. He set his glass of Scotch on ice on the nightstand. He started to thumb through the Playboy magazine that he bought in Corning, but then set it down.

Instead, he thought about his encounter with the lovely blonde jogger early in the morning, wondering if she would reappear on the morrow to feed his fantasies anew. His time with Abby deserved some analysis, as well. He thought that she might be flirting with him but could not be sure. What she had meant by 'indoor sports', he could not be certain, and the strategic bending at the filing cabinet might have been completely unintentional.

While the young, athletic jogger fueled his fantasies, James couldn't help wonder what the trim little Abby might have underneath that full denim skirt. He scolded himself for thinking about it—she told him that she was married and he had seen the rings, but he was entitled to wonder, now free of his vows. Something told him that whatever was under that skirt was worth the price of the view.

He took a sip of whiskey and realized that he had a full erection. The Playboy beckoned and he picked it up. He had never seen one. He pondered his lack of experience. He reached under the waistband of his briefs to adjust the insistent member. It was hard and James reckoned that it wasn't going to calm down anytime soon. He realized that, except for a few involuntary wet dreams of his youth, he had never ejaculated under any circumstance.

As he touched himself, a tiny ripple of pleasure ran from his groin to his brain. He had never done that. He liked it and did it again, intending to stop before things went too far. He gently rubbed his thumb over the tiny slit and felt a thick, slippery fluid that had leaked out. He knew what it was. In a certain way, for the first time he saw himself as a man with this last part included. He slid his fingers along the underside of the glans and then the scrotum. The pleasure was new and to be savored.

He thought of the blonde runner, breasts bouncing, nipples protruding. Somehow, thinking about her while he caressed himself made the pleasure more intense. She seemed so perfect—except, of course in her disagreeable disposition. His thoughts shifted to Abby. He still couldn't figure out if she was flirting with him or not—but what if she was? His first vision was an ideal, but Abby was more within reach. She was closer to his age, an everyday person. He could paint a fantasy of her without embarrassment; she looked good even if she lacked model attributes. He could see himself and her together, and remain guilt-free, for he knew that she was married and he would never have her. Regardless, her image allowed an aspect of reality into his dream.

She could be standing before him at that moment, unbuttoning the waist band of that skirt, letting it slide to the floor. She would do the same with her sleeveless blouse, and then approach the bed to be with him. Then, she would stand still at the edge of the bed so that he could see her. It wasn't her curves, or even the anticipation of pleasure that was most exciting. It was her eyes, and the desire shining out of them, as she prepared to join him. It was desire of him, acceptance, understanding. Her petite body would fit perfectly against his, and at the right time he would help her out of that little bra, and assist her with her panties as she raised her hips.

Her eyes would be burning; she would be as excited as he. She wouldn't wait long, but climb atop him and slowly sink down, impaling herself—and him—with pleasure as he entered her to the hilt. He would reach up and grasp her small breasts; she would purr with the delight of it.

"Let me!" she would whisper in a husky voice as she rose up, preparing to impale herself on him anew. He waited for it; for his reinvasion into the warm folds awaiting him. She began her descent until...

James erupted in a groan of pleasure, sending semen into the air and landing on his chest, on the sheets beside him, even a small amount spattered on his forehead. It was his first conscious ejaculation of his life. It surprised him; it happened so fast and careened out of control so easily. He hadn't even been aware that he had slipped his underwear down around his knees, or grasped himself, or the stroking motion that he performed without thinking. It was intense pleasure. It quickly arrived, then flew away. He liked it; he wondered if it was like real sex. He got a wash cloth from the bathroom and cleaned up.

His tidying up complete, he laid on his bed again, exactly where he started the evening. His penis was once again comfortably flaccid. In the darkness he wondered if he had performed an evil deed. He thought that he had not, but could not be sure. At any rate, he had done it. He downed the rest of his whiskey and felt better able to sleep.

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