An empty beer bottle arced through the air then broke the smooth surface of the water with an unimpressive splash. Mike watched the ripples spread out across the pond until they lapped against the shore at his feet. He reached into the cooler, the cold felt good to his hand, and pulled out another bottle and twisted the cap off. The ice-cold liquid gurgled down his throat.
He heard a car coming down the dirt and gravel the road behind him. It stopped, and a door opened and closed. The breeze was coming from that direction and he smelled her before he saw her. The power of that fragrance, her fragrance, caused his stomach to knot. Mike always found her fragrance intoxicating if not actually addicting. It didn't matter what perfume she wore, or if she wore nothing at all — there was always her scent.
He drained the bottle and looked at it considering that his heart seemed just as dark, just as cold, and just as empty. He heaved it out into the lake.
A flutter of pale yellow fabric caught his eye as she sat beside him. Damn, she was wearing it — the sundress with twenty-three small white buttons, although buttons number twenty to twenty-three at the top were never fastened. He knew that, because she'd told him. He knew all the buttons; knew them intimately. He couldn't help but smile and wonder — buttons number sixteen and seventeen, were they unbuttoned too?
They had been the first time he met her.
He was at a friend's summer bar-b-q when he saw her walking across the lawn. She was wearing a yellow dress that wrapped around her body in a manner that couldn't be ignored. As he gazed at the swell of her breasts he couldn't help notice the gap in the buttons. A fact he mentioned as she passed him, "Excuse me, I believe you missed a couple."
She'd stopped and looked over her shoulder at him. "The ones at the top are 'sposed to be unbuttoned." Her voice was soft, with a Georgia accent. There was something about the way she said 'suppose', despite the dismissing quality of her tone, that emboldened him.
Undaunted, he continued, "Not those, further down." And found himself staring directly at her breasts.
She looked down, nodded and then looked up, over her sunglasses, at him. Her eyebrows arching she engaged him in a brief stare down.
"What if ah didn't?" She took the beer from his hand and tilted it to her mouth. The movement of her arm opened the gap of fabric and he had a brief unobstructed view of her right breast and its dark pink nipple. "Miss them, that is."
"To tell you the truth..." He pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head and looked her straight in the eyes. Then he glanced down at unsecured buttons sixteen and seventeen tilted his head and bent forward slightly "... I think you did the right thing."
"Well why don't you just get a camera and take a picture? Looking down the dresses of girls you've just met, ahm shocked at your brazenness. Didn't your mama ever teach you manners?"
He looked into her eyes again and smiled. "I don't think that any photograph could properly capture your undeniable beauty. B'sides, I bet that you enjoy being looked at just about as much as I enjoy looking." He took his bottle back from her and drained it. "Our first kiss."
"You're not very good at this are you?" She reached up and wrapped her hand around the back of his neck. "That's no kiss." She pulled his mouth to hers. Her lips danced lightly across his, then met fully. Her tongue darted out and brushed along the inside of his upper lip. She pulled back and released his neck.
He straightened up and gulped, breathing in a soft gasps, he licked his lips and couldn't stop a smile. "Wow."
"That's a kiss." She stepped back, put a hand on her hip and looked him over; head to toe.
"I think I might need more lessons. I'm Mike. Michael Franklin Hampton."
"Well, Michael Franklin Hampton." She shook the offered hand then let her own fingers trace her jawline. "I s'pect ah'll have to teach you just about everything?"
"God I hope so."
Mike shook his head at the memory. He continued to stare across the pond as he spoke. "I was thinking about when we first met, the bar-b-q... what you said... about teaching me everything. I guess you had to learn it from..."
"That's not what ah remember about that day. Ah remember meeting the only man ah have ever loved." She stretched her feet into the warm water. "Funny you were recalling when we first met ah was thinking about when you took me on that picnic... and it rained... do you recall what we said to one another?"
Michael remembered too, she'd worn the sundress that day. Everything had gone wrong; an accident had him an hour late picking her up, a flat tire (maybe he'd run over some debris from the accident) delayed them further, the sandwiches were soggy, the wine warm — and then it rain. Like a monsoon, the heavens opened up and drenched them. They were so thoroughly soaked in seconds that they started laughing. She had stood beneath the rain and spun slowly round. Only the dress didn't flare out as she spun that was impossible due to it being plastered to her body. When she had stopped spinning she staggered from dizziness and Michael had caught her, then knelt before her and unwrapped the wet fabric until he was face to face with button number one; the button at the very bottom of her dress. He'd undone it. And then he undid the next. One by one he unbuttoned every tiny white button of her yellow sundress. He peeled it off her body and laid her down. They made love in the rain for hours; and he had told her that he loved her; oh he remembered that.
He forced himself not to look at her. "I understood I mean... I knew you had a lot of experience. I just never thought that..."