I collapsed on the sofa, a glass of wine in my hand, and turned to face Jeremy.
It had been quite a day, out of an exceptional week. My life, as they say, would never be the same again.
My husband Neville and his half-brother Jeremy had been out tramping in the mountains near our home, the previous weekend, when it had all gone wrong.
In appalling weather on the second day, as the two of them pushed along a ridge, with a gusty side wind, and torrential rain, Neville slipped. His boot landed on a piece of ground which had been undermined, and he stumbled before slipping from the edge. Jeremy turned, he said, just in time to see Nev sling his arms around a large rock to arrest his fall.
The ground was unstable. The rock was unstable.
Neville fell three hundred feet onto more rocks below. I was informed, and the body was retrieved the next day.
The funeral was nice. I think I can say that, even though it was awful, because it could have been much more awful. All Nev's friends came to pay their last respects. Some of his family travelled from overseas to be here.
We weren't church-goers, but I knew Neville would have liked something, so I spoke with a minister friend I'd known since I was a kid. He and the Funeral Director worked out what was best. I just did what they said.
Jeremy spoke on his brother's behalf about how he was the glue in their blended family. His mother wept. His sisters hugged me over and over. I stood and tearfully described his unique wonderfulness as a loving husband.
When the burial was over I thanked them all for attending, cried a few private tears of my own, and invited, as was expected, everyone back to our recently renovated house for a drink and something to nibble.
They came. All of them. Relatives and friends, and hangers-on. People I loved, and some I'd never met. They all wanted to spend time telling me how Neville was delightful/reliable/handsome/clever/funny/intellectual ... I nodded a lot. I was running on automatic, and anyway all the things they said were true.
Eventually they'd all downed as much of our booze as they could manage, eaten every snack in the place, and started to leave. Some made plans to catch up with me while they were still in town. Others had planes or trains to catch. Eventually, all but one of them had gone.
Then, as I said, I collapsed on the sofa, a wine in my hand, and turned to face Jeremy.
"Thanks. I couldn't imagine having got through this without your help."
"Oh, to tell the truth I'm glad there was so much to be done."
"I'm with you. It's been so busy there hasn't been time to think."
"Just as well, Laney."
"Yeah. So, what now?"
"I think I need to sort some things out in my head."
"You're not alone."
"And you, Laney? How are you managing?"
"I'm alright, actually. For now. I'm ... just not sure where to from here."
"Can I ask you a favour?"
"Could we just sit here for a while, and drink?"
"Good. Because I never do that."
"Lots of things I never do."
"Uh huh. Lemme get some port."
"Oh, you're serious."
I returned with a bottle I'd hidden in the back of the pantry, and two appropriate glasses. All of that was dumped on the coffee table before I sat down and faced Jeremy again.
"You know, I'm not being entirely honest here."
"No. I don't really want to get plastered."
"Ahh ... no?"
"No. Umm ... listen, it's been a long time. I have no idea how do this properly, but you find me attractive. I know you do."
"I always have."
"So ... you'd best get to the point, Laney, in case I get the wrong idea."
"I want to fuck you."
"Okay, that's more direct."
"I want to fuck you. Here and now, because I like you, because I've lost my husband, because I know you want to, and because I've just been so fucking horny since he died."
"Why are you still talking?"
"There's one more."
"Yeah. I want to do it because it's just so fucking wrong."
"Feels wrong to me. But it's got to be better than what I've been managing alone these last few nights."
"Did that feel wrong?"
"Yeah. Listen, are you ... seeing someone? Nev said you were, a while back."
"It didn't exactly work out, with her being a bitch and all."
"I thought it was all just sex to you."
"Hey, I'm not that shallow. Usually."
"I hope you are now."
"I'll make a point of it."
I leaned over and kissed him lightly on the cheek before standing in front of the sofa and kicking off my shoes. I wore a long somewhat-slim black dress, and my hands took hold of the skirt of it up high on my thighs, and started to pull handfuls of the cloth up, shortening the skirt with each lift. "I did something else that I think was inappropriate..."
The skirt was past my knees. "What was that?"
I kept lifting, the thin cloth bunching easily above my hands. I took hold of the whole thing and pulled it boldly up to my waist. "I wore my sexiest panties. To my husband's funeral." I wiggled and grinned, showing off the thin wisp of black satin. "I thought maybe he was watching."
Jeremy put his hands on my hips and pulled me towards him. I bent my legs and finished up pressed against him, kneeling on the sofa. I dropped my dress and it fell around us a little, though not covering my knees. "I was watching you."
"You," and I kissed him between words, "have always been watching me."
"That's not my fault." he kissed me back.
"It's not? Why is that?"
"Well, if you will walk around half naked."
"I don't do that."
"Laney, what were you wearing that morning you got up early to pee, when we were camping?"
"Oh, that morning? Umm ... panties?"
"I did that on purpose."
"And I knew you'd be jerking off later in the bushes. Was I right?"
"Yeah, when you guys went for a walk."
"Nev thought we were going for sex."
"Uh uh. I told him you would be jerking off so that's what he would have to do as well."
"I did. He did have a distinct advantage though."
"What was that?"
"He could watch me."
"I should have followed you."
"Too late now, Jeremy. Too late."
"Hold still, will you? Okay, arms up." He grabbed the bundled up dress, and hauled it up and over my head. "Oh, so not just the panties, huh?"
"Take it off. My breasts need air."
.... There is more of this story ...