“Ride me like ya loved me”
~ From Nora B, by Ken Bruen
SARAH WAS NUDE WHEN I first saw her, but she didn’t see me because she was heading away up the beach. Tall, maybe as tall as me. Red hair, now wet and plastered against fair creamy skin with the faintest touch of color. Not a single tan line to break the curve of her bottom as it issued Nature’s invitation with each step she took.
I came to my senses in time to move into the water before she saw me staring. This particular beach is secluded enough that no one cares whether you wear a swimsuit or not, but not so far away from the hotel a woman swimming alone would worry about a guy also alone and also nude. A guy like me at this very moment, in fact.
From the water I watched her until she rounded the little point that separates this beach from the hotel. Now it was safe for me to float in the baby waves and let the air, like the lightest and softest of blankets, touch my bare skin out of the water as the visible indication of my interest began to diminish.
Doug and I were here on our annual beach trip. He was off fishing. Me, I like to eat them but couldn’t care less about catching them. I was here to swim. This Caribbean wonderland has everything you could want, starting with perfect weather to enjoy the white beaches that go on forever and ending with water so blue you can’t wait to dive in. Plus friendly locals, good food, especially fish, and a casual live-and-let-live attitude.
The next day she was in the water when I arrived. She saw me at the same time. I waved my “See, I’m not a creep” wave, and splashed into the water. I kept my distance. A few minutes later she moved toward the beach to towel off and dress. She caught my eye and I think she smiled just before she turned to head back to the hotel.
That afternoon, late, I saw her in the hotel lobby on her way to the front doors. Light sundress, sandals. She practically glowed, her red hair now in curls flowing down to her shoulder blades. A definite smile with her wave this time, but she kept going.
I suppose seeing each other in the lobby was kind of a confidence-building measure, because the next morning when we met on the beach, she walked right up to me. Look her in the eyes, you fool, I told myself. Her curls framed a strong, very lightly freckled face. A natural redhead. More curvy than slender, maybe, her curves exactly where you’d like to see them. I was right about how tall she was.
“Hi, I’m Sarah.”
“Matt. Nice to meet you.”
We shook hands.
This morning we weren’t so far apart as before. We finished about the same time, too, I made sure of it. We spent a couple of minutes chatting as we toweled off after our swim. Just ask her, that voice told me as she was about to turn away, all she can say is ‘No.’
“Sarah, would you like to have coffee back at the hotel?”
A pause. Odd look for just a second. A little shrug. Bit of a smile, not much.
“Sure. In an hour or so?”
“See you on the veranda.”
We were seated on the veranda where the hotel served breakfast, bougainvillea showing off as it flowed down outside the railing. A pot of scalding strong black coffee and a basket with the most perfect croissants you’ve ever seen in front of us. Sarah was adding cream to her coffee when she spoke.
“I’m here on my honeymoon.”
I fiddled with my own coffee for a second. Grabbed a croissant. This island is a favorite honeymoon destination and I’m used to seeing just-married couples here. They have a very distinct vibe about them when things are going well. The guys are smug. The women look, to put it politely, satisfied.
Sarah didn’t have that look. Plus, here she is with me, a stranger, having coffee at mid-morning instead of upstairs in bed with her new husband. My second thought was, I confess, hope. No, not hope I could get into her pants, even if the thought had crossed my mind. No, it was that maybe, just maybe, if the stars aligned right, I might get to know her better. I was pretty sure she was someone I wanted to learn more about. Someone who, and I know this sounds silly, might bring things out of me I only half-realized were there. She was more than a one-night stand, I knew that already.
How could I know all this after a couple of swims and a cup of coffee? Absolutely no idea, but I did. No, that’s not exactly true. I knew because a woman who swims at dawn, especially nude, is a treasure. That’s the key, and you can take that key to the bank.
I didn’t know how she felt about her husband, although it was starting to look like things weren’t going very well for them. But I’ll be honest here. I didn’t owe her husband a thing, and if he was stupid enough to neglect his bride he deserved what he got.
“Your husband isn’t a swimmer, I guess?”
Sarah seemed to be very interested in her coffee cup again.
“Not really. Bill would rather be on the water than in it.”
“That’s it. He’s out every morning early. I’m a swimmer, and I don’t mind getting up when he does. That’s why I’m down at the beach early.”
She looked a little uncomfortable, but only for a second. She straightened her shoulders and looked me in the eye.
“I’m a California girl. I grew up on the beach, and Mom and Dad taught us as early as I can remember the only way to swim is nude. Well, when you can get away with it, anyway.”
“So that’s why you see me, all of me, every morning. No one seems to care here, and there’s never anyone around, at least there wasn’t until you showed up, so I go for it.”
My turn to laugh.
“Couldn’t agree with you more, Sarah. Where do you folks live?”
“Santa Barbara. Bill started his law practice there a couple of years ago, and I work at a small publishing house. Bill and I were at UCLA together. Actually, we knew each other in high school, believe it or not. What about you?”
“I’m in the Bay Area.”
“Not yet, but I haven’t lost hope.”
A few minutes later the croissants were gone, our coffee cups empty. I wanted to stay and talk but I figured I’d better not press my luck.
“I’ve got to go. See you at the beach tomorrow, Sarah?”
For a moment she looked unhappy. She wanted to talk some more? Couldn’t be sure. Then she smiled.
The next day we swam together. Sarah took long easy strokes, torso rotating slightly with each one, strong kick, breasts moving just enough to keep my interest. We did a few laps across the bay and stopped to rest, the water a little more than waist-deep. Sun barely up, a slanting morning light. Sarah pushed her goggles up on her forehead.
“It’s so quiet, Matt.”
“Anticipation, that’s what it feels like.”
She looked at me.
“And exactly what are you anticipating?”
“Whatever the day will bring, Sarah.”
Another funny little smile.
Back on the veranda, more coffee plus a cheese omelet for me this time. Her curls in all their glory spilling over her knit shirt.
“What’s on your schedule today, Matt?”
“Sailing. You know the boat rental place up the beach? I’m going to head over to that little island you can see from here. How about you?”
“Not much. Bill’s out until noon, at least. Maybe even mid-afternoon. Tonight he wants to go to the casino again, so that’s where we’ll be.”
She hid it, but I thought I heard a little sigh.
“Just hang out, I guess.”
“Sarah, I don’t mean to be too forward, but I’d love company. Are you a sailor?”
“Unlike Bill, I’m a lot better in the water than on it, but I don’t think I’ll sink us.”
“You’re on. Get your hat and sunscreen, and I’ll meet you at the rental place.”
She was smiling now.
At the island we tied up at the little pier, and set out with a couple of water bottles and some fruit. There didn’t seem to be anyone else around today. Found a shady spot around the other side of the island for our stuff.
I couldn’t look away as Sarah pulled her shirt over her head. She filled her bra perfectly.
“I’m going in the water, the usual way. OK with you?”
I’m not a complete idiot.
Stripped off my t-shirt and shorts as she stepped out of her panties. Sarah turned and ran into the surf. I followed, which was probably a good thing since I was watching her rear end again and it was obvious I liked what I saw.
There wasn’t really any place to swim to, so we mostly paddled around a bit. Then back out to lie in the shade. I helped her with sunscreen. She did the same for me.
“Sarah, you said you and Bill knew each other in high school?”
“Yeah, even before. We competed against each other since seventh grade. I won in the end, I guess you could say. I was valedictorian, Bill was salutatorian.”
“He hates to lose, you know.”
“We dated a little, but I think we were both too focused on classes and clubs and stuff. We kissed some, went a little further, even.”
“God, I was such an idiot. Too afraid, I guess. Worried too much about what others would think if I went too far.”
She shook her head. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you this stuff.”
“So, what happened at UCLA?”
“Well, we had a couple of classes together freshman year. We got to talking, having coffee, going out to a movie sometimes. After all, we knew each other from before, and UCLA can be kind of scary when you’re new there.”
“I dated a few other guys. Did a little experimenting.”
I think she was blushing.
“The whole scene still scared me a little so I kept on seeing Bill. I wanted someone safe. Not that I was trying to get Bill into bed, exactly, but I was interested, really interested, more than Bill was, I think.”
She stopped again for a moment. Finger drawing circles in the sand. Looked at me. I couldn’t read her expression. A little sad, maybe, a little defiant, if that’s possible.
“I had to grab him and kiss him one night, Matt. He was surprised, I can tell you that, but then he got really interested and I figured everything would be OK. I didn’t want to be the last virgin in the freshman class, if you know what I mean.”
She stopped again. Face twisting a little. I thought she was going to cry. She flinched when I touched her shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Sarah. It’s OK. You don’t have to keep going. I didn’t mean to make you upset.”
She shook her head. Wiped what might have been a tear.
“No, I’m fine. Bill’s a nice guy. He really is. But his passion is ideas, not people, I think. I can’t figure it out. I don’t think he’s gay, I really don’t.”
She stopped again. Got up, started to dress.
“Matt, I’m sorry, but I’d like to go back now.”
Sarah was quiet sailing back. After I turned in the boat at the rental place and we started for the hotel, Sarah touched my arm and stopped me. Gave me a quick hug.
“I really am sorry, Matt. I didn’t mean to ruin your day. Thank you for taking me, and thanks for listening to me.”
I hugged her back, not too hard, and released her. I smiled and shook my head.
“You didn’t ruin anything, Sarah. I’m glad you came along, and I’m sorry if I upset you. Sometimes I keep asking questions when I should shut up.”
I saw Sarah again that evening as I was going out for a walk. Sundress again, light sweater around her shoulders. The tall guy with her had to be Bill, and I suppose they were on their way to the casino. Sarah didn’t see me. She didn’t look sad but she didn’t look happy, either. Sort of resigned, I guess.
The day after our sail we were on the veranda again after our swim. Sarah looked a little tired. Maybe it was a late night at the casino.
“So, Matt, what do you do when you’re not on this island?”
I told her about Doug and our help desk service and technical support operation. Told her why we were successful at competing with cut-rate operations. She was practically jumping up and down in her chair by the time I finished.
“God! I can’t believe this!”
I waited. A prospective client will tell you what she needs. All you have to do is listen. With both ears.
“That’s exactly the way it works at my place. We don’t have a super-complicated setup. After all, we’re mostly passing documents around and editing them. All we really need is good word-processing, some desktop publishing, and a way to share documents easily.
“Somehow the bosses think we can do this with a budget ISP and crappy no-name word-processing. To them the Cloud has something to do with weather, and their idea of tech support is for us to call a firm run by the president’s nephew, who thinks he’s a hotshot troubleshooter. A loser gamer wannabe is more like it, who hired a couple of his loser gamer buddies. He’s available only because I don’t think they have any other clients.”
My turn to laugh. I slid my card across to her.
“Sarah, if I can help you with tech support, I’m happy to do it. It would be long-distance except for a site visit or two, but we can work around that. Let me talk to your bosses. We cost a bundle, but when we’re finished everything works right and stays that way. Doug and I are pretty persuasive, and we have the client references to back us up.”
She tucked the card away.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m stalking you, Sarah but I’m thinking of a drive up to the park overlook. Not going to spend the day there, just a few hours. Maybe a walk, but mostly I’m going to sit around. Would you like to come along?”
“I’d love to.”
From the overlook there’s a spectacular view of the bay, easy to see the island we’d sailed to yesterday, and just off to the south the beach where we swam every morning. Big trees, plenty of shady little nooks to stretch out in.
I told her how Doug and I had started the business, our ups and downs, where we thought we were going. Talked a little about my family, and some of those silly stories we all have from high school. Even some stuff about an old girlfriend or two. Sarah had her own stories.
Gradually our talk trailed off. Not an awkward silence, kind of a natural stopping point.
“So, Matt, what are you doing for fun on this island when you’re not towing me around?”
“To tell you the truth, I like towing you around.”
“Doug and I are usually out and about in the evenings. We ended up talking with twins from Chicago last night.”
I caught her eye.
“You really want to know?”
“Yeah. Might as well hear about someone else’s fun. Fraternal or identical twins?”
“Fraternal but awfully close, almost identical. Danielle and Maria. They’re graphic designers. Lots of funny stories about their clients. Probably too much detail, in fact, but then our client lists don’t overlap so it’s unlikely any of this will get back to the wrong ears. Doug and I had a few stories of our own, too. It was a fun evening.”
“And what happened?”
Sarah was examining a blade of grass and didn’t meet my eye this time.
“Um, Sarah, I’m not really a kiss-and-tell guy.”
She blushed, looked disappointed, too. I laughed. Decided it was a good moment to lean over and hug her lightly. Took a chance and kissed her cheek quickly, too.
“I’ll tell you this, though. Doug and I aren’t exhibitionists, but those two were pretty uninhibited. Things got kind of intense, I guess you would say. The four of us saw a lot of each other. A lot. Not bragging here, but the twins were pretty happy by the time they went back to their room.”
I wasn’t exactly sure where this was going.
“You know, Doug and I aren’t jerks. No one made any promises last night, not us, not the twins. We’re all big boys and girls. The twins are here to have fun and so are we. Doug and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. We’ll probably see them again tonight or another night.”
Sarah squirmed for a minute. She jumped to her feet.
“Matt, let’s walk. I’ve got to move around.”
So we walked. And walked. We were sweating and a little winded after a circuit of the hilltop. We ended up back in the shade. Sarah’s top was plastered to her in an interesting fashion. Don’t know what I looked like. Sweaty and drippy, probably. We sat there for a bit.
“Matt, can I ask something? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
“How important is sex to you? I mean, when you meet the right girl? Or even someone like the twins?”
Jesus. How am I supposed to answer that?
“A lot, I guess, is the short answer. With the twins, it was plain fun, that’s all. They’re good company. It’s not love forever, far from it, but I enjoyed meeting them and I think they liked us, too.”
Looked at Sarah. She was trembling a little. Upset? Turned on? Couldn’t be sure.
“There’s more to life than sex, obviously, but I’m not a monk, and I’m not looking to marry a ... a what? A monkette?”
Sarah burst out laughing.
“A monkette, Matt?”
“Well, you know what I mean.”
She looked uncomfortable again.
“Look, you don’t have to answer this question, Matt, right?”
What is going on here?
“OK, Sarah, I won’t if I don’t want to.”
“Do you like blowjobs?”
I stared at her. She held my gaze.
“Well, yes, I do. I don’t think there’s a guy on the face of this earth, gay or straight, who doesn’t like a blowjob. What’s this about, Sarah?”
“Bill doesn’t like them.”
“Has he told you why?”
“Not really. Says they’re just, well, sort of uncomfortable.”
“OK. Are you biting him, Sarah?”
She laughed again.
“No, I’m not. I had a little experience with other guys at UCLA. Not much, I admit, but I didn’t have any complaints.”
She smiled as she said that. Still, this was getting a little strange. And arousing, truth be told.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Sarah. Personally, I think he’s nuts.”
She flinched. I reached over to rub her shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Sarah. My big mouth again. I really am sorry. I don’t know you or Bill well enough to say something like that.”
“He doesn’t like returning the favor, either.”
“Some guys don’t know what they’re missing, Sarah.”
“Can we walk some more? Just a bit? Then I have to get back.”
So we did another circuit of the hilltop. I’m not a psychologist, but it wasn’t hard to tell she was upset over this. We walked without talking. Came back to the car.
“Matt, thanks for listening.”
“Sarah, sorry again about my big mouth.”
Sarah looked at me. Then she stepped close, put her arms around me, and kissed me on the lips. More than a peck. Startled doesn’t begin to describe my reaction, but I’m fairly quick on the uptake when I have to be. I hugged her, pulled her in tight, and kissed her back. She didn’t try to escape.
She broke the kiss, smiled. Blue eyes you could fall into. Then she kissed me once more, lightly.
I hugged her tight for a second, and released her. Into the car, and I left her at the main entrance to the hotel. Didn’t see her again that day.
Sarah wasn’t at the beach the next morning. It wasn’t half as much fun without her, no surprise there, but I made a half-hearted attempt anyway to stretch my muscles.
She showed up for coffee on the veranda. Looked even more tired this morning.
“May I join you, Matt?”
I stood up.
I caught our server’s eye, asked for more coffee and croissants.
“You look tired, Sarah.”
She looked down at the tablecloth for a minute. Then stared out at the bougainvillea. Finally at me. I thought she was about to cry.
“Matt, I don’t know what to do.”
She began to cry, softly.
“Last night was horrible. Bill pushed me away.”
She grabbed a tissue and used it.
“What’s the matter with me? Am I so horrible-looking? Am I such a horrible person?”
I reached across the table and took her hand.
“Sarah, this is going to sound weird, but do you surf? I’m going to have a lesson later this morning. Come with me, will you? You don’t have to talk. We’ll enjoy the day.”
She stared at me for a moment like I was nuts. Maybe I was. Then she relaxed.
“I’m a lousy surfer. Sure, I’ll come with you.”