I watched Willow get out of the car and come toward the porch where I was sitting. It had been seven long years since I had last seen her. I don't know what I was feeling, seeing her again today. The last time had been a time of bad trouble for me and I hated to think about it, much less remember. But then she came into my mind as she had been the last night I was with her.
She came to the steps and looked up at me. I could see she was wondering if I would tell her to get out of my life. I didn't. I indicated the rocker that was a few feet from me. She came up and sat down. Neither of us said anything for a few minutes. Then, "You've kept the place up, Bill. It looks good."
I grunted. "It gives me something to do. I got rid of the stock a couple of years ago. I decided I was working my ass off and for what? Family's all gone. Sis moved out to Idaho and has started a family of her own. I go out in the summer time to see my niece and twin nephews. Ma and Pa are out there with her. I might even go out there to live someday." I had let this roll off my tongue without looking at her.
I faced her now. "What do you want?"
"Bill, you just said you didn't have any family. What about Bill Junior? Or Sarah, for that matter? She is still your wife. At least she has never received any divorce papers."
"Not family. Sarah gave up that right to be family when she went away with you and Bert. About Junior, I don't know. I haven't seen him since he was two. He'd be nine now if I've counted his birthdays correctly."
"You have. He is smart and good looking. In fact he looks a lot like you."
"How come Sarah hasn't had any more kids?"
"I don't know how you would know she didn't. That's a story in itself, though. I'll tell you more about it sometime."
"Tough for Bert. Not what he planned, I'll bet. He was going to raise a whole tribe if I remember right."
"Yeah, that was the plan. You could have been a part of it. In fact if you had been, it would have turned out to be your tribe."
"Tough for me then. I'm still not sorry I kicked you guys out and got on with my life. Can't say as I have been very happy, but I'm still my own man. I'm not part of some crazy hippie movement."
"Say what you want, Bill. I can remember one week when you enjoyed a certain hippie."
"Yes, and for one whole week, I traded a good life for a piece of ass. That was your idea wasn't it? You were the power behind it all. It was your idea to have Sarah become one of your disciples. You took my loving wife and turned her on to smoking pot. Then you turned her on to adulterous sex and she became immediately addicted. Was it you or Bert that seduced her the first time?"
"It was Bert, but I was encouraging her to go for it. You received some of the benefits for what I did too. You got almost free labor here on the farm for a year and a half, and you got me for a short time. You could have had more, so you shouldn't complain."
"Not sure about that. I lost more than anyone. It was you who talked about the wonders of the barter system. It was cost free labor for housing, food and all that went into making a happy home. No labor in return for what was necessary. I could have hired it done for a few bucks and I would have been a lot happier these last few years. You said nothing about the sex and the taking of my wife and son. I say it was a damn poor bargain."
"Okay it didn't work out. Sarah really was pretty easy to convince. She was sick of shoveling manure and working her butt off. Bert and I took some of that off her back. We wanted to do the same for you. It took us one week to turn her, but six months to even get close to you. But then you were only willing to try it for a week and the condition you made gave you an easy out. You were a damned fool for not taking advantage of what we had to offer."
What Willow was saying, was bringing the anger back that I thought I had rid myself of. Willow Smith is four years younger than I am and Bert Smith is three years my junior. Twenty-two and twenty-three at the time we first met. They were students at a nearby college. The school was a hot-bed of change and these well-to-do students who had no idea about life, were looking to change the world. It was burn your bra and commune time, with free love and some activism thrown in.
In my mind remembering, I went back seven years and more in time before Willow. I met my wife, Sarah Burns, right after high school. We dated for a few months and were inseparable. We were a small-town product and would be working toward having a home with kids, just like our parents did. Then my number came up to join Uncle Sam in some overseas endeavors. I was drafted and I was back home in two years. Sarah and I picked up where we had left off before I was called up. I was pretty sure Sarah was true to me. At least all of our mutual friends said she was. When I reached home after the service, I went into a factory to work and Sarah worked in an office.
When we married, she became Mrs. William Loomis. For a home, we purchased an old run-down farm and were planning on having at least three kids, while we were building up the farm. Sarah was glad to stay home while I worked out and she planned on putting food by. We were raising a couple of pigs, a milk cow, a beef for slaughter, and a few chickens. Tending to these were her chores. I did the heavy work, but she was right alongside me. My job in the factory was to pay the mortgage and maybe see a movie once in awhile.
Television was an 11-inch set that we could get two channels on. In the spring of the first year of farm ownership, we borrowed enough sap buckets from a neighbor to tap out and gather sap to make maple syrup. We worked around the clock it seemed, but we did take time to make a baby. When the baby arrived, Sarah's chores fell on me when I got home from the factory. I never thought to make a complaint. This was what we both wanted and were working for.
This wasn't a modern operation. I had a twenty-five-year-old tractor. It had a loader on front to handle manure and I had a decrepit manure spreader. When the loader came off the tractor, you could bolt on a table saw that was belt driven for sawing wood. The furnace in the cellar was a beast that burned wood and a lot of it. Sarah was right there handing on the four-foot sticks for me to cut. The whole shebang set me back $357 total.
I had no haying equipment. I hired a man to cut, rake and bale the hay and I paid him twenty-one cents a bale to do it all. That was for the first cutting. For the little bit of hay I made for the second cut, I borrowed a tractor with a mower to cut grass. I put the hay loose into the barn with my pickup.
By this time, Bill Junior was four months old, and we had been on the farm almost two years. I didn't know it then and I didn't have any idea anything would go wrong when a couple of college students, named Smith, showed up at our door one Saturday afternoon. I was getting in the last of the second cutting of hay and they pitched in. The hay was in in no time. Then they said they heard that there was an old cabin up in the woods that had been used for hired help in days gone by. Could they rent it? I showed it to them.
I certainly wouldn't want to live in it. They would, even without facilities or insulation. I was ashamed to charge them anything, but I would accept some help if they would relieve Sarah of some of her chores. We struck the deal with a handshake.
They said that they were through with college at the end of the semester and would have more time to help if I needed it. They lasted in the old cabin until December. The sheet metal stove I furnished caused a fire, which was soon extinguished. I guess they weren't paying attention and it overheated. I had cautioned them about the stove, but they didn't listen. I wondered how they could be so dumb as to have the stove overheat while they were right there.
By this time we had become well acquainted and friends. We also were depending on the help they were providing with the chores. Neither kept very clean and always wore extra clothes which emitted an unwashed odor. This seemed to be standard with the hippy movement. They were no worse than others we came in contact with.
Bert and Willow Smith moved into a spare bedroom upstairs in our house. It took awhile to get the smoky smell from their belongings, but they were glad to live in a residence with facilities again. We had a great Christmas and they bought a 13-inch television and antenna for the house. We could get five channels on television with the new setup.
I came to enjoy having another young couple our age around. They were both intelligent and articulate. Our room and theirs were far enough apart, being on different floors, so we couldn't hear them, and I suppose the reverse was true. I was twenty-six and Sarah was twenty-four. Junior would be one year old in the spring.
There were some other benefits that came with having Willow and Bert living with us. Money was no object to them and we were often treated to some exotic foodstuffs or sometimes a night out to dinner. Often, if I needed a small tool or some nails, Bert would buy it and say forget about it when I offered to pay. By the time of Junior's one-year birthday, they were like brother and sister to both Sarah and me.
In the summer, Sarah and I were seeing what Willow and Bert looked like. The summer before when they first arrived, they were always discreet about what they wore and were always covered. Now they still wore clothes, but occasionally flashes of skin could be observed. And sometimes Willow bumped into or brushed against me when there was no need. If I had thought about it, I would have recognized that this was a subtle seduction. Sarah wasn't being as careful about covering herself, and I did caution and admonish her about sometimes displaying more than I thought proper.
We had a great summer and fall. Mother Earth News was championing this lifestyle we were living, as back-to-the-land people. There were other publications, books and newspapers coming into our home as well. Robert H. Rimmer's books were eagerly awaited as they came out. "The Harrad Experiment" and "The Girl From Boston" were read and discussed more than any. Nancy Friday was writing books that dealt with women and their fantasies, "My Secret Garden" being the best. John Warren Wells was another one that dealt with the sexual revolution.
Psychic healers had their following. Edgar Casey, the most honest, was written about in the book, "There is a River" by Thomas Sugrue. Ruth Montgomery had her special following as well. Sarah and the Smiths had time to read and discuss this material while I worked.
It seemed as if everyone from all walks of life were searching for someone to follow that would make their life better or more interesting--whether cult or commune. I suppose in a way I was above much of this, as I was putting in fifty hours in the factory every week. On top of that, it was I who managed everything going on at home. I have to admit, my farm was further along to where I wanted it to be. We had doubled the syrup production the second year with hardly any extra labor on my part.
I wasn't aware of it at the time, but more often than not, it was Willow and me who were paired together doing the outside chores. Willow always was the volunteer to cut or help get the wood in. She would be on one row with me in the next, weeding the garden together. She was bubbly and happy and tackled any chore with gusto. I came to depend on her nearly as much as I did my wife. Bert and Sarah did the chores around and inside the house. Sarah had always done the chores, but sometimes complained. Junior knew who his mother was, but he was just as happy cuddling with Willow and she gloried in the love he extended to her.
I know now I was too naive about several things. For months I had been smelling an unusual odor when I came home. I supposed it was incense the Smiths had a habit of lighting. I can tell you I knew from nothing about marijuana.
It was Good Friday and I had been slated to work. I did go in, but there had been a misunderstanding. I was not needed and I was on my way back home by ten o'clock. I would be home six hours earlier than my usual time.
Coming into the house, the smell I had wondered about was permeating everything and the living room was blue. Junior was running around, but I could see that he wasn't really aware of what he was doing. I looked into our bedroom and Sarah was naked in bed with Bert. I think they were too stoned at the moment to engage in sex, but I didn't doubt that it had taken place earlier.
Willow was asleep in the bedroom upstairs. That fact didn't surprise me too much as she was the one that usually did the milking and other chores in the morning. She was always up at five o'clock and when finished with the chores, she showered and went back to bed.
I blew up, getting as angry as I had ever been, and yanked Bert and Sarah from my bed and kicked them outside. I pulled a naked Willow from her bed and hustled her down the stairs and out the door to join them. I tended to Junior, putting him into my bed that was still warm.
It was cold and the wind was still blowing across the yard off the snow that hadn't melted yet. There were three naked people standing on my porch trying to get in by hammering on the door. My son was now curled in my bed, asleep or out of it. I set about opening the windows where I could, to get the stench out of the house. The back door was wide open, but those outside didn't want to walk around to the back stoop through the mud in their bare feet.
Maybe I got carried away a little, but maybe not. I floored Bert with a punch to the belly as I let them in. He lay there retching on the floor. I pointed to Sarah to head into our room. She was aware enough now to be worried.
Willow stood there in front of me with defiance. "Bill I didn't want you to find out what Bert and Sarah were doing this way, but we came to a decision this morning. We were planning on talking to you tonight but maybe we should do it now. We have been planning this awhile and we are all in agreement. I guess Bert and Sarah got carried away. Tonight we were going to explain everything to you."
"I guess you all got carried away. I suppose Sarah and Bert were going to get it on someday, just from the literature we have been reading. I honestly didn't give a thought that it could happen. She is my wife, for God's sake. I'm pissed more for Sarah not taking care of Junior. He's almost two. What would have happened if he got hurt or found some matches and started a fire? You were all stoned out of your minds. Willow, I want you and Bert out of here. I'll take care of Sarah."
"Bill, calm down. I wasn't out of my mind. I was just sleeping upstairs and wasn't aware Bert and Sarah weren't watching Junior. They must have thought he was with me and had time to make love and get happy. Know this, too. I have come to have almost as many feelings for you as Sarah has. You are a wonderful person and you must be aware how I feel about you. At least wait until you hear what we have planned."
I stared at her. She was something and she was naked. Being out in the cold did things to a person and it was doing things to her now. The cold had turned her almost blue and she was covered with goose bumps. Willow was slightly smaller than Sarah. I had no idea that her body was so exquisite. This was the first time I had seen the whole package displayed. I had of course seen glimpses, but this was laying it all out before me. I suppose I had fantasized to some extent. They didn't do justice to the real person. "Go put some clothes on. You're cold."
There was that last shot. "Not for you Bill." I shook my head and walked into my bedroom. Sarah had crawled into bed and covered up. I hunted around in our toy drawer and found the paddle that we used when we were feeling a little kinky. I didn't feel that way right now, and this was a different use for the paddle. I came to my senses when I pulled the covers back and Junior was cuddled to his mother, sound asleep.
Sarah was awake, though. "Bill you and I promised each other we would never use that in anger. Were you going to break your promise?"
"I was. I intended to beat the crap out of you and I have the right. I was going to break the promise because you broke your vow to me to always be faithful."
"Okay, you are right and I'll take my punishment. You can do it sometime when Junior doesn't know about it."
"Nice of you to think of him now. All three of you were zonked out and he was running around almost as stoned as you were. I've told Willow and Bert to leave. I should kick you out too, but then you probably would take Junior and I can't have that."
"We were going to talk to you tonight. Hear what we have to say, please."
"So this is all a setup. My wife and a couple of hippies against me."
"Just listen to Willow. See if what she says won't make sense." I turned and went out to start making up a stew of the leftovers from supper last evening.
Still remembering, a naked Willow had turned me on and I was willing to at least listen. I had in mind that she was going to propose we all jump into bed together. I had read the books that were in the house too. What was giving me pause was the uncertainty of where this would leave Junior. What about my marriage and my family? At the time, my sister and parents still lived not many miles away. What would they say? Would there be as much scandal as when the two couples downtown, business people yet, had swapped wives--permanently?
Was I strong enough to resist Willow? I had seen her now. I had fantasized about her and read the books that touted the lifestyle that was supposedly sweeping the country. Today I had seen her in all of her glory and she certainly was appealing, along with being so very willing. Would Sarah be jealous? I hoped so. I was jealous enough of her and Bert. Making love to Willow would be revenge in a way and promised to be pleasurable. I decided I would listen to what their proposal was.
I returned to the present, glancing at Willow rocking in the chair. "What do you want? Why are you here?"
"For myself, not much, although I could wish for more. Sarah needs a divorce. A very quiet one. No, that's not correct. Bert wants Sarah to get a divorce. They joined a church group and he has moved up in the church hierarchy. Also they have been living together all of these years. They aren't married and if it is discovered, he loses his position."
"What kind of church is he involved in? I should think his past would preclude a future with something involving God."
"It hasn't. I admit it didn't start out as much of a church, but over the years what we have been involved in, has merged several times into something that is pretty substantial."
"You're a part of this as well?"
"Yes, I am a part of it. It is I who has planned how to make this happen for Bert. I'll tell you that now, because you would think it anyway. It certainly isn't your wife. She lives day-to-day and always has since we left here. Bert can't seem to do without her, so someone has had to see that he reaches his potential. I think he is at the point where he doesn't need me now.
"I have to confess something about what happened so many years ago. The reason I wanted to have us all together, was because I wanted to have a part of you just as much as Sarah had. Instead I tore your life up and made it impossible to have your love. That week I had you to myself is the high point of my whole life. When Bert and Sarah broke their promise to us, I hated them. I knew then I had no hope of having your love I so badly wanted."
I remembered back to that particular time in the past. That was the day I discovered that Bert and Sarah were intimate and Willow had maneuvered them into becoming so, because of her own agenda. I was prevented from beating on my wife because of my son when I approached her. That fact calmed me long enough so I could wait to hear what they were proposing for the future. It was evening before I sat down with them. Bert was still hurting because I had really belted him. Sarah's high had worn off by this time and she was realizing how much she had betrayed me. She was guilty and I reminded her of being so.
It was Willow of course who was the spokesperson. "Bill, Bert and I have been here a year and a half and this is the first rough spot in our relationship. You can't tell me that you haven't looked on me with lustful thoughts. I'll tell you right now I'm willing. That said, let's go on to the farm and what we four working together can accomplish. Sarah says you think that the farm now is where you wanted it to be in five years from the time you bought it.
"That tells me you have gained three years toward your goal. We can do so much more in having a great life all together. We can have more children. I want one by you. Bill Junior can become as much Bert's and my child as he is yours and Sarah's. I love him as if he was my own. He will have better care. You have been working your butt off all the time and are not always here. Anyone of us can work outside the farm. It doesn't have to be just you. We can also set some rules about having children. It wouldn't have to be a hit or miss conception with not knowing who fathered the baby.
"When we all get old, one of us is bound to die before the others. The remaining partners would have that much more support. All of these books we have been reading talk about utopia. I think we can achieve it, just among the four of us. Please think this through before you reject it outright."
I couldn't believe this. It was impossible for me to imagine. It was share my wife, share my farm, and share my son. I turned to Sarah, "Is this what you want or is your head too addled to really know what you want?"
"I want to try it, Bill. I love you as much as I ever have, but I love Bert too. I don't want to give up either of you. Willow loves you and Junior loves Willow and he likes Bert. You get along with Bert and we can have a wonderful life together." Bert had a pleased expression on his face.
I looked at Willow. Her face was without expression. She was waiting. I had to believe she was hoping, but knew it wouldn't work if she tried to coerce me more than what she was doing right now. The silence drew out and Sarah was restless. "Bill, tell us what you are thinking. Say something."
I guess I thought as much of this farm as I did of Sarah and that was uppermost for the minute. "Who owns the farm or do we own it all together? I worked hard to get a down payment to buy it. I've put in almost four years here."
Sarah exploded. "Bill, don't tell me this is all coming down to money. I'm ready to give up my share and I have worked as hard as you have."
"Yes you have, but we were working to give Junior a better life than we have had."
"Yes, and that can still happen. We could limit the number of kids to what we think we can support, and give them the best."
I realized that these three had been discussing this for weeks and maybe even months. I'm sure they would have an answer for everything I brought up. Bert spoke, "You know I have a check coming from my grandfather every month. Over time it would be equal to what the farm is worth. We would be partners in property as well as in life."
I had to step back and think. "This is Easter weekend. I'll think it over and let you know at breakfast on Monday morning. In the meantime, I don't want you two to look or talk to Sarah about any of this. I'll tell you right now, I am not happy with this at all. I feel you have taken advantage of my wife and of me. I'm upset and you think I'll go along by offering me Willow. I'm against drugs and I suspect you have used them to get Sarah to think your way."
Did they think I was going to fall all over myself and join them? Bert maybe. Sarah probably. Willow looked at me. I think she knew right at the moment that she hadn't persuaded me. "Come Sarah, it is time for bed." I didn't say goodnight to the other couple. I took my wife to bed and tried to recapture my love for her, but sex tonight was a disaster.
All the time we were arguing, she mentioned Willow being a free spirit and willing to do whatever my fantasy suggested. I recognized what was being promised, and it was tempting. The trouble was that when I tried to make love to Sarah I failed miserably. This didn't seem to bother her at all. "You won't fail after the four of us join together." Sarah was still in there pitching.
I knew right then I had lost her. Sunday I tried several times for our usual intimacies. My wife was as discouraged as I was--not the sex part, but the coming together of the four of us. I relented slightly. Monday morning at breakfast as promised, I brought up the subject and gave them my decision.
"This is what I'm willing to do. First, the property stays in my name at least for awhile. If this all goes to hell, then Junior will still have a home. Second, and I'll tell you right now, I couldn't perform in bed with Sarah the last two days. What we had has been destroyed. Some of it may be because I am so angry and against all of this. I doubt what you are proposing will ever work.
"Under the conditions I'm laying out, I will take Willow and use her as my wife for the next six days. It will be the same with her as it was for Sarah and me before you came. We will work side by side and make love the same way. She will be a new experience for me, so I'll be concentrating on her exclusively. Sarah is not to have anything to do with Bert in the meantime. No drugs and they both will have to abstain from any sex for the next six days. Willow, I'm promising if they do not, you and Bert are out of here immediately."
"How are you going to treat me? I will not be treated as just a thing."
"You are going to be my loving wife for six days. You will be treated just as if we were married and I loved you. That's how the lifestyle works isn't it? Everyone in love and willing to have sex with all. You say I have been lusting after you. Maybe I have, but so far my lust hasn't been strong enough to destroy my marriage. I want to see if during this week I can go beyond what I feel for you and make it more permanent. Who knows, I may have a revelation of some kind. I don't think so, but this is what you all seem to want. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Yes. I think you want to see if the feeling for me is stronger than the jealousy you have because Bert and Sarah are sleeping together."
"That's close enough. Sarah and I have been totally compatible up until this weekend. They need to know about me being with you as well. I'm not entering into any agreement where the jealousy comes between any of us."
"I wouldn't expect you to. I don't want that either." She turned to the other two at the table, went through the conditions again. Willow was mine for the week. Bert and Sarah were not to have anything to do with drugs or each other, except for household and farm chores. While she was speaking, I called the factory, and said I would be taking the week off concerning a personal matter.
Sarah, with Junior on her hip, stood watching me take Willow by the hand into my bedroom. We left the chores for Bert and Sarah. There wasn't that much difference in the bodies between Sarah and Willow. Willow was slightly thinner and her breasts were smaller. The big difference when we got into bed was the heat coming from Willow. My mind was totally out of control and I wanted this woman immediately! Was it because this woman was new to me? Was it because my wife broke her vows and I needed revenge? Was it because I was searching for an experience that was better than what I had enjoyed before this? Maybe it was just plain lust. This woman in bed with me had turned my life upside down and I had to find out.
It didn't matter for the moment. I certainly didn't have the same trouble as I had yesterday with my wife. We went on and on and I wasn't ready to stop even when there was a knock on the door, announcing lunch at noon. Willow shouted to go away.
I played with Junior for an hour before supper and for an hour afterward I let him cuddle in bed between Willow and me. He was just as happy and contented with her as with Sarah. I hadn't had time to think about the future, but there was no doubt there was a solid connection between Willow and myself. I tucked Junior in his own bed and went back to the living room. Sarah wasn't happy and said so. To appease her, I announced that Willow and I would be doing the chores in the morning, but for now we had other plans.
I pretty much ignored Bert and Sarah all week, giving all of my attention to Willow and Junior. I was getting closer to having to make a decision. I had a problem. I was falling in love with Willow and Junior had already done so. That didn't alter the fact that I didn't want my wife sleeping with Bert. Bert was jealous of Willow and me alone in my bedroom knowing I was taking something that had been exclusively his for a long time.
Sarah certainly was jealous and I wanted both of them to see that this arrangement was impossible. At least Willow and I were where we could talk about it. I think she understood better than Sarah ever would, the forces that were pushing us. It came to me that Sarah and Bert just wanted the freedom of having more sex. They wanted more sex, but hadn't thought through it all.
Bert and Sarah were beside themselves with jealousy. Willow was the happiest among the four of us. She declared her love for Junior, so that part didn't bother me. I was the one that held the key, for it was me that had to step back and look at the overall situation. Two people could work through problems, and very occasionally three might keep it going. Put four people together with different desires and needs and it just couldn't work.