"So have you decided yet?" Stuart regarded me gravely.
"Yes," I responded. "I've decided to take your pawn." I made the appropriate moves on the chessboard between us.
"I actually wasn't talking about that. I was talking about your niece. You know, Gloria?"
"Hmm?" I feigned hardness of hearing.
"You haven't decided, have you."
"No, dammit," I muttered, staring at his rook like it could grow wings.
"She does like you, you know. She idolizes her aunt."
"Yes, I'm the cool one." I rubbed my temple, my headache becoming worse. "Are you going to make a move, or concede?"
"I shan't need to concede at all. Mate in seven."
"WHAT?" I took a closer look at the board, sighed and placed my king on its side.
"Your mind is on your problem with your niece, not your game," he observed with a kindly voice. "Let's settle that little matter and then you can concentrate on this."
"OK." I was tired, but my old teacher was right: I had to make some decisions, and communicate them to my family.
"So, how old is she again?"
"Twelve. She graduates from Grade 6 in a month."
"And which middle school does she want to go to come the fall?"
"You already know that, so you must be trying to focus my mind on that. Gymnos."
"Her parents know about your and your husband's lifestyle?"
"Yes, and they're officially neutral about it."
"And you work at?"
"Gymnos Elementary. And yes, that means I can go nude 24/7/365. And I do." I stared him right in the eyes. "And I love it."
"So, what's the problem?" Stuart leaned back. I swear if he ever smoked a Meerschaum pipe like the old Sherlock Holmes cliche, he'd be doing that right now.
"Gloria has never, ever, EVER gone to even so much as a nude beach, let alone stayed at a naturist resort for a weekend. I think the closest to social nudity is sleeping in the nude."
"Have you discussed this with her parents?"
"No. I've been kind of hoping that Gloria will bring it up with them."
"It's going to have to be quick. Gymnos Middle School will only hold that position open for this upcoming week. If we don't hear by 4:00 on Friday, I'll have to tell them it's too late, and we'll go to the waiting list."
"I know, Stuart, I know. I'll try to talk to her parents this weekend."
"Ellen, this weekend is almost over. It's already Sunday afternoon." He stood up, chuckling, still kindly. "Think of it as the penalty for losing the game."
"Thanks," I replied sourly. I rose as well, grabbed my sitting towel and walked back to my cabin — and phone.
Bill was sitting at the picnic table in the front yard of our cabin, trimming his bonsai tree. The two Dandie Dinmonts, Digger and Dozer, greeted me affectionately as I walked up. I grabbed the cordless phone from the kitchenette and dialled a familiar, long-distance number.
"Hello? Gloria, honey? How have you been? Good. Have you talked to your parents about which school you want to attend yet? Oh. No, I haven't talked to them, and I think you would have heard quite the explosion if I had have. Are your parents there? OK, have them call me back when they return. We need to get them onside by Friday if you're going to attend Gymnos next term." She then let me know a pertinent piece of information. "Yes, I think that would have let the cat out of the bag." I turned to my husband. "She's sunbathing in the nude right now. Her parents are out at a meeting of their church."
"Trying to break it to them that their daughter wants to run around with a bunch of naked teens, are you?"
"You got it."
"How do you think they'll take it?"
"My sister has known about my lifestyle since college days, but still ... I think I'd freak if I were in their position. I really don't know, though." I sighed. "I'm an adult. Gloria is far from it. And this would mean she'd be living far from home, as well as naked as the day she was born."
The 5-year-old twins from the cabin next door came running by at that moment, setting off the Dandies. I love the dogs dearly, but they are quite the yappiest breed on the planet. There's a breed in Africa that doesn't bark, maybe we can go with a brace of those when the girls go to the Great Kennel in the Sky.
"Walk!" commanded their father, futilely. His daughters continued to run home. "Aren't you glad you don't have kids yet?" he asked me with a chuckle as he hustled to catch up to the streaking sisters.
I looked at my husband. I'd stopped taking birth control recently, hopefully it wouldn't be long before we'd have our own little streaker. Or two. We wanted a couple of kids, preferably before I turned thirty.
The phone chose that moment to ring. I looked at the call display with some dismay — my sister Megan's number, staring at me with accusing eyes, silently rebuking me for the conversation I was going to have with its owner. "Relax," I thought, "it's only a phone number. Phone numbers do NOT have opinions."
"Megan!" I called, as if delighted to hear her voice.
"Ellen!" came the disembodied voice in response. "I suppose I have you to thank for the sight that greeted me when we got home?"
"Yes, my daughter, sunbathing as nude as if she was at your place."
"I probably influenced her, I guess."
"It's still not all that warm out, here. I don't know how she can stand it." She quickly changed the subject. "She tells me we have something to discuss? She indicated it was about her."
"Yes," I said. I hesitated. "Well, you know how she's entering middle school come the fall."
"Yes." Her voice was filled with unasked questions.
"And you know how you and Don have never hidden my lifestyle from her."
"Very. She copies you; she still hasn't dressed yet." Megan was being all too obviously patient. "Here comes the bombshell..." I heard her whisper.
"Well," I said, and then took a deep breath. With an explosive exhalation, I hurtled subtlety to the four winds. "She wants to attend Gymnos Middle School this fall."
"She WHAT?" I really didn't need the phone to hear that response. I suspect that they heard her on the other side of the Atlantic — and they live in Michigan. "Visit you for a week this summer, that I can see, but GYMNOS?" She turned to her daughter. "And when did you get this idea into your head?"
I heard her skyclad offspring respond. "Marcie's mother had a package from Gymnos. She's been accepted, and is going!" Marcie was Gloria's best friend since kindergarten.
"Ah, so you want to join your friend in this, this..." words failed her.
"Naturist school," Gloria and I responded simultaneously. Gloria's voice was smooth as milk.
"Look, Gloria, baby, that's Aunt Ellen and Uncle Bill's lifestyle, but they're ADULTS. It's not for kids." She tried to make herself sound the voice of reason rather than the terrified mother.
Just then, the twins from next door came racing up to play with Digger and Dozer, drowning out my sister's voice. "Sorry, Megan, I couldn't hear you. The 5-year-old twins from the cabin next door drowned you out."
"I just told my daughter nudism wasn't for kids!" she yelled, annoyed now.
"Here comes the twins' father. Want to explain to HIM that naturism isn't for kids?"
"Quiet, you. You're not helping."
"Actually, I think I am. There are lots of kids there. In fact, Gymnos Middle School has about 200 students, and a waiting list at least as long. Gymnos Elementary has about half as many, even though that school is restricted to offspring of year-round residents of the naturist resort. So for being a lifestyle that's 'not for kids', there are certainly a lot of them here."
Megan fumed. "What about sex?"
I heard Gloria's voice in the background, teasing. "Now THAT is strictly for adults."
"Now THAT is not helping, Gloria," I called as loudly as I dared. Returning to a normal volume, I added, "It's strictly behind closed doors, between consenting adults. You'll find plenty of couples here, many with kids, and they'd object to others engaged in public displays of that sort."
"Mom, can I, please? I'll be so lonely without Marcie. And I'll study hard, I promise!"
I could feel the glare from Megan, as if it were ricocheting off her daughter and down the phone line. "Before I say OK, I want to know more."
Good! At least she hadn't said "no".
"Megan," I broke in, speaking quickly so she couldn't interrupt, "you don't have a great deal of time to decide. They're holding a spot for Gloria for the fall term — as she's a blood relative of a teacher at the school, she gets priority — but only until Friday at four. They need to hear back by then. I think it would be a good idea for her to go, but you and Don need to be the ones to give approval. Talk it over with Don, check out the pamphlet with Marcie's parents and discuss it with them. I'll send a list of websites for you to read that discuss the philosophy of naturism, it's impact on kids Gloria's age, and that try to answer any questions you'd have. And please..."
"Keep an open mind."