Michael Courtney was in his local supermarket one Friday afternoon. He was only shopping for himself, so he only had a basket, which he was slowly filling up with items that he thought he might need for the weekend. He was 36, and for the last three months since his divorce was finalised, he had been readjusting to the single life, after eight, sometimes good, sometimes tempestuous, years of marriage.
He quite liked these minor excursions, two or three times a week, to stock up on essentials and indulgencies. He wasn't the most budget conscious of shoppers: if he saw something he liked, it just went straight into the basket. He had come to loath shopping with his ex-wife, who would pore over items for ages comparing prices, even though there was no real economic necessity to do so.
He was cruising one aisle of goods, when he saw what he took to be a middle-aged woman in something of a quandary over a particular choice of item.
"Can I be of help, Madam, you look somewhat perplexed?"
It was only when she turned to see who was addressing her that he realised that she must only have been a similar age as himself.
"What ... oh ... thank you, I still find all this very confusing!" Michael smiled at her.
"I thought women loved shopping, or is that just a male-oriented stereotype?"
"Well, I used to shop with my mother, and she always knew exactly what she wanted. This is the first time that I've been since she..." He knew what that look on her face meant.
"I'm very sorry for your loss. How long?" The woman sighed.
"Two weeks, it was very sudden."
"Look, just let me pay for these few things. They have a nice coffee shop here, may I buy you something?"
The woman looked hesitant, but then her expression changed, as if she'd made a decision.
"I'd like that!" she replied, then smiled at him in a kind of coy way, which he found very attractive and very appealing.
They stayed in the coffee shop for about forty minutes, quietly talking about nothing much of any significance. But the woman did tell him that her name was Elizabeth Marsden, and that she lived in what Michael knew was a quite expensive residential area of town.
He tried to look at her without staring, but he could see that despite her quite austere appearance ... her hair was arranged in a tight braid and pinned securely to her head, and she wore no make up ... that she was really quite attractive, in an understated sort of way! Her eyes were the sort that needed no cosmetics to enhance their dark hazel colour, and she had long, elegant fingers, with plain, neatly trimmed nails. He also found it hard to understand how someone with her apparently natural poise could be so unworldly and obviously vulnerable. They finished their drinks, and although Elizabeth seemed in no hurry to go, eventually she glanced at her wristwatch.
"Goodness, is that the time! I'm sorry if I've detained you ... Michael." She seemed to find even such a commonplace familiarity as a first name, difficult.
"How did you get here today, Elizabeth? If you don't have your own transport," which he was sure she didn't, "I can offer you a lift home."
As he had seen her do several times since they had been sitting there, she unconsciously chewed on her lower lip.
"Thank you, but I really couldn't put you to any more trouble; you've already been very kind."
"It's really no trouble; it's not that far, and I have no other plans ... come on!"
He had made her decision for her, and she objected no more.
As he had guessed, it was a largish, detached house, in a road which consisted solely of other similar types of properties. She remained reticent during their short journey; not stand-offish, just unfamiliar with the circumstance that she found herself in.
Stopping on the drive outside of her front door, he got out and opened the passenger door for her. He waited and watched as she walked to the front door and searched in her bag for the keys.
"Would you care to come in for refreshments, Michael?"
It was another first: she'd never invited a man into her home before.
"Thank you, I believe that would be very nice!"
"And would you mind popping into the kitchen, it's at the end of the hall, and putting the kettle on. I'll just tidy up the sitting room."
The kitchen looked a little old-fashioned, but it was spotlessly clean. Michael filled the kettle, then switched it on. He made an educated guess that crockery would be near the kettle and he opened a few wall-cupboard doors looking for cups and saucers or mugs; he found them after only two goes.
While he was waiting for Elizabeth to finish tidying up, he stood looking around, leaning against the work surface upon which the kettle sat. He'd had an aunt, now deceased, who'd had a kitchen very much like this one; the same sort of 'feel' and even the same characteristic aromas. The main difference was that his aunt had been in her seventies when he had last seen her some years previously, and Elizabeth was still only in her thirties now. That was what he'd first noticed about her: her face said thirties, but her overall demeanour and bearing was that of a person much older.
He had seen the old-fashioned clothes drier, suspended from thick cord that ran through small pulleys attached to the ceiling, when he'd entered the room; but now with time on his hands, his gaze was directed upwards towards it.
Goodness, did she really still wear underwear like that!
Just then Elizabeth entered the kitchen; her gaze followed Michael's. "Oh, dear!" she exclaimed. He looked at her face, and saw the expression of acute embarrassment. She walked towards him, avoiding his gaze, and made a pot of tea.
"It's this way," she said, leading him out of the kitchen and into the room which she hadn't wanted him to see as it was when they arrived. "Won't you have a seat."
Michael sat in an armchair, while Elizabeth sat on a small settee opposite him. She leaned forward to pour the tea and was just about to rise to bring it to him, when he said: "No, don't get up, I'll come to you." And before she could object he had covered the floor between them and sat near her on the settee. Elizabeth looked a little uncomfortable, but she smiled weakly. Michael took a few sips of tea and then he looked at her and said:
"May I ask you a candid question, Elizabeth? You are a young, attractive woman, why do you wear clothes that make you look so much older than you are?"
She looked a little flustered, still, partly because she wasn't used to this degree of candour, and partly because of how the fixed gaze of Michael's penetrating blue eyes and his warm smile was making her feel.
"Well, I, I suppose because I'm not used to buying clothes. My mother used to buy mine and I haven't needed to buy any since she..." He quickly interjected:
"Please don't get me wrong, Elizabeth, there's nothing wrong with your clothes, but you have more choices now. When you go out, haven't you ever looked at other women's clothing and thought you would like something similar yourself?"
"Well, yes, sometimes, but my mother never approved. She said it was shocking how some women and girls dressed, showing so much."
"What about school? Didn't the others tease you: children can be quite unkind, sometimes."
" ... Oh, but I didn't go school! When I was younger my father taught me. And later, when he passed away, Mother hired tutors; but they were all older men."
"And please forgive the indelicacy, Elizabeth, but I couldn't help noticing your undergarments hanging in the kitchen. They look rather, uncomfortable; there are some much better alternatives that are available, and I would imagine easier for a woman to wear."
Elizabeth flushed again, but she found it surprisingly easy to talk to him about the subject.
"Yes, I have to admit, I have often wondered about such things." Michael decided on a bold course of action:
"Elizabeth, since you don't appear to know many other women of your own age, would you allow me to take you shopping for some new clothes?"
Michael was sure that she had a certain look about her that he had seen before in woman he had been attracted to, and who had returned his interest; although he was equally sure that if Elizabeth felt this way, she wouldn't necessarily know why. But she smiled that smile that transformed her face from dowdy spinster to attractive young woman.
"Yes, please, Michael, I'd like that, very much!"
Michael stayed chatting a little longer, and before he left they arranged that he would call round again the next day to take her on a new adventure.
Elizabeth sat alone in her kitchen, drinking tea and trying to take in everything that had happened to her during the last 24 hours. She had known that her mother's death would mean that there would be significant changes in her life, but she had no idea what those changes would be. She had lived in the same house all of her life, thirty-three years, and she had never had any cause for complaint. It was a case of, as they say, what you've never had, you never miss.
Her father had been dead for twenty years, from an undetectable embolism in his brain they said, which had taken him as quickly as the congenital heart condition which had recently claimed her mother. She missed them both, of course, but she was also glad that they hadn't suffered years of disability or illness.
A man of strong principles, her father was one whose life was governed by them. Both he and Elizabeth's mother had firm ideas about how children should be raised, and while her father was alive they never deviated from that path. He was a learned man who had taught her everything that a school could have, and probably better; but beyond common courtesy and good manners, he couldn't teach her about those common social interactions that most people take for granted.
Elizabeth was fluent in French and German; but until recently she had struggled to have either sociable or intelligent conversations in her own language with strangers, let alone something altogether more intimate ... with a man! But Michael had been different: kind, patient, a good listener, and she had even begun to wonder what it must feel like to be in a relationship with someone other than a parent.
Although her father hadn't really approved of television, purely as a means of entertainment, he conceded that there were educational opportunities available which legitimised the presence of a receiver in the house. When her father had died, her mother had maintained this policy; although it had been relaxed somewhat and they occasionally sat down together to watch a film that her mother thought suitable for family viewing. Elizabeth had therefore seen the handsome actors who were cast in romantic roles, and she wasn't immune to the little stirrings in her body when she saw them; but she had never confused the fantasies of filmic fiction with her own life.
Oddly, perhaps, her parents had acknowledged that one day their daughter might marry, so she was given a good theoretical grounding in the mechanical and purely biological aspects of human reproduction, although with little or no reference to emotional considerations such as love or lust, and at 33 years of age there were still gaping holes in her knowledge; which the intelligently inquisitive Elizabeth had decided that she would now like to fill. And, increasingly, she thought that her new friend, Michael, might be the person to help fill her holes! As she'd already come to realise, there was something about the way he looked at her with his oh-so-blue eyes that made her squirm, physically and emotionally.
The doorbell rang and Elizabeth's heartbeat immediately quickened in anticipation.
"Hello!" she said, warmly, as he stood on the doorstep, "I'm not quite ready, but please come in."
Although not expressly invited to do so, Michael followed her into the kitchen, where she was just clearing away a few things.
"Right, I think I'm ready now!"
"May I make a suggestion, Elizabeth?"
"Yes, of course!"
She began to tremble with anticipation as he walked slowly towards her. He raised his hand to her head and started to remove the pins that held up her hair, and when the final pin was removed, her long and lustrous light-brown hair tumbled over her shoulders. Michael ran his fingers through it, giving it body and form.
"There, now you're ready."
Elizabeth was still shaking from the touch of his fingers teasing out her hair, but she collected her wits, a jacket, and her bag from the hall, then she pulled the front door closed behind her and they walked to his car.
"How do you feel Elizabeth?"
"Quite nervous actually!" And it didn't have much to do with the shopping!
"Do you need to get any cash, first, before we go to the shops?"
"No thank you. When I went to the bank to sort out my mother's affairs, they ordered me a debit card. The pin number came a few days ago, and the card itself actually arrived in the post today, just before you did. Are they easy to use, Michael?"
"Yes, very, as long as you remember that number. And be careful not to give your card details to anyone over the phone. Have you given any thought to where you'd like to go first?"
"No, not really. I was hoping that you might have some ideas."
"What do you want to buy, clothes, shoes?"
"Well, everything, really! And I thought that I might get myself a computer, and one of those mobile telephones. Do we have time for all that today?"
"Of course! A lot of places stay open late, now." And now knowing what Elizabeth wanted, he knew exactly where to take her.
"Have you ever been to a place like this before?" he asked, as they negotiated the car park of the large out-of-town shopping complex.
"No, never. It's so big!"
"They're not my favourite places, but you can buy pretty much everything you want, and not have to walk miles and miles to get it. I suggest we visit the clothes shops first, then bring everything back to the car. We can get something to eat, then sort out your computer and phone. How does that sound?"
Michael held out his hand, and without really thinking about it, she slid hers into his. She didn't say anything, but the smile on her face abundantly expressed her feelings.
"Here, I think!" he said, stopping outside one the large high street clothes chains, "Younger, but not too young!"
Still holding hands, Michael led Elizabeth into the women's department of the store. She didn't think that she'd ever seen as many clothes in one place. They were approached by a sales assistant, who asked them if she could help.
"Yes, my friend needs a new summer wardrobe. Get summer clothes now," he said, turning to Elizabeth, "it's only June, so you can come back later in the year for winter outfits."
Over the course of the next few hours, Michael witnessed the beginning of Elizabeth's transformation, and, yes, her liberation! He personally found it difficult to get excited about clothes, but he got a real buzz from watching the expressions of joy and happy bewilderment on her face as she tried on all the slacks, skirts, and blouses and other tops that the assistant recommended. At one point she excitedly beckoned him over to the changing cubicle, and sticking her head out from behind a curtain she said quietly:
"I can't show you what I'm trying on now, Michael, but they're absolutely wonderful!"
When they had finished her shopping, he tactfully walked away as she paid for her purchases; but he knew she had spent a lot of money. Elizabeth had been brought up to always spend money frugally and wisely, but she didn't regret a penny of what she had spent so far today. She couldn't remember ever feeling so good as when they walked back to Michael's car with the many bags of new clothes. With them all safely stowed and hidden away, she eagerly slipped her hand back into Michael's and they went to get some lunch.
"Michael, there's somewhere the shop assistant was telling me about that I'd like to go to before we get any more shopping ... is that all right?" she said, as they walked back to the complex to eat.
"Of course! It's your day, we can go wherever you want!"
He took her first to a modern pub that served food, where they had a nice meal. Elizabeth had drunk wine before, but as Michael was driving, they both only had soft drinks. Afterwards they went looking for the place that she wanted to go to. Michael sat waiting, while Elizabeth told a girl in a white tunic what she wanted.
"I'm going to be about an hour, so you can either wait or have a look round somewhere."
"I'll probably wait!" There were a pile of women's magazines available, so he picked the top one off of the pile and started to look through it.
Elizabeth was longer than the hour, but when she did reappear he had to look twice to recognise her: the facial had given her skin a subtle golden glow, her bushy eyebrows had been thinned and lightened, and her fingernails now sported a deep-red varnish. There was nothing too radical, just minor enhancements to what she already had. Before she paid, the girl in the tunic put various jars and tubes and bottles into a small bag.
"You look amazing, Elizabeth!"
"And there's more that you can't see. It was something I realised while I was trying on my new underwear; I'm sure you know what I mean!" She blushed as she said it.
As if by some telepathic connection, Michael thought that that was indeed something that he would like to see; while at the same time Elizabeth was thinking that that was something she'd like to show him ... after she'd modelled all her new lingerie!
As per the plan, a computer was purchased and then a monthly mobile telephone contract was taken out, which entitled her to a new phone. She of course knew nothing about either, but she listened to Michael's advice about what she needed, and once again they carried her new acquisitions back to the car. Michael had said that he would set up her computer and explain how it and the new phone worked; and in return Elizabeth invited him to supper.
"So what you really need now," Michael told her, " ... is an Internet connection, and then your world will really open up!"
Elizabeth had sat next to him, enthralled, as he had explained to her all the things that her new computer would allow her to do. She was equally beguiled by mobile telephony and text messaging, and he had put his home and mobile numbers into its memory. But perhaps best of all, she was thrilled to be sitting so close to him, listening to his soft masculine voice explaining everything to her in a way that was so clear and understandable.
As soon as they had got back to her house, while Michael was unpacking and setting up her computer, she couldn't wait to get upstairs and change into some of her new clothes. Before she'd even unpacked any of them, however, her old clothes ... which she had privately vowed never to wear again ... were discarded on the floor.
Her hand travelled over her naked skin, from her soft, yielding breasts, down over her belly, to the now bare flesh on her lower torso, where only a few hours earlier there had been all that thick, curly hair that she'd lived with since puberty. She gave a little gasp as her roving fingers found that small area so rich in nerve endings that the merest touch sent a tingle through her body.
Oh, how she wished she had the nerve to go downstairs now and let Michael's strong fingers touch her there! Perhaps in the future they would, but for now she just wanted to feel the silky softness of her new underwear against her skin.
She had bought enough to wear a new set every day for several weeks. All shapes, sizes, and materials, and it was all laid out on the bed before her. Many of the new bras seemed hardly practical in doing the job that they were intended for, but she just didn't care; she just loved their lightness, and prettiness, and the sensuous feeling of the material against her skin.
Of all the ones that were new, Elizabeth put on her favourite bra, with its thin, lightweight straps and only two hooks. And when she moved her breasts moved, too, instead of being fixed and immobile on her chest. She stood looking at herself in the mirror, admiring the softness and roundness of her womanly body and smiling at the generous cleavage that was now on show.
Then there were the new briefs. Oh my goodness! The silky sensual feeling of those lightweight, wispy garments! How had she survived all these years with the thick, dead, cotton things her mother bought her, which covered her body from the top of her hips down to her thighs. They were now only fit for dusters or rags ... or she might even ritually burn them!
It was a warm evening, so she chose a fairly lightweight cotton top with short sleeves and button front. She now had a selection of skirts of varying lengths, so she chose one that was cut several inches above her knees, which she thought quite daring for her! And why wear anything on her legs indoors on a lovely day like this, she thought. To complete her outfit she had a pair of sandals, which were basically a sole held on to her feet by thin straps; but nevertheless very comfortable.
As she walked down the stairs her nerve started to fail her, and she seriously considered going back up and changing, but any such thoughts were forgotten when she walked into the room where Michael was sitting.
"Wow! Look at you! I knew there was something beautiful hiding under all those old clothes of yours!"
He took both of her hands in his and Elizabeth turned a shade of deep pink. He then took his phone out of his pocket and took her photograph, which he was able to show her straight away.
"You really are a very attractive woman, Elizabeth! May I keep this?" Her breath came harder, but she nodded.
"Yes, of course! If I may have one of you..."
Michael showed her how the camera on her new phone worked, then he looked deep into her eyes and produced his best smile, as she captured his image.
"Hmm ... not bad!" he said when he saw it.
"No, not bad at all!" she echoed.
Although her social skills may have been deficient, her culinary expertise certainly wasn't! Her mother had taught her well, and without using any food from a tin or a packet, she produced a delicious, home-cooked meal for them both.
"You know, I haven't eaten food as good as that in a long, long time," he said afterwards. "If you're not careful, I'll be moving in!" Elizabeth just smiled sweetly, but she was thinking: Yes, please!'
After the meal they retired to the couch in the sitting room. Michael laughed.
"Sorry, but I've just noticed your toenails!" They had been painted at the same time as her finger nails.
"Is it too much?" she said, now worried about what he might think of her because of it. He took her hand.
"No, it just keeps getting better and better!" The tingle inside her had been there all day, but it just got stronger.
"You know that I really like you, Elizabeth, but this is all new to you, so I'm going to take it slow. But I'd really like to get to know you better ... a lot better! Is that okay with you?"
She smiled. The perfect day had just improved a thousand per-cent!
"All right!" she said, coyly... But not too slow, please! she thought.
They sat side-by-side on the sofa together. Michael had his arm around Elizabeth's shoulder as she snuggled into his side.
"I've got so much to learn about life ... and everything ... will you help me, please, Michael?"
"Of course I will! But for now I ought to be getting home. Shall I see you tomorrow?"
"Oh, I hope so!"
They stood in the hall by the open front door and he leaned in and kissed her lightly, but tenderly on the lips.
"Goodnight, Elizabeth ... see you tomorrow."
Elizabeth bolted the door, turned out the downstairs' lights, then went to bed. And for the first time in thirty-three years, she slept totally naked, and loved it! But before she went to sleep, she lay in bed thinking about all that had happened: the new clothes; a new computer and a new phone; a new boyfriend ... yes, it was finally true, she had a boyfriend!
The photographs! She threw off the covers, got out of bed and ran downstairs to where she'd left her phone on the table, then just as quickly ran back to bed again. Turning on the phone, she watched the start sequence. You have 1 new message. Elizabeth's pulse quickened as she opened it:
I forgot to say – see you about noon! Michael X
She remembered how to access the folder where the images were stored and opened the one of him that she had taken earlier: just looking at it made her feel all warm inside!
"So handsome!" she said, then kissed the screen. And then she had a thought ... a very cheeky thought!
"Now," she said quietly to herself, " ... let me see if I can remember how this camera works..."
Elizabeth hurried to the front door to open it, her heart beating fast. Michael stepped inside, then putting a hand on her hip, kissed her in the way that they had said goodbye the night before. Clasping his hand, she led him into the kitchen, where the tea things were ready.
"By the way, thank you for the photos, they certainly improved my breakfast!" At first she looked at him quizzically.
"What photos, I haven't ... Oh My God!" Michael laughed.
"I did wonder if you meant to send them to me, it's a good job you only have my phone number in the memory."
Elizabeth still looked mortified. She most definitely hadn't meant for him to see them; well, that's not exactly true, she thought ... but perhaps not yet,
"Come here!" he said, putting his arms around her waist and pulling her into his body. Elizabeth really thought that she was going to faint as he held her against him and whispered in her ear:
"I was probably going to see you like that sometime anyway, and now I can't wait to see the real thing!"
He released his grip a little; enough to move his head so that his face was in front of hers. Elizabeth's eyes widened. Their mouths were almost touching, and as he softly spoke his breath filled her mouth.
"Close your eyes!"
She did, and their lips came together. It was Elizabeth's first, proper, romantic kiss, and the longer it lasted, the deeper she fell into that dark bottomless pit of pure pleasure. The kiss unleashed the latent longings that had lain hidden all of her adult life. She pulled Michael close to her: she felt like she wanted to climb inside him and stay there for ever.
As their mouths moved apart again, she gasped as the air rushed back into her lungs. She opened her eyes; it was like waking from a long sleep. Those blue eyes were studying her face carefully, and she heard his voice in her head:
"Are you okay, Elizabeth?" All she could do was nod and smile.
"Let me make that tea," he said, "then we'll go into the other room."
Elizabeth wanted to reply, but all she could do was look at him. He carried the tea through, and she followed him. Michael sat on the settee, patted his lap, and Elizabeth climbed on board. She sat with both arms draped around his neck, while he had one arm behind her back, the other hand resting on her thigh.
"That was," she said eventually, "by far the best thing that I've ever done!"
" ... That's the best thing that you've ever done, so far. It gets better."
"Are you sure?"
"Oh, yes ... definitely sure!"
"And do we still have to take it slowly?"
" ... Hmm ... maybe not quite as slow as I thought!" When she heard that Elizabeth smiled as she tightened her grip on him.
After lots more practise, Elizabeth was really becoming quite good at kissing and Michael was seriously considering accelerating the timetable of her education. But as much as he was ready, he still didn't want to rush Elizabeth into bed. He knew that she was an adult, with an adult's needs; he was yet to be convinced, however, that she could handle the emotional impact of sex; especially so soon after her recent bereavement. And although his libido was screaming at him to get on with it, he cared too much about her to push things on too fast ... his libido would just have to be patient!
"I meant to ask you, before we got distracted, do you have a bathing suit, Elizabeth? I thought we might go to the coast tomorrow, if the weather's as nice as today."
"No, I've never been swimming, or to the seaside. But I'd love to go!"
"All right then. If I get here early, we can always pick up something for you as soon as the shops open."
It was actually one of those things that she had often thought about as a child. She had only ever seen the sea on television, and it had always fascinated her; but her parents had never even considered going, so she just pushed the desire to the back of her mind. She also got to thinking about what Michael had said about going out early in the morning.
"Michael, I was wondering if you'd like to stay here tonight, we have lots of room. You can go home now and get a few things, then we can go early, straight from here.
"That's not a bad idea! Would you like to come with me and see my place?"
"Yes, all right!"
After his separation from his wife, which both parties had agreed was irrevocable, their house was put on the market, and after the mortgage was paid off what was left over was split equally between them. His ex-wife had a good job and there was now a new man in her life, so after the division of furniture and fittings they called it even and got on with their respective lives. Michael was renting his current home: a one bedroom flat, about three miles from Elizabeth's house.
As with many aspects of her life, she was now curious about how other people lived; having only ever resided in one place, which she had previously rarely left for longer than a few hours at a time.
Michael held her hand as they climbed the stairs to the upper floor of the semi-detached house, now converted into two apartments. It was only going to be a fleeting visit while he collected clothing for the next day, including swimming trunks and his sunglasses, but Elizabeth got the quick tour.
"You've never told me what you do for a living, Michael."
"Oh, nothing special: I'm a freelance writer, so I work from home mostly. It's not fantastically well paid, but I enjoy it. It was actually one of the reasons why my marriage failed. At the beginning my wife thought that it was terribly romantic; but in the end she said she couldn't bear my lack of ambition." Elizabeth thought what a stupid woman she must be to give up someone as lovely as Michael, but she didn't tell him this. With his things collected they drove back to her house, where they spent another evening curled up on the sofa together, watching a little television.
"Well, I think maybe an early night's probably a good idea! So if you'll show me my room."
Elizabeth had been thinking about this moment ever since she'd asked Michael to stay; she really wanted to ask him to share her bed, but she was also shaking at the thought of him doing so. But it seemed that once again he had saved her having to take that giant step.
"Of course! I've moved into my parent's room now, so you can have mine." She was actually very fond of her old room, with all its store of memories, but she had decided that as so much of her life was changing, a new bedroom was needed, too.
The house had five bedrooms and her old one and her parent's were separated by the length of the upstairs landing. The one immediately adjacent to hers was where her father, and later the tutors, schooled her. The other two were kept for the very infrequent guests, but there were never many of those, and none that she could remember since some time before her father's death. As it was quite an old house, there was just the one shared bathroom upstairs, which Elizabeth invited Michael to use first. It was outside here that they said their passionate goodnight before retiring to their own rooms.
Elizabeth Marsden lay in bed for some time, unable to sleep; and also unable to think of anything but the man she now cared so deeply about, who was only such a short distance away from her. How desperately she wanted to lie naked in his arms and feel his warm skin against hers. The longing gnawed at her insides and it wasn't long before her hands travelled over her body, seeking release from the torment she was feeling.
Elizabeth was sure that she loved him more than she had ever loved another person ... yes, even her parents ... so why did she feel so wretched? Should she go to him? She knew that if she crept along to her old room and knocked on the door he wouldn't send her away again. So she pulled on her robe and walked as quietly as she could towards what she hoped was his waiting arms. But before she could get too far, she was startled by the sudden light emanating from the opening bathroom door. He saw her and smiled.
"I guess we had the same idea," he said, obviously indicating the bathroom. She was too traumatised to do anything but nod in reply.
"Well, goodnight, again!" he said, leaning in and kissing her on the lips, " ... Sweet dreams!"
Fat chance of that now! she thought, as she watched him walk away from her.
Having been awake for several more hours after returning to her room, Elizabeth was far from rested when she woke up again at around 07:00 the next morning. Fifteen minutes under a hot shower cured some of her fatigue, but she was still weary when she joined Michael in the kitchen. Seeing him again made her feel a little better, and she couldn't help but smile when he stood behind her chair, lifted her long hair and then kissed her neck in several places.
"Didn't you sleep well, Love?" he asked, noticing her tired eyes.
"No, not really, I suppose I was thinking about today."
"Well, hopefully you can catch up on your sleep later. You know, I couldn't sleep either, imagining you in a sexy bikini!" Elizabeth giggled like a little girl, but there was no better tonic to lift her spirits and suddenly she didn't feel quite so tired.
After breakfast, and then packing a couple of bags with things that they would need for their excursion, they made the short journey into town to get Elizabeth something to wear on the beach. She had never owned a bathing suit before, not even a one-piece, so she got the same sort of thrill from trying on bikinis as she had from her sexy underwear; and of course Michael had the added pleasure of seeing her trying them on in the shop.
"What do you think?" she would say each time she put on a different one, then pulled back the curtain of the changing cubicle for his opinion. Michael would smile and say things like: "Don't like it ... too frilly and flouncy!" or, "Wow! I'm not sure I like the idea of other men seeing you in that!" Elizabeth always laughed, but she knew that these were what he really wanted to see her in, so they were the ones she bought.
"Why don't you keep one on, it will save you having to change on the beach," he suggested.
It was only a couple of hours to the Kent coast and one of the little seaside towns that he remembered fondly from family holidays as a child with his parents. Nicola, his ex-wife, had always wanted to head for the guaranteed sunshine of southern Europe, but apart from the weather, he'd never really seen the attraction.
Elizabeth had loved it from the first moment that she had seen the sea from the car. One of the things that Michael thought that he loved about her, was her joyful enthusiasm for new experiences; which was child-like, and extremely endearing! She almost trembled with excited anticipation at the thought of getting onto the hot, finely-textured sands.
Michael had brought a beach umbrella; not so much for their benefit, as to provide shade for the cold-boxes that held their food and drink. After setting up the umbrella and laying out towels to sit and lie on, Elizabeth was quickly out of her short skirt and cotton shirt. Michael had warned her about getting too much sun too soon, and the prudence of being able to cover up exposed skin.
"I know you don't swim but come into the water, then we can just relax."
They walked down the beach, hand-in-hand, to the water's edge. It was colder than Elizabeth imagined, but not so much as to make it unpleasant.
"We'll walk out as far as you feel comfortable. It's a strange feeling if you're not used to it, but I've got your hand."
Elizabeth could feel the pull of the tide on her limbs and the movement of the sand under her feet, but with Michael there holding on to her she wasn't worried. They walked slowly out until the wetness covered her lower body; she looked back at the beach which now seemed a long way away. With Michael holding on to her, she was brave enough to duck down until the water reached her neck.
Then a wave, small but strong, caught her and made her lose her balance, and for a moment she panicked, but Michael caught her and held her in his safe arms. "Time to go back!" he said quietly.
As they walked back up the beach, they each had an arm around the other's waist and their hips touched. Elizabeth loved the feel of his wet skin under her fingers.
"Right, now lots of sun-block and not too much exposure. You put some on my back, then I'll do yours."
He lay on his front and she took the tube of cream and squeezed out a generous handful. She looked down at his beautiful body, hers to do with as she wanted, and the heat rose up through her body like the mercury in a thermometer.
The cream on her hands was slowly worked into every inch of his back, from the top of his shorts to the base of his hairline on his neck. Elizabeth had her eyes closed and her imagination was running riot! She was still on her knees next to him, when she heard him murmur:
"Mmm, you've really got a great touch. Your turn now."
But she didn't immediately lie on her towel as he had done, she did that thing with her lower lip that he had seen her do before, when there was something she wanted to say, but didn't know how exactly how to start.
"Michael, a lot of the women here have taken off their tops; would you mind if I did?"
He didn't need to think too hard how to reply ... how could any red-blooded man object to a beautiful woman going topless in front of him!
"No, go ahead! But I have to warn you ... I may not be able to control myself!" Elizabeth laughed.
"Oh, I do hope not!" It was his turn to laugh.