Somebody bumped my arm and half of my wine spilled from the cheap plastic cup out onto the linoleum floor.
"Sorry," someone I didn't recognize said.
"Not a problem," I responded. I wondered who the old coot was.
I would have been devastated, spilling wine, except that this was no great loss. It was Ohio wine, one step down from Boones Farm, which tastes like Welch's Grape Juice with alcohol added. The only thing to be said is that it was better than the beer. I noticed that a cousin, Russ, had snuck in his own beer in a cooler which he had safely tucked between his feet. He obviously knew what to expect.
I looked around the hall, now filled with people. They were all my relatives. That was a scary thought. It was a scene from Mayberry and I was related to them. How did I ever let my Mom talk me into this? She just had to come back to the family reunion. My God, it had been thirty years since she had been to a reunion. I just had to meet the Ohio relatives, ad nauseam. So I had relented and agreed to take her to Ohio. And not just Ohio, it was the sticks, where fine dining was Ethel and Joe's place. Just one more day to go.
Apparently on the Ohio side of the family birth control hadn't been discovered. My four Aunts and Uncles had managed to have fourteen kids who in turn had managed to have a slew more kids. I couldn't count that high without a supercomputer. And those were just my first and second cousins. The third and fourths were filling the local VFW meeting hall to overflowing. Now don't get me wrong. This really wasn't Deliverance, at least they wore shoes and had electricity and everything. I hadn't seen one banjo. But there is a real difference in outlook and attitude between San Francisco and outback Ohio. Things I take for granted like quality restaurants in walking distance and world class restaurants a cab ride away are not even in the same universe with Ohio. Lake Erie just isn't the same as the Golden Gate and the Pacific. The great heartland is just too provincial for me. So ok, I'm a snob. San Francisco is still one of the great cities of the world and that is what I was used to.
I found a table with several cousins my age. Their kids were crowded around. My Mom came up and introduced me around and made a special point of introducing one of the cousin's kids, Kristin. She was cute enough, seventeen or so, glasses which gave her a slightly studious look, but I was surprised by how Mom introduced us. Then I remembered a conversation on the flight back. Kristin was the pride of the family. A National Merit scholar, she had recently won some big scholarship. She was in the process of picking which university she wanted to attend from among a bunch who wanted her. I was lucky to even get into college. I was intrigued how this rose grew among the thorns in my family.
I caught her eye and introduced myself, "Cousin Mike from California."
"Yeah, I know," she said.
I waited. Nothing. "What are you planning to major in?"
She was bored by all of the small talk; remember when Uncle Ferd had the operation... Now this was something interesting to talk about. Her face lit up and she leaned forward, "Theoretical physics. I want to go to Harvard."
"Why Harvard?" I asked.
She looked surprised. "Harvard is the best school in the country," she said with some vehemence.
"First, it's not. There is no 'best' school in the country. Do you know how the accrediting agencies rank schools?" She shook her head. "This is what they did. They took Harvard and decided that it was the ideal. Then they rated all other schools based on how closely they followed the Harvard model. For instance, Harvard has the biggest library because they've been building their library since the 1600's. So other schools are rated on how big their library is compared to Harvard's. The bigger the library the better the school. Does that really make it a better college? Of course Harvard is always going to come out first when you pre-judge it the best," I said.
"I didn't know that," she said.
"Don't get me wrong, it is a fine school. And if you wanted to study business or law or wanted to make contacts with the East Coast old boy network to get into politics or government it is the best school. But it's not the best in everything. Yale, hands down, has the best drama program in the country. Julliard is the best music school. And Berkeley is the best physics school. Berkeley has more physical science Nobel Laureates than any other university in the world. If you want to do physics, go to Berkeley," I finished.
Just then Mom tapped me on the shoulder, "I want you to meet you cousin Delbert from Michigan."
I looked over at Kristin and shrugged, "Excuse me. Duty calls."
She smiled at the pained expression on my face, "I know."
I followed Mom off to meet Cousin Who's It from Michigan. The rest of the day was spent meeting and greeting and drinking bad, really bad, wine. It did keep me from over imbibing.
Finally it was over. We stayed with Uncle Jake that night and got an early start for the airport. When I finally boarded the flight back to California I felt like kissing the plane. This must be what it feels like when hostages board the plane back to freedom, I thought. Free at last, God Almighty, free at last.
It was a lazy Saturday afternoon the following year when the phone rang. "Hello?"
"Thanks a lot," said the disgusted voice on the phone.
Quickly sorting through voices which might be disgusted with me, I came up blank. "Excuse me," I answered.
"I said thanks a lot," the female voice said again.
"Who is this?" I asked.
"Cousin Lisbeth," she answered.
"Oh. Hi," I said. No wonder I didn't recognize the voice. I had talked to her for five minutes exactly once in my life. "What's this about?"
"You talked Kristin into going to Berkeley and I don't want her so far away," she said.
"I did what?" I asked.
"At the reunion," she said.
"Oh shit. All I said..."
She cut me off, "Was Berkeley is the only school if you want to study physics."
Laughing, "Sorry but that's not exactly what I said but I suppose that could have been inferred from what I said," I admitted.
"Well Kristin inferred it. In fact, she's been accepted at Berkeley."
"Tell her congratulations," I said.
"I don't want her out in the Land of Fruit and Nuts," said Lisbeth.
"Hey, some of us are normal," I countered.
We talked for quite a while, me calming her fears about the big bad city, her letting me know she was holding me responsible for Kristin being in Babylon by the Bay. I suspected that much of the allure of Berkeley for Kristin was escaping from the very attitude I was hearing on the phone.
I finally hung up and wondered what it was going to be like having a cousin in the area. I'd find out in due time.
I picked up Lisbeth and Kristin at SFO the week before classes started. I had invited them to stay with me while they got Kristin settled into Berkeley. They had accepted with alacrity.
Kristin wanted to head straight to Berkeley, Lisbeth straight to Fisherman's Wharf. I compromised; I headed to Union Square where they could go into all of the fine stores. I don't know many women who can resist the allure of all of the Tony shops on Union Square. We had lunch on the square and then headed to Fisherman's Wharf via cable car. We were lucky and the tourists weren't crowded into every possible inch of the car.
Lisbeth and Kristin both tried a bowl of the chowder on the wharf. We toured Ghirardelli and they both had chocolate. Kristin looked pretty svelte but if she was going to eat like this she'd blow up in no time.
We rode the cable car back to Union Square and got my car. I drove through the Haight. They were disappointed that there weren't any hippies. C'mon, that was thirty years ago. I did drive through the Castro. Two pairs of eyes bugged out at the couples, guys with guys and girls with girls and some other couples whose genus and species was an open question ambled down the street. This wasn't Ohio anymore. I could see Lisbeth getting worried again.
"Lisbeth it's not contagious you know," I said.
"What?" she asked.
"Gay. It's not contagious. Kristin isn't going to catch Gay," I chided her. Kristin broke into peals of laughter and Lisbeth huffed a little at being caught.
"I'm a mother. I'm allowed to worry," she said.
"That's fine. Just worry about things that are real, like Kristin eating so much she weighs 200 by December," I said.
"Hey," Kristin burst out slapping me on the shoulder. "I'm not eating that much."
"Yeah. Just lunch, then chowder then chocolate..." I said smiling.
"I'm on vacation," she protested.
"Well, it's not like Mom is setting a good example."
Lisbeth slapped my other shoulder, "Take that back. I'm on vacation." They were both laughing now.
That evening I fixed them a light dinner and they hit the sheets, tired from the trip, excitement and time change.
The next day I drove them over to Berkeley. Kristin checked in and got her dorm room assignment. Lisbeth and I helped her move her stuff into the room. Kristin looked excited by the idea of living on her own. Her roommate hadn't arrived yet so she got her choice of bed and dresser.
I drove us all back to my place. We walked down to Lombard Street to a small trattoria for dinner, complete with straw covered bottles on the wall. After dinner they were both fat and happy. On the way back to my place I took them up the steepest street. Maybe you've heard of the steep hills in San Francisco. But if you haven't been there you don't know. The sidewalk of this street was actually little steps because you couldn't get traction on smooth concrete. It wasn't quite like climbing a ladder but it sure seems that way if you aren't used to the hills. Lisbeth and Kristin were both huffing and puffing by the time we made it to the top of that block.
"Just two more blocks," I said cheerily. I saw pain on those faces. I smirked back. Ok, it was rotten thing to do to my own cousins. But they are my cousins and one shouldn't pull a dirty trick like that on strangers.
After we got back to my place and the three flights of stairs to my condo, we sat out on a small balcony looking over the bay with some nice Sonoma chardonnay from Kistler. Lisbeth was looking a little down and Kristin was looking a little melancholy. Pretty soon tears were flowing and they were hugging and crying. I left them alone, Lisbeth with her first bird to leave the nest and Kristin to confront that she really was about to become an adult. I don't know how long they stayed up talking but it was long after I crawled into bed.
The next morning we piled into my car and I took Lisbeth to SFO. More tears and admonitions to be good and call home and study and don't get in trouble and... With the security arrangements I knew we couldn't get in to the terminal so we had to drop Lisbeth at the curb. I could see her waving until we rounded the last curve and disappeared from her view. I took Kristin to Berkeley and dropped her off. I told her I would call in a couple weeks and we'd get together for lunch.
Three weeks passed before I decided to do my Cousin duty and called Kristin to set up lunch. We decided to meet the next day at a Thai place on Shattuck just down the street from Chez Panisse.
I found her already there when I arrived fifteen minutes early. A quick hug and we went in. She was already sporting the bare belly look so common among the young women especially young women who shouldn't be showing their pudgy bellies to the world. Kristin was one of the young women who could be showing her belly, trim and toned. She was also sporting a belly ring.
After we were seated I asked, "So, does mom know about the jewelry?"
She looked down and said, "God no. She'd kill me."
"I take it part of the reason for choosing Berkeley was to have some distance," I said.
Kristin paused. I could see in her eyes she was sizing up how truthful she could be with a cousin. I must have passed the cool test, "Yeah. No way did I want to go to OSU. We live twenty miles from Columbus. Mom woulda still been trying to run my life. I had to get away from Ohio."
I laughed, "I understand completely."
She joined in then said "I just wish I knew how awful dorms were going to be."
"Really?" I asked.
"Totally sucks. I have this roommate who just slobs the places up. Then she brings her 'boyfriend' who she just met at a frat party back and does him in the room with me trying to sleep," she said.
"Is she a screamer and that keeps you awake," I asked innocently.
Kristin started to bristle and then realized I was teasing her. "No, she's a moaner. Who can sleep while someone is moaning the Appassionata Sonata? Seriously, I hate the dorms. Noise all night long. I can't study most of the time. People having sex all the time."
"The study and quiet issues I understand. But I don't really believe your roommate is having sex all of the time. Why the emphasis on sex?" I asked. Kristin hemmed a little and I continued, "Kristin, I'm not your parents and I don't talk to them. I think I have more in common with you than with them. You can talk to me."
"I know," she said, sitting up in the chair and composing her face. "You see, I never really dated in high school. I was always a nerd, you know, quiet and studious all the time. And I was smart and didn't hide it like some of my friends and all the boys were intimidated. I had exactly one real date in high school. It sucked."
"Ah," I said. "So the emphasis might just be a little curiosity and maybe just a touch of envy?"
Again she started to bristle but I calmly held her eye. She deflated and said, "Yeah, I suppose."
"Whoa," I smiled. "Don't get so serious. Believe me, sex isn't something to get serious about."
"Easy for you to say," she said vehemently but smiling.
"Yeah, I suppose. It reminds me of all those people who preach abstinence so strongly don't really practice it themselves. It's always easy to preach abstinence when you are going to spend the night in bed with someone," I said.
"Exactly," she said.
"So is that what makes dorm life so bad?" I asked.
"No, not really," Kristin responded quietly. "I can't talk to my roommate. I don't know how she got into Berkeley. She's going to major in liberal arts or something."
I laughed. "You know the old joke. Science majors learn to ask, why does it work? Engineering majors learn to ask, how does it work? Business majors learn to ask, how much will it cost? Liberal arts majors learn to ask, do you want fries with that order?"
Kristin broke up. When she wound down she continued, "All she wants to do is go to raves and get laid. I bet she's had three different 'boyfriends' in our room since I got there. Besides the noise and the inconsiderate people I guess what's bad is, I don't know anyone."
Loneliness, I said to myself. I was surprised that right then I felt a responsive chord struck in me. I was lonely in much the same way. Maybe if Kristin moved in with me... Berkeley was just a hop over the bridge... What? AM I nuts? What if I wanted to get laid? How am I going to bring home some 'girlfriend' with a teenager in the house? Then I looked at Kristin again. Our eyes met and there was a simpatico, we felt each other's loneliness. We both smiled.
"You could move in with me," I said and then quickly followed with, "If your folks say it's okay." It's amazing how our social conditioning so often overrides are real desires. I knew I would love to have company but still the social conditioning made the offer conditional.
"Why would my folks have to approve?" she asked.
"I suppose technically they don't but no way am I getting that entire half of the family mad at me," I said.
"Why would they be mad?' she asked.
"Kristin, boy-girl. You know," I said.
"But you're my cousin," she said perplexed.
"Yeah, but we're kissing cousins," I said.
"Huh? We've never kissed," she said.
"It's just a saying. It means cousins who can marry," I said.
"That's creepy," she said.
"Kristin, please. I thought you were trying to get out of the back woods of Ohio and into the modern world," I said.
She looked contrite. "Ok, but I thought cousins couldn't marry."
"Depends. It's all based on consanguinity, the degree of genetic relation of the people involved. Ancients noticed that sexual union between close relations had a higher chance of birth defects. So they outlawed as incest close sexual relations. But the Bible is full of cousins who married, many 'commanded' by God. Over the years, at least in this country, cousins started to be included in the ban of incest relations, maybe because of incomplete understanding of genetics. Modern research has shown maybe a one percent increase in birth defect risk of offspring of first cousins. Statistically insignificant. So twenty-six states now allow first cousins to marry, that's the third degree of consanguinity. California allows first cousins to marry. We're fourth degree, like second cousins. There would be no increased risk for us. Most states allow second cousins to marry. Ohio says we could marry. A few backwards states have even more restrictions like Utah which requires the fifth degree of consanguinity to marry while below the age of sixty-five, third cousins. First and second cousins can only marry if they are too old to have kids even though there is no evidence that there is an increased risk of birth defects. Long story, but we could be a couple, except for the age difference I mean. Because of that I wouldn't want the relatives thinking that 'something' is going on."
"I didn't know any of that. Why are the laws so crazy? Every state is different. That's nuts," she said.
"When it comes to sex every state has crazy laws and every state is different. I think it's safe to say that when it comes to laws about sex our country is insane. Back to the question. Would you like to move out of the dorm? I have two cars so you could get back and forth to campus. Rent would be cheap, you do the dishes. That would be worth it to me right there." She laughed as I continued, "I know you wanted to get away from family and pressure but I don't have any need to run your life."
Kristin smiled, "Yeah, I really did want to get away and be my own person. But it's lonely. I didn't think it would be this hard to be on my own. I think I'd like to try living with you, if my parents approve," she said with a note of irony in her voice.
We finished lunch and Kristin went off to her next class and I drove back across the Bay Bridge and into the city.
It was eight that night when my phone rang. "Hello."
"Mike, this is Lisbeth," she said over the line.
"Hey, what's up?" I asked. It's gotta be eleven her time. Heck of a time to call.
"It's Kristin. She's so unhappy," Lisbeth was practically burbling into the phone.
So unhappy, I wondered. I just talked to her that afternoon and while she didn't like her roommate I didn't get the impression that she was suicidal. Then it clicked. She had worked Mom on the call home. "Really," I said.
"Yes. And the things going on. I can't even believe it," Lisbeth said.
Yep, I said to myself. She really worked Mom. "Do tell," I said.
"Mike, her roommate is having SEX in the same room while Kristin is trying to sleep," she said.
"That is rude," I agreed.
"Rude! It's disgusting. I knew she shouldn't go to Berkeley," she blubbered near tears.
"Lisbeth, calm down. It's not just Berkeley. It's any college, even at Ohio State or Oral Roberts kids are having sex," I said. "Is Kristin doing okay?"
"Oh yes, that's why I called. Kristin said you had offered to let her stay with you," Lisbeth said.
"Would that make you feel better?" I asked.
"Oh yes. Would that be alright? I mean, I don't want you too feel like you have to," she continued.
"I wouldn't have offered if it wasn't ok. It will be good for me too. Make me keep regular hours and even clean the place more often. Bachelorhood isn't good for me," I said.
"And you'll watch out for her," Lisbeth asked.
"Of course. We'll be fine," I answered.
Calming down, "Oh Mike, thank you. When Kristin called me I just knew it was bad. I just knew something was going to happen," she said.
"Lisbeth, nothing happened. And nothing is going to. I'll see to that," I said.
Lisbeth wanted to pay me rent. I said no but she insisted. We compromised on half of what she was paying Berkeley for room and board. I said she could pay me board but not for the room. I was paying rent on the place whether Kristin lived here or not. I intended to give it to Kristin as spending money anyway. It would be plenty for an eighteen-year-old in the big city.
That weekend we moved her stuff to my place from the dorm. Her roommate didn't seem all that sad to see her go. She was probably already planning which boyfriend to have over that night. And just that quickly I had a roommate.
I expected a period of adjustment for me. I had been a bachelor for some years now and had a few habits which I wasn't sure I could change at a moment's notice. I was a bit worried that within a week Kristin would be on the phone calling Mom about how awful it was living with me. I couldn't have been more wrong.
I noticed that without really thinking about it I cleaned up my act around the house. For some reason, dirty underwear didn't wind up in the front room anymore. Having Kristin around turned out to be good for me, just as I told Lisbeth I thought it would.
Of course there were a few things. I'm not really a nudist but clothes do sometimes seem more bother than they are worth. I woke one morning and had to go badly, I mean fire hose pressure. Without thinking I bounced out of bed and ran to the bath. I heard Kristin's door open right as I dashed into the bath. I heard a gasp behind me as I closed the door and realized I had just shocked Kristin. Damn. After doing my business I peeked out the door, saw her door closed and darted back to my room. I threw on my robe and headed to the kitchen to start breakfast. I was joined in a short while by Kristin in her robe.
"Sorry about that," I said.
"Don't apologize. It was a nice show," she said smirking.
"I didn't mean to shock you," I responded.
"What? You didn't shock me," she said. I gave her a very unconvinced look. I had heard the gasp. "Surprised, not shocked. And you do have a nice butt."
"Quit it. I'm your cousin after all," I said.
"With a nice butt," she said laughing.
"Hrumpf. Anyway, I'll be more careful in the future."
"Mike, you don't have to be careful. I'm family after all," she said smiling.
"Kissing cousins," I said.
"It wasn't that nice a butt," she said. That startled me. Kristin saw it, gaped, and then started laughing. "I got you. Mister super sophisticated Big City Mike. I got you."
Maybe she did but I wasn't going to get got without a response. I got mad. When she saw me start to get mad she realized she had gotten me good and really started to laugh. I had no choice; I started laughing. We both wound down and I said, "Okay. You got me. But I will be more careful."
"Mike really. You don't have to. I don't want you going out of your way for me. If you want to run around stark naked I'll just enjoy the show," she said.
"Something makes me think you are trying to be a super sophisticated Big City Girl yourself. I think it maybe shocked you a little more than you are willing to admit," I said.
"Nope." She stood up, turned around took two steps away and with great dignity dropped her robe to show she was wearing nothing underneath. Then, also with great dignity, she turned and walked off toward the bathroom. She stopped just before rounding the corner and said over her shoulder, "You're not the only one with a butt," and continued on.
I pulled my jaw back off the floor and shouted after her, "I believe you. You don't have to prove it again." I heard her laugh trailing down the hall.
So, we quickly settled into a comfortable routine. She was usually home before me studying in the front room. I would stop at the local market and pick up dinner. I'd pop a bottle of wine and fix dinner while she finished her studies. When dinner was ready she'd join me and we'd have some far reaching conversation that would be sparked by what she was studying at the moment, physics, literature, politics, anything and everything.
It might start off like this: "Gravity doesn't exist."
"It does," she'd respond setting the stage.
"Einstein showed it didn't. At the heart of the General Theory of Relativity is the idea that since gravity doesn't exist in all frames of reference it must be a transitory affect, not a fundamental law. In a freely falling frame of reference, gravity doesn't exist," I'd start.
"How's that?" she asked.
"Frame of reference refers to relations to the environment. If things exist in the same frame of reference then all the laws of physics must apply. That's why you can eat a hamburger that is going 600 miles an hour in a plane. You and the hamburger are in the same frame of reference. Try eating that hamburger if it was going past you at 600 miles an hour."
"Messy," she said.
I laughed and continued, "Okay. Put a man in orbit, a freely falling frame of reference. He let's go of the apple. It doesn't fall. There's gravity isn't there?" Kristin looked puzzled but nodded. "Exactly. According to the laws of physics gravity exists as the inverse square of the distance. The astronauts in orbit and the apple ought to be affected by gravity. But they aren't. The force of gravity is transformed away; it disappears. Einstein looked at this and said a law of physics must be the same in all frames of reference. If you have a frame in which the law no longer operates, it isn't a law. Therefore, what we perceive as gravity is something else."
"But that doesn't make sense," she responded.
"That's where general relativity comes in. The planets move in a straight line through curved space-time just like the apple in orbit. It just looks like a curved path to us because we are only able to see in three dimensions. The dimension of time which warps space we can't see as a dimension. There is no force pulling the astronaut around the planet. He and the apple are moving in a straight line. The apple doesn't fall because it is already moving in a straight line in curved space-time. It's just the shape of the space-time continuum. That's why there's no graviton in the Standard Model of particles. No force, no particle," I'd finish.
"Wait a minute, you're mixing relativity and quantum. No can do," she'd argue back.
"Just because you don't have a formula to reconcile quantum uncertainty with relativity doesn't mean I have to limit myself," I'd say.
"Nobody has a formula," she'd say.
"Prove it," I'd answer. And she'd proceed to try. I'd let her continue for a while getting more frustrated. Then I would stop her and point out that she was trying to prove a negative and show her how I threw her off the rails. She would get mad and then we'd both laugh. And we'd be off on the next topic. The next night she might take the no gravity side of the argument. I'd bring in string theory and its eleven dimensions to prove that gravity is a force. She hadn't studied that yet and so would have trouble. The next week she'd have a book from the library on string theory and be at me again. I'd eventually lose the arguments, lack of real math, and she'd get so technical that my limited skills would be overwhelmed. But I did make her use rigorous proofs and she did have to expand her knowledge to get to those proofs. We both enjoyed it enormously. I especially enjoyed watching her mind work. It had taken me years to get my limited understanding of these topics. She'd learn them, catch up and then surpass me in a few days. Amazing mind.
After dinner we would often relax and watch a bit of mindless, isn't that an oxymoron, TV. Once, while watching an ad the announcer said, "We've made a quantum leap forward." Kristin stared laughing.
"What's funny" I asked.
"A quantum leap forward," she said. I raised an eyebrow. "That is stupid. You know how much a quantum leap is?" she asked.
"How much?" I asked.
"The distance an electron moves from one valance to another. Less than a billionth of a meter. That's some leap they made," she said.
I laughed with her. "Imagine the announcer," I said. "We just made the smallest possible leap forward in the physical universe."
Kristin laughed, "Whoopee."
That became our routine. One unexpected result was how close I became with Kristin. She wasn't a ditzy teeny bopper. I could see how she intimidated the boys in high school. She acted like an adult. I found myself respecting her mind and opinions and treating her like I would someone closer to my age than I would have a teenager. I actually was a little intimidated by her mind myself though I'd never let her know that.
Over the course of the first month together we had gotten very close. Kristin would join me on the sofa while we watched TV. Eventually Kristin started snuggling up against me. It was just closeness. There was nothing sexual about it. Kristin was used to physical touch. Both of her parents were touchers and she missed that most basic of human needs.
That was until one night. Dinner conversation that night had been about relationships. Kristin had never really had a close one with a boy. I was still somewhat shell shocked by a bitter divorce. I told her things I had never told anyone before. She told me things she said she had never told anyone before. During dinner she had taken my hand, not intimately but supportively. But I felt the spark when her hand touched mine. I looked at her and I felt the instant simpatico again as I had at the restaurant. I could see in her face the same feeling echoed back to me.
I admit to being a little confused. I had never thought of Kristin as a potential partner and still didn't. But there was a connectedness that was impossible to ignore. I let the feeling go, knowing that that was the best thing to do. But it was a loss.
That night she snuggled up against me as we watched the tube. I looked down to say something just as she looked up. Our faces were almost touching, our lips just a breath away from each other's. I stopped and so did she. Neither of us pulled back. We stayed like that for an eternity or a second, I can't remember. Kristin's eyes closed and her lips moved toward mine. We kissed. Just a simple kiss, her lips pressed against mine. Nothing more. It was held for just a moment but in that moment everything changed. Her kiss was sweeter than dessert. Her eyes stayed closed as she pulled back, her face still tilted up at mine. I put my arm around her shoulders holding her as she relaxed against me. Neither of us said a word. We just sat and basked in the moment knowing that something profound had occurred but not wanting to say or do anything which might change it. As Kristin lay against me she brought one hand up and rested in on my back and the other she put on my thigh. We had always been careful that even as we snuggled; avoiding real intimacy. But her touch was different this time. Her hand resting on my thigh seemed heated, almost burning, but in a pleasant way. I put my hand on her bare arm, touching and then lightly petting her. I could feel the warmth of her skin and it affected me to the core.
I don't remember exactly how long we spent that night watching the TV but not seeing a thing. At some point I said, "It's getting late." It was the first words spoken since the kiss.
"Yes," she answered. "We should go to bed." She uncurled herself and stood. I turned off the TV and followed her. She stopped at her door and turned. I could see the wheels spinning for just a moment then she said, "Goodnight," and turned into her room.
"Goodnight," I said and went to my room. I lay awake a long time that night.
The next day she had a break between her morning and afternoon class. I called her and had her meet me at the Santa Fe Grill. It was the old train station and had been remodeled into a restaurant. For awhile it had made all of the lists of the 'best' restaurants. But, foodies being what they are, moved on to the new best. Santa Fe just went on serving wonderful food. The nice thing was that you could get a table now that it wasn't in Cuisine anymore.
After we were seated I noticed an aura of tension. It seemed to be hanging in the air between us like a thundercloud on an otherwise sunny day. I figured the best way to break the ice was the direct way.
"What are we going to do?" I asked.
Without hesitation Kristin answered, "At least we are kissing cousins."
"You can say that again," as we both exploded into laughter. The tension drained away with the laughter and the day was again sunny.
Then Kristin's face turned serious, "Cousin Mike, I don't want to go back. I want to continue."
"Kristin, if the family finds out they'll kill us. Well, me anyway," I said.
"I know. Mike, that was the most beautiful moment of my life last night. I've never felt anything like that before," she said.
"I know, I felt it too," I told her.
Her hand reached across the table and I took it. This time the touch was intimate. Hand touching hand sealed our decision. That quickly, we were a couple. We floated through lunch on the high we felt from coming together. After lunch she went back to classes and I went to my next appointment.
That night I prepared a romantic dinner, candles and soft lights and champagne and Chocolate Decadence from the local bakery. All the vices except one and I was hoping for that one as well.
I have the top or third floor of a condo on Webster. It is about the same height as the second floor on one side of our building but like the fourth floor of the building next to ours down the hill. Yes, it is that steep. There is nothing to block my view all the way across the bay. At night, the lights sparkle on the bay like a thousand diamonds glittering against black velvet. The Golden Gate stands majestically against the Pacific. It's enough to take your breath away even if you've seen it a thousand times before. After dinner we stood by the window hand in hand and looked over the bay. Kristin set her glass down and turned to me stretching her face up. I set my glass on the sill and pulled her to me. We kissed. Her arms went around my neck as she pushed against me. Our bodies melded and became one as our lips hungrily sought each other's lips.
We broke the kiss and I said quietly, "Kristin mia. I want you."
She laid her head against my chest. "I know. I've been thinking about that all day. I knew it would be like this."
Stroking her hair I asked, "Is that bad?"
"No. It's just, Mike, I told you that I never really dated in school. I'm a little nervous. I was too nerdy for guys in school. So I've never been with a man that way."
"Would you like to?" I asked.
"That's what I've been thinking about all day. Mike, I never in my life felt what I felt last night or today at lunch. I couldn't stop thinking about you. I want you to hold me, and kiss me and I want you to take me to your bed," she said looking up and staring deeply into my eyes.
"Kristin, love. Will you share my bed?" I asked.
"Yes. I will," she answered quietly but with strength.
I took her hand and led her to my room. When I had arrived home I'd quickly cleaned up my room, changed the sheets and set up a couple long-burning scented candles. The sheets were turned back already, inviting us into the bed.
I pulled her to me kissing her gently. The kiss turned passionate as her lips parted and invited me in. My cock began to rise as the pressure increased. I felt her body flow against me, pressing herself into my body, seeking to become one. I pulled back and looked at her, her eyes opened dreamily. "Kristin, I love you."
"I love you," she said and pulled me to her for another kiss.
My hands were slowly running up and down her back as we kissed. They wandered south and then hooked into the bottom of her tight knit top. I began pulling up, the top coming with. We broke the kiss, again a dreamy look in her face as she raised her arms letting me pull her shirt off. I knelt in front of her, reaching behind to pull down the zipper of her skirt. "Take off your bra," I said. She did as I pulled her skirt off. I kissed her through her panties and her hands twined in my hair. Reaching out my hands, I slid her panties off her toned legs. She was standing before me naked, looking vulnerable and unsure. I leaned forward and kissed her again before looking up, "You are so damn sexy."
She smiled and said, "Your turn." I stood as she unbuttoned my shirt and pushed it off my shoulders and down my arms. She had a little trouble with the belt. I guess I could drop a few pounds. The damn thing was pretty tight. I took over undoing the belt and zipper. I was about to push my Dockers off when she said urgently, "No. I want to." She knelt in front of me her hands grabbing the pants and slowly pulled them down. It seemed to take forever but it was exciting as all hell, her eyes fixed, waiting for my cock to pop free. "Oh," she said as the pants at last were low enough and my cock bounced up and down before pointing directly at her. She stopped, entranced by it. Her hand reached up and slowly stroked it. "It's soft." And then she wrapped her hand around it and pulled, "And hard." She looked up at me, "I like it."
"It likes you," I said.
She smiled and finished pushing off my pants. I stepped from them pulling her up for another kiss. This time skin pressed against skin and the erotic energy surged.
We crawled into my bed and rolled together. I felt nervous as a teenager. Kristin looked at me expectantly and I knew she was waiting for me to lead, to be the confident lover. If she only knew. I smiled which brought a radiant smile from her. Without words we conversed. She trusted me to make it wonderful.
I reached up and put my hand on her cheek pulling her forward for a kiss, a soft kiss. My lips caressed hers and she responded. I devoured her lips. Her lips parted and my tongue teased hers. They danced together as we got hotter.