Rosenjack

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1

...and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make... The End (The Beatles)

You have to accept, first of all, that I never intended for any of the things that happened, to actually happen. I know I'm still to blame, because I allowed myself to have the thoughts in the first place, and then even more so for allowing those thoughts to become actions. But I swear to you, I started out normally enough. My tastes, my preferences, my sensibilities, were as well-adjusted as the next man, I'm certain of it. The only excuse, the only reason I can even approach, is that the loneliness drove me insane. I mean that in it's most literal sense. I was out of my head with longing and desire, ready to end it all in the cleanest, least painful way I could find. The cure that presented itself, the love I found, did so much to warm the frozen wasteland my heart had become, that I can only think of it as good, as vital and necessary, even as I recognize that I need to be punished for it.

I was 38 and unemployed. I'd really rather not go into detail about how I came to be in that spot. The point is, after eight years of divorce, bitter bitter loneliness, jobs I hated, and other general kicks in the crotch from life, I was at the bottom of the barrel.

2

...stay, don't leave me, Mama, because it's getting so hard... Mama (Genesis)

Okay, let me back up a bit. Technically, legally, it wasn't a divorce, because we were never married. But after three months of bliss and fifteen months of steadily maturing misery, it felt like a divorce. When Lilly finally walked out on me, the day after my 30th birthday, I was a mumbling mess; emotionally damaged, with a newly minted sense of my worthlessness, I knew that Lilly had been my last chance at a relationship. In the years since, my self-esteem just kept finding new depths to sink to, losing me first one job, then another, until I finally ran out of jobs to lose.

I hadn't pursued Lilly, I hadn't even really known her before I found her one frigidly ugly, below-zero January night, passed out in an alley behind the Babylon lounge. We'd been in the same graduating class in high school; she was one of a dozen or so girls I'd nutured a pathetic crush on from afar. Passing in the halls at school, or seeing her sometimes at the mall, I'd wished for the fortitude to approach her, knowing I never would. I had no idea whether she even knew I existed, and that's as far as it ever got.

Now here I was, ten years later, faced with the slowly growing, shocking warmth of recognition as I made my way through the dimly lit alley behind the bar. I learned later that she had just been dumped by her boyfriend and had chosen getting hammered as her means of coping. It looked like she had been urinating in the alley; there was a puddle underneath her, and although she had managed to get her pants and underwear down to do it, she had passed out before being able to pull them back up. As I walked up to where she lay, a wave of equal parts pity, fascination and prurience swept over me, with pity rapidly surging to the fore and nearly knocking me over. Standing over her there in the darkness, with the sound of "Mama" by Genesis seeping through the cracked window above the back door, I knew I couldn't leave her in that alley to freeze to death. I briefly considered the idea of going into the crowded, noisy, smoke-filled bar to try to find help, but I was afraid to leave her unattended while I did. As gingerly as I could, I pulled up her underwear and pants; she never stirred once as I did so, seemingly dead to the world. My official excuse that I have convinced myself to believe is that there must have been some sort of Florence Nightingale / wounded bird aspect to our encounter, which is what prompted me to carry her to my car and put her in the passenger seat; and with no clear idea of what to do with her, started back to my apartment. She woke up halfway back and wondered aloud where we were going; it seemed that wondering who I was or why she was in my car weren't tremendously important to her at the moment. "Back to my place," I had said, wondering at my audacity with just picking up a near stranger off the street, my utter lack of judgment in bringing her home, and a growing sense of trepidation at her reaction to having been picked up like that. I knew I should add, 'but now that you're awake, you can tell me where to take you,' and I was about to do just that, when she interrupted me with a hand on my leg. "Pull over," she slurred, "I'm gonna puke." I'm not sure, but I think it must have been right there, in a filthy patch of snow in front of the Mersey Avenue fire station, as I held back her long blonde hair while she emptied her stomach into the gutter, that I fell in love with her. When we got back to my place, I half-supported, half-carried her up the steps, and I had to prop her up against the wall while I unlocked the door, pinning her in place with my knee to check her unreliable balance. I tried to clean her up the best I could, but when she started complaining that her legs were freezing, I could see she really was shivering pretty hard and needed to get out of her damp things. I steered her into the bathroom and sat her on the toilet, where she tried to undo her pants and found the task beyond her. "Yer gon' havva do it," she said, looking around perplexed and then recogizing what kind of room she was in. "C'n I take a bath?" she said so matter-of-factly that it struck me as hilarious, and I was choking on my laughter as I told her I'd run one, but that I was worried about leaving her alone in the tub, in case she passed out again. "'sokay, you gimme bath, 'm too drunk to wash anyway" she finished. So, after starting the water running, I bent over her and, trying to avert my eyes like a gentleman (and failing miserably), stripped off her slush- and urine-soaked pants and panties, then lowered her into a hot bath (only pulling off her shirt and bra after the bath was over). I washed her gently with a bar of sandalwood soap that had been sitting unopened in the medicine cabinet for months, taking care to avoid any areas that were too private. I left her side only long enough to stretch out her shirt and bra over the back of the toilet to dry out. Hoping she wouldn't mind that I was using my own toothbrush, I helped her brush her teeth (she spit out the toothpaste in the tub as she was getting out), then I wrapped her in a towel and laid her gently in my bed. I was turning to go lay down on the couch when she grabbed my shirt and pulled me back to her, demanding to know if I thought she was ugly. I could tell she was still more drunk than sober, and I was unsure of how to answer. Finally, I just settled for the simple truth. "No," I said, "I think you're beautiful." As she tasted the sincerity and longing in my voice, it finally occurred to her to wonder who I was. "Do I know you?" she asked, but with a curious stress on the word 'you', as if it was really more of a statement that I was somebody different than the brutish hogs who had made her life so evil.

"My name is Brent," I said, and she held out her hand, saying "Pleaz to meetcha Bren', 'm Lilly." I grasped her hand to shake it, intending to tell her about my crush on her from high school. She held onto my hand and squeezed it significantly. "I was in bad trouble, wasn' I?" she said softly, and for a few seconds, I saw her as she was ten years before, the way I remembered her from our school days. "An' ya save me, dinya?" I nodded slowly and opened my mouth, but she pulled me down onto the bed before I could say anything.

"Yer my knight in shiny armor, aincha? Ya pick me up when the goddam bassard throw me down. Think I owe you one, Bren' ol' buddy," she murmured, pulling off the towel, "and I wanna pay up. Here ya go, pal, help y'self," this last said with a lyrical wave of her arm to indicate I should start in on her as if she were a buffet laid out for my benefit.

I know I turned red staring at her naked body, at the almost invisibly fine hair beneath her arms and the blond muff around her crotch, at her beautiful, round breasts; now that my peeping wasn't being done surreptitiously, but out in the open with her express consent, it was more than I could handle. "I can't, I really, I can't, Lilly," I stammered, "you might feel differently when you sober up."

"Mister goddamn boyscout Brent," she laughed, without the slightest trace of heat or anger, "'s okay, rilly. Sher, I'm drung, but I know th' score. Now don't get me mad, boyfren, doff the duds and screw me good and proper." I didn't know how to tell her that, as a 28-year-old virgin, I was terrified of insulting or amusing her with my clumsy fumbling ignorance. She was so damned insistent, though. She finally grabbed me by the waist of my pants and started to take them off, so I backed off and finished the job, dazed at my lack of shame in undressing in front of her, and trembling now with anticipation and wanting. She pulled me on top of her and started to kiss my neck and chest, and I lit up with the sudden realization that if I just followed her lead and did what she did, I wouldn't have to worry about how to perform. It seemed to work for a bit, but it wasn't long before she pulled back and gazed at me unsteadily. "You haven' done this very mush, have you?" she asked with a genuine smile of affection. I couldn't say or do anything, I just hung my head and wondered how to apologize. "'s okay," she laughed, laying a hand on my chest, "'s rilly easy, I'll teash you."

"I don't have any condoms," I said miserably. She smiled again, "Hey, 'at's okay Brenty, I doan think I c'n make enny babies, so just rilax and 'njoy th' ride. Doan worry, babe, we'll take it nice and slow." And we did.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

I must have slept like a dead man. When I woke up, I realized I had neglected to take out my contact lenses before falling asleep. As I wandered through the apartment wrapped in the towel I had used on Lilly, trying to rub some moisture back into my eyes so I could focus, I realized I was alone. Half a pan of scrambled eggs sat cold on the stove; the egg crumbs and fork by the sink conjured an image of Lilly standing over the sink eating breakfast out of the pan. On the table was a note scribbled on the back of an old envelope, "U R a damn hard man to wake up. Thanks Bernie, IOU 4 saving me, call 4 payoff. Called GF to pick me up. Lil", along with a phone number. It must have been late in the afternoon before I could get my face to stop smiling. I could have sworn that when I looked at my feet, they were definitely not even touching the ground.

It took me several years to call her; or, that's what it felt like anyway, forcing myself to wait all day before calling, yet scared to death at the possible outcome. I wanted to tell her so many things, but I was sure I'd die before I had the chance to get any of it out. When I finally did call, the only response I got was the answering machine. "Hi, this is Lilly. I'm not here right now, at least as far as YOU know, so why don't you just leave a message and we'll say I listened to it when I 'get home'", and I was amused and enamoured of the way I could hear her putting quotation marks around the words 'get home'. "Um, hi, this is, uh, Brent, I, uh, uh, I, uh, spent the night with you last night," (God! Idiot! Can you be less smooth?) "and you left me your number, so, so uh, I just wanted to tell you how wonderful it was, and wondering, if you're not busy, if you'd like to get together and do something," (hah! yeah, right, like fucking each other's brains out), "because I can't stop thinking about you and just wanted to see if you were free." I was about to add my phone number and ask her to call me, when she picked up the phone.

"Hi, did you say your name is Brent?" she asked, and I made an affirmative noise. "Brent, what happened last night? I remember a couple of things, but most of it's a blank." 'OhmyGod. She doesn't know. She doesn't know she devirginized me,' I thought, feeling suddenly light-headed and sitting down forcefully on the couch.

"Well," I started, "you were pretty, uh, sick," (drunk) "when I found you, uh, passed out behind the Babylon. I remembered you from high school, I wanted to help you but I didn't know if you were with friends or what had happened to you, I just knew you needed help, so I brought you home and, uh, cleaned you up and, uh, put you to bed, and... uh, then we, uh... we had, uh... we made, uh..."

"Yeah, I remember that part now," she said with a suddenness that told me she had just realized what happened. "OhmyGod, that was your first time, wasn't it? Oh God, I'm so sorry! Please forgive me! Brent, are you in love with me?"

I was too astounded and dazed to know how to answer. I tried to say, 'No, Lilly, I'm not in love with you, I'm sorry,' but all that came out was, "Yes, I think so." Heavy sigh from Lilly. Couple more heavy sighs. Finally, "Okay, well, you'd better come on over. We'll just have to let it run its course, I guess. I do remember that I owe you my life, Brent, so we might as well get that into the deal right now." I puzzled over this when she said it; it wasn't until years later, when this conversation emerged from the depths of my memory, that I realized what she meant was that as long as she felt she still owed me ten or twelve more mercy fucks for saving her, and as long as I was in love with her (and she was certain I'd fall out of love with her sooner rather than later), we might as well play house. She was wise, but she was wrong about one thing: I never fell out of love with her; not really, anyway.

She moved in after the first week. The two girls she'd been staying with let me know with hints and sideways comments that they fully expected her to move back with them before too long, but I didn't see it. The first two months danced by like ashes from a winter bonfire. We had sex every day, sometimes two or three times a day; even when she had her period, she still insisted on getting me off with her hand. I think that, for the first month, she thought she was helping me make up for lost time, and for the second month, she was trying to glut me, to get me so totally satiated with sex that I got tired of it; but in the end, all she was doing was feeding my multiple addictions to her; sexual, mental, spiritual, emotional. The more we were together, the more of her I wanted. The third month was "the month of new stuff", as Lilly introduced a variety of techniques to our encounters. We got very heavily into oral, then it was shot glasses and hot wax, with a chaser of one tantric position after another. She persuaded me to perform anal sex on her (and that was a lesson all to itself; it was also the first time we used a condom), and even moved me a little of the way along the path toward bondage and S/M. We never got too far in that direction, and toward the end of that third month, our sex life settled back to what it had been, then dropped below the horizon. First there was a pause of two days, then four, then it was a week; and by the end, when Lilly finally left me, it had been three months since we'd made love. Her goodbye is burned into my mind forever. Her folks had moved south a few years prior, and she was going to head south to live with them for a while, and she told me in no uncertain terms that this was the end of the road for us. I drove her to the bus depot, and as we sat side by side in the lobby, massaging each other's thighs and waiting for her bus to arrive, she found she couldn't deal with the feeling of imminent death radiating from me; so she took me by the hand and pulled me into the women's room. "One more for the good times," she said with a devil's grin as she backed into a stall and dropped her pants, and I mounted and "serviced" her, as she enjoyed calling it, for what I knew was the last time. It was the first time I'd ever had sex with tears in my eyes; I had no idea it wouldn't be the last.

3

...You can't make your heart feel something it won't... I Can't Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt)

I had never gotten around to telling Lilly that I didn't know whether she was my first time or not, because I was still unsure as to what counted, and for how much. When I was 15, I'd had a six-month relationship with a 17-year-old named Iris. She'd had several boyfriends, but for me she was my first love, and I thought about her more or less constantly in the years after. Iris and I never actually had intercourse, but we spent many nights in the basement of her house or mine with the lights off and the radio on, dry-humping through our underwear, feeling under each other's shirts; and Iris, on three separate occasions, took my member in her mouth and tried valiantly to get me off; but for some reason (nerves? tension? inexperience?) I was never able to orgasm from this. I didn't know if that counted as sex, especially since I never completed the act with Iris except when I was alone and picturing her in my mind; I suspected it did, but I wasn't sure how to reconcile the concepts "I have had sex" and "I am a virgin", so I never mentioned it to Lilly. Whatever. I loved Iris, I know I did. She was the first, she was burned into my soul the way no one else ever could be. I'm pretty sure I know now what love is, I might have then, too. All I know for real is that I loved being with her, and the day she broke up with me was the worst day of my life until Lilly left me. That day, the day Iris told me she couldn't be with me anymore, was a mosaic inside me; hard, permanent bits of faded color that jabbed into my soul like a faceful of broken glass. The only part of that memory that's smooth is the hours of crying that blended the daylight hours into the night.

The bigger picture, I guess, was that I was alone again, and knew I was going to be alone for the rest of my life. Both of the women whose interest I'd managed to capture had left me. I knew there was something wrong with me that prevented a woman from staying interested. With this as a foundation, I grew too depressed to hold any job for long, sloughing my way through one dead end after another.

4

...the sun is the same in a relative way but you're older, shorter of breath and one day closer to death. -- Time (Pink Floyd)

The thought of just cashing it all in crossed my mind more than a few times over the years, even more so after I lost the last job. After some negotiation, the manager of my apartment complex agreed to let me work as a maintenance man for $200 a month and free rent. The catch was that I couldn't stay in my apartment; not as long as there were people willing to pay to rent it. I had to move into a little room at the back of the clubhouse, behind the indoor pool. It was really little bigger than a walk-in closet, but there was room for a cot and a dresser, and there was a bar to hang some of my clothes on. When I moved into that room, I stashed the rest of the stuff from my old apartment in one of the storage buildings that dotted the complex; not that I ever really had that much stuff to begin with. For bathroom and shower facilities I had to make do with what was available at the pool, and my kitchen was in the common area of the clubhouse. Not terribly private, but I was in no position to complain, especially since I was being allowed to stay there for free. I didn't know much about furnaces and washers and dryers, but I knew how to read a manual. I didn't do too badly.

I found out much later that the manager was actually given a $1000 monthly allowance by the owner for maintenance. I guess the idea was that he could hire someone part-time to do it for that $1000, but he had trouble keeping anybody for that salary, so a lot of the time he had to do the maintenance himself, which he hated. He just pocketed the $1000 and told the owner he paid it as salary, and he never had to produce any further proof of the fake employee. When I came along, he saw a chance to keep pocketing $800 a month and pay me $200 to do the job he despised. I can't really blame or hate him for it; after all, I would have been on the streets otherwise. I had already lost my car when I couldn't afford the insurance and had to sell it anyway for the money; after that ran out, I got three months behind on the rent. I was rapidly coming up on month number four with still no cash; so when I got the $200 salary and free rent, the hard place suddenly became the semi-comfortable place, and I told the rock to go hump itself.

The clubhouse was centrally located in the complex and in addition to the pool, it also had a billiard table (upstairs), a reception area, and a little alcove with three ancient videogame consoles; Donkey Kong (good), Ms. Pac-Man, (bad), and some racing game (ugly) whose name I forget. When you have the key to the consoles, you can rack up as many free games as you want. I never did break three grand on DK, my high score remains at 297,800.

The complex also owned a beat-up white pickup that I used to get supplies and run errands. The manager grudgingly gave me five dollars a week for gas to run the errands, and let me know that I was free to use the truck any other time I wanted but that if I did, I had to buy my own gas. I didn't use it for personal stuff very much, pretty much every dollar I got went toward groceries and sundries like shampoo, contact lenses and solution, et cetera. As I was rooting around in one of the storage buildings, I found a stash of stuff that had been left by previous tenants. Most of it was junk, but there was a 10-speed bike that I claimed. It had been pretty badly beaten up, but I spent a lot of time cleaning it and straightening it out, and I used that if I wanted to go anywhere.

My responsibilities also included the swimming pool filters and pumps. There wasn't really anybody to do the other maintenance, like making sure the pool was kept clean and keeping the area in shape, stocking the supply of towels that the complex kept on hand for tenants to use, so all that kind of fell on me too. That wasn't too bad, either, because it kept me busy, and I had a legitimate excuse to hang around the pool all day while I watched the women who came to swim. Angela Anderson, with her flowing blonde mane and 36-24-36 perfection. Sandra Ochs, with her charming, crooked smile and frizzy hair. Sally Riddick, with her enormous lovely breasts that rippled and bounced so wonderfully whenever she jumped off the diving board. Annette Ross, with her oversized buttocks (easily twice as large as the next woman), under whose enormous cheeks I would have happily suffocated. Julie Ann (never did learn her last name), whose legs really did seem to go right up to her neck. Others whose names escape me, but whose various roundnesses live on in my memory. I'd go around slowly picking up wet towels and taking them back to the laundry room, where I'd load the machines while fantasizing about whoever I'd just seen. It had been too many years, and I had never had the ability or looks to hit on any of them, or the confidence to do anything about it even if I had. I didn't want to hit on anybody anyway, I just wanted a friend, a steady relationship, somebody to just be with, to go places with, to eat with, to talk to, to snuggle with and have sex with, like I'd had with Lilly, and I didn't know how to get a relationship like that going out of a clear blue sky. So mostly I just hunched down there by the driers, breathing in the moist atmosphere and stroking my lonely member. Pathetic.

As time went by, I resorted to pleasuring myself with the occasional stroke book. Nothing really raunchy, mostly just photos of couples doing the deed, soft core for the most part, but nothing left to the imagination. Sometimes I thought I was making it worse by torturing myself with what I could never have, but I couldn't help it. The need was too great, the longing too intense. I always held it in check, though; I never had more than one magazine at a time, and I never left it laying out, but always tucked it away in a dresser drawer in my room, to remind myself that there was something shameful about using porn, and that I should never lose that sense of shame.

Anybody that's known loneliness, real soul-crushing ravenous loneliness, knows what nighttime is like. They know what it is when the darkness closes in and chokes you and devours you with agonizing slowness. They know that loneliness shares a basic identity at the subatomic level with cancer. Sometimes it drives you out into the night looking for anything to escape the pain. The clubhouse was pretty slow most nights, and I was tired of being trapped there anyway. Bars are noisy and expensive, and the only mall nearby closed at 9:00 pm. There was a video game arcade about three miles from the complex, and more than a few nights I made the hike, or biked over, just to hang out and watch people be with each other, laugh with each other, hug each other, kiss each other, trying desperately to feed myself with whatever little crumbs and flakes I could pry from their happinesses. Walking or riding home, I watched people driving around, the cars crawling past all stuffed with eyes, and when I would finally make it back at 3:00 am, back to my lonely little clubhouse, I'd fix a Long Island Iced Tea from a bottle of mix and a root beer from the vending machine; and all too often this method was my only means of getting to sleep. When that didn't work, I'd occasionally wander around the complex, looking at the mix of dark and lighted windows, wondering what was going on behind those panes; sometimes hanging out in the stairwells of the buildings, just for the scraps of conversation I could hear seeping through the walls. What a repulsive sight I must have presented, standing there in the hall, ear pressed up to the cold, unyielding wallboard as I tried to tease the least little sense out of the words. It was a miserable existence, with nothing to look forward to but more of the same. I was so ready to end it all, yet too afraid of botching the job and winding up a vegetable or a cripple, unable to finish what I'd started; or even worse, succeeding and then finding out that I was wrong, that there really is an actual Hell; although how Hell could have been worse than my life, I couldn't imagine.

5

...Pretty little one that I adore, you're the only girl my heart beats for... My Cherie Amour (Stevie Wonder)

Rose was ten years old the first time I ever laid eyes on her. I was sitting in the lobby of the clubhouse; it was about six o'clock on a warm summer evening, and I was drinking a cream soda when she wandered in. That moment is frozen in my mind forever. The radio was playing "My Cherie Amour" when the door opened and a mop of brown hair stuck its head in, followed by the girl underneath. She was probably under four and a half feet tall, wearing sandals, jean shorts, and a t-shirt with the prism and rainbow from the "Dark Side of the Moon" album cover. I watched as she idly walked over to the kitchen area and poked around in the cupboards and refrigerator, pausing to turn on the cold water faucet over the sink for a couple of seconds. As she came out of the kitchen, she saw me for the first time, and gave me a shy smile that almost broke my heart.

"Hi, my mom and I just moved in today," she said, "and mom said I could check this place out while she signs some stuff in the office."

"Sure, help yourself," I told her, "this place is for anybody that lives here. There are games in that alcove over there, and down that hallway is the swimming pool. Do you like to swim?"

"Yeah, I love to swim," she said. "Can you swim anytime you want?"

"Well, it's supposed to be closed after 10 on weeknights and midnight on Friday and Saturday, but I don't say anything to anybody if they're having fun. Most people leave on time anyway."

"Oh," she said, and her eyes got a little bigger, "are you the lifeguard?"

"No," I laughed, "we don't have a lifeguard. I just pick up around the place and do odd jobs here and there. I'm Jack of all trades." Smiling at her felt even better when she returned the smile with a 200 watter of her own. "Do you like soda pop?" I asked, still smiling.

"Mostly just root beer," she said, ticking it off on her finger like the first item in a list, "but I like cream soda," (item number two) "which I see you have some of, as well."

"Well then, come over here and let me get you one," I laughed, and I led the way over to the soda machine on the far wall. When I pulled out the key for the machine, opened the front, lifted a cream soda, closed and locked it, and handed the can to her, her hand flew up to her mouth and her eyes were huge.

"Omygod, that was amazing! That was sooo flippin' cool! You are one handy guy to know! Thank you!"

I leaned in conspiratorially. "I don't do that for just anybody you know, only me. And now you. Guess I just consider it a fringe benefit." Putting my hand dramatically to my mouth, as if trying to prevent anybody but her from hearing me, I said in an obviously fake sotto voce, "The pay ain't that great, to tell you the truth." I was rewarded with a genuine giggle. "You guys will get free stuff, anyway, at the meet and greet. It's this lame party the complex throws once a month so new tenants can meet the current tenants. They lay out pizza and chips and soda, and somebody usually brings dessert. You just missed the last one, the next one is more than three weeks away. Tell your mom about it if you don't see anything on the notice boards. That's supposed to be my job, too, keeping those boards up to date, but I gotta tell ya, it ain't much fun. God, listen to me complain! You'd think I hate my life."

"No, no," she said earnestly, and laid a little hand on my forearm, "I think your life sounds cool as all Hell! Oh! I mean, uh, uh..." (she stammered so charmingly), "cool as heck! I mean, uh, uh..."

I felt laughter coming up from the gut as I said, "Don't worry about it, sweetheart! I like a woman who can curse a little. Makes her more human, you know? More real. More fun." I wanted to put my hand over hers as it lay on my arm, just for the human contact, but I couldn't bring myself to do it, to take anything that even resembled a liberty with her.

At that moment, the door opened and a pretty brunette stuck her head in. "Rose, honey, let's go move in, I've got the keys. Oh, hello there," she said, this last directed to me.

"Hi," I said, "would you like me to help carry boxes or anything?"

"Oh, thanks, that's really sweet of you, but we'll manage. We don't have that much stuff. Come on, Rose, let's go." Rose walked out with her mother. Just before she left, she glanced out to make sure her mother was far enough ahead of her, then turned and gave me that shy smile again.

"Well, I guess I'll be seeing you around. It was really, really nice to meet you, Jack." And then she was gone before I could tell her my name was Brent.

6

...I think I dreamed you into life... I Knew I Loved You (Savage Garden)

The next time I saw her was the next day, when she came down to swim. She was wearing a pink one-piece decorated with roses, a skinny kid with all the beauty of youth, just on the verge of starting to fill out. She gave me a huge grin when she saw me and came over to where I was picking up towels and tossing them in a laundry basket.

"Hi, Jack!" she said, and I'd have sworn she fluttered her eyelashes at me just the least little bit.

"Hi, Rose," I said, and I was about to correct her on my name, when I paused. I don't know what made me hesitate; maybe it was because Jack was the first name she had ever called me, which sort of meant she had named me, and that pleased me for some obscure reason. But whatever the reason, I chose instead to comment on the huge beach towel she was carrying. It had a picture of mermaids in the ocean, breasts demurely covered by flowing locks of hair, and I remarked that I liked her towel, then pointed out where she could get a towel from a basket near the diving board if she ever forgot to bring the mermaids with her.

"Do you swim, Jack?" she asked, and I realized I had better correct her sooner rather than later. "My name's really Brent," I told her with a smile, "when I said I was Jack of all trades, that was just an expression. And yes, I do swim, but not as much as you'd think for someone who's around a pool all the time. And I'd kind of like it if you keep calling me Jack. It'll always remind me of how we met." She blushed just a little, then nodded. "Okay, Jack it is," she said, and it has been ever since.

Rose swam for a while, then got out and sat down at the table with me to talk. She told me about her parents' divorce, about moving from place to place with her mom, and about how with each move, she hoped it was the last one, that she could just settle into one place for a while and get to make friends. She spent a lot of time talking about how horribly lonely she was. She rambled for a long while, and I just let her. I could see how easy on the eyes she was going to be when she got older, how sweet and pretty she was just then. Looking back on it now, I can see that it was wrong to entertain such thoughts, but at the time, it was pleasant just to sit there and imagine what she would look like when she got to be 16, 18, 20 years old.

Rose started asking all about me. Where did I stay, how did I like being a handyman, did I have many friends? I wound up telling her far more than I intended. Far, far more. I shared with her that I didn't have any friends either, so I knew all about loneliness, and how bad it felt to just want to have someone to call friend, someone to be closer to than anybody else on earth. It felt so good, so very damned good, to get even a little of it off my chest that it was like a narcotic, and I had to keep talking to keep taking hits of that feeling. I felt like I was floating, or maybe drifting on some unseen tide, literally high with the sensation of being able to share my heart. I swear I don't know how we got so close, so fast, it just happened, and I don't know how it could have happened any differently. I even wound up showing her my room behind the pool, which she thought was fantastic. To her, living behind a swimming pool seemed like an adventure, like having a neat hiding place in plain sight.

7

...maybe millions of people go by, but they all disappear from view... I Only Have Eyes For You (The Flamingos)

After that, we saw each other on an almost daily basis. She spent a lot of time around the pool, and I told her that if she ever needed to just get away and be alone for awhile, she was welcome to go into my room even if I wasn't there. I went so far as to show her where I hid the spare key to my room, and then as I also showed where I hid the spare key to the soda machine, I extracted a promise from her not to overdo it on the root beer; also to be extra careful to never get caught. A distant alarm was going off in the back of my head, trying to warn me about the danger I was setting myself up for; but I didn't heed it, I shoved it down as much as I could so I could just enjoy Rose's friendship. Twice in that first week alone, she came into my room and sat on the cot or the floor while I turned on the radio or played a cassette and we talked about our lives, our hopes, our likes and dislikes, and basically just cemented a lifelong friendship.

The strongest connection we had right at the start was our mutual loneliness. I think we recognized something in each other, something of the savage hunger for companionship that hunted us down like animals and nailed us in the heart. Rose told me that her mom, Marjorie, had left her dad, Stan, when she was six, taking her on a cross-country trek from one city to another, hunting down relatives to latch onto, as she made a desperate effort to get back on her feet as a single mom. With each move, the strain of making friends, then having to give them up, had been devastating to Rose. She was starting to feel, she confided, that she was never going to have so much as one good friend all her life. Marjorie tried to be there for her as much as she could, but all too often Rose had been left alone in whatever apartment or boarding house they were in at the time while her mom tried to get on with the business of surviving. She didn't blame her mom, but she fiercely missed having her dad around. She started to mist up as she talked about him, and I could see a full cloudburst on the horizon. I was bold enough to hold her face in my hand and dab at the corner of her eye with my thumb. "Life is long, Rose," I offered as I gazed into those huge innocent eyes, "and nobody knows what waits for us. You might get your dad back yet. I admit, it seems unlikely, but you just have to hold onto that hope. Sometimes hope is the only thing we have." She sniffled and snuffed and wiped her eyes, and her watery smile was a thing of such radiant beauty that it reached into my chest and squeezed my heart so hard that I almost started crying myself.

As she probed gently into the reasons for my loneliness, she wanted to know about my past loves. Had I ever been married? What was it like? Did I miss them? Did I want to get back with them? I mentioned Iris briefly, describing her as my first love (which drew a big dreamy sigh from Rose); as I told her, I got a strange sensation in my stomach that had something to do with my telling her about Iris, when I had never so much as mentioned that part of my life to Lilly. Of course, she wanted to know all about my relationship with Iris, and I obliged the best I could by dredging up my feelings and leaving out the pseudosex. When I said that I had often called Iris on the phone just before going to bed because I wanted her voice to be the last thing I heard before going to sleep, Rose produced a weird little wail; I thought at first something was wrong with her, but then she drew a huge breath and, laying a hand on my shoulder and gazing earnestly into my eyes, told me that was the most romantic thing she'd ever heard. I hadn't thought of it in those terms before, and it gave me a slow flush of pleasure to consider it. Then I gave Rose a quick sketch of my life with Lilly. I couldn't have gone into too much detail without talking about our sex life, so I kept it short and sweet. It really wasn?t fair of me to do that to Lilly, telling Rose about the heartbreak and agony of the walkout, and not telling her about the beginning, about the three most ecstatic months of my life that Lilly gave me before she walked out. In the end, what Rose understood about me was that out of a life of 38 years, less than 2 of them had been with a partner, and less than half that time had been happy for me.

See, Rose is so smart. She's sharp, and she started picking up on my moods right away, knowing when I needed a little extra zaniness to pull me out of a bad spot. It felt so good to get so much attention from another person, especially one as funny and as quick as my little Rose, that I willfully blinded myself to her age; too often, I thought of her not as a 10-year-old, or as a little girl, but as a confidante and pal. Chums. And I loved her as such, although I didn't use the word love at that time when I thought about our relationship. To tell the truth, I don't think I ever really thought about our relationship at all, at that point. There was nothing to think about, nothing to analyze. She was simply my best friend, my only friend, and I knew I was fond of her, and that was about it. No tortured soul-searching, no endless self-fought battles over the meaning of our relationship. Yet.

One thing I did notice (and it should have set off warning bells in my head) was that I no longer seemed to be instinctively drawn to the women who came to swim. Sure, I still noticed them, but more and more often as I fantasized about them, I realized it was an effort to do so. The sex-crazed daydreams that had crowded my skull and refused to leave, that had taken up permanent residence in my thoughts, suddenly found themselves on the back stoop, crowded around the door, knocking and yowling to come back in; and it took an act of will to force myself to recapture the lust. I don't know when I finally gave up forcing it, but I do know that I did. I might have chalked it up to long overdue maturity, or simply having Rose's friendship to fill the void, but whatever it was, I didn't bother to analyze it; I simply accepted it. The ladies fell out of favor, and I couldn't bother myself to mourn the loss...

8

...you look through the years and see what you could have been, oh, what you might have been, if you had had more time... Take The Long Way Home (Supertramp)

I believe Marjorie knew how much time Rose was spending at the clubhouse, but I didn't think she had any idea that most of that time was spent with me, or how close we had become. At the meet and greet, I could tell Marjorie had had a few drinks before she came, because she seemed a little unsteady, and at the clubhouse bar she had mixed herself some kind of cocktail and was nursing it along. While Rose fed quarters into the Ms. Pac-man machine (knowing she could go get the key and get her quarters back once she was alone), Marjorie chatted me up, leaning in just a little too close and putting her hand on my back just a little too often. I tried to pretend she was hitting on me, but I knew it wasn't really so; the sense of her slipping sobriety was all the explanation I needed. She got so close that I could actually feel the warmth of her body on my skin, and the feel of her fingers in the small of my back got my attention like nothing else would have. I wanted to return the gesture, to put my fingers on her back, to be able to feel her, to have that contact (however briefly), as a promise, a prelude to something more; wanted it so badly, was burning with it, a man on fire, but I didn't dare, didn't trust myself, didn't trust the situation. Still, it fueled a pleasant daydream in which I was dating Marjorie and being a father to Rose. Marjorie told me about her divorce, seemingly reluctant to discuss it yet somehow driven to get it out; as if she owed me some kind of backstory on the little girl I was seeing so much of. Stan had made a game effort to keep in touch with Rose, Marjorie admitted, as they fled (her word) from one place to another; at least for the first handful of months. Stan sent birthday cards and Christmas gifts, and he actually talked to Rose on the phone two or three times, but he could never get anything worked out to come and see her, or to have her visit him. In the end, Stan had just drifted out of the picture. Marjorie hadn't wanted any alimony or child support, because she honestly just wanted to put Stan behind her forever. Many times she regretted that decision, especially when she got laid off from one menial job after another and had to keep starting over somewhere else. As her confession trailed off, her eyes seemed to go out of focus, roving about the clubhouse. When she had made a full circuit of the room, her gaze came back to rest on me, and she put a hand on my back, rubbing briefly (!) and moving up to rest the hand on my shoulder (!). She leaned in consipiratorially, until her mouth was only inches from my ear; but when she spoke, it was in a normal conversational tone of voice. She thanked me for befriending Rose, and something in the way she worded it made it sound like I was doing it out of some kind of honor or pity or nobility. She was grateful beyond words (she said) for having me around to treat her daughter so nicely. I realized then that Rose had been telling her mother about me; the tiny alarm got a little louder at the thought of her finding Rose and me alone in my room, but I had started to get pretty good at muffling the alarm, and this was just one more. Marjorie admitted that she didn't have as much time for Rose as she should have, and she genuinely regretted robbing Rose of a stable childhood. She had a steadier job now than what she had been surviving on, and it looked like she was actually going to be able to stay put for a while. Even so, she was gratified that Rose should have made such a good friend of me. She'd rather have her daughter spending time in a clean place close by with a decent guy like me to look out for her, than out there, who knows where, doing who knows what, with who knows what kind of creeps. I wasn't quite sure how to take it that I had been granted status as "not one of the creeps". I supposed it was comforting, to think that something about me encouraged that kind of trust.

9

...smile relieves a heart that grieves, remember what I said, I'm not waiting on a lady, I'm just waiting on a friend ... Waiting On A Friend (The Rolling Stones)

Summer ended, and so I lost my time with Rose during the weekdays while she was in class. For Rose, school was school. Nothing special, just boring classes and crappy lunches. She was naturally good at English and hated math, same as me. I tried to tutor her on math the best I could, and we struggled through the homework together. Many nights Marjorie had to work late, but Rose didn't mind, because it gave her the opportunity to tap my brain. We sat there together on the couch, sometimes side by side, our legs almost touching as I breathed in the heady atmosphere of her presence, sometimes curled up on opposite ends of the couch with our feet together, engaging in the occasional foot fight and trying to tickle each other with our toes. In school she had made a few acquaintances, girls with names like Brittany and Callista and Jalisha, but they were all a year or two older than Rose, and she confided to me that she couldn't really consider any of them to be friends, especially since she knew that next year, they'd all make the move up to junior high, leaving Rose to flounder by herself for a year. Still, they provided fodder for her stories and quips. I've wondered countless times since then, if she hadn't had me as her first close friend, whether it would have turned out differently, whether she would have made better friends with kids at school.

Rose came bouncing in one brisk September evening with even more sparkle than usual, to tell me that her mom had just bought a desktop computer and signed up with the complex's Internet provider. It was an older computer that Marjorie had found at Goodwill, cheap but servicable. Rose was so happy at the thought of what that represented, to her anyway; a commitment by her mom to stay in one place, not move out in another couple of months. She said she'd love to have me come over sometime to surf the web with her, and I made a noncommittal noise. I was somehow uneasy with the thought of visiting her in her apartment, and it just felt right to keep my distance, from that place anyway. I was afraid of the dynamics of the situation, of being in close quarters with both Rose and her mom. Rose kept after me, until I finally relented and came over one October night, maybe a couple of weeks before Hallowe'en. Marjorie greeted me at the door, putting a glass of wine in my hand and gripping my elbow, gesturing to the corner of the living room where Rose was perched at the card table where the computer had been set up. I pulled up a chair to sit beside her, watching as she showed me a couple of cutesy little girly games (her words), Hallowe'en screensavers, dancing animals, and a LOT of video on Youtube. Every once in a while, she'd hit a site that was blocked. Marjorie had apparently been given some free software as a bonus for signing up, and not knowing what any of it was for, just installed all of it. One of those items was a site blocker, protection that was supposed to allow parents let their children have free reign on the web without having to worry about inappropriate content. The first few times we hit that block, Rose just shrugged it off and went on. But before the night was over, she was getting more and more annoyed with the censorship. At one point, she looked around to make sure Marjorie was out of earshot, then pulled me close to whisper urgently, her lips almost brushing the surface of my ear, "Do you think you can figure out how to get this block thing turned off?" I shared her sideways glance at Marjorie, then slowly shook my head. 'I don't know', I mouthed, 'but I'll see what I can do.' Mentally, I took note of a few of the blocked site names (prettyposy.com, pots-n-shox.com, stuffermaker.com, letsdoanotherone.com, 3 or 4 others) making a silent promise to somehow research their content before giving in to such a request. I scribbled down and stashed the name of the site blocking product, figuring I could use a machine at the library to try to do the research, logging onto their network using the serial number on my library card to gain access. Surprise. Even though the library didn't use that site blocker, they used some different product that did the same thing, so I couldn't check any of the sites Rose had been blocked from; except one, slideitin.com. I was mildly surprised to see that the library's blocker allowed through a site that had been blocked on Rose's machine, and this was how I first realized what big differences there can be in software products. The one other thing I was interested in, wasn't blocked; it was the online owner's manual for the site blocker on Rose's computer. The vendors had been nice enough to include profuse illustrations showing exactly how to manipulate their product, including selectively allowing certain sites through at will. The only stitch in the deal was that the whole process was guarded by a password; but knowing something about Marjorie and her state of mind most of the time, I knew it was a pretty safe bet she'd never changed the password from the default that was staring at me from the pages of the onscreen user's manual. Just for giggles, I tried to access the online manual for the product that was in use on the library computer. Surprise again; the site was blocked. When I logged off, the site blocker included a little slap in the face for good measure; a popup window thanked me, addressing me by name (Brent) and library card serial number, and displayed how many restricted websites I'd tried to visit (27) in a 15.3 minute session. Actually made me shiver a little, to think how much information had been collected on me just then.

10

...put your tiny hand in mine, I will be your preacher, teacher... ... Father Figure (George Michael)

Rose kept me young. She was always cracking jokes and she really knew how to make me laugh until my sides hurt. She listened to a lot of music I'd never heard before. I bought her a Y-connector for her MP3 player so we could both listen to her tunes, artists with names like Pink, Evanescence, Staind, Creed, Hoobastank, and I played my cassettes and CDs for her, exposing her to classics like the Beatles, Stones, Doors, Zeppelin, Springsteen and so on. Even though she had a Pink Floyd shirt, she'd never heard their music before, and turning her onto "Dark Side of the Moon" was especially gratifying. Because it was all new to her, it became like new to me also. I was hearing it through her ears, and it was sweet to rediscover newness in music I had listened to for so long. Rose dropped by my room every day, often just popping in unannounced, flopping down on the floor and hooking her legs up over my cot, and launching into an account of her day at school or whatever else came into her head. In my turn, I discovered I always had a little bit more of my life to share, my insights and disappointments, whatever seemed germane to the conversation, and she drank it all in, never so much as batting an eye. She was my precious. She was my ray of sunshine. She was My Rose.

From time to time, Rose asked if I had ever found a way around the website blocker. This was the first and only deliberate lie I spoke to her; I told her no, I hadn't solved it yet, and that I would keep trying. 'Only a little longer,' I told myself, 'just hold her off until she's 13, you can do that, can't you old man, help her hold onto her innocence for as long as you can?'

Life went on. Rose was growing up before my eyes, and it was the day before her 11th birthday when I first realized what a struggle it was becoming, not to think about her "like that". I'd been having trouble coming up with a birthday gift for her, and when I caught myself looking seriously at bikinis, I got scared, really scared, to realize how much pleasure it gave me to picture Rose in one. Pervert, I bitterly denounced myself, filthy monster. Reality kicked in, I took a step back and forced myself to remember she was still just a little girl; I bought her a huge teddy bear instead. As it turned out, Marjorie gave her a bikini anyway, a flimsy white thing with red roses on the crotch and bra, with a cut identical to Marjorie's own flag bikini (a blue bra with a white star in the center of each cup and tied together with spaghetti strings, and a red and white vertically striped panty that rode up so high on the hip that top to bottom, you could clearly see some part of her entire body). Ye gods.

I could see more clearly all the time the woman Rose was becoming. The growth of her breasts was gradual; I'd sometimes look back at the Rose in my memory and realize the Rose in front of me was subtly bigger. Her butt was swelling magnificently as her hips expanded. 'Nuff said. I was still too nervous to approach any of the women I saw around the complex, and they all seemed to be married or dating anyway. Marjorie and I talked a few times, but nothing ever came of it. Several times when she came down to watch Rose swim, or occasionally get in the pool herself, she’d sit and chat with me, drink in hand. I caught on quickly and started keeping a bottle of Bacardi close by, just in case. I was getting distinct impressions that she was flirting with me. After these chats, I'd realized I'd probably been flirting back. It was probably only the second or third time we'd chatted before she started punctuating her remarks with a hand on my arm or shoulder, lingering just a little bit longer each time. It took me a little longer, although I did finally get the nerve to start touching her the same way. I realized as I leaned over to touch her for the first time that I could see through the open spaces in her clothes, the gaps where her shirt parted, to see her chest, her ample round breasts, and even inside her bra, I could just pick out the darker red of her areola resting against the white of the cup. Yeah, I was ashamed of myself for looking, but that didn't stop me. It got to where I was finally comfortable enough around her that I thought I could ask her out, but the only vehicle I had access to was the complex's rickety old pickup, and I would have felt an utter fool borrowing her car to take her out; so we just slid by each other like two ships that pass from a safe distance.

I still hadn't given up my habit of using stroke books; I always kept one magazine around at any given time, but the sense of shame was as strong as ever, and I knew that I had to take even more care to keep it secret. Simply stashing it in my underwear drawer wasn't safe enough anymore, so I made a false bottom for that drawer from a scrap piece of plywood. Honestly, it was pretty effective; the plywood was a close enough match to the inside of the drawer that even I wouldn't have suspected anything if I hadn't known. This was a secret that I absolutely HAD to keep hidden; there was no way I wanted Rose to know I looked at porn, and I sure as hell didn't want anybody who knew about our friendship to know, either.

My relationship with Rose and my porn habit were the two ways I kept my loneliness at bay, and I tried to keep those two sides of my life carefully segregated. Any time I found myself straying, accidentally thinking about Rose the wrong way, I managed to pull myself back on course, and was proud of my effort at correcting the slow drift. Thankfully, the sight of Marjorie in a bikini was a blessedly welcome distraction to keep my thoughts away from Rose.

In December, I was caught completely off-guard when Rose told me she'd gotten her first period. She was very shy about it, but also bursting to tell me; "You'll never ever ever guess what I got today as a late birthday present..." spoken with her head down to the floor but her eyes rolled up to see me. I was pouring a cup of coffee at the time. When I professed ignorance, she told me, almost too quietly to hear,"...my period," and the pot slipped in my hand and I scalded myself, although I kept Rose from seeing it. She told me she'd discussed it with Marjorie, who had sat down with her for a belated discussion of the facts of life that proved frustrating and unsatisfying for Rose. She could tell her mother was not very engaged in the conversation, and she still had more questions than answers. All she'd really gotten from the talk was how important it was to keep herself clean, and how to use tampons and pads. My hands were actively shaking by this point, and it was as I tried to cover my nerves by taking a drink of coffee, that I learned Marjorie had demonstrated, and then watched as Rose tried it herself to make sure she got it right, how to insert a tampon. Yeah, I know. No man in his right mind could have avoided feeling the way I did on hearing that, none of them would have been able to get that image out of his head either. I was gratified that Rose chose to ask me to help her fill in the gaps, but I was achingly nervous as to how to word it. We talked about getting pregnant, and as delicately as I could, I described the mechanics by which sperm is introduced to egg, and the fact that there are only a few days each month when that could happen, before the egg gets washed away by blood. I left out the part about the man's penis getting stiff and the woman's vagina getting wet. I was too scared to discuss the concept of sexual desire, although I did use the word 'cum' and then immediately blanched inwardly at the explicitly sexual images it conjured for me. It didn't seem to occur to Rose to wonder how a limp penis could be inserted into a vagina, but then again, I don't think she knew to think in terms of limp or stiff. I don't know, maybe I'm fooling myself. But I do feel sure that she wouldn't have thought to get that information from the Internet; to her, the primary purpose of the web was entertainment. And her period was such an intensely personal and specific experience for her that I don't think it occurred to her she could find that information in such a general place as the web. At any rate, I thought I had dodged a bullet insofar as that Rose didn't ask me for more information on the male anatomy. I don't know how I would have answered her if she had; or at least, I didn't know at the time.

Love. God-damned love. I knew, I KNEW, God damn it, I KNEW, yet somehow prevented myself from knowing that I knew, that I was in full-fledged, card-carrying, romantic, spiritual, ecstatic, physical, mental, sexual, rapturous Love with her. What piecework is the possesor of one X and one Y, how fractured in reason, how separated in faculties, in form and moving how depressingly deluded, in action how like an idiot, in apprehension how like a moron.

How long had I been skirting the realization? How many mornings had I woken, remembering that I had dreamed of her the night before, yet been writing off my erections as normal morning occurrences that had nothing to do with her? But a feeling like this, a life-defining emotion like this, could only be hidden, even from myself, for so long, It was only a matter of time, really, before I was forced to confront it, to realize it existed. It only needed a catalyst, I suppose.

11

...once the words are spoken, something may be broken... ... What Can You Lose (by Stephen Sondheim)

The common room of the clubhouse had a console TV that had seen better years. The manager kept putting off replacing it, although he did finally spring for a DVD player to supplement the VHS job. The cabinet in the corner was stuffed with VHS tapes; the complex had started with a modest library, and with every tenant who moved out and left tapes behind, the collection grew. Many was the afternoon or evening when Rose and I would pull up the overstuffed couch and watch movies from that collection, or DVDs that I had checked out from the library, or rented (or traded for tapes that we had duplicates of), or that she'd borrowed from schoolmates. We both liked our popcorn plain and our soda cold and stolen. We went through phases where we'd zero in on a particular category; '70's comedies, Jamie Lee Curtis films, Hammer horror, Tim Burton movies, and so on. She was royally bemused by my confession that there were two movie scenes that made me cry every time; the very end of "The Wizard of Oz" and the airport scene in "Casablanca". Rose wanted to put it to the test, and I obliged her, both by watching the films and by shedding a few tears, as I knew I would, when the aforementioned scenes came on.

So it hit me as a fiercely unnerving epiphany one Saturday night in January when we watched "Dick Tracy" (as a segue from a Warren Beatty retrospective to films that had been made from comics); midway through the picture, there's this scene where Mandy Patinkin is singing a duet with Madonna, "What Can You Lose?" Now, I challenge you to come up with a more perfect anthem for unrequited love than that song. Anyway, Rose and I were sitting fairly close together like we always did, our legs almost but not quite touching, her hand carelessly draped in the space between our legs, actually touching my leg through my sweats, and as the lyrics to this song played out, I felt like I'd been slugged in the face with a shovel. The song was reaching into my chest and ripping out the ribcage. There it was, right in front of me, breathing in my face, my dilemma all wrapped up in a perfect package, telling me that I loved her. Not only that I loved her, but also that I needed to tell her of my love, and in the same breath forbidding me to do it, partly because I might scare her or confuse her into retreating, but mostly because she was just a baby and I was well into middle age, and it was WRONG, just dead WRONG. In those few seconds, the weight of the years, the agony and emptiness and sheer need, overwhelmed me, because the answer to it all was sitting right beside me, yet we might as well have been on different planets. Before I knew what was happening, I was bawling like a baby and struggling mightily to prevent Rose from seeing my tears. Of course, that failed utterly. Rose was startled to see me weeping so profusely, and she wanted to stop the film. I told her no, I was fine, I just wanted to finish watching, but she kept a close eye on me for the rest of the night. When we parted, Rose gave me the first hug she'd ever trusted herself to give; shy and fiercely protective at the same time, she squeezed me tight around the middle and laid her head on my chest, telling me that she could hear my heart beating, and what a wonderful sound it was. Up close like that, I was able to take her in as a whole; filling up my arms, my eyes, my nose. The aroma, the simple sheer redolence of her skin, a smell uniquely human and uniquely her. Her breasts, little mounds of firm flesh, smashed up against me, boring into me, drilling through me, demanding recognition, and I was sure I could feel the firmness of her nipples against my stomach as she gripped me. As I looked down, she turned her face up to gaze earnestly into mine, and as we stood there, swaying imperceptibly in a nonexistent breeze, her lips were close, so close, too close, and I really have no idea how I kept myself from smothering her mouth with kisses right there and then. If I learned every language on earth, I still wouldn't be able to describe my feelings at that moment. Sweet, sweet, unbearably sweet, Hellishly sweet torture, to go so far and no further. But at least for now, I had part of her. There were more hugs to come; just a few, here and there; enough to look forward to with hungry anticipation. But it was that night, when we watched "Dick Tracy", that I finally admitted to myself just how deeply in I'd gotten. I no longer had the crutch of self-imposed ignorance. Bare before the all-seeing eye of desire and regret, pinned in place like a creature being vivisected by it's own need to give and receive love, and it HURT, worse than any pain I'd ever felt before, physical or otherwise.

12

...This is the end, my only friend, the end... I'll never look into your eyes again... can you picture what will be, so limitless and free, desperately in need of some stranger's hand... The End (James Douglas Morrison)

There came a sullen, gray day in February when the world seemed to be standing still; the sky was a leaden blanket of ice clouds that shut out any hint of light or warmth, indifferently dropping ice pellets on both the just and the unjust, on the lonely and unloved. It was on this day that Rose learned her father was dead. At around 5:30 in the afternoon I started to worry about her, since I usually saw her before that time of day. She didn't show up at the clubhouse until later, almost 8 o'clock in the evening, and when she did show up, I learned immediately what had happened. Her eyes were streaming before she even got the words out, and she threw herself into my arms and hugged me tight to her with a fierceness that told me she was afraid of losing me too, as she choked out the details. Her mother had picked her up after school; an unusual occurrence in itself, that tipped Rose right away to the fact that something was wrong. (Marjorie's shift had her working until 5:30 or 6 most evenings, so Monday through Thursday Rose walked the mile and a half home; I made sure that my once-a-week errands using the complex's pickup coincided with school letting out on Friday afternoon, so I could give Rose a ride home.) This afternoon, though, Marjorie had been waiting for her. As they sat there, parked across the street from the school, she informed Rose that her father had been killed in an accident, a stupid hit and run as he was trying to cross a street. Marjorie had only found out that day, even though the accident had happened a couple of months before. I knew Marjorie must have been deeply affected by the news, maybe even devastated. Although she seemed to be getting by just fine without Stan in her life, in the little bit I'd heard her talk about him, I'd caught glimpses of a much deeper story I knew I'd get to the bottom of someday. For now, though, I was getting a picture of mother and daughter sitting there in the car, Marjorie holding Rose tenderly and Rose in mortal agony.

Rose was doubly inconsolable in that she had not only lost her father, but hadn't even found out in time to be able to go to his funeral or say goodbye. Not that she would have been able to travel to where the funeral was anyway, but the thought of not even having the chance, of having the illusion of choice snatched from her, made it so much worse. Between great heaving convulsions and trembling spasms, she said it was like having all the air sucked out of the room before she'd even had a chance to take a deep breath. She sobbed and shuddered for the rest of the evening, and her grief was so great that it became my grief too, my pain, and I joined her in crying and aching. We just sat there on the floor of my room, with her in my lap like a frightened, lonely child, her soft girl arms around me, choking the breath from me, a heavenly pressure. We held each other while I stroked her hair and tried to soothe her the best I could, hoping the feeling of being held close eased her as much as it satisfied me. I was heartbroken for her, and furious with fate for having delivered such a careless backhand to such a precious one, but the majority of my emotion was reserved for a nauseous shame at the erection that had erupted in my lap, and the twists and writhings I had to carefully manage, so as to prevent Rose from learning firsthand of my wretched desire. If she felt my hardness as she straddled me, she gave no indication of it, just kept squeezing me tight, as if she meant to absorb me into her, to have our chests melt together so that our hearts could touch. "Oh God, oh G-God," she wailed, "don't you l-l-leave me t-too, Jack," she sobbed, "don't you d-d-dare ever leave me, promise me you won't go, Jack, p-promise! S-s-swear it, Jack, swear you'll never go away!" And I had to swear, even though I knew we had no control over the gutwrenchings Fate likes to deliver. I certainly had no plans to go, but then neither had Stan... The one thing I had over him, I reflected, was that I had Rose. That was more than enough inducement for me to fight for every last second here.

13

...sometimes love can be mistaken for a crime... Father Figure (George Michael)

Rose had been eagerly anticipating my Mayday birthday, and on that day, she presented me with a little bottle of Old Spice. Something in what she said when she gave it to me made me think she chose it because she'd remembered Stan having worn it. I was just grateful for the thought. With the cologne, she also presented me with a chocolate cake she'd baked herself, white frosting with a huge blue 39 written in icing. We spent the rest of the night eating cake and playing Gin Rummy. I remember it so vividly; I can close my eyes at any moment and replay the whole thing in perfect detail... we were sitting on the floor of the common area, on either side of the coffee table, the subdued lighting from the corner lamps softening the entire room, the smell of Old Spice that I had applied drifing through the evening, the radio gently flooding the room with jazz from the university station. Jokingly, I thanked Rose for putting the big blue 39 on the cake, for rubbing my face in it, and in retaliation she reached over and pushed the piece of cake in my hand into my face, rubbing frosting on my cheek. She reached up to wipe the gob of frosting from my face with her thumb and then stuck that thumb in her mouth to slowly slurp the white goo off, grinning like an imp, a demon, as she did so, and giving me a minor heart attack in the process.

That was the night I finally let myself go over the edge; after she had gone home and I was laying there in my room, alone in the dark, slowly stroking, I deliberately chose to invite Rose into my private fantasies. Please don't mistake this action. There was nothing raunchy or unredeemably sexual in those thoughts, although not from lack of trying on the part of my libido. Every time the little head tried to make me picture a penetration, the big head forced it back to something suitably R-rated. A visualization of her jumping into the pool only to lose her bikini in the water and have to exit the pool naked, while I waited with a towel to dry her off. A scene of her in my room, standing over my cot, posing innocently in the nude and asking which feature I thought was her best. That night was the first time I consciously chose to visualize her, to acknowledge to myself that the feelings I had were not only romantic, but sensual, sexual, physical. I tried to avoid thinking about her any more after that night, but it was too late. I had opened the bottle, and the genie wouldn't go back in. Rose came to occupy the center of my fantasies, although we never progressed in my head even as far as heavy petting, only a tender kiss here and there. Lancelot complex even in my flippin' private fantasies, for crying out loud, lust for the lady but respect her, never touch her, until she makes a move, until she comes to you begging for it...

I knew the word for what I was, but I couldn't make it stick, couldn't make myself believe that I had become that. Pedophile. Child-lover. Pervert. Filth. It couldn't be true, but it had to be. I was attracted to Rose, sexually attracted. I wanted to see her naked, wanted to touch her nakedness, hold her close in the dark. Did it matter that there was more to it? That it was the whole person I wanted, her mind and her spirit, her humor, her pain, her gentle trust, her heart, and not just her body? But I wanted her body as well, and I just couldn't get past that. Why did I want so badly to feel her skin against mine, her lips on mine, her breath in my ear? Why did I want to just have her near me, laying with me, holding her close and stroking her hair, her limbs, her tummy, her hips, her thighs, the creamy flesh between her legs... God! God! Stop it, stop tormenting me, stop pushing me, stop the burning, for God's sake, PLEASE!

14

Life's like a road that you travel on, one day here and the next day gone... Life is a Highway (Tom Cochrane)

It wasn't too long after, that I bought Rose a bike. It was a display model at Toy Barn, a little beat up from the constant parade of kids who had tried it out, but they let me have it for 25 bucks. Rose didn't mind the wear and tear, she was thrilled just to have it. She had lost her last bike (that she was too big for anyway) two or three moves ago, and the restoration of wheels meant we could ride places together. I instructed her to lie to her mother and tell her I had found the bike abandoned in a storage shed; I was worried Marjorie might object to my having bought it for Rose without the convenient excuse of a birthday or holiday as justification. It worked out beautifully. We rode together everywhere that spring, but our favorite places to go were Dannan Park (where we rode the swings and watched little kids playing in the sandbox), the overlook on Griffin Ridge that commanded a view of the tree-choked valley floor next to the river, and the Goodwill shop on Maynard Avenue where we spent happy hours rooting around for treasure in other people's castoffs. Idyllic.

Believe it or not, I had never ridden "look Ma no hands" before. With Rose's encouragement, I gradually came to an understanding of gravity and balance that allowed me to match her in riding with my hands at my sides, steering with careful shifts of my weight. We had contests to see who could go the longest without grabbing the handlebars, and I actually won three or four times (although I think Rose let me win half of those because she felt sorry for me). Whenever we raced to the Petro4Less in the Sangreal Plaza, she always won, but when the race was to the Audi dealership at the top of Parkway Lane, I always won; I think it was because I was able to put more power into that last steep uphill part after we got through the intersection. Not that it ever really mattered, I don't think either of us really gave a damn who won, the actual pleasure was in just being together.

We used the truck a handful of times. The first few outings were nothing but fun. I have particularly fond memories of an overcast Saturday afternoon in May when we went to the flea market over in Peace Landing, the one that sets up every weekend in the parking garage of the abandoned Holiday Inn. We oohed and ahhed over a vast array of junk and gewgaws, and traded little idiocies that us both breathless with laughter. On the ride home, after stopping at the Dairy Suite for a couple of butterscotch malts, she dozed off in the cab, slumped against my side, and for 20 heavenly miles or so, with my arm draped over the back of the seat, I had the blessing of feeling her warmth as she nestled against my shoulder, her soft snoring providing a delicious counterpoint to the bluegrass and Celtic ballads provided by the university's radio station. Then there was the Sunday that I took her to the Rerun Cinema, that little space in the Goldenview Mall that had housed several small businesses over the years, until somebody converted it into a kind of art theater whose bill of fare was confined to "the classics". That was where we saw a retrospective of Fleischer Inkwell cartoons; Koko and Bimbo and Betty Boop. Needless to say, she spent the better part of the next month talking like Betty Boop every time she saw me, cooing "Boop a doop a doop, ooh!", twisting her hair and tossing her head back with a wicked roll of her eyes. The nutcase.

The last time we used the truck that summer, an oppressively muggy night near the middle of August, was when we went to the drive-in just off of County 616. That outing was a long night's journey into Hell. I had thrown a bunch of blankets in the bed of the pickup, and when we got there I backed into our stall, then we sat down together in the bed with our backs against a couch cushion I had propped against the cab, to watch all three Matrix films shown as a triple-feature; a jumbo-sized bag of popcorn between us and a six-pack of birch beer on the wheel well. I still hadn't quite gotten over the shock of Marjorie saying yes to this little outing, after Rose asked a mere three times. Once again, Marjorie assured me (over a six of Molson's) that her trust in me was absolute, and she knew Rose would be safe with me. Gratitude or guilt. Probably a fiercely unhealthy mix of both. Rose was beside herself with joy at the prospect of staying up past 3 am on a Friday night. At a drive-in, for God's sake. I had seen the first film in it's original run, and worried a little over the intense level of violence, but thought the climactic scene, with the full-blown Snow White ending where the hero is brought back to life by True Love's Kiss, was appropriately gooey enough that Rose and I could both enjoy it on the same level without too much danger. I hadn't seen the second or third films before, hadn't even read reviews. Thrice-Damned Idiot. The second film sent me on a roller coaster ride through the flames of damnation, a savage spectacle plunging me into the abyss and searing me many times over before emergence on the far side. I was pinned in place, skewered, when barely half an hour into that film, there was a fully nude sex scene, complete with climax. Actually, one sex scene intercut with several explitly suggestive near-sex scenes, underscored by an unrelenting, driving, raw, percussive bass line that left nothing to the imagination, a throbbing, insistent, primal urge with no escape possible save the one you knew and wanted so badly you could taste the blood at the back of your throat. I had seen much raunchier, many times before, this one didn't even show genitals; but watching it with Rose beside me was a rocketsled ride through the firey pit. Onscreen, Trinity clutched Neo to her as if they were on a journey through a galaxy of their own, and only by holding onto him with all her strength could she be assured of safe passage; and when Neo climaxed, I shivered in sympathy and knew I was lost. It wasn't just sexual, it was sensual; not sex, but lovemaking. As I watched from the corner of my eye for her reaction, I found my breathing labored and tense, and the heat rising in my pants was a foreign presence that could not be shut down. She never even looked over at me, just kept staring at the screen, and I tore myself up trying to decide whether that was good or bad, trying to get some clue from her reaction. Was she breathing hard? I couldn't tell, my own breathing drowned everything out. Gradually, I became aware that, just beyond the edge of the truck, past Rose, I could see into the back seat of the rocking car parked next to us. Turned my head hellishly slow, knowing what I would see on the other side. And I did; not immediately beside us, one space over, but suggestively recognizable through the back windows, a coupling. Bosch himself couldn't have painted me into a worse Hell. Still Rose stared straight ahead, and the need to know overwhelmed everything as I watched her chest intently to see that, yes, she was breathing deeper and harder than normal. After the scene was over, the only thing that seemed to change between us was when Rose nudged off her sandals and put the bottoms of her feet against my bared calf, leaving them there for most of the rest of the second film. Thankfully, the third film was a return to old-school violent mayhem, and even provided a tearjerker ending as a cherry on top.

For weeks afterward, those films were a sigificant spur to our conversations. Although we never discussed the sex scenes, there were moments, maddening, tantalizing, hint-from-the-heart-of-Hell moments, when she started to say something, then drew up short and changed it to something else. Did she know what she was doing? Did she know the effect she was having on me? It was like having a burning curtain between us. I knew the curtain was on fire, and I was certain she was aware of it too. Neither of us acknowledged it verbally, but too many sideways looks that seemed to linger just a little too long were darts of fire that pierced my spine.

Did she know I was having to hug my pillow to my chest at night, just to have something to touch, to pretend it was her I held? I couldn't tell what was worse, the slow burn of loneliness I had known before I knew Rose, the loneliness that tore me down day after day after endless day, or the rapid burn that was torching my heart now, burning it to a blazing cinder every night, only to be revived the next day by her first Hello.

15

...you don't really want to know just how far its gone, just leave well enough alone... Dirty Laundry (Don Henley)

The grass in the complex seemed especially fertile that summer, pushing up out of the earth at what felt like a ridiculous rate. I was mowing some part of the grounds almost every other day, pausing once in a while as Rose brought me ice water or lemonade. Part of the time I saw her watching me mow, keeping her eye on my shirtless circuit of the grounds, but there were long chunks of time when she was off by herself. It didn't take me long to learn she had been going to my room to listen to my music. On an especially humid evening a couple of weeks before school started, she showed me what she had been doing all that time she was alone with my tapes; she had been organizing them for me, cleaning up and matching cassettes to cases, re-labeling the dubbed ones and cataloging everything. She had created a mix tape, and she used both the tape and a tennis racket to put on an air guitar show. I sat on the common room couch and watched her prance and caress the "guitar" through a set that consisted of the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" (crackling with tension), Cheap Trick's Budokan version of "I Want You To Want Me" (necessarily calling to mind thousands of preteen Japanese girls who were all dying (dying, dying, dying) to rush the stage in a wave), Jerry Lee Lewis doing "Great Balls of Fire" (for which song she temporarily put down the "guitar" and pulled up a chair to use the coffee table as an air piano; at the point in the song where Jerry Lee jumps up and knocks his piano bench flying, Rose jumped up and kicked the chair back with such violence that it made me jump in my seat), and Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry". My God. Her performance of "Dirty Laundry" was the single most erotic thing I have ever seen. In my entire life. I mean that quite literally, I have never seen any performance, by any other person, before or since, that was more charged with sexual energy. When the song reached the first guitar solo, I actually stopped breathing for a moment at the wonder of it all. As the solo started, Rose was swinging her hips from side to side with the "guitar" slung low between her legs, her fingers moving in an amazing show of dexterity that I could almost believe would produce the sounds I was hearing if she actually had a guitar in her hands. Then she shifted to pumping her hips front to back, still stroking the neck, making love to the damn thing. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and suspected I was hallucinating it; she was openly humping the body of the "guitar", and her fingers seemed to have given up on imitating fret positions, choosing instead to stroke the neck as if she were gripping a phallus. As the solo rolled on, she did a strange little mincing dance step from right to left, then whirled and moved back from left to right in a duckwalk that was a perfect imitation of Chuck Berry; it was touching and hilarious and savagely sexy all at once, and it was all being done for me, a private audience of one. As the solo rolled to a close, she ran forward and dropped down, sliding the last few inches on her knees and holding the "guitar" upright between her legs as if it were something she were worshipping. That performance is acidly etched in my head, and I can recall any moment of it any time I want to simply by closing my eyes; and of course, whenever that song comes on the radio now, I have to turn away, lest I get too distracted to continue whatever it is I'm doing. When the set was over, sweat was pouring from every part of her body, and she came over to collapse on the couch.

"My God," I murmured, "that was unbelievable! You look like you're dying, let me get you a drink." As she took the cold root beer from my hand, deliberately touching my fingers to do so, she looked up at me without moving her head.

"Yeah, I've never done four songs in a row before," she grinned, "guess I need to build up a little more stamina." I plopped down next to her, wiping her face with a towel I'd brought over, and fanning her with it. "I'm so hot and sweaty," she panted, "you must think I look like some gross pig." No, I answered, your steaming hot sweaty body makes me think of things, but pigs aren't one of them. Then aloud, I said, "It's summer, you goof, you're supposed to be hot and sweaty. Trust me, you're beautiful."

"So you liked it?" Her grin told me she knew she didn't need to ask.

"Yeah, but Rose, I'm a little worried about contamination. I mean, I don't want to take you away from the kind of music kids your age listen to. I don't want you to grow up older than you should be." She sat forward at that and put her hands on her hips.

"Waitaminute. When these songs first came out, kids my age listened to them then, didn't they?" she demanded. I had to nod my head. "Well, this music was okay for kids then, so it must be okay now, right?" As I started to protest, she held up a hand. "Besides, it goes both ways. You listen to my music, right?" Again, all I could do was nod my head. "Well then, trust me. 'They say that a hero can save us, I'm not gonna stand here and wait'..." she sang with a gentle drawing out motion of her hands as encouragement to me, and I picked it up, "I'll hold on to the wings of the eagles," and then we finished together, "Watch as we all fly away." She reached over and grabbed hold of my shirt sleeve, and for a vertiginous few seconds, I was forcibly reminded of the first time Lilly had grabbed my shirt; and then she was climbing onto my lap, straddling my leg and leaning right down into my face in her earnestness. "And get this," she insisted, laying a hand on my chest, "even though you hate a lot of Disney's recent slop, we both liked 'The Goofy Movie', right? Right. And I know we both liked that Powerline song ('Tevin Campbell' I corrected silently), I-2-I, for the same reason. C'mon, you know what it is, say it." Rolling my eyes theatrically, I muttered something about the bass line. "That's it!" she beamed, "that fat, phat bass line." With a slowly dawning sense of recognition, I realized that I had heard it that time; the difference between fat and phat. My slowly spreading foolish grin told her she had won this round.

16

...strange what desire will make foolish people do... Wicked Game (Chris Isaak)

A year had come and gone, more than a year, really, more like 14 months. Rose was in sixth grade. Apart from the impending transition to junior high, she didn't find it to be much different that fifth grade, except perhaps a little... not really lonelier, she said, scrunching up her face (adorably) and trying to think of a better way to put it, finally setting for 'more isolated', because Brittany and her posse were gone. She said she didn't miss them, but the wistful way she said it made me think that wasn't quite entirely accurate.

We were in my room at the time, with the door ajar. I was trying to avoid any appearance of impropriety, and trying to keep myself honest with myself. The door to my room was at the end of the hallway, about three feet past the entrances to the locker rooms, and I knew if anyone were to overshoot those by even a couple of steps, they would see right into my room.

Rose was perched on the cot, her shorts displaying her gorgeous legs from the top of the thigh down, and her blouse carelessly open at the top button, so that every time she leaned forward, I was able to see the faintest shadow of the cleavage that would soon be there in earnest. I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, leaning back on my hands, waiting for the guts to ask my next question. I think I might have been more nervous than I ever had before in my life, when I finally screwed up the courage to come out and say it. "What about boys? Are there any that look interesting to you?" The responsible adult in me, the part that owned my conscience and guilt and repression, the part that obeyed the law and saw to it that I did the right thing by those less able to look out for themselves, was anxiously hoping to hear that she had discovered some stupid bohunk that took her breath away. The starry-eyed adolescent in me, the part that owned my sense of romance and love, my heart and soul and, yes, my aching manhood, cringed at the thought that I might hear the answer the adult was demanding. The two halves were waging a savage battle inside, kicking and gouging in the mud and the blood and the tears, fighting so hard that my ears were buzzing and my lungs were unable to completely fill. Rose, knowing nothing of this death struggle, thought I was teasing her, and she was just a shade put out as she told me that she had no more prospect or interest in snagging a boyfriend now than she had when they first arrived. Then, as the resentment gave way to her usual impish good humor, she slipped down to the floor and wrapped her arm around mine and hugged it tight to her as she grinned, "Anyway, Jack, you know you're the only man for me!" Holy God. My mixed emotions at this display were as divided as oil and water, and the play of of those emotions on my face didn't escape Rose's notice, because she asked if I was feeling all right. "I'm fine," I managed to choke out, "I'm just a little tired, I guess." Or a lot tired, of fighting with myself and playing with myself and, and, and... Goddamnit. "Well, that won't do," she chuckled, "you'd better lay down and rest for a bit." And she pushed on my chest until I gave in and laid back on the floor, turning to face her as she lay down next to me, her head propped up on her hand. She grew just a little more solemn as she reached over to brush the hair out of my eyes, and she said, "You know how much you mean to me, don't you, Jack? You're the best friend I could ever hope for. You look out for me and you take care of me and you make me laugh and, and... oh, Jack, I, I, I just, I just love you. You know that, don't you?" She was blushing, but only slightly, and I must have been blushing myself as I reached over to stroke the side of her face. "Yes, I know," I said, and taking a huge mental breath, pushed myself to say, "and I love you, too, Rose, with all my heart. You know that, don't you?" She flashed her usual pixie grin and and said, "What's not to love?" I had to laugh out loud at that, "You minx!"

I don't think I'll ever know which one of us moved then, or whether we both moved at the same time. All I know for sure is that the next thing I knew, we were wrapped up in each other's arms, holding each other tight, her face nestled into my neck, her gentle breath tickling my skin, her aroma filling my nose. I must have been acting on sheer instinct when I gently kissed the top of her head, my hand caressing and rubbing her back. The feel of her soft lips on my neck sent a delicious shiver down my spine, a lovely sensation that I never wanted to end; not quite a kiss, but damn near. I don't know how long we lay locked together like that; it might have been ten seconds, or a lifetime. What I do know is that I suddenly became aware of my erection surging, bulging in my pants, pressing into her thigh with an insistence I couldn't deny. We lay together like that for five or more minutes, the worry over what she would think of the erection being overwhelmed by the sheer joy of holding her close, feeling the mop of her hair filling my face. I knew this could only end in one of two ways, and I had to make it be the right way, for both of us. Pulling away from her was like pulling the flesh off my body, an agony that I forced myself to endure because to do anything else would have been a violation of her youth and her understanding of our friendship.

We chatted for probably twenty more minutes after that, and after a glance at the clock, I told her I needed to get started on shutting the pool down for the night. She nodded, her usual happy headbob letting me know everything was okay between us as she bounced out the door for home.

It was perhaps two or three weeks later when it happened. The night. The night that changed everything. The night that finally, firmly, irrevocably started us down this path. That night had been particularly slow. Rose had gone home at 7:00 to dinner and homework (an English paper that she was looking forward to writing on the computer, a review of Lewis Carroll's two Alice books), the last swimmer had left the pool at 9:30, and as the clock slowly crawled around to 10:00, I decided nobody else would be coming that night, so I went to the men's locker room to take a shower and get ready for bed. I took out my contact lenses and stashed them in the locker I had reserved for myself, the one closest to the shower. The entrance to the men's shower area, on the far side of the locker room from the entrance just outside my room, wasn't actually a doorway, really more of a large opening, probably ten feet wide. The shower area itself was a large open tiled room with eight shower heads around the walls, half of which could be seen from any angle in the men's locker room. I went to my favorite showerhead, the one with the softest spray, twisted the knobs, and waited for a few seconds until the water was nice and warm, then cranked it up as hot as I could stand it. As I stood there in the spray from the showerhead, I was thinking, as usual, about Rose. Once again, I forced myself to remember I shouldn't be thinking like that, and I tried to think about Marjorie instead, but it didn't work; Marjorie just evaporated as soon as I tried, and I was left with Rose by default. I had a full erection by now as I washed my body, and I slowly started to play with myself, picturing Rose in my mind and stroking and fondling myself with my right hand. In one of my dreams from the night before, we had been in the wave pool at some waterpark, the waves knocking us back, forcing her into me, and she had been laughing as she turned to face me and allowed the waves to force her deep between my legs, our crotches pressed tightly together. That was where the dream ended, and as hot water pounded down on my head, I chose to revisit that scene as a daydream to see where it took me. Not surprisingly, my erection (in the vision) emerged from my swimsuit, and as it ground into the panty of Rose's bikini, she looked a little shocked at first, then smiled her biggest, warmest smile and wrapped her arms around me, pressing up against me and straddling my leg, trapping my hardness between our thighs and grinding her little pussy up against it. I was breathing a little harder now, slightly shocked at my audacity in letting my imagination go this far, and quite unwilling to stop it. As the vision continued, I noticed that even though the wave pool was crowded, everyone else was too involved in their own struggles to stay afloat to pay any attention to us. I slipped my thumb under the material of her panty and pulled it aside. Her reaction was one of open-mouthed wonder, and then she bit her lip and after nodding vigorously to tell me to keep going, hugged herself close to me, her chin resting on my shoulder, her chest pressed up tight to mine. In one smooth motion, I slid my cock deep into her, all the way to the base, and her cry was one of wonder and surprise, with no pain whatsoever. It was as if her hymen had already been broken, there was no need to push through. We continued to bob along together, letting the ebb and flow of the waves gently push us together every time we started to slide apart. In the shower, I soaped up my hand again, then used the feeling of stroking my cock with my soap-slimed hand as a stand-in for Rose's little love tunnel wrapped around me. I squeezed harder and harder, massaging the head with my fingertips, and the familiar tingle started to make itself known. In the daydream, Rose had wrapped her legs around my waist, hugging me tight between her thighs and forcing herself onto me, to make sure I stayed buried deep inside her. I could tell it wouldn't be long now before I was shooting my load. As I turned around to feel the water on my back, I thought I saw a blur of color by the outer door of the men's locker room. I squinted, trying to make it out; without my contacts or glasses, it was a struggle. My first thought was that it was a towel that some tenant had left hanging on the hook by the door, but something about that explanation didn't seem quite right. Still I gripped my hardness, slowly stroking, and as I squinted toward the door, I thought I saw the blur move a little. I stepped out of the shower's spray and reached into the locker to get my glasses, but by the time I had them on and looked back at the door, there was nothing there. "Hello," I called uncertainly, holding a towel around my waist and sneaking over to the door to look out, "is someone there?" The hallway was empty, but I was sure for a fleeting instant I'd seen something or someone there, and I was scared that I had been caught jacking off. Nothing ever seemed to come from it, though, and I let it slip out of my mind.

When Rose seemed to pull away from me a little over the next few days, it literally never occurred to me to wonder if she had been the blur. After all, it was the men's locker room, I knew she wouldn't have come in there. As things seemed to cool down between us, I attributed it to nothing in particular. Maybe she was upset about something; if so, surely she would tell me sooner or later. We were pals, after all.

17

...fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night... All About Eve (Bette Davis)

As the days dragged into weeks and then into months, Rose drifted further from me. Several times I found her hanging around near my room, as if she wanted to come in and talk to me, but she always made some excuse and was on her way. She still came over for help with homework, and we still chatted about school and other little things, but it seemed that she was putting distance between us, as if she just wasn't as interested in hanging out with me as before. Our movie nights grew fewer and fewer, until finally we stopped watching movies altogether. She had begun to talk more and more about girls she knew in school, and how she anticipated hooking up with Brittany and her posse next year in junior high. It seemed like she was finally starting to find a niche in what I perceived as her peer group, and their interests seemed to be taking a more central role to her than ours had been. With a slowly dawning horror, I realized I was watching a replay of my life with Lilly. It hurt so much more than I wanted to admit, that I had let myself get so close to her that her absence caused me such horrible, real pain. It was actually physical, the pain in my chest, the hollow ache in my heart, and I would have pulled it out to escape the torment if I could have. I tried to rationalize it away with the thought that she was growing up, and probably starting to outgrow our friendship, but that actually made it worse. The thought that I needed her more and more just as she seemed to be needing me less and less, ripped through me like a werewolf on meth, like the hammer of Hell just kept smashing into my gut.

I let her 12th birthday slip by with only a card pushed under the door of her apartment. I had scrawled the words "Love, Jack" inside the card, and almost scratched out the word Love, because I was so miserable over the loss, before realizing how awful that would look. I actually cried myself to sleep that night, feeling in full measure the horrible parallels that had claimed us; just as she had become another Lilly to me, I had become another Stan to her; distant and drifting further away all the time. I cursed myself for a damned fool as I sank into the freezing depths.

Four months went by in this grotesque fashion. I still saw her several times a week, and she still smiled and joked with me, but the distance was palpable, the parting of the ways all too real. She stopped by my room about once a week now, and while we were still able to make comfortable small talk, I could see an edge there, a rawness that she couldn't conceal, and I supposed it was politeness on her part that was making her give me as much time as she did. Most of the time we were together, she kept her head down, as if it were difficult to look at me. I felt I should say something to release her, but I couldn't think of any graceful way to do it, and short and strained though it was, I would have missed even the bittersweet time with her. Toward the end, I resigned myself to just continue life the best I could. The truth was (I reasoned with myself), I had gotten way too comfortable. I had stopped looking for a "real" job long before, content to just hang out in the clubhouse and vegetate. As if this were a light bulb suddenly turning on over my head, I knew then that I should treat Rose's cold shoulder as a wake-up. This was a clarion call from the universe. It was time to pick myself up and get on with my life, get a real job and get on with the business of wishing I were dead.

It was late afternoon of a frosty February Friday when I had this revelation, and I spent the rest of the night trying to make myself feel I deserved to be congratulated on having escaped my doomed friendship with Rose. The night was almost over, it must have been past 11:00 pm, when Rose appeared at my door, asking to talk. I stood back to let her in and she came in and closed and locked the door behind her. That locked door definitely got my attention; I knew something big was up. We sat together on the floor of my room like we always had in the past. She had something she wanted to say, so I just kept silent and waited for her to start.

"Jack," she finally said after a very, very long pause, and I knew she was scared to death and looking for the courage to say something horribly difficult to me. My heart plummeted into my stomach as I tried to think of what would cause her such pain. "Jac...," she began again, and the word caught in her throat, so that she had to clear it and start over, "Jack", and then with halts and pauses and a blush that colored her whole head right down to her neck, she managed to choke out the words that were devouring her.

"Jack," she said, head down, voice so small I could barely hear her in the quiet of the night, "I, uh, I, uh, I saw you. In the shower. That night. That one night. That one night you were, uh, you, uh, you were rubbing. Uh, rubbing, uh, your, uh, rubbing your, uh...," and her voice became so soft that I had to read her downturned lips to know what she said, "your penis." I was beyond shock. I could feel the blood leaving my face as my heart raced to pump it all into my intestines, where it gurgled and squeezed and tied me up in knots. I felt like I had been caught raping puppies in front of a kindergarten class. It was an unbearable sensation, far beyond wanting to be dead; more like wanting to be erased from the universe, never to have existed in the first place.

Rose was still talking, and it took a supreme effort of will to keep listening. She had been looking for me that night, she said, because she wanted my opinion on her first draft of the Alice paper. When she couldn't find me anywhere, she took a chance on a peek inside the men's locker room, where she had seen me masturbating. The sight had caught her, fascinated her, and even as she tried to turn and walk away (she told me), something had held her in place, keeping her eyes locked on the spectacle of me sliding my hand up and down the shaft of my manhood, on the rigid flesh, on the sight of the head of my penis disappearing into my fist and re-emerging as I stroked. Ever since that night, she said, she hadn't been able to get the image out of her head. She lay awake in her bed every night, replaying the scene in her mind over and over in slow motion, trying to recapture every last second of the experience, trying to zoom in on the sight of my penis, lathered and wet, gripped firmly in my hand. When she realized how much energy she was devoting to it, she became worried that I would find out, scared of what my opinion would be, afraid I would think she was a nasty, dirty little monster, a perverted freak. She had distanced herself from me, she said, because she didn't want me to realize that all she could think about was my penis. She didn't trust herself around me, was afraid that when she was with me, I would see her staring at my crotch, trying to visualize what lay beneath the fly of my pants. Even so, she spent all her time trying to come up with a way to repeat the experience, to see me naked again, to get another look at my penis. She knew she couldn't risk another shower peek, because I might catch her and put a stop to it all.

Then she dropped the real bombshell. She confessed to having snuck into my room to poke around sometimes when I was out running errands or taking care of stuff around the complex, spying to see what else she could learn about my penis without having to go to the embarrassment of asking me. She admitted that on those occasions when I was out, she often rifled through the drawers of my dresser, stripping and putting on a pair of my underwear to pretend she was me, trying to imagine me laying there with my penis hanging out. It was on those occasions, when she was reaching through the fly of my underwear to see what it was like to feel for a penis, that she rediscovered a pleasure she had left behind many years ago. When she was very little, she whispered, maybe three or four years old, she used to lay on her bed and rub her "coochie" because it felt so good. She didn't remember when she stopped doing it, but now, years later, as she had lain on my cot and reached through the fly of my underwear that she was wearing, she suddenly rediscovered how good it felt to touch herself down there, and she had been playing more and more, until she was at the point where she was diddling on a daily basis. Her newly reinstituted "coochie rubbing" sessions made her feel good, really good, and she couldn't imagine why she had ever stopped.

Then she told me that during her underwear sneak sessions, she had found my pornography. She proved it by retrieving the book from under the false bottom of the dresser drawer, and I almost vomited when she did. She said at first she was confused, dazed, to think I would be looking at porn; then later she was eaten alive by it, driven nearly insane with the idea, because she didn't understand it; or rather, she thought maybe she did, but was desperate to ask about it, talk about it, get more information, but she didn't know where to turn or who to ask. The more she thought about it, the worse it got. Men and women, naked and touching, and she began to see it everywhere she went; looking at couples walking around school, holding hands or canoodling, and like a waking dream, she couldn't help but visualize them naked and doing it. She sneaked back in to my room on many other occasions to look at the magazine in my drawer; she had looked at and touched the penises in the photos many times over, but that only increased her desire to see the real thing in the flesh again, and more specifically, to see MY penis. That was what finally stoked her curiosity to the point where she couldn't contain it anymore.

"The more I looked at your magazine, the more I got this weird feeling in my stomach, and when I rubbed myself down there while I was looking at it, the weirder I felt. I can't describe it, because I've never had that feeling before," she whispered, her voice still so soft that I had to strain to make out the words. "I mean, rubbing my... my vagina... felt really good when I was just doing it, like when I was little, but when I did it while I was looking at the magazine, I felt... really strange, really weird, like hot and cold at the same time, like a tickle that I couldn't reach, and then it felt, like, really, really good and like I couldn't catch my breath. And then I got so wet, so wet and sticky down there, and at first I was scared, I thought something was wrong with me, but I didn't get sick and I didn't feel bad, I just felt good, so good, and I wanted to keep making myself wet down there because it felt sooo good. And I knew you would know what it was, 'cause you had the magazine, and you knew about rubbing your... your penis... and I knew you were doing it to make yourself feel good, like the way it felt good when I rubbed my... my vagina... but I was too ashamed to ask you; ashamed to admit I snuck into your room, and ashamed to admit how much I enjoyed that feeling when I was looking at something I knew was dirty and nasty, and confused because you're so good and decent, you're a really really good man, but you had this filthy dirty awful magazine, and I was really really ashamed to admit I felt so good while I looked at those pictures when I rubbed my... myself. Down there. And now I'm so confused all the time, 'cuz I know about something that makes me feel really really good, and I know I shouldn't do it, 'cuz it's bad or evil or something, but I don't know why. And the whole time, I keep thinking about... it... about... penises. About...your... your... penis... Jack, your penis. I have to know. I have to see it again. Please? Please? I'm begging you, Jack, I can't even eat or sleep anymore, I feel like I'm going insane. Please just let me see your... your penis... one more time. I wouldn't ask if we weren't friends. I couldn't, if it was anybody else, I'd die of embarrasment. I'm almost there, anyway, and it's taken me months to work up the courage to do this. Please, Jack? Please? I won't even ask to touch it, I just need to see it, just need to know that what I saw was real, was a real... live... thing... on your body..."

Too many thoughts went through my mind, too many voices screaming to be heard. For long minutes, I felt my mouth struggling soundlessly to form first one sentence, then another. Finally, I managed to tell her, "Rose, I can't. If I did, I would get in real trouble. I could go to jail. I'm flattered beyond words that you want to see it, but I just can't do it."

"Please, Jack, please. I'm pleading with you, Jack. Look," and she shifted to her knees in front of me and clasped her hands together, "I'm on my knees begging you for this. Look, Jack... begging. Pleading. I trust you, I know you would never hurt me. We're friends, we're more than friends, we're best friends. You're my best friend in the whole world, Jack, please please please don't shut me out. I love you, you know I do, and you love me, you said you did, said you love me. We love each other the way friends are supposed to love each other. Friends don't hurt each other, they can't. See, I'm hurting now, Jack, hurting just to see it again. Don't hurt me, Jack, please, stop the pain, just let me see it again. Just once. Pleeease? I've already seen it once, it didn't hurt me then, how can it hurt for you to just show me one more time? Pleeease, Jack, just this one time, pleeease?"

We just sat there for I don't know how long; seconds that felt like hours. The look on her face was one of supplication that I'd never seen before. She really was suffering. I knew that if I gave in, I would be changing both of our lives forever, and probably for the worse; much worse. I had that on the one hand, and on the other hand was my love for her, and the friendship we had already shared, and the fact that she really wouldn't be asking me if she didn't think she could trust me. In the end, it was the friendship that won out; the friendship and my lovesick heart that was suddenly screaming for her in a way I thought I had learned to live with, but now realized I hadn't. I carefully checked the pool area and then scoured the entire clubhouse; we were alone, really, absolutely alone. We went back into my room, where I shut and locked the door. I made her sit on the cot, and I stood in front of her.

"Rose, you have to understand, this is very very bad. If anybody ever finds out I did this, I could go to prison for real. I could get locked up for a real long time, and raped every day by guys twice as big as me, and you'd probably never see me again. You can never tell anybody about this, do you understand? You have to swear it, this has to be a secret just between us, forever and ever." Her eyes were as big as saucers; she didn't say anything, just nodded vigorously, her ponytail bobbing up and down, and I knew she didn't think she could trust herself to talk at that moment. I undid my pants, which fell to the ground around my bare feet. I kicked the pants over by the cot and stood there in front of her in my shirt and underwear, trying to screw up the courage to take that last step. I deliberately blanked my mind as much as possible, then slid my briefs off in one smooth motion. My penis had already begun to stiffen and throb, and it suddenly swelled up and bobbed in front of her, fully erect. I could tell Rose had stopped breathing, and her expression was one of pure wonder; it seemed like the light of Heaven was shining in her face as her eyes locked onto my erection and drank it in. I just stood there like that, not daring to move or do anything to break the moment. Finally, she spoke.

"Why is it bigger, why did it go up like that, like in the magazine, like when I saw you in the shower?" she asked in a tiny, strangled voice. "Isn't it supposed to hang down?"

"Yes," I whispered, "it does hang down most of the time. But when I'm excited, when I'm... aroused, sexually aroused... it gets stiff like this. I get an erection. It's a natural reaction when I'm... excited."

"Why...why..." she said slowly, as she tried to grasp the implication of what I was telling her, "why are you... excited? Is it because of me? Are you excited because I'm looking at it?"

"Yes," I admitted, "you're the cause. Being naked in front of you makes it get hard." And as I said that, Rose started blushing furiously. From some well of strength that even she didn't know she had, she dredged up the nerve to ask the next question.

"Jack," she asked in that same tiny voice, and swallowed hard, "do... do... do you want to see me naked? I mean, do you want to be naked with me, like... like in the magazine?" When I didn't answer immediately, she continued, "Jack, I've been looking at myself naked in the mirror all the time lately, wondering what it would be like if it was you I was standing in front of instead of the mirror, wondering what you would think when you saw me, wondering if you'd look at me the way you look at those women in the magazine. Do you, Jack? Do you want to see me, see me... naked, I mean? Do you want to see what my naked body looks like?" I knew I should lie to her, tell her no, I didn't want to see her naked, but this was a moment in our relationship that allowed for no falsehood, and I couldn't answer her, all I could do was stand there silently and pray she'd do the right thing for both of us. She didn't. Without a sound, Rose stood and unbuttoned her shirt to reveal her training bra, then she slipped the shirt off and dropped it on the cot. She slipped out of her jeans and kicked them over on top of my pants, and I could see her panties were covered with delicate little roses twining around each other. She reached up behind her back to unhook the bra, which she let fall away to the floor, then just stood there hyperventilating, her big eyes suddenly grown twice as big, amazed by her own daring and not quite able to believe she had gotten this far. Her perfect beautiful little breasts were round and soft and tender, begging to be touched, capped by delicate nipples that stood at attention. She slipped her hands inside her panties and started to slide them down, then stopped. She was struggling with it, and I could see how badly she was torn. Several times she tried to pull them off, and each time she stopped herself.

"Jack, I want you to see me, I want you to see my cooch... my... my vagina... but I can't make myself do it." I started to reassure her that everything was okay, she didn't need to worry about it, but she hushed me up. "No, Jack, I mean it, I want you to see me, but I can't do it. Will you do it for me? Please? Will you pull my panties off, please, I really really really want you to see all of me." I just nodded dumbly, then stepped over close to her and dropped to my knees in front of her. Her breasts were heaving right in front of my eyes; the nipples jutted out from her chest, begging to be touched, all I would have had to do was to lean over three inches to put my mouth on them. I was so close, I could smell her skin, her soap, her natural aroma. I reached over and gently slid her panties down to her ankles, then helped her step out of them; she put her hand on my shoulder to balance as she did so, and I swear to God I don't know how I avoided touching her further at that moment, don't know how I held myself back from grabbing her hips and burying my face in her stomach, how I even avoided so much as reaching up to touch her hand reassuringly. She let go of my shoulder then, and stepped back so I could take in her whole body as I knelt there in front of her. It was still a little much for her, and she nervously covered her vagina with one hand and tried to cover both breasts with the other.

"Is this what makes you excited, Jack? Does seeing my body make you want to do the things in the magazine, make you want to do those things with me?" And she nodded at the stroke book where she had dropped it on the floor. I tried to tell her there was more to it than that, that it was complicated in a lot of ways that I couldn't explain to her yet. But the more I tried to think of what to say, the more I realized she was right, and I had to give in to the inevitable. It was really just as simple as that; she was a female and I was a male, and my body wanted her in ways that I couldn't deny. In the end I gave in, and just shut my eyes and nodded with a profound sense of shame, of having violated our friendship. "It's that weird feeling, isn't it?" she said, her voice a husky shell, a breathless maze of wonder that intoxicated and frightened me. "It's sex, isn't it? It's sex and... and... and f... fu... fucking... fucking, isn't it? Men and women, fuc... fucking each other..." Again, all I could do was nod. And then she asked the question I knew had been coming, the question I had been dreading like the plague ever since we started down this path, the question I needed so desperately for her to ask, even as I knew that for her to ask it was to doom us both. "Do you want to... to touch me like that, Jack? Do you want to touch me and make me feel good and... and... and fuck me?" As she said this, her hand fell from her breasts, to join the other hand in covering her vagina, as if seeking to block access to what she had just offered.

I felt like I was going to die, and partially because so much blood had gorged my penis that it seemed like there wasn't a single drop to spare for the rest of my body. The moment of silence that passed between us as I struggled with my answer was more potent than anything that had come before. Finally, I managed to choke it out, my voice a harsh rasp of what it should have been. "Yes, Rose, yes, I want to touch your body more than I want anything else in this world," I whispered. "I want to make purple passionate love to you. I want to... to fuck you until we can't even breathe anymore. But Rose, my angel, my beloved, sweetest of sweet things that ever were in this world, you're my friend, you're my heart and my breath, my reason for living, and I can't ruin that." I was on the verge of tears, and I knew I had to make her understand. "Can. NOT. Ruin. That. If I touch you like that, I'm terrified it would wreck things between us, that I'd lose you as a friend, and that's a loss I can't handle. I can't lose you, Rose, I can't. You are my beloved, you are the most important thing I've ever had in my life, and if I lose you now, I Would. Go. Insane."

"Oh Jack, you ass, you silly stupid man, don't you see it? You can't lose me. Ever. Ever. I'm yours, forever and ever and ever. I'm asking you now, Jack," she whispered. "I've been thinking about this ever since I saw you in the shower, and even when I was confused, it was only because I didn't understand. But I do understand now Jack, I'm ready now, I'm really really ready. Please, Jack, we've gone this far already, please do it, please touch me like the people in the magazine touch each other. Love me, Jack. Love me. Fuc... fuc... fuck me, put your penis inside my vagina and love me and fuck me and make me yours."

I shook my head. "No, Rose, I can't do that, I CAN'T! Don't you see it, beloved? So far, all we've done is look at each other," I said, doing my best to shut out the memory of my hands against her legs as I had pulled her panties off. "I'll still be in horrible trouble for what we've done so far, but I might not go to jail for it, or only for a short time, anyway. If I touched you like those people in the magazine, and we got caught, I would go to prison for sure. I want to, Rose, oh God, you can't begin to know how badly I'm burning to touch you, but I can't."

"Just touch my vagina, that's all, just touch it, feel it. I'm getting that weird feeling again, big time, it almost hurts 'cuz it feels so weird, and now I'm so wet down there again, Jack, what's happening? What does that mean, that I feel so wet down there? Will you just touch it, please?" Rose reached over and took my hand in hers, then tried to put my hand on her vagina. I felt the brush of her tender fur under my fingers and pulled my hand away as if I had burned it.

"No, Rose, I can't do it. Please, sweetheart, I'm begging you, you have no idea how difficult this is for me. This is torture. My body wants your body in the worst way. It's been so long since I've been with a woman. This is killing me, but we can't do it."

"Well then, don't touch me, just look at my body," she said, "and I'll do the touching, so it'll be me that gets in trouble, not you." She reached out to unbutton my shirt and pull it off, and I couldn't stop her. As I sat naked before her, she laid her hand on my bare chest. I tried to push her away, I swear I did, but my arms were numb, they didn't respond, and I didn't have the strength to even move away. It felt so good to be touched by someone, by anyone; and then to have that someone be my best friend, my beautiful little Rose, just sapped all my energy. As she slid off the cot and snuggled up close to me, her hand slipped down to my stomach, then came to a stop just above my pubic hair. Knowing the line she was crossing, she bit her lip tightly, then moved her hand down into the curly nest around my penis, stroking and caressing the short hair, feeling it between her fingers and rubbing her palm over it. Shyly, timidly, she touched my erection and stroked it with her fingers. My member responded by throbbing dangerously, and I knew then that I had moved all the way into Hell, and I gave in. She looked up uncertainly at my groan of pleasure when her fingers wrapped around the shaft. Taking her by the shoulders, I pulled her close, reached down, and started kissing her on the neck and face. Her firm little breasts were crushed into my chest, and my hands were roving over her back and stroking her hair. She looked up into my eyes and released my penis, then took my face in her hands and pulled my lips onto hers. I kissed her deeply for a few seconds, then gently worked my tongue into her mouth, which seemed to make her go weak. With a shock, I realized it was because I had penetrated her with my tongue; her first penetration of any kind; and I had deflowered her of that particular virginity. I eased her back onto the carpet, my tongue still exploring her mouth. It took a minute, then she started to respond, pushing her tongue into my mouth and breathing hard. As we lay there on the rug, caressing each other around the waist and French-kissing, I started to stroke and play with her nipples. As I pinched and rolled the sweet little buds that were now hard as diamonds, she gasped into my mouth, again almost hyperventilating, pushing her breath into me with a force that startled me. My mind was a house on fire with people trapped inside, screaming murderously at me, 'Get out, get out, get out!" My mind, my spirit, my heart, every part of me but one was shrieking at me to stop, but since that one remaining part was in the driver's seat of my body, I slipped my mouth down to her breasts and gently sucked and licked first one nipple, then the other. She just lay there, feeling the sensations washing over her body and not knowing what to make of it. She seemed to go limp in my grasp, and as she grabbed my hair and held on with all her might, I heard her panting, "oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, what are you doing to me, what are you doing, what is this, what is this?" For my part, it was like being with a goddess. She was my royal road to heaven, my goddess, and of one heartrending instant, I saw in myself a single mortal who wanted to worship her with my all. I kissed and licked my way down to her stomach, then to her thighs. She parted her legs to give me better access, and suddenly I was staring directly into the holy of holies, a temple whose entrance was veiled by the sweetest and silkiest of curtains, her baby soft pubic hair. I was completely out of control, watching someone else use my body to do these things. The lips between her legs were glistening, her soft downy fur was glowing, and I smelled a light, sweet odor that I had never smelled before, not even in my time with Lilly. My mouth was drawn to her valley by sheer animal instinct, nothing in creation could have made me pull back then. When my tongue first brushed the outside of her vagina, she gasped and stiffened. "Oh God, Jack, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes, oh, oh, oh," she babbled, clearly out of her mind with the overwhelming feeling. As I started gently sucking and lapping at her juice, her legs suddenly collapsed, draping over my shoulders as her heels landed on my back, then she slid her feet down until they were planted against the floor, and was pushing herself forward onto my mouth, trying to get as much of her pussy into my face as she could. I pushed my tongue deeply into her, and she gasped again. She grabbed hold of the top of my head and started to push down on it, urging me to lick deeper and harder. "Don't stop, don't stop, oh God, please keep doing that, oh God, oh God, please keep doing that, oh dear God, I can't believe it's possible to feel this good, how can this be happening, how can this be real?" When I had started eating her, I hadn't intended to bring her to orgasm; I hadn't planned that far ahead, I just wanted to get my mouth down there, wanted to suck up her love and savor the sweet sweet taste; but now I knew I had started something that I didn't dare stop. This was her first experience, that would color her view of sex for the rest of her life. I had to do it right, I couldn't let her down. I just kept licking and probing, riding her up and down with my tongue, lapping and slurping, to the sound of her moans of delight. "Oh God, yes yes yes yes yes yes yes, do it, do it, do it, do it, ooooohhhhhhhhh..." She made little explosions of breath every time my tongue brushed her clitoris, which spurred me on to a gentle but steadily increasing rhythm, flicking my tongue softly back and forth. I was totally unprepared for what happened next. As she went over the top, her back arched and she started shuddering violently. She jammed her fist in her mouth to keep from screaming, and I could see that she was in the throes of a full-body orgasm that seemed to rush over her entire frame. The effect this had on me was electric, and as I lay there on my stomach with my tongue in her vagina, my penis humping the carpet beneath me, I could feel myself explode, my juice shooting out and spurting up between the carpet and my stomach. Rose didn't know I had ejaculated, she didn't know anything except for the feeling of my tongue on her clitoris. I kept sucking and lapping, riding her bucking hips and never breaking contact. This was my little Rose's first time, and by God, it was going to be all the magic I could give her. As I kept sucking and licking, the orgasms just kept spilling over her, one after the other, until I think she had about five in all, each one making her body go rigid, the shocks spilling down her thighs, her vagina spasming and contracting, the juice literally shooting out of her and into my mouth. Finally, it was too much, I couldn't keep it up, and I eased back and started caressing and massaging the inside of her thighs, then stroking her face and hair while she caught her breath in ragged little gasps and gulps. Her legs were trembling, little bolts shooting up through her thighs and into her stomach. I inched my way up until we were face to face, and I stroked her neck and shoulders, telling her that I loved her and that I prayed to God I hadn't just ruined our friendship.

She just lay there, breathing, breathing, in and out, in and out, her eyes slightly unfocused as she gazed up at the ceiling, her chest rising and falling, listening to the sound of my voice as I softly murmured my love for her. Eventually, she took a huge breath, felt it fill her lungs in a way she never had before, and looked at me with amazement. "Jack, was that... was that... fucking?" she asked in a serious, adult voice I'd never heard her use before. "Is that what we just did, is that called fucking? Did I just fuck you?"

The wonder that swept through me must have shown on my face, because she grew even more solemn. "Where did you learn that word?" I wanted to know, to which she replied that she had probably heard it a long time ago, but last year she had heard kids at school using it (specifically Brittany's posse). She hadn't known what she was hearing at the time, but from the context, she assumed it was filthy. In the time since Brittany and friends had gone on to junior high, Rose had thought often about their stories of fucking their boyfriends and wondering what that meant, and if they were still fucking their boyfriends, or fucking somebody else by now.

"I need to know, Jack. Was that fucking?"

"No," I said, "what we just did is called cunnilingus. Most people call it eating pussy. That's what we did, Rose. I ate your pussy. Fucking is something else. When you were asking about it before, you were almost there, almost at the right definition. Fucking is when I put my stiff penis in your wet vagina and slide it in and out, or where you get on top of me and put your vagina on my penis and then just ride it." I picked up the magazine and turned to the center spread, a man laying on his back while his partner straddled him. The wonder in her eyes produced a trill in the pit of my stomach. "We talked about it before, when I told you that's where babies come from. When a man cums inside a woman, it's because of that. That's what fucking is. But there’s something else you should know. That feeling you had just now, when you felt so out-of-your-head good that you couldn't stand it, is called orgasm, but it's also called cumming, and it happens to both men and women. When men orgasm, or cum, that's how the sperm shoots out, and if it shoots into your vagina, that's when you can get pregnant. You remember when I told you about that?" Rose, still wide-eyed, nodded, and I continued, "Men cum pretty easy from that, from having their penis in a vagina, but a lot of times, women don’t. So it really isn’t fair to the woman, because a man has to have an orgasm, he has to cum, to make a baby, but women can get pregnant without ever cumming, without having an orgasm. If you ask me (and nobody ever will), that’s a mistake on God’s part. If women had to cum, if they had to have an orgasm in order to get pregnant, that is, if men had to pay that kind of attention to women, if they had to make them cum, before they could have babies, this world would be a lot happier place."

"So, a woman doesn't always cum from fucking? Does a man always cum from fucking," she wanted to know, "or does it sometimes happen that he doesn't?"

"Well, some men don't, but that's the exception. If a man can't cum, can't orgasm from straight sex, that usually means something's wrong. Most men don't have a choice, if they do it all the way to completion, they always end up cumming, usually in the woman's pussy, and that's when she can get pregnant."

"Well, can't a man stop? Doesn't he know before he cums that he's going to cum, and can't he just stop before he does, stop before he makes her get pregnant?"

"It's a real problem, angel, because it feels so incredibly good that most men can't control themselves. You're right, though, a man always knows when he's about to cum, sometimes he knows a good 4 or 5 seconds before it actually happens. But once you get to that point, of knowing you're about to cum, it's too late to stop it, you're past the point of no return. A man can't stop the cum from shooting at that point, but some men do use that 4 or 5 seconds to pull out and shoot their cum outside of the vagina."

"Well then, what happens to it?" she wanted to know. "I mean, when the cum shoots out, where does it go?"

"Right where you'd think, sweetheart. When a man pulls out, his penis is usually pointing at the woman's stomach, and that's where it shoots. Sometimes up on her chest, sometimes even farther, and it's sticky, but at least it doesn't go inside the vagina. Now, if I put a condom on my penis first, the sperm shoots into the condom instead of your vagina, and then you don't have to worry about babies. Some people have sex only for that reason, to make babies, but most people do it because it feels so good, especially if it's someone you care about a lot. In fact, that makes it much, much better, because you're sharing it with a friend. That's why fucking is also called making love, because it's such an excellent way to show someone how much you love them." I had to pause for a second, to let her absorb the information, and also for myself, so I could take stock of the conversation, of what I was telling her. "You know," I continued after a pause, "I shouldn't keep using that word. It's really kind of a harsh word, and it doesn't do justice to the act of making love. It's an adult word, fucking, but in an immature kind of way. It feels so strange to use that word with you, but in a way, it also feels kind of right. It's like we've crossed over into a special place, and we need a special language to talk about it. See, that kind of sex, fucking, is the most heavy duty thing men and women can do with each other, and it has to be special, it has to be right. You should never just fuck anybody, it should be somebody you love."

"Well, that's okay then, isn't it?" she said. "We're special, we're right, and I love you, you know I do, I feel it, I feel love! I feel love in my stomach and my chest and my legs and my arms and my head, and, and, and, oh God, I feel it in my... my pussy, I feel the love in my whole body. I love you Jack, and I want to fuck you, I want to feel your penis in my pussy, fucking me. I want us to fuck each other, fuck each other like lovers, 'cuz that's what we are now, Jack, we're lovers, I want you to fuck me and then, then, so I don't have any baby yet, I want you to pull your penis out and I want you to shoot your cum all over my tummy, I want you to cum and cum and cum, I want to feel your cum shooting all over my tummy..."

I closed my eyes, realizing I had to try again. "When you have intercourse for the first time, your first sex, your first... fuck, is one of the most important moments of your life." I opened my eyes; her face was only inches from mine, her eyes huge, her breathing shallow and hard. She must have been putting out waves of pheromones, because I could feel my own breath coming faster and harder, and I was starting to lose the thread of my thoughts. Her eyes were darting manically from side to side as she tried to climb past my flesh and into my soul, and I knew I was in very real danger of losing myself to the moment, of utterly burying myself in her... I tried to continue, "You have to know, you have to be sure it's someone who'll be important to you for the rest of your life. Your first time should be someone you'll love, not just now, but forever." I could feel I was starting to lose ground; I realized her heart was already telling her that I was someone she could love forever, and even though I was burning with the need to let her express that love, I was pointing the loaded gun right back at myself. I shook my head and turned away; looking into those huge beautiful brown eyes was driving me mad, and I couldn't lecture her and look at her at the same time. "Rose, I can't give you that sex. If I were to... to... to, fuck you, to, to put myself inside you like that, it wouldn't, it wouldn't be, uh... Rose, I can't... Look, Rose, you're 12, I'm 40, it would be wrong, you have to see that, angel. I just can't... fuck you. I do love you, sweetheart, you have to believe that, I love you with all of my heart and soul, I love you the way a man loves a woman, and I do want to, I want to make love to you and fuck you, I want it so savagely that it's making me sick inside trying to hold back, and I know you love me too, but you're so young, sweetheart, so very young, you're almost a baby, and I'm so old, sweetheart, I'm old enough to...." When I turned back to look at her, the confusion and fear in her face hit me like an icicle through the heart. Before I could say anything more, she had pulled on her panties and pants, faster than I would have believed possible, then she grabbed her bra and stuffed it in her pants pocket. I searched savagely for something to say, anything to heal the rift, to make it better, but of course I came up horribly empty. She was still putting on her shirt as she unlocked the door of my room and then she was gone. I leapt to the door, reaching out after her, but what could I say? What could I do? I could think of no words to bring her back, and I was too scared to run after her, scared of not knowing what to say once I caught up with her, scared that once I grabbed her and made her face me, she would have nothing but fear and pain to give me. The hopelessness and the inevitability of it hit me all at once. I was done. I was dead. I was now officially through with life. Closing the door, I cleaned up the jizz from the carpet and my stomach, put the stroke book back under the false drawer bottom (out of force of habit, I guess), put on my shorts and shirt, shut off the light, and curled up in a fetal position, in the dark, on the cot, to wait for the cops to come. I cried myself to sleep with my contact lenses still in, waiting.

18

...it's a sad, sad situation, and it's getting more and more absurd... Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Elton John)

When I woke up the next morning with a sick feeling in my stomach and a gaping hole in my chest where my heart used to be, all I could do was wonder how long it would take before the cops finally did show up. There was probably all kinds of paperwork they'd have to fill out first, and the thought of my sweet little Rose, shivering and afraid as she sat across the desk from some big dumb cop as he looked her up and down and asked her humiliating questions, made my blood boil. Didn't those stupid cops have anything better to do than get their jollies by asking a twelve-year-old girl about her first sex? But as the day wore on and no cops came, I started to get worried, then even more heartsick. Where was she? What was she doing? What was she feeling? Was she somewhere alone and scared, crying harder than I had cried last night?

I was to suffer those questions for more than a week, during which time I didn't see Rose so much as once. I was afraid to go anyplace where I might see her by accident, so I kept as close to my room as possible. I was being devoured alive with regret and desire. I had to know how my little Rose was doing, but I didn't dare try to find out. Every day I vowed to end it all by going out into the complex and letting Rose find me and make whatever screaming scene she wanted to, letting the frightened residents call the cops to haul me away, letting Fortune have whatever kicks it felt like delivering, and every day the nauseous nervelessness and utter sense of loss peered out from the hole in my gut where they had taken up residence and refused to let me go out there. The few times I ventured from my room to take care of duties I couldn't avoid, I ran like a maddened thing, sliding around corners and trying to get from one place to another without being seen, my heart threatening to blast itself into a million guilt-stained shreds.

Self-torture became my constant companion. When I wasn't trying to picture Rose, my head filled with the nightmares yet to be endured when my dad found out. I hadn't seen him in over twenty years, not since I left home after school to strike out on my own, but I knew that this would draw him to me, would bring him to see me in jail, so he could lay his revulsion on me, blast me with the firehose of his righteous indignation while I cowered in the corner of my cell. I even went him one better with my furious self-incrimination, replaying the accusations endlessly in my aching head, until I was ready to rip out my own throat to make it stop. 'You sick MORON. You IDIOT. What were you THINKING? How could you RAPE a twelve-year-old GIRL? You're a PERVERT. You're a CHILD RAPIST. Did that feel GOOD, RAPING that little GIRL? Hope it feels that GOOD when they CUT your DICK off so you can't RAPE any more CHILDREN, you sick FUCK.'

One day that week (was it two days after The Encounter? Three days? Five days? the whole week was a nasueous blur), I saw Marjorie at Sav-Rite on 37th. In fact, she was in line ahead of me at the checkstand, as I waited with the fifteen bags of salt I needed to spread on the complex's sidewalks and she waited with a package of sausages, a box of tampons, and a fifth of Jack Daniels. I tried to exit the line, but I was trapped by the person behind me. As I tried to make an excuse and back up, Marjorie looked up and recognized me immediately. She moved in close to put the now familar hand in the small of my back. I could smell a faint toxin of alcohol on her breath as she leaned in close to ask if Rose and I had had a fight. I don't know how I answered her; my brain shut down, so my mouth must have been on autopilot. Whatever I said, it must have satisfied her, because she backed off saying, "Well, I hope you make it up soon, she's been an absolute terror, ransacking through the apartment, tearing through my stuff like she was looking for something precious." She gave my arm a half-hearted squeeze and vanished into the night, leaving me standing there trying ferociously to remember why I was in a Sav-Rite checkout lane with a cart full of salt.

19

...if I could reach the stars, pull one down for you, shine it on my heart, so you could see the truth... Change The World (Eric Clapton)

The night Rose came back to me was the single greatest joy of my entire life. It was after 10:00 pm on Sunday and I was sitting in my room in the dark with the door shut, trying to pretend I was anywhere else and anyone else, when I heard her familiar knock. I had thought I was ready for it, but the sudden prospect of opening the door to see her standing there next to my arrestors filled me with dread. I turned on the light and opened the door and there she was; alone, sans police; and radiant like I'd never seen her before. She was wearing lipstick, eyeliner and blush, and as she stepped into my room and whirled to face me, the scent of something sweet filled my head. She was wearing perfume! I was so knocked out that I felt my knees start to give, and I had to sit on the cot before I collapsed. She was wearing her newest jeans and the "Dark Side of the Moon" t-shirt (small enough on her now that her midriff was constantly exposed), and as she leaned over to wrap her hands around my neck, I could see glitter on her shoulders and chest; and I could look down the front of the shirt to see that she wasn't wearing a bra. The wave of scent that washed over me was a rush of relief that jumped up and slammed into my chest like a wrecking ball. She closed and locked the door, then turned back to me with a haunted expression. I could see in her eyes how badly she wanted me to be pleased with her looks and smell. She had done this for me! She had listened to my heart and heard it declare that what it ached for most in this world was a friend and a lover divine; the two most precious people in my life; and she had vowed to be both of those people.

Sinking to her knees before me, she took my hands in hers and squeezed so hard that it almost hurt, as if she were afraid to let go, as if she might never have another chance to hold onto me if she released me.

"Do you remember what you told me that night? Right after we did that? I mean, after we made love, after you, you, you... you ate... ate my pussy?" she asked. "You said you loved me, like the way a man loves a woman." I nodded. "Was it true, Jack? Did you mean it? Is it still true? Do you still love me? Or do you want me to go away? If you do, I'll understand Jack, I promise, I'll go, I'll go away and I won't ever bother you again for the rest of your life, but oh God, Jack, please please please before heaven and earth don't say no, I'm begging you please don't say no, don't send me away, Jack, please please please let me stay."

"Oh my God," I breathed, still reveling in the feeling of release from dread and exulting in the fact that our friendship was not dead, "Rose, my little Rose, you are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen! Nothing and nobody under heaven is as beautiful to me as you are, and more so at this moment that I ever would have dreamed possible! Yes, Rose, I do love you. I do. I love you." I took one of her hands and put it through my shirt, resting her palm on the left side of my chest. She felt the rapid rhythm of my heart against her fingers, and through the layers of blush make-up, I could see a genuine blush, a furious rush of blood, come to her cheeks. I tried to get the next part out before my tears of relief started falling, but I didn't quite make it. "Rose, what happened? Where did you go that night? I've been worried sick about you, worried literally to death about you."

"When you said you wouldn't... wouldn't fuck me, I was scared you didn't want me any more. I was afraid you thought I was just a dumb, confused kid, and I didn't blame you for not wanting to fuck a dumb, confused kid. But I'm not confused, everything is so clear, I know I'll love you forever, I swear I will. I know you probably think I'm too young, but I'm old enough to know how badly I want to be your woman. Even if we can't get married, it doesn't matter, I'll always love you, and it'll always be right. Don't you remember telling me about Iris? How you said you'd always love her to your dying day? And Lilly? You feel the same about Lilly, too, you said you did." I nodded briefly, wishing I hadn't told her that. How was I to know I'd be undercutting myself? Rose pressed on, "Well it's the same for me! I'll love you later the way I love you now, so we might as well be together right now!" She leaped at me and hugged me around the neck, straddling my lap as I sat on the cot. "You see that, don't you? You see my love, you have to know how much I love you. Please let me give you this." All I could do in response was pull her close and hug her to me as tight as I could. I laid back on the cot and laid her down beside me, stroking her hair, looking at those soft features that would never look like a child's face to me again, and a huge part of me moaned over that loss.

"I'm ready now, Jack, as ready as I'll ever be. Lay with me and love me, put your penis inside me and let me wrap my vagina around you and hold you close down there and make you cum, let me make you feel how much I love you."

"Rose, telling you yes would give me the greatest pleasure I could hope for in this life, but for right now, you have to let me say No, not yet," I whispered, rubbing at my eyes. "I'm not denying you, please believe that. You just have to trust me. We'll know when it's the right moment, we just have to be patient. I swear to you it's true." At her look of hope restored, I nodded. "Yes, we will do it, and when we finally do, you'll understand why it's worth waiting for."

She snuggled into me, and I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close once more. The perfume was rich in my nose, and up close I could see how inexpertly the eyeliner had been applied. It was too much to believe, too much to hope for. The other shoe had dropped, and it was lighter than a ballerina's slipper. The governor had called just before the switch was thrown. I had drawn an orange card from the top of the deck to see my own "Get out of jail free" card. She was here, now, wrapped up in my arms, and the relief was almost more painful than the ache that had preceeded it. She buried her face in my neck and kissed my throat, and I was stroking her hair, caressing her back, running my hand hungrily over her soft rump, gently squeezing her thighs. She giggled and reached down to my crotch. "I can feel something getting big-ger," she said in a cute little sing-song. She looked at me earnestly before saying, "Can I see it go from soft to hard? I want to see how that happens." I had to smile, knowing I couldn't deny her.

"Oh, okay," I said in a mock growl of irritation; then, in all earnestness, "hang on, it might take a while to get it soft again, give me a moment," I said, and I laid back and thought of boring things until I felt the erection collapse. "Okay," I said, "but we have to hurry, it'll probably start getting hard again right away." I pulled my pants and shorts down to my knees and lay back. My softness was already starting to leave as a full erection surged back. She grinned to see it rise like that.

"OhmyGod, that's like a magic trick," she purred, "that's so cool! Can I touch it?" And without waiting for an answer, she reached out to wrap her delicate fingers around the shaft, glancing nervously at me as I groaned from the bottom of my balls. "What should I do with it? How can I make you feel good?" I put my hand on hers and showed her how to stroke the shaft. She enjoyed that immensely, sitting up so she could use both hands, then leaning down to get a close-up view of what she was doing. The feeling was incredible, her soft hands were warm and tender, and she was by turns gentle and vigorous. "Hey, what's this called?" she asked. "What I'm doing right now, is there a special name for this?" I said I didn't know how special it was, but it was just called a handjob. "But it's not a job, it's fun!" she laughed, and I had to laugh with her in spite of myself. I told her it was also called jacking off. She sounded it off silently to herself, then gazed at me with amazed humor, stroking me rhythmically and softly chanting, "Jack, Jack, your name is Jack, I love you Jack, I love to jack, I love to jack you off, Jack!" I could only moan in response, it felt so good to be touched by her that I couldn't have stopped it for anything in the world, and the smell of her perfume just kept rolling over me.

She paused, then leaned forward and put her hands on my chest to stare earnestly into my eyes. "You know, it seems like more than half the pictures in your magazine showed those women putting a penis in their mouth, and I really want to do that for you. Except I don't know what it's called. If I put your penis in my mouth, is that called eating you?"

"No, it's called a blowjob," I told her, my sense of shock definitely less than it should have been, and I could see a lightbulb come on over her head, "except you don't blow, you suck on it. I don't know why it's called a blowjob, it just is."

"Oh wow," she said, "that's a blowjob? I heard Brittany use that word when she was talking to some of her posse, she said she gave her boyfriend a blowjob and that it was a big mess, and I had no idea what she meant, and I wasn't about to ask her, but I didn't know who else to ask. I almost asked you, but I was almost sure it was probably something filthy, and I didn't want you to think I was a filthy girl. So then, what Brittany meant ab out the big mess, she must have been talking about her boyfriend cumming. OhmyGod, do you think he cummed in her mouth?" Her soft eyes got so big at the thought that I started laughing uncontrollably, but she just ignored my hilarity. "What happens if cum gets in your mouth? You can't get pregnant from getting cum in your mouth, can you?"

"No," I said, after I stopped laughing long enough to catch my breath, "you can only get pregnant if the cum gets in your vagina, if it gets anywhere else, you're safe." I thought for a few seconds. "It's also called sucking cock," I added, wondering if she had heard that one too.

"Sucking cock," she repeated thoughtfully, "a penis is also called a cock," as she touched it reverently. "I used to hear Brittany use that word all the time, like 'I won't touch his cock until he's taken a shower', and 'I never let him stick his cock in until he's been begging for an hour.'" She pursed her lips thoughtfully and started idly stroking me, then asked, "What it's like to suck cock, what does it taste like?" I had to tell her I didn't know, but given the difference in smell between a cock and a pussy, and knowing how a pussy tastes, I assumed a cock would taste different. Rose nodded thoughtfully for a moment, then bent down to breathe on the head. We both held our breaths for a long second, and then she put her lips on the tip and slowly, slooowly took the whole head into her mouth. Her tongue was running around the edge, lapping and tasting, and I could see her cheeks moving in and out as she sucked. The sensation was unbelievable, and I could only groan helplessly, "Oh God, oh God, ohmyGod." She kept it up for long minutes, working her way farther and farther down the shaft, until she had half the length in her mouth, her ponytail bobbing up and down as she sucked and sucked and sucked, until I reached the point when I knew I would only last for a few more seconds. I stopped her by gripping her shoulder and pushing her back. "What's wrong? What did I do wrong?" she worried.

"Nothing, sweetheart, you were doing great. But we have to go a little slower, that's all. We have to save some for later. You were about to make me cum." Her eyes flew open at the thought of her success.

"You're kidding," she said, "you mean you were going to cum in my mouth?"

"I would have, if you'd kept it up," I told her.

"Then why did you stop me, Jack? I want you to cum in my mouth, I want to make you cum like you made me cum."

"Let's not think about that just yet, we have to take it slow and enjoy the wait, enjoy exploring each other and taking our time. Here, let me give you a massage. Oh God, Rose, I do love you, I swear I do."

I slowly pulled her shirt over her head, stopping after it was off to admire her hard nipples and the glitter sparkling across her chest. I pulled up and fastened my pants with some difficulty, stripped off my shirt, then slowly, teasingly slowly, I undid her pants and pulled them off, rolling her over on her stomach. As I rubbed her shoulders and neck, she began making little animal moans of pleasure. Her perfume was rich in my nose, and I lay down on top of her, burying my nose in her hair, kissing and nibbling her neck. I started kissing my way down to the small of her back, then moved down to her ankles and kissed my way slowly up her legs, until I was gently licking the backs of her thighs. I rubbed her beautifully rounded butt through the panties for a bit, then slipped underneath to continue rubbing. She helped me slip the panties off, and as she lay there naked before me, I showed her what it felt like to have someone kiss her butt. The gentle globes of her ass were tenderly delicious, and the soft, earthy smell between them was a magical aphrodisiac in it's own right. At first, she clenched her ass cheeks together, trying to keep me out, not quite understanding what was going on, or why I was plowing my lips so deeply into the crack. As my tongue made first contact, she suddenly relaxed with an almost soundless "ooooohhhhhhhhhh", and I gently pulled the cleavage aside to get my first glimpse of the puckered little rosebud of her rectum. My tongue was doing all the work now, swirling around the hole, darting over it, gently gently gently penetrating the opening, and Rose made a series of little "ahh, ahh, ahh" noises, each one the punctuation of one of my tongue stabs. As this was going on, my fingers were inching ever closer to her moist vagina, and as I touched the lips, it felt like she was getting ready to let loose a flood. My erection was as hard as it had ever been in my life.

The sound of the clubhouse door opening and someone walking back toward the pool threw us into a blind panic. I pulled my shirt on and struggled to get my erection to go away, and Rose pulled on her panties and pants even faster that the other time I had seen her pull them on like that. By the time the footsteps reached us, we were both fully dressed and sitting on opposite sides of the room from each other. As we feared, there was a knock on the door.

"Brent, have you seen Rose?" Marjorie asked from the other side of the door. Rose's hands flew up to her mouth and she looked petrified. I leaned over, put my mouth against her ear, and whispered so quietly that she could barely hear me, "It's okay, sweetheart, just be cool, I know you can do this." Then to the locked door, "Yes, I have seen Rose." I swung open the door and jerked a thumb over my shoulder, blocking Marjorie's view of her daughter to give Rose time to compose herself. "She's in here with me, we've just been shooting the breeze. She didn't tell me she had any certain time she had to be home, is she in trouble?"

"Oh God no," Marjorie laughed, slurring her words almost imperceptibly, "I just didn't want to win any Worst Mother awards by not knowing where my child is this late on a school night. I'm relieved to know she's with you, it's comforting to know she's here instead of out causing trouble." Marjorie put a hand on my shoulder to lean around me and look in at Rose, and for the first time, I felt her breasts pushing up against my chest. I glanced over my shoulder and was gratified to see Rose looking completely normal and relaxed. "Rose, honey, it's very late, come on home now, I'm sure Brent needs his rest too, don't overstay your welcome."

"Don't be silly," I said, a little too loudly, "Rose is welcome here anytime day or night, for as long as she likes." Marjorie glanced at me just a shade too sharply for comfort, but then she just smiled and, as God is my witness, she ruffled my hair as she said, "Well don't be a stranger, feel free to drop over whenever, I know Rose would be glad of the company after ages and ages of her old battleaxe mom." Rose made a face and stuck out her tongue at Marjorie, and the relief of being able to laugh at this was so intense that I knew I was in danger of becoming hysterical. Marjorie wished me a good night, and Rose and I stood there in the door watching her stagger ever so slightly as she made her way out.

When we were back in my room with the door closed behind us, Rose took my hand and put it on her chest, under her shirt. I thought at first it was an overture to lovemaking, but then I felt her heart doing a staccato triphammer in her ribcage, and I knew she was sharing her terror with me.

"It's okay, baby, everything's okay now." I held her close, stroking her hair and cooing softly. "You see? We must have a guardian angel." Rose made a noise that seemed perfectly balanced between a hearty laugh and a mournful sob.

"Oh God, Jack, I love you so much it feels like my heart's going into meltdown. I love you, I love you, please make it so we can be together. Please make everything be okay so we can be like this always. I've got so much love in my heart, I feel like I'm going to burst." All I could do was sigh. When she finally pulled away, she grabbed my neck to pull my mouth down to hers, for the most soulful and sincere kiss I've ever had, before or since. After she was gone, I paid a visit to the shower, to clean off and give myself release; the release I hoped to be able to share with her sooner or later. If we were able to tap dance our way through this minefield, that was.

20

...baby I'm amazed at the way you love me all the time, maybe I'm afraid of the way I love you... Maybe I'm Amazed (Paul McCartney)

In the days that followed, Rose delighted in tormenting me in dozens of small, playful, cruel ways. Leaning across the billiard table, in full view of other tenants who were lounging in the recreation area, she made sure I could see straight down the front of her shirt, could see her braless bareness, her stiff nipples, as she leaned over the felt to consider her shot. At the swimming pool, she developed a sudden passion for jumping backward off the diving board, making sure I had an unrestricted view of her hips, her sweet rounded buttocks, pushing out as she pretended to line up her jump. Once, helping me to clean up the upstairs dining room after a party that some of the tenants had given, she backed into me and ground her hips orgiastically into my crotch in a way that would have done a veteran stripper proud, stopping only a split-second before one of the tenants who had attended the party stuck his head up the stairs looking for a lost jacket. Why had I not noticed all those grey hairs in the mirror before? All these lines in my face getting clearer...

After that night when Rose saw me in the shower, and while she had been struggling so hard with her unspoken desires, our relationship had been a shadow of what it was. Now that the tension between us was resolved, our feelings for each other did far more than resume their rightful place, they transformed, became sweeter and deeper than I would have known possible. Once again, we were meeting in my room on a daily basis, but now there was much less talk of trivial things. Our conversations, if they can be called that, were much more about pleasing each other and were showered with sweet nothings and gentle caresses. Now it was honey this, and darling that, and it felt like every other word was "beloved", as we touched here and there on each other's bodies, kissed this part or licked that part of each other. We were careful not to stay too long or get too distracted to be mindful of our surroundings. While it was fairly stressful, being constantly on the alert for anyone coming too close for comfort while trying to just relax in each others' arms, it was worth it. We felt now like we had all the time in the world to just explore and learn about each other. Her kiss was always fresh, always new and sharp and welcoming and intent and inquisitive and warm. Countless times we lay there together naked beneath the sheets, slowly stroking each other's bodies and learning the little tendernesses that were most appreciated by the other. She would kiss me all over, starting with my forehead and working her way down to my toes, then back up again, her tongue exploring each curve and crevice with an intensity that left me shivering, and she allowed (encouraged) me to return the favor in full measure.

March came in like a lion, all bitter winds and grey days, but within a week's time, showed that it was serious about ushering in Spring. After only a few days' worth of unseasonal warmth, most of the snow and ice had vanished. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, as we lay on the floor of my room, me in a t-shirt and briefs, Rose in her bra and panties, deliciously massaging each other's chests, Rose suddenly looked me square in the eyes and said, "Tell me about Iris." I was a little... well, not startled, but definitely uneasy. After a few seconds' consideration, I asked what she wanted to know.

"What did you do with her? I mean, did you just kiss, or hug, or... did you..." and as she beamed her pixie smile at me, she waggled her eyebrows with such Groucho-style comic abandon that I was reduced to tears of laughter.

When I could breathe again, I said, "No, we never actually had sex... well, yes, what we did was sexual, but we never made love... hmmm... okay, yes, it was love-making, but we never actually fucked. She did give me a few blowjobs, but I was never close to cumming with her, not like with you. Most of what Iris and I did was what you and I are doing now, just touching and caressing. And we spent a lot of time dry-humping."

"!!! Dry-humping? What's that?" she asked, taking her hands off me so she could sit up; I took this as a signal that she considered it a serious discussion and wanted to give her full attention to the conversation.

"Well, humping is another way of describing intercourse, less harsh, I suppose, than the word 'fucking', but not really any less vulgar. Dry-humping is like fucking, except you leave your underwear on, so your genitals don't actually touch."

"And just when were you going to tell me about this?" she ranted in mock-indignation. "You mean we could be pretend-fucking right now?"

"To tell the truth, I hadn't thought about it in so long that I completely forgot it was anything I ever did. You're right," I admitted, "it IS something we could do."

"Well then, shut up and let's get down to it, boyfriend!" she laughed. She straddled me, sitting on my chest to begin with, then slowly working her way back, until her cotton-covered buttocks pushed up against the hardness in my briefs. "Mmmmmm, that's nice," she murmured, shifting back and forth, obviously enjoying the sensation of having yet another piece of me trying to work it's way into the crevice. She carefully continued to maneuver her way down, until her sex was pressing up against the underside of my shaft. "Ooooo, that's even nicer," she said with a lazy, greasy smile that made me harder still. I reached out to slip her bra up over her breasts, and she undid the bra and tossed it lightly aside. I was gazing at two gorgeous little mounds of flesh, the nipples sticking straight out, bouncing slightly under the movement of her body. As I reached up to slip my fingers over her nipples, she let out a quiet little "aaahhhhh" and closed her eyes. "Ohhh, that's nice," she purred, that greasy smile sliding further over her face, then, "Hey, wait a sec, I wanna do something." She rolled off me, then pulled her knees up to her chest and slid her panties off. "As long as they don't actually touch, we're okay, right?" And without waiting for my answer, she climbed back on top of me, sliding her now exposed lips up and down over the underside of my trapped shaft. "Ooooo, God, that's even better!" she said, her voice a sultry swirl of satin that made my hardness pulse uncontrollably. When she felt that, felt the throb and felt my cock jump beneath her, she gave a very quiet shriek of delight. "You like that too, huh?" she husked, and her smile just kept getting greasier and sexier, her eyes rolling back in her head as her unrestrained hair fell over her face. She was really getting into it now, sliding up and down, up and down, her tender boobs rippling with the impact on every downstroke, when she reached my balls and started back up again toward the head. The sensation was amazing, and I gently encouraged her to concentrate on riding the head. The feeling was building deliciously slowly, mounting and fading, and it was pure pleasure.

She must have spent a good hour just riding me through my briefs, grinding herself against me, moaning and breathless, until we were both covered in sweat and had each climaxed at least twice (I think it was more like a dozen times for her). We finished the night with separate showers in the locker rooms and a little nighttime swim. We had the pool all to ourselves. God, it was so romantic, splashing around in the water with her so close, the only light coming from the underwater floods, one at each end of the pool, although I think we were emitting some light of our own from the afterglow. It must have been almost 11 pm by the time we were busted by Marjorie, standing there with her hands on her hips and lips pursed, severely annoyed with me for letting Rose stay out so late on a school night. I could only grin foolishly and promise not to let it happen again, and Marjorie just laughed it off, her annoyance seemingly vanished by my boyish charm (hah).

Rose was like a kid with a new toy; she just couldn't get enough of it. We rarely talked like we used to, because as soon as we were alone together, she was all over me. We continued the dry-hump sessions for a couple of weeks, and probably would have kept it up, except that one night she told me she had just started her period and didn't feel up to a session. I played with her a little through her underwear, and we fell to talking about her period. After she had the first one, it had been almost three months before it happened again. The next couple of periods after that were at least a couple of months apart, and she was noticing that they seemed to be settling into a regular rhythm. The last two before this had been about 28 days apart (she had kept such a careful count, proud of herself for both her body's abilities and her attention to this detail), and the one that had started tonight was 29 days in. "Guess I'm almost a complete woman now, right?" she teased, rubbing my thigh playfully with her knee and moving slowly closer to my crotch. "If I wasn't having my period right now, do you think we'd be ready for it?" I rubbed her shoulders and neck slowly, kissing her nose and closed eyelids while I considered my response.

"The first time shouldn't be rushed," I said slowly, "the first time has to be magic, has to be starlight and rose petals and gently billowing curtains, since it will be a memory that has to last throughout your lifetime." Her smile, and the look of love on her face when I told her that, was so beautiful that I almost got watery-eyed right then and there.

The next night, Rose talked me into letting her repeat the blowjob she had started those several weeks before. She wanted to suck me to completion, but I stopped her before I came, and she finished the job by hand, amused and amazed to see my load spurting out onto my stomach and chest. She was so pleased by being able to witness her ability to make me cum that we actually gave up the dry-hump sessions as she repeated the performance every night for three weeks. For the first dozen or so times, I just couldn't bring myself to cum in her mouth, and I always stopped her before I unloaded so she could finish the job by hand. Strange, that I never had any such reluctance with Lilly. Well, not so strange, I guess, Lilly was the teacher in that relationship, whereas here it was me.

The time came, though, when Rose demanded the full experience, the feeling of me shooting into her mouth, so I eventually gave in. The first time I did, I let her know when I was about to shoot, and she became much more vigorous, wanting to pleasure me to the greatest degree she was able. When I finally did climax, her expression was priceless; her eyes got huge as she felt my juice shooting into her mouth, but she kept it up until she knew I was done, then spit it out into a tissue she had with her for that specific purpose, licking her lips as if to better gauge the taste.

"Well," I asked, "what do you think of it?" She had to consider for a few seconds, then said, "It was warm and salty, and gooey, sticky gooey like glue, it wasn't really like anything I've ever tasted before. I think I liked it, but I'll have to try it a few more times to be sure. And if I do, then I'll swallow it."

Now it was my turn to pause and think for a few seconds. "I'm not sure about that, sweetheart," I cautioned, "I don't know if that's really something you want to do." As much as I had loved Lilly, there was just something unredeemably whorish about swallowing a man's load, and I didn't know if I was capable of thinking of Rose in that same whorish way. In the final analysis, though, I had to admit that it wasn't up to me; if Rose wanted to swallow my cum, there wasn't much I could do to stop her. I could only wait until the moment happened, and deal with it the best I could when it did; I didn't know at the time that the moment would leave me incapacitated and unable to deal with anything.

The moment came one April night when we were out taking a stroll, enjoying the newly warming season. We had walked to the Gas-N-Save station that sat on the entrance to the cul-de-sac where the complex was, for a tray of nachos and a couple of games of pinball. Before we left, I bought each of us a hot dog, making her snort soda pop through her nose when I called them tube steaks, then we ate them as we slowly strolled back through the gloom of early evening, down the street that dead ended in front of the manager's office. When we got back, Rose took me by the hand and pulled me behind the row of garages that sat next to the office; we were in a narrow space between the buildngs, just big enough for the two of us to walk side by side. Still holding my hand, Rose pulled me around a bend in the space that completely isolated us from any outside eyes, then stopped and turned to me. "That tube steak was good," she grinned in the dusk, "I think I'm ready for another one." Before I knew what she was about, she had dropped to her knees and pulled my pants and underwear down in one smooth motion. I was still soft when she took me in her mouth; that lasted about two seconds, and I got a full, raging erection faster than I ever had in my life. Then she was sliding her tongue up and down my stiff member, licking and sucking, teasing my balls with her fingers. I remember glancing up nervously, trying to see if there was any way we could be seen by anybody; we were completely concealed between the buildings, and only somone walking directly down that little space toward us would have seen us. Her mouth was wet and incredible, and as I realized I was almost ready to explode, I also realized what she was doing and why. As her fingers slipped down past my balls and worked their way back between my thighs, her wriggling fingernails touched what felt to me like an electric wire that had been jammed between my legs. As the orgasm overwhelmed me and I shot my load, she was ready, her warm, willing mouth covering the head and aborbing my spurt. She gagged just a little, then hit her stride and swallowed every last drop, milking me with her mouth and keeping up the pressure with her fingernails on that little magic button, as if she might be pushing the last little bits of cum out of my balls, until my legs turned to jelly and collapsed. Before I knew what had happened, I was laying on my back, looking up in wonder at the little strip of stars that showed between the buildings, trying to catch my breath while the aftershocks raced the length of my legs and made little lightning strikes up my spine. She climbed on top of me and nestled my still throbbing organ between her thighs, laughing and coughing. "I made you fall down!" she whispered delightedly, "I sucked you dry and you fell down!" I could only grunt in response. As good as Lilly had been, as many times as she had sucked me off, it had never felt anything like this. I heard myself breathing as I lay there, and still the aftershocks were jolting me, sending electric blasts through the area beneath my balls. I could only guess that she had somehow triggered something in my prostate that kept sending rushes of pleasure for long minutes after the orgasm. It was an altered state, like being high on a drug. All I could do was lay there and twitch and breathe for such a long time that Rose started to get worried about me, then scared she had damaged me somehow. With a supreme effort, I took her hand and squeezed, and managed to give her a weak smile, and after another few minutes I was able to sit up. "My God," I told her, "that was the most intense thing I've ever felt in my life. I don't think I could stand that on a daily basis, my heart would explode!" Rose just grinned manically, and I could see she was taking careful note for future reference.

It wasn't all one direction, no it wasn't. I performed orally on Rose at least every other day, replaying our first encounter, with my mouth travelling the length and breadth of her body and always ending up with my tongue deep in her valley, great handfuls of my hair between her grasping fingers as urged me on, panting and shaking and cumming in my mouth with her delicate spicy essence, her thighs battering my ears and her heels pounding me on the back (a strangely relaxing pummeling). These sessions were usually exciting enough for me that I wound up cumming along with her, ejaculating without ever touching my penis, simply reaching a spontaneous orgasm from the sheer thrill of making her feel so good. When I pointed this out to Rose, she just touched my face and whispered, "It's love, you dope, love that's giving us all this happiness. I love you, Jack, with all my body and soul."

21

...A fat pink cloud hangs over a hill, unfolding like a rose, if you hold my hand and sit real still, you can hear the grass as it grows... It's a hazy afternoon, and I know a place that's quiet 'cept for daisies running riot, and there's no one passing by it to see... Lazy Afternoon (Vanessa Williams)

As the weather warmed and spring moved in to stay, the savage thrill, the raw newness of sex that made her want it constantly, had begun to fade, to be replaced by a gentler rhythm that had less to do with animal lust and more to do with lifelong friends who shared the most intimate part of each other. We still did it every day, and sometimes two and three times a day, but it no longer had the urgent, almost manic quality of pounding down shots of tequila; now it was more the tender, quiet loveplay of soulmates who savored each moment like fine wine.

We started riding our bikes again. Rose had discovered a hiking path that intersected with Griffin Ridge, and we rode down it into the newly greening woods that wound between the river and the interstate, stopping occasionally to share something we'd seen with each other, or to briefly embrace and steal a kiss before moving on down the path. There were a few empty patches here and there, areas devoid of trees for a space of perhaps 20 to 30 feet across, with a wealth of long, yellow grasses that surrounded the tiny path on either side. As we came to the edge of one of these clearings, Rose stopped and climbed off her bike, letting it down gently to rest on the soft ground where the grasses started. I did the same, and taking my hand to pull me along, Rose led us into the middle of the clearing, where we lay down in the long grass next to each other. The warmth of the sun on our bodies was a perfect counterpoint to the sound of highway traffic some 60 or 80 feet above us and the constant rush of the river, not two minutes' walk from where we lay. Rose wiggled out of her pants and tucked the hips of her panties up to simulate a high-cut bathing suit, then pulled her shirt off and unhooked her bra, but left the bra covering her breasts as she lay down in the meadowlet. "Trying to get a jump on some swimsuit tan lines," she grinned up at me. Leaning over her, I could see only now in the full sunlight a faint sprinkling of freckles across her chest. I'd never seen this part of her in light this strong. I idly traced the pattern of the freckles and must have tickled her, because she giggled and pushed my hand away. "They've been fading for a while now," she explained, "and I think they'll probably be completely gone in another year or two." She reached up under my t-shirt to rub my chest. We spent an idyllic hour or so, softly kissing and teasing, idly stroking, with no sense of urgency or need to do anything more than what we were doing, and no pressure of any kind to perform or move on. We repeated the experience often throughout that spring and summer, just holding each other close and being with each other. If there is any kind of Heaven, and we are allowed to have any say in what it's like for us, and I am not turned away at the gates, then I think those hours we spent together in the grass comes closest to what I would want my Heaven to be like. I was so in love with her, and she with me, that everything was right between us, everything flowed, everything was exactly where it was supposed to be. It was a sweet spot, a pocket of such utter divine bliss that we knew we had arrived in each other's hearts and found we were in exactly the same place.

22

...I walk to the horizon and there I find another, it all seems so surprising, and then I find that I know... Anywhere Is (Enya)

The new school year brought the usual complaints from Rose about teachers and students, even as she started in a new environment: the pirhana pit known as junior high. The school was only ten blocks away from the apartments. That, plus the fact that the school day was over a good half hour earlier than at her last school, meant that Rose was usually home before 3:30 every day. Most days, she didn't even go by their apartment first; Marjorie never got home from work before 5:30, which meant that we usually spent the afternoons together. When Rose would come breezing through the clubhouse door, if she was certain nobody else was around, she would sing out, "Hi, honey, I'm home!" and then wrap her arms around me to give me her sweet lips. It was just like being married, and homier than anything I had known with Lilly.

Rose wanted to start preparing dinner in the afternoons. Prior to this, the evening meal for her all too often had been whatever simple thing Marjorie had the energy to fix after a long day at the office; mac and cheese, frozen pizza, sometimes just cereal and toast, or the occasional burger and fries from a drive-through on the way home. Rose was learning things in her Life Skills cooking class that she wanted to try out. She also wanted to show she was appreciative of her mother's energy being taken by her job, and she wanted to show Marjorie some of that appreciation by taking over meal preparations. The fact that the clubhouse kitchen was twice as large as the kitchen in their apartment, more room, more utensils, two ovens, three sinks, pretty much everything she could have wanted, made it a natural that she would want to work there. Well, that and the fact that I was always right there helping her out. Many nights we stood side by side in the kitchen, peeling potatoes or frying up rice, boiling noodles or stirring sauces, whatever Rose could think of to make dinner a little more special. It felt like we were an old married couple, doing the household chores together, sharing life in a way that had somehow escaped me during my time with Lilly, and my heart throbbed with the unfamiliar feeling of domesticity. Yet one more way in which my tender little flower brought me bliss.

Following the meal preparation, Rose would leave me a third of the food and take the rest home, and she and Marjorie would have their time together, after which Rose would do her homework (if she had any, which she usually didn't, or if we had neglected it during the afternoon) and then head back to the clubhouse for her evenings with me. Usually it was movies or TV, cards or Scrabble or swimming, but we always left at least the last half hour for lovemaking behind the locked door of my room.

That was the way we spent almost every weekday evening, for the first few weeks of the school year. Eventually, Marjorie managed to browbeat me into stopping by their apartment to share supper with them at least once a week, and then I usually stayed around for awhile after supper, sitting on the couch to watch TV with Rose on one side and Marjorie on the other. Occasionally, Marjorie had to busy herself at the kitchen table with work she had brought home, and Rose and I took special pleasure in slinking down into the couch cushions, below Marjorie's line of vision, to steal a kiss every now and then. More often, though, Marjorie joined us on the couch, and then I had the unusual sensation of a slight resentment of Marjorie's presence preventing Rose and I from cuddling, mixed with a pleasant lassitude at finding myself ensconced between the beauty that was my lover and the beauty that was her mother. Marjorie usually had a mixed drink in hand, and I took to sharing a drink with her; and occasionally, her hand would stray to my knee, to rest there for perhaps five or ten minutes, before being withdrawn. I'm not entirely sure Marjorie was always aware she did this; it seemed somehow like force of habit, or perhaps a familiarity she had never learned to give up. Whatever the reason, I never remarked or acted on it. The first few times it happened, Rose and I exchanged significant glances, but then it just seemed to become part of the evening, and nothing noteworthy. Dinner, small talk, TV, hand on the knee, and at the end of the evening, Rose would walk me back to my room for a few sweet nothings, then race home and try to get into bed without having to speak to Marjorie (so that my voice would be the last thing she heard before going to sleep; sigh).

23

...Back in the classroom, open your books, the teacher don't know how mean she looks... School Day (Chuck Berry)

At first, Rose had been worried that moving up to a whole new level of school might be more difficult than what she was ready for. After the first few days, though, she came to realize that in a lot of ways, seventh grade was actually easier than sixth grade had been. Her class was made up of a blend of students from several different elementary schools, and the curriculum had been to geared to the lowest common denominator. She found her assignments (in everything but algebra) to be a cakewalk, and it wasn't very often that she wasn't able to complete her work during the school day. Sometimes she got so far ahead that she had time to sit in class and observe the other students. While her descriptions of the other kids in class were always hilarious and we shared hearty laughs over her witticisms, one or two kept me nervously guessing. In her American Literature class, a boy named Ben seemed to be particularly adept at insulting Mr. Malkin (the teacher) without Malkin's appearing to understand he was being twitted. In Computer Skills, it was Javier, a quiet dark-skinned guy who sat across the aisle from her and who seemed to always be giving her sideways glances whenever she looked over at him. It is a hard and bitter thing to hear your lady love talk about other men, especially when you're doing your damnedest to appear nonchalant while your heart is on a taffy-stretcher.

Having caught up to Brittany and company, she found they at least didn't object when she spent every lunch hour at the same table with them, eavesdropping on their stories about boys trying to get into their pants and the ways they kept them at bay (or gave in, depending on which girl was talking and which boy she was talking about). Sometimes she was content to just listen, she said, but sometimes she was dying to tell them, to recount some of her own exploits, just to feel like part of the group, to be able to share that rapport with them. At the worried expression on my face, she just laughed and said, "I'd never do that to you, Jack, I know it has to stay a secret, I swear it always will. It's just that sometimes, I feel like I'm going to bust open if I can't tell someone about my lover and how good he makes me feel. I'd even be one up on them, because all they ever do is complain about their boyfriends being rude and rushing them through things, and not doing anything to make THEM feel good, and I want SO BAD to tell them that I know how a real gentleman acts, that I have a lover who makes me feel like the most precious thing in the world, who rocks me until I can't breathe. I've thought about telling them, you know, just being vague enough so they wouldn't know who I was talking about, but then I thought, no, that just sounds like a pretend lover even to me. It could only be worth it if they believed me, believed I've done the stuff they talk about, the blowjobs and stuff, and I could make them SO jealous when I tell them about how much a REAL man LIKES to eat pussy, and then they'd have to meet you in person so they could see what I'm talking about."

"Angel, I wish I could oblige you. I think it would be fun to help you out like that, it would be a blast to see Brittany's face when you introduce me as your lover, I'll bet that would give her a nasty turn." What I'd heard of Brittany made me think she was a stuck-up little whore who knew how much power she had over males and didn't mind exercising that power. It was fun to think of her being deflated by Rose, when she learned of Rose's power over ME. "But then Brittany would tell someone, and..." Rose put her little hand on my mouth to tell me that she had already been through that in her head and that it was okay, she knew it had to stay secret. What the hell. Tiffany was probably well-known as a cumdumpster anyway, it would be her word against Rose's (and mine, I suppose), and as far as I knew, Rose and I hadn't done anything to make anybody else suspicious; but I just couldn't risk it, couldn't risk tearing us apart like that.

Rose's schedule for the year included the usual mix of classes. I noticed that her English Literature class, scheduled for the spring semester, was being taught by the same teacher that she had this semester for American Literature. I learned from Rose that the G in G Malkin was for Garry. I also learned that Ben's penchant for messing with this teacher included subtly mispronouncing his name (maudlin, makin', mulekin) to see if Malkin would notice or rise to the bait. Either he hadn't caught on or was just too intimidated to deal with it.

Apparently, when Malkin made an assignment for his students to write a paper about an author, he didn't confine the choice of author to ones they had discussed, but threw the entire category open for choice. Rose wondered if, during her English Literature class with him, when she selected Lewis Carroll as the subject of a paper, whether she might be able to just recycle her "Alices" paper from last year. She had gotten an A+ on it, and was intrigued by the idea of claiming two grades for one paper, but a little worried over whether that was ethical. I don't think I was corrupting her by telling her there wasn't anything wrong with it; her thoughts on the books, I said, wouldn't have changed enough in one year to justify writing a whole new paper. We were in the alley behind the Dairy Suite on Gannon when we had this discussion, and my opinion on the subject earned me a sloppy milkshake kiss that ended up with both of us having ice cream all over our mouths and chins. We were laughing so hard over it that we couldn't get back on our bikes for five minutes.

24

My heart is on fire, my soul's like a wheel that's turnin'... My Love is Alive (Gary Wright)

October moved in with a flourish of dry leaves, yet the nights were still warm, warmer than the season warranted. Marjorie had to leave town. Her job was preparing to migrate to a whole new system of doing business, and her employer was sending a group of ten employees to some 3-day class in Atlanta to learn the new system, scheduled for the week after Rose's 13th birthday. The class was Monday through Wednesday, but to get a cheaper airline fare, the company had purchased tickets on a flight leaving the Friday night before, so they'd actually be gone for five days. Marjorie fretted over it for a long time; she really wanted and needed to go to this class, but she was worried about leaving Rose alone. She actually came to see me, to ask if I would mind staying at their apartment to keep an eye on Rose while she was out of town, she'd make it worth my while, and I was to feel free to sleep in her bed and use their car while she was gone. I almost begged her not to put the responsibility on me, I was so worried about the possibilities of loose talk by neighbors, of our secret being discovered. But in the end I kept my mouth shut, and agreed to stay with Rose; who, when she learned of this arrangement, actually knocked me over with her excitement and joy, knocked me flat on my backside while she jumped on me, rubbing my hair and squealing, "OhmyGod, ohmyGod, ohmyGOD, we are gonna have so much FFUUNN!!!" With enthusiasm like that to draw on, I soon lost any nervous edge I might have had over the whole thing.

We drove Marjorie to the airport. While we were waiting for her flight to be ready, she fretted and fussed over Rose, nervous and out-of-sorts at having to leave her. Just before she boarded, she turned to me and, with a nervous flinch or three, put her arms around me so she could put her lips up to my ear. "You take good care of her, Brent," she whispered, "I'm giving you charge of the only thing in my life that means anything." I wanted to tell her I knew exactly how she felt, that Rose was the only thing in my life that meant anything, too; but I settled for just promising to take very special care of her, grimacing a little inwardly at the dichotomy between what Marjorie would understand by 'very special care' and what I actually intended. With a nervous smile, she turned and walked down the ramp with the rest of the passengers, pausing just before turning the bend of the ramp to wave at us. Rose and I waved back, and then she was gone from sight. We watched as the plane took off, getting smaller and smaller until it finally vanished into the fading afternoon. Even after the plane was completely gone, Rose and I just stood there side by side in the lounge for a long time afterward, savoring the weirdly mixed taste of freedom and responsibility, knowing the night was completely ours to do with as we chose. Eventually, we stirred ourselves out of our reverie and headed back to the car, walking very close but not touching, hearing each other's breathing in the still autumn night. When we were about 50 feet from the car, Rose's hand sought and slipped into mine, our fingers locking together, the slightest hint of moisture beginning to form in the hollow between our palms. We glanced at each other briefly, then took another look, and another; and by the time we were at the car, we were gazing openly into each other's eyes. Rose wrapped her arms around me and slipped her hands down the back of my pants. Shocked, I looked quickly around the lot. Apart from an older couple that was threading their way through the rows toward the terminal, we were alone. Bending over Rose, I put my mouth on hers for an exchange of breath and saliva that felt like a handful of seconds, but in that handful was an eternity of promise. We got in the car, and with my hand on Rose's knee and her hand on the back of my head, rubbing and scratching my scalp, we drove in silence to Flinger's, where we parked at the very end of the lot, just behind the fenced-off dumpster. As we sat there watching the final rays of sunset fade below the horizon, massaging each other's thighs and savoring the delicious, heady feeling of having the night ahead with only Marjorie's call from the hotel to worry about, Rose leaned over and laid her face in my lap, her sweet mouth covering my crotch with it's tender warmth. As I was gently kneading her buttcheeks under her panties, a group of teenaged boys came ambling over, to climb into a car parked two spaces down from us. My heart was pounding an insane rhythm in my chest, but I couldn't stop what I was doing, or warn Rose to stop. Rose could tell something was wrong, and as she sat up to look out the window, the car full of boys slid past us. A couple of them seemed to be looking right at us, and I was certain they'd seen Rose's head emerging from my lap; but the car just kept on moving, out onto the frontage road and into the night. Rose and I exchanged a significant look, but neither of us said anything more about it. Our meal was a little more subdued than I'd have wanted, but before it was over, we were back in our old familiar patterns, laughing and joking and swatting each other on the arm like the old pals we'd always been. Rose wanted one of the dessert menu's oversized creampuffs, boxed up to take with us for later, and I felt so good that I left a 5 dollar tip for an 18 dollar meal.

Back at the apartment complex, we pulled up and parked in Marjorie's usual spot near the back of their building. I told Rose to go on in, that I had to get something first, then I'd be right up. With a look of quiet joy, she nodded vigorously (did she know how weak I got at the sight of her ponytail bobbing up and down like that?), then bolted up the steps two at a time, pausing at the landing to look around. Assured nobody could see her, she blew me a kiss, then whirled to skip down the hall to her apartment, the styrofoam container with the creampuff tucked under her arm. I hustled over to the clubhouse, where I stuffed a condom (from the box I had bought especially for this night) into my left pocket, grabbed the bottle of rosé wine that I had hidden at the back of the refrigerator, and retrieved the 13 roses and vase from the closet where I had hidden them the day before, after having picked them up at The Little Flower Shop next to Sav-Rite. Rose had left the door to the apartment standing open, and as I stepped inside and shut the door with my foot, I got a powerful whiff of Nag Champa incense, and the sound of the campus radio station's nightly jazz program reached me from somewhere further back in the apartment. As I sat the wine down on the kitchen counter, Rose came in from the hall. She had changed into what I assumed was one of Marjorie's nightgowns. It was a little big for her, a little baggy, but made from a shimmery and almost-but-not-quite transparent material, with a slit all the way up past the hips, and it was through this slit that her leg and bare hip emerged as she walked over to me. She had applied perfume; a dainty daub, not the bath she took the night she came back to me, but the lightest little dab behind her ears, on her shoulders; a trace on her creamy tummy, a brush under her tender, tender rosebud breasts. She took the roses from me with a gooey sweet smile smeared all over her face, her hands shaking at the unaccustomed, implied weight of such a gift. "OhmyGod, they're so beautiful!" she cried, stroking the petals and burying her nose in the middle. Feeling like my smile was going to reach all the way around to the back of my head, I told her, "That's just the same way I feel about you. Sorry it's late. It's 13 roses, for your 13th birthday." As she hustled over to the sink to fill the vase with water and arrange the flowers, she saw the bottle of rosé the counter. Her priceless expression will be locked in my head forever. "Not a lot," I cautioned, wanting to be careful to manage her expectations, "just enough to feel it. You remember what I said about tonight?" She nodded solemnly. "Magic," she breathed, and I breathed back in agreement, "Magic."

While I opened the bottle, Rose got out a couple of plates and split the huge creampuff between them, licking the whipped cream off her fingers with an impish grin. I poured a couple of glasses and handed her one. We sat on the couch, our plates and glasses on the coffee table, and for the first five minutes or so, we just sat there gazing at each other, gently touching each other's hair and faces.

Rose had had burgundy before, so she was prepared for some kind of burn when she took her first few sips, but the rosé surprised her anyway. She said it made her chest cold, but then about 30 seconds later, she felt like it was burning. She downed the glass and asked coyly if I thought she could risk just one more. How could I say no? She took her time with the second glass, savoring the interplay of wine and creampuff, and in the process teaching me anew how to appreciate such things. She smeared a blob of whipped cream on my neck, then slowly and teasingly licked it off. I retaliated by smearing her face and cleaning it off the same way. More little tendernesses, trifles, tidbits we exchanged like almost-careless gifts, until we were laying full out on the couch, our hands exploring with greater urgency now.

The ringing phone startled us both. Pulling away from me, Rose answered and found it was Marjorie, calling from the hotel in Atlanta, letting us know she had arrived safe and sound. At Marjorie's request, Rose handed the phone to me. "Brent, thanks again, you don't know what it means to me to have you around. You're such a sweetheart, you really are a gift from God," she said, and I could tell that if she said anything more, she was going to start crying, so I wound it up and handed the phone back to Rose, who snuggled up on my lap to finish the call, her face against mine as she gently caressed my cheek. A minute later the call was over, and Rose returned the handset to it's cradle with a slow and thoughtful expression.

I slipped out from under her, then stood and scooped her up in my arms to carry her down the hall. When I hesitated at the door of her room, she gestured with her head to Marjorie's room, then took her hand from my shoulder to point. "In there," she whispered, "let's go in there." So I carried her in and stood her next to the bed, where I bent to kiss her honey-sweet lips. As we were kissing, Rose unbuttoned and removed my shirt in a very unhurried and meaningful way, then undid my pants, letting them fall to the floor, leaving me standing there in my briefs, with my erection pressing to escape. I reached into my shorts and pulled my stiffness up so it was trapped against my stomach. Rose held her arms up, waiting on me, and I obliged by pulling off the nightgown. She stood naked before me, any possible trace of shame having been transformed to desire long ago.

As I lay back on the bed, Rose climbed up on top of me like she had in so many dry-hump sessions before, and bending over to kiss my neck, she started slowly grinding her mound against my underwear, giving out little animal moans as she did so. The front of my briefs were starting to get very moist. My hands felt like they weren't under my control anymore, and I watched with a curious detachment as I kneaded and fondled the backs of her thighs and spread her buttcheeks, then roamed up her torso to tickle her under the arms. She moved up to plant her breasts in my face, and as I sucked on her nipples and fingered my way down between her buttcheeks, she ground herself into my stomach and hugged my head close.

"Jack, is this ready? Is this right? Is it going to happen tonight?" she was breathless from her exertion, and from the sheer nervousness of simply asking aloud, and from sheer disbelief that the night had finally arrived. "Are we going to... are we going to fu..." In response, I gently slid her off of me, got up, picked up my pants from the floor, and pulled a condom out of the pocket. When she saw that, Rose's eyes and mouth both made the same perfect O, and she reached in slow motion for the condom as if it were something in a dream, something that you know you have to be careful with, but that you can't help but reach for. With the little foil square trembling in her fingers, she looked up at me for direction. I touched the nightstand; "Leave it here for now," I whispered, and reverently, she laid it where I had indicated. Slipping off my shorts, I lay back down next to her. As if she had been holding back and couldn't stand it anymore, she attacked my balls, squeezing, stroking and licking, fondling and playing, pulling and squeezing hard and harder. I feared for a moment she might do some damage, but it was like my balls had become crush-proof; the harder she squeezed, the better it felt, and I just kept nodding like an idiot, eyes screwed shut, my mouth moving soundlessly, forming the word 'harder' over and over again. Then she was squeezing her tender young breasts together around them, trying to smother my balls in the soft folds of her flesh, her mouth buried in my stomach. Gripping her by her shoulders, I laid her on her stomach and straddled her. As I massaged her shoulders and back, my stiffness rubbing up against her buttcrack, she wriggled to push her hips up to me, pressing and rubbing herself against my member as her hands slipped down to her vagina to stroke and diddle. We played like that for a minute, both of our hands exploring and stroking the folds between her legs, our fingers touching as we sought the same flesh. Then she twisted around to lay on her back, spreading her legs as wide as she could. In the dim light from the living room, I could see as well as smell the moistness, the dewy exulation that drenched her down there. I had seen Rose wet before, but now it literally looked a faucet had been turned on. Powerless before the flow, I bent down to suck up as much as I could, my tongue exulting in the feel of that heat and juice. As I looked up to she her moaning, I saw her rolling her head slowly from one side to the other, lost in the feeling, drifting, drifting... little jolts in her thighs were making her legs spasm against my face. Somewhere above us, the music from the radio blended perfectly with the music from her throat, and I knew what it was to ride a tidal flow. Her inner walls gripped my tongue, seizing it an an embrace of joy that was tight and hot and altogether too much to quite believe. I moved up from her pussy to her stomach, then rubbed my stomach against her sex as I took her nipples, one at a time, into my mouth. Sliding further up, we were face to face, and the top side of my shaft was being drawn between her labia, getting soaked by the hot liquid.

Looking into my eyes in the darkend room, Rose breathed, a husky intake that was almost possessed. "I'm ready, Jack, I'm ready now, put it in me, put it in me now," she panted.

Rolling over onto my back, I took the condom off the dresser and held it up to her. She took it from me as if receiving a blessing.

"Open it," I urged, and she slowly tore open the top seam, then reached in to pull out the little rolled latex circle. I took her hand, showing her how to place the condom on my penis, encouraging her to roll it down around the shaft and make sure it was a snug fit. She squeezed the resevoir at the tip a couple of times, fascinated in the knowledge of what it would soon hold, and touching the ridges now circling my shaft as if they were some kind of Braille that she wanted desparately to learn.

I laid her back on the bed and knelt before her open legs, squeezing and pulling those hard little nipples. I gripped my shaft between my thumb and first two fingers. Slowly rubbing the head between her nether lips, I was directly over her, looking down into her eyes as I pushed in just the tiniest little bit, then a little bit more, and then I had the whole head in, where I had to stop so we could both take in the amazing feeling. Slowly, oh god so slowly, I eased my way further and further in, her moan so low it would have been frightening if I hadn't been so aroused, watching the perfect circle of her mouth as she said "oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh," and I continued to push in, slowly slowly slowly. She was so hot and tight and welcoming, the shock on her face as she felt me entering her was almost more than I could bear, and I wondered briefly if I would actually cry from the pleasure of it all. Suddenly I was pressed up against an obstruction, and Rose whimpered a little at the sensation.

"Okay, baby, you know what's coming next," I whispered, "you know how sorry I am that I have to hurt you. I'm going to push through, and then I'll just stop, okay? You ready?" I could feel, rather than see, her earnest nod. "On three, okay?" I told her. "One..." and then without thinking about it, I pushed as hard as I could, breaking through and suddenly plunging in up to the hilt, my balls smacking wetly against her ass. Her sudden cry of pain was at once horrible and beautiful. Her arms wrapped around me, her nails digging into my back, as she sought to cope with the agony. After perhaps ten or twelve seconds, her fingers relaxed, and her shuddering breath told me she was slowly coming to terms with the feeling.

"Are you okay?" I asked. Again, the nod that I could feel rather than see, then from the darkness she said, "I think so, it's fading, it's almost stopped hurting..." and as I put my face against hers, I felt her melting into the dewiest, tenderest, most satisified smile. "Oh God, it's so good, it's so good, it's so good," Rose murmured, "OhmyGod, ohmyGod, ohmyGod, it's so good, it's so good, it's so good," finally trailing off into a series of mmms and aahs as she wrapped her arms around me and pulled her nails down my back. This was all just from me entering her and sliding all the way in; I hadn't even started to stroke yet, we had only just achieved complete union. We lay together like that for countless hearbeats, my manhood fully buried in her female embrace as we gazed wonderingly into each other's eyes, both of us struggling to come to terms with the enormity of what we had just accomplished. Slowly, I started to pull out, riding high to try to brush her clitoris as I did so, then just as slowly pushed back in again. I repeated this several times, until Rose started to match my thrusts. As we ground our hips together, she pulled my ear down to her mouth so I could hear her whispering, "Fuck me Jack, fuck me Jack, fuck me, fuck me, fuck me, fuck me, fuck me Jack." My hands were under her buttcheeks now, squeezing and pushing her up onto me, and she wrapped her arms up and around me as if she were holding on for dear life. When she sank her teeth into my shoulder, I felt a brief twinge of pain, then my body somehow transmuted the bite into pleasure, and as she bit in deeper, her scream muffled against my flesh, the pleasure became a wave that swept through my chest and neck. We were thrusting against each other full force now, the sounds of our bodies smacking wetly together, and I slipped my hand into the space between us and started massaging her clitoris as we pounded together. "oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh," was all Rose could manage, and then breathlessly, "Oh God, I can feel you inside me, you're in me, you're inside my body... I'm so full, oh God, oh Jesus, oh Jesus, oh, I'm so full of you... I love you Jack, I love you, fuck me fuck me fuck me, I love you I love you fuck me fuck me fuck me." I had been worried that I might only last a few seconds, scared I wouldn't be able to give Rose the full treatment; but now, as I slid in and out of her, I knew I had nothing to worry about. I sat back on my legs, my penis still buried in her vagina, and looked over at the mirror on Marjorie's dresser, where I could see the two of us reflected perfectly in the darkness. I watched myself pumping away for a little bit, then I laid back down to cover Rose with my body. Wrapping her in my arms, and taking care to make sure my penis stayed inside her, I rolled over on my back, and now Rose was on top and bouncing up and down on me. I pointed to the mirror, and Rose found the sight fascinating; she couldn't take her eyes off the reflection as she continued to pound away, her clitoris riding the ridges of the condom up and down, up and down, up and down... "Oh God, yes, it's so good, it's so good, I'm fucking you Jack, I'm fucking you, I can feel your cock deep inside me, oh Jack, don't let this end, I want to feel this way forever and ever, I love you, Jack, oh God, you're my man, you're my cock, you're my man, you're my cock, oh fuck me, fuck me, fuck me..." Wrapping my hands around her waist, I found that her gorgeous little breasts were right in front of my face, and with no effort at all, I was able to put first one nipple, then the other, into my mouth, where I was able to suck and bite her rock-hard nipples while she continued to bounce on me, her hands grabbing my hair and pulling my head closer. I knew that my nerves were registering the hair pulling as pain, but by the time the impulses made it to my brain, the feeling had become pure pleasure, a tingling and pulsing that shot green darts through my skull, and I sucked her nipples as if they contained the Secret of Life. In one instant, I knew I was about to climax, I knew I was past the point of no return, and yet it felt like it was still a lifetime away. Rose suddenly arched her back, her nipple pulling away from my mouth, and she let loose a howl like a wild animal, a scream I'd never heard before. "I'm gonna cum, oh God, I can feel it," she sang, "oh God, oh God, I'm gonna cum, I'm gonna cum, I'm gonnnnnaaaaaa... AOOOWWW GOD, OH OH OH OH OH OH OH!" She was halfway between singing and shrieking, and it was more than I could stand. I felt myself explode in the most overwhelming rush of feeling I've ever had, and for the first time ever, I literally saw fireworks, an insane riot of stars and pinwheels and explosisons of light, and my ears were full to overflowing with a sound that I couldn't hear, a pressure on the eardrums that could only be some ancient blood surge that drowned out anything that wasn't our hearts crashing together. I was literally blind and deaf; somewhere in the consensus universe, it must have lasted for maybe ten or twelve seconds, but in the reality I was in at that moment, I think I touched eternity; I was in a timeless state where thought was not possible, and I can't even be sure I was breathing. Was this it, I wondered, when the capacity for rational thought evenutally returned, was this the Little Death? It had never been like this with Lilly, never even close. I had thought I knew what ecstasy was, but now I knew I didn't know anything.

Slowly, slowly, the room came back into being around me, and I became aware of Rose, naked and spent, laying full out on me, still wrapped around me down there, breathing breathing breathing, her head on my chest, her fingers twitching, spasming, raking little trails through the sweat on my shoulders. She looked up into my face, drew closer, and as her lips melted into mine, her body did the same; any trace of stress or tension having vanished in the flood, leaving only a drugged relaxation that she was unable to stir from. As I gazed at her peaceful face laying there on my shoulder, I felt that I had to tell her about my experience before I lost it, but what could I say? What language could even approach it? "Rose," I started, and stopped; and again, "Rose," and she looked at me with wonder and reverence, "Rose, I don't know what happened to me just now, but I've never felt that before. Never. Even my wildest moments with Lilly... Rose, you took me to another universe, I can barely even speak right now..." I looked at her, looking at me, and I swear she was glowing, she was literally emitting light from her eyes and nose and mouth. "Rose, I want to tell you I love you, but even that feels so incomplete and inadequate... God, Rose, you're my life, you're everything I could ever even dream of wanting..." I may have been aware of her, and of the room around us after that, but I really don't remember anything else. Sometime during the night, I roused enough to become aware of the feeling of the condom being pulled off my penis, then everything faded again. The next thing I was aware of was waking up in the morning, the condom gone from my limp member and Rose's arm over my chest as she lay there sleeping; a blanket covering us up to the waist and the first, palest light of dawn beginning to show through the window.

As I stirred, Rose woke and looked over at me, blankly at first, then with the world's biggest smile gradually taking over her entire face. "Good morning, lover," she grinned, and added in a husky whisper, "you were right. Magic. Real live miracle magic, that's the only way to describe it. I think I actually passed out for a little bit, it felt so good. It still feels wonderful, I'm still feeling it from last night."

"Rose, listen, I have to tell you something," I started, and had to pause as I tried to collect my thoughts. She laid her head on my chest and gazed earnestly into my eyes, waiting rapturously on me to find the words. "What happened last night, what I felt, was like nothing I've ever felt before. Lilly never did to me what you did to me. I never had any idea it could be like that. Even though I've had sex before, in a very real way, last night was a first time for me. Rose, you took me to a place that was no place and every place at once. It's like you found a virginity in me that I didn't even know I had. You took me to another universe. I think I might have actually touched Heaven. I mean it, sweetheart, the real thing, the real, truly live, Heaven. You took me there." Her only response was to put her mouth on mine and kiss me for long, long minutes.

The shower was another small miracle. When we first got in, the purple bruise on my shoulder where she had sunk her teeth was throbbing and sending little spikes of agony through to my back, but by the time the shower was over, the only evidence I had left was the fading bruise; the pain had been seemingly rinsed away by the water and I felt fine. We spent a half hour together under the hot spray, playing and teasing, and she finished me off by dropping to her knees and stroking me until I exploded all over her face and chest, giggling uncontrollably as she caught the last drops in her mouth, then licked me clean, the water washing the rest away seconds later. It took us another hour to dry off and get dressed.

Breakfast was a trip to Walt's in the Sangreal plaza, where I had a Belgian waffle with pecans and maple syrup and Rose ordered a stack of banana-chocolate chip pancakes. She tried some of my black coffee and found it horrible. I added enough sugar and creamer to make it taste like hot ice cream; she found that much more to her liking, and had a cup of her own.

The world was different. The world was changed. What more can I say? The world was changed. I felt it in the water. I felt it in the earth. I smelled it in the air. I had had love before, but now I had Love. Now I had... I had... oh God, how can I tell you? What words can I use? What can make you understand? I had Rose. I had Rose. I. Had. Rose. Can you see the tears? Can you taste the salt? Rose. Alpha and Omega. Love. Om. Rose.

25

...feels like you're mine, feels right, so fine, I'm yours, you're mine, like paradise... Paradise (Sade)

The rest of that Saturday was a long, smooth ride through autumn perfection. Everywhere we went, everything we did, all was just one steady flow of honey and cream. We drove to the mall and moved slowly, slowly, up one side and down the other, our arms around each other's waists, blissing out on the Hallowe'en decorations, the older kids running from one temporary novelty outlet quickly thrown up in an empty store space to the next, the younger ones running and shrieking around the bizarrely colored, plasticized mushrooms and stepping stones and climbing rocks in the fenced-off area adjacent to the food court. We walked down to Burnside & Regent to browse the magazine racks, where we considered the latest offerings in fashion, anime, cinema, science fiction, photography, journalism, alternate music, cooking, architecture, government; then drifted into the CD section of the store, ambling from one display rack to the next, pausing to don headphones and listen to samples of the music being hawked; then out to the heart of the store, to examine the volumes in every aisle, one by one: history, fantasy, comics, romance, games and puzzles, music, religion, new age, psychology, and coming to rest in the sociology section, where we spent a long time reviewing books on sexual technique and practice. Rose found a chapter on anal intercourse in one of the books and drew my attention to it. Looking up at me with those huge brown eyes, she mouthed the question, 'Lilly?' I nodded slowly and meaningfully. She touched an index finger to her chest and mouthed, 'Me?' I placed my hand on the side of her face and kissed her on the forehead while I considered my answer, then bent my mouth to her ear and whispered, "If that is what you want, my love, then you shall have it." A strange, slow smile crossed her lips, and she visibly shivered in anticipation at the thought.

After pausing at the B&R coffee shop to get a couple of cheese danishes and a single Mocha Rococo with two straws, we eased out into the magnificent golden firewine of an autumn afternoon that made it damnably difficult to doubt the existence of God(dess?)...

We didn't say much to each other the entire time. We didn't need to. We had slipped into the same groove, we were walking in each other's skin, we were riding the same wave. After we got back from the mall, without a word, we both went to the storage shed where the bikes were, mounted, and in ten minutes' time, we were at the Griffin Ridge intersection, then down to the old trail that it seemed only we knew about, and a quiet rest in the first grassy clearing we came to. There was no playing or teasing, only a long, quiet restful pause where we lay with our arms wrapped around each other, gazing at each other, at the earth below us, at the sky above us, at the universe around us. A gaze that showed our reverence toward the earth, a thankfulness toward whatever creator or first cause had put us here and allowed us to find each other. Rose leaned into me and placed her lips on mine, and we shared a single kiss into which we poured a lifetime's worth of love. It was a moment where we touched eternity again. No matter where I am in my life, or in the universe, I know that moment is an anchor, a touchstone I can grasp, a knowledge of at least one real thing, one absolute that I will never doubt, no matter what else life brings me.

As the sun made it's final ride down the sky that evening, we stirred ourselves from the long grass. After a languorous stroll to the bikes, a five-minute kiss, and another fifteen minutes to slowly ride back to the apartments, we stowed the bikes in their regular site. While we were still in the storage building, but before I opened the door, Rose slipped her arms around me to bury her head in my chest and take a souldeep smell of my skin.

"You smell sooo good," she murmured, "your smell is a man smell, it just smells like man, like strong and protecting and loving and..." she trailed off dreamily, then gave me just a brush of her lips.

"I have to..." I started, and she nodded to show that yes, of course, she knew. At the question in her eyes, I said "Fifteen minutes." As a very tiny frown crossed her face, I had to chuckle and amend it to, "Okay, ten minutes." A quick peck was my reward, and then she opened the door and slipped out into the common area, to go skipping lightly across the open space toward her apartment. I made like Charlie Hustle and rounded up all the used towels at the pool, threw them in the washing machine (knowing full well I'd have to wash them again in the morning because I wouldn't be back tonight to throw them in the dryer before they started to mildew), checked the levels in the pool, did a quick run-through of the kitchen and rec areas, made sure both bathrooms had toilet paper, and stopped off at the locker room for a quick shot of mouthwash and a quick slap of Old Spice, ducked into my room to shove a fistful of condoms in my pocket, and sauntered over to Rose's apartment.

She had shut and locked the door! The little tease. I knocked gently, and it was about thirty seconds before Rose answered. She opened the door a crack, and I could look in to see she was wearing her bathrobe, with a towel across her shoulders. She had smeared a breathtaking purple across her eyelids and her lips were burgundy blasphemy; her hair hung down over her face, a curtain through which her eyes sparkled and teased.

"Yes," she answered coyly, putting her forefinger on her bottom lip and gazing up at me in her best Betty Boop fashion, "what would you like, sir?"

"Well, miss, I happen to know you've nobody in that apartment with you at the moment. If you're feeling in the least bit needy for some protection, or some company, or anything your heart desires, you just let me know. I'm the guy to make it happen."

"Well now, that sounds like an offer I can't refuse," she husked, suddenly Marilyn and hungry, and she opened the door wide, still standing in my way so that I had to walk right into her to come into the apartment. As she opened her arms to wrap them around me, her robe parted to show me her creamy flesh. She pushed the door shut behind me, and as I scooped her up into my arms so I could better enjoy her bared beauty, she hung her head back and placed her entire being in my hands.

"What's your pleasure, miss? Shall I rub some oil into your skin, or perhaps a leg rub? Scalp massage? Anything you want, you have but to name it, for I am your fool."

She chewed her lower lip for a second as she considered her answer, then laid her head against my shoulder and said, "I would like a hot bath, slave. Draw me one, scented with lavender and jasmine, if you please." And she slapped me! Not a hard slap, almost but not quite gentle, enough to leave a warm sting that lasted a few seconds. I growled deep in my chest, and she squirmed in my arms at the feel of my growl against her cheek. I deposited her on the couch, took another long look at her beautiful breasts peeking out from the open space in her robe as she lay there, then made my way to the bathroom and started filling the tub. The scent was easy enough to find; a bottle of oil labeled "Audrey's Lavender Love" and a jar of crystals reading "Jazz Mine" were sitting next to the sink, and I sprinkled a generous amount of each under the faucet. Waiting for the tub to fill, I stepped out into the hall and slipped off my shoes and socks. As the shag carpet curled around my toes like an invitation to relax, the phone rang. I stepped into the kitchen to answer it, but Rose beat me to it on the living room phone.

"Hello," I heard her say, then, "Oh, hi mom! Yeah, everything's fine here. No. No, we had breakfast at Walt's. No, nothing special, we just schlepped around all day, wasted time, you know, just junk." As I stuck my head around the corner to look at her, Rose smiled up at me and shrugged out of the robe, then lay down and slung a leg up over the back of the couch so I could get a full view of her bared vagina. I stuck my tongue out and panted like a dog, and she smiled and winked at me. "No, he's not here right now, he had to go take care of some stuff at the pool or something. Yes. Yes. Yes, I KNOW. Yes, I KNOW, mom. Yes, mom, he'll be here soon. No, we're just gonna stay in and watch the boob tube or something," and she grinned a devil's grin as she said this, caressing her breast, pinching her nipple and licking her lips. "I dunno, maybe order a pizza or something. No, mom, I KNOW he's not made of money. C'mon mom, that stroganoff's a week old, you shoulda tossed it out. Okay, okay, three days old. NO, mom, I DON'T mind strokin' off," and she looked me right in the eye as she rubbed her vagina with her free hand. Holy God. My heart began racing like a Formula One engine at this little display, and the look on her face told me she knew it. "No mom, you don't have to call later, he'll be here. No mom, it's oka... NO, mom, its... hang on a minute, I think he's just now coming in." She hooked a finger at me, and with some small difficulty (owing to my raging erection), I walked over to the couch and took the handset as she offered it to me.

"Hello Brent," Marjorie said in response to my hello, "she's not giving you any trouble, is she?" After I assured Marjorie that everything was fine, I asked how she was doing, to learn she had spent the day sightseeing; visiting the Coca-Cola museum, the Atlanta Underground, the Westin Peachtree. I told her to relax, that Rose was being a perfect angel (as I said this, Rose placed a foot on my thigh and wiggled her toes against my hardness, giggling softly), that we were just now settling in for the night, and that she should relax and enjoy, she certainly deserved it. After handing the phone back to Rose, I went back to check on the tub and found it had filled nicely; the scented oil and crystals left a subtle aura in the room, and I dialed down the dimmer switch for the light to about 20 percent of full, then selected a huge mint green towel from the linen closet and laid it on the sink. Before I could exit, a naked Rose sashayed in and took a quick glance at the tub.

"Thank you, slave, that will do nicely," she purred, her hand running up the back of my thigh and cupping my butt for a gentle squeeze, "now get in with me so you can please me."

"Your wish is my command, mistress," I said with my head bowed, and I shed my clothes in less time that it takes to tell. I held her hand as she stepped into the tub and sat down, then climbed in myself. The water level rose dangerously, and a tiny wavelet slopped over the edge onto the floor.

"That won't do," she pouted, "we might have to move around a bit. Be a good boy and let some water out, will you?" I eased the stopper open and let the water drain until it was a few inches below the top of the tub. While I was doing that, she was gently teasing my balls with the toes of one foot, the other foot draped over my shoulder. I kissed and licked the calf that was by my face, slowly reaching into the space between her legs and drawing a finger between her labia, ticking and teasing, making her squirm and coo with delight. We didn't get much beyond that, and no real washing happened; it was more therapeutic than anything else, simply stroking and playing, with no real urgency, a lover's bath. When the water had cooled enough and our fingers and toes were wrinkling nicely, I stood and reached for the towel, then helped her up and out. The towel was large enough that I was able to wrap it around both of us, and she snuggled in close and straddled my erection while exploring my ass with her probing fingers.

"Are you hungry?" she asked. "Cause I'm not. Not really. Not for food, anyway," and without any warning, she slipped a lavender-softened finger into my asshole, up to the second knuckle, and wriggled it deliciously for a few seconds. I had never had that sensation before, and my sharp intake of breath told Rose she had succeeded in giving me yet another first. She gazed up at me with a fierce hunger and whispered, "We can do this tonight, yes? I mean, you're gonna... gonna fuck me... in the ass... aren't you?"

"Rose," I scolded, "you should know better than to ask. I can't refuse you anything, you know that." She sighed deeply and pulled her finger out of my ass, then slapped me again, just a shade harder than she had the first time. "If you don't stop doing that," I warned, "I might start to enjoy it." She made a soft shriek of delight and wrapped her fingers around my scrotum, then gently, gently, so as not to hurt me, but firmly, firmly, to let me know she was in charge, pulled me by the balls, out of the bathroom and down the hall to Marjorie's bedroom. She turned on the bedside lamp to create a warm glow, then sat on the bed and, using my balls as a steering mechanism, placed me directly in front of her, my erection just level with her throat, and she bent down to swirl her tongue around the head. Suddenly, she pulled back and looked up at me.

"Can we have some more wine," she pleaded, "please? It'll relax me, and help me when you..." she paused a second, clearly excited at what she was saying, "when you put your cock up my asshole." I could only nod in agreement, and I went to the kitchen and got the remaining rosé and a couple of glasses. When I got back to the bedroom, an irresistible tease of Navy crawled into my awareness, curled around several times, and settled down for a long nap in a corner of my subconscious where it could make it's influence felt without being noticed; Rose had applied the perfume to her neck and, as I was soon to discover, to the small of her back, just above her asscheeks. I filled each glass and handed her one, then sat beside her and took a drink from mine.

"Tell me about when you did it to Lilly," she said, "what did you do? Did you have to prepare or do anything special, or did you just put it in?"

"Well, even though Lilly had done it a lot before she met me, and she was really used to it, she still needed me to take it very slowly whenever we started doing it. We had to use lubricant, because a rectum can't get wet and slippery like a vagina can. Even when she was totally lubed up, it probably took more than five minutes for me to work my way all the way in. I couldn't go any faster than that without hurting her, and even then, she said it still hurt a little bit. But once I was all the way in, she was able to really relax into it, I guess because her asshole was able to stretch to fit, and once it did, she had me just start pounding away really hard, I mean, really slamming it in, and she said it felt fantastic."

"Mmmmmmm..." Rose murmured. "I'm a little scared, but I think I'm more excited than scared." Her nipples were sticking straight out from her breasts, and as I pinched and rolled them, her breath came in harsh little gasps of delight.

"Do you have any petroleum jelly we can use to make it slick?" I asked, and Rose nodded, then went to the bathroom to fetch it. I called after her to bring my pants back from the bathroom. When she handed them to me, I retrieved a condom from the pocket and was about to open it; Rose stopped me with a hand on my arm. My questioning look brought a deep sigh from her.

"If I can't get pregnant from taking it in the ass, then I'd like to feel you, I mean, really FEEL you, inside me. Your flesh, that is, without a condom. Is that okay?" I could only smile in acceptance.

"If that's what you want, angel," I told her. She nodded eagerly, and a warm glow filled my chest as we each downed our wine. Rose refilled the glasses, and we toasted each other, then linked our arms to toss down our drinks at a single draught. There was only enough wine left in the bottle now for one more glass each, and I said nothing as Rose poured. Again we linked arms, and after finishing, set our glasses on the dresser.

"Whooa," Rose breathed, "wow, I'm a little dizzy. And fizzy. And fuzzy." Her eyes came to rest on my stiffness. "And horny." She took a handful of my balls and massaged them tenderly, kneading and stroking. She bent to take me in her mouth, her incredible, warm, wet, talented mouth, and I laid back and let her work her magic. As she sucked, she moved around into a 69 position, straddlng my face, and I was staring up into her two openings. I licked her vagina for a bit, feeling her wetness flow down over my nose and chin, then worked my way up to her rectum. As I stuck my tongue in, Rose continued to suck, but she was making little mewling noises in the back of her throat each time I penetrated her. I fingered her vagina, soaking my digits in her juice, reaching inside and stroking, then slipped my middle finger into her rectum; it slid easily in, all the way to the base, and Rose stopped sucking to let loose a little cry. I asked if she was okay, and she said, "God, yesssss, that feels so weird but it feels so good, too." I pulled out, then locked my pussy-slicked index and middle fingers together and slid those in. Rose gasped and squirmed, then said, "God! Damn! God damn! OhmyGod, that feels so damn weird! Oh Jack, stroke it, please, stroke my asshole!" I obliged by finger-fucking her ass, then quickly tried to add my ring finger for a three-finger penetration. I managed to do it, but it was so tight, so very tight, and Rose started to hyperventilate. "Ow, Jack, that hurts, it hurts, but it's good, it's a hurt that feels good, I can't describe it. No, don't stop, don't stop hurting me good like that!" I stroked for a little longer while Rose kept bobbing up and down on my cock, grunting and groaning. After a few more minutes, I pulled my fingers out and asked if she was ready.

"Yes, yes, God, yes, I'm ready for it Jack, I'm ready, please do it, do it now, I'm so horny, fuck my ass, lover, fuck me hard in my ass!"

Hearing my precious little Rose talk like this made me so hard it hurt. I could have punched through a concrete wall with it and never noticed. I pulled Rose off me, then reached over to take the petroleum jelly off the nightstand. I smeared a glob of it all up and down my member, then rubbed another glob into her sphincter. She scrambled to her hands and knees, facing the mirror on the dresser so she could see herself as I entered. I positioned myself behind her and gripped her hips, then rubbed the head of my cock slowly up and down her crack, letting the head catch on her rectum several times before stopping there.

"Are you ready, angel?" I asked. Rose bit her lip and looked back at me, nodded briefly, then turned back to look at her reflection. I pushed gently, and for a moment, nothing happened. I stroked her back, telling her to try to relax. I pushed a little harder, and the head of my cock began to push her open. I kept going until half the head was in, then pulled out. I repeated this several times, each time making my way just a tiny bit further. On the last push, I got the entire head in, then stopped to ask Rose if she was okay.

"Yes, I'm okay," she said, "it feels SO weird, it kinda hurts, can you just stop there for a second?" I assured her we had all the time in the world, and I continued to kneel there, not moving, letting her adjust to the sensation. When she nodded, I pushed in a tiny fraction more, then another tiny fraction, then another, pausing each time in case she wanted to tell me to stop. After the fifth push like that, she suddenly cried out, "Stop, Jack, stop, it hurts, it hurts, no, no, don't take it out, don't take it out, just stop, but leave it there for a minute, okay?" I did precisely as she asked, and as we bided our time, I was stroking her thighs, massaging her waist, touching her back, giving her every possible pleasurable distraction I could. After a minute more, she nodded. "Okay, I'm ready for some more, but slow, okay?" Looking her reflection in the eyes, I nodded, then slid in yet a little more, then a little more, then a little more... by the time I was halfway in, she was breathing heavily. "Stop, stop, it's better this time, but I still need you to stop for a minute," she panted. We waited again. This time, instead of telling me to go, she took the lead, slowly pushing herself backwards onto me, controlling the entry, and she kept pushing steadily until I was all the way in, and she stopped and dropped her head to the mattress. "God, it hurts, it hurts Jack, but it's not terrible, it's just so weird."

The feeling was unbelievable. Her tight, tight, tight hole gripped me, and as I flexed my cock inside her, she cried out. I asked if she was okay, and she nodded vigorously. "It's starting to get better, it's really starting to feel good. Pull out some and then put it back in," she directed, and again, I did as she asked. This time, I was rewarded with a long "ooooooo, ooooooo, oh God, Jack, it still feels so weird, but it feels really really nice now." She pulled herself off of me, almost all the way, then backed into me again. "Oh God, oh God, oh that's it, that's really it, Jack! I'm ready for it now, love my asshole Jack, love my asshole as hard as you can!" Gripping her firmly by the hips, I started to thrust in earnest, reaching around to put my fingers at the top of her pussy, stroking and sliding my fingers over her clitoris. She buried her face in the mattress again and said, "mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm". The friction on my shaft was almost unbearable, and I knew I was about to lose it. I didn't do anything to warn her, I just kept pumping hard, slamming into her, making her whole body vibrate, smacking my balls against her, and then the feeling got so intense I roared without realizing I was doing it, and suddenly I was shooting into her, pumping my semen at a hundred miles an hour, and she screamed, "OH YES, FUCK YES, FUCK YES, FUCK YES, don't stop, don't stop, keep pounding me, keep pounding, oh God that feels SO GOOD!!!" After I finished cumming, I didn't let up, just kept pounding into her, shaking her, stroking her clitoris, and then her head sprang up and down wildly, dangerously out of control as her orgasm slammed into her, and I fell onto my back, still gripping her hips, still buried in her ass. She was gasping, we were both covered in sweat, and she rolled off of me to lay her head on my arm, her face buried in my armpit.

"Mmmmm, aaahhhh, oh Jack, that was too much, it was fan-freaking-tastic! Anal sex is SOOO good, I wish you could feel how good it is, I wish I could do it to you." We lay quietly for a while, just relaxing in the glow; but I was waging a fiece internal dialogue, trying to come to terms with her wish, wondering what it would mean for me if I gave in. In the end, it was my love for her, my desire to grant her every wish, that won out.

"Sweetheart," I started, stroking her hair, and she kissed me just below the armpit before looking up. "Angel, what would you say if I told you there WAS a way you could do it to me?" She just looked blankly up at me, not understanding. I took a shuddering breath to gather my courage, then told her, "There's a device called a strap-on, that you can wear, that's like a stiff penis attached to a harness that straps around your waist. If we got you one of those, you could have your wish, you could perform anal sex on me."

No matter what else I may have thought or felt, the wonder and hope in her face at that moment made it all worthwhile. She was absolutely radiant at the thought of being able to pleasure me the way I had pleasured her.

"Oh, Jack, you'd really let me do that to you? For real?"

"Yes, my love," I sighed, "for real."

The afterglow we were feeling induced a euphoric drowsiness, and for the second time in two days, as I fell asleep with my contacts still in my eyes, I knew that in future, I'd have to make a habit of taking them out before we started any sexplay.

26

...I'll be your daddy, I will be the one who loves you 'til the end of time... Father Figure (George Michael)

Rose must have turned the lamp off after I fell asleep. It was still dark when I woke. Rubbing my eyes to try to loosen up my contact lenses, I was able to make out the clock on Marjorie's nightstand; blurry, but I could see the time was 2:17 AM. As I floated further up toward the waking world, I became aware of Rose beside me; she was awake, covered up to her chest with the blanket, arms behind her head as she lay gazing up at the ceiling.

"What's wrong, love?" I asked. She turned to look at me in the darkness, and I felt the back of her hand gently stroking my cheek, then turning over to cup my face in her palm.

"Jack, I know you love me, I know you do. But sometimes I wonder if you ever feel guilty about it. About us, I mean, about us making love. I mean, you said you knew you loved me for a long time before we first made love. I think I understand your reasons for not telling me, for not starting something earlier. It's 'cause you were scared, right? I mean, scared of the age difference, and scared that somebody might find out and then you'd have to go to jail, right?"

"That's part of it," I admitted, not really wanting to have this conversation, but recognizing that it was important, that it was bothering her, and that I needed to let her explore the subject. "But another part of it is because I was confused about how I felt. Not only because the world at large keeps telling me how wrong it is to want to have sex with someone so young, but also because you were so much more than my friend. I was confused because I felt so protective of you, protective and maybe a little possessive. I guess I felt toward you the way I might feel toward my daughter, if I had one. I felt like a father, or how I suppose a father is supposed to feel. I just wanted to shelter you, to keep you safe. A father is supposed to protect his daughter from all the bad things in the world, even those bad things that are in the father's heart. I knew I never wanted to hurt you, and I just couldn't shake the feeling that making love to you would be a bad thing, because it meant I would be taking advantage of you, it meant that I would be using you for my own pleasure before you were old enough to understand exactly what that meant."

"But you don't feel that way now, do you, Jack?" her anxious voice floated out of the darkness. "You know I'm old enough now to make that choice for myself, don't you?"

"Rose, my beloved, yes, I do trust you. You're smart enough to know what's best for you, and you're smart enough to know what's best for me, too. When it comes to us, I trust your instincts completely. It's the world around us that I don't trust. I don't think any amount of argument or reason would sway the police or the courts." Rose's hand slipped from my face down to my chest. She began to stroke and play with my nipples, and I was mildly surprised to discover how delicious this felt, how arousing and relaxing it was. "And as worried as I am about them, about the police, I mean, I'm even more afraid of Marjorie finding out. She trusts me completely, trusts me to take care of you, to treat you right."

"But you DO take care of me, Jack, you take such wonderful care of me!"

I couldn't help but give a mournful laugh at that. "She might agree with you, love, as far as that goes, but I don't think her definition would stretch to include a romantic, physical, sexual relationship. And even if it did, even if the law would allow us to be together, and Marjorie would somehow understand, I'd still be afraid of the implications. Well, not afraid, really, more like weirded out."

"Weirded out? What do you mean?"

"Well, think about it, sweetheart. Do you love me enough to marry me?"

"Of course I do, Jack, you know I do. I've spent whole days just dreaming about being married to you."

"Well, I have too. I've thought a lot about it. So, say we did get married. That would make Marjorie my mother-in-law. She's 38, isn't she?" I laid my hand on the side of Rose's face, and felt her nodding slowly. "My mother-in-law would be younger than me. I'm still struggling to wrap my head around that one, babe." I let my hand wander down to her neck and shoulders, lazily rubbing and stroking, and together, we turned on our sides to face each other so we could stroke and play a little easier. "The alternative to marrying you is someplace that I don't think I could go. I mean, I've thought about marrying your mom so I could always be close to you, but what kind of a lie would that be? Plus then, I'd be your father for real, and that means that every time I touched you in a romantic way, it might feel like incest."

Rose was quiet for a long time after this, just slowly rubbing my chest and neck, absently stroking my face. Then, "You've thought about marrying me? For real?"

"Yes, I have. I've looked as far into the future as I can, and I just can't see myself being without you. It's selfish of me to feel that way, selfishness on a level I never dreamed I would be capable of, but there it is."

"Selfish? What do you mean? If we make each other happy, then how..."

"Think about our ages, love. When you're 18, I'll be 45. When you're 23, I'll be 50. And worst of all, when you're 33, when you won't have even started middle age yet, I'll be 60. There's so much in life for you to discover, for you to know about, and I'm just scared I'll be an anchor, a weight that you won't be able to shake."

"Jack, stop, don't talk like that. You've given me so much, it makes my heart blow up like a balloon, like I can't contain all the wonderful things I get from you. You've taught me so much, Jack, SO much, about music and movies and philosophy, about my body and yours, about love, yes Jack, especially love. You taught me what it means to love so completely. And don't even get me started on orgasms. Remember when you told me that orgasms are one sure way we know how much God loves us? And you were there for me, to make sure my orgasm is everything it's supposed to be. When life gets hard, you're always there for me. Always. You saved me, you pulled me out of the lonely Hell I was in and showed me a whole world I never knew existed. I'm in over my head, Jack, and that's a wonderful thing, because I have you there to keep me from drowning."

Now it was my turn to be quiet for a long time. Eventually, I told her, "You've taught me as much as I've taught you. Maybe more. You freed my frozen heart. You're the woman who looked at me and saw me as I really am and said, yes, this will do." I reached over and kissed her, a long slow joining of the lips that let us share each other's breath, and I marvelled anew at the miracle of how this wonderful young beauty was mine, and of how much she wanted me.

At length, we pulled apart. Rose draped her arm over me, pulled me close, and whispered, "I have two things to tell you. First is, I love you forever and ever. And second is, Jack, it's kinda starting to smell bad in here." This total non sequitir took me so completely by surprise that I started giggling, rapidly running up through complete hilarity, to be joined by Rose, who hugged me tight to her so we could feel each other's laughter.

"You know what we should do?" I asked after I had recovered enough of my breath to speak, "we should strip the sheets off the bed and wash them, and while we're waiting for that, we should go for a naked swim." Rose's sudden intake of breath told me how much she liked that idea.

"Really? You don't think we'd get caught?" she queried. "Cause that sounds like a great idea."

"Totally," I told her, "it's the dead of the night, absolutely nobody will be around."

We got up and dressed, and I pulled the sheets off while Rose appropriated the pillowcases. Carrying our bundles, we slipped out into the cool evening and quietly made our way to the clubhouse. Rose followed me into the laundry room, and we stuffed everything into the biggest washer and started it. I took her by the hand and led her into the men's locker room, into the shower area, and in utter darkness and hot spray, we soaped each other's bodies and got ourselves all cleaned up. Then we made our way out to the chlorine-smelling pool area, where I had left the underwater floods turned off. The only light came from the moon and stars above; it was dark enough that we could barely make out each other's silhouettes as we slipped our clothes off, then slipped into the warm water. We splashed around, slowly moving here and there in the shallow end, but we came together every few minutes for some tender stroking, and every other time we did so, I slipped my hardness into her, taking care not to stroke or thrust, to ensure that I didn't accidentally let loose a load inside her.

By the time we finished and pulled our clothes on, it was almost 4 AM. I put the bedding in one of the driers, and we settled down in the common room, in front of the TV, to watch a Mexican vampire movie that turned out to be a great sleeping aid.

It was after 8 AM when I woke to find morning sunshine lighting up the room and Rose curled up with my arm around her, snoring softly and chuckling gently in her sleep every now and then. She woke when I got up to use the bathroom, and after she went also, we retrieved the bedding and took it back to her apartment. While I made the bed, Rose scrambled some eggs and tossed some precooked bacon in the microwave. It was a simple breakfast, but one of the best meals I'd had in a long time.

After breakfast, Rose announced she wanted to stay in bed all day, making love while listening to music. When she showed me the mix tapes she had created for this purpose, I realized she had been thinking about it for some time. Another first from her, another thing I had never done before. Iris and I had made love while the radio played, but that was just random music, nothing chosen especially for lovemaking; and when I did it with Lilly, it never occurred to me that we should play music. Rose, on the other hand, had put quite a bit of thought into it. She had dug through my collection of CDs and tapes, pointing out with vast amusement that more than half of her selections came from tapes I had labeled as "guilty pleasures". There was Donna Summer, Earth Wind and Fire, Herb Alpert, Gary Wright, Nat King Cole, whole albums by Sade, and I don't remember how many more. She had done a masterful job, and if the day before had been beautiful, then that day (that I will forever think of as Sunday In Bed) was nothing short of exquisite. We used up all the condoms, and by the time I had my fifth orgasm (and Rose, probably her twentieth), evening shadows were filling the room, and we were both starving.

"Oh my God," I muttered when I looked at the clock, "it's after 7 PM. Rose, do you realize we've been at this for the entire day?" She smiled dreamily and nodded.

"I know," she said, "wasn't it perfect?" I had to agree.

The rest of the evening slipped by before we knew it. We ordered a pizza with double pepperoni and double cheese, and before it was delivered, Marjorie had checked in with us from the hotel, to make sure we hadn't forgotten the next day was a school day and to remind us that Rose shouldn't stay up too late. Grateful for the reminder, Rose and I got her books and schoolwork gathered together, bundled up, and ready to go on the kitchen table. We snuggled together on the couch, eating pizza and watching the Errol Flynn "Adventures of Robin Hood" on TV. Dessert was a bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce that we shared, feeding each other, smearing each other's faces with the sticky stuff and laughing at own idiocy. By the time we were done, it was almost 10 PM. While Rose set the alarm for 6:30 AM, I stripped the sex-soaked sheets from the mattress and made the bed fresh with a spare set from the linen closet. Naked, we crawled in and doused the light, and with our arms around each other and our hearts pressed together, we were soon dead to the world.

27

...No, I would not give you false hope on this strange and mournful day... Mother And Child Reunion (Paul Simon)

Monday and Tuesday slipped by way too fast. I drove Rose to school each morning and picked her up each afternoon. In between, while tending to things around the complex, I had plenty of time to relive our encounters of the weekend. Marjorie's absence had been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, having unlimited access to Rose had given me the most beautiful few days of my life; time that I wouldn't have traded for anything, and would have fought like grim death to hold onto. On the other hand, I knew I wanted (needed?) to have that time and that space with Rose on an ongoing basis. I had to find a way to make it work, had to find a way for us to be together the same way we had during Marjorie's absence. Exactly how I was going to make that happen was, at present, beyond me, and that lack was torturing me.

Wednesday morning, as I pulled up in front of the school, Rose turned to me with a wistful look.

"Mom's coming home tonight, and I don't know how to feel about that," she said sadly. "I love her, and I'm glad she'll be back, but I don't know if I can go back to sleeping alone. Having you in bed next to me, all night long, is the safest, happiest, most delicious thing I can think of. Well," and her sad look briefly gave way to one of her impish grins, "maybe the second most," and she caressed the inside of my thigh. Then, "It's going to be harder than Hell to give that up."

"I know exactly how you feel, love," I agreed, "because I feel the same way. What are we going to do about it?"

"I don't know, Jack, I just don't know. Damn it, I don't KNOW!"

"Well, let's just play it by ear for now. Maybe the universe will present something, or maybe we'll see an opportunity somewhere. Or maybe this is a test, to see if we can survive."

"I don't want a test! I want you!" she snuffled, throwing her arms around me and squeezing tight, as if she were sensing me slipping away.

"Hey, hey, none of that, now. I'm not going anywhere, Rose. We'll get by, you'll see. People adapt. We're no different. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that I love you more than life itself, and the rest will flow from that."

She wiped her eyes and managed a weak smile. "You always know what to say. I think I'll be able to get through the day, at least, if I just hang onto that thought." She gave me a soulful kiss, and as she exited the car and walked up the steps and into the school, I felt my heart threatening to tear itself loose from my chest and follow her in.

Dinner that evening was a low-key, subdued affair. We cobbled together a meal from leftovers and ate mostly in silence. Marjorie's flight was scheduled to arrive at 9:35 that evening, and the knowledge hung over us like an angel with a flaming sword, barring our way back into the garden. We tried to watch TV, but it was no use. Finally, at 7:00, Rose and I turned to each other and, without a word spoken, we got up and drove to the airport to wait. As we sat there in the lounge, sipping cappucinos and watching CNN on the wall TV, we held each other's hand and drew some comfort from that simple act. Time seemed to fold up on us like a telescope, and before we were ready, Marjorie's flight had arrived. At the sight of her mother walking up the ramp with a beatific smile on her face, Rose's mood visibly lightened, and they rushed into each other's arms for a timeless embrace that made me start to tear up myself. Marjorie looked up at me, and before I knew what was happening, I found myself included in their embrace, the three of us with our arms around each other. Marjorie smelled so good, and she clung so tight, and Rose did too, that I hardly knew where I was or what I was doing.

After we reclaimed the luggage, we made our way to the car; Rose and Marjorie holding hands and me following along, carrying the bags and trying to feel happy for them. After I loaded the suitcases in the trunk, I turned to hand the keys to Marjorie, but she just smiled and pressed them back into my hand, telling me I might as well finish out the day. Rose climbed into the front and sat in the middle so she could be between the two of us, and on the drive home, Marjorie recounted some of her experiences in the class and what it was like to be a tourist in Atlanta. All too soon, we were home, and after I carried the bags up to the apartment and deposited them in the living room, Marjorie dug through her suitcase to produce some gifts. For me she had brought back an Atlanta Braves koozie and a bottle of peach schnapps, and Rose was gifted with a stuffed plush peach and a snowglobe containing a miniature Atlanta skyline that showered tiny peaches (instead of snowflakes). For herself, she had only a glass in the cylindrical shape of the Westin Peachtree, a keepsake of the rum and coke she had ordered during her visit to the Sun Dial restaurant on the top of the Westin.

It was close to 11:00 by this time, and as I turned to leave, Marjorie reached out and pulled me into a bear hug. "Thank you, thank you, Brent," she whispered, "I knew I could count on you to be there for us. I hope someday I can repay you for all you've done."

"Don't, Marjorie, don't," I whispered back, "it was no sacrifice, staying with Rose was like a dream. It was nothing but pleasure, please believe me."

She pulled back and gazed at me with a strange expression, and my heart suddenly pounded as if it were trying to warn me of something; but all she said was, "I must have done something right, to have you in our lives. Thank you, Brent, just... just... thank you," and she was starting to mist up. I dared to give her a kiss on the cheek as I was leaving, and then I was out the door, Rose at my side as she walked me back to my room, her hand squeezing mine as if to say, 'I know you're still here, but it feels like I'm losing you anyway'. Behind the safety of my locked door, we exchanged a long, sensual kiss, and as she left, I whispered to her, "I'll see you in a little bit, sweetheart, as soon as I fall asleep and start dreaming," and she smiled a brave smile and whispered back, "Me too. G'night, Jack, I love you."

28

...we all need someone we can cream on, and if you want to, you can cream on me... Let It Bleed (The Rolling Stones)

Somehow, we managed to recapture our rhythms. With Marjorie back and Rose returned to her role as a kid in school, our old patterns were a comfort, a source of familiarity that eased us up out of the valley of despair. We were back to our nightly routines and once-a-week dinners at their apartment. The coolness of approaching autumn was pushed back for a bit as Indian summer graced us with a last gift heavy warmth. The days pushed, amazingly, to 85 degrees, and the nights were beyond mild, approaching sultry. It was almost as if Mother Nature wanted to let us know that even though the long dark of winter was ahead, She was still watching over us, caring for us and wanting us to experience joy.

The meet and greet for November was a little livelier than usual. Four new tenants showed up, and Marjorie was right in the thick of it when she learned one of them had been raised in Buckhead, an upscale Atlanta neighborhood that had been her favorite part of the city. I don't know whether it was that chance meeting, or simply a little extra enthusiasm on her part, but Marjorie knocked back a couple more drinks than was her usual wont that evening. She wasn't slobbering drunk, but she seemed to need a little help with simple tasks like sitting. As the evening drew to a close, I found myself sitting at the folding table that had held pizza and chips, but now hosted only empty pizza boxes and chip bags, with Marjorie sitting next to me, sucking back the last of her most recent drink. She was rubbing her eyes, as if they bothered her, or as if she was trying to get something out of them that she didn't want there; tears, maybe, or unwanted memories. The room had emptied now, everyone having gone back to their apartments, and Marjorie swayed into me, then straightened herself out and set her glass down. In the back of my head, I was aware of the sound of Rose playing Donkey Kong, but in the front, all I could see was how impaired her mother was.

"Wanna tellya sumpthin," Marjorie said in the most heavily slurred voice I'd heard from her yet . As her right hand slipped out of sight, her left hand collapsed onto the table and knocked over her glass. Since she had already drained it, the only damage was a couple of ice cubes skittering across the checkered tablecloth and bouncing away on the floor. With her right hand on my thigh, she squeezed earnestly, and I knew there was nothing overtly sexual in it, she was just trying to make sure she had my undivided attention and was using the most direct way she could think of at the moment to get it. I left the hand in place and waited her out. The pause drew out a few more seconds, then a few more, while Marjorie tried to marshall her thoughts. When she recollected herself, she started over, "Wanna tell ya sumpthin," along with a repeat of the thigh squeeze. "Th' reason I walked out on Stan was cuz my boss was movin' in on me, he was allays all over me, like, wenever we wuz alone, he just, he just look' so good, and he smell' so good, and he was so confident, like the world owed him, not th' other way aroun', y'know? Not like Stan at all, Stan was s'damn laidback, just laidback an' let people walk all over him. Let 'em..." she paused as the words choked in her throat. "Let me. Let me walk all over him. Let me treat him like garbage." The tears were on their way, I could see that from a million miles off. Still she squeezed and massaged my thigh, and somewhere between her hand and her heart, it must have been transmuted into Stan's thigh for her, because she just kept kneading and massaging as if she were trying to love away some ancient injury that had never been tended properly. "Let me screw aroun', and he never stood up for himself, never got mad 'bout me screwin' my boss, just kep' tryin' to talk it out, talk it away. An' when I made him stop touchin' me, he never quit tryin', no matter how mad I got, he jus' kep' tryin' an' tryin' to hold me in his arms." The tears were coming in earnest now, one after another, rolling down and off her face to make tiny splatters on the tablecloth. "An', an' I wouldn' let him hold me, I told him I had a real man now, I didn' need him, an' I made him go. I made him pack his bags and get out. An' after Stan was gone, an' I was ready to move in with my boss, he dumped me. The sumbitch just dumped me on my ass. I made excuses, I told m'self it was my fault, I scared him cuz I had Rose, but inside, I knew the real reason, on'y I couldn't admit it to myself. The bassard just didn't care. He had better ass to chase, I guess." Both hands were on my thigh now, rolling and moving through the flesh that I knew for her could only be Stan's. "An', an' I was too scared, an' angry, an' ashamed of what I done to Stan. I couldn' go back to him, not after what I done, not after what I told him, I couldn' face him. I was still confused, I didn' think I needed him. So I ran, tryin' to get away from what I done. An' I was doin' the same dam' thing all over again, not thinkin' it through, just pullin' poor little Rose with me through my own private hell." Marjorie leaned into me, laying her head on my shoulder, and still she kept massaging. My leg was starting to feel pretty loose, and I wondered if it would be possible to move her hands to the other leg without breaking the mood or her frame of mind. "Stan, I'm, I'm sorry, I'm so, so, so sorry, oh God, Stan, why did, why did ya have to go and d-d-d-die before I could tell you? Dammit, Stan, come back! Pleeease come back, I promise I'll be good, I swear, on'y please don't go!" She was wracked with heaving sobs now, borne away on a tidal flow of guilt. Her need was so great I couldn't ignore it. As I wrapped my arms around her and laid a hand on her hair, I looked up to see Rose standing silently in the doorway, gazing at the pair of us with her head tilted to one side and tears standing in her huge eyes. Marjorie heaved several more great shuddering convulsions before coming to herself and looking up into my eyes. Slowly, she released my thigh as she focused on my face and seemed to come to recognition of where she was and what she was doing.

"Brent? Brent, 'm sorry to lay all this on you," she rubbed at her eyes to dry them. "You been so good for my Rose. 'afore we came here, I was gettin' scared of what all our movin' was doin' to her. Was like watchin' her die a little bit more ever' day. 'Til she found you. You been her anchor, you been the on'y good thing in her life for a long time." Marjorie took a glance at my arms around her, then responded by wrapping her arms around me and hugging tight. "Which makes you the on'y good thing in my life, too, 'cause without Rose I got nothin'. I done too many wrong things, I fucked up too many times. I need help, Brent, I can't do it myself, I can't fix anything, all I know how to do is fuck things up. So here I am, if you want me, you c'n have me, I still got a few good fucks in me, I'll suck on it ever' day, I promise, on'y please say you'll stay with us. We need you." She leaned in close and started to kiss my neck while rubbing my chest; but that only lasted for a handful of seconds, before the tears started falling again. "Oh God, please love me, please love me Brent, you c'n love me like the way you love Rose, can't ya?" I felt my heart skip several handfuls of beats at one shot; my face suddenly felt like ice. I looked around to see Rose's reaction, but she was gone. Nobody else was around. As gently as I could, I scooped Marjorie up in my arms and carried her out of the shadow-haunted clubhouse, into the surprisingly warm Indian Summer night, across the courtyard and up the stairs of her building. The door to her apartment was standing open; inside, Rose was sitting on the floor in the corner with her legs tucked up underneath; her face was dry, but it was obvious she'd been crying hard. I laid Marjorie gently on the couch, and before I could wonder what to do next, I heard her snoring softly.

"She's out for the night," Rose said quietly from beside me; I hadn't even seen her stand up or walk over. A second later the front door clicked shut, completing the arc Rose had started when she pushed it. "She won't wake up until morning." Taking my hand, she led me to Marjorie's bedroom, sat on the unmade bed, and patted the mattress next to her. I sat down beside her. In the dark bedroom, I could just barely make out her silhouette. She took my hand and placed it on the side of her face, kissing the palm briefly. "Jack, do you want to... to fuc... do you want to make love to my mom?"

I was startled and scared, touched and saddened, all at once. "No, angel, I really don't. You're all I need, you're the only woman I want. Cross my heart," and I crossed my heart as I said it.

"Jack, I love you so much, I don't want to share you, but I have to think about my mom, too. She's so alone, in a really serious way, she's as alone as we were before we found each other. Jack, do you think you could...? I mean, would you be willing to... Jack, would you have sex with my mom? Please? For her? I think she needs it so bad, she's hurting so much, I want her to have this, I really do."

"Rose, I can't. I don't want to do anything that will make you wonder about me, or worry about whether I love you. If I have sex with your mom, you'll always wonder what it meant to me, you'll worry about whether I love you as much as I did before..."

"No I won't, Jack, I promise, I swear to you, I know you love me, I can feel it in your touch, I can hear it in your voice." As she said this, she started to unbutton my shirt. "You'll always be in my heart, and I know I'll always be in yours. Nobody can ever take that away from us. But I have my mom in my heart too, and I have to think about what she needs." She slipped off my shirt, pushed gently on my chest until I laid back on the bed, and started to undo my pants. "I know you won't hurt me, Jack, you can't. You said you trust my instincts. Remember?" She pulled off my pants and underwear in one smooth motion, then turned to drop them on the floor. "Well, that's what I want you to do now. Please just trust me and believe me." In what seemed like one fluid motion, she removed all of her clothes, then stood naked before me as I lay back on the bed. My erection seemed to be a long time in filling out, and she helped it along by stroking it gently. "Rose, honey, your mom is right out there..." I gestured toward the open bedroom door; she put a finger to my lips and shook her head silently, then just as silently, climbed up onto the bed and, without saying anything more, climbed up on top of me, gripped my member and guided it into her moist, velvet spread, sighing deeply as I penetrated her. She started out slowly, riding me up and down, but very quickly increased her speed. Rocking back and forth, sliding up and down, she rode me hard, bucking and pumping, gasping and grabbing my chest as I gripped her by the waist and held on tight. The aroma of sex filled my senses, I felt like I was drowning in it, like being caught beneath a wave that keeps rushing over you and knocking you back. I hadn't even had a chance to think about what we were doing, I just let Rose take the lead; and before I knew it, I was on the threshold, ready to cross over. "Rose," I whispered, "sweetheart, I'm really close, I'm about to lose it, get off me now honey, before it's too late." My words only spurred her to greater action; she was humping furiously, her soft breasts bouncing and rippling in the darkness above my face, riding me like a maniac and panting softly, "oh oh oh oh oh". "Rose, no," I hissed, "stop it, stop it, I'm gonna... ohmyGod, here I go!" And with that, I slid over the edge. As I was spasming up into her, she collapsed on my chest and put her mouth over mine, shoving her tongue past my teeth and ramming it in and out, fucking my mouth with her tongue, a hell-bent little sex machine. As the spasms subsided, she slowed and moved her mouth down to my neck, dragging her tongue across my shoulders, and still she was slowly sliding up and down on me, milking the last little tremors. Then it was over, but she stayed on me, panting and sweating and lightly scratching my chest with her fingernails. I couldn't move, couldn't even turn my head or speak. My hands had slipped down to her thighs, and as they rested there, I could feel little bolts running up through her legs, making her quiver slightly at random for a long time afterward.

When I didn't say anything for a while, Rose smiled langorously, "We'll be okay, I know it. It's been four weeks since my last period, it's too late for me to get pregnant. You'll see, I'll start bleeding in a day or so and you'll know everything is okay." She kissed me on the chest and pulled the sheet over us. "There, you see? We covered our nakedness before the eyes of God." I had to smile in spite of myself.

"Still, that's quite a chance to take, sweetheart," I mumbled, not wanting to seem ungracious, wanting to take care to never seem ungrateful for such a powerful gift.

"Well, I thought of it like this," she said slowly, her toes softly scratching my legs, "if you start doing this with my mom, I might not get to do it with you as often. So I wanted to do it with you while I had the chance. It was worth it, wasn't it? I mean, I can still feel it in my legs and my butt!" She slid slowly off of me, and in the darkness I could just make out the outline of her face and breasts as she lay back. "OhmyGod, the smell! Jack, will it still smell like sex in here in the morning?" We opened the window to feel the slight chill of November that had crept in during the last hour and turned on the little fan on Marjorie's nightstand, and Rose lit the two candles on the dresser; Kona Coast Vanilla and Apple Blossom Cinnamon.

29

...She makes love just like a woman, yes she does, and she aches just like a woman, but she breaks just like a little girl... Just Like A Woman (Robert Zimmerman)

Things were a little uneven after that. Marjorie remembered that something had passed between us, but the amount of alcohol she had consumed had apparently blotted out most of it, and she wasn't quite sure what it was, and wasn't sure how to suss it out; and I wasn't sure how to act around her. Rose was laying subtle pressures on me every other day, passing little hints that she figured would push me into approaching Marjorie, to start a physical relationship.

There came a Wednesday evening in December, a couple of weeks before Christmas, that Rose apparently couldn't take it anymore. As we sat in the early evening gloom of the clubhouse, playing Yahtzee and chowing on pretzels, she reached across the coffee table and, taking my chin in her delicate little hand to ensure my full attention, said "Jack, are you gonna ask my mom out?" She was so direct and open, and so intent and insistent on her little "project", that I simply folded like a house of cards and said, "All right, love, you win. I'll call her tomorrow to ask her out this weekend."

"Can't let you wait until tomorrow, babe," she pouted, "don't want you to get cold feet. Ask her NOW!" And her expression shifted to such a perfect blend of petulence and pleading that all hope of resistance was destroyed.

"Okay, okay, you win," I sighed. "I'll ask her tonight." Rose bounced to her feet, any thought for the game swept away by my agreement.

"Let's go then, Jack, let's go ask her NOW!" she demanded pulling at my hand until I stood and followed her to the door. As we shrugged into our coats and slipped on our shoes, Rose turned to me. "What are you going to say? I mean, what are you going to ask her?"

"God, I don't know," I muttered, "I've never really asked anyone on a date before. I... I... um..." Rose looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, "Just go with the classic, ask her if she wants to go to dinner and a movie!" As I opened the door for her, I gave her arm a little squeeze to punctuate my next comment, "Jeez, Rose, it isn't that easy! I can't just blurt it out like that! All of a sudden, I'm so nervous! It takes a hell of a lot more courage than you know to ask a woman to go out with you. It's a scary thing."

"Well then pretend it's me. You wouldn't have any trouble asking me, would you?"

"That's different, sweetheart. We know each other so well, and you're my best friend in the world."

"Oh shut up and just do it, Jack! I know you can!"

At the door of the apartment, I put a hand on Rose's shoulder to stop her before she could enter. "Wait a minute, Rose, I am NOT going to take her out in that truck, and it would be unforgivably lame for me to ask to borrow her own car to take her out."

"Oh come on, Jack, it was no big deal for you to use the car when mom was out of town, this isn't all that much different." She put her arms around me and squeezed tight. "And you're almost like family anyway, so it's all cool," and the impish smile that filled half her face told me that she knew I was going to give her whatever she wanted.

Without waiting for further response from me, she flung open the door and breezed into the apartment, leaving me stuttering along in her wake.

"Hey mom," she sang out, "I'm home!" When she heard Rose, Marjorie came out of the bathroom, hair wrapped in a towel and a bathrobe that she hadn't bothered to completely close draped loosely around her curves. When she saw me, she blushed briefly and quickly closed the robe, and I blushed harder and turned away a few seconds too late. Seemingly oblivious to this exchange, Rose turned on her heel and fixed me with an expression of 'Do the right thing, I'm counting on you!'

"Um, hi, um, Marj," I stumbled, "um, sorry to catch you offguard like this. Um...", a lightning bolt from Rose's eyes letting me know that I had better not drop the ball; even if I had caught Marjorie completely naked and slathering herself with baby oil, Rose would have expected me to stick to plan, "if you're not busy Saturday night, would you, um... would you like to... ah, get something to eat with me?" Another imperious flash from Rose's baby browns, "and, ah, maybe catch a movie?"

Marjorie was as off-guard and unsure as I was. I could see she had witnessed the little looks Rose was giving me, and I felt sure she knew exactly what was going on. She took a few seconds to assess the situation, before slowly nodding and even more slowly smiling, "Sure, I'd like that. I'd like that a lot, Brent." And her smile kept growing until it was radiating it's own warmth across the empty space between us and lighting up my chest. I thought briefly of cursing fate, or kismet, or whatever in the hell it is that evaluates and watches our lives, for forcing me to endure so much loneliness, then 'making up' for it by giving me too much happiness to handle. "So then," my voice suddenly coming much freer and steadier, "I'll stop by about, what, say, 6?" Marjorie nodded vigorously, "Yeah, 6 is fine," she gushed with her mouth, while her eyes added, 'and so are you!' Wowzers. I was so euphoric that I completely forgot to say anything about the car. Rose assured me later that she would handle that little detail. So confident, so competent, so capable. How could I NOT be in love with her?

As I was leaving, Rose followed me out into the hall. She took my hand and kissed the palm, then pressed herself into my embrace. "Thank you, Jack, I knew you could do it!" I had no words, so I just hugged her all the tighter.

Saturday afternoon found Rose assembling my attire for the date. Not that she didn't trust me, she explained, but she felt like she should be running this little show. I didn't mind, it was much more enjoyable for me anyway, to just sit back and let someone else make all the decisions. Before I put my shirt on, Rose applied a generous amount of Old Spice to my face, neck and chest, rubbing it in, her tender little digits making circling motions around my nipples that made me melt. A most curious sensation, to be dressed by my thirteen year old lover, her confident and capable fingers buttoning my shirt, fastening and zipping my pants with a gentle squeeze to what lay beneath the zipper, helping me into my jacket... she was my daughter, my mother, my sister, my friend, my lover, my wife... so many conflicting feelings and sensations... and when at the end she was done and stood back to admire her handiwork, she liked what she saw so much that she wrapped her loving arms around me, and then all the other women she had been were gone, and there was only my lover, wild and mournful over the imminent change in our relationship.

By then, it was ten minutes to six. We walked slowly over to the apartment, not quite daring to hold hands, but with our little fingers wrapped together in the space between us. It felt like Rose was still trying to learn to let go of the part of me that her mother might soon have.

When we walked into the apartment, I felt my jaw come unhinged and literally fall open at the sight of Marjorie. Her eyelids were tinged with this gentle blue and purple sparkly stuff, her lips gleaming red, and she bore an almost invisible streak of maroon on her cheeks. Her long hair curled gently around her shoulders; the white shirt she wore had a brilliant swatch of colors across the front, with a neckline so low that with the top button unbuttoned, I was sure I was seeing more than half of her breasts. A simple, single chain of silver glittered around her neck, matched by a bracelet on her left wrist. Her tight tan skirt came halfway down her thighs, and when she walked over to me, I could see it riding up fairly high to allow her legs to move. Her feet were just barely covered by strappy little sandals with one inch heels. She moved toward me with a slinky sidestep, and when she stood in front of me, she reached up to gently push my jaw back up into a closed position, then reached forward to give a quick hug. I inhaled deeply; the sweet smell of her Navy was intoxicating.

"My, don't you look nice tonight," Marjorie murmured as she stood back and eyed me warmly.

"Marjorie," I rasped like an idiot, and had to clear my throat a couple of times to continue, "Marj... you're dazzling, you're too beautiful for words. You are... a... vision of delight..." For the first time ever, I heard Marjorie giggle, actually giggle like a schoolgirl, and her cheeks burned with a furious ochre that suddenly made her twice as beautiful. I actually started to hypverventilate just a little from the sudden overwhelming collision of sensation, emotion and desire that pierced my chest and points lower.

She fished in her handbag for a second before producing the car keys and slipping them into my pants pocket (!) with a friendly little pat to make them jingle (!!!) and a sultry smile only inches from my face. Taking my arm in hers, Marjorie turned to Rose and said, "Ready sweetheart?" Rose looked a little stricken as she chewed her lower lip and nodded. Marjorie continued, "Okay, get your bag, honey, let's get this show on the road." At my look of bewilderment, Rose cocked her head at me and said, "Oh, I forgot to tell you, I'm sleeping over at Brittany's tonight, so you guys are gonna have to drop me off on the way." I felt my jaw start to slide open for a second time before catching myself and closing it. The... MINX... had made sure there would be nothing to inhibit me, nothing in my way, when Marjorie and I got back to the apartment; nothing to provide an excuse for not bedding her. Again I say to you, HOW could I NOT be in love with her?

Dropping her off at Brittany's brought a startling new sensation; the anxiety of a parent delivering a child to a first-ever experience where the parent isn't around to supervise. I knew that Rose must have been to a sleepover before, but not since I had known her, and the uneasy feeling it caused in my gut must have been similar to what a father feels. A decidedly unpleasant feeling. As we watched from the driveway, Rose knocked on the door. When Brittany opened it, she stepped out onto the porch to wave to us. Score one for Brittany; that little courtesy made me feel a little more charitable toward her. Even dressed down, Brittany looked like a firecracker, and I could easily see why she would have no trouble getting all the men she wanted.

As we headed to Vincenzo's Steakhouse, Marjorie and I sat in tense silence. Well, maybe not tense, but there was definitely some kind of tension between us. The thousand-and-one unspoken questions, expectations, hopes, fears, anxieties, hungers, needs, swarmed over us and between us; it was torture, for me at least, to have all these raw expectations. Neither of us sure how to make that first puncture in the bubble that separated us. I coughed nervously once or twice, and a minute later Marjorie followed suit. We looked at each other, and she gave me a little smirk, which brought an involuntary smile from me, which caused her smirk to grow bolder, which increased my smile, until we were both laughing uproariously, as over some monumental jest we had made together. We still hadn't said anything to each other, but the tension was completely released, evaporated, vanished. Just as she had so many times in front of the TV in her apartment, Marjorie's hand came to rest on my knee. It was a feeling of such intense familiarity, and brought such a rush of relief, that I was completely unaware until sometime after I did it, that I had put my hand on Marjorie's knee in response. I should have been nervous; instead, it was comforting. It was an unspoken acknowledgement between us of how the night was going to end. We both knew it, now we had admitted it to each other, and that admission made everything smooth and right, replacing the tingling uncertainty with an edgy anticipation that sent tremors through my crotch. It was the difference between being buffeted by turbulence at 20,000 feet and a long steady glide on a certain path to an easy landing. I would have sworn even our hearts were beating in unison.

Vincenzo's was strangely quiet for a Saturday night. We didn't have to wait to be seated, we were immediately shown to a cozy little table in the corner furthest from the kitchen, hidden in a fern- and candle-choked alcove that isolated it from the rest of the patrons. As we perused the menu, Marjorie reached over to touch my arm, and I couldn't stop myself from looking straight down the front of her shirt. As it turned out, she only wanted to tell me that she wanted us to go Dutch on the bill. Again, I saw the hand of Rose at work, trying to grease the skids; I was sure she had prepped Marjorie on my lack of disposable income, trying to ease as much of the burden on me as she could, to remove any distraction from the task at hand. Marjorie ordered a petite sirloin, while mine was a chicken carbonara. While we waited for the food, we shared a bottle of Sangria; after the first sip, Marjorie smiled at me over the rim of the glass and said, "Tonight, I spend with you." It was a comfort to know what she really meant by that, to not have to guess if there was any deeper meaning, but that didn't make me any less anxious over the prospect.

When the food came, Marjorie cut a portion of her steak and put it on my plate, and I did the same for her with my chicken. The food was delicious, the music and lighting were perfect, and we shared an easy conversation as we finished the bottle of Sangria, although I honestly can't remember a single thing we said to each other. When we were done eating and the bill arrived, Marjorie teased a 20 from her handbag and pressed it into my hand, and as we stood at the register while I paid for the meal, she wrapped her arm around mine and stood very close, her brilliant red lips vaguely curved in a mysterious smile that made me giddy. As we walked out to the car, our arms naturally slipped around each other's waists. I walked her around to the passenger side and held the door open for her, and she thanked me with her smile.

We pulled into the parking lot of the theater and cruised slowly past the posters advertising the current movies. Each one looked less interesting than the one before, and we found ourselves agreeing that none of them appealed enough to make the effort. Marjorie suggested stopping at Larry's Liquor Lodge on Parkway, to get a bottle of something while we mulled our choices; so we did. As small as Larry's store was, his selection was nothing short of amazing. No matter what type of liquor I could think of, Larry had it. I suspected that was probably the reason Marjorie picked this place. She had selected a bottle of 90 proof rum and a two liter of Coke; when she sashayed up to the counter to pay, Larry couldn't take his eyes off her. "Holy Gawd Mawj, you look hawtter than hayull," he wheezed as he bagged up the bottles, and with a couple of comically lewd winks, "mus' be a pretty hawt date!" Marjorie smacked his shoulder (pretty hard, I thought) and hissed "Shut up, Larry! Jeezis, you're such an old goat!"

Back in the car, Marjorie pursed her lips and blew air through them. "No glasses," she mused, "guess we'll have to head back to the apartment for a bit. Long enough to knock back a drink or two, anyway, while we decide what to do." I drove us back to the complex, parked, and followed her back to her place. Inside, we kicked our shoes off at the door, and I slipped off my jacket and tossed it on a chair. She got down a couple of glasses while I cracked an ice cube tray, and in less time than it takes to tell, we were sitting side by side on the couch, sipping our drinks and sizing each other up. I could see that Marjorie wanted to say something to me, but she was struggling with it; her eyes were darting from side to side as if she were sizing up the best route through a gauntlet. I took a deep pull on my drink to get my courage up, then reached out to massage her shoulder, mildly amazed at my audacity. "Hey, Marj, it's okay," I whispered, "just relax. Nothing to be tense about. Just breathe. It's just us, just sitting here." All alone. Nobody else in the whole wide world. Probably both going to be drunker than hell very shortly.

I continued to gently caress her shoulder, reaching up to brush her neck with my fingers, and she closed her eyes and made a little "ooooo" with her lips. With eyes still closed, she started, "Brent..." My heart did a somersault at that, but I just kept smoothly rubbing her shoulder and neck. "Brent," she started again, "you know how I feel about your relationship with Rose." Completely of it's own accord, my hand stopped rubbing. As if she hadn't noticed, she went on, "You saved us, Brent. You saved Rose, you rescued her for me. You reached down into Hell and pulled her up. And you pulled me up with her. You saved us both. You... you saved her... from me..." An absurd sting of gratitude for her perception of me burned my eyes, and I slowly started to stroke the side of her neck again. She glanced at her drink, took a long pull on it, then suddenly drained the glass. She laid her head back and closed her eyes again, lost in the sensation of my massage. After a couple of shuddering breaths, she pressed on, so softly that I had to lean in closer and closer to hear her. "I thought I wanted to get drunk, tonight, with you, because... because... get drunk with you, because I wanted to... wanted us to..." I had an overwhelming rush of feeling, a sweet urge toward her that I couldn't resist. I took her glass and put it with mine on the coffee table, and leaned forward to kiss her gently on the throat. She made a little strangled noise and put her hand on my hair, and suddenly I was drowning in her, sucked under by the smell of her perfume and the willing way she tilted her head back to give me better access to her. "Don't, uh... don't, Bren... don't, uh, uh... stop, Brent, don't do that... we have to, uh...have to get drun...OOOoooohhhhh" she murmured, while the steady pressure of her hand on the back of my head was moving me gently down her chest, to the valley between her breasts. Very slowly and deliberately, I unbuttoned her shirt and pulled it back, and she helped me by shrugging out of it. She was still trying to tell me to stop as she unfastened her bra and slid it off. Her nipples were already tight and hard. At the first flick of my tongue around her areola, her back arched and she made a savage growl in the back of her throat. The heavenly feel of her nipple under my tongue sent a warm shock through my thighs, and she was pulling my head down further into her flesh. "Ohhhhh, my goddddd... Bren... Jac... Jack..." she breathed, and I knew we couldn't hold back. I quickly stood and scooped her up; she seemed to have no weight, like she was almost floating in my arms. As I carried her into the bedroom, her tongue was drawing little patterns on my neck; she kissed, then sucked on my ear, and I started to feel dizzy. I was afraid I might drop her, so I set her on her feet next to the bed, where she unbuttoned my shirt, kissing her way down my chest as she did so. She didn't stop with the shirt; when she got to my pants, she unfastened and slipped them down my legs, then knelt in front of me to help me step out of them, followed by the socks. As she was kneeling before me, my half-mast erection roared to a full, raging stiffness that pushed unmercifully against my underwear. She pulled those off too, then leaned into me to take my cock in her hand and my balls in her mouth. Looking down at this beautiful woman, this mother of my Goddess, kneeling before me, servicing me with a ferocious hunger, I got a strange twinge in my chest to match the one that was building behind my balls. She was making me weak in the knees; I sat on the bed, then pulled her up by the shoulders to get her to stand. With an assist from her, I unzipped and slid her short skirt off. It was hard to see; the only light in the room was the spillover from the living room lamp, but I could see the crotch of her panties was wet, and the smell confirmed it. I slid her underwear off, then pulled her down onto the bed and had her lay back while my tongue travelled every inch of her body. When I got to her thighs, the smell of her musk pushed all rational thought out of my head, and my tongue started trying to work it's way completely inside her. Marjorie had shaved her pussy, the skin was baby smooth, and the feeling of that flesh beneath my tongue was ecstatic. Marjorie was moaning and panting, her legs spread as wide as she could get them, her hands flung back over her head, gripping the headboard to hold herself in place while my mouth and nose made their way deeper and deeper into the glistening folds of her bare flesh. I was working my way slowly up her valley, and when my tongue found her clitoris, her back arched and her hips were bucking wildly beneath me, so that it was all I could do to keep my tongue buried in her heat. I backed off from the clitoris for a few seconds, and suddenly she was spraying me in the mouth with her juice, literally shooting a gush of fluid that splashed over my shocked tongue. After I caught what I could, I moved back up to her clitoris, trying to bury it in my tongue, pouring every last ounce of myself into stroking and exciting and loving that tiny area, until it became the entire universe to me. Her thighs had wrapped themselves around my head, squeezing and pulling me down, squeezing, squeezing, until I thought I might pass out from the pressure, and still I kept a steady rhythm of my tongue on that little miracle of flesh that was rocking her. Although my ears were completely blocked by her legs, I could still hear her wails and moans; or rather, I felt them as a vibration through her thighs. My lungs were beginning to protest the lack of air, but I couldn't stop, couldn't pull my nose and mouth out of her hot, wet temple. Suddenly, she grabbed my hair and pulled my head up from her crotch. "Inside me," was all she could say, "inside me now, get inside me now, god, please please please get inside me now..." I scrambled up until we were face to face. Marjorie put her arm around my neck and pulled my mouth to hers, her rum taste filling my senses as her breath rushed into me. I had condoms in my pants, but the moment demanded we keep going, and I didn't have any more time to think about what we were doing, I just did it. Guiding it with my thumb and first two fingers, I put the head of my cock right at her opening and teased it in. Once the head was surrounded, I slid the rest of the way in so easily that it was almost like falling into her. So sloppy, my god, so sloppy and wet and hot as I pushed and pushed myself into her, hearing the sloshing, slapping sounds we made against each other. Her hands dug into my butt cheeks, tearing at them, pulling me into her, as if she meant to fit my whole body in there. From a million miles up, I felt the rush coming on. I didn't know how long it would take, but I felt how inevitable it was, and I knew it was going to happen; I knew I was going to shoot my load deep into her waiting temple. Something in the way I was moving must have told her, because she began rocking her head back and forth, panting "Together, together, oh my god, we're gonna, we're gonna, we're gonna c-c-cum together...", and then it was happening; the feeling between my legs sent a shockwave through me, my vision was suddenly shot through with rainbow blooms and angry white spangles that grew until they blotted out everything else, and there I was, floating in that timeless space, the darkness that wasn't. The Little Death, that Rose had introduced me to, where I heard and saw nothing, where every other sense that wasn't pure explosive pleasure ceased to exist for an infinity of seconds.

When my hearing and sight faded so slowly back in, I became aware of Marjorie next to me, barely breathing, a single tear running slowly from each eye, sparkling in the faint light from beyond the bedroom door. She gradually turned to look at me, and her eyes were reflections of wonder. "Bren... Ja... Jack? What... oh holy god. Oh my god, oh my holy fucking god, what was that? What did you do to me? I... I... I thought I was dying! I really thought I was fucking dying!" and as words failed her completely, I put her hand on my face so she could feel me nodding in the dark. "Yes, I know," I said, "I felt it too. It's called the Little Death. I think. I mean, I know there's a feeling called the Little Death, and I thought I knew what it was, but until I felt it myself, I never had any idea what it actually was or how it felt."

"Does this happen to you every time you have sex?" she asked. "Or is it only with certain people?" Ohmygod. I had just slipped and told her I had felt the Little Death before, and if she asked who I had experienced it with, what was I going to tell her?

"No, not every time..." I started slowly, then stopped, because I didn't know how to continue. I knew I owed her more of an explanation than that but...

"Jack," she whispered, stroking my chest and reaching up to my neck with her loving touch. Hearing her call me 'Jack' triggered a flood of emotions that were never meant to be felt together, confusing me to the center of my being. "Jack, I thought I needed to get drunk to make love to you, and I wanted to, so bad. Make love to you, that is. But I think I needed to get drunk for something else too. I don't know why, I just do. Do you know what I might have needed to get drunk for, Jack?" When she said that, something inside me tore loose and went speeding away on a gale of reckless abandon. "No, I don't," I whispered, "but I know how to find out. Let's get drunk and find out, shall we?" The uncertainty and potential in Marjorie's glance was all the answer I needed. With a loving kiss to each of Marjorie's beautiful round breasts, I pushed up from the bed. Wandering through the apartment in a light stupor, I collected our glasses, sloshed together a couple of rum and cokes that were very heavy on rum, and brought them back to the bedroom. "Drink up," I said as I sat in front of her and handed her one of the glasses. I took a sip from mine, and she guzzled down about half of hers on the first draught.

Wordlessly, Marjorie moved until she was sitting up, facing me, straddling me, and she was able to reach down between my legs and start stroking my shaft. When I was hard again, her movements let me know she wanted me inside her. She finished off her drink and put down the glass, then took my almost-full glass from me and drained what was left. She maneuvered until we were face to face, her in my lap, and she gripped my cock and guided into her waiting pussy, sliding down until I was buried, balls deep, with her pussy completely surrounding me. She wrapped her arms around me and pressed her breasts up against my chest, and as we sat there heart to heart, I started to really feel the rum.

"Bren... Jack," she started, then shivered, and I pressed us together tighter, "this is what I want'd to git drunk for. Cuz I need to tell you sumthin'. Sumthin' I c'n on'y admit to m'self when I git drunk. Y'see, I know... I know 'bout... 'bout you and Rose. Know you been lovin' each other," this last said with a squeeze of her inner muscles around my cock for emphasis. "I know you been... f... fuckin'... my li'l baby girl..." I think she knew I wouldn't have interrupted her, but she put her fingers on my mouth anyway. "D... don't rilly blame you... all that much, I mean, I was 14 when I fucked my first guy... but he was 19..." she wavered, aware that she was sliding away from the most important point she wanted to make. "I was... rilly upset, at firs'... cuz you were so old," my flinch at this seemed to go right by her, "but I knew you wouldn' hurt her. I knew... you... were a good guy, a rilly good good guy, I KNEW it, I knew you wouldn' hurt her..." She began to rock, just a little bit, back and forth on me. "I knew you... were like Stan... patient... and loving... an' she loves you, Jack, she loves you like a... like a... oh god damn it, Jack, I don't know what she loves you like, but she loves you. She LOVES you, Jack. With all her little heart..." She was rocking harder now, still riding my cock and starting to slide up and down on the shaft. "An' you love her too, I know you do, I seen it with my own eyes. I seen the way you look at her, the way you talk to her, the way you touch her... Aahh, aahhhh, oohhh... oh god..." this last in response to the friction of my cock inside her. "Oohhh f... fuhhhhhck... fffuuuhhhck me, Jack, fffuuuhhhck me... FUCK me like you was fuckin' Rose, FUCK me with your big hard daddy cock inside my little girlie pussy..." She was riding me for real now, humping with her hips and hugging my head to her breasts, "FUCK me daddy, FUCK me Jack, F... F... FUCK ME STAN, FUCK ME HARD IN MY PUSSY, FUCK ME LIKE YOU LOVE ME, FUCK YOUR BABY GIRL..." and she dissolved into a wordless series of ahhs and uhhs, moaning and gasping, humping like her life depended on it. I was in awe of the sheer desparate energy of it all, of her manic humping and pounding, and in what seemed like no time, she was cumming and crying out, and when she was done, she collapsed onto my chest. I hadn't cum, and had been in no danger of cumming. It had felt fantastic, and I didn't feel the least bit cheated; I was just glad I had been able to provide her with the means for her to reach orgasm a second time. As we lay there together, my hardness still deep inside her, I was surprised and bemused to hear gently snoring. As carefully as I could, I rolled her off of me and onto the mattress, rolling with her, taking care to keep my cock inside her. She stirred a little as I carefully and gently began stroking in and out of her, and in a couple of minutes I let loose another load inside her. She never woke up when I came, but she smiled and laughed gently in her sleep. I pulled out and laid next to her, stroking her hair and gently touching her face. She stirred a little more, then snuggled into me and threw her arm over my chest, still sound asleep. I pulled the blanket up over us and felt my eyelids getting very heavy, and that was the last thing I was aware of that night.

30

... After midnight, we gonna let it all hang out, after midnight, we gonna shake, jump and shout... After Midnight (Eric Clapton)

I had some pretty wild dreams that night. I was sliding down a ramp of warm colored ice while stars flashed past my head. I was with Marjorie at a circus, eating rum-flavored cotton candy and watching a trapeze act where the safety net had been replaced by a pit filled with condoms. Rose and I were walking on a bridge over a deep ravine when the bottom fell out and we started to float down to earth; at the bottom of the ravine we could see a crashed UFO, whose pilots were walking around in a daze. Probably a dozen more like that, all short little snippets and all bizarre.

As the morning came and I was rising gently up toward the waking world, I slowly became aware of a sound close by; a soft sound, almost inaudible, but definitely there; a wet, rhythmic sound, and underneath it, the sound of breathing, soft yet distinctly heavy. Without moving, I tried to open one eye but there was something wrong; my eye was dried out, and when I looked around, my vision was blurred; I had slept with my contacts in again. Marjorie was curled up on her side of the bed, lost in slumber. I continued to look around through a half-closed eye; When my gaze fell on the bedroom door, I saw Rose looking at Marjorie and me in bed; or rather, she would have been looking at us if her eyes hadn't been kind of rolled back in her head, her eyelids fluttering just a little. I gradually became aware that she was masturbating; looking at the pair of us in bed, undoubtedly fantasizing about what our night had been like. I was debating whether to let her know I was awake (and probably interrupting her diddling in the process) or playing possum and letting her continue until she got off. My growing need to urinate almost decided the issue for me, when Rose's sudden soft explosion of breath told me she had reached her goal. I stirred and pulled the blanket aside, then pushed myself up to a standing position, rubbing my eyes to get some moisture back into the contacts. As I shuffled to the door, Rose gave me a crooked little grin and cocked her head to one side.

"Hey stud, how's it hangin'?" she whispered, and I had to laugh in spite of myself.

"Morning, angel. Sounds like you managed to... enjoy yourself," I smiled, and I briefly cupped her face in the palm of my hand as I brushed past her and continued on to the bathroom.

As I stood before the toilet and prepared to relieve myself, Rose came up behind me and wrapped her arms around me, kissing me on the back. Suddenly, she reached for my penis.

"Hey," she said quietly, "what's it like to pee standing up? Let me see," and she reached around to gently take me in her hand, peeking around to see where she was aiming the stream. Partly because she was inexperienced with aiming a stream, and partly because I was almost fully erect, more of it went outside the toilet than in. We cleaned it up together, grimacing and laughing, and Rose promised to be more careful next time, while I promised her there would not be a next time.

I slid back into the bedroom and slipped my pants and shirt on. Marjorie was laying on her back, snoring softly, her gorgeous breasts in full view. I drew the blanket up to her shoulders, then made my way out to the kitchen, where Rose was starting a pot of coffee.

"I didn't expect you back so soon, angel," I said, "in fact, I didn't expect you at all; I thought I'd need to pick you up from Brittany's."

"Yah, well, Brittany needed to be at cheerleading practice by 8, so they dropped me off on the way there." She turned to face me and leaned back to rest her elbows against the counter, her chest out, making the most of her lucious curves.

"I didn't realize you and Brittany were friendly enough to do a sleepover," I said.

"Well, it wasn't just the two of us. Callista and Jalisha were there too, you know, the girls she always hangs out with. I overheard them a couple of weeks ago, talking about it, and I had the idea that if I could get them to let me spend the night, I could give you the chance to..." and she lowered her head and looked up at me through half-closed eyes while holding up her left thumb and index finger in a circle and sliding her right index finger in and out of the circle. "God, I love you so much," I had to say, and she just winked and said, "I know. So anyway, I told Brittany that I always liked to listen to them talking in the lunch room, and that I was kinda jealous of them," this last said with saucy little smirk as she remembered the conversation, "and this and that, and it worked! She invited me to her sleepover, and that's all there is to that." She opened the cupboard to peruse her cereal choices with a finger on her lips; then, "So? How did the date go? I can see how it ended, but tell me the beginning and the middle," waggling her eyebrows ludicrously, "especially the middle."

I launched into a brief description of our supper, then told her about our failure to find a movie we wanted to see. She snorted when I told her about the trip to Larry's, but didn't say anything otherwise. I chewed my lower lip for a second while I tried to think of the best way to tell her about the rest of the evening. Rose prompted, "So, then you came back here, and... what?"

"Well, Marj... your mom... said she wanted to tell me something, but I could see she was having trouble bringing it up. We each had a drink to relax, but she was still having trouble with it. I was rubbing her neck to try to relax her," I said, noting how Rose's eyes sparkled when I said that, "and one thing led to another, and another, and..."

"And you fucked her brains out!" Rose breathed triumphantly.

"Well, yes, at first..." I started, and a cloud crossed her face; something in my manner warned her that there was more to come that she might not be ready for. "Rose, sweetheart... she knows. About us, I mean. She knows we've been... together..." and I repeated Rose's finger poking gesture for emphasis. Rose's eyes grew to twice normal size and her mouth slowly opened in shock. "I know she knows," was my lame finish, "because... she told me."

"She... wha... she... oh god... how... what did she... I mean... we..." Rose stumbled, her dawning horror muting her ability to vocalize, and I held my hand up to stop her.

"Angel, there's something else. I think she only lets herself realize it when she's drunk. I think when she's sober, she keeps it locked so far in the back of her head that she doesn't know it's there. So she doesn't really know that she knows, I mean."

"How do you know that? I mean, what did she say to you that..."

"Well, when we first got back here, we each had a rum and Coke, and that's when I started rubbing her neck. She kept trying to tell me to stop, but only because she wanted to be drunk when we made love. She wanted to get to that frame of mind where she was able to admit it to herself, so then she would be able to tell me she knew about us. But she wouldn't allow herself to say it at first, because we hadn't had enough to really get drunk the first time we did it, so she..."

"First time? Ohmigod, how many times did you guys do it?"

"Just twice, sweetheart, but let me finish. After the first time, she really wanted to finish the job of getting drunk. So we had some more, and that was apparently enough, because that's when she told me. And sweetheart, she wasn't angry or upset! I mean, she wasn't exactly overjoyed about it, but she seems to think that there's more good than bad to us being together. She didn't ask for any explanations, and she didn't tell me to stop... doing it... with you... and angel, there's one more thing." Rose's eyes got wider still, and in them was the question, 'How much more can there be?' I answered her with, "Sweetheart, while we were doing it, she called me Jack." I took about a half-second to consider whether I should share that she also called me Stan, before discarding that idea. No sense in pouring salt on a wound whose size and shape I couldn't even begin to gauge.

Rose was quiet after I told her this, chewing her lower lip while her brow furrowed so deeply I was afraid she might injure herself. The coffee maker spluttered to a finish, so I got down a mug and poured myself a cup, then sat at the table to wait for her to finish her first stab at assimilating the information I had just dumped on her. After a few more minutes, she turned to the cupboard and got down a box of Froot Whirls, then absently opened the box and stood looking inside, not really seeing the cereal. I could almost see the neurons in her head darting off on one tangent and another as her gaze drifted far beyond the confines of the kitchen. For an eternity of perhaps 2 or 3 minutes she stood like that; I wanted to take her in my arms, but I could see she needed the space, so I held myself in check. Gradually, she came back to the moment and gazed at me with such a mix of wonder, hope and fear that I could feel my insides twitching. She took a quick glance down at the cerealbox, which brought her another step closer to the present moment, then her sly smile gradually crept back. "So then, after she told you that, you guys did it again?"

Thank god, I thought, I think we're going to be all right. "Yes, love, we did it again, and that second time, she came so hard that it put her to sleep. Well, the rum probably had a lot to do with that, but it exhausted her. And Rose, get this; the first time we did it, we made it to the Little Death. Marj... your mom... well, she was stunned, and I think a little scared. She'd never felt that before. But it must not have made her too scared, because she was the one who got us started the second time. She really must have wanted it, because she was riding me like a bronco and, uh... screaming..." Rose crinkled her nose at that; I took it to mean I had provided a little more information than she was really ready for.

She settled herself at the table, snacking on handfuls of dry cereal. I reached over to the coffee pot and refilled my cup, then turned to face her. "So, what did you guys do at the sleepover?" I asked, my head filled with vague notions of giggling and nail polish, Tiger Beat and pizza and potato chips.

"Oh, just stuff. You know, just girl junk," she said. Her smile would have been coy, but there was something just a little too vague about it, a little too unsettled, for me to feel at ease.

"Girl junk? Like what?" I pressed. "Like, fingernail painting, or... ?" I glanced at her hands; she wasn't wearing polish, so obviously that wasn't it.

"Oohhh... just stuff, no biggie, just games and stuff, y'know, nothing really. Jeez, Jack, no big deal, eh?" Her smile was starting to wilt just a little, and my sense of unease took another sidling step forward. It was obvious she didn't want to tell me everything, and that scared me more than I cared to admit. It felt like the aura of a secret, a hidden truth, something new for us; something had happened that Rose didn't want me to know, and that was an ugly feeling indeed. I wanted to press her for details, but we were in uncharted territory, I didn't want to make a mistake; didn't want to hurt or embarrass her. I knew I should just let it drop and wait for Rose to bring it to me in her own good time... and yet... I leaned back in my chair, then totally without thinking, blurted out, "Games? You guys played Monopoly or something?"

"No... yeah, I mean, yeah, we played... ah... um... it was..." she shut her eyes tight and rubbed them as she struggled furiously for the words. "It... ah... it was, ah... I mean..."

I reached over to take her hand in mine. "Hey, it's okay sweetheart, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry." Her eyes opened wide as she gazed into my face, "No, Jack, you're not prying, it's just... uh..." Her lower lip started to tremble, and I could see a tear beginning to glisten in the corner of her eye. I had no more doubts about holding her now. I reached over and pulled her up onto my lap, wrapping my arms around her and pulling her head down to my shoulder. "Shh, shh, it's okay," I whispered into her sweet-smelling hair, "it's okay love, really." She pulled back to look earnestly into my face.

"No, Jack, I want to tell you, it's just, I don't know where to start... it's... we... Brittany, she... um..." and she collapsed back onto my shoulder as bitter tears started trickling down her cheeks. As I held her close and wiped away the tears as they came, I could feel the beginning of a savage rage building inside me. What had that bitch Brittany done to my precious flower?

Rose took a few more seconds to wipe her nose with a napkin, and then she came back to herself with a few shuddering breaths. She closed her eyes and snuggled into me, once again the child in need of comfort and reassurance. A blessed responsibility, to be her daddy and soothe her fears; I was luxuriating in the sensation of being able to provide comfort and healing to my beloved. She laid her little hand on my chest and plunged ahead.

"When I first got there, everything was okay. Brittany introduced me to her mom, and she seemed like a nice lady, but I could tell she had a few drinks before I got there. Brittany didn't exactly out-and-out tell me, but I picked up from what she said, that her dad wasn't hardly ever around, and he wasn't there last night, so it was just Brittany's mom and then the girls she invited over, Callista and Jalisha and Arielle and Harmony. We all went in the basement and Brittany put on a CD, I don't even remember what it was. I felt pretty weird at first, like I didn't belong, but they were all cool to me, they talked about movies and junk, and they included me in the conversation and everything, so I started to relax a little, I felt like everything was going to be okay. But then some of the girls started calling boys they knew and teasing them on the phone, saying all kinds of sexy things and just basically trying to get them horny, it didn't take much. Anyway, they told some boys to come over to Brittany's house and bring beer. I started getting really super nervous, like, ohmigod, what did I get myself into? And Brittany and Jalisha took me over in a corner and were talking to me, but I was so scared that I didn't even hear half of what they said, but it was like, they were, like, stroking my hair and rubbing my back and calling me little sister, and then Jalisha said something that scared me so bad I wanted to, like pee my pants or vomit or something. I don't remember exactly what she said, but it was something about making a woman out of me, and I knew that these horny boys were coming over and they were planning to get drunk, and I knew there was gonna be sex, and I knew it wasn't gonna be making love like what you and I do, it was just gonna be straight-ahead sex and fucking, and even if it WAS lovemaking, it wasn't gonna be with you, it was gonna be with some stranger, and I got so scared I almost started crying, so Jalisha and Brittany both started hugging me and telling me how glad I was going to be before the night was over. So I went in the bathroom for like 20 minutes and just kept staring at myself in the mirror and imagining I saw you standing behind me, and I was saying your name over and over again, like, 'Jack, come and get me, Jack, come and get me', and feeling like the world's biggest crybaby idiot, and then I started getting really mad at myself, and I almost started screaming at my reflection, but it was so weird, like I was wanting to scream like I was mad but I couldn't stop crying and then I started hiccupping, and that was so weird that I started to laugh and I couldn't stop, and when I came out of the bathroom and I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe, and they started getting a little nervous, so Brittany went upstairs and came back down with a bottle of something she snuck from her mom, I heard her say her mom was wasted, and she got a little paper cup from the bathroom and poured a drink from the bottle in it and filled it almost all the way to the top and told me to drink it all at one time. And I was still scared, but I was also angry with myself for acting like such a stupid baby, and I was still laughing like an idiot the whole time, I didn't know what else to do, so I took the cup and I drank a big gulp from it, it tasted sweet like cherries or something, but a few seconds later my nose and the front of my face was on fire, and they were all looking at me and going, 'chug, chug, chug', so I forced myself to finish the cup, but that was a mistake, because Brittany filled it up again, but only less than halfway this time, and then they did it again, like 'chug, chug, chug', and I did, and I drank the whole thing at one time. And then my arms and legs started to get really heavy and warm and tired, but I was starting to feel better, and even though I was still scared, I thought I could probably handle it. And they turned on Q107, you know, the one that's always playing dance music and techno and stuff, and it sounded pretty good to me, and I started dancing, and the other girls were dancing too, and I didn't even get surprised when when Callista and Harmony started kissing and feeling each other's boobs, and it was almost 11 by then, and Brittany was starting to get mad and saying bad things about the boys they called, but then her cell phone rang and it was the boys and she let them in and they came down the basement and there were three of them and they had ALL this beer, and somebody put an open beer in my hand. And I started to feel a little better, because here I was, with all these older girls who danced with me and called me little sister, and the boys seemed okay too, I mean, they were even older, like 17 I think, but they were all just sitting there and drinking beer and laughing, and everybody was just talking and it seemed like that's all that was going to happen, just sitting and talking, and I was sitting there with an open beer, and I took a tiny little sip every once in a while, it tasted horrible, but at least I looked like I belonged. That was the coolest part, really, it was like being older, or like being taken seriously by older kids, and I started to feel pretty good about that, like maybe everything was gonna be okay. And then it was late, like after 12, and Brittany said we were gonna play Truth or Dare. And we all sat around in a circle, and Brittany said it was her house and her party and her rules, so she started it out by asking Harmony, truth or dare? And Harmony said dare, and Brittany just kinda snorted and said, 'you always take dare' and then she said the dare was that she was going to order a pizza and Harmony had to flash the delivery guy, not just her boobs, but everything, had to give him a good five seconds of full frontal, and Harmony just laughed and said 'bring it on'. So Brittany ordered a pizza, and since she was in charge, she got to do another truth or dare for somebody else while we were waiting for the pizza to get there. So she picked Alex, he was one of the guys who came, and he picked truth, so Brittany said for him to tell what girl's pussy he had eaten that tasted the worst. And he got kinda mad at her and called her a bitch and said, whatever girl he said, that girl would be mad at him, and if said no girl, everyone would think he had never tasted a girl's pussy, so it wasn't really a truth, it was a trick question, and Brittany called him a dumb cunt and said, 'pass', and then she picked Rod, and he said dare, and Brittany got the spinner from a Twister game and put it in the circle and said Rod's dare was, he had to lick the naked butt of whoever the spinner pointed to, and Rod got real quiet and started looking at everybody else in the room, and he kinda shuddered when he looked at Alex and Randy, and when he looked at me, I got this cold chill, and I was like, 'oh shit oh god oh shit oh god' and then she spun it and it pointed in between Arielle and Callista, so Brittany said he had to lick both of them, and Arielle didn't want to pull her pants down but she did when Callista did, and Rod licked them both, and I was freaking out so hard cuz I couldn't believe it was really happening, and when he sat back down, I could see the bulge in the front of his pants was really sticking out, and I'm still going 'oh shit oh god oh shit oh god' only like a hundred times faster, like it's a prayer or something. And then the pizza came, and Harmony not only flashed the guy, she, like, rubbed her naked body all over him, like just humping his leg and stuff, and he was so freaked out that he dropped the pizza and ran away without getting the money for it, and everybody was laughing so hard that it made me laugh too, even though I felt so sorry for the pizza guy. And Brittany said Jalisha got to do the next one, and they kinda winked at each other, and Jalisha said Randy, and he said dare, and Brittany was like, mmm hmmm, and Jalisha said Randy had to go in the bathroom with the lights off and take all his clothes off and he had to go in there with somebody else and that somebody else had to take off all their clothes too except they could leave their underwear on if they wanted to, but Randy still had to be naked, and they had to stay in there like that for ten minutes. And then everything got real slow, and real clear, like I was underwater, cuz I knew exactly who she was gonna say, and then she did, she pointed at me and said, 'make us proud, little sister', and her and Brittany just started kinda laughing quietly, and, and then... and then..." Rose stopped to take a breath and gather herself for a few seconds. "And then, we went in the bathroom, and Randy took off everything except his underwear, but I could see how stiff he was, his penis was sticking straight out in his shorts, and then he turned off the light, and I heard him take off his underwear and I knew he was naked in the dark with me, and I backed up until I hit the bathtub, and I sat down on the tub and closed my eyes and wished the bathroom door would open and it would be you coming to take me away, but the door stayed shut, and then Randy was saying for me to come on, and he grabbed my shoulders and made me stand up in front of him, and he promised not to hurt me, he said he wouldn't try to screw me if I didn't want him to, he just wanted to make me feel good, and I didn't stop him when he took off my shirt and unsnapped my pants, I didn't want him to but I was scared what would happen if I tried to stop him, and he unzipped my pants and pulled them down but I didn't step out of them, and then he took my hand and tried to put it on his stiff penis, and I didn't want to, I kept pulling my hand away, but he wouldn't stop, he just kept pulling my hand back, and I knew he was gonna keep doing it, so I just let him, he made my fingers wrap around his penis and he put his hand over mine and started stroking it, like he thought he had to show me how to jack him off, but when he stopped moving my hand, I stopped too, I didn't keep stroking it like he wanted me to, and then he was all over me, like squeezing my boobs real hard through my bra and pinching my nipples and it hurt, and he was grabbing my butt and kinda slapping it, and he reached inside my panties and squeezed my butt real hard, and he was like trying to kiss me on my neck and he tried to put his stiff penis between my legs but I squeezed my legs together and I wouldn't let him, but he just did it even harder, and he forced himself between my legs and was rubbing his penis up and down on my panties, and I thought how good it felt when you and I were dry-humping, and how horrible this was, and I just wanted him to stop, and I said 'Randy please stop, why are you like this, why do you want to have sex with someone you don't even know', and he was like 'Cuz it feels so good, and anyway you're super cute and I'd fuck you a thousand times if you let me', and when he said that my heart jumped a little, like I was still so scared, but at the same time this tiny little spark inside me made me feel good when he said I was super cute, and like maybe he wasn't so bad cuz it seemed like he liked me and he wasn't hitting me or anything, but I still wanted him to stop cuz he was being so rough and he just kept grabbing me and hurting me, and then he pulled my panties down and started rubbing my vagina and I thought he was really gonna do it, I thought he was really gonna fuck me, but for a long time he just rubbed my vagina with his hand and he kept telling me he wasn't gonna rape me but I should just open my legs and let him in, but even though I didn't, he kept rubbing me and putting his fingers on my vagina, but he never put his fingers inside me, it was like he was afraid to or he didn't want to or didn't know how to or something, and that made me feel a tiny bit better, cuz he could have if he wanted to, he could have shoved his fingers right up inside me and I couldn't have stopped him. And somehow I got through the ten minutes and Brittany was knocking and saying we had until the count of ten, and then she counted, but she said, 'one, two, ten' and she opened the door and I tried to cover my body and then there was this horrible flash and I went blind for like a minute, and by the time I finished putting my clothes on I could see again, and there was Brittany holding a camera and laughing, and Randy was trying to put his clothes on all at once and yelling that Brittany was a cold bitch, but that just made her laugh harder. And she showed me the picture, and it was awful, it was blurry but you could see Randy trying to pull his pants on and his erection was pointing right at the camera, and there was me with my pants and panties around my knees and I was trying to pull them up, and I was so glad it was over that I managed to laugh and smile and I said, 'That was a good one, you really tagged me' and she just smiled and told me I was all right, and she said we'd get my cherry popped sooner or later, and it was so weird, but that actually made me feel better, cuz I could have told her she was too late, I already had it popped, and cuz I knew my sex life was so much better than hers, even though I couldn't tell her, it still made me feel better just to be able to think it. And they kinda left me alone for the rest of the night, I mean, like they still talked to me, but they talked a lot more to each other. And the boys left probably around 2 or 3, and the girls laid down and went to sleep, but I couldn't sleep, I just lay there in the corner all night, staring at the wall and waiting for morning so I could come home to you guys. And then it was morning, and Brittany was kinda crabby and told me they had to leave but they could drop me off on the way, and... here I am," her little arms wrapped around my neck and pulled me in close for a long, grateful kiss, "safe and sound with you."

During this roller coaster ride, I was in the grip of a fear and an anger such as I had never felt before. The majority of the anger was directed at myself, for so carelessly and cavalierly letting Rose walk into such a dangerous and frightening situation. But a healthy portion of it was reserved for Brittany. Even if she did think of Rose as a little sister, the whore had treated her like an experiment, like an entertainment. I swore this would not go unanswered.

"Oh god, sweetheart, I'm so, so sorry I let this happen to you," I started, but Rose shushed me and put her hand on my lips.

"No Jack, stop, it wasn't you, it wasn't your fault, it was my own fault. I was so anxious for you to make love to my mom that I jumped at the first chance I got without thinking it through. But I'm okay, really Jack, I really am."

"Even if that's so, I can't let it go. I can't let that little bitch think she can do this to my Rose and not suffer any consequences."

"Oh, no Jack, no, please please don't do anything. I really don't think she meant to hurt me, I really think she thought she was helping me, cuz she thought I was still a virgin and she just wanted to help me change that. I couldn't bear it if you did anything bad to her, I swear I couldn't. Please Jack, promise me you won't do anything to her, swear it."

My love. My sweet, beautiful, trusting, generous, innocent love. I knew that I couldn't resist her plea... for now. I let her know with a smile and a snuggle that I would honor her request. But I promised myself that before much more time had passed, there would be a reckoning. As Rose got down a glass to pour herself some milk, we heard Marjorie getting out of bed and making her way to the bathroom.

31

I'm gonna give you every inch of my love... Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)

My relationship with Marjorie was touch and go for a few days. After the level of intimacy we had achieved, it would have been wrong to go back to only showing up once a week for dinner; but the other end of the spectrum, which would have been to start coming over every day, hanging all over her, bringing her flowers and chocolates and other such gifts as I could afford, was loaded with unknowns that I didn't know how to deal with. And while I was very fond of her, and maybe even could say I loved her after a certain fashion, it wasn't the all-consuming passion I felt for Rose; it wasn't the kind of feeling that makes love songs make sense.

For her part, Marjorie seemed as unsure as I was. If we ran into each other, we'd smile and nod, maybe exchange a few pleasant words, and then be on our separate ways. I wondered if the encounters were as painful for her as they were for me. The uncertainty was damned nigh unbearable, the anxiety thick with unguessed possibilities.

It was Marjorie who unwittingly (?) found the way to break the logjam of emotions that was crushing me, by restoring my ability to lust. When I first found Rose, after I had begun to realize what she meant to me, no other woman had been able to arouse me. I mean, when I was doing my chores or whatever at the pool, I was able to admire the swimsuited forms of the women there, but it was just that: admiration, not lust. But on the Thursday after my date with Marjorie, as I was checking chemical levels in the pool (and while Rose was doing homework in the common room), she showed up in her flag bikini for a little swim. She walked past me, and as she did, her hand snaked out to give me the barest little squeeze on my upper arm, hardly enough to register as a touch, but definitely a deliberate move on her part; then she dove from the board and began to swim laps. As I stood there gazing abstactedly at her moving through the water, I realized I was geting an erection; I was lusting after Marjorie, fantasizing about her, like I had with no other woman since Rose landed in my life. I knew then that I wanted to pursue this, needed to see the results of devoting my attention to this woman, the mother of my soulmate. I had to act; when she climbed out of the pool, I approached her with a towel.

"Hey Marj, have you got a minute? I want to talk to you about something," was my entrée. Her half-smile was crooked, a lift of one corner of her mouth that reflected her uncertainty and curiosity; impaling my heart with a winsome dimple. Her eyes traveled down my body, as if searching for a clue to what I was about, and when she saw the bulge in my pants, her eyes widened in surprise and anticipation. I draped the towel around her shoulders and gave her arms a gentle squeeze, then led the way to my room, and as I ushered her in by placing my hand in the small of her back, a tremor ran the length of her body. I closed the door, then positioned her in front of the cot and with a gentle pressure on her shoulders, made her sit down on it. She didn't know what to do with her hands; they were fluttering like little lost birds seeking safe haven, wandering from the cot to her lap to her stomach, back to her lap. I leaned forward and began to massage her shoulders; gently at first, then becoming a little more vigorous, kneading and rolling my fingers down the sides of her arms. The relaxtion was almost immediate. Her hands settled, palms up, on the cot at her sides; she leaned forward into my fingers until her face was almost touching my stomach, her eyes closed in a serene meditation.

"Marj," I began, and when, after a long pause, she after she answered with an almost inaudible 'mmmmmm....', I continued, "I don't know where I'm going with this." I reached down with my right hand to gently knead her breast, rubbing my thumb over her nipple. "But I know it's someplace I want to be. Someplace I want us to be. Together." She was so relaxed that she allowed herself to fall forward, her face plowing into my stomach with a tender thump. As I began rubbing her back, she became so loose and limp under my touch that she slowly slid down my front, until her face was next to the bulge in my pants. I unsnapped and unzipped, pulling myself out while trying to avoid disturbing her restful position. She slowly opened her eyes and gazed at my erection, a faint langorous smile touching her lips. She reached up to caress my balls, then gripped and kneaded them between her fingers. The feeling was incredible, and I couldn't stop an animal growl from stretching the back of my throat. I let her continue like that for a few more minutes; she was breathing on my hardness and squeezing and rolling my balls between her fingers, pulling moans from further back in me than I knew existed. The feeling was sweet torture; every time I thought couldn't take any more, she pushed me onto a new level of pleasure that started the whole thing over again. When I knew I absolutely couldn't take any more, I pushed her shoulders almost roughly down onto the cot, pulling her bikini top over her head and arms and tossing it to the floor before advancing on her stomach and breasts with my tongue. Her hard nipples belonged in my mouth; as I swirled around and around those beautiful nubs, she began twitching, her head making little jerking motions as she softly moaned, "uh... uh... uh..." and her fingers wrapped themselves in my hair. My hands were busy pulling off the bikini bottom and tossing it aside as well. I kissed and licked my way down her stomach, and when my tongue found it's way down to the clean valley between her legs, she began twitching and grunting, kicking me in the side with her heels. God, why did it feel so good to be kicked like that? Any other time and I'd have been fighting it off or trying to get away from it; but this felt so right, so natural and therapeutic... she tasted so good and right under my tongue, so... so... juicy, damnit, is the only word for it, like a luscious peach. An image suddenly formed in my head of Marjorie beneath me on her hands and knees, and I flipped her over and started vigorously tonguing her butt. Somehow I found the time to slip my clothes off, and then I was facing her from behind, pulling her up onto her knees until her rump was right beneath my gut, her face still buried in the pillow. Perfectly positioned, I guided myself into her waiting temple, smoothly sliding all the way into her hot, wet flesh with one motion. She let loose a little shriek when I did that, then wrapped her arms around the pillow and buried her face in it, groaning, almost singing, matching me stroke for stroke. I was almost as surprised by the level of violence I was thrusting into her with, as I was at the level of violence she was returning every time as she thrust back onto me. I was gripping her hips hard just to try to stay inside her; we were slamming into each other furiously, and as I looked up, I saw the door to my room had been opened just a crack; we were being watched. Before I could react, I realized it must be Rose, finally able to satisfy her curiosity. The door opened a little wider, and I could see that it was, indeed, Rose. She was looking right into my eyes and smiling the strangest smile, and as I returned her gaze and mouthed 'I love you', Marjorie suddenly reached back, trying to grab me and pull me as deeply into her as she could get me. She was trembling, her thighs almost vibrating, as the first orgasm rolled over her. I felt miles away from cumming, strong and in control. I kept thrusting into her with a steady rhythm, and Marjorie was screaming into the pillow, her hoarse cries escaping from the corners as I pumped with everything I had. I lost count after her third orgasm, but it felt like she made it to at least ten before I finally reached my own climax. Just before I came, I pulled out and rubbed myself between her butt cheeks, thrusting and sliding the bottom of my cock against her smooth skin, and when I ejaculated, I surprised myself by exploding so hard that most of the shot arced over her head to splatter on the wall behind us; only as the throbbing subsided and the last few squirts came out, did a few drops land on her back. Spent, I slid my throbbing wand back into her love sheath, and we collapsed onto the cot, snuggled up into each other. Glancing over, I saw the door silently close, but not before I caught a glimpse of Rose's wild Cheshire grin. Just before we fell asleep, I covered Marjorie's neck with kisses, and she gripped my hand and hugged it to her chest; she mumbled something I couldn't quite make out, but it sounded a lot like 'love you Stan'.

I woke an hour or so later, still stiff, to discover Marjorie and her swimsuit both gone from my room. As I glanced down at my erect penis to congratulate it, I recalled that just before I woke, I had been dreaming about Marjorie sucking me. Maybe it hadn't been a dream; maybe she really had sucked me as I slept, and that's what woke me up. What a pleasant alarm clock that would be... I rolled over to get up and was startled by the sight of Rose sitting in the corner, legs tucked up underneath her and a gooey smile on her face. She was licking her lips as if savoring the taste of something that had recently crossed them, and she grinned like a maniac and said, "About time, you lazybones. Was wondering what it took to wake you... UP," punctuating her remark by holding her fist toward me and popping the index finger up and out to depict an erection. "You're as hard as a rock, Jack. Think you have one more load in you?" she said coyly. After double-checking that my door was locked, she slipped out of her clothes and climbed up on my chest, facing my erection, sliding her gorgeous little butt up until my face was buried in it. I had no choice but to start licking and sucking on her precious coochie, while she put my cock and balls through a fantastic regimen of squeezing and twisting, with a generous amount of tongue work applied to the tip. It felt like it took forever, but I was finally ready to shoot again. When I told Rose, she quickly moved around until she was kneeling between my legs, pumping my cock so fast her little hand was a blur and chanting, "Come on Jack, COME on Jack, come on Jack, COME on Jack", and when I shot my load, it was a repeat of the wall-splatter I had achieved earlier with Marjorie. Rose shrieked with delight when it happened. "I KNEW it," she crowed, "I KNEW I could get you to shoot that far. Wow! You really launched that one, you little rocket!" This last remark was spoken directly to my penis, and she leaned down to take me in her mouth and clean me off with some noisy slurping and sucking. As out of breath as I was, I still managed to gasp, "Holy god, Rose, I love you so much it scares me sometimes." Her giggle was muffled because her mouth was still full.

32

...when in doubt, I whip it out, I got me a rock n roll band, it's a free for all... sssuck it... Free For All (Ted the Sledge Nugent)

Two days later; it was Saturday morning, and Rose wanted something. She kissed me awake as she knelt beside my cot with breakfast in bed; a couple of toasted strawberry Pop-tarts and a glass of milk. As I sat up and put my glasses on, Rose helped herself to one of the pastries, nibbling nervously at the corner. She was unusually quiet, almost pensive. "Did you sleep good?" she wanted to know. As good as could be expected, I supposed aloud. I took a bite of Pop-tart and chewed slowly, watching the play of hesitation and desire across her beautiful little face as she debated the best way to ask me something, her mouth working to shape first one word, then another. I had to laugh in spite of myself, "It's okay, sweetheart, just spit it out. What do you want?"

"Okay, okay, it's like, it's like, there's this, like, this... like, this... dance, like, coming up at school, and I, I wondered, if you'd want to, uh, like, take me or anything?" and suddenly she was biting her lower lip and gazing at me with a nervous look that was so full of hope, I could have dipped some out with a ladle.

"What, you mean, like a date?" I asked, not quite sure of what I was hearing.

"Uh, no, no, of course not, no, no, not a date, no, not a, just a... I mean, yeah, kinda, not really, just, kinda, if we could... I mean, I was hoping we could just, uh... oh Hell, I don't know what I mean. All I know is I just wanna be at this stupid dance with you so I can, like, I don't know, get your take on Brittany and her posse." At the mention of Brittany, I felt my ire rising. I already had a take on her, and I knew that I had to do something to put her in her place; I just hadn't doped out what it was yet. Rose went on, "I wanna know if you think they're really doing the stuff they say they do with their boyfriends, you know, like blowjobs and fuc... humping and stuff. I was hoping you could maybe give 'em the once-over, you know, kinda look 'em over and tell me if you think they're telling the truth about what they do with their boyfriends, or if you think it's just bragging or exaggeration or lies or whatever. And anyway, I just want to go someplace with you where there's music and we can dance!"

I had to consider my response for a few seconds while Rose sat anxiously by. "Well, how would you explain me away?" I finally ventured. "I mean, I guess it's not like prom, where you have to have a date, but I'm supposing kids probably don't bring chaperones to something like this, do they?"

"I guess not, I don't know, I've never been to a dance before."

"Well, what did your mom say about it? About going to the dance, I mean, and about me taking you?" I wanted to know. She looked down at her hands. "I, uh, I haven't asked her yet," she said so quietly that I almost couldn't hear her, then just a little louder and faster, "I wanted to know what you said first, 'cuz if you said no, then there'd be no reason to ask her."

Trying to digest all this brought a rush of conflicting emotions. From sheer force of habit, I worried about what Marjorie would say (though by now I really knew she'd say yes). I was depressed that Rose wasn't thinking of the dance in terms of having fun; or at least, the kind of fun intended. I was nervous at the prospect of being seen with Rose in a public location, fearful of saying or doing something stupid to give away our secret. And I was curious to see young girls bragging so openly about having sex. Of course, I was sure they wouldn't talk like that in front of me. If I really was going to take Rose at her word, we'd have to find some way to get them off their guard.

Marjorie surprised me a little by having to be talked into it, and Rose said she almost didn't make it. But in the end Marjorie relented and took her shopping (at Rose's request) for something to wear to the dance. That something turned out to be a silky smooth cream-colored dress with white laces down the side and a pale pink heart on the chest, a pink so faded and delicate as to be almost invisible. When I showed up at their apartment at 7:30 the night of the dance, Rose answered the door, and I was stunned by the vision in front of me. The hem of the dress was probably 3 or 4 inches above her knees, long enough to cover up what needed to be covered, yet short enough to grab my attention and not let go. At the look of awe and wonder that must have been on my face, she ducked her head demurely and smiled up at me. 'Thank you,' she whispered as she took the single rose from my hand, taking the opportunity to stroke my fingers lovingly as she did so. She whirled to show the rose to Marjorie, who just beamed at her as she fiddled with the camera, then took a picture of us, my arm around Rose's waist and her fingers making a V above and behind my head. Marjorie pressed the keys to her car into my hand and wouldn't take them back, so that was our transport to the dance.

The closer we got to the school, the more I found I was horrifically nervous over what might happen when I just showed up in a roomful of kids, escorting a girl who was young enough to be my daughter. When we got there, Rose led the way up the steps, through the blocked-open doors that led to the hallway outside the gym, and up a flight of stairs to a mezzanine that looked down on the gym floor. The facility had been done up with all the standards of a school dance: crepe strung from the rafters, paper cutouts, a scattering of chairs, and a mirror ball someone had suspended from the ceiling; and the floor populated by scores of kids moving around to the music that came from a massive sound system near the back door. Rose spotted Brittany almost immediately. I looked in the direction she was pointing and saw a little knot of five girls standing together, chatting animatedly and gesturing at the other people around them. One of them stood out in particular; her massive blond hair floated around her face, and her cleavage was in ample view. I thought I recognized her from when we had dropped Rose at her house, but she looked so different now. I pointed her out; "Is that..." I started, and Rose piped up, "Yep, that's her." Brittany was wearing a dress that was so short, if she leaned over for any reason whatever, her buttcheeks would probably be in clear view. I wondered vaguely what kind of underwear she was wearing; Rose saw the direction of my gaze and, reading my mind, muttered, "...probably just wearing a thong under there..." Gulp.

"Well, it looks like they're probably catting it up pretty good down there," I said. Rose wrapped herself around my right arm; I glanced down and saw that she seemed to be flushed, breathing a little harder than normal. Her breasts were pressing into my side, and I... Good god, when did her breasts get that big? Why hadn't I noticed it before?

Down on the floor, Brittany was doing a bump and grind, thrusting her hips at some kid on the other side of the floor. As he started to walk over to her, Rose looked up at me. "Did you see what she was doing?" she asked. "See that guy, Dean? Did you see, how she was getting his attention?" I nodded abstractedly. "I saw," I replied. "So at least she doesn't have any trouble chasing cars... the little bitch. Let's see if she knows what to do with one once she's caught it." Rose's shriek of laughter could be heard clearly above the pounding bass from below. The kid Brittany had hooked had almost made it over to where she was standing, when Brittany turned on her heel and walked away from him. He paused for a second, but when Brittany looked over her shoulder at him and smiled, he quickly resumed his advance.

"C'mon," Rose grabbed my hand, "I bet she's gonna take him to the weight room." We hustled across the mezzanine and down another flight of steps. Rose peeked around the corner, then gestured for me to look too. I saw Brittany leading Dean by the hand; they were walking away from us, and when they came to a door at the end of the hall, they ducked inside. "That's the weight room," Rose whispered, "see, I knew it. I heard Brittany say she likes it in there cuz it smells like guys." I wrinkled my nose; the funky odor of sweat and struggle was not one I would have chosen for a liasion. Rose led the way down the hallway, until we were right outside the open door to the weight room, but standing just in front of another door that appeared to be a locker room entrance. Rose was edging up to the weight room door and motioning me to do the same. I could hear voices, low and indistinct, then Brittany's voice came suddenly loud and clear in the stillness. "What's wrong? I thought you said you were good to go, anytime, anywhere." The boy muttered something I couldn't make out. Brittany said, "Nobody's coming, nobody's gonna see us. What's the matter, you need a preview or something? Take a look at these babies and tell me you're not..." More muttering from the boy, then Brittany snorted. "If you're not hard in two goddamn seconds..." The sounds of shuffling, of bodies moving and clothes being adjusted, told us we were in danger of being caught ourselves. Rose grabbed me and pulled me back into the locker room, just far enough back so that when Brittany came storming out of the weight room and flouncing down the hall, she didn't see us hiding there. We waited a few seconds for Dean to follow, but when I heard the sound of weights clanking, I figured he must have decided to get in a few reps to try to prove his manhood to himself. Poor kid.

We made our way back up to the mezzanine for another look, but Brittany was nowhere in sight. A couple of the girls she had been standing with were dancing with a guy; he seemed to be enjoying the attention he was getting from two women. We watched for awhile, but neither of us had any idea how to continue with the objective of sizing up Brittany's status as a whore, especially since we didn't know where she had gone. We descended back down to the main level and made our way out to a corner of the dance floor. The DJ was playing some hard-driving dance thing with a rhythm that was so insistent, I almost felt like dancing in spite of myself. Rose noticed me moving to the music, and she showed me a few of her own moves. I wish you could see her dance; so graceful, so full of energy and motion. She boogied and shook and really strutted her stuff. If it hadn't been for my trepidation over keeping our secret, I would have been insanely proud to have anybody see me there with her, to see what an absolute hottie I had attracted. We danced for a couple of songs, then sat down to rest for a minute. Rose wasn't even breathing hard, but she had broken a light sweat. I asked if she wanted a soda, and she agreed that sounded good. We exited the gym, only to find the concession stand closed, so we continued on down the hall to where the vending machines stood waiting next to the cafeteria. As we stood perusing the choices the soda machine had to offer, we became aware of low voices coming from the cafeteria. Rose put a finger to her lips and sidled up to the entrance, being careful to stay out of the line of sight of anyone in there. As we listened, I was able to make out most of what was being said. Rose looked at me and mouthed the words, "Brittany and Harmony".

"...don't know what the deal is," I heard a voice say, and I recognized it as Brittany, "I've never had a guy who couldn't get it up for me." The second voice, Harmony, said,"Maybe you came on too strong. Maybe he's never done it in a public place like that before." A harsh snort from Brittany: "Maybe he's a little faggot who doesn't know it yet." Harmony: "What's the deal, anyway? I mean, why did you wanna do Dean? I thought you were gonna stick with Randy for awhile and see where that went?" Brittany: "Oh for god's sake, I wasn't gonna DO Dean, I just wanted to see how hot I could get him. Never hurts to have another fish on the hook. And anyway, I'm still pissed at Randy. He was supposed to poke the Sweet Little Virgin for me, but he never even got to first base with her. Stupid cunt." I blinked involuntarily as anger came surging up, before I realized that "stupid cunt" had been directed at Randy, not Rose. Harmony giggled, "Sweet Little Virgin, that's cute. What do you care about her, anyway?" Brittany paused for a few seconds, as if she needed to switch gears; when she continued, she said, "Sweet Little Virgin really wants to hang out with us, it's like she thinks we're hot shit or something. It was kinda touching at first, she was so respectful and eager, like a puppy dog. I WAS feeling kinda sorry for the kid, but I don't think so anymore. I mean, I felt like giving her one more shot, but she just keeps laying it on thick with the 'me too, I have sex too' act, and it's getting pretty old. She tries to talk like she knows all about sex, but it's obvious she's never done anybody. Maybe she fooled around some at summer camp or something, but as far as letting a guy poke her, nuh-uh." Harmony asked, "What makes you so sure?" Another snort from Brittany. ""Have you listened to her? She has all these romantic ideas about 'tenderness' and 'love' and bullshit like the earth moving and angels singing and magic fireworks, shit that only happens in romance novels. It's obvious she never had a guy feel her up under the bleachers or try to force too much of his cock down her throat. I bet she's never even kissed anybody." Harmony laughed out loud, "Right, like you ever bother to kiss anybody!" Brittany's sneer was lightning quick, "Fuck you." A creak from the cafeteria benches told us they had gotten up. In a blind panic, Rose and I hustled back, trying to hide together on the side of the soda machine furthest from the cafeteria. Our situation was a little ridiculous, but it worked; neither Brittany nor Harmony saw us as they walked right past the vending area, and we could hear their voices continuing on down the hall as they walked back toward the gym.

I turned to look steadily at Rose; she couldn't return my gaze, and I took her chin in my hand and forced her face up to mine.

"What have you been saying to her?" I wanted to know. "Have you been talking about sex with her?"

"Well, yeah, a little. I mean, sometimes at lunch, when she's with the other girls, and she says something that bothers me, I want so bad to tell her there's more ways to do it than what she knows. I mean, she thinks she knows everything there is to know about sex, but in some ways, I know more than she does. Like, when she said she's never cum from having her pussy eaten, I wanted SO BAD to tell her that's because she's never had a real man do it, only stupid little boys who don't know how to eat pussy, and I almost did say that, but I toned it down and said maybe she hadn't had the right guy do it yet. Or like, when she said Rod tried to do anal sex on her, and she said how much it hurt and she wouldn't let him finish, and it hurt for a couple of days and she couldn't walk straight for a week after that, and I was laughing so hard that milk came out my nose, and I think that kinda pissed her off... and I couldn't even tell her the reason I was laughing was because she was doing it all wrong, and that anal sex feels so good and she really sounds ignorant when she says, 'never again'."

Of course I couldn't help but be touched and amused. "Okay sweetheart," I said, "I wasn't upset, I just wanted to know. So, maybe I'm not quite as angry with her as I thought I would be, but I'm still really put off by her arrogant attitude... anyway, I think we've found the answer you were looking for. She's not really a slut, more like a whore who uses her body to get control over guys." Rose nodded; "Thanks for doing this for me, Jack, I knew I could count on you."

I looked down the hallway; a cool evening breeze from the open door to the parking lot was pushing the thumping bass line down the hall toward us, and I felt a touch feverish. I hugged Rose briefly, then stood back to put my hand on her shoulder. "Is it okay if we take off now? We can go get something to eat..." Rose looked a little uncertain, and even a touch disappointed, and I thought she was going to ask if we could dance some more, but it only took her a couple of seconds to smile and say, "Yeah, that'd be great. I just gotta hit the bathroom first, okay?"

As we walked back toward the gym, Rose gestured down a short hallway that led off at a right angle from the large hallway we were in and said, "There's a bathroom right down there, I'll only be a minute." She hurried off in the direction she had indicated, and I stood leaning against the wall to wait for her. As I stood there, Brittany came in from the parking lot. She took a drink from the water fountain that was five or six feet from where I stood, then looked up at me as if she recognized me. I tried to smile at her, but I'm afraid it was more of a grimace.

"Hi," she said, "I've seen you before. You dropped Rose off at my house for a slumber party, I think." I nodded, unsure of what to say. She continued, "So what are you, like, her uncle or something? Or her mom's boyfriend?" I laughed nervously, "Something like that. Actually more like a friend of the family." Brittany narrowed her eyes as if seeking to size me up; "Brian, right?" I felt a little more relaxed at that. If she couldn't even get my name straight... I corrected her, "Brent, actually."

She nodded as if something had been confirmed. "Listen Brent, maybe you can tell me something. Rose has been telling me about some wonderful hunky guy she says she's been dating, but I've never seen him, and I think she just made him up. I like her, but I'm not gonna let her lie to me. Help me pin her down on this, please?" She batted her eyes at me and tossed her hair over her shoulder. My god, the little whore thought she was teasing me; she had no idea how turned off I was by this little display. She smiled a beauty pageant smile and said, "Tell me, really, does she even know any guy named Jack, or is it all just a goof?"

My head was spinning. Oh my god. Rose HAD been talking... she hadn't said who Jack was, but she had said... had said... shit... How was I going to navigate this? If I denied she knew anyone named Jack, I was confirming Brittany's belief that she was a liar, and if I said she DID know Jack, then I would be trapped into making up lies that I would have to coordinate later with Rose, or worse, contradicting something Rose had already told her about Jack, once again "proving" her to be a liar. And what, exactly, had Rose said about Jack? She must have said SOMETHING to Brittany about having sex... with Jack... there had to be a middle path I could tread... maybe I could just plead ignorance...

Rose came out of the bathroom behind me and up the little hallway. All she could see of the main corridor was the wall in front of me; Brittany was around the corner, out of her line of sight. I heard her giggle, and as she sang out, "Oh, Ja-aa-aack, guess who's not wearing any pan...", she rounded the corner and saw Brittany standing there in front of me; the final syllable died on her lips, "...ties". Brittany's mouth slowly dropped open as she looked at Rose, then back at me, then back at Rose, then back at me. Her hand came up to her mouth in a perfect "Oh My God" gesture, and she looked me square in the face and said, "Oh holy fuck, you're Jack. YOU'RE Jack."

"It's... it's ju... just a nickname," I stuttered weakly; my stomach had turned to water and my balls were trying to climb up inside me. "I don't... don't know who she... what she..."

"No, no, no no no no no," Brittany waved her hand at me to shut me up. "Oh holy fucking Jesus Mary and Joseph, she's fucking her grandpa."

That little crack was enough to pull me out of it; the surge of anger that suddenly overwhelmed me gave me new strength, and I felt strong enough to take on an army of Brittanys.

"Yep," I said, feeling a death's head grin taking over my lips, "I've been FUCKING her mom, but not anymore. This little beauty OWNS my muff-diving meat rocket now. She's a red hot volcano that has what it takes to turn my tired old worm into a steel-rod fucking machine. She's wrecked me for any other pussy."

Brittany's look of triumph died on her face as I said this. Now it was her turn to splutter and second-guess. "No, wait a minute," she babbled, "wait wait wait a minute... how... how did she get you to say that? How did she put you up to... you... LYING... sack of shit..."

"Forget it, cunt," I sneered, "you're way out of your league. Rose has forgotten more about sex than you'll EVER know. Give it the FUCK up. Whore." I turned to look at Rose; her eyes were black basketballs, and the look on her face was such a perfect mix of horror and pride that I almost didn't recognize her for a second. "C'mon, sweetheart, we've got better things to do than mix it up with some burned-out cumbag." I grabbed her around the waist and pulled her to me to give her a full-out wide mouthed French kiss, making sure Brittany would be able to see my tongue going into her mouth. Rose didn't resist, and after a few seconds she responded by kissing me back, her leg sliding up against me as if to open herself to my new-found stiffness. With a last withering glare at Brittany, I put my arm around Rose's waist and steered her out toward the parking lot. We were parked quite a ways back, well away from the sodium-lit glare of the parking lot lights. I was walking a little too fast, and Rose was struggling to keep up with me. "Ja... Jack..." she whimpered, "what are we gonna do about... about...", trailing off because she didn't know quite what to ask. "Shhhh," I whispered, "I don't really know what I'm doing, but I had to do something. We'll figure it out later, right now let's just get the hell out of here." I walked Rose around to the passenger side of the car and as I unlocked the door, I looked up to see Brittany advancing on us.

"Stop right there, asshole," she barked, "this isn't the LEAST FUCKING BIT FUNNY. You think you're so goddamn clever, but you're just making yourself look like a fucking idiot. Stop FUCKING with me, you ancient piece of shit, and tell the truth. You just felt sorry for the little liar so you thought you'd go along with her ridiculous fucking lies to try and rattle my cage. Admit it, and I might let her keep hanging around us."

I looked Brittany straight in the eye. This had turned into a battle of wills that I had to win, but I could only think of one way to do it; by proving the truth to her. I took a look around the parking lot; nobody was near us, we were completely isolated, alone and adrift in this little corner of the universe. My rational mind realized with a sudden shock what I was up to, and it threw it's hands up and said, 'To hell with this, you're on your own.' My throbbing member was only too glad to take control. I was standing behind Rose, and I pulled her to me, rubbing my bulge against the thin material of her dress as I wrapped my arms around her from behind and held her close. The smell of her hair was filling my nose as my hands slid up her stomach to rest on her beautiful breasts. I massaged and rolled her nipples through the material of her dress, and she responded with a confused, "ooohhhhhh..." My hands were all over Rose, but my eyes never left Brittany's shocked and angry face. I was getting exactly the reaction I wanted, but I needed to push it further. I reached down to my fly, unzipped, and pulled my erection out, then slid Rose's dress up until her bare ass was pressed up against my hardness. As I was kissing the back of her neck, I pulled her leg up to expose her sweet little coochie, my fingers diddling and seeking the opening of her crotch. She was getting very wet, and I knew we had come to the moment of no return. Grinning at Brittany, I turned Rose around to face me, then slid my hands under her thighs and lifted her up in the air, positioning her glistening lips right over my stiffness. This entire time, I had been looking at Brittany; for just a second, I broke that gaze to look into Rose's eyes. She kissed me deeply, then pulled back and whispered, "I trust you, Jack. I love you. Let's do this." I positioned the tip of my cock at the entrance to her temple and, looking right back to Brittany, slid into Rose all the way to the hilt. Rose cried out a little, but it was a cry of desire and pleasure. I stumbled forward a couple of steps, until I had Rose's body trapped against the car. I began to thrust in earnest, kissing her neck and face as she dug her nails into my back. Brittany was beyond anger, beyond shock; she just stood there in the parking lot, watching us with her mouth wide open, her hands flexing, fists clenching and unclenching as if she were squeezing stress balls. Rose understood what I was going for; she started panting loudly for Brittany's benefit, "Fuck me Jack, fuck me hard." I obliged by doubling my stroking speed. I was going to climax soon, and I could tell Rose wasn't going to, but we both knew this wasn't about pleasure, it was about power; we were in this to put Brittany down, to make her understand how pathetic she was for slamming what she didn't understand. That thought was pounding in my head as I pounded Rose's gorgeous cunny, her arms wrapped around my neck as her head fell back. I could feel the magic about to explode, and as I kept Rose's body pinned up against the car, I pulled out and grabbed my cock with my free hand, stroking like an insane thing until my spunk suddenly exploded from the tip, to splatter at Brittany's feet. Holding Rose to me, I backed up a step, opened the car door, and deposited her limp form into the passenger seat. With some difficulty, I tucked my hardness back into my pants and zipped up, then walked around to the driver's side. As I slid into the seat, I gave Brittany an obscene leer, licked my lips, and said, "Good night, cunt. Go find one of your sad little boyfriends to drill you, and maybe we'll let you keep hanging around us. Cumdump." As we drove off into the night, I checked the rearview mirror to see Brittany still standing there looking after us, her hands hanging limply at her sides like dead weights.

I must have gone into some kind of shock, because the next thing I remember, we were parked in the back of the lot at Flinger's. I shifted in my seat to turn and face Rose, who was looking out the window. When I touched her neck, she turned to face me; shimmering tears were running down her perfect cheeks, and she slid over to wrap her arms around me and bury her face in my neck.

"Oh god, Jack, what are we gonna do? What are we gonna do? When Brittany tells someone, what's gonna happen to you? God, Jack, I can't lose you, I can't! I don't want you to go to jail!"

"Shhhh, shhhh, stop, sweetheart, stop, don't think about it right now," I murmured, stroking her hair and holding her close. "We can probably just deny the whole thing. It'll be our word against Brittany's. I don't think we have anything to worry about."

"I hope you're right Jack. I pray you're right, I pray to God you're right. Oh god, I love you so much." She took a shuddering breath, and suddenly her eyes lit up as she broke into a mournful laugh. "Did you see her face? I mean, my god, did you see her face?!?" she said.

I laughed along with her. "Yes, I did. It was incredible. We punctured her bubble so HARD!" I said. We were laughing uncontrollably now, hysterical and out of our minds with some unnameable emotion. When we finally calmed down enough to breathe, we looked at each other and, in silent agreement, got out of the car and walked into the restaurant to see what we were hungry for.

33

...One of these nights, one of these crazy old nights, we're gonna find out pretty mama, what turns on your lights... The full moon is calling, the fever is high, and the wicked wind whispers and moans, You got your demons, you got desires, well, I got a few of my own... One Of These Nights (The Eagles)

The longer we sat across from each other in the booth at Flinger's, looking at the menu without seeing it, the more apparent it became that neither of us was interested in food. With an apology to the waitress, we ducked out of there, then drove aimlessly for a little bit, looking for some kind of distraction to keep our minds off the coming confrontation. Eventually, we wound up at the Cedargrove Park overlook, where we parked and watched the headlights coming and going on the streets laid out below us. With the radio playing softly and Rose snuggled up into me, we idly stroked each other for a long time as other cars came, parked for 10 or 15 minutes, and went on their way.

That was after we left the dance on Saturday night. We each passed a restless night, tortured by our separation. The next day, Sunday, passed wih strange fits and starts. Every time I got close to a normal feeling, my tortured attention would inevitably return to our predicament, and I could tell Rose was in the same boat.

That afternoon, as Rose and I walked around to each building to take old notices off the notice boards and make sure the entryways were clean, Marjorie waved us over.

"Hey you two, I have a job for you. I got some steaks at Sav-Rite that I want cooked on the grill. It's supposed to stay nice for the rest of the night, so you wouldn't mind standing over a cozy grill for a while would you? I got some garlic bread and salad stuff and beer and root beer, we could make a real feast of it."

"Sure, that sounds great. Doesn't it, Jack?" Rose asked, her sweet smile making the whole thing inevitable. I nodded enthusiastically, and as Marjorie headed back to get the stuff ready, I whispered to Rose, "The condemned man ate a hearty meal." As we walked over to the storage shed behind the clubhouse to get a bag of charcoal from the complex's stores, Rose grabbed my hand and forced me to look at her. "Seriously, Jack, what are we gonna do?" she wanted to know.

"Here's what we're gonna do," I told her as I squeezed her hand. "We're gonna tell as much of the truth as we can and pray we can get away with the rest. I'll say that Brittany's attitude made me so angry that I lost control and pretended to grope you to try to shut her up. I'll say that I carried it way too far by picking you up and pretending to hump you but that I left my pants on, and then just deny anything else that Brittany says happened. I mean, even if it really had happened like that, I'd still be really upset and nervous over admitting it, so nobody would question my guilty look. I've got that covered. Do you think you could back me up on that, angel?"

"In spades, Jack, I could do that for sure! Oh, Jack, do you think it will work? Really work?"

We stepped into the dimly lit shed and closed the door behind us. A stir of dust particles glittered in the cool air between us, moving slowly around us as I pulled her to me and picked her up in my arms. "Sure I do," I answered. "We've suffered enough, love. This is our time. This is our right. We deserve to be happy, life owes us."

"Oh Jack, the way you say it like that, you almost make believe it's so." Her deep sigh was intended to relieve some of the tension, and she continued, "It's been so hard to not think about it. It's terrible! The suspense is killing me. Was this what it was like for you that first week, when we were apart and you thought the police would be coming for you any minute?"

"A lot, yes," I admitted, "it was a very tense time, although what was much worse than the fear of being arrested, was the thought that I had hurt you, that I had scared you and damaged you emotionally." I paused for a moment to reflect. "After that experience, getting through this is almost easy. Don't worry about it love, we'll get through it and come out even stronger for it. You'll see." My reward for my faith was an ear nibble as she snuggled closer into my chest, pressing her breasts up against me.

Supper was almost the pleasant diversion Marj had intended it to be, and Rose and I were able to actually come close to relaxing. After supper, with the dishes soaking in the sink, the three of us settled down in front of the television to digest our meal; Rose was sitting on the floor, sipping from a glass of wine that Marjorie had consented to, while I sat on the floor next to her and she leaned into me while I gently massaged her scalp with my right hand. Marj sat on the couch behind us, massaging my scalp as I draped my left arm back and over her thigh, to caress her knee and the front of her leg, and it was in that pleasant fashion that we passed the rest of the evening.

Monday morning was almost anticlimactic. Nothing had happened over the weekend. Apparently Brittany hadn't told anyone; or, at least, hadn't told anyone who would have run straight to the police. That fact was marginally encouraging, but we still didn't know what lay ahead. Maybe Brittany would have waited until she could report it to the school administration, in which case Rose would be called to the office for a grilling about the incident. This thought caused me so much stress that I kept it to myself; to tell Rose I feared it might come to that would only add to any pressure she was already feeling. Marjorie had already left for work as usual at 6:30 that morning, so we had that little slice of time before school to just sit on the couch in the clubhouse common room and hold each other. I used the truck to drop Rose off at school, and our kiss felt more like a goodbye than we wanted to think about. "Remember," I told her, "if any teacher or administrator says something, anything at all to you, about Saturday night, get them to call me and I'll be here immediately. There is no way I'm going to let you face this alone, love." She nodded briefly, barely able to look at me for fear of crying, and then she was moving up the steps and into the school.

There were probably a dozen things that I should have been doing around the complex, but I wasn't able to even think about any of them. I stayed in the clubhouse all day, pacing like a caged animal, never straying as far as the pool, moving from the common room to the game alcove to the kitchen and back again, always staying within a couple of second's reach of the phone. My vigil went unrewarded (unpunished, I guess, is a more accurate word), and by 3:00 I was in the truck and barrelling toward the school as fast as I dared. Rose wasn't in the first flood of students that hit the doors within seconds after the bell rang, and she wasn't in the second wave of stragglers. She finally emerged almost a half hour later. My relief at seeing her was immediately offset by the sight of Brittany walking next to her. As I struggled to focus my attention on the situation, I realized that Rose and Brittany were chattering away, their hands flying as they punctuated their remarks with their enthusiasm. When Rose saw me, she waved excitedly, then turned to grab Brittany and pull her along as she fairly flew toward the truck.

"Jack, I told Brittany we'd give her a ride home. That's okay, isn't it? Pleeease?" she pleaded, and my shock over the strangeness of the situation was obliterated by the rush of love that washed over me when she fixed me with her pixie smile. Sighing deeply, I slid closer to my door, to indicate that I was making room for two passengers. The girls climbed in, Rose in the middle. As Rose turned to sit down, Brittany's hand shot out quickly to cop a feel of her butt. Rose shrieked and jumped, turning to look at Brittany, then they started giggling insanely. They sat, then both turned to look at me expectantly. "What the hell," I shrugged; I couldn't stop myself from feeling a bit miffed after having spent the whole day in Hell's waiting room, again, only to find out all that worry and stress was apparently for nothing, again. "I like falling down a rabbit hole. Don't bother to tell me what's going on, okay?"

"Not here, Jack, please," Rose begged, "let's go someplace quiet to talk about it, someplace private. Pleeease?" To my credit, I shut up and did as I was told. Putting the truck in gear and making my way out onto the street, I said, "Well, your mom probably won't be home for another couple of hours. Is your apartment okay?" Both girls assured me that was fine, that was exactly what they wanted.

It was a short drive to the apartment complex, but it seemed much longer. Brittany was alternately eyeing me and looking away, as if there were something about my appearance she wanted to memorize but was afraid to get caught doing it. I decided that if we were going to be in such close quarters, I might as well return the favor. Brittany did definitely look older than Rose, partly because she had a good fifteen pounds on her (most of it in her bra), and partly because of the mass of blonde hair that floated around her face. She was a miniature Pamela Anderson.

For her own part, Rose was strangely silent for the whole short trip home. She mostly looked straight ahead through the windshield, but every so often she would cast a quick glance at Brittany, and whenever she did, she would squeeze the inside of my thigh almost involuntarily, inching closer and closer to my package. What in the HELL happened between these two today? What did she say to Rose? What did Rose tell her? What were they going to... I was rabidly in the dark, wanting savagely to know what was going on, yet almost too afraid to find out what it was, lest it should be some horrible deal with the devil that Rose had made without realizing the long-range consequences of her transaction... As we pulled into the end space in the parking lot, from the corner of my eye I saw Brittany take hold of Rose's hand and give it a good squeeze, and Rose squeezed back just as hard. Damn it.

The silence continued as we walked up the stairs and waited for Rose to unlock the door. Then we were inside, the door comfortably closed behind us, shutting out the evil prying eyes of the world. Rose turned to put a hand on Brittany's and my arms and asked us what we wanted to drink. Brittany just wanted a glass of water, and I told Rose I figured that, depending on what she and Brittany had to tell me, I was probably going to need something with alcohol in it. She exchanged a quick glance with Brittany, and after Brittany nodded at her, she wrapped herself around me and, looking up into my face with the biggest, most soulful eyes she could muster, said, "Mom lets me have wine all the time anymore in the evening when we watch TV, so I know it's okay for me. And when I was at Brittany's party, we all drank beer, so you know Brittany's had alcohol before..."

Before Rose had a chance to react, I had scooped her up and thrown her over my shoulder, presenting her butt to my face. I used the flat of my palm to paddle her ass hard enough to make an impressive sound, but nowhere near hard enough to actually hurt.

"You are a vexacious MINX, my love, and you KNOW I can't deny you anything," I said, and I turned to Brittany to fix her with a steady look that I hoped she would take as, 'If you ever do anything to threaten or hurt my Rose, I'll be doing this to you for real, and then you really WILL be walking funny for a week.' I put Rose down, but none too gently, careesing her breasts and hips as I did so. Rose retrieved the half-full bottle of sangria from the cupboard and poured a stiff belt for each of us. After taking my glass, I dropped down on the couch and stretched my legs out to use up the full length, to wait for them to start. The girls came around to the side of the couch and dropped to their knees in front of me, to sit on their legs. After an extended pause, Brittany spoke up, "I'm sorry I was insulting to you. You guys really threw me off balance and I just went kinda crazy. I swear, that's not me..."

"Thank you, it means a lot to hear that from you. I'm very, very sorry I said all those awful, ugly names to you, and I wish I could unsay them. All I can say in my defense, is that I love this little lady more than life itself, and I felt threatened for her."

"Well, after you guys left the dance on Saturday night," Brittany continued thoughtfully, "I was in no mood to do anything but go home and think about what I saw. So I did. I didn't get to sleep for a real long time that night, and I woke up super early so I could keep thinking about it. And I spent the whole day Sunday thinking about it. I thought about all the guys I'd ever..." she paused for a second, suddenly self-conscious, realizing that she wasn't talking to her usual group of friends but to a man old enough to be her dad. She actually swallowed hard a couple of times, before being able to continue, "...all the guys I'd ever... sucked off, or let climb on top of me and... and stick their... cocks... in me... and I knew it wasn't enough, it wasn't enough to just let them f... fuck me, even if they bought me stuff and wanted to show me off, wanted other guys to see me with them. And I was trying so hard to remember what Rose had told me about the two of you, and wishing I had paid better attention, cuz now I knew it was all true, all the romance stuff, you know, like what Rose was always trying to tell me but I wouldn't listen to cuz I thought she was a Sweet Little Virgin who was just repeating stuff she read in fairy tales. But I had proof now, that it wasn't just fairy tales, Rose was telling me about what it's really like between the two of you. I remembered there's supposed to be more to sex than what I was doing, there's supposed to be..." she started to blush, as if ashamed to admit she were losing her cynical edge, "...supposed to be, like kissing and holding hands and just laying together... like what mom and dad used to do all the time, before dad got his new job and started being gone all the time..." These last few words came a little thicker and slower, as if she had reached an emotional cul-de-sac and was going to take a header into a brick wall, so Rose spoke up to relieve her.

"So when I got to school this morning, whaddaya think? Brittany's waiting for me at my locker, and she tells me she needs to talk to me, and she says it's real important, and can we find someplace to sit and talk for a few minutes, but then the bell rang and we had to go. But she put this note in my hand before she left." Rose produced the note and handed it to me. I took the lined white notepaper and read: 'rose - if we dont talk b4 lunch, pls pls BEGGING you get 2 lunch asap, have a lot to ask, very very important'

I looked up from the note, and Rose pushed ahead. "So anyway, of course I was dying to know what she was gonna say, I didn't hear a thing anybody said during the first four classes cuz I was so distracted. When the lunch bell rang I ran to the cafeteria as fast as I could and Brittany was waiting for me before I got there, and we went to the courtyard next to the little gym, and we just sat there and talked for the whole 40 minutes. She wanted to know EVERYTHING, I mean, like, how we met and how we got started and what our relationship was like before we started fu... uh, making love," Rose blushed, ducking her head and glancing at Brittany, who was just sitting there calmly watching us with an air of elevated expectation, "and, and, and, just everything Jack. So I told her everything. I mean, not EVERYTHING everything, but all the stuff I wanted so bad to tell her before, but that I just couldn't cuz we had to keep it a secret. And of course there wasn't nearly enough time to tell her EVERYTHING I wanted to, so I told her since we both have 7th period study hall, maybe we could kinda talk in there, but that didn't happen cuz the monitor today was Mr. Stettler and he always gets so nasty when people try to talk, and we couldn't even pass notes, so we had to wait 'til school let out, and then we got to talk again at the lockers, and Brittany finally got to ask me what she was waiting all day to ask me, that she didn't get to ask at lunch cuz she wanted to talk to me first and make sure everything was cool, and also she didn't ask cuz she was scared to ask me, cuz she didn't know if I'd get mad, but by the end of the day she just couldn't take it anymore, so she asked me, and I told her that all we could do was ask you and see what you said. So... that's where we are now." Rose rocked back on her legs and put her hands out behind her, to look up at me expectantly. I took a few more seconds to digest this torrent, then finished my wine at a single draught.

"Ask..." I started, and Rose and Brittany both licked their lips and leaned forward, "... ask me... what, exactly?" The girls looked at each other; both opened their mouths to speak, each saw the other had opened her mouth, and each closed her mouth in deference to the other. This actually happened three times in a row, and they both started to giggle at their inadvertant dumb show. I held up a hand to stop them. Without speaking a word, I went to the cupboard where I knew Marjorie hid the rum, poured myself a stiff shot without benefit of any kind of soda, and drained it in a single motion. I set my glass on the counter, a little more forcefully than I had intended, and turned to the girls. Rose motioned me over to the couch, so I gave in and sat down again. She sat on my lap facing me, straddling me, massaging my chest while she planted a few kisses on my neck.

"See, one of the things I told Brittany about, when we talked at lunch, was something she's really really curious about. I told her how great it is, and she believes me, and she knows I'm telling the truth, but she had such a bad experience with it, and it's always been so great for you and me..." she trailed off as I rasised my hand to stop her; I mumbled, "The chase, please; cut to it". Rose took a deep breath and plunged ahead, "Brittany knows what we have is sacred, and she's not asking for you to fuck her." I jumped a little at this, but Rose ignored it and continued massaging my chest as if I hadn't budged. "I wouldn't let that happen anyway. You're mine, Jack, mine all mine, and you KNOW I don't take that lightly. What Brittany wants, is, is, is..." She turned to look helplessly at Brittany, who shifted on her haunches and said, "I want... I want to get fu... I want to get fucked in the ass, I want you to put your cock in my butthole, cuz Rose said you can do it so it doesn't hurt, she said you have a way you do it that makes it feel good and not hurt like getting stabbed, like it hurt when I tried it before."

"Wait a minute," I said, and I forced myself up off the couch and stood to confront them as they sat there. "Let me get this straight. Brittany, you want me to do anal sex on you because Rose told you it feels good and you think that because I can make it feel good for Rose. then I should be able to make it feel good for you, too? And Rose, you want to loan out my services to Brittany, so she can experience anal sex the right way, the way we do it?" The girls glanced at each other, then back at me, and they nodded in unison. "Yep," Rose said, "that's really about it, Jack."

I looked at Rose for a long time, and all I saw was her pride at being my woman, and pride at being able to share me with others in need. I looked at Brittany, who obliged by turning around to stick her rump out at me. She slid her pants down to her thighs to give me a good look at the goods, before pulling them back up a few seconds later.

"Okay, whoa, let's get one thing down," I said quietly, "Rose, if this is really what you want," and her eyes sparkled as she nodded at me, "if this is really what you want me to do, then you have to participate. I'm not going to do this by myself. Yes, I mean, I want you to help me make love to Brittany. It's going to be the three of us."

Rose and Brittany looked at each other for about 3 seconds before Brittany moved very quickly and decisively to take Rose in her arms and plant a huge wet kiss on her startled lips. Rose responded almost immediately, and after about 15 seconds of this, I had to gently pull them apart. "Wait up, girls," I scolded, "we can't start anything here and now. Rose's mom will be coming home. We need to find someplace else."

"My house!" Brittany jumped, "dad's still out of town and mom will be at one of her dumb little art shows until way late, like probably after 11!"

"Well, we do have to take you home some time," I observed, "guess we might as well do it now, right?"

Rose left a note for Marj that we were taking Brittany home and that we might be a while in coming back. We piled into the pickup for the brief ride over to Brittany's house, a ride crackling with nervous energy and slightly doe-eyed anticipation, and I parked in her driveway, at Brittany's direction. As we got out and walked toward the house, it suddenly occurred to me to worry about whether anybody in the neighborhood would see me entering with these two young girls, and what it might mean later if they did. Then, once again, we were behind a comfortably closed door. The dance changed key and tempo, and we all started moving just a little bit slower with each other. Brittany led the way to the stairs, and we descended into a newly-finished basement complete with a pool table. At the far end of the basement stood a long low couch. Brittany turned off all the lights except for a small hidden soft fluorescent panel in the wall above the pool table. She turned to a small stereo sitting on an end table and pressed the Play button on the unit's CD control. The smooth sounds of a gentle bossa nova filled the air, and she started moving slowly, turning and grinding her hips, her arms up over her head as if to display her breasts for my review. Rose stood up next to her and copied her moves; a little stiffly at first, but within a few seconds, Rose had caught the rhythm and was grinding along in synch with Brittany. As they moved to start slowly removing each other's clothes, I had to throw my head back and laugh. That sound brought me within range of their lust. In their underwear, they advanced and undressed me, and between two pairs of eager hands, I was naked in less time than it takes to tell. I kissed Rose under her arm and down her side as I helped her remove her bra and panties, then the two of us turned our full attention to Brittany. We were both kissing her down her sides as we took off her bra. With her full breasts bare to us, we each took one in our mouths and began to suck and lick at Brittany's nipples. The turn-on was unbelievable; to be looking Rose in the eye across Brittany's breasts while Brittany herself writhed and moaned under the touch of our tongues, made my cock so hard I felt like it was on fire. We each took one of her thighs to rub and squeeze, then pulled her panties off as we sucked on the sides of her butt.

As I gently turned Brittany over on her stomach so I could reach her rectum, I swore softly. "Brittany, we need something to lubricate. Rose and I used petroleum jelly the first time, but then I got some lubricant specially for sex. We can use petroleum jelly if you want, if you have any, but..." In answer, Brittany reached under one of the couch cushions and produced a bottle of lubricant. I should have known. I just shook my head a little sadly, and Brittany said, also a little sadly, "I put this here last night, cuz I was hoping so hard, I wanted so bad for this to happen, I figured I'd better be ready." I took the bottle from Brittany and leaned in to give her a long, slow kiss on the mouth. She tried to put her tongue in my mouth, but I pulled back and shook my head gently. "No, babe, no tongues," I whispered, "don't force it, don't chase the magic. I want the magic to come to you." Brittany looked into my eyes, confused, then relaxed under my touch. I kissed her lips again, and Rose moved in to slide her fingers along Brittany's thighs, inching closer and closer to her opening. Again, I turned Brittany over, pulled her up onto her knees, and squeezed some of the lubricant onto her rectum. She shivered a little as I gently rubbed it in, sliding my middle fingertip gently into the opening and up to the second knuckle. Brittany cried out at that and her sphincter tensed up, gripping my finger tightly. I massaged her butt cheeks with my free hand and patiently waited for her to relax. Gradually, she unclenched, and I was able to start stroking. After it seemed like she was used to the single finger, I added my index finger, but very gently, very slowly, and both fingers slid in easily.

"Oh, god, it feels so weird, it feels like I have to take a dump," she muttered. Rose threw herself down beside Brittany to look up at her. "Yeah," she said, "I remember that feeling. It must be cuz your hole's opening up and you're only used to that feeling when you actually do. Take a dump, that is," and she giggled. "After you get used to it, it only feels good, and not weird at all."

I squeezed out more of the lube and stroked it over my member. "Rose, come here, take a look," I told her, "this is what it looks like from my side of the bed. Are you ready?" Brittany had buried her head in the sofa cushion, apparently unnerved at the thought of the stabbing pain she was sure she was about to face. Rose scrambled around until she was seated in front of Brittany on the couch. She took Brittany's head in her hands and laid it in her crotch, rubbing and soothing Brittany's back. I began a slow massage of her neck and shoulders, moving down to her back and then gradually, gently, easily, sliding my hands across the smooth globes of her butt cheeks and kneading tenderly towards the prize in the middle. Placing my slicked-up tool at the entrance to her nether chamber, I started a slow and steady pressure on her asshole, gently prying it open with my thumbs. I started to slide myself forward, and when the head popped in, Brittany screamed. I immediately stopped but didn't pull out. "Did that hurt?" Rose asked, and Brittany shook her head vigorously, "Ow, ow, yeah, kinda, but I thought it was gonna be a lot worse." Rose hugged her head a little tighter and stroked her hair, and Brittany moved her head around in Rose's crotch. "Mmmmm, I can smell your pussy," she whispered to Rose, "wow does that smell good." Rose shifted her legs to allow better access, and Brittany buried her nose in Rose's opening, causing Rose to let loose a little shriek of her own.

"How are you doing," I needed to know, "are you okay to try a little more?" She tensed when I said that, but nodded and briefly looked back at me. I gripped her hips a little tighter and slid in a little further, always taking it just a fraction of an inch at a time and ready to stop at a second's notice. Brittany reached around to grab her butt cheeks and pull them apart, her scrambling fingers searching for the flesh surrounding her rectum so she could pull that as wide open as she could. I continued my steady advance until I was halfway in, when Brittany cried out, "OW, OW, OW, STOP, STOP, ow ow please stop." I did as I was directed, and we waited on Brittany to decide the timing. After a few seconds, she nodded, her blonde hair tickling Rose's thighs. "God, I feel so stretched, I feel so... full, I feel like I'm packed full. I can still feel the same thing, but somehow it doesn't hurt anymore, it just feels weird and... full. Do some more, please." I obliged, but still taking it very slowly. She didn't say anything more for the rest of the insertion, and by the time I was done, she was alternately panting through her mouth and licking and lapping at Rose's pussy. Rose was looking down at Brittany's head rolling in her lap, enjoying the sensations of a tongue working her entrance. She stroked Brittany's hair as her eyes fixed on the sight of my meat buried in Brittany's chute, and she nodded. "I think she's ready, Jack, it's time to do it. Show her what it's like." I pulled almost all the way out, leaving my head in, then slowly slid all the way back in to the hilt. Brittany's cry was muffled because she didn't take her mouth from Rose's vagina, but she thrust back onto me to let me know she was okay. I thrust for a few times, then again buried myself balls deep in her ass so I could stay in her as I collapsed onto the couch, pulling her on top of me. As I grabbed her hips and continued to thrust, Brittany squealed, "Oh god, oh god, oh my fucking god, oh god, oh god!" Rose grinned like a maniac and moved around into a 69 position with Brittany, shoving her little coochie up into her face and taking her first taste of Brittany's glistening folds. Brittany had wrapped her arms around Rose's hips so she could keep her mouth on Rose's pussy, and all she could do in response was emit a muffled scream. Then Rose was licking and lapping, slurping at Brittany's juice, having trouble getting to it because of the constant rolling movement of my hips pounding into Brittany's asscheeks. Then she found the rhythm, and her mouth locked onto Brittany's pussy and didn't let go again. As she licked and sucked, my fingers were brushing everything that Rose's tongue wasn't. I could feel that I was getting close to releasing my load. "R... Rose," I panted, and she nodded vigorously to show she understood, even as she continued to plow her tongue into Brittany's wetness. She looked up at me, and in the dim light, I could see she was covered in sweat; they both were, as they continued to 69 and I continued to pump Brittany's ass for all I was worth. My cock jumped, and I felt the familiar contractions as it tried to pump my semen, then Brittany's sphincter contracted like a demon, squeezing my cock harder than I would have thought possible; I was having the beginning of an orgasm, but the load wasn't coming out. The feeling continued, building and mounting, until I knew I was cumming, but I continued to stroke, and I still hadn't shot any load. Rose reached her own climax and let loose a low moan into Brittany's vagina. Brittany was trapped, sandwiched between us, her mouth still locked to Rose's pussy, as her orgasm caught fire. She couldn't even move, all she could do was lay there and tremble silently as the energy passed through us in a wave. I suddenly understood that I was about to have another orgasm, and I slowed down to take in the full experience, but didn't stop, as Rose's second orgasm took control of her, and then Brittany was spasming and twitching through a second orgasm of her own. It almost felt like riding a wave, and as my cock jumped inside her, I felt a third climax explode down the length of my shaft, and this time as I shot, the sparkles and shooting stars rose up and claimed me. When I came to, I found the three of us sprawled on the couch, covered in sweat and twitching, my cock was still buried in Brittany's ass. As I slowly pulled it out, Brittany stirred and looked around at me, buzzing with the sensation of being emptied out.

"Oh. My. God." she breathed. "Oh my god. Oh, oh, my asshole is... it's burning, it's on fire, oh god it feels so gooooooood." She looked into my eyes and said, "Rose told me... she told me about... the Little Death, but I didn't believe it, I didn't think... there could really be a feeling that was so good that..." she trailed off as words failed her. Rose stirred and sat up, and with Brittany between us, we began to stroke her body, trailing our fingertips over her thighs, her belly, her breasts, teasing and squeezing, taking full advantage of the heightened sensations Brittany's skin was conveying to her. After some five or ten minutes of basking in the afterglow, I rose to my feet and made my way to the basement stairs. "Okay if I use the bathroom to clean up a little?" I asked Brittany, and she produced a lazy smile as she pointed up the steps. "First door on the right," she said, then turned to regard Rose; I was apparently forgotten for the second.

I cleaned up my member, washing it three times and scrubbing it almost raw to be sure, and splashed some cold water on my face. My wicked reflection was grinning at me and I couldn't get it to stop. I grabbed some extra toilet paper and took it back down with me. Brittany was laying on her stomach as Rose examined her butt close up. "Ooo, I think it's oozing out," I heard her say, and I knelt down to gently wipe her clean with the toilet paper I had brought down, tenderly pulling her cheeks apart to ensure I covered everything.

After a few more minutes of idle stroking, I turned to Rose.

"I know we didn't lay out any ground rules, but here's one right now. This is NOT going to be a regular thing. When I agreed, I wanted it to be one time only, just an instructional thing, so Brittany could see that anal sex doesn't hurt. If she wants more of it, she's just going to have to teach one of her boyfriends."

"Oh, they never listen, they always just get so crazy," Brittany complained, "like they think they have to hurry and do it cuz they're afraid they're gonna cum before they get it all the way in."

"Brittany, I'm worried about my relationship with Rose. I don't want her to EVER question my loyalty to her, because that is absolute. If I start having sex with other people, I'm gonna make her worry about my commitment to her." Rose started to shake her head in protest, but I held up my hand to cut her off. "I love her, Brit. I mean that, I love her more than life itself. She's the one I get up for in the morning. She's the one who holds me and makes all my fears go away. And yes, I do have fears, and yes, Rose does make them go away, just by being there. I wish you nothing but the best, Brit, but for now you're going to have to make do with just that; my good wishes." I started to pull my underwear on, but before I could pull it all the way up, Rose reached over and took a handful of my penis, then reached down to smell it. "Mmmmm, smells like soap, smells so clean." As she knelt in front of me, she hugged me around the waist and put little baby kisses down the length of my penis, then finished pulling up my underwear. She stood and wrapped her arms around me, and as I moved my tongue over her lips, I could taste Brittany's essence on her mouth.

We finished dressing in silence, and Brittany stumbled as we walked over to the stairs. We each caught her by an arm and helped her regain her footing. "Sorry," Brit smiled weakly, "my legs are still kinda wobbly from..." and she and Rose grinned at each other as they said in unison, "butt sex!" They turned to look expectantly at me, but all I could do was roll my eyes and squeeze them both on the rump.

34

...Now you say you're lonely, you've cried the whole night through, well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river, I've cried a river over you... Cry Me A River (Julie London)

Rose and Brittany had apparently become best friends. For the first week or so, every day after school Rose would give me an account of what she and Brittany discussed at lunch. The other girls in Brittany's clique apparently joined in, but mostly to listen to Rose's accounts of her sex life, with Brittany providing moral support. Brittany had told the other girls she'd met Jack and that he had his own reasons for staying anonymous, which she had sworn to respect. According to Rose, Brit never even told them so much as Jack's hair color, but she swore up one side and down the other that Jack was a decent guy, pumping Rose up with pride when she told them, "Rose found the real deal".

Once or twice a week, the pair of them had taken to stopping at the complex after school together to spend a little time with me, before Brittany had her mom swing by to pick her up. There wasn't any sex between the three of us, and I believed Rose when she told me that she and Brittany never did anything together, although it wouldn't have surprised me if she told me they had. I certainly couldn't have begrudged her a relationship with Brittany anyway, since I was also currently in a sexual relationship with Marjorie. What the three of us did, more than anything else, was talk about sex. Brittany was glad to get solid information about lovemaking, but she also gave me a few morsels for thought; her take on "what boys want" and how her appetites had actually scared a few of them; the often lonely but always intoxicating sense of her power over boys and her fear that she might take it too far one day and get into a situation she couldn't handle.

Only one other time did the two of them ask me for a sexual favor: for Brittany to be able to watch as Rose and I had anal sex. Now that she knew what it felt like, she said, she wanted to witness the same thing as an observer instead of a participant, so she would better be able to teach others how to do it. Since it didn't involve sex with Brit, and since it could marginally be considered educational for her, I reluctantly agreed, and locked away in my room, Rose and I gave her a demonstration, starting on the cot but eventually making our way to the floor. Brit almost kept her promise to not get involved, but during the last three or four minutes, she couldn't resist and she started diddling Rose with one hand while squeezing my balls with the other. I must confess I didn't mind a bit that she did it.

The complex's meet and greet for February had been scheduled for Valentine's day. As usual, Rose and Brittany were hanging out together, sitting in a corner as they whispered and not-too-subtly pointed at one or another of the tenants, resulting in an occasional burst of raucous laughter. The turnout had been larger than usual, and the pizza ran out sooner than expected. I made a run to Leon's Tower of Pizza to pick up another three larges. I wasn't worried about the complex manager reimbursing me; while he was stingy with a lot of things, he never skimped on the food. He had made a bad impression once when the complex's owner made a surprise visit to a meet and greet that had been poorly planned, and he was determined to never get caught like that again.

By the time I made it back from Leon's, almost 30 minutes had elapsed. I set out the pizzas and straightened up some of the mess. As I turned to the trashcan to deposit some crumpled napkins and empty chip bags, I saw a blonde in stonewashed denims and a rainbow blouse, holding a mixed drink and gazing steadily at me. It took a few seconds for the image to sink in, and when it did, my legs gave way and I collapsed into a folding chair. She walked over and sat next to me, reaching out to brush the hair out of my eyes and gently stroke my forehead as she did so. "Hello, Brent," she said, and all I could do was croak, "Hello, Lilly." We just sat there gazing silently at each other for a minute or more while the meet and greet continued around us. In the back of my awareness, I could hear Rose and Brittany talking upstairs as they shot billiards.

Lilly was visibly older. The dissonance produced by my memory's trying to lay it's own image of her over the real thing right in front of me was weird and getting weirder by the second. The lines radiating from her eyes seemed chisled in place, and her sad smile produced wrinkles around the corners of her mouth that had't been there ten years ago. Dear God in heaven, was this what I looked like to Rose? I looked harder, and my vision gradually resolved itself enough to produce a reasonable facsimile of Lilly. She still wasn't saying anything, and I stirred myself enough to ask, "How have you been?" She made no reply for a long time, just sat there looking at me with a strange wistful expression that I didn't know how to read. When she still said nothing, I ventured a little further, "What brings you back to town? Are you visiting, or passing through, or..."

Lilly looked down at her hands in her lap for a few seconds. "Mom died three years ago," she began, and I started an involuntary expression of grief for her, but she held up a hand to stop me, "it's okay, I appreciate it but I've dealt with it and I'm fine not to go back there. So it's just been dad and me for awhile, and that was okay too. When mom was around, I always had to lay low. She never approved of my approach to life, so I had to keep it hidden while she was here. When she was gone, I was free to do whatever I wanted. Dad and I never got any closer through the years, and for the first year or so after mom was gone, we almost never even talked to each other. Most evenings dad would spend in the bedroom watching TV and drinking scotch, so I was free to bring anybody home I wanted to. I could have done it upstairs with my bedroom door shut, but I didn't want to burden the old man with that, so I always took them down in the basement." She put her glass to her lips and drained what was left of her drink. She took a deep breath and pressed on, "One night, after I'd had a hot session with a cute little waitress from the coffee shop dad always goes to, when she was getting dressed to leave, I caught dad lurking outside the basement door. He said he hadn't meant to spy on us, it was just that he had a crush on the waitress for a long time, before mom died even, he was sorry for watching us shagging and hoped I wouldn't hold it against him, he was just jealous of me because I'd had her and he didn't think he ever would. You'd think I would've been angry with him for watching me... somehow it just made me feel sorry for him, really really sorry. We sat up and talked for a long time after the waitress left, and he admitted to getting really horny when he saw us jigging. He reminded me that he was 73 and that he didn't have any time left to hide things or try to make things seem other than they were, so he just came out and admitted it." Lilly's eyes were unfocused, not seeing the room around her as she looked into her past. "He was, just, I don't know, he was just kind of pathetic and hunched down and smaller than life, and all I could see was a man in pain. I knew mom hadn't let him touch her for... a long time... it must have been years since he'd been with a woman... So much pain... So I... I..." she looked up at me, and I was startled to see an entirely new expression on her face, a kind of wistful sorrow. "I seduced him. Or, it wasn't a seduction, really, it was just me taking him in the bedroom and undressing him and climbing on top of him and riding him until he was done. It wasn't all that sexy or exciting, but somehow it just felt right. Felt like something I had to do. So I kept doing it, for a long time afterward. I never came when I did it, but that was beside the point. I was still sleeping with anybody I wanted to, but I always made sure I had at least a little left over for dad. It never really improved our relationship, we never really got any closer, but I still felt right about it. He smiled a helluva lot more, anyway." She wanted better access to the alcohol, so she turned her chair around to sit at the table behind us where the bottles were, and I followed suit. As she filled her glass about 7/8 full of Kahlua and added a splash of vanilla from the creamer that was sitting next to the coffee pot, she said, "Then dad died last year. Matter of fact, it was Hallowe'en night. I went out to a few parties and it was after 3 when I got in. Dad was sitting up in the living room, just sitting in the dark, waiting for me. He was naked in his recliner, just stroking himself and waiting. I was three sheets to the wind, so I just stripped and mounted him right there in the chair. He was alive when I kissed him good night and climbed off of him... funny, I never even thought about that until just now. I kissed him good night that night... I never kissed him, never, not even when the sex was good, I just never kissed him... and that night, last Hallowe'en night, after we were done, after he... shot his load... while I was still sitting on his lap and he was still inside me, I laid a big wet sloppy French kiss on him, just slobbered all over him... anyway, when I got up in the morning, he was still sitting there naked, only he was... he was gone." A wetness at the corner of her eye glistened briefly, but it didn't turn into a tear. She sighed heavily, "I guess I kissed him goodbye and didn't even know it. Funny. The ambulance guys just snickered when they told me he'd gotten laid before he died, like they thought it was the funniest damn thing in the world. Pricks. I don't think they suspected it was me. Maybe they did, I don't know, I don't care." She took an impressive pull on her drink. "Anyway, dad was pretty much broke. He let his life insurance lapse, my brothers and I had to sell the house to pay his bills. They let me have dad's old Toyota and mom's wedding ring," she held up her right hand to show me she was wearing it, "and I was glad to let them haggle over whatever was left. That was right after Thanksgiving. I headed back here because I didn't know where else to go, and I wanted to see if I could find a few old faces that might still be friendly enough to make it worth my while staying here. I got a job balancing the books at Sav-Rite and I've been staying with Patty and Marcie until..." She trailed off as she looked past me, at Rose and Brittany coming down the stairs to help themselves to some pizza. Both girls gave me greasy smartass grins, and Rose bumped the top of my head lightly with her fist. For an insane, upside-down instant, I almost stopped her, to introduce her to Lilly, before I realized I needed to think a few things through first. I turned to watch them walking off to the overstuffed chairs in the far corner, where they parked themselves and continued to schmooze while they chowed. When I turned back to Lilly, she was wearing a wry grin. "Looks like you've made friends with a few new faces," she chuckled. I gestured lamely, "The brunette is Rose, she lives here with her mom," and Lilly cut me off, "...yep, and the blonde is Brittany, her friend from school. I overheard them talking earlier, reminded me of what it was like to be young. They're so damn cute," she smirked. "They were talking about boys earlier and getting a helluva lotta laughs out of the subject. Weirdest damn thing, it sounds like the brunette is hot and heavy with some guy and the blonde is getting a piece of the same action, and they both know it and they're both totally okay with it, not a trace of jealousy. I didn't get to that point until I was 20. Hell, maybe I was a late bloomer." She took another drink, and another, then listlessly picked up a couple of potato chips and started nibbling on them. "So what about you, Brent? You're the handyman here, good going. Never woulda thunk it myself, I figured you'd always be slaving away as a shelf stocker. How you getting along? You been seeing anyone?"

I had to fight to focus on the question; just seeing her sitting there was still unreal, and I felt like I was drifting out of myself. "I, uh," I started, and I had to clear my throat a couple of times, "I've actually been kind of dating Rose's mom." It was a half-hearted admission, and I felt like I was doing Marj a disservice by not showing more enthusiasm. I was fighting through a tangle of emotions; at the top of the pile was a nervous excitement at seeing Lilly again, followed by a nervous exhaustion at the thought of the train wreck I'd become after she left, then a nervous anticipation at being in the same room with her and Rose at the same time.

"Oh," Lilly said quietly. "Are you in love with her?" The fact that I wasn't able to answer immediately gave her at least a partial answer, an answer that I tried to amend by saying, "I'm very fond of her. I think I love her, after a fashion, but I'm not in love with her. I don't love her like I love R..." I stopped so I could take stock of what I was saying, since I had just started talking without engaging my brain, "...like I love... like I loved... you, Lilly." My throat was dry and stretched; I reached for the rum and made myself my own drink, with a splash of root beer and a dash of lime juice.

"That's all I wanted to hear," she smiled. "You make all the love you want to her, sport. Just remember, I'm right here, and I'll be here for awhile. Wouldn't it be nice to feel like you have a choice? If you feel hung up and you don't know why, I don't mind. I could wait forever, I've got time." And she puckered up and blew me a little kiss as she winked at me.

I was temporarily incapable of speech. Between the frozen months and years I'd spent crying over her, and the red hot iron that was stabbing through my chest at that moment, I had no words. But I knew I couldn't leave it on that note, couldn't let her think there was a chance I'd make my way back to her someday. "Lilly," I finally managed, "I don't think it'll happen between us. I mean, I loved... goddamnit, yes, okay, I love, yes, present tense, I do still love you Lilly. I love you. But things are different now." As she opened her mouth to protest, I held up my hand to stop her. "It's not just R... Marj, it's not just Marj's feelings, although that's... that's a huge part of it. It's you. And me. It's us, Lilly. There's too much of us." She looked at me quizzically, trying to puzzle out what I was saying. I took a deep breath and tried again.

"Lilly... my own dear sweet love, Lilly of the Valley... When you left, you took half of me with you... you left half a human being behind, and I didn't have enough left to survive on my own. I needed to rebuild, but it was too hard without someone there to help me. I had nothing to work with. Nothing. I just kept sinking lower and lower... I only escaped being out on the streets by a twist of fate, but I might as well have been, for as miserable and suicidal as I was." Taking a long sip from my drink let me pause long enough to take stock of my narrative, and of her attention to it. "And then something happened. Something happened and suddenly I had traction. I could move forward again. Piece by piece I rebuilt myself. I became whole again. I took chunks of a world empty of you and I molded them. I became another person. I made a workable life for myself. And now you've returned, and you brought back the half of me you took with you when you left." I could feel a single tear welling up in the corner of my eye, and before I could recall it, the little bastard slipped loose and started sliding down my face. "And I'm drowning in it. I can't breathe right now, Lilly, I'm actually suffocating from the weight of the past you've just dropped on me."

"I'm sorry to hear you say that, Brent," she smiled sadly as she reached out to gently wipe the tear away with her thumb, while the palm of her hand caressed my cheek for a second, "because tonight I'm not only here looking for old friends. You remember I was telling you that I've been staying with Patty and Marcie? Well they just signed a lease here today. They asked me if I want to bunk with them for a little while longer, here, until I can make other arrangements. The manager was a little too creepy about it, he told them it was fine for me to sack out here for 3 or 4 weeks and if I wanted to stay past that, he could just shoehorn me into the lease after the fact. Practically licked his lips when he talked about shoehorning me, the randy little assclown." I was in the process of taking a drink when she said this, and her pronouncement made me do a spit-take through my nose; my face was burning from the uprush of lime and the sudden injection of the knowledge that she was going to be around all the time. She burst out laughing and, after catching her breath, she squeezed my thigh, stood up (a little unsteadily), and winked. "Gimme a minute to hit the bathroom, hon, I have to pee like a goddamn sumbitch." Hearing the old profanities from her brought a pleasant glow, a glow that she easily picked up on, smiling seductively over her shoulder at me as she walked off.

Damn everything in the world to bloody flaming miserable excruciating hellfire. God Damn Everything. I didn't even know who or where I was. Rose. Damn. What was I going to tell Rose? And Marj? For that matter, what would I even tell Brittany? Or, good God, what was I going to tell Lilly? For an insane few seconds, I tried to picture myself pleasing everyone, having sex with Lilly and Rose and Marj and Brittany... for god's sake... might as well have sex with the manager while I'm at it...

No. No. Absolutely... I had to do something about this... With no clear idea of what to do next, I stood up and looked around for Rose, but she was nowhere to be seen. Maybe Brittany... no, she must have been with Rose, wherever that was... as I was turning around in circles trying to get my bearings, looking for anyone or anything to help me out, Lilly returned and wrapped her arm around mine. "How about this," she said, her smile having become vaguely michevious, "why don't you take me back to your place for a little quiet talk? Scouts' honor, Brent, no funny business, all I want to do is just talk a little longer, but someplace quiet, someplace private." What the hell... although I had no idea what was going to happen next, I knew with dead certainty that I was not going to cheat on Rose; with that as an anchor, I figured it wouldn't hurt to follow Lilly's lead, at least until I had adjusted enough to find my own way through.

With her arm still wrapped around mine, I led the way to the back of the clubhouse, toward the pool area. Lilly was a little puzzled at our direction, then she broke out laughing.

"I'm such an idiot," she gasped, "everything changes... I assumed you'd still be in the same apartment you were when I... when we... parted ways. What happened, they give you a nicer place when you started working here?"

"Not exactly," I mumbled, my half-hearted smile trying to mask my profound embarrasment at my current state, and I opened the door to my room and ushered her in. "This is it," I told her, "home sweet home, ha ha." Lilly looked around, then turned completely around in a circle, as if she expected there to be more to the room if she only looked in the right direction to see it.

"This... is..." she put a hand on the dresser, tracing the line of a five-year-old scratch that snaked it's way across the top, and looked down at the cot. "You... you sleep here... and..." A bizarre look was beginning to claim her expression; it was like watching the shadow of clouds rolling over the ground, shaping and reshaping a solid surface. She took a couple of steps over to the cot, turned around, and just before she sat down on it, she said "Squeak." Then she sat, and as if in response to her pronouncement, the cot answered her with a loud squeak. She looked up at me in shock, then stood and walked back to the dresser. As I watched in confusion, she opened the top drawer, reached in, and lifted the false bottom, to pull out the stroke book that had rested there, almost forgotten for many months now. She held up the magazine and extended it toward me as if she were making an accusation of some kind. "Yes," I acknowledged, "that's my porn, but you're the last person on earth who should be shocked by it...", before it finally hit home that she knew, she already KNEW before she reached in and pulled it out, that it was there. The strangeness of the situation was slowly beginning to sink in. Lilly looked around the room again, as if looking for a hidden camera, or maybe a door that would lead to another room; and finding nothing, she let the magazine fall to the floor, then turned and walked out of the room. I kicked the magazine under the cot and followed her out, trailing limply in her wake and trying to grasp what was happening.

Lilly slowly made her way back out to the common area, drifting as if in a trance, her sleepwalker's gait producing a profound sense of unease in me. She continued in this unearthly fashion until she was back at the chairs we had been sitting in earlier. She parked herself, grasped her mug, and freshened her drink. She took a sip, and another, and another. I sat next to her at the table. "What..." I started, then "how... how did you..." Lilly looked at me, her expression completely unreadable, and she said in a whisper, "How old... are Rose and Brittany?"

"How... what?!?" because I didn't know what else to say. "How... old? What do you..."

"How old? C'mon, Brenty, not a hard question, how old? How old is Rose?"

"She... she's 13," I said, the light beginning to dawn on me ever so slowly, "why are you asking me this?"

"I knew the cot was going to squeak before I sat down on it because..." she paused to lick her lips while she tried to figure out what she was going to tell me, "because... I heard Rose and Brittany talking about it," she looked at me with a haunted expression. "I heard them talking about Rose's guy, talking about his room... not his house, or his apartment, but his room... I thought at first they were talking about a boy, about another kid their age, and his room at home... but then they were talking about how much his cot squeaks, and how they wanted to figure out how to get him a proper bed. I heard Rose talking about a dresser with a scratched-up top, where the top drawer has a false bottom with a porn stash... and when I saw your room, and the cot and the dresser, everything just fell into place." She sat there with her chin resting in her hand, a look of bewilderment like I'd never seen on anyone before. "That's who you found to replace me. A 13-year-old girl. I don't know whether to be more disturbed over what that says about you, or what it says about me. Did I so wreck you for any woman that came after me that you had to take it back to source?"

She knew. She knew the truth, there was no sense in denying it. Lilly was far too smart to fall for any line of crap I might try to feed her. I gritted my teeth and swallowed long and hard. Finally, I tried to answer. It was a struggle; for so long now, I had kept this secret... "Lilly, you knew me better than any person on earth, you were the best part of my life. Even the misery at the end, when we didn't touch for so long, I still loved you, so it was still the best part of my life. Did I ever strike you as someone who likes little girls? Or more as someone who, when he loves, does it with his whole heart, no matter who it might be? You've known loneliness, Lilly, but you've never had to endure it if you didn't want to. You've had so many men and women, you could have had your pick. You don't know the cancerous nature of loneliness, the real searing emptiness that's constantly devouring you, nowhere to run from it, no way to hide. Rose and I do, we've been there. We were just trying to survive, to keep our sanity."

Lilly slammed her mug on the table; an arc of Kahlua and creamer landed mostly outside the mug. "I'VE never known loneliness?!?" she said, suddenly twice as loud. "How dare you? You don't know what kind of Hells I've been through!" Then, much quieter, almost a hiss, "Lots of lonely people find companionship and still keep it in their pants," As soon as she said it, she knew she'd gone too far. "Okay, yeah, I know, hypocrite number one, right here. I'm sorry. It's just, Jesus, Brent, she's thirteen. Thirteen. You're forty." She held up four fingers, making a stabbing motion at me with them, "Forty." Lilly reached over for the bottle and refilled her mug almost to the rim, then downed most of it at a gulp, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Her eyes drifted to my hair. "I hate to tell you this, luv, but you have a few grey hairs showing." I reached over to take a handful of her blondness. "It's harder to see on you," I countered, "but you have 'em too."

She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, her hand resting delicately on my thigh. She pulled back for a second, then leaned in a little closer. I turned my head to present my mouth to hers, but I didn't pursue it, just waited for her. The smell of Kahlua on her breath was as intoxicating as if I'd drunk it myself. Her pause lasted perhaps three or four seconds; in that interval, my heart was stretched out on a cross somewhere in a desert wilderness, waiting to see if she would reclaim it... when the pause climaxed with a blissed-out sloppy joining of our lips, followed by an increase in the pressure and warmth of her hand on my thigh, I felt like my insides were melting. God, I had missed this so much, Lilly's kiss, had been dying for it for so long, forever, it felt so incredibly good to kiss her, to feel her warmth pressing up against me. It was like falling into a pool of light and floating away. Her kiss was so different from Rose's... at the thought of Rose, I instinctively pulled back.

"God, Lilly, I'm sorry," I said, "I've been waiting for this for so long, I do love you, but I can't do this to Rose. I love her too, Lilly. As much as I love you, but in a different way. Believe it or don't, as you will, but I do love her." Lilly sat back, looking stunned and angry for a second, then she dissolved into a look of pure love as the alcohol in her blood reached critical mass.

"My God," she blurred, "once a boyscout, always a boyscout. That's what I was missin', Bren'. For as many guys as I been with, that's all I ever really needed, just one goddamn boyscout. One... knight in shining amor... armor... You, Bren', I needed you, cuz you were the bes' thing that ever happened to me, and I never knew it till it was too late." She was starting to mist up, and I knew that in another second or so, I would see something I had never thought to see: Lilly crying. "You were jus' this big goddamn' puppy dog that followed me ever'where, until I got so fuckin' sick of it that I couldn't stand it no more. You were so goddamn' dependen', Bren', you couldn' never get along without me... jeezus, how was I s'pose' t'know I'd miss THAT so fuckin' bad?" The tears were rolling now, and they couldn't have been hurting her any more than they were me... my vision was blurring, I wiped my face and found that it was wet. In the middle of the watery blur my world had become, I saw Rose on the other side of the room, looking at us sitting together. I couldn't make out her expression, but I thought I saw Brittany standing behind her, with a hand on her shoulder. My arm jerked up, a puppet move, as I gestured lamely, blindly, uselessly at her, not knowing what signal to give, my hand cut off from anything I would have known as reality; I didn't know whether I wanted her to stay or go, didn't know what I wanted. The next thing I knew, the girls were there, next to me; Rose sitting at my side, her hand caressing my back, Brittany next to her, holding Rose's other hand.

"Rose," I breathed, scarcely able to hear my own voice for the pounding in my chest, "this is... is..." Rose gripped my hand and squeezed hard. "Lilly," she finished for me, her breath an almost reverent whisper, "this is Lilly." The only response I could manage was a numb nod. Rose and Lilly sat there experiencing each other, each for the moment completely bathed in the attention of the other. Caught between those two gazes, I was adrift in a pocket universe of feminine regard, a regard that was not FOR me but ABOUT me. My head was drifting apart, and with some sense organ other than my nose, I became aware of an aroma, a scent, a sensation I had never known before or could have even dreamed existed, that burned my lungs like a rarefied ether. Rose's hand had returned to caressing my back, and by the time I realized Lilly was doing the same thing, hers and Rose's hands met and locked, knotted in a bond whose warmth bid fair to scorch me as their joined hands burrowed into the small of my back and slowly drifted south. From somewhere far, far above my consicousness, I realized that Brittany had moved behind me and was massaging my scalp as Rose and Lilly managed an effective shiatsu that left my thighs quivering. When my leg began twitching like a dog's that's being petted in exactly the right spot, the three of them broke down in laughter; Rose and Lilly collapsed against me from either side while Brittany literally had my back. Wait, anything I've ever said about Heaven before, strike that; being sandwiched between women who adore you is pretty much IT.

The meet and greet was beginning to show serious signs of winding down. We had garnered some highly interested and bemused looks from old and new tenants, and for the first time, I didn't care. I was floating, flying, freewheeling on a cloud of pheromones that convinced me I was going to live forever. Patty and Marcie drifted over to let Lilly know they were going to hit a few bars and that they were more than a little interested in having her join them. Lilly's beatific smile as she dumped them (for the evening, anyway) was met with a knowing wink between Patty and Marcie, followed by a couple of hand gestures between them that I had never seen before, but which seemed like graphic depictions of some kind of deviant act. Patty handed Lilly a key to their apartment and leaned in close to rasp in a ludicrous soto voce, "Remember, necktie on the doorknob if you're still occupied."

Somehow Rose, Brittany and I had all surrendered to Lilly on a primal level. We were taking our cues from her, following her in some weird mystic conga line that only the four of us were aware of. She led us to her new digs, Patty and Marcie's basement-level apartment, and the girls and I watched Lilly as she did her impaired best to get the key into the lock. Rose put her hand on Lilly's to steady it, and when they inserted the key, they looked at each other for a second, and with one accord, they began to slide the key in and out of the lock, in and out, in and out, pumping, humping that lock, until they collapsed into each other in a fit of divine amusement and tittering. Lilly smiled up at me, "Oh, I like this one, Brenty..." Brittany snorted and reached over to turn the key in the lock, and we all fairly fell into the apartment, a tangle of legs and arms and hearts and spirits and Goddess only knows what else. We managed to pick ourselves up and move our little soft parade into the living room. There were three cardboard boxes in the corner; Lilly told us that they were filled with her belongings and said that, along with her car, that was the sum total of her earthly possessions. She pulled her boombox out of one of the boxes and plugged it in. As soon as she did, the air was filled with the sound of Ravel's Bolero. Lilly and Rose locked eyes, and in a flash I knew they were each reliving having heard this music with me while watching "10"... albeit more than ten years separated the two instances. We collapsed onto the couch, Rose and Lilly on either side of me and Brittany sitting on the floor, between my legs and looking up at us. Brit told me later that at that exact moment, she felt like she was watching some kind of mirror image of Lilly and Rose reaching out to each other and me, in complete silence, their movements in some unspoken agreement of perfect harmony. They both leaned in to kiss me on the mouth, and for a timeless moment three pairs of lips were joined, each of us kissing the other two. I was so involved in the kiss that it barely registered that Brittany had unzipped and unbuttoned my pants, but when she reached into my underwear and pulled my rapidly stiffening penis out, I broke the kiss. "Brit," I whispered, "what are you doing?" Brittany just leered as she leaned in to take my balls in her mouth, her tongue pushing and prodding. Rose and Lilly slid down until they were facing each other over my crotch, then they put their mouths together for a kiss that included and surrounded my erection. All I could do was sit there with my head back, watching the three of them slobbering on my aching manhood. "Oh god," I heard myself moaning, "oh my god... I love you, I love you, oh god..." and for the moment, Brittany was included in that statement, and I think she knew it. I looked down at three heads bobbing in my lap; the heat and moisture, the feel of three tongues lapping and slurping, was sheer torture, and I knew I was about to release. "Girls... girls..." I panted, then "AAAH AAAH AAAH OOOHHH" as a white stream jetted from my tip. The first shot arced across the room, and as the second and third shots exploded, greedy Lilly took the head in her mouth and caught everything that came out. "Hey," was Rose's faint protest, but before she could say anything else, Lilly grabbed her face in both hands and put her lips on Rose's, and as their open mouths merged in a French kiss, Rose made a strangled noise in the back of her throat, and I realized that Lilly had held my semen in her mouth until she could share it with Rose this way.

When they had finished, Lilly staggered to her feet and stumbled to the kitchen. Turning on the faucet, she stuck her hand under the stream and leaned down to drink noisily from her palm. When she was done, she came back to the living room and, leaning against the doorway, she favored us all with an angelic smile.

"Well, 'at was nice," she said, "but I think I need to call it a night, kids. 'at was prob'ly a lil bit more than I shoulda done. Sorry sweetie," this last said directly to Rose as she walked over and stroked her hair, "but I couldn' help myself." We stood and walked to the door. Rose and Brittany stepped out into the hallway, and before I could follow suit, Lilly pressed her body up against me, trapping me against the wall. She kissed me for a long time, but not an open-mouthed whore's kiss; it was almost timid, shy, but with an intense heat behind it. As she broke the kiss, she put her lips against my ear and whispered, "I love you," then she turned me around and gently pushed me into the hallway and closed the door. Rose and Brittany looked up at me with wonder, and Rose asked if I was okay. I nodded dumbly, too stunned to share with them what Lilly had just told me. It was the first time she had ever spoken those words to me.

35

...Longer than there've been fishes in the ocean, higher than any bird ever flew, longer than there've been stars up in the heavens, I've been in love with you... Longer (Dan Fogelberg)

...I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My beloved is knocking... (Song of Solomon, 5:2)

After we left Lilly, the girls and I made our way back to the clubhouse. The meet and greet had pretty much wound down, so I started on cleanup and putting the chairs away while Rose and Brittany shot billiards. When I was done, I noted that it was getting late, so Rose and I drove Brittany home. On the way there, the girls wanted to know what Lilly and I had said to each other; they were particularly curious to know about her apparently casual acceptance of my sex life. I told them about our conversation in excruciating detail; not by choice, but because the girls kept hounding me, determined to squeeze out every last morsel, interrupting me to clarify points and making me back up to repeat certain items. When we got to Brittany's, the inquisition was not over by even half, and we just sat there in the driveway while they continued to interrogate me, holding my feet to the fire until they were satisified. When they were done, Brittany leaned across Rose to give me a kiss on the cheek and a squeeze on the thigh; as she pulled back, she smirked and muttered something that sounded like "goddamn stud". She gave Rose a hug and a peck and then she was gone, slipping into her warmly-lit home.

Rose was quiet on the ride back. She laid down in the seat to rest her head in my lap, and I was absently stroking her hair and savoring the pressure on my leg. When we got back and I parked in the lot behind the clubhouse, neither of us stirred immediately. The way she laid there, not moving, her arms tucked up to her chest, made me feel a little uneasy. Eventually, I stirred and took her chin in my hand, turning her face up to look at me.

"What's wrong, love?" I asked. "Feels like you're not all there."

For a long time, Rose said nothing, just gazed up at me in silence. Then, "So she's going to be living at the complex now." I nodded. She took a slightly shuddering breath, then, "Jack, did you ever think you'd see her again? Did you ever wonder what would happen if she came back into your life?"

My sweet, tortured angel. My poor, poor baby girl. I had to clear my throat a couple of times, then started trying to pick my way carefully (but truthfully) through an answer.

"After she left me," I said, looking through the windshield at the night sky to help me focus on remembering the misery, "for the first couple of years, I tried to make her come back out of sheer willpower. I'd spend hours on end thinking things like, 'Lilly, please come home, Lilly, please come back to the one who loves you'. But time has a way of wearing us down, of making us adapt to realities. Little by little, I stopped my wishful thinking. So then: did I ever think I'd see her again? No, not really; when I got all the wishing out of my system, I accepted that wasn't going to happen. The second one is a little harder to answer. Did I wonder what would happen if she came back?" We sat in silence for a few seconds while I considered my answer; then, "No, my love, I don't think I ever did wonder that. I never thought about how my life would proceed once she was back, I wasn't capable of thinking that far ahead. My need was so immediate, and my hunger was so great, that I couldn't get past her actual absence." I glanced down at Rose. She was still looking up at me with the same pensive expression. Looking back out the windshield, I tried again, "Even though I'd finally accepted that I wouldn't ever see her again, that didn't stop me from playing the 'what if' game over and over and over, trying every variation I could think of to see what I could have done differently, to keep her from walking out. In the end, I gave up, not because I ran out of variations, but because none of them ever led to her staying. I came to realize it wasn't just me that was the cause of it, it was also Lilly. It had been Lilly's choice to leave, and in the end, it would have to have been her choice to come back. Since I didn't fully understand why she left, I didn't have a prayer of understanding what it would take to make her change her mind." I looked back down at Rose; she didn't look any happier. "But I'm not that person any longer. I don't need her anymore, she's out of my system. Something happened to that broken-down, miserable wreck of a man, something that brought him back to life. Something wonderful. Something beautiful and thrilling. I found someone who wanted me." Rose smiled a sad little smile. "Hey," I said, "is that all I get?" I started tickling her until she was screaming with laughter and hitting my arm to make me stop. "That's better, that's the Rose I needed to see," I told her. We got out of the truck and I walked her to the door. She wrapped her arms around me and buried her face in my chest, then looked up for a goodnight kiss that lasted ages, and I felt like we had made it past another hurdle.

The next morning, Friday, Rose came to the clubhouse at 6:30; she must have been out the door the second Marjorie left for work.

"Hi angel," I greeted her, and she threw herself into my arms and hugged me tighter than she had for a long time; so tight that she actually started to squeeze the breath out of me, her little grip like iron, and I felt my face crease in a sad smile as I reflected on the bittersweet nature of love. Eventually she released me. I sat on the couch, and she pushed me into a reclining position and laid down on me so she could rest her head on my chest. Her hair, her wonderful hair, filled my face so that the entire world became a tangle of sweet brown strands. "What's up, love?" I asked. For a long time she didn't answer, just lay there with her hand through my shirt, rubbing my chest and playing with my nipples. Eventually, she stirred and raised her face to mine for a long, tender kiss.

"Jack," she whispered, "I feel weird. Trippy, kinda. I slept last night, but I don't know for how long. Mighta been a couple hours, mighta been only five minutes. I was having this weird dream, where you were knocking on the door of the apartment, and you started to open it, I saw your hand start to come inside, but then it was gone. I went to open the door for you, but my hands were slippery, they were dripping with something weird that kinda smelled like perfume, it took me a long time to get the door open, and when I got it open, you weren't there. My heart sank when I saw you were gone. I looked for you but I didn't find you, I called but you didn't answer. I was walking down the street looking for you, and I saw some policemen driving around, I stopped them to ask about you, but they started beating me up. I tried to tell them about you, I was describing your hair and your eyes and your lips, and they started pulling my clothes off, but I wasn't scared, I was just sad and lonely, really really lonely." She took a deep breath, then another and another, and I realized she was smelling me, taking in my scent as if she needed to memorize it. She closed her eyes and continued, still whispering, "After I woke up, I just laid there for a long time, but I knew I wasn't gonna get back to sleep. So I got up and tried to watch TV, but I couldn't concentrate on anything I was seeing. Sometimes I felt like I was having a panic attack, then I felt almost calm, kinda floaty, and I was just wandering around the apartment all night, from the bathroom to the kitchen to the living room and back again. I even laid down next to mom for a little bit, but that just made it worse." I was stroking her face as she told me this; her forehead was warm, even a little feverish. I slipped my fingers under her shirt from the bottom and stroked her back, and in response she rolled her head back and forth on my chest; it reminded me of a kitten snuggling up for comfort.

"Sweetheart," I started, and suddenly she moaned, a long drawn-out wail of existential despair and angst.

"Oh God, oh G-G-God," she sobbed, "Jack, how can you want me? Sh-she's so, she's so beautiful, and so sexy, and she's as old as you are, she's a grown-up woman, and you were in a grown-up relationship with her, she's not some stupid little goddamn kid, and she wants you now, she wants to have sex with you now. How? How, Jack, how? How can you want me? How can you want a stupid little kid like me? How can you love me? HOW?!?" She gripped my shirt, taking a handful of flesh with it. Hurt like hell, but that had to be nothing compared to what she was feeling. I glanced at the clock; school wouldn't start for almost an hour. Prying her hands loose, I got up from the couch, picked her up in my arms, carried her back to my room, laid her on the cot, and locked the door. I removed all my clothes, and as I stood there naked before her, her eyes were roving over my body, absorbing the sight of my bare flesh. I knelt down to kiss her tears away.

"Rose, listen carefully. You are my beloved. That means I love you. You. I am in love with you. You are the apple of my eye, the heart of my heart." I began to slowly and deliberately unbutton her shirt, and as I helped her out of it and laid it aside, I said, "You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes." I removed her shoes and set them aside. "Your love is delightful, more pleasing than wine." I pulled her pants off, dropped them on the floor. "Your lips are sweet as honey. When I kiss your open mouth, I taste it, I taste milk and honey." I kissed her tenderly, and she responded passionately, opening her mouth to me and tracing my lips with the tip of her tongue. I removed her bra and took a deep smell of the fabric, smiled at her, and as I stroked her breasts, I said, "You are my garden, you are my orchard. You are ripe as choice fruits and finest spices." I bent to take her nipples in my mouth and taste her gorgeous flesh, and she moaned and shivered at the touch. Pulling back, I slid her panties down her legs and removed them. As I traced my finger between her legs and into the folds of her labia, I felt the wetness that was starting to claim her. "You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water." I gently rubbed and stroked between her nether lips, rejoicing in the sweet fluid, and she gasped, arched her back and reached for my manhood. Climbing on top of her, I guided myself to her opening, then slowly but firmly pressed my way in, little by little, backing off, moving forward, until I was buried to the hilt, my chest grazing her breasts as they rose and fell beneath me. Once I was completely sheathed in her, I just lay there, not thrusting or moving, simply laying on top of her. "Do you feel that?" I said as I looked deeply into her eyes. "Do you feel me inside you, joined to you? We are one flesh now, one complete whole." I placed my hands on either side of her head and held her gaze; I kissed her forehead, her nose, her lips, and continued, "There may be many queens in the world, my dove, there may be many consorts fit for kings, but you, my perfect one, are unique. You, the only daughter of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore you; my dove, you are, alone in the world, the only one who can lay claim to my heart." I kissed her again, then took her hand and placed it on my chest, holding it there while I said, "This, that you feel beneath your precious fingers, this trembling organ that pumps my blood; this is yours, my love, it is yours to cherish or crush as you will. To you, and you alone in all the universe, does this belong. I can give it to no other, because it is no longer mine to give; it is yours." I carefully rolled us over so that I was laying on my back with Rose perched on top of me, taking care to remain inside her. As I caressed her back and her tender rump, she placed her lips on my throat and used her tongue to send shivers down my spine. A single tear rolled down her cheek to touch her joyful smile as she told me, "Thank you, Jack, thank God for you. I love you... daddy. Forever and ever." Her nightmare had broken, transformed into a waking dream, and it was in that dreamlike state that we eventually roused and got ourselves dressed. There were no words between us as I drove her to school; there was no need. As she turned to get out of the truck, she took my hand and placed it on her chest, over her heart, and her look said more than she could have ever spoken. Driving back to the complex, I reflected that my relationship with her was, in many ways, more mature, more adult and "grown-up", than anything I had ever had with Lilly.

Lilly. Ye gods. What was I going to do about her?

36

...What's new, how is the world treating you? You haven't changed a bit, handsome as ever I must admit... What's New (Linda Ronstadt)

I had a few chores to do around the complex that morning, but nothing that couldn't wait. The pool was empty, and I had a rare moment of feeling like I wanted to be in the water, like I needed a sense of buoyancy, of being able to just float in complete relaxation for awhile. I changed into my swimsuit and walked down the steps, then slowly made my way out to the deep end, where I lay on my back and closed my eyes to shut out any visual distraction. For a long time, it seemed, I just floated there; serenity seemed to spread out from my lungs with each deeply drawn breath, filling my chest and limbs. My head was blessedly silent, the nagging cloud of doubt and worry vanished by the calm emptiness. I was so relaxed that it didn't even occur to me to wonder what was happening when someone's hand placed itself lightly on my back and pulled me gently through the water. When another hand touched my thigh, I slowly opened my eyes. I was looking up at a bemused Lilly; she had apparently pulled me into the shallow end and was standing over me, watching me with a wry grin. I stood up and gazed at her in mild amazement.

"Jeez, Lilly," I spluttered, "don't you have a swimsuit? You can't be in here naked!"

"No," she laughed, "I don't have a swimsuit yet, but I'll get one, I promise. And anyway, I'm not naked, boyscout, see?" She slipped her thumb under the string of her thong and twisted it to show me. "Besides, there's nobody here to see... nobody I wouldn't want to see, anyway!" she ended with a high-pitched laugh... the one she used to use when she wanted to get me to do something without having to talk me into it. She shook herself at me so that her breasts bounced back and forth, and she husked, "If you're so worried about it, cover 'em up." She reached down and took my hands in hers, pulling them up and placing them on her breasts. "Is that better?" she smirked. I was about to remove my hands and start scolding her, but almost involuntarily, I gave her breasts a little squeeze. "Wow," I murmured, almost more to myself than to her, "the years have really been kind, Lilly. They're so round and soft and... juicy..."

"Glad to see I haven't lost everything," she said as she stepped closer. Her hand dipped under the water and reached down to my crotch, where she took hold of my half-erection. "Looks like you're not completely disinterested." I released her breasts and stepped back, until I was out of reach of her grasping hand.

"No, Lilly," I croaked, "this isn't going to happen. Last night was... was..." I had been going to say it was a mistake, but Rose's (and Brittany's) presence meant it hadn't been completely wrong. I was suddenly unsure of myself, lost and uncertain.

"That's okay, boyscout," she laughed. "To be honest, I think I might have been disappointed if you let me follow through. Not as disappointed you stopping me, maybe, but..." She turned and waded toward the steps, where she retrieved and donned her bra. As she slipped into her shorts and t-shirt, she said, "Maybe it was kinda weaselly of me to test you like that, but you came through with flying colors. Rose's champion." This last was said with a shade of envy and regret; maybe I imagined it, but I thought I heard a challenge in there as well. Lilly sat at a table and patted the seat next to her. "Come sit for awhile. Let me just look at you, anyway. That's not breaking any rules, is it?"

Damn you, Lilly. Well... what the hell. I pulled the secret Bacardi stash from behind the towel cabinet and showed it to her. I managed a little grin as I told her, "No glasses. Or ice. Do you want to..." She made a reaching motion, so I walked over and handed the bottle to her. She uncapped it and took a healty swig, then handed it back and made a gesture with both hands to indicate that I should do the same; so I did.

"So," she began, after what seemed like an eternity of us just sitting there looking at each other, "Rose seems like she knows her way around manflesh... around yours, anyway. Did you break her in, or is she giving you sloppy seconds?" I had to laugh in spite of myself. Lilly's profane way of dealing with the world was raising some very warm memories.

"Rose was a virgin when we met," I told her. "She was ten at the time," Lilly's eyebrows shot up into the stratosphere at that and she lunged forward in her chair, so I hastened to add, "ten when we first met and became friends, but it wasn't until a lot later, until after her twelfth birthday, that it turned into a physical relationship. And we didn't fu... didn't have intercourse... until she was thirteen." Lilly sat back and exhaled noisily.

"Jeezus, Brent, you almost gave me a heart attack! You gotta be more careful about what you tell me."

"Sorry," I smiled sheepishly, "sometimes I forget what it looks like to the world at large. Honestly, my sexual attraction was the last part of the friendship to form. Before that, all the other pieces came as they should have. We were friends first... BFFs if you will... and then it turned into a father-daughter feeling, before the last piece of the puzzle, the physical romance part, developed."

Lilly was quiet for a long time. She took another pull on the bottle, but continued to sit there in silence, just gazing at me. Then, "So, what's the story with Brittany?"

"Mmmmmm..." was all I could manage for a few seconds. I squeezed my eyes tight, trying to decide what and how I should tell. Well... in for a penny, in for a pound, right? I took a deep breath and plunged in; told her about grade school, and junior high, and the way Rose's and Brittany's relationship had developed. When I got to the night of the sleepover, Lilly interrupted me with a hand on my arm. "You really have been dating Rose's mom? I thought that was just a cover story... so you've been banging Marjorie too? Oh my God! Take one from the boyscout column and move it to the Studinator side!" At the look I gave her, she pursed her lips and said, "Sorry, please continue, I have to know how this comes out." I pressed forward, paraphrasing Rose's narrative of the sleepover, then moved on to tell her about the night we went to the dance and the way Brittany learned our secret. When I described the parking lot showdown, Lilly's eyes grew huge, but she didn't say anything, just kept shaking her head. Finally, I came to the meat of it, the 'story with Brittany' that she wanted to know about; the arrangement that she and Rose cooked up, and how they shared me. When I finished, Lilly slid down in her chair, seemingly exhausted. She started giggling, and in a few seconds she was laughing uproariously.

"So you plowed her in the ass," she gasped when she caught her breath, "plowed her in the ASS!" And she started laughing all over again, tears rolling down her cheeks, until she finally collapsed, spent. "Oh my God, boyscout no longer! You are one studly goddamn stud! You assfucker, you!"

Lilly reached for my hand across the table, and I obliged. We sat quietly for a long time after that, just holding hands and watching the reflection of sunlight as it bounced off water in the pool. Tenants came by to swim; a young woman and her little boy, and later a couple of twentysomething guys with buzzcuts. Lilly stirred, caught my attention. She leaned over and, very quietly so as to ensure that nobody else could hear her, said, "So Rose doesn't mind farming you out for a little anal action? Are you up for a piece of this?" She gripped her armrests and wiggled her butt in her chair to punctuate her remark. I gave her a sad smile before telling her, "Not my call, love. You'll have to ask Rose." Lilly's mouth dropped just a little and she shook her head. "For real?" she asked, "You really have to get her permission to..." I held up a hand to stop her and said, "I'M not the one who has to get permission, sweetheart. YOU are." Lilly put her hand to her forehead and slowly pulled it down over her face, rubbing her chin, before saying "I was wrong again. Take that marker out of the stud column and put it back on the boyscout side. Wow." She stood to leave, came around behind my chair, leaned down to me, and put her mouth on mine. This time I didn't resist, and we shared a long, tender kiss, which she finished by moving her lips to my ear and whispering, "I really do, Brent... I love you." She squeezed my shoulder, then she was gone.

By the end of the day, I was feeling a little trepidation about Rose. She had seemed okay when I dropped her off in the morning, but her self-doubt and fear had been so strong... was our early morning session really enough to reassure her?

I discovered soon enough that I had nothing to worry about. When Rose came bouncing in after school, her sparkle and joie de vivre had been restored, and all was right with the world.

"Brittany's not coming?" I asked, then immediately regretted it, because Rose snickered and smirked, "Oh, she cums like a freight train, babe!" Her howl of delight was a shot of sorely-needed comfort. It was so good to have my Rose back where she belonged. As she helped herself to a root beer from the machine, she tossed her head and said, "Brit's got cheerleading practice, she'll be at school for awhile." I nodded, admiring the curve of butt; so full and firm, and I felt a twinge in my chest.

"So listen, Jack, Brittany and I were talking after school, and she told me Lilly and me are kinda like sisters!" I goggled at her for a few seconds, trying to digest this little morsel.

"You mean, because you've both been in a relationship with me? That's not quite..."

"That's part of it," she gushed, "but it's also cuz we've both boffed our dads!" And she shrieked with laughter. "I mean, you've been a dad to me... well, so much more than that, of course, but really babe, you're my daddy, you know that!" She paused to wait for confirmation, so I nodded expectantly. "So we're both fatherfuckers! Ah-hahahahaha!!!" She put down her root beer, ran across the room, and jumped up at me, so high that I had to catch her; and staggering, I tripped and fell backward on the floor, Rose landing on top of me.

"Oh God, oh my God, are you okay? Are you hurt?" she gasped, and all I could do was laugh and nod. "Are you sure? You're not hurt?" It was my turn to smirk, and I fixed her with a lewd sneer and said, "Who's your daddy?"

Epilogue

...I'm taking the time for a number of things, that weren't important yesterday... Fixing A Hole (The Beatles)

I woke at 4 AM the next morning, Saturday, feeling strangely immobile. I lay on the cot for a long time looking at the ceiling, thinking about the women in my life, considering each one in turn. From there, I drifted toward a reverie on my life in general. Eventually, I managed to get up enough energy to wander out to the kitchen area and make myself a pot of coffee. Standing at the window with a fresh cup in my hand and watching the sun's slow rise, I found myself looking in the direction of Rose's and Marjorie's apartment. Their apartment... with bedrooms and a bathroom, a kitchen and living room. And closets; closets, that were separate little rooms for storing things, not for living in. I turned my gaze in the direction of Lilly's (and Patty's and Marcie's) apartment; same setup. I thought about Brittany's house, and all the rooms she had, and how her storage closets were just that; closets, not living spaces. After slowly making my way back to my room, I sat on the cot for awhile and stared at my dresser, and at the walls that seemed to be closing in. How had I managed to function with these people, without being totally humiliated at the nonexistent quality of my life? I had friends, I had love, I had things worth living for... so why then had I allowed myself to remain in this dank little hole?

I had to do something. I had to get out of here, get back to human habitation. I wasn't ready to start sponging off of Marjorie, or Lilly, but action was required.

I took a shower, dragged a comb across my head, made my way out to the kitchen and drank another cup. Looking up, I noticed it was getting late. I found my coat and made my way out the door. Feeling flat-footed, I wandered over to Rose and Marjorie's building, found my way upstairs, and knocked. After a few seconds, Marjorie opened the door; she was looking tousled and rumpled, her robe hanging open to reveal her shimmery nightgown. I started to stutter an apology, but she just grabbed my arm and laughed.

"Don't be stupid, get in here. Stud." She pulled me into the apartment, shut the door, and greeted me with a warm kiss that lasted so long that by the time she was done, I was as hard as a rock. Taking me by the hand, she led me to the couch, pushed me down on it, then plopped down on the other end and rested her feet on my lap, taking a second to wiggle her toes against my erection. "So what can I do you for, Brent? I think Rose is still asleep..."

"Actually, I wanted to talk to you, Marj", I said, then suddenly found I was unsure of where to start or what to say. I took a few deep breaths, trying to collect my thoughts. "I'm not a mole. I'm not a hobbit. But I live in a hole. I live in a... a storage room. A goddamn closet. I don't know why it hasn't embarrassed me until now, but it should have. And now it does. I need to change. I need to start being a man again. I need to... Marj, I think I need to find a job and start earning a living. I need to be able to support myself. I need to be able to support a... support a family..."

Marjorie's smile was one of quiet amazement. I wondered at the change in her expression; was my 'recovery' such a source of wonder and mystery? She licked her lips and shifted her position, coming over to sit next to me, her leg pressed up against mine, one hand squeezing my thigh and the other on my forearm. "Brent, this is incredible! My employer is just winding down from a full-tilt hiring process. They've hired four new groups of people for data entry, and they're just getting ready to finish up the hiring process for the fifth and final group. Next Tuesday is the last day they're taking applications. You just have time to get yours in! Oh my God, it's so amazing that you just told me this today! It's like... like, I don't know, like divine intervention or something! I thought about telling you before this, but I didn't know if it would sound pushy or rude, I didn't want you to think I was trying to control you or run your life! Oh God, Brent, this is perfect! I know someone who knows the hiring manager, I know she can get you in! Oh...", and she climbed on my lap to throw her arms around me and pull me into a bear hug. I felt dazed, hugging her back and wondering anew at the strange turns in my life.

Rose appeared at the door, her babydoll nightie hiked up over one hip, her hair wild and frizzy around her face; stretching and yawning, she said, "What's up, guys?" Marjorie jumped off the couch and pulled Rose into her arms.

"Get dressed, baby girl, the three of us are going out to breakfast! We've got something to celebrate!"

After breakfast at Walt's, we headed back to their apartment, where Marj sat next to me at the computer as I completed the online employment application form. The section where I was supposed to list previous employers was a bit of a slide; I was sure the manager of the complex had me officially enrolled as an employee, so I had no qualms about listing that, but it felt a little strange all the same. Marj laughed off the rest of it, assuring me that her friend's connection to the hiring manager was tight, and she was rock solid certain I'd get in. When the online application was complete, as I clicked the Submit button to send it on it's way, I felt a little light-headed, and I realized that the simple act of submitting, of actually taking control of my life again, had given me an erection. Rose noticed it right away; her first reaction was a smirk. As she grabbed her swimsuit and a towel, she told Marj she was going for a quickie swim, placing a weird emphasis on the word 'quickie'. The second the door slammed behind her, Marjorie grabbed my hand and pulled me into the bedroom, where she attacked me with the fury of a starving woman, ripping our clothes off with an inhuman hunger. She wanted to be on the bottom, and she wrapped her legs around me and pulled me into her with a feral growl, "Plow me, Brent, rut me, fuck me hard, make me HURT!" I obliged by slamming it in and pounding her with a savage joy, her wails sounding like singing, a wordless cry of satisfaction.

Just as she had said, Marjorie's connection came through. Monday afternoon, I got a call on the clubhouse phone; would I be available to come in for an interview the next day? I spent the rest of the afternoon in a daze of delight. Rose's smile when I told her was radiant, and our lovemaking session was as soft and tender as my turn with Marjorie had been hard and vicious.

Tuesday morning saw me waiting nervously in the lobby, wearing the outfit Rose had picked out for me the night before. I had hoped to see Marj's smiling face before the interview, thinking she might be able to pop out to the lobby for a few minutes, but no such luck. 'Well, this is your time,' I told myself, 'you need to man up and do it on your own.' I noticed that the girl at the front desk was giving me a few looks, and she initiated a conversation about the weather. Her obvious interest was a warm fuzzy; I had been ready for the interview before, but now I was stoked, raring to go.

She was interrupted by a chirp from her phone; she picked it up and listened for a moment, then hung up and turned to me. "Your interviewer is ready for you now," she said with a smile just a little too wide and warm to be the standard business smile. She got up from the desk and came around to walk me through to the interview, her smile still just as warm, and I'd have sworn she fluttered her eyelashes at me just the least little bit; then she put her hand in the small of my back to guide me forward, her breast just grazing the side of my upper arm. We made a journey of some 50 feet or so in this pleasant fashion, and she guided me into a small office with an oversized desk, my interviewer rising to greet me. "Brent," said the receptionist as she gestured toward the interviewer, "this is Iris."

The End