Carmen was in the den, sitting on the couch with a knee tucked under her chin and her foot propped on the coffee table, applying polish to her toenails. She was wearing a short-waisted, loosely knitted cover-up jacket that revealed dots and dashes of a tiny, neon-orange bikini top. Except for the presence of a thin thong waistband, a profile view of her bare, toned thigh and rounded, firm buttock would give the impression she was nude from the waist down. While she concentrated on her work, a rush of wind swept up the canyon and infiltrated the privacy screen of dense evergreens surrounding the patio just outside the den. She heard, faintly, the turn of a key in the front door, and then, as the door opened, a gust of wind ruffled the curtains by the open patio doors and swept across the room. The air in the den turned cooler and smelled faintly of rain.
“Is that you, Bill?” she called out without looking up.
“Naw, Carmen, it’s just me,” her stepson Jeremy answered from the front of the house.
She glanced toward the young man coming through the kitchen. He paused at the counter separating the kitchen from the den to empty his lunch box and rinse his thermos.
“Oh, hi, Jere, you’re home early,” she said softly with a throaty purr. “I heard the front door and thought it might be your father.”
“Damn!” the boy exclaimed, smacking his forehead with the heel of his hand. “He called this morning while you were in the shower. Said he had to go up to Sacramento and wouldn’t be home tonight. Then, Bruiser showed up and started honking the horn and I had to go. I guess I forgot to leave you a note.”
“Sacramento? Again?” she questioned with a hint of a scowl.
“That’s what he said.”
“Did he tell you how long?”
“He wasn’t sure; couple of days probably, three tops.”
“Did he say where he was last night?” She forced herself to sound casual. It had taken most of the preceding three years to establish enough report with the boy to move him beyond referring to her as “Miss Carmen,” and she didn’t want to jeopardize the growing thaw by putting the boy in the middle of a possible ruckus with his father.
“Naw, he didn’t say,” Jeremy shrugged as he entered the den. He was wearing his work “uniform,” a white tank-top with “Bruiser’s Lawn and Pool Service” stenciled in red diagonally across the front, a pair of frayed khaki cargo shorts and hiking boots. Hours of mowing grass in the California sun had bronzed his skin almost black and lightened his already blonde hair to nearly white. She studied him surreptitiously, out of the corner of her eye, musing on the fact that the past year’s hard work had certainly gotten rid of that flabby softness and schoolboy pallor he’d had in high school. “Working probably,” he continued, “he used to do that a lot before…” His voice trailed off as he shot a guilty look toward his stepmother.
“Before I came along?” Carmen smiled wryly, finishing his sentence for him.
“I, I, I, didn’t mean it like that,” the boy stammered, turning slightly red.
“It’s okay, Jere. I understand,” she said soothingly. “Your dad works really hard so you and I can have nice things. It just gets lonely sometimes with him gone so much.”
“He’s home more now that he used to be,” the boy replied lamely.
“Speaking of ‘home,’ how come you’re home so early?” she asked.
“It’s raining down the valley, so Bruiser said we’d knock off for the afternoon and start early in the morning.”
“Rain?” she groaned. “It isn’t supposed to rain. I was planning to lay out this afternoon.” She tugged at the lapel of her cover-up to expose a glimpse of her bikini top as though to prove her intention.
“Go on out; you still got time. It’ll take the rain a couple of hours at least to get up here.”
He settled into his absent father’s favorite recliner, opening a can of beer that he had retrieved from the fridge on his way through the kitchen. Keeping beer in the house for a teenaged boy was one of several points on which she and Bill differed she had discovered in three years of marriage. Why not, she argued on the boy’s behalf, he’s old enough to buy it himself and since he’s working full time and then some, the only thing not allowing him an occasional beer or two would accomplish would be to force him to get it someplace else with all the risks that involves. In the end, she prevailed, but Bill’s agreement was half-hearted at best, so Jeremy reserved most of his beer consumption to the times when his father wasn’t at home.
“Can’t just yet,” she replied reloading her brush. “I still have three toes to go.”
“You care if I turn on the television?”
“Be my guest, just don’t make me watch any more ‘Ahhhnold.’ I’ve had all the exposure to him I can take. Honestly, I think your father’s in love with the guy. That’s probably why he had to run off to Sacramento all of a sudden.”
“Don’t worry, I can’t stand any more of any of them, either; I just wanna catch a few MTV videos.”
“Anything but Ahhhhnold.”
“Right,” he muttered, punching the channel number into the remote. “You know what Bruiser says about all that, don’tcha?” he continued while the TV warmed.
“What?” she answered skeptically, already beginning to feel slightly like the butt of a knock-knock joke. Political activism, she suspected was not high on the list of Bruiser Yardley’s priorities.
“He says, the state’s so fucked up now that Larry Flint’s the only one with enough of the right kind of experience to fix it.” He finished the sentence with a sip of beer, studying her over the rim of the can to see if his casual use of the “F” word would fluster her. It was a game he played from time to time, testing her equanimity with something outrageous or inappropriate.
Carmen didn’t so much as twitch a muscle but continued to apply polish with meticulous brush strokes. “Interesting political commentary,” she answered without looking up, “but I doubt that Bruiser’s astute enough to figure that out all by himself; he must have had help.”
Disappointed by his failure to elicit any protest, Jeremy turned his attention to the television and the video that was just beginning. He recognized it, of course, from the introduction credits and squirmed a little in anticipation. The music started and the boy was instantly transported into his own fantasy.
“Who’s that?” Carmen questioned a few scenes into the video.
“Fountains of Wayne,” the distracted response.
“Not the group, silly; the woman?”
“What’s her name; she’s an actress or something, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, Rachel Hunter, she’s a model,” Jeremy answered without turning his attention from the screen.
“Right, I knew she looked familiar,” Carmen muttered while wiggling her freshly painted toes to dry the polish.
The video progressed and the unfamiliar words began to jell in Carmen’s mind. Just about the point where Rachel’s character morphs into an exotic dancer doing a pole dance, she blurted out, “What’s this thing all about, Jere?”
“Stacey’s boyfriend’s got a thing for her mom,” he replied distantly, as though somewhat mesmerized himself by Rachel’s abundant cleavage.
“I see,” she said with a note of disapproval in her voice that Jeremy ignored.
The video wound down at about the time her toes dried. She glanced inquisitively toward Jeremy, who was draining the last drops of beer from his can and doing his best not to look in her direction.
“I imagine you run into lots of moms who look like that when you’re cleaning pools and mowing.”
“Not as many as you’d think,” he answered noncommittally.
“Really?” she said, arching an eyebrow skeptically. “I thought all of the mom’s at your graduation looked like models.” That was no exaggeration she recalled ruefully. She had dressed conservatively, thinking the occasion and her new husband’s maturity required it, and was stunned by the sea of décolletage and bare thighs exposed by micro-miniskirts that awaited them in the high school gym. She told Bill that in Cincinnati, women who dressed like that in public would be arrested for prostitution, but he just laughed and said that the mid-west was behind the times. She took that to heart and, to please him, the next day went out and bought the very thong she was wearing at the moment. That had been a miscalculation. It didn’t take her long to realize that in some departments her husband was further behind than everybody, and that knowing the right wine, wearing outrageously expensive clothes or having a taste for truffles was not evidence of a well-rounded sophistication. As soon as the bloom of initial excitement faded from the marriage, he informed her that the mouth was not an organ for sexual gratification, and, as for the vast majority of the various other body parts and orifices, no one in their right mind would kiss, lick or even touch one of them. Her therapist said he sounded like a sexually repressed adolescent, and, since Bill had vehemently denied he had a “problem,” improvement wasn’t in the prognosis.
“None of them look as good as you,” he replied, looking down and crushing his empty can in his fist.
“Why, Jeremy Bolds, that’s the sweetest thing anyone’s said to me in years,” she gushed.
“It’s the truth,” the boy mumbled while twisting the crushed beer can with both hands like he was wringing a chicken’s neck. The compliment had sort of slipped out unintentionally, and, like many spontaneous utterances, it told more of the speaker than of the subject. He blushed under his tan at the idea that she could now somehow feel the weight of his eyes on her.
“Does that mean you look at me like Stacey’s boyfriend was looking at her mom?” she cooed innocently, and, while he fumbled for a response, she leaned toward him, her full, rounded breasts dangling, capped with tiny swatches of bright orange clinging precariously to her nipples, and she extracted the twisted can from his grip.
“Ah, uh, no, ah, I guess, uh, I don’t know…” he stammered, blinking at the barely contained cleavage swaying enticingly an arm’s length away. Then, abruptly, she rose, turned and walked into the kitchen. He distantly heard the clink as the empty went into the trash compactor, but his mind was elsewhere, lost in a welter of confused thoughts.
Suddenly, she was back, materializing in front of him with a fresh, cold beer in her hand and her cover-up pulled modestly across her chest. She handed him the beer and leaned to kiss him on the cheek saying, “Here, you sweet boy, cool off with this. I’m going to the pool; come on out and join me if you want.”
He watched her walking away, moving with almost effortless, fluid grace through the open patio door like the dancer she once had been. Her sensuous curves were momentarily silhouetted against the bright October sky, and the boy stifled a gasp as the sunlight revealed her firmly rounded, nearly naked buttocks that swallowed the slender thread of her thong between toned cheeks and then flowed seamlessly into long, tantalizingly tapered legs. He stared as she unbuttoned her cover-up and shrugged it off her shoulders, letting it drop to the ground. She stretched, lifting her face to the sun and letting its heat flow over her skin like warm honey. She bounced on her toes and thrust her hands into the sky like a runner warming up, and her breasts rose, straining at the restraining cups, and, beneath them, her belly, a flat, smooth, sculpted plain, ran on and on, league upon rippling league, before reaching the tiny triangle of cloth covering the secrets she kept hidden between her legs. He gulped his beer and tugged his shorts to make room for expansion, but, when he looked again, she was lying on a chaise hidden from view behind a large redwood planter.
Carmen was exhilarated. She felt young, fresh and alive for the first time in ages. Jeremy’s compliment, intentionally or not, had buoyed her spirit and her step, and she found herself feeling desirable again. The sun warmed her; the tiny patches of neon cloth covering her nipples and crotch soaking up rays like solar collectors and making the flesh beneath feel hot and tingly. Her hands, palms down, skittered across the taut slope of her tummy; fingertips grazed the edge of the nylon patch, and she toyed momentarily with the notion of touching herself there. She shielded her eyes with the crook of her arm and lay with her fingertips scant inches from her throbbing clitoris and daydreamed about nubile young boys with their insatiable hunger for female flesh and pent-up yearnings propelling them headlong toward the loss of innocence. She dozed and drifted in a gilded boat on opalescent, cum-colored seas through thickets of flesh-hued steeples, spires, and helmeted, unsheathed swords, and when she awoke with racing pulse and the fire of her own unquenchable desire flickering in her core, she thought the day long gone, but the sun had barely moved in the sky. She lay still as her senses awakened and in the quiet, she recognized the sound of running water coming from Jeremy’s open bathroom window. He must be in the shower, she thought as she rolled into a sitting position and tugged one of her patches back into position covering its assigned nipple. She waited impatiently for the shower to end, and busied herself by applying tanning oil to the fronts and backs of her legs. She covered her buttocks particularly well because there were areas of her cheeks that hadn’t seen much sun, and, when her fingers approached the tops of her thighs in the front, she even lifted the patch of cloth covering her and oiled the soft, sensitive skin under the edges of the triangle. About the time she finished and placed the bottle of oil on the table beside the chaise, the shower sound stopped.
“Jeremy?” she called out in a soft voice. Theirs was a modest yard, even by suburban California standards, so Jeremy’s bath was not far away and shouting wasn’t necessary.
“Yes, ma’am?” His voice wavered, sounding almost breathless, and she wondered for a moment if he had finished off the six-pack while she slept, but his face appeared in the bathroom window across the pool and he looked sober enough, although still wet from the shower.
“Can you come out here and help me for a sec?” She shrugged as if to apologize for being helpless.
“Sure, lemme grab a towel and I’ll be right out.” He sounded agreeable, if not eager.
She took a tube of lipstick from her beach bag and ran the tip across her lips a couple of times while she waited. She was in the process of returning the lipstick to the bag when Jeremy emerged from the den. He had put on a pair of white swim trunks and was carrying a towel, folded across his arm, in front of him as he approached her. His face was deep red and for a second she worried that he might have scalded himself in the shower.
“Honey,” she began apologetically, “I must be getting fat cause the straps on this top feel like they are cutting me in half, but for the life of me I can’t get it unfastened. Can you help me with it?”
“I can try, I guess,” he answered dubiously.
Nothing to it, really,” she reassured him while turning her back to him. “It works like any bra.”
“I’m not much good with bras.”
“How come, Jere? Girls not letting you practice?” she teased, glancing over her shoulder as he stepped closer. He had dropped his guard and lowered the towel when she turned away, so in the glance she glimpsed a lengthened heaviness in the front of his swimsuit. She smiled, speculating on what he had been doing in the shower, and her thoughts brought a blush to her cheeks.
“Girls don’t wear bras anymore, Carmen, or haven’t you heard.”
“Of course, you’re right. How damn yesterday can I be? I forget, we have a whole new generation of boys who are growing up without a clue about how to unfasten a girl’s bra.”
“What am I supposed to do here?” he asked, and she could feel the tips of his fingers on her skin.
She hesitated, trying to suppress an involuntary shiver, and then said, “There’s a little hook on the right that’s hooked into a loop on the left. Just hold the loop and lift the hook out.”
She felt his knuckles on her spine as his fingers tangled with the closure. She could feel his warm breath on the nape of her neck and, suddenly, her thighs broke out in a rash of goosebumps. Her pulse quickened and she arched her back to give him some slack in the straps.
He struggled for a moment longer, then sighed, “There, it’s loose,” and she immediately felt the freed straps fall to her sides. She caught the tiny cups with her forearm and held them against her breasts, covering herself, as she turned around to face the boy.
“Whew,” she gasped when they were face to face, “thanks, Jere. That feels better already.”
In his struggles with her clasp, the towel had slipped from his arm and was lying, forgotten, on the ground between them. She looked down and her gaze fixed on the bulge that was pushing the front of his suit toward her. Brazenly, she stared at him, heedless of any possible discomfort he might be experiencing, and the pink tip of her tongue began a languid, suggestive sweep of her freshly reddened lips.
The boy staggered a half-step back and sort of pushed his hips backward in an attempt to lower the pole in the tent, so to speak, and then he bent to pick up the towel. He shook out the towel and began mopping his face with one end while the other swayed back and forth in front of his bulge. She couldn’t tell for certain if it was water from the shower or sweat he was mopping.
“That’s okay, Carmen,” he mumbled and started to turn.
“Wait a minute,” she said with that soft purr of hers. “There’s something I’ve been wondering about.”
“Yeah? What’s that?” He had the typical teenager’s disdain for questions.
“First, let me borrow your towel for a second, would you? I forgot to bring one and I’ve got oil all over my hands.”
He blushed beet red and handed over the towel, surrendering the refuge of his modesty, and, as she took it from him, Carmen batted her eyes disarmingly and asked innocently, “In the video? You remember?
“What was the kid doing in the end when Stacey walked in on him?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think you do.”
“I don’t, really.”
“How many times have you seen it?”
“I don’t know, five, six, ten, maybe.”
“I think you know and are just too embarrassed to tell me.”
“I’m not embarrassed.”
“Then, why won’t you tell me what the kid was doin?”
“Cause, you can’t tell for sure.”
“What’s your best guess?”
“Awww, hell,” he sputtered.
“Foolin around, I guess.”
“What, exactly, does that mean; ‘foolin around?’”
“You know, messin with himself.”
“Do you mean ‘masturbating?’ Like, ‘jacking off?’”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“So, you think the kid was watching Stacey’s mom and jacking off?”
“Yeah. He had the hots for her pretty bad.”
“I can understand why, can’t you; she’s a very beautiful woman.”
“I asked you earlier and you said you looked at me like that sometimes.”
“I don’t remember saying that.”
“It’s the truth, though, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I guess, sometimes.”
Carmen took a deep breath, almost as though preparing herself for a dive into icy water, and then, almost too quietly, she asked, “Do you masturbate when you watch me, Jeremy?”
“Oh, jeez, Carmen!” the boy gasped, and she could almost feel the heat as crimson rushed into his face.
“Well, do you?” she asked gently with a beatific smile. “Do you watch me out here at the pool in my bathing suit and jack off?”
“Carmen!” he protested, unable to answer.
“Where’s the trust, Jere?” she asked. Her voice quavered and she sounded wounded. “I thought we were going to trust each other.”
“Dad would kill me, Carmen.”
“He’s in Sacramento, remember? On his business. This is our business; just between you and me.”
“You’re not going to tell him?”
“Of course not, Jere. Why would I tell him?” (next Chap 2)