Aging fishermen tell stories about "the one that got away." The one that got away from me was a girl named Loni.
It was the summer of '69. I was fresh out of college with a completely useless diploma in a major that had zero job prospects without a Master's degree. The amount of partying I did in college ensured that I wouldn't get into any kind of grad school, not that I had the self-discipline to do the work anyway.
Knee injuries from drunken college foolishness kept me out of the military. I moved back into my parents' basement, hacked off some of my hair, and found a proofreading job at a printing company. Second-shift was fine. I'm not a morning person.
Neither was Loni. She started working there soon after I did. She was a typist, transcribing manuscript into primitive computer files on cassette tapes. When a typist finished a document, she would print it out, put it in a folder with the original manuscript, and bring to the proofreaders.
Loni was gorgeous. Fred, an older guy I worked with, caught me watching her one evening.
"Go for it," he said. "You're close enough to her age. She's been legal for a year."
"Who is she?"
"You're joking. That's Loni Svensen. You know? LONI SVENSON?"
"Who's Loni Svensen?"
"What planet did you say you're from?"
"Man, you know damn well I live fifteen minutes from where we are right now. Who the hell is Loni Svensen?"
"I can't believe you don't know. She was high school Homecoming Queen in her senior year, won the county beauty pageant easily, and placed second at the state pageant. She's working here, saving money to go to a fashion design college in Boston."
"She's cute," I said.
"Cute? That girl was one unfortunate song choice away from competing for Miss America! Beautiful and sexy as hell are the words you're looking for. She's not dating anyone. There was a boyfriend in high school. The dumb shit dumped her for some other girl. She lives with her mom. I went to high school with that women. Tried to get in her pants more than once. Loni's sexier than her mother ever was, and that's saying something."
"Way out of my league, man." I turned back to my work.
Fred spun my chair to face him. "Nobody gets laid with that attitude. Don't tell me you're a virgin."
"Hardly. I had fun in high school and college."
"What? Twice? Once each place?" he chuckled.
"If you must know, I had a serious girlfriend in high school. We learned a lot from each other. I had chicks in college, too."
"Ones you had sex with? And when you say 'chicks', you mean, what? Two? Three?"
"Three in one day once, and there were two girls who slept over pretty regularly. My roommate dropped out. Two dorm beds pushed together made plenty of room for all kinds of fun. A chick lived in my room with me for a few months, and ...."
"All right, all right. Fine. You've been with girls. Were they sweat-hogs?"
"No! But they didn't wear tiaras!"
Fred laughed. "Loni's my daughter's best friend. She's at our pool all summer. Pictures tomorrow."
"Why would you torture me? I'll never get to see her in a bathing suit in real life."
"Mark, I don't know what types of brain damage you subjected yourself to in college, but if your ears work, listen! You can get that girl!"
"That's insane. You're wrong."
"I'm not wrong. At least I won't be if you'll just fucking listen to me."
"Right." I moved back to my desk.
Fred grumbled, "We'll talk tomorrow, after 'show-and-tell'."
I dreamed about her that night. We were work buddies, talking at breaks sometimes, but nothing more. I thought the dream might be a glimpse into my future with her. All right. I'd be thrilled with that. It would be more fun drinking coffee with her than with Fred.
He displayed an envelope when he came in that afternoon. "I'll show you these on one condition."
"You forget where you saw them. My wife and daughter would kill me."
"What the hell is in that envelope?"
"Wait until break-time."
Loni wore a casual dress that day. Fred said she designed and made it herself. When she leaned over my desk to bring me her work, I tried not to stare at her cleavage. Her aroma was natural, healthy, a hint of sweetness, very feminine, but only mildly sexual -- maybe the way a goddess would smell.
When she left the room, Fred tossed me some coins. "You know how I like my coffee. I'll find a table outside. God, she smells good enough to eat." He rolled back to his desk.
The break buzzer sounded. I made it to the vending machines in record time, but why? If he had nude pictures, it would only make things worse.
He opened the envelope when I sat down. "This is her mom, Camilla, the summer after we got out of high school, about the same age Loni is now."
Camilla looked like Loni, with the same nearly black wavy hair, but she was shorter, a little more Italian looking. It was a posed shot at the beach. Her suit must have been pretty daring back in those days, and she looked damn good. "Damn, Fred, she's as beautiful as her daughter!"
"Yup, but Loni's taller. Her height and those blue eyes come from Dad. Peter Svensen. Big blond guy, starting tackle all through school. We called him Thor. He died in a car accident, going for milk for the girls. Loni was three."
He pulled out another picture. "Camilla has a full-time job, and works Fridays and Saturdays overnight someplace else. My wife and I are friends with her from school. We used to babysit her girls. Camilla and the kids love the pool. They're at our place most Sunday afternoons."
This snapshot showed a woman Fred's age, doing justice to a bathing suit most teens couldn't wear. It was obviously the same woman, the same beautiful hair, and the same slightly olive skin. This suit showed more of it -- lots of cleavage, firm bare midriff, shapely legs and ass. Hot mama!
"That was taken last summer. The girls mean everything to her, so she's always spent all her time providing for them and making the best home and family life she can. I admire her, and I'd fuck the hell out of her. The next one is Loni's graduation picture." He handed me a standard yearbook pose. Her hair was styled simply, but it was still beautiful, and her smile was dazzling.
The next shot showed her perched gracefully on the back of a convertible. She had a tiara pinned to her elegantly styled hair, and she wore a formal gown in blue, to match her eyes. The photographer was at the perfect angle. Loni smiled straight at me. "Homecoming," Fred said. "She made that gown from scratch. Drew the patterns herself."
The next picture showed her dressed as a cowgirl, dark hair in braids, belting out a song. "What's this?"
"That's from the talent competition at the state pageant. Wrong year to do a song from 'Oklahoma".
"I'm not into redneck girls, but she looks great!"
"Swimsuit competition." Fred handed me a picture of Loni in a conservative but form-fitting one-piece suit. Her figure was more beautiful than I dared imagine.
"Sunbathing last summer." In this one, she was lying on her belly in a bikini. She had gathered the bottoms up into little more than a g-string, and the top was unclasped. She squinted into the sun, shielding her eyes with her hand. Side-boob competed with ass for my attention.
"My God, Fred! Why are you showing me this?"
"You're looking, kid. My daughter works second-shift too, so I see that every day." He pulled the final photograph from the envelope. "No one knows I have this."
She was climbing out of Fred's pool, wearing a white t-shirt and knit shorts, sunglasses in hand, hair dripping. Camilla was in the background, laughing. Loni's clothes were nearly transparent, and she wasn't wearing underwear. Her face looked angry. Her body looked like a centerfold.
"Holy shit," I muttered.
Fred put his treasures away. "You can get that."
"Man, you're nuts," I snorted.
"Listen! Be friendly, but not too friendly. Smile when you see her. Don't drool. Let her think you don't really care about her beauty. Talk to her. Listen to her. Let her make the first move."
"Her first move will be in the opposite direction. I don't have a chance with her."
"Suit yourself. Someone should be tapping that. It could be you." He finished his coffee and took the envelope inside.
As the days passed, I noticed her more and more. Shorts weren't allowed in our part of the building. Women wore pants or casual skirts. Loni pushed the dress code with some hemlines. She apparently designed and made almost everything she wore, and she always looked fabulous.
I felt like an awkward kid. I hadn't been bragging to Fred about college. It was "the dawning of the age of Aquarius". If you had grass or booze, you got laid. Things changed. I was a working man. Granted, living in my parents' basement, but I had hopes, dreams, even some vague plans. None of them included this girl. That was too crazy.
One evening, the workload was light for both proofreaders and typists. Our manager asked for volunteers to work in the factory area of the building, shrink-wrapping magazines and loading cartons of them on skids. Loni and I, the youngest of the bunch, agreed to do it.
The machinery generated a lot of heat, so the dress code was much more relaxed. People wore shorts with tees or tank tops. At break time, I took off my outer shirt. I had a t-shirt underneath, expecting to work in our air-conditioned office.
"Good idea," Loni said, dashing out to the parking lot. She returned with a bag and went into the ladies' room. When I came back from getting us sodas, she was on her way in from her car.
Her hair was held back by a kerchief tied as a sweatband. She had a Led Zeppelin t-shit, slashed from the collar to an interesting level, and cropped to show sun-bronzed belly skin. She completed her new outfit with a pair of tight, threadbare jeans, cut off so short the pockets showed in front.
Loni took dance lessons for years and competed in gymnastics in high school. She was strong, agile, and light on her feet. If it's possible to look graceful while loading bundles of magazines into a hot shrink-wrap machine, she did it. The manufacturer of that machine would have paid good money for pictures of her operating the thing.
We finally caught up with the rest of the production line. I sat on on a stack of skids, mopping my brow with the tail of my t-shirt. "How fast are you running that machine, girl?"
"As fast as I need to if we're going to get done. Too much for you, old man?" She sat next to me and flashed me a smile of beautiful white teeth and laughing eyes. "How long until lunch?"
"About an hour." Damn, even sweaty, she smelled wonderful.
A tow-motor arrived with another pallet of magazines still stinking of ink. We got to work again.
Fred joined us for lunch outside. He kept giving me meaningful looks. I was afraid she would see him. She'd never talk to me again if she knew how hard I struggled to keep her from becoming become the girl of my dreams. I was too much of a realist to see her romantically, or sexually, or in any other way but as a work buddy. Fantasy about her was stupid.
At the end of our shift, we were told to dress for work in the plant the next night. We talked in the parking lot for a few minutes before driving home.
The next afternoon, she appeared at the time-clock in a dressy blouse and a skirt. I wore cut-offs and a t-shirt, a bandanna in my pocket to make into sweatband.
"I thought we were dressing for the plant tonight, Loni. You'll roast."
"No I won't. I have a top and shorts underneath. I wanted to go shopping before work, and I wasn't sure I'd have time to go home and change."
We punched in and learned that we were doing exactly the same thing as the night before. When we got to our work station, Loni produced a hair tie and gathered her dark waves into a high ponytail. She removed her blouse to reveal a short top, displaying her taut, flat abdomen. Then she undid some fasteners on her skirt and stripped to a pair of athletic-style shorts, slit halfway up her hips. "I'm ready to sweat tonight," she said.
The large printing press near us that made so much noise the previous night was idle for scheduled maintenance. We were able to talk more easily than we did before, and we learned a lot about each other. Being with her made the work go fast. Still, I couldn't picture myself asking her out.
At the end of the night, we were told there might be some work in our regular departments the following day. If things were slow, we would spend our time in the back-issue warehouse, picking orders for individual magazines a collector or library needed. That area was air-conditioned, but we were told to dress for comfort, since we would be on our feet doing light physical labor.
Loni appeared the next day in a yellow sundress with matching yellow casual shoes. I was in thin khakis and a lightweight polo shirt.
We were given order lists, mailing envelopes, and a cart stacked with empty bins. We found a rhythm. The break-time buzzer surprised us.
Relaxing with me at a picnic table outside, she said, "We got a lot done. This is easy."
"I wouldn't call it easy."
"Do you want to trade jobs? I can load the bins," she offered.
"No, I'm fine. I'm just bitching about being out here doing this work instead of sitting on my ass finding your mistakes."
"There aren't many," she huffed, sticking out her pretty lower lip in an exaggerated pout.
"No, there aren't."
"That's better," she whined, before she started giggling.
Back at work, we were alone. We didn't hear anyone else for at least an hour. She went into another aisle to start picking a new order while I finished packing the old one.
"Mark, can you come here?"
She was leaning against the wall at the end of the aisle. "I'm curious about something."
"What's that?" I asked.
"Why don't you like me?"
"I do like you."
"It's hard to tell."
Should I admit that I was getting obsessed with her? That I saw her face every time I closed my eyes? That I was scared of seeing her as more than a friend? She was so far out of range for me that I was trying to convince myself she wasn't desirable.
"Does the girl have to make the first move? Well, all right." She gave me a firm kiss and held it for a few seconds. Then she said, "I liked that."
"So did I."
"Maybe we should do it again."
I put my hands on the wall on either side of her head. The flecks of gold in her smiling blue eyes sparkled in the dim light. I leaned in to her, and she pulled me close. This time, our tongues played, and I could feel her proud breasts against me. I'm sure she could feel my growing hardness. My hands were sliding down her back toward her ass when we heard someone. We separated and made ourselves busy.
Impossible. I must have day-dreamed the whole thing. This girl could not possibly be attracted to me.
Just before lunch, our manager's voice crackled over the intercom. "Mark or Loni, call 312." I picked up the phone and dialed. "Boss, it's Mark."
"How are you two doing out there? We have work for Loni."
"It's almost lunch-time. Do you want her back after that?" I asked.
"Yeah. Can you get to a good stopping point soon, too? We'll need you to check her work as fast as she can pound it out."
After lunch, she went back to her keyboard. I finished the order we had started and returned to my desk to start proofing her work.
My head wasn't in the game. I had to re-read some of her stuff several times, because I kept finding errors. Obviously, Loni had trouble concentrating too. She made an unusually large number of mistakes. Just before quitting time, I took the final corrections to her desk.
She opened the folder and shook her head. "Sorry. I'm usually much better than this."
"Don't worry. It's the end of a long work week."
"We need to talk," she said. "Follow me to my house after work. It's not far."
I had no idea what was going to happen as I drove behind her and parked on the street in front of her darkened house. She unlocked the door, turned on a single light, and invited me into the living room where we sat on the sofa.
"I'm not sure what you think of me," she began.
"What do you mean?"
"That business in the warehouse. Let me explain. I never had much growing up. When Daddy died, Mom had to support me and my sister. That's where Mom is now, working. She's a good mother, and she's taught me that when I want something, I need to work for it."
"That's why you entered those pageants, and why you're working to save for school," I said.
"Right. I got scholarships from the pageants, but not enough. So I follow Mom's example and work hard. Sometimes, I take a risk. Do you understand?"
"I think so."
"Men," she grumbled. "Do you want to come to my room?"
I'm sure I gaped at her. In college, I got my share of pussy. Some of the girls were very cute. I never knew how I landed them, since I was an average college party boy, but I did. None held a candle to Loni.
She stood up. "I'm going upstairs. You can come with me, or you can lock the door on your way out. I won't think any differently about you at work, either way."
I locked the front door and followed her, thinking about her in ways that weren't about being work buddies. Nowhere close.
She turned on the light on her nightstand. Kicking off her shoes, she sat on the side of her bed. "Join me?"
I couldn't think of anything to say that wasn't completely stupid, so I took off my shoes and sat down next to her.
"Is something wrong with me?" she asked.
"Are you a virgin, Mark?"
"Neither am I. I had sex a few times with my ex-boyfriend. My only boyfriend."
"What happened? Why aren't you still with him?" Inside I was smacking myself. I couldn't get it through my thick skull that I was sitting on this goddess' bed, talking about sex.
"He got too serious. He wanted to make me into a housewife and mother. I'm not ready for that. I'm going to design school. I want to learn, use my creativity, make a statement, follow my dreams. He didn't get it, so he found someone else."
"It's a shame he didn't appreciate your dreams and your determination. You'll be a big success." Could I sound like more of a square?
"That's what I like about you. You treat me like a whole person, one that has something going on inside. Good grief! You're sitting on my bed with me, nice guy Mark, saying the sweetest things."
"I don't know what to say to you. I feel like it's my first time talking to a girl."
"Then don't say anything." She pulled me to her on the pillows. Just before our lips met, she smiled.
I kissed plenty of girls before. Usually, lying down, it felt really nice. This, with Loni, was absolutely mind-blowing. In the warehouse, she showed me she could kiss, and I got an almost instant boner. Now I was aching hard again from one long, sensual kiss. I pulled her tight against me and rolled on my back so she was on top.
"Mark, I feel that."
She ground herself on me. "That."
"Not after what I felt in the warehouse." She straddled me and pulled her sundress off over her head. "I was in pageants. I'm used to guys leering at me. Most are complete pigs. You never act that way. You act like a friend."
My brain was processing the sensation of her grinding on me in damp, white bikini panties, and the sight of her tan-lined body, with breasts better than I dared hope them to be -- full, round, carried high like only a young woman can, and topped with succulent nipples on beautifully round areolas, centered in triangles of pure pale skin. Finally, I comprehended her words. "I want us to be friends, Loni."
"So do I. That's why this might work." She pulled my shirt off and leaned down so I could fondle her. "I'll still try to see you as good old nice guy Mark, but I want you, at least once."