tagRomanceLove on the Levee

Love on the Levee

byRumple Foreskin©

Note: This story, the sequel to an earlier affront to English letters entitled, "Moonlight & Revelations," has benefited from a good going over in a workshop thread on the Story Discussion Circle. Many thanks to all the hardy folks who helped iron out some of the story's many flaws. All remaining mistakes and shortcomings are mine. RF

==

"What has gotten into you, girl?" Debbie Rankin sat alone in the shade of a small willow on the bank of the Mississippi River talking to herself. "One minute you're feeling great, joking with Mike and the other guests—though why anyone would want to have an outdoor wedding in August is still beyond me. Then all of a sudden, it's like someone turned on all the bad vibes in the world."

She'd been gazing unseeing at a tanker heading slowly downstream. Now she had to squeeze her eyelids shut to keep from crying. She felt angry and weepy, and incredibly stupid for not knowing why. Propping her head against the tree truck, she tried to come up with an answer.

Mike Floyd, her oldest friend and a self-confessed "nice guy" was helping lug wedding stuff back to the cars parked on the other side of the levee while she waited for Linda and Frank to emerge from wherever they were hiding. Recently engaged themselves, they'd slipped off during the "hippie" style ceremony.

"Bullshit not thy own self," she said, quoting one of Mike's favorite sayings. The thing was, she had a hunch there was more to her bad mood than just the shit-eating grin she'd seen on Melinda's face when the Chief Boo-Hoo said she and Harvey were husband and wife.

Debbie was almost certain the real downer was this spot. It was the place Mike kissed her last spring—okay, make that where she kissed him. But he returned the kiss, thank God. Debbie wasn't sure her battered ego could have taken any more rejection.

She'd felt so incredibly crappy that day. When the guy you've been dating for over a year, who you're pinned to, who was your first and, so far, only lover dumps you for another guy, it can be a little depressing. "Face it Debbie old girl," she muttered, "for someone who's supposed to be so damn good looking, you've got a lousy track record with guys."

After she'd talked Mike's ear off about her latest romantic disaster, he'd put together a party here on the levee to get her out of the blues. This afternoon, three girl friends invaded her room. Saying she'd been in bed all day, which was true, they forced her to get up and, ignoring her protests, made her put on some clothes and come with them.

At first she tried to be a good sport and get into the spirit of the party. But the laughter and good times only annoyed her. After a few beers, some cheap wine, and a little weed, she was feeling slightly drunk, maybe a little stoned, but definitely more miserable than ever. Not wanting to be a wet blanket, she grabbed a beer and wandered away.

As the light from the bonfire dimmed, she found a driftwood sanctuary near the riverbank. That's where Mike found her a few minutes later, sitting behind a big log, crying.

Without saying a word, he sat down beside her. There was a light, cool breeze coming off the river. When she shivered, he put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. With a sob that was a mixture of despair and release, she laid her head on his chest and cried until she ran out of tears.

When her breath began to even out, she noticed the front of his old dress shirt was soaked. Fascinated, she gently ran a fingertip across the damp cloth. He'd come to be with her, to comfort her, and in return she'd drenched his shirt with tears and probably covered it with mascara.

She lifted her head and looked up at him. Even in the dim moonlight, she could make out his familiar, comforting smile and immediately felt better.

He'd always been there, close and caring, whenever she needed a friend, needed a shoulder to cry on, just like tonight. Because, because he loves me. A new emotion suddenly swept over her, a sensation that had nothing to do with friendship. She no longer just needed Mike—she wanted him.

Slipping both hands behind his neck, she pulled his face to hers. Tilting her head, she began kissing her best friend.

When their lips finally parted, their eyes opened, and they looked at one another. There was an uncertain, questioning expression on Mike's face. Debbie found herself praying he wouldn't be sensible or cautious or, even worse, make a joke. Damn it, Mike, just kiss me. Please. Then he slowly leaned forward and began kissing his best friend.

At some point it occurred to her that Mike was a very good kisser. In a strange sort of way, it made her proud to know her best friend was so gifted.

The next time their lips separated, Mike started to say something. It was going to be about how they should stop, she was sure of that, and sure he was right. They'd have to do that, soon, but not now, not just yet. Before he could say anything, she snuggled closer and pulled him back onto her waiting mouth.

After that, the kisses became more intense and the touches more intimate. She felt Mike's hand slip beneath her sweatshirt. When it made contact with bare skin, she shivered with pleasure. The smooth, sensuous pressure seemed to ease the anguish in her body. His fingers took possession of her breast and she heard herself moan softly while arching her back to meet his touch.

She felt loved and wanted and safe. This was Mike who cared for her, who was always there when she needed a friend, who she could count on to do what was best. And in the back of her mind, she began wondering if he would decide what was best included their making love.

Releasing her throbbing nipple, he slowly slid his fingers down her torso until they reached her jeans. When he started fumbling with the zipper, she was certain he'd decided they would make love. But just when it began to yield, he stopped.

Their tongues continued to dance from mouth to mouth, but Mike's fingers remained motionless. She felt his body sag and then noticed that his hand was moving up from her waist. He paused to let his fingertips caress first one breast, then the other. It was a gentle, searching motion, as if trying to memorize their texture, shape, and warmth. After a last, soft, parting touch, he slid his hand around to the small of her back.

With an unsettling mixture of relief and regret, she understood he'd decided their making love wasn't what was best. The kissing continued, but now it was with increasing affection and decreasing passion. He was, she realized, letting them both gradually come down from their physical and emotional high.

#

Something was gently shaking her shoulder. Confused, she opened her eyes and looked around. Instead of moonlight, the afternoon sun was shining off the river. And instead of Mike caressing her body, he was kneeling beside her and grinning. "You've got to tell me what you were dreaming about, lady."

"None of your business, mister," she said, while yawning and stretching. To give her mind more time to re-enter the here-and-now, she located her purse, pulled out a compact, and studied her make-up in the small mirror. "Why do you think I was dreaming anyway? Maybe I was just deep in thought."

"I doubt it. The thing is, before I started my beast of burden number, you looked awake and about like you did back when we were kids and old Jeff, the natural born tomcat, went one-on-one with a log truck and lost. When I finally came dragging my weary bones back, your mouth was wide open. That's always a sure sign you've nodded off, and you had this dumb, happy look on your face. So what were you dreaming about?"

Debbie looked at her best friend and gave him a big, I-know-a-secret-and-you-don't, smile. "You're right, I really was feeling rotten. But I had this dream that was all romantic and mushy with lots of heavy breathing, and I feel a lot better now."

As Mike begged for details, she reached out and let him help her up. She playfully mussed his dark, wavy hair. What she hadn't mentioned was that the dream did a lot more than just get her out of a bad mood—it had reminded her just how much she'd fallen in love with Mike Floyd, her life-long best friend who, if she had her way, would soon be a whole lot more.

Sure he was still dating that slut, Rene Landry, even though Debbie had been trying to break them up all summer. But that was because she despised Rene and knew the little tramp would be so bad for Mike. This was different. Now she wanted Mike for herself.

A classically beautiful redhead with a tall, graceful body, she was sure that if everything else were equal, Rene, although admittedly cute and sexy, would be no competition. The problem was, everything wasn't equal. Debbie knew Mike so well, she could practically name the day Rene first let him "seduce" her. And since she was the type who'd put out like a soda machine if it was in her interest, and since she was very interested in hooking up with Mike, he was probably getting all the action he could handle. If Rene hadn't been out of town this weekend, he might not have even come to the wedding.

And while Debbie might be a homecoming queen, fraternity sweetheart, and all that jazz, apparently Mike still thought of her as the scrawny kid he'd walked with to junior high. Even going skinny-dipping with him didn't seem to have changed his view of her. So if she wanted him, the next time they kissed, and she'd make sure that happened soon, there'd be no stopping—she'd also make sure of that.

Debbie looked up and down the shoreline. "Where do you think Linda and Frank are?"

"Out of sight."

Shaking her head, she walked with Mike over to the sun bleached driftwood log where he'd left their stuff. "Thanks for the help, Joe Friday," she said, sitting on the smooth, warm wood.

Taking a seat beside her, Mike grinned, "I think of myself more as the suave, sophisticated private eye type."

"Well, I think of yourself as nuts, and before you say it, I know, birds of a feather flock together."

"Takes one to know one, I've always heard. Of course, I've also heard that opposites attract. So you pays your money, you takes your pick."

"Seriously, do you think they're all right?"

Mike nodded, lit a cigarette, and handed it over. "They're in love, remember? If one of 'em had falling in, the other would be raising all kinds of hell."

"Oh, that's a real comfort."

After taking a puff, she studied the cigarette. "Weren't we going to quit these things?"

"We did," he replied, placing the pack back in his shirt pocket. "It was our end-of-semester resolution, but it only applies when we're home."

After lighting his own cigarette, he pointed to a spot a couple hundred yards away near the river. "Now, as for our non-smoking lovebirds, they're probably hiding in that little thicket and doing God knows what sort of disgusting things. You wanna sneak up and take a peek?"

Debbie shook her head and laughed, "Of course not." Gesturing toward the same clump of trees, she asked, "Is that the place, you know, where we…. I mean, is that the place?"

When Mike glanced at her, Debbie could actually feel herself blushing. After what seemed like an eternity, he grinned and gestured toward the spot. "You're asking me if that's the place where we made out like a couple of wild weasels?"

"Well, yes."

"Well, no. That happened back in the spring. The water was a lot higher back then. We'd have needed scuba gear to do anything over where those two are no doubt carrying on.

"The hallowed ground in question, a sacred place forever etched in my memory, is upstream from here," he said, twisting around and pointing north. "You've gotta look back from where dat 'Old Man River' is rolling along now. See that big pile of brush and logs at the foot of those skinny willows? It was just above the shore back then and made a perfect nighttime hideout."

Debbie had turned around and was silently studying the spot. When she spoke, it was in a low, hesitant voice. "Mike, this is a little embarrassing, but why didn't you, well, why did you stop?"

Without getting up, Mike swung his legs over the log and faced upriver. After glancing at Debbie, he gazed at the spot. "Something just told me it wasn't the right time, or place, or thing to do. God knows I didn't want to stop and it damn near gave me the bends," he said, giving her a rueful grin.

"But you mean a lot to me, lady, a whole lot, and I didn't want to risk losing my best friend. We're not in love, not romantically, that is. And I guess I was afraid we might not be able to keep on being friends, like we've always been, if we, you know, made love."

"I knew that was what you'd say. And you're right, I suppose. But I still feel guilty. After all, I'm the one who started it, so it's kind of my fault you got the bends," she said, looking self-conscious.

"No complaints. You were ripped, bummed out, and very vulnerable. And don't forget, the party was my dumb idea. I'm just glad I happened to notice you wandering away. Besides, if it hadn't happened, I might never have known my best friend is such a great kisser."

"God, but you saying that is so weird because, while we were kissing, I was thinking the same thing about you."

Before he could reply, Debbie continued, "Damn, but life would be so much simpler if we weren't such good friends. I mean, the thing is, our being good friends has gotten us so screwed up we can't…. Well, we can't even screw."

Mike nodded and flipped away his cigarette. "Right as usual, superstar Debbie. The way I figure it, our problem is we're the last of the unrepentant, unreconstructed, hopeless southern romantics. We belong in 1868, not 1968. Someone should have kept us from reading, "Ivanhoe," when we were kids and I know we've read, and seen, "Gone With the Wind," way too many times.

"But instead of a great romance, what we got was two old friends who were so smashed one night they started making out. And while it was a helluva lot of fun, at least for me, that probably doesn't qualify as a great romance."

"So what do we have?"

"We like each other. That's what we have. At least, it's what I have. Because I like you, Deborah Nicole. I like you, well, even more now that we've kissed, and that feels nice."

They gazed at one another until Debbie bit her lower lip, took a deep breath, then got up and moved over to stand between Mike's outstretched legs. Neither said a word. Wrapping her fingers around the back of his neck, she whispered, "You're right, Michael Henry, we do like each other, a whole lot, and it does feel very, very good. But I haven't been able to think of you as just a friend since we kissed. You've become a lot more than just my best friend. So what I want to know, what I need you to tell me, is whether I'm more than just an old friend you really like."

Mike seemed to catch his breath, then he slid his arms around her slender waist and pulled her close. "Deb, I've fought falling in love with you all summer. I nearly lost it the night we went skinny-dipping. But I surrender, unconditionally. Lady, I love you so much it hurts."

"Oh God, but I love you, too," said Debbie, as she threw her arms around his neck.

They held each other close, kissing slowly, savoring their new relationship. When the kiss finally ended, it seemed to be by mutual consent. Debbie stared into Mike's eyes and began unbuttoning her blouse. When it fell open, she took his hands in hers and gently pressed them against her breasts. "You know me, Michael Henry, I never do things half-way. I want all of you, all the time, for all time."

Mike nodded. The deal had been struck. He was hers, she was his, and Rene was history. Nodding toward the spot where they first kissed, she said, "Let's go over there and pick-up where we left off. Only this time, if you really love me, if you want to keep me, don't you dare stop."

==

This is a work of fiction. Votes and comments are very real, however, and will be appreciated. RF

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