"Mind if I join you? There are no more seats." I looked up to see a woman of about 38 years standing close to my table.
"No, I don't mind at all," I replied with a short smile before returning to my book and coffee, not wanting to force her into conversation simply because there were no other seats available.
"Thank you very much. My name is Judith," she said once she was seated.
"I'm Royce, and it's nice to meet you." She held my deep brown eyes with her pale blue ones and I had a hard time looking away this time. Those eyes, eyes like I have never seen before fascinated me. Mid-length dark blonde hair framed a full, rounded face with pert, inviting lips. She was wearing a thick overcoat (which now draped from the back of her chair) and an oversized dark brown sweater. I imagined tight fitting, stonewashed jeans but I'd failed to notice when she was still standing. To my surprise, she lifted a foot up to the chair's seat and, sure enough, she was wearing stonewashed jeans. I unconsciously started to smile and she raised a brow.
"Excuse me?" she said inquiring.
"Oh! I'm sorry. I was just noticing your pants," I started to say.
"And, let's take a look at yours, too!"
"Excuse me?" I said, hoping it would work for me too.
"Stand up, please, so that I can get a look, too." She appeared to be serious and, here in Weatherstone, all sorts of crazies can pop up. So, embarrassed as I was, I stood up slowly, trying not to draw any attention.
"Nice pants: tan Docker's, well pressed, nicely filled."
I blinked and turned every shade of red imaginable. She just sat there and smiled. When my shock wore off, I quickly sat back down.
"Thanks," was all that I could mutter.
"Are you always this...direct?" I asked.
"Yes, aren't you?" Come to think of it, yes, I usually am but I did not tell her that. Instead:
"Maybe I'll have to show you how I use directness to enrich our lives." I had no idea what she meant but I was starting to like it anyway.
"Maybe I'm interested in finding out; maybe not," I replied, hoping to be as cryptic as she was.
"You're interested, all right." And, indeed, I was. I'd never had such a bizarre encounter in my life but I was certainly interested.
"Finish your coffee." Not a request, but not quite a command, either. I didn't even bother to lift the cup.
"Take my arm and escort me to the door." Not even the hint of a smile, now. I almost felt like I was in trouble at school. (Maybe that's it - some kind of discipline trip she's on. Will I be in trouble being around her? Will someone get hurt? Will I care either way?)
She's short, less than 5'5," and my mild apprehension decreases. My common sense tells me that's a foolish thing to do, but, at 6'1," I find it difficult to avoid. A couple of tables notice our departure together but nobody seems to look curious. I stop just outside the door, which I'd held open for her, and she smiles.
"Very good." Just like an instructor would say it to a pupil. "Walk with me for a while."
She took my arm lightly and guided me to the right. She walked slowly, strolling actually, and, though it was pretty cold out, she didn't seem to notice.
Passing a small storefront art gallery, she asked, "What are your impressions of this artist's work? The entire gallery is dedicated to his pieces for this showing."
The gallery was closed for the night but I looked through the small window in the door and recognized some of the work. I'd seen it in a rather favorable article in the newspaper just after the exhibit opened. I didn't like what I saw.
"The artist, a man named LaJan, is difficult for me to appreciate; his vision is dark, troubled. I haven't heard any of the music but, if it's anything like the oils, sculpture, or photography, I think I'd pass on owning any of it. It's well executed but too difficult for my tastes." I was surprised and impressed by the amount of crap I'd just spewed off the top of my head. Judith seemed to be as well. Again, with one brow raised, she seemed to be assessing me. She looked at me for a long time before she spoke.
"Interesting," was all she said. I let her direct us away from the gallery and on down the street. My curiosity was steadily mounting so I had to ask,
"And, what do you think of 'the master's' work?"
"I like your answer." I couldn't tell if she meant she agreed with my opinion or if she was evading my question. I might have asked her about it but she turned and directed us down an alley. This particular one reeked of garbage and stale urine, left by the bums of the central city. It was also very dark. I didn't think I could come up with even one good reason to be there and I slowed down enough for her to notice.
"Not much further in than a few more yards. There's nobody else here. Do you believe me?"
I stood there for a solid minute (I actually counted it out in my head.) and she waited patiently, a look of complete calm on her face. I didn't hear a thing and I couldn't see anything dangerous so I took the risk.
"I believe you, but I'm still not sure that we should be here."
She smiled a small smile and took my arm again, turning into the alley. We stopped about 20 feet in, next to some dumpsters. She turned to me and put a finger to her lips to ask for quiet. I shrugged and looked around, expecting trouble, then seeing a little low movement. As tensed as I was, I couldn't help a tiny chuckle when I saw the kitten. It was snow white and peeking at us from under one of the dumpsters. I started to squat down but Judith stopped me. Three more kittens poked their heads out and, finally, a large, skinny female cat holding a fifth kitten emerged. The kitten she held was very small, obviously the runt. I turned to Judith and hoping that she would let me go to them. She gave me a little nod and I slowly squatted down. The white kitten ran to me immediately and the others followed. The cat set the runt down and meowed but didn't seem to feel threatened while the kittens ran between my feet, climbed my pants legs, and sparred with each other. Playing with them, I nearly forgot about Judith, who remained standing and watching. She never moved but she did smile when I looked up at her.
In a few minutes, she reached down and touched my shoulder, motioning for me to get up. I did, reluctantly, and she took my arm and carefully led us away from them and back out of the alley.
I felt the need to talk to her. When I started to, though, she shook her head. Only mildly disturbed now, I decided I could wait a bit for answers.
We walked quite a ways in silence, Judith still holding my arm, but a little closer, now. I saw a group of people in front of a liquor store about a block away. As we continued to approach them, a small scuffle broke out and voices were raised. Judith continued to walk towards them, noticeably faster than before. She led us to within 10 yards of them before I spoke.
"There is no way I can protect you from getting hurt around this."
"I would like you to get something for me to drink," she said calmly. I was amazed. My mouth was open but I couldn't think of anything to say to that.
"You will know what I want when you go inside," was all she said. Then, she let go of my arm and backed up to the building, apparently planning to wait for me outside. I looked at the four guys (they had stopped shaking each other around but looked none too pleasant. She remained perfectly calm and, again, I felt the strongest feeling that I was being studied, tested, or judged somehow.
With a sigh, I went into the store. It truly was a liquor store: there was almost nothing in the whole place but dusty bottles of booze, potato chips, cigarettes, and one old man who regarded me with distaste. I did not think a woman who drank coffee at Weatherstone would touch any of this mess. Then, I saw the small coffee pot. It was a household pot and had something that resembled coffee in it, though I doubted it was for sale. The old man saw me looking at it, got slowly to his feet, and walked over to the pot. He looked at me sternly, as if to warn me off from hitting him as soon as he turned his back, then poured a cup, covered it, and handed it to me.
"One dollar, fifty cents," came out of the ancient face. I was frozen for a moment, thinking about why he thought I even wanted a cup of his overpriced coffee, then handed him two dollars.
"Thanks," he grumbled and pocketed the bills, never offering any change. By now, I was getting used to 'strange' so I didn't even bother to ask.
Two of the loitering men were still outside, both leering at Judith, who looked completely undisturbed. She saw the coffee in my hands and her face brightened so much, the two guys gaped at me. She moved to meet me, wrapping both arms around me, and placing her lips gently on my cheek. It was not a kiss, but it was the nicest 'non-kiss' I've ever had. Judith took the cup from me opened the lid and sipped. She smiled to me again, then closed the lid and held the coffee out, offering it to two very surprised guys. The one that moved first 'won' the coffee and actually said, "Thank you!” As we walked away, they were both sharing the hot drink and looking at Judith in wonder.
She glanced at her watch and said, "Hurry! Help me find a phone!"
We had to look for almost 10 minutes before we found one that worked. She laughed (both expecting me to and surprised) when I handed her the 35 cents she needed, and then dialed. I make it a point not to listen to other people's conversations, but I did hear something strange: she started talking, never stopped, and then hung up. Why the need to hurry if she was talking to a machine? I thought this was one of the easiest questions of the night and, though I couldn't answer it either, I'd lost interest in trying.
We walked (briskly, now) through the streets until we were almost back to Weatherstone, then up a small walkway between a cluster of pretty white cottages. She opened one and invited me in, leading me to the kitchen. A HUGE brown and black cat cocked his head at me from the back of a couch.
"York, meet Royce; Royce, this is York - York, Jr., actually." He was so big and fluffy, I doubted if he could walk, but he jumped down from the couch, padded over to my feet and 'meowed'.
I started to laugh and said, "Hello, to you, too!" York, Jr. 'meowed' again and went back to the couch. Shaking my head, I followed Judith to the kitchen, where she poured freshly brewed coffee into three cups. She handed me one and took the other two with her to a bedroom. I was sure I wasn't on the right planet any more and was about to say so when I noticed the woman on the bed.
She was seated on the side, wearing a pretty, dark purple robe. She was obviously related to Judith; they had the same hair, nose, and smile. The sister's eyes were brown like mine, though. I would have been hard-pressed to decide which one was more attractive.
"Sit down, Royce," Judith said as I looked back to her. Puzzled as to where, she pointed to the bed. I was not feeling very good about that but guessed introductions needed to be made anyway. Judith tipped her head to the side, regarding me again, smiled and spoke:
"Royce, I need for you to trust me one last time. Please don't say anything until I finish. This is my older sister, Vanessa. She's the person I called from the pay phone and she's very glad to meet you!"
Vanessa gave me the brightest smile I've ever seen and took my hand. She did not give it back. Frowning, I faced Judith again and she began again.
"Remember, not a word until I finish! Vanessa cannot talk; she was born without vocal cords and could never learn to speak, not even a whisper. She can hear quite well, though, so she is going to verify the things that I say. Tonight, you were tested to see if you are a good man, an honest man with an open heart. You obviously are and I'm very glad I've met you. Vanessa asked me to find you, whoever you are, for her. Her inability to talk has made it all but impossible for her to meet good people and get to know them so we devised a test to challenge men to show just who they really are. I will explain all the little details if you want me to, and I think you do, but we both want you to know that you are the only guy that has even come close to being right for her. And you weren't just close, you were perfect! I have never brought another man into this house and into this room.
"Royce, you are the man I have chosen for Vanessa. I chose for her the man I would have chosen for myself. I am unable to have children but Vanessa can, and we need a good man, a kind man, a considerate man to be the father of a child, our child. Look at Vanessa and see that what I say is true."
Vanessa was nodding her head and practically beaming. Her hold on my hand was gentle but not clinging. I believed them.
"I can see that you know it's true, Royce; you have a very 'open' face and heart. Will you learn to know Vanessa and me and consider being the one we both need for so much?"
I turned back to Vanessa. She was smiling but had tears running down her cheeks. I brushed one and then kissed my wet hand with a smile. I stood, still holding her hand, though she would have released mine, and both she and Judith turned away. Easing my hand from Vanessa's, I walked from the bedroom and into front room of the cottage. There, I saw York, Jr., again perched on the back of the couch. He raised his head, yawned, and stretched. I sat down on the far side of 'his' couch and he came to sit in my lap. I have no idea how long we sat there; neither Judith nor Vanessa came out of the bedroom. But, that big, fluffy cat just sat in my lap and stared at me, purring. When I smiled at him, he put his front paws on my chest and licked my nose!
I scratched him behind his ears for a while and he returned to his spot. Standing, I went back to the bedroom and stood in the doorway. Both Judith and Vanessa turned to me and smiled hopefully. I nodded to them and Vanessa jumped from the bed, ran to me and kissed me. Judith was crying, now, but she came to me, too, and wrapped her arms around both of us.
* * * * *
It was months before I spent my first night with them. We had gone to movies, concerts, the lakes and rivers, and, sometimes, on long walks. Vanessa was very much like Judith and we all had good times together, never strained, never uncomfortable, never sexual. But, that night I was invited to dinner at the cottage, I knew and they both knew that it was time. I had grown to love Vanessa, and we all were sure of it. Judith didn't try to share all the time with the two of us but was often close by to help us communicate. Dinner that night was by candlelight for three, but Judith excused herself and went to her room soon after dinner.
Vanessa led me down the hall to her room, stopping to tap lightly on her sister's door as we passed.
We sat down on the edge of Vanessa's bed and Judith came in and sat beside me.
"Do you want me to stay with you, Vanessa?" she said quietly. Vanessa slowly shook her head, smiling easily. Vanessa looked to me and raised a brow (the same gesture I was tested with all those months ago). I looked to Judith and shrugged. Vanessa and I still had no way to communicate intimately. (I had learned Vanessa's mime very well but I was still miserable at American Sign Language, and neither seemed like a good way to communicate right now.) And, I worried about Judith's feelings, not for me, but for her sister with me.
Judith kissed me and said, "Royce, this is why we picked you: you know what you need to know and you're sensitive enough to make this good for Vanessa. Trust yourself like we trust you. Either of you can tap on the wall if you really need me but I don't think you will."
And, with that, she kissed Vanessa and hugged her, kissed me again, and left, closing the door behind her.
Vanessa lit one small candle, turned off the table lamp, and gave me a big smile. Slowly, lovingly, we undressed each other, stopping to kiss often. She stood in front of me and I saw her beautiful body for the first time: fuller than Judith but completely unmarked, as if she never once hurt herself; soft and sensual curves; a tiny stud piercing above her navel! I was shocked to see something I never would have expected to see and spontaneously laughed. She grinned and posed like a model to show it off and I couldn't stop laughing even harder. She got more and more silly and I laughed until she pushed me back on the bed and jumped on top of me. Smiling up at her, I mouthed, 'I love you', not bothering to actually voice the words. She did the same (and this was the first time either of us had said it in any way), and bent forward to kiss me. She rose up slightly to grasp between my legs, blinked very slowly, and lowered herself around me. The look of pain which flashed across her face was quickly replaced by sheer bliss. She opened her mouth and sighed. Then, not looking anywhere but into my eyes, she mouthed, 'I love you' over and over again as she very slowly bounced up and down, grasping me, impaling herself, grinding her hips forward and back again. My hands supported her thighs, gently lifting her, pulling her back down, pulling her to me and sliding her away. Vanessa's 'mantra' was suddenly interrupted by a look of surprise and her fingernails dug into me convulsively as she threw back her head and silently screamed. Her entire body thrashed and she soaked me with her pure ecstasy.
She collapsed into my arms, smothering me with kisses. I stopped her by gently pushing her face back and she looked at me with smiling anticipation. She saw the seriousness on my face and, still holding her smile, raised her brow. I gently lifted her and exchanged places, not separating our bodies, kissed her (with both of us not closing our eyes) and whispered in her ear, "This is for all of us: you, me, and Judith."
As I started to move into her, she put one hand on my chest and the other to the wall, raising her brow again. I considered it and decided to trust her instincts, kissing her again and nodding.
The soft rap brought Judith to the door, where she knocked exactly the same way Vanessa did, then entered, wearing non-sexy nightclothes under a full length robe.
Looking slightly embarrassed she simply said, "Yes?"
I looked to Vanessa but she flashed me a look of anger, touched my lips then pointed to Judith. I didn't get it but Judith spoke up immediately and said, "Royce, you need to tell me something."
Then I understood and Vanessa hugged and kissed me again.
"I told Vanessa that 'now was the time for all of us: for her, for me, and for you.'"
Judith closed her eyes and smiled. When she opened them again, she saw Vanessa's hand extended to her. She walked to the bed and knelt beside us. But, Vanessa shook her head and kept pulling and pulling until Judith was lying next to us. She smiled, looked to me with the raised brow, and I nodded. Judith kissed Vanessa, kissed me, then removed her robe, keeping her flannel pajamas on.
Wrapped in the embrace of both women, I made love with Vanessa, slowly, deeply. Judith moved with us, complimenting our passion with a soft touch here, a rub there, an occasional kiss. When it was over, I mouthed, 'I love you' to Vanessa, who mouthed, 'I love you' to Judith, who mouthed, 'I love you' to me.
Judith hugged us both tightly, kissed us both, then whispered, "Thank you, very, very much," and returned to her room.
Vanessa and I returned to making love and playing and making love again.
* * * * *
Victoria is now 6½ years old and a dinky duplicate of her mother. She is able to speak but never prefers it, often going days without much more than an occasional word. The doctor says she’s fine and she does speak fluently in ASL (No, I don't have it down yet!). She treats both Judith and Vanessa as 'mom' and I am now a very proud father.