Pepto Bismo Dreams Ch. 02bythe Troubador©
Harvey J. Appleton
Harvey was annoyed at the need for Charlotte's helping their good friends the Knudsens. Nothing to be done for it, however. Ingrid was confined to her bed with the coming birth. Ingrid was Charlotte's dearest friend so Charlotte felt the need and delight of overseeing her friends home and self in addition to her own Victorian on the hill.
Charlotte's deep longing for a child of her own certainly prohibited Harvey's taking a stand that she see better to the condition of their household in the tall Victorian his father had built fourteen years before. As the servants had been well trained by his mother well before his parents went on their tour of Europe he had to acknowledge that it was working out well.
Sighing he gave himself a moment to indulge in the pride he took in his father turning the business over to him at such a young age.
The only fly in his ointment was a truth he had been hiding from his wife. That ridiculous case of Mumps he contracted two years ago had left him sterile. It was something he was going to have to face soon. It was not fair to his beloved and he had to break the news to her soon that they could never have children.
It was late, too late to navigate the treacherous road carved out of the bluff. He had forbidden Charlotte to return after night fall. She would have to remain the night with Ingrid and Knute.
It was astounding that two such dominant men as Knute and himself had grown to be such friends. And then for them to marry cousins! On top of that Knute and he had occasionally been mistaken for twins. They were of a height, two inches over six feet. His wife once described them as being long, lean and lethal.
The two women on the other hand were physical opposites. His Charlotte was tall and slim, wonderfully curved and patrician. Her hair was fair, as golden as corn silk. She habitually wore it coiled high on her head, emphasizing the slim column of her throat. Knowing what a kiss right "there" beneath her ear would do to her gave him a jingle every time he admired that slender column. She was regal in her bearing, her coloring golden. (Last sentence says what was said in previous sentences.)
Ingrid on the other hand was a smallish woman, barely over five feet in height. She was certainly not dumpy but her womanly curves were pronounced. Ingrid was his best friend's wife and his own wife's cousin but she still gave him tingles when he surreptitiously admired her figure. With her Norwegian ancestry you would expect her to be as blonde as Charlotte. The opposite was true. Her hair was a blue black as dark as a moonless midnight. Ingrid wore her hair in ringlets, a midnight cap that emphasized her milk white complexion.
Where Charlotte was reserved and aristocratic Ingrid was vibrant and lively, her essence invigorating any gathering. The combination of Ingrid's energy seasoned with Charlotte's classic bearing ensured any gathering including the two of them was memorable.
Knute and he had been raised together, their fathers being business partners and both he and Knute were born in the same April. Knute's father's passing at such an early age would have been an even greater tragedy except for Harvey's father gathering the reins of the business into his capable hands. The value of the Knudsen share of the business had more than doubled since the accident.
The two families had always been close and after the loss of Knute's father the boys had been raised as brothers. Harvey's father had prevailed on Knute's mother to move in with the Appletons in the big Victorian towering over the town. When Knute's mother died just five years after her husband Knute had been accepted as a second son by the family. The two boys had been raised virtually as twins.
Harvey had always been grateful for the friendship he shared with Knute.
After doffing his gray suit coat and shrugging out of the matching vest Harvey hung them and his tie in the closet. Stripping off his white shirt Harvey stepped into the bath to drop it down the laundry chute while preparing himself for bed. Out of habit he left the lights off in the bathroom, just leaving the door open to provide what light was needed. Turning on the light interfered with the view from the window.
As he washed the tall man stepped to the window to enjoy his nightly view of the town. Knute's home was just to the left of the home directly below his big Victorian and with his wife visiting he glanced at Knute's home with more than his normal interest.
As he watched the back door opened and his Charlotte stepped out into the garden dressed in a white shirt and her favorite ankle length lemon yellow skirt. She was carrying a wicker basket, the long neck of a wine bottle protruding up from one corner. Charlotte was closely followed by his friend Knute, the man Harvey considered a brother.
It was a warm night and Harvey understood their delight in taking a few moments of the night air before seeking their beds. The wine made no impression on him at first.
Watching in confusion from the window Harvey saw Charlotte stop just inside the spill of light from the door. Knute stepped up behind her, slipped his arms under hers to enclose her in his arms from behind, then pulled her tightly to his large, athletic body. Harvey stared, stunned to see his wife raise her face back against his friend's chest to accept a far from chaste kiss. Knute's hands were resting at the bottom of his wife's bosom. The kiss seemed to last for hours to the man watching from above, his heart breaking.
When their lips finally broke apart both participants looked back through the open back door to the Knudsen's house. Something amusing inside had caught their attention and they appeared to be listening. Knute called an answer into the house and Harvey saw his wife's laugh. After a moment Charlotte looked up over her shoulder at the man still embracing her. She nodded her head then reached to kiss him at the pulse point on his throat. Knute said something again, directing it back to the invisible listener inside the house then again bent his face to Charlotte's.
Harvey clearly saw her lips part just before Knute captured them with his. While they were bent together in the kiss, sure they were unobserved, Knute's hands were busy. After a long few moments in the privacy of the enclosed yard Charlotte's white shirt was opened to the waist displaying her camisole to her husband's eyes from where he watched above.
When they finally broke apart they stepped away from the spill of light from the open back door. Knute's arms still surrounded her as Charlotte slipped the opened shirt from her shoulders. Before they disappeared into the deeper shadows she dropped the shirt on the grass and Knute had begun working her camisole up her body. Harvey groaned as his one time friend's hands cupped his Charlotte's firm breasts just before they disappeared into the shadows.
For a moment Harvey stood frozen, then he bolted back into his bedroom. Leaping to the bedside stand he snatched his Colt Peacemaker from the drawer. He felt in his pocket for the keys to his new Simplex runabout as he half ran out into the hall.
There he stopped. What was he going to do? The two had been quite familiar with one another. It was too late to prevent their placing horns on his head. If he stormed into the Knudsen's home he would be honor bound to shoot Knute. That didn't phase him. The man he had considered his friend had just been proven a lying, deceitful cad. After doing this to him Harvey would be unable to trust the man either in business or personally. But did he want to destroy both families?
And if he walked in on them now the courts would exonerate him. He would have caught them en flagrant delict.
But then where would he be. Charlotte was still the best looking woman in the state. Even worse he still liked and knew he desired her. If he barged in and shot Knute she would be ruined socially. He could get a divorce, after all without his help the judge hadn't a chance in hell of getting re-elected.
But was that what he wanted?
Not really, he wanted her as hostess in his home. And he still wanted her in his bed, though under less lenient circumstances than she had enjoyed thus far. Her status in his home was going to change, that was certain.
What ever he did required thought and planning. Breaking up the Knudsen marriage with Ingrid in the midst of a difficult pregnancy would make him a monster, if in no one else's mind, it would be in his.
As he stood pondering a glimmer of an idea came to him.
He put the revolver away, poured himself a bourbon and sat down to plot and ponder.
- - - - -
Ingrid's baby was just a month old and the queen of the household.
After the birth of the child Knute had named Marie, Harvey had insisted both the baby and her mother be brought to the house on the hill. Knute had naturally moved in with the rest of his family. With Ingrid's continued health problems Harvey had insisted Ingrid required Charlotte's attendance but he refused to have his wife dividing her time between the two houses.
Charlotte was delighted to welcome them into her home. Still she had concerns, not for the Knudsens but for her husband. It had been almost two months since her Harvey's schedule had changed. He claimed business pressures but Knute was as baffled as she over what those pressures could be.
Increasingly more disturbing was her husband's sudden celibacy. He had always been the one to initiate marital relations, which she had been raised to believe was correct. He had been in her bed but not once had he reached for her. She had been taught not to expect pleasure from the marital bed. She had been wonderfully surprised.
She missed him terribly.
At first she had been unconcerned, they had always had a satisfactory love and she knew once the current emergency was over it would resume.
At first she had been upset at Harvey's immovable objection to Charlotte spending another night away from the house on the hill. Now, except for one thing she enjoyed having her best friend and Marie in the house with her. The only negative was elimination of a possible answer to her temporary frustration. The first week she had found her urges maddening. She had comforted herself with the knowledge that the favor Ingrid had asked of her would satisfy those cravings until her husband was again available. That would have been a wonderful answer except for her husband's refusal to allow her to spend another night at the Knudsen's.
Ingrid and she had together fallen in love with both of the men and spent many a long night giggling to one another over their men as they were being courted. As close as they were it hadn't surprised Charlotte that Ingrid had turned to her with her worries.
Her cousin had suffered through a very difficult pregnancy and the Doctor had informed Ingrid and Knute that marital relations would almost certainly cause their child to abort. Ingrid and Knute had agreed, but it scared Ingrid.
Ingrid confessed in confidence that Knute was very amorous. Ingrid was convinced her husband would be unable to remain celibate the six weeks remaining until she was due, much less the two months after the birth the Doctor insisted was necessary to insure Ingrid's health.
Her solution was unique. Certainly not one either women would consider if it hadn't been for the two men they had wed. Neither women considered it breaking their vows, especially in this emergency. Charlotte had agreed to comfort Knute during the period his wife was incapable. Ingrid certainly was not worried that Charlotte would steal Knute's affections, any more than Charlotte would have feared Ingrid would steal Harvey from her.
It was understood the coupling was not to be a nightly occurrence, rather once or at most twice a week was what Ingrid calculated would be sufficient.
They had enjoyed only their first meeting before Harvey had inexplicably insisted his wife not spend another night away from him. What was now so frustrating to Charlotte was that if she had been allowed to take care of Knute's needs, hers would be satisfied at the same time.
But that one meeting, the night time picnic outside in Ingrid's backyard had been the one and only time she had been allowed to comfort Knute. After that night Harvey had insisted his wife spend the night in HIS home. And that was when Charlotte's frustrations began. If her husband had insisted on his conjugal rights, Charlotte's needs would have been taken care of. But though Harvey had her in his bed, he had not touched her that way.
Perhaps the strangest thing that happened was that she had not once been alone with Knute since Harvey had insisted on her staying home. With the couple living in her home Charlotte believed she would have a few stolen moments alone with her friend's husband. It hadn't happened.
His abstinence had become a matter of major concern in the past few weeks. She was with child. Charlotte suspected from the timing that the child was not Harvey's. If not for the prolonged abstinence caused by her husband's sudden continence she had no doubt she could convince Harvey the baby was his. But with Harvey's lengthy celibacy her Husband's possible questioning of the baby's parentage was an increasing concern.
There was no worry that the child would look like Harvey. The two men were so alike their children would surely have the features of both men. Knute and Harvey were near look alikes.
Charlotte decided it was time to break the news to her husband that they were going to have a baby. It was past due really and he should be the first to be told.
Harvey pulled beside his garage in his new Simplex just moments before his business partner, Knute Knudsen parked beside him riding his year old T-model Ford touring sedan. They exchanged waves as they walked together up to the front porch. The two men had been working in the same building all day yet it was the first time they had seen one another all day.
"Long day," Knute ventured.
"That it was, no question," tersely replied his friend and business partner.
Knute grimaced to himself. His life long friend hadn't been himself for weeks. He couldn't put his finger on what had happened. All he knew was that Harvey had become terse and monosyllabic in conversation. He hadn't even been the first to proffer greetings when they met. Knute hadn't seen him smile for longer than he could recall, probably months. The only thing that had broken him out of his morose mood had been Marie, Ingrid and his new daughter. Even Charlotte had commented on it to Ingrid.
In the house both men hung their hats on the hall tree in the entry, before shrugging off the jackets to their almost matching Navy pin-striped suits. The two women, dressed in nearly matching lavender shirtwaists, met them as they stepped into the entry with a branch water and bourbon for their respective husbands. As the men accepted the glasses, condensation beading the glasses, each woman pulled their husbands jacket from their hands.
"Darling, would you take a little walk with me?" Charlotte asked Harvey. He gave her a bemused look as he nodded his assent. "Excuse us a moment, please," Charlotte directed to her two friends.
Taking his hand, Charlotte led her husband to the back door. As they crossed the back stoop Harvey bent to set his drink on one of the wicker tables. As they left the house Ingrid hid a smirk. Her friend was about to break the news to her husband. She would have to act surprised, though she didn't know how Harvey would doubt she and Charlotte had already discussed her condition.
Leading her man to the left Charlotte strolled with him along the narrow lane between the plantings lining the house on one side, the fence on the other. At the corner of the house she captured his other hand pulling him to a stop. "Dearest, I have a wonderful thing to tell you today. We have been working for this so long and now it has finally happened. Darling! We are going to be parents. I am having a baby!"
To her consternation her husband's expression seemed to freeze in place. This was not what she had expected. With the worry that it might not be his child, this reaction scared her. "Aren't you happy, dear? We have been waiting so long!"
Harvey seemed to shake himself before fixing a smile on his face, "That is unexpected news, Charlotte. When is the baby due?"
At her answer he did some quick calculations in his head, deciding it had probably been conceived the night he saw Knute undressing his wife from the window. He pulled her tightly to him, not wanting her to see the look on his face. Somehow he was able to relax the grimace on his face before he held her away from her, sweeping her face and figure with his glance. "That is wonderful!" he managed to say.
He pulled her to him, kissing her cheek before embracing her again.
He gave a start, hoping it looked natural to Charlotte. "Dearest, I have to check something in my car. I'll just be a moment. Hold your announcement from our guests until dinner. I shall be back in the house directly." Turning he strode quickly around the corner heading to where the two cars were parked side by side.
Charlotte asked the cook to delay the meal for a few moments while they awaited Harvey's return. He was back with them in less than thirty minutes. As they were seated he tapped his glass for their attention. "Friends, Charlotte has an announcement," he declared, a strange, small smile on his face.
At the news Ingrid and Knute were ecstatic for them. Harvey sat back still wearing the same odd smile, watching the enthusiasm of his partner and his wife. The cook began serving and was given the good news. She completed serving the meal with a wide smile on her face.
After eating, the two couples moved to the parlor. Once there Harvey helped his wife to get comfortable in her usual seat on the sofa. Instead of taking his usual place in the big tan leather over-stuffed chair he settled beside his wife, putting his arm around her shoulders and cuddling her to him.
The quiet celebration lasted beyond full dark when Harvey suddenly sat up, exclaiming, "Oh, drat! I have to review the sales figures for last quarter! I left my copy on my desk. Did you happen to bring yours home tonight, Knute?"
Looking startled, Knute shook his head, "No, I left my briefcase in my office today."
"Damn, today of all days I have to run back to the office," he moaned, giving his newly pregnant wife a squeeze.
Knute jumped up, "No sir, not tonight you don't. I'll make the run for you. I've been wanting to try that drive at night anyway."
"I'll not be bashful and tell you I won't accept your offer, Knute. But I don't want you taking chances on that road at night. It's not worth it. Remember, where the road makes that sharp curve to head down the cliff you are 150 feet in the air. If you misjudge it's a long way down. I got in trouble a couple weeks ago when I hit that rock ledge just as I made my turn. For a moment I thought the car would bounce right over the edge. Be careful, good friend."
Raising his hand to his brow Knute gave his partner a jaunty two finger salute, grabbed his coat and was out the door.
The two women missed the sadness that flickered across Harvey's face as he watched the friend of his childhood disappear through the door. Knute had been his dearest friend until the night he had seen Knute and his wife those weeks ago. Now he had no friends.
The conversation drug for a while. Harvey seemed to be listening for something on the wind. After almost two hours had gone by he rose and helped his wife to her feet. "It's time to get the little mother-to-be in bed." Before wrapping his arm around her shoulders and leading her up the stairs he leaned in the kitchen to tell the cook to send Knute up with the briefcase when he returned.