The first flurries of the rumored blizzard were dotting the sidewalk already as Sylvia walked home from her half-day at work. The half-day had not been planned; rather, it was a last minute change of plans due to the threatening weather. "Threatening", at least, had been the word the boss had used when she had dismissed the office just at lunch time; but Sylvia saw no threats in the slate gray sky or the breathless warnings of a storm blanketing their entire state. Rather, she saw an early Christmas present! As she made her way home past all the cozy-looking houses with their Christmas decorations out in full force, the very idea of anything negative made no sense to her at all. Who could complain about a wonderfully heavy snow just before Christmas? It made for perfect weather for curling up safe at home, basking in the holiday spirit with the wind and snow outside and the pleasant din of Mr. and Mrs. Wells living their lives downstairs. And that was just what Sylvia needed to finally get Andy where she wanted him.
Andy was Sylvia's best friend, but she had had enough for settling for that. The two friends lived, along with a few other twentysomethings, on the second floor of Mr. and Mrs. Wells' lovely old house on Franklin Street. Married since long before Sylvia was born and with all their own kids flung to the four winds, the Wells had been taking in boarders in their huge upstairs for years, and welcoming responsible young adults like herself into a second family. Landing a room in the Wells' house had been Sylvia's luckiest break when she'd found herself in their quiet Midwestern city just after college. The job paid enough to keep her going until she had the experience and savings to head off for one coast or the other; but the work was none too exciting and neither was the conservative local lifestyle. But the Wells and their lovely big home on Franklin Street kept her sane and happy most of the time. On her arrival in town, Sylvia had taken the smallest and cheapest room, down at the far end of the hall. Now, with over three years in the house and as the senior boarder, she had the biggest room. Facing the street and with its own private bath, it had felt like a palace to Sylvia from the very beginning and it still felt delightfully grown-up now. She kept it clean and tastefully decorated like the middle-aged woman she sometimes felt she played at work, with her books and CDs stacked neatly on the bookshelf near her queen-size bed, which was bursting with throw-pillows. A hot-plate in the corner provided for quick meals and snacks, although the boarders were allowed to use the kitchen outside Mrs. Wells' regular cooking hours; and when she got home today, the hot plate would offer the anticipation of hot cocoa and a relaxing afternoon.
A relaxing afternoon with Andy, Sylvia thought with an encouraged smile as the end of the walk drew near. Perfect weather for a seduction, that was for sure. And after all, Christmas was no time for either of them to be alone when they could be together!
Handsome Andy had lived in the room next door to hers for over a year. In his first days in the house, Sylvia had spent a Saturday afternoon showing him around the city's little downtown, nothing more than a courtesy to a new friend. But even on that first afternoon, Andy had made a delightful impression upon her. Somewhat quieter and more polite than the other guys who had come and gone at the Wells', he'd been wonderfully approachable and uncomplicated from the very start. They had spent the afternoon talking about everything and nothing, and when the brief tour was finished Sylvia had not wanted it to end. So they had gone to a café for snacks and had ended up talking until long past dark. From that promising start, their friendship had grown quite emotionally intimate before very long. Soon it was no longer limited to outings. Like a pair of schoolkids hiding out from their parents, they had talked into the night over a bottle of wine more than once, sometimes in his room, usually in hers. Their childhoods, college, career plans, when they would escape their stifling town -- by now they knew all about one another, and they trusted one another completely.
Sylvia was unsure of just when friendship had turned to infatuation and then to love for her, but there was no denying that it had. She did know when she had become fully aware of her feelings, however: last spring, when he'd brought Alicia home. Sylvia had not been jealous of the other women he had dated here and there -- after all, she was dating as well -- but Alicia had appeared on the scene just after a particularly delightful late-night conversation. All these months later, Sylvia could still recall the look of comfortable familiarity in Andy's eyes when they'd finished off the wine and he had stood to return to his room. She'd been sure of seeing her own longing reflected in his eyes, and she had very nearly given in to her longing to throw her arms around him. But they had been friends for months by then, and it had seemed only right to talk about it first. As usual, though, the words hadn't come to her, and she had settled for a demure "good night". That had been followed by the first time Sylvia had fantasized about Andy, and the night had been a long but pleasant one alone in her bed. His gentle hands on her breasts and thighs, that first thrill of seeing and being seen in the nude, the two melted into one there in her bed, and the sort of passion only best friends could know would follow...it had all been in her mind, but it had been absolutely vivid nevertheless.
The very next time she had seen him, though, was the first time Andy brought Alicia home. "Alicia, this is my best friend Sylvia," that was how Andy had introduced her, and in that moment she had resigned herself to only ever being that. Big mistake, she now knew, but Alicia was not going to vanish as quickly as the other women he had dated. Tall and leggy with fiery red hair, Alicia was gorgeous -- and Sylvia had been roped into enough outings with them to know she was also a pleasant and smart young woman. As much as she had wanted to hate Alicia, there had not been a lot to hate. The two of them had looked perfect together, too. Even Sylvia couldn't have denied that, she admitted time and again as she contented herself with watching basketball games with Mr. Wells downstairs. She always made sure to do that on days when Andy had Alicia over, so she wouldn't have to listen to the two of them getting busy in his room. That would have been unbearable, of course. Fortunately, Mr. Wells loved having her along for the games, and Sylvia had enjoyed his fatherly company in any case, though he did occasionally wonder why she didn't have better things to do on the weekends. "Lovely gal like you ought to have no trouble finding a gentleman friend, you know," comments like that were just one more thing she'd had to swallow. It was far better than being alone in her room and hearing the goings-on next door!
Through her frustration and heartbreak, Sylvia had at least succeeded at never overhearing anything in the three months Andy and Alicia had been an item. Better still, she had managed to hide her delight on the night Andy came home and announced he'd been dumped. He had cried in her arms that night -- the only time to date she had actually had her longed-for chance to hold him, and due to the occasion there had been no joy in it, but it had cemented their friendship more than ever, at least. "It just wasn't meant to be," he had said. "I don't know why she couldn't see all we could have been."
"She's a fool, Andy," Sylvia had reassured him. "Any woman who can't see what a great guy you are isn't good enough for you anyway. When you're ready, you'll have no trouble finding the right one."
"I've been telling myself that all my life," Andy had whined. "And it's never happened."
That line had been echoing in Sylvia's head ever since. The man had to open his eyes sooner or later!
Despite her tremendous relief, Sylvia had never yet taken her second chance. It hardly seemed right back when his heart was broken and he needed a friend more than a rebound, after all. But she was never sure just when that time had passed, and the right moment had never come up in the months since. She had made one halfhearted attempt. After one delightful evening back in September, Sylvia had swallowed her pride and held out her arms for an embrace -- just like she had so desperately wished she had done back before Alicia had turned up -- but Andy had laughed nervously and shaken her right hand while ignoring her left. Humiliated beneath her blithe exterior, Sylvia had never mentioned it again, nor had she tried to touch him again.
That memory gave her pause now, but Sylvia reasoned that she had most likely magnified the incident in her memory. He'd been tired and tipsy, and it had been a somewhat ambiguous gesture anyway. Besides, a man could change his mind.
As the snowstorm loomed and Sylvia made her way home, she resolved to focus on the positive; after all, there was plenty of it to focus on. The blizzard really was a blessing, as far as that went. A full day at work wouldn't have been a problem for Sylvia: she couldn't afford a car and didn't particularly want one, as she was planning to take off for New York or California as soon as she could afford to, so she always walked to and from work anyway. On that morning she had also had the foresight to wear tights and boots against the weather, so a walk home in the snow later that night would not have been disastrous for her. Indeed, a walk home in the snow and the dark would have provided an absolutely magical scene of Christmas lights throughout her journey, and Sylvia was almost sorry she wouldn't be out for that occasion. If she usually looked at her current hometown as merely a temporary and boring stop on the way to bigger and better places, Christmas was one time when she genuinely loved the place. All that small town cheer and the quaint decorations and the sense of belonging...she wouldn't have missed it for the world. All that was missing was someone to share it with, and that strengthened her resolve to finally take the bull by the horns with Andy. A walk home to that after dark and in a foot of snow would have only made that all the sweeter.
But she welcomed the afternoon off all the same. An older colleague at work had groused about being cooped up with his kids all weekend, but had conceded that this was perfect stay-inside-and-play weather. And Sylvia, who hadn't "played" in quite some time, was bursting with longing as she imagined her cozy room and Andy right next door, alone in his room. It just wasn't right for them both to be alone on a day like this! Today would be the day, she resolved as she made her chilly way up Franklin Street. Don't talk yourself out of this now, she warned herself as she approached the house. There are gentlemen, and then there are clueless boys who can't see what's right in front of them and longing for more. Andy, like it or not, is both. You'll just have to show him more clearly what's right before his eyes.
Maybe today, Sylvia thought again as she stood at last on the Wells' big front porch, cold but safe from the growing storm as she fished her keys out of her purse and kicked the snow off her boots and brushed the stray flurries off her coat and skirt. And then, as she found the key and turned it in the lock, she could feel her resolve slipping. Not much at first: why just maybe? Why continue longing without even trying? If he said no, she could say she'd tried. Wasn't that worth the risk?
The answer was as clear as the warm air and the smell of the Christmas tree and Mrs. Wells' cooking that greeted her as she stepped inside, but it was far less pleasant: if he said no, she would probably lose her best friend. But then again, it was getting so she could barely relate to him as a friend anyway, so intense were her feelings for him. If she lost him...It just didn't seem right to dwell on that just now, she concluded. It was worth a try. But as the significance of what she planned to do began to sink in, it did shake her confidence a bit. No wonder guys always got so weird about taking the first step like this. It was frightening! But the thought of ending this cold day with Andy in her arms was worth that risk and that fright.
Mr. Wells was watching football on television, but he looked up and was delighted to see Sylvia entering the living room. "Syl! Cold out there, is it?"
"You can tell, can you?" Sylvia asked as she set her purse and briefcase by the door and unbuttoned her coat.
"Your cheeks are flushed," he told her. "And weren't you awfully cold in a skirt out there?"
"No, I'm wearing tights," Sylvia reassured him as she followed his beckoning and sat beside him on the couch.
"Tights, huh? They keep you warm?"
"Very." Sylvia was silently amused -- married for over 40 years, two daughters, and Mr. Wells was still clueless about women's clothing. Well, most men were, after all. Sylvia herself had to admit that she, who wouldn't even wear a bra until she was nearly 14, had once been so clueless as well. It tickled her a bit once again to think of the dramatic transition she'd made since those days. Today found her in a crisp white blouse and a pleated gray skirt -- every inch the librarian who was just about to rip off her glasses and let her hair down to reveal the sex-kitten within, and no sign of a gal who was more than happy to join Mr. Wells for the game. But she was.
The tomboy lived on in the part of her that loved football, and Sylvia enjoyed an hour or so watching the game with Mr. Wells. He, as usual, was a bit surprised at his most loyal football companion with her fluffy dark hair and very feminine clothes, and yet she was just as enthusiastic about the game as he. Their Christmas tree, set between the television and the front window just as it had been every year for decades, kept the room awash in colors that danced on every surface as the lights blinked. Half a dozen stockings hung from the mantelpiece, now just for show since none of the Wells' children were going to be home for the holiday, but a welcoming beacon for Sylvia and the other boarders who would be there for the big day.
Sylvia didn't much care to talk about how she would be staying in town for the holidays, but naturally Mr. Wells brought it up during a commercial. "So why aren't you going home?"
Sylvia thought of her usual diplomatic lie about no time off from work, but Mr. Wells was almost like family and he deserved the truth. "Honestly, I'm just happier here. I mean, my family's great and all, but it's the same old suburb I've known all my life and it's kind of boring. Here, you know, it feels so much like a classic small town Christmas. I never had that when I was a kid and I love it!"
"Small-town, huh?" Mr. Wells asked. "Never thought of it that way, but I'm glad you're happy with it. We're certainly glad to have you here, and Andy and the others. No empty nest for us that way, you know."
"That's sweet," Sylvia replied. "Glad we can help. And yeah, I'm glad Andy's here too."
"I'll bet you are," Mr. Wells said with a chuckle just in time for the game to come back on, and Sylvia was left to blush in silence.
Mrs. Wells came by soon after with cups of tea, and Sylvia offered to help her wash up afterwards but she demurred. "Enjoy the game, dear. I'm glad somebody's keeping Mister company!"
Sylvia was glad of that too, for near the end of the game Andy appeared at the door. Sylvia, hoping it was him but not wanting to look overexcited, didn't look up from the television when she heard the door.
Mr. Wells had no such inhibitions. "Andy!" he said.
Feeling her face flush, Sylvia looked up as well, and tightened her already-crossed legs against the growing desire she wasn't quite ready to reveal. "Hi Andy," she said as demurely as she was able to. "You got out of work early too?"
"Yeah, thank God," Andy said, taking his coat off and setting it beside Sylvia's. The boarders all kept their coats upstairs; there wasn't room in the front closet for them all. "Have you seen how hard it's coming now?"
Sylvia looked up at the window. He was right, it was coming down fast and hard. And Andy looked chilly from the walk home, just as she must have an hour before. Amusingly, Andy was wearing the male counterpart of her own clothes: white Oxford shirt with a t-shirt barely visible underneath, and gray slacks with pleats. His well-coiffed sandy blond hair had flecks of snow melting gently in the warm air of the house. And his cheeks were red from the walk. How she longed to help him warm up...well, now was the time! Working up her courage, she stood up. "I was just thinking of going upstairs to make some cocoa. Want to join me?"
With the game now over, Mr. Wells stood up too. "Sounds good, kids. I think I'll go see if Mrs. Wells needs any help out there. Maybe we'll heat something up too."
Sylvia laughed at the double entendre, though she was nearly certain Mr. Wells hadn't intended it. Mrs. Wells had looked knowingly a time or two at her and Andy, but her husband hadn't that Sylvia could recall.
Andy stood nervously just inside the door, looking back and forth from Sylvia to Mr. Wells. Finally he said, "Um, sure! Yeah, cocoa'd be great. Anything to warm up."
"Couldn't agree more," Sylvia grinned at him, gathering up her purse, briefcase and coat. She followed Andy up the stairs.
"Just give me a minute to put my coat away?" Andy asked her over his shoulder.
"Sounds perfect," Sylvia agreed.
In her room, Sylvia turned on the light and dropped her coat and bags on her bed. Once again thanking goodness for having the master suite, she stepped into the bathroom and prepared for the seduction. The usual nervousness bubbled up while she was washing her hands and checking her hair in the mirror, but she knew how to beat that down. As always, just before panic began to set in, Sylvia remembered the advice of her more-worldly best friend in college: "When you take your clothes off for a guy, he isn't critiquing your body, he's thinking, 'OhmygodI'mabouttohavesex!!'" And she'd always been proven right in Sylvia's experience, she admitted to herself now. Taking a deep breath, she willed herself not to dwell on her imperfections. Stop it, she thought, almost out loud. Andy won't mind any of it. Think positive.
And positivity soon took over. Whatever her insecurities at other times, Sylvia knew, she was capable of being wonderfully uninhibited when she was aroused. And in the privacy of her bathroom, a quick check confirmed that she was quite aroused.
Sylvia had just enough time to hang up her coat and stow her purse and briefcase at the far end of her bookshelf before Andy knocked on the door. "Come in," she said, opening the curtains as she did so they would have a view of the snow that was now covering Franklin Street and everything along its way. So romantic already! She turned and stood with a shameless grin by the window as he entered the room. "I'm just sorry I don't have any Christmas decorations to show off."
"Thanks for inviting me," he said. "Hot chocolate would really hit the spot right now, huh?" He'd changed into jeans, which made Sylvia feel even more overdressed for the occasion than she already had felt. But then, if all went according to plan, neither of them would be overdressed for long.
Andy helped himself to a seat on her bed, with the casualness of a best friend. This was a good start, Sylvia thought to herself as she carried her teapot into the bathroom and filled it with water. "I always loved days like this when I was a kid," she said. "Especially at Christmastime. You can play in the snow and then come get warmed up, and all the real world problems can't even get through to you because of the storm!"