The Pay-Off Ch. 04byWhiteWave48©
This story concerns dysfunctional people, marriages and sexual relationships. It contains no graphic sex.
1 - Mike and Josette
When I agreed to go camping with my neighbors, I had no idea how revealing the experience would be. Armed with Caroline's cheeky advice, I had my eyes open to all kinds of mischief. My first day provided very little, but it did bring other pleasures. I encountered other loving relationships, all designed to highlight the joys that could have been mine with my husband.
The plan looked good from the start; Stephanie's invite couldn't have come at a better time. Life with Phil was so tense that I welcomed any chance to escape for a while. Camping out with neighbors seemed ideal.
The kids would enjoy it too. Jack and Tom would love a weekend running wild with their friends. Shell Cove, with its protected beach and grassy campsite was perfect for families - civilized and welcoming and tucked out of sight from passing boat traffic. Perhaps that's why nudists had staked a claim at the far end of the beach. It wasn't official; it was fact.
Although Phil and I were headed for divorce, we appeared to have lost our sense of direction. I was expecting him to pack his things and move out to live with Julia, but now he was hesitating. We hadn't heard from her. He was still living under the same roof with me.
Perhaps his strange behavior had something to do with the seventy thousand dollars his parents had just given us for our birthdays. I still saw it as a bribe to prevent the breakup of our marriage, but after a day or two Phil thought otherwise. Deeply distressed about their interference, he couldn't make up his mind.
I told him about the neighborhood camping weekend.
"Go... yes, go...," he said distractedly. "I don't know what I'm doing."
I phoned Stephanie on Thursday to accept. She was delighted.
"I can't answer for Phil," I said. "Cross him off your list unless you hear from him."
"Georgie, how do you feel about sailing?" she asked.
"I love it," I answered, "But there are three of us.
"That's OK. If Jack can spare a day off school, Mike and Josette are sailing their boat round to the cove tomorrow morning. They say it takes about an hour and they'll do an early run if you can be at the marina by 10:00 AM with your gear. In the afternoon they'll collect the others - except Ellen and Janet-Ann. They're putting their new SUV to the test."
I was full of admiration. The road was little more than a goat trail hacked out of the mountainside, but Janet-Ann loved a new challenge.
"Why two boat trips?" I asked, thinking of my own transport.
"Perhaps he's thinking of numbers," replied Stephanie. "Safety harnesses... who's available and when - and supplies. Mike wants to drop off a few supplies of the liquid variety. He's hoping you'll keep an eye on them."
Of course I was happy to oblige. The place was so remote and the access so difficult that I was sure to have it to myself for a few hours on a week day. In the meantime, I needed to get moving if I wanted to be ready in the morning.
Our sleeping gear and small tents were always available, so 'packing' meant clothing and edibles. If I was clever with the food I could keep it tasty but reduce the bulk - an important consideration for Mike when he rowed us from the mooring to the beach.
Somehow, all that cooking and packing kept my mind pleasantly occupied. I scarcely noticed Phil who took himself to the den for most of the evening, but when he waved us off in the morning he seemed sad. I felt worried leaving him.
Mike and Josette were all smiles as they welcomed us at the marina. They'd slept on board and breakfasted at the yacht club, so they were in good shape for a day on the water. Our camping gear looked small compared to the size of the boat. Mike stowed it below and soon we were motoring out of the marina into broader waters.
Jack and Tom enjoyed a quiet ride with me up front until we were under sail. With the water hissing beneath the hull, we rejoined Mike and Josette in the stern so we could take orders with the best. The breeze was picking up and I could feel the chill off the water in spite of the warm sun. We were seeing the last of summer.
"Mike is offering a turn at the wheel. Interested?" asked Josette, moving in beside me. "I'll keep an eye on the boys."
I looked up at Mike who gave me a cheery 'Be my guest' sign.
I told him I'd never done such a thing on a yacht before. I hadn't sailed anything bigger than a small catamaran. Mike showed me the general direction we were headed and the tack we needed to follow in order to make use of the wind.
"Have faith in the boat," he grinned. "This thing isn't like a runabout. It has a nice big keel to hold it down and it has me in charge. See?" He gave his chest a hearty thump.
"And my crew," he added with a chuckle. "I'm in charge of her too. Just keep clear of Josie when we go about."
He allowed me to get the feel of the steering before he let go. It was wonderful to feel the power of wind and water as my hair blew in the breeze, and I couldn't help smiling. My cares were swept away behind me, vanishing with the foam in our wake.
"So... Phil isn't coming?" Mike asked casually after a pause.
"No," I answered. It was time to sink or swim with this topic. "He isn't. We're separating, so it's only me this weekend - and the boys."
"I'm sorry to hear it," he responded. "I don't keep up with the latest."
"It's OK," I assured him. "Apart from Caroline, you're the first to know - from me, at least. Right now, I'm loving your boat. To hell with men!"
"Aw! You're not including me, I hope."
I realized what I'd said. He gave a chuckle and I didn't need to explain.
"If you need a shoulder, just come to Mike and Jose," he assured me as he summoned his wife for the next maneuver.
Watching Josette leap to her feet to do his bidding, I wondered what the two of them were like at home. They had no children but they liked to be uncle and auntie to a good many neighborhood kids as well as their nieces and nephews.
"Is he always like this?" I joked as Mike gave another order.
"The boss, I mean."
"Ask Mike," Josette laughed. "Mike, do you always push me around?"
Mike put on a show of fear and trembling as he pretended to lose control of the boat.
"My wife is the boss at home," he said, straightening up. "Like they say, she makes the big decisions, and..."
"My husband makes the boat decisions," Josette cut in. "He's the captain on board."
She smiled teasingly.
"But there's always the office to keep him grounded," she continued. "I don't know who is boss at work these days."
"Oh, Jade without a doubt," Mike laughed. "She has me on the run all the time."
"Jade is nineteen and pretty as well as smart. She has those older men wrapped round her little finger," Josette told me confidentially. "She's only been there six months and they're as tame as pussycats."
I so admired their ease together. They moved from office to home to boat, exchanging roles along the way. Even someone like Jade was no threat to their happiness.
Our course took us from one protected waterway to another, crossing a wide entrance to the open sea. The exhilarating oblique ride up and over the ocean swell and down the other side could have been disturbing, but I stayed on deck with my eyes firmly on the horizon. My boys were in their element, shouting into the salt spray as the boat cut through each wave.
The approach to Shell Cove was like entering Paradise. The sandy beach was situated at the end of the inlet shaped like a perfect shell, and its sheltered waters were so enticing that the area had attracted visitors for many years, despite its remote location.
At one end was a creek. A row of exotic trees lined the foreshore, their domestic order contrasting with the dense growth on the rugged hills that rose behind. Between the trees and the hills, a broad grassed camping area stretched the full length of the beach. It was well equipped with power and water, and its antique amenities building had recently been replaced by a modern structure.
Mike dropped anchor and Josette helped him load our gear into the dinghy.
"I'm used to it," said Josette, resisting my offers of help as she hoisted one of our packs into Mike's arms.
"Where do we sit?" I asked her, amazed at how Mike tucked things into corners.
"Oh, he'll fit you in somewhere," she laughed. "They all ask that question."
Mike left us on the beach with our belongings and returned to the yacht for a load of supplies, so I got busy selecting a camping spot. I had no idea which location Stephanie had in mind, so I chose a pretty area that suited me and gave a view of the beach. A barbecue was nearby; I knew we'd need that.
Now that we'd arrived, Jack and Tom were suddenly tired and in no mood to help. With the promise of a treat after lunch, I managed to persuade them to carry some of our things to the grassy platform that would become our camp for the next two nights. While they ate and Mike unloaded another boatful, I set up their tents, knowing they'd settle with their books for a while. On a day like this, Tom would certainly take a nap - maybe Jack too. They were always keen to put their tents to the test and we'd all been up before six.
"I'll be back in three or four hours," Mike called out as he pushed off in the dinghy. "You may think you're alone, but civilization is just round the corner. Your cell phone still works, and there's power on site."
Even so, I felt like a castaway as I watched him retreat and climb aboard. When their sails rounded the headland and I'd waved my last goodbye to Josette, I was standing on the beach alone. No other person was in sight.
2 - Ellen and Janet-Ann
I listened. There were no sounds of the city, not even a power boat or a plane flying overhead. All I could hear was the wind sighing in the tropical pines and the gentle slapping of tiny waves on the shore. Further along the beach, several gulls fought over a catch, but I couldn't hear them.
Approaching the water's edge again, I realized I still wore tennis shoes, wet after jumping from the dinghy. It was time I felt the sand between my toes so I pulled off the shoes and trod barefoot on the beach, sensing a new 'me' as the sand gave beneath my weight.
Perhaps it was time I stripped off all my clothes. They were symbolic of all those other layers of resistance that kept me from change. I needed a new life - a real job - a new deal for my kids. I needed to be free.
The sun was warm. The breeze had dropped. I was alone. Conditions were perfect for a nude dip in the calm waters of the bay. I knew this was partly a nudist beach, but which part? Scanning the length for sign posts, I could see none. Perhaps they were located in the camping area.
What did it matter? There was no one around on this lonely Friday afternoon - no beach inspector or park ranger to tell me what to do - so I wriggled out of my shorts and t-shirt and stood there for a moment, listening and watching.
Out in the main channel, several small yachts on full spinnaker raced across the opening to the inlet then vanished behind the distant headland. It was calm in this haven and I was still alone. I could swim naked for three hours if I wanted; Mike wouldn't make it back with a crowd of onlookers before then.
It was strange to be considering nudity on an open beach. At home I often slipped into our pool without a swimsuit. Out here it was different. As I undid my bra and let it fall to the sand, the sensation of freedom was so beautiful that I positively relished the act of removing my panties. The walk to the water was equally tantalizing. I loved the exposure - the light touch of the breeze - the knowledge that I was revealing myself to the entire world - to the universe. In short, I was feeling sexy for the first time in ages.
"At least something is working right," I thought as I sank beneath the water, taking advantage of the low swell to wet me all over. The persistent awareness between my legs confirmed my thoughts. The chill of the sea only enhanced my internal warmth.
Lazily, I swam a few strokes then turned toward the shore to check our tents. All was quiet, so I swam some more and floated awhile, looking at the sky and wondering at its vastness. If only I'd brought my snorkeling gear, but I hadn't. Not wishing to drift too far, I touched bottom and looked shoreward again.
Someone was there. I was no longer alone. Watching me, a statuesque female in tones of pale blue stood on the grass near our tents. It was Ellen Campbell.
Ellen Campbell was the most delicious female in the entire neighborhood. With a voluptuous body, golden skin and crinkly hair, she was every man's dream. One glance into the sunlit depths of those amber eyes and any man would melt.
But Ellen Campbell was off limits. Attractive as she was, Ellen was no threat to any marriage. She was already taken by Janet-Ann. Wherever Ellen went, Janet-Ann was not far behind. No man stood a chance. Their partnership was perfect.
Strangely enough, Ellen Campbell was mostly known by her full name - perhaps because it was so mellifluous, like Ellen herself. She had a voice like honey and a manner to match, moving languidly as her clothing flowed with her, her long silk scarf billowing in the air as she passed.
She'd moved closer to observe me, noting my antics with an amused smile. Her delicate scarf lifted in the breeze like a mist. She waved and I waved back.
"Care to join me?" I called.
"No," she laughed, "Too cold." I could see her dismissing the invitation with a wave of the hand.
I knew she wouldn't swim. Not yet. In water, the cultivated elements of her loveliness would melt like a meringue and she wouldn't be fit to meet her fellow campers. Although she was a natural beauty, Ellen controlled her image very carefully.
In contrast, I was painfully aware of my appearance. My wet hair clung to my head and shoulders, and if Ellen didn't move very soon, I'd be forced to walk up the beach without a stitch of clothing. What a disastrous spectacle! I was beginning to feel cold, so I'd be shivering too.
Looking at her body, perfect in its flowing skirt and clinging top, I thought of mine. It wasn't bad - best described as neat and pert - but next to Ellen it was insignificant.
I watched her kick off her sandals and step down onto the sand. With her usual grace, she walked toward me then stopped as she noticed my small pile of clothing.
"No towel," she commented, her slight foreign accent lingering seductively on the consonants. She was looking down on me. "Would you like me to fetch it for you?"
"If you wouldn't mind... yes... please...," I shivered. "It's just inside in the biggest tent. The boys are taking a nap in the smaller ones."
It was perfectly obvious that I wore nothing. Submerged in the shallows, I was covered only by the tiny breaking waves that swept the shore. The situation was ridiculous. I wasn't shy. For anyone else, I'd be on my feet and running up the beach without hesitation. For the lovely Ellen, I couldn't. I felt trapped.
Ellen half turned away then faced me again, giving me a strange little smile. She knew I'd have to stand and walk out of the water eventually. Perhaps, like me, she was wondering when I'd do it. She turned again and walked back up the beach, taking her time. I could see the famous hip swing that drove men wild.
I could have waited for her return, but the moment she took her eyes off me, I'd already decided. Without her knowledge I simply stood up, shedding water into a receding wave, and waded out of the water and up the beach, scooping my clothing into my arms along the way.
It was the right decision. Following Ellen's footsteps rapidly, I was hoping we'd arrive at the tent at much the same time. We must have looked a strange procession with me, naked and bedraggled, following the gracious Ellen Campbell in her diaphanous layers of blue.
As she leaned forward to step up onto the grassy platform, she became aware of my presence not far behind.
"Oh!" she said, beautifully surprised at the sight. "I'm so disappointed."
I laughed, clutching my clothing to my body.
"Why is that?" I asked her. Now that I was out of the water, I was feeling quite relaxed. Ellen looked great; I didn't. Who cared?
"I was hoping to see you emerge from the waves on a shell like the birth of Venus." she purred.
"I wish," I replied with a wry smile. "At least I'm wearing my birthday suit, and tomorrow is my birthday. Will that do?"
"Oh... oh...!" she breathed. "We must have a party - a birthday suit party!" Ellen often said 'oh' like that. It had the effect of making people watch her mouth if they weren't already lost in her eyes.
"We must," I agreed, dismissing the topic as we reached my tent. Locating my beach towel, I wrapped it sarong-style round my body and the two of us stood in the sunshine.
"Where's Janet-Ann?" I asked, realizing her partner must be around somewhere.
Ellen indicated the far end of the camp site. A silver SUV was slowly turning and making its way in our direction.
"She's checking the amenities so we can work out the best place to camp. Looks like you got it right first up."
"Well... this is where Mike dropped us. He seemed to know. We're near water and power."
"Wonderful!" Ellen exclaimed. "We can set up our playground away from the beach. It's a small marquee."
A marquee? My mouth dropped open in astonishment. I'd packed so little, and these two had brought a tent purely for pleasure.
Ellen laughed. "It's not what you think," she assured me. "We both love kids but we don't have any of our own. We're hoping to borrow a few of yours, if it's OK with you. Free babysitting. Would you like that?"
"The husbands will be disappointed," I smiled.
"Oh?" She raised an eyebrow.
"Denied the pleasure of your company," I explained. "You may end up with a whole lot of male helpers."
"Oh don't worry about that," she laughed. "I'll be sure to pay them a visit now and then." Ellen could be mischievous. She knew her power over men.
By this time, Janet-Ann had pulled up nearby. As she slipped down from the driver's seat and walked across to join us, she looked very relaxed in neat shorts and sandals.
"Jack and Tom would love to come and play in your marquee," I greeted her.
"But...," warned Janet-Ann with a smile, "There'll be no television or movies, just wholesome camping fun."
"Sounds good to me," I told them. "Do they call you 'auntie'?"
Ellen's eyes flew open and I almost expected another 'oh'. Clearly I'd said the wrong thing.
"I think you'll find that Ellen likes to be the fairy godmother," Janet-Ann laughed, putting her arm round her partner. "I'm the auntie."
"I'm sure my boys can deal with that," I smiled.
3 - Keith and Phil
It's amazing what children will do for a fairy or a favorite auntie. From the moment Jack heard the two women tapping on tent pegs, he was out there giving a hand. Even Tom joined in. By the time Mike and Josette dropped anchor, a pleasant, open-fronted marquee was waiting to receive its expected rush of young visitors.
The set-up seemed too good to be true. By mid afternoon, Stephanie had arrived on the boat with her two, Steve and his sister, Daniela, along with Amanda and Keith - Stephanie's next door neighbors - who brought their three girls. Lars and Kirsten drove in with two girls and a boy.
After all their hard work, Jack and Tom were already installed as senior elves; if the new arrivals were to earn any rewards in the game, they had to prove their worth as well. Every child was a camp helper. Within the first half hour of their arrival, all of them had done their chores and begged to move their tents closer to the marquee, forming a magic circle where even the boys felt the companionship.