VS Ch. 03

bygossog©

DENISE ZELLNER
LOS SANTOS, CALIF.
JUNE

Here's how it started, at least for me. I was actually one of the first, even before Kathy and Barbara.

They want me to tell what happened that day as I experienced it, without filling in all the things we figured out later. My story is just one piece in a big (and still incomplete) puzzle.

It was a Saturday afternoon, the first weekend after my high school graduation. It was the first scorching hot day of the year, where the weather seemed to say "It's summer now, get used to it." Hot enough to be uncomfortable, unless you had the luxury of having no plans at all, and could put on a swimsuit, walk into the back yard, and settle down with an iced tea and a trashy paperback. That's what I was doing.

I had my phone with me, just in case, thinking I might hook up later with our group: my best friend Wendy (friends since soccer camp, ten years ago); Erin, who was going to UCI with Wendy; and Diane, who knew Erin at first before we all met. Diane was the oldest of us, almost 22, also at UCI. Her parents were loaded and she lived in this huge house in a gated community up in the foothills. We all had been hanging out together since Christmas break, and even though I wasn't starting college until next year, I never felt like I didn't belong.

About 3 pm, Wendy called. "Hey, D, whatcha doing?"

"Nothing!" I said. It sounded kind of defiant. "It feels great!"

"'Nothing', like staring at the walls, nothing?"

"Actually, laying out." I turned over my book to check the cover. "Reading 'Surrender to Passion.'"

"Sounds boring," she said. We knew we could razz each other, and often did. "Want to do something better?"

"Like what?"

"Go to Diane's and take a dip in her pool. She's inviting us."

"Sure!"

"How soon can you be ready? I'll pick you up."

"What do I need to bring?"

"Just your swimsuit. She's got towels and everything."

"Then I'm ready right now!"

"See you out front," she said.

I had been to Diane's before, but only at night, and never in her pool. No doubt it would be spectacular. Anyway, the sun had gotten hot and I was really looking forward to cooling off.

When I got back inside, the doorbell rang; Wendy was already here. She must have called as she was pulling in the driveway.

"Mom, I'm going with Wendy to Diane's," I called out. Mom had met them both, and had no problem with me going. We both knew that next year in college, she wouldn't have any say.

Wendy was wearing a blue bikini top and a sarong wrapped around her waist. "You're looking fine," I teased, sashaying out the door.

"You're all set for the Olympic finals," she said, smirking.

She had me there. I was wearing a one-piece red swimsuit that was pretty modest. It bared my upper back, going down about halfway, but only had a little bit of a scoop neckline in front. Even so, I would catch guys sneaking a peek, especially if I bent forward. But it wasn't a big attention-getter. Made for swimming instead of tanning.

I actually liked it that way. After years of playing soccer, going on hikes and other "tomboy" stuff, I got a late start at doing "girly" stuff. Wendy says my body developed into a woman's before my mind did. Even at 18 I preferred the functional one-piece suit over a flamboyant bikini. It seemed more honest. More like me.

Erin was already there when we arrived at Diane's, and they greeted us with glasses of white wine. I wasn't used to drinking wine without a meal; I sipped a little bit as Diane ushered us through to the pool, and then put it aside. The pool was gorgeous, like what you'd find at a resort, surrounded by a curving tiled wall, veranda, and large deck with deluxe lounge chairs.

The water was just the right temperature: a little chilly until you got used to it. Wendy dove underwater a few times; I watched her blue bikini ripple and blur as she reached the deep end. Erin wore a white one that showed off her curves. She was content to just lean against the wall and watch us swim. Diane wore this sleek white one-piece with a deep neckline and almost no sides. When wet, it turned transparent. "I can't wear this outside the house," she laughed. I couldn't picture myself wearing it anywhere. I would have been terrified.

The other three stayed in with me for a while, then dried off and stretched out on the lounge chairs.

I swam underwater, enjoying the respite from the world above. The water must have been 12 feet deep at the end; I let myself drift down until my ears hurt. I could imagine I was flying, making lazy circles under the clouds. After a while, I was ready for some sun, and climbed out. I just stood there, water dripping off me, forming a puddle by the ladder. The scene before me showed that there were a few things about my friends I didn't know.

Wendy was asleep, or just resting her eyes, lying on her back. Her bikini top was on the deck next to her, looking like a spilled drink. We'd been friends for years, and I had never seen her topless. She was slim, and her breasts were small, unlike mine. She had slight tanlines, not much of a tan yet. Her bikini bottom looked very small compared to all the exposed skin. I hoped she had put on sunscreen.

Erin was walking back from the kitchen with some water bottles. She had also taken off her top, and seemed entirely at ease like that. She had an enviable figure I couldn't help comparing to mine. I have a good-sized chest, and I've always been physically fit; but she had those subtle differences, those curves in just the right places, that made a big difference. She could totally turn heads at the beach.

"Oh, thank you," Diane said, taking a bottle. She was sitting upright, and she had taken everything off. Her legs were apart; she didn't bother hiding anything. She behaved like being naked outside was no big thing. I'd had no idea she was into this.

She must have noticed me staring. "Denise, are you OK? It looks like you saw a ghost!"

"Aren't you worried people will see you like that?" Neighboring houses had second-floor windows with a view. I glanced up, but saw only reflections of a cloudless sky.

"Not really. The whole community really values privacy. That's why you have the gates and fences and big houses. Most of the neighbors don't even know each other."

I toweled off and laid down. From our chairs, we had a great view of the hills over the fence. Someone out there would be able to see in, too.

"It's pretty secluded," said Erin. "Except for the high school kid next door. He's looking out from between his curtains. I think he has a crush on Diane."

"Where?" I said, looking up, and she laughed. "Just kidding," she said. "Playing with you."

I forced a laugh. "It's okay."

"I guess you're not very adventurous, are you?"

"I'm not chicken," I wanted to clarify. "I'm just not much for being naked outside."

"Have you fooled around with guys yet?" she asked.

"A few times. But... I want it to be special. You know... not just with anyone." I shrugged, unable to think of a really succinct way of putting it. I wasn't entirely happy with this line of questioning.

"Well, good for her," Diane announced. "I have a niece, only 13 years old, and she wants to dress like Paris Hilton already, with makeup, miniskirt and crop top. That's way too young, you know?"

I didn't like being compared to a 13-year-old; and anyway, this was a funny comment to hear from a woman sitting there nude. But I liked Diane a lot. She was just 3 years older than me, but had a lot more wisdom than the rest of us. If I had a really cool big sister, she would be like Diane.

Erin had somewhat of an edge to her, sometimes stirring up mischief, though I wouldn't say she was mean. It's just that Diane looked out for people more.

Wendy was a friend from way back, but I could feel us drifting apart a little. Going to different colleges would change things unavoidably. She used to play soccer with me, and we would go walking in the woods when either one of us was feeling stressed. One summer my parents invited her to come along with us to Maui.

She was standing up now, and peeled off her bikini bottoms. She had either trimmed or waxed, because her pubic hair was a thin strip. Naked, she sat back down and closed her eyes again. I wondered if she had been doing this for a long time, but I didn't want to ask in front of the others.

We stayed there for the rest of the afternoon, talking about various things and just relaxing. I tried not to stare at their bodies, but it was hard not to look. Diane had a model's body, slender with small breasts, and a refined face with fine blonde hair. Wendy had a similar body, but looked more like the cute girl next door: a few freckles, pert nose, and wavy brown hair.

I hoped they didn't expect me to strip too. I didn't want to. But I was starting to feel peer pressure, and starting to feel like the little kid in the group.

Eventually the topic of what to do that night came up, and none of us had really made plans. Diane suggested that we go run our suits through a quick wash, then go home and change, and go downtown for dinner. That sounded great, and we went inside.

Erin stepped out of her bikini bottom on the patio steps. All three were naked now, and they walked over to the laundry room carrying their swimsuits. I wanted to ask where the bathroom was, so I could strip in private and then put on a towel. But I hesitated, worried I would sound like a prude (or worse, a little kid), and then I had to follow them anyway so I could ask. By then they were already dropping their suits in the washer. Now my request would sound silly since I was already there.

I stood there for a moment until Diane said, "Denise, go ahead."

I pulled at the straps of my suit gingerly, freeing my shoulders.

"Don't worry," Diane said. "It's just us."

The last thing I wanted to do was make a scene, to stand out. I braced myself, like preparing to rip off a band-aid, and peeled off my suit quickly. I dropped it in and tried to act casual instead of self-conscious.

"Hey, she's hot," said Erin, grinning, checking me out. Diane shot her a quick stern look: don't tease.

I still wanted to get a towel. Even with my friends, inside, where no one could see; even though they were all naked too; I instinctively wanted to cover up.

The phone rang in the kitchen. We could see it from where we stood. Diane walked over and took the call. I couldn't conceive of doing what she did, just standing against the countertop, naked, with a huge sliding glass door and window behind her. I would have felt like I was in a fishbowl.

"I wonder who it is?" Wendy whispered.

"Gotta be a boyfriend," Erin said. "Look at the way she's talking to him."

"If he had any idea there were four naked chicks here, he'd drop the phone and drive over," Wendy joked.

I felt a hand on my bottom: Erin's. "Cute butt," she whispered, teasing again. I wanted to move forward, but Wendy was blocking me. Another inch, and my boobs would be pressing into her back. I didn't want that. I squirmed to the side, but Erin kept her hand there. I was basically trapped.

Diane spoke animatedly, twirling her hair, laughing, sitting on a stool, then hopping off. She seemed to be much more absorbed in the conversation than her surroundings. What surprised us was when her free hand drifted between her legs and then stayed there. Gently tapping and stroking, with the tips of her fingers. Had she forgotten we were here? I was finding out so many things about my friends that it seemed I didn't even know them anymore.

Maybe she had told him what she was wearing, or not wearing, and their talk had taken an erotic turn. "Oh my god, look!" Erin whispered. It looked like Diane was about to insert a fingertip inside. Then she saw us, glared at us, and turned away. We could only see from the back, but it seemed like she was still doing it. Now I was feeling a little uncomfortable. Was she mad at me? Were we intruding? Should we go?

Erin was still teasing me, kind of tickling I guess, her fingertips gently stroking the curves where my butt joined my upper thigh. I wasn't really ticklish there; just a little bit, I guess, but mainly the sensation was making me shiver instead of laugh. She was totally invading my personal space. She was very surreptitious about it; Wendy and Diane wouldn't have noticed.

Diane hung up and turned toward us, smiling. I guess she never stayed upset for long. Or maybe it was the news she had: Her boyfriend had a block of extra tickets to see the Grey Caps that night! All of us could go if we wanted. That settled our plans for the night in a hurry.

I guess I should talk a little about the Caps. They were red hot now, but years from now people might wonder who I was talking about.

Tickets to the Grey Caps were impossible to get. They had the number one selling CD, single, ringtone, download, school lunch box, everything. Their songs had this menacing, suggestive groove; even the songs that were not about sex were still about sex. And there were these strange rumors swirling around the Caps, too: bizarre stuff like them not really being human, not eating, not even breathing. Like mushrooms. How could stuff like that persist? I mean, how can you sing if you don't breathe?

Much of their fame or infamy came from the "Underground" video. It was shown on TV exactly once, on a Saturday midnight premiere on MTV. The uproar was so huge that all the stations were saying they could no longer play it. (You can still see it, though; It's all over the Internet.)

The video wasn't really groundbreaking: just the four Caps playing a house party, with concert scenes, dancing and stuff. There must be a billion videos like that. But in "Underground," all the dancing women, all the girls at the party, were naked, head to toe. Their naughty bits were digitally censored, not with pixel blurs, but old-fashioned black bars that covered up just what they needed to. Each girl had a narrow horizontal bar at her breasts, basically from one nipple to the other, and a little square between her legs. In order not to reveal anything they shouldn't, these bars moved in near-perfect sync with the girls as they danced.

That was probably bad enough for the conservative groups. But the bars were only used when the camera had a frontal view. If a girl was shown from the back, nothing was covered, so there were lots of bare bottoms. Even from the side view, the girls weren't censored, so you did spot some bare breasts, but only partially.

My lab partner confessed he had fallen in love with "the Asian girl" in the video, and that if I watched it, I'd know which one he meant. I basically told him that telling me this creeped me out, so he stopped. He might still be searching the net, trying to find out who she is. The totally uncensored version of the video, if it exists, is a holy grail for most of the guys. As far as I've overheard, no one has found it.

Wendy had the video sitting on her hard drive, so we looked through it. The Asian girl showed up, and yes, I kind of remembered her. She was in a group of three. She was seen first from the back, swiveling her bare bottom, her long hair swishing side to side. She looked over her shoulder and turned a little, and she was definitely flirting with the camera. No wonder the guys liked her. She moved into a side view, even a little toward the front, and still nothing was censored. Her large breasts swayed up and down. Her hard nipples were the color and size of chocolate bonbons; probably just as tasty for guys. As she twisted, you could often see both, though still from mainly a side view. A few times, we saw a flash of black pubic hair, as her hips rotated to just the right position, and it was still not covered. It seemed the producer was deliberately being careless with this girl. Only when she turned fully to the front, and started dancing toward the camera, did the black bars finally flicker on.

We agreed this was totally unfair: where were the buck-naked men? And why, when the video lingered on the bodies of these hot young women, did we never really get a good look at the Caps themselves? We didn't really know what they looked like.

Still, we absolutely wanted to go to that concert. You should have seen us hugging and high-fiving when Diane said she had tickets for us.

We would have to go pretty soon, though. Diane brought Erin's and Wendy's bags, and they changed into street clothes.

"Denise, you didn't bring clothes?" Diane said.

"Nope. All I have is the suit, and it's in the wash!"

She thought for a second, and said, "I've got just the thing for you." She brought me a huge white towel, even bigger than a beach towel, lusciously soft and smelling fresh out of the dryer. "You can wear this in the car, and we'll drop you off at your house."

I wrapped it around me, and it covered from my shoulders almost to my ankles; I had never seen a towel this big. And it felt delicious against my skin. I demanded to know where it was from, but she didn't know; her parents had purchased a set somewhere in Europe.

Wendy drove back alone to run a quick errand, and Erin and I rode in Diane's Mercedes. It was luxurious and roomy, and with the sumptuous towel it seemed like I was getting limo service to a spa. Diane took another call, and this one was short. Afterward, she asked if it was OK if we picked up two guys on the way. She said I would know Rob, one of them. I didn't like that; the boys would be sitting with me in the back, and I was still naked under this towel. I asked if she could drop me off first.

"Actually, we're going over to Erin's and then the concert. It's on the way. She has some clothes that should fit you." I didn't want to insist on being the wet blanket, so I went along with it. At Rob's house, I stayed in the car while Diane went to their front door.

I recognized Rob from a few years ago; he had been a senior in band when I was a freshman. He had grown into a pretty handsome man. Terry was the other guy, and he looked about 25. Terry took the left seat, Rob the right, with me in the middle. Terry offered a handshake and I had to maneuver an arm out of the voluminous folds of towel protecting me. I could tell he was wondering what I had on underneath. Well, none of his business. I didn't like him much already.

To put him aside, I talked to Rob instead, catching up on news about some friends we had in common. He said he was majoring in sports therapy. Erin overheard this and said, "He gives a greeeat shoulder massage. You ought to have him do you."

"No, no thanks," I said.

"It's pretty chaste," Rob said. "The goal is to loosen and strengthen muscles around the neck and shoulders, not to seduce a person. Teammates give them to each other, and you don't have to have clothes off. I mean, you could leave the towel on."

"Oh, Rob, admit it," said Erin. "The best massage is where the woman is naked, you're naked, and you have a happy ending." Diane tossed a lightly scolding "Erin!" her way.

Rob was getting defensive. "It's really not that way! Denise, here, turn your back to me. If at any time it hurts or you feel uncomfortable, just say stop."

I felt boxed in again. I didn't want to turn down something that seemed so reasonable. And I told myself I could always say "stop" later.

I didn't want to look at Terry head-on, so I inched closer to Rob and then faced diagonally, toward the driver's seat. He started very gently, so that it almost felt that the towel itself was doing the work.

After a while he added pressure, working with his thumbs and palms, and I had to admit, doing a really good job. I didn't realize how tight my muscles were, but I could feel them relaxing under his touch. He never touched bare skin; he only worked through the towel. I felt warmth around my shoulders and neck, just as if I were back in the sun.

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