What You See is What You GetbyAlex De Kok©
"Look, honey, your Uncle Joe and me, well, we're going to the beach. Wanna come along?"
Anne smiled at the older woman, touched by the obvious concern. "I'll be fine, Aunt Margaret. Honest. I'll read a little, just enjoy the break."
"Anne, sweetheart, you've hardly been out since you got here, and that's over a week ago. You can't hide from the world forever, you know."
Stung, Anne was about to make a sharp retort when she stopped. Aunt Margaret was right, it was time to come out of hiding. Besides, no-one knew her here, halfway across the country. She nodded. "You're right, of course. But then you always are."
"Which is why your mom asked me to invite you to stay for a while, because I'm always right. Well, usually," she said with a sideways look at her husband, who merely smiled. "Come on, enjoy some sun and sea air. Yes?" There was only care and concern in Margaret's face.
Anne smiled. "Okay. It is time I showed my face." At least, I can now, I think; I'm not sure I could when I arrived. Emotional wreck is putting it mildly, after the destruction job that soon-to-be ex-husband of mine did.
"If you're certain, then get your things and we'll be off."
"I'm sure. Let's go! I'll just get my bikini." Although whether I'll actually dare to wear it, I don't know, she thought, missing the expression which flitted across her aunt's face.
The drive took only twenty minutes, the narrow access road twisting through the birch and pines, and they were there. Anne felt the color drain from her face and a trembling deep within her.
"A nude beach! Aunt Margaret, is this your idea of a joke, because if it is, I don't find it funny." Anne was fighting to keep the tears she could feel in her eyes from falling.
Margaret shook her head, her look concerned, reaching for Anne's hand and squeezing her fingers. "Not a joke, hon, definitely. Your mom told us about Don, and what he said. None of it true, of course, we know that. No, Anne, we brought you here for a purpose. Hush, hon, I won't be long.
"Your Uncle Joe and I have been coming here for nearly two years, now, and we wished we'd started years ago." Margaret gave her niece a wry look. "Not that there were beaches like this back then, but there were places naturists could go."
"Why?" said Anne.
"Do you remember Tony and Rosa?"
"They brought us. They said we'd be embarrassed at first, feel like we stood out, would maybe feel ashamed of our bodies, but that after an hour or two, after we'd seen how relaxed and natural everyone was, we'd enjoy ourselves." Margaret laughed. "Anne, honey, there's no power dressing when all you have is your skin! No clothes to hide the woman - or man - within. What you see is very much what you get, and you can concentrate on the person, not the shell."
There was a long silence. "She's right, sweetheart," said Joe.
Anne gave her uncle a wry smile. "Maybe she is, but I'd never have the nerve."
"You'll never know unless you give it a try, Anne, but there's a reason we brought you today."
"There is? You mean apart from scaring me shitless, pardon my French."
Margaret laughed. "Yes, apart from that."
"Do you know what today is?"
"Today? July fourteenth. What about today?"
"It's National Nude Day."
"National Nude Day? You're joshing me!"
Margaret shook her head. "No way, hon, it's National Nude Day, and the club here have a special promotion. Bona-fide members, that's me and your Uncle Joe, we can take a guest in, and that guest can keep his or her clothes on. The club asks only that you wear a yellow ribbon on your wrist while you're here, to show that you are a genuine guest. You can see what it's like without going naked. We find that most guests strip within the first hour. A few, a very few, leave and we never see them again."
Margaret smiled. "We brought Todd, Julie and the twins last year. I think it took them about fifteen minutes. Julie was rather embarrassed at first, because she was expecting Lisa at the time, but there were at least three other pregnant women here, all further on than Julie, and that convinced her. I think the four of them chatted for an hour, comparing horror stories probably, but they laughed a lot. The twins, of course, thought it was great."
So cousin Todd had been, had he? There was another silence, until Anne sighed. "I can leave?"
"Whenever you want. You can take our car, we'll get a ride from someone."
"I don't have to go naked?" She was weakening, she knew, but suddenly she wanted to see for herself.
"Not unless you want to, sweetheart. Well, today, anyway. Normal rules again from tomorrow. Guests are expected to strip any other day."
"Okay, let's go. Sorry, Aunt Margaret, but I'm putting my bikini on."
"Fine, sweetheart. Come on, the ladies' changing is this way. We'll see you inside, Joe."
Five minutes later, Anne was seeing a nudist beach from the inside. Very much like any other seaside beach, except that, apart from Anne and two or three others, everyone was naked. And it was equally clear to her that not everyone had the perfect bodies she might have expected. Far from it. There were all shapes and sizes, of both sexes, all obviously relaxed and comfortable with themselves. It was obvious to her very quickly that her aunt and uncle were liked and respected, because at a conservative count she'd been introduced to at least twenty people in the first fifteen minutes. Twenty naked people, twenty people who obviously felt comfortable in their skin, who took no notice of Anne's bikini, and who were just as polite and cheerful as Anne would expect if she'd been introduced to them in a shopping mall, with everyone fully clothed. They found a quiet spot and settled down, and Anne had a chance to look around. Nobody was paying them the slightest attention, and Anne found herself relaxing.
"Well?" said Margaret, her tone soft. Anne looked at her, really looked at her, and Margaret smiled. "Yes, hon, it's the real me. Drooping boobs, pot belly and all."
Anne laughed. "You're exaggerating." Yes, her aunt's breasts had dropped a little; yes, there was a softness around her midriff, but she could still turn heads, could Aunt Margaret. And a sly peek confirmed that Uncle Joe's prick could give a girl a good time. She looked around again, and then back at her aunt and uncle, seeing nothing but love and warmth in their look. "I'm being silly, aren't I?" Margaret shrugged, smiling, and Anne laughed. "Yes, I'm being silly." She stood, and in seconds had stripped off her bikini, before settling back down beside her aunt and uncle. Margaret nodded, smiling, and Joe reached across to squeeze her fingers.
"You look good, sweetheart."
"But it isn't hard to see I'm new, is it?" said Anne, gesturing to the pale areas on her breasts and bottom.
"Cottontail, we call it," said Margaret.
Anne giggled. "Yes, that one I understand."
"It soon disappears, love, if you keep coming."
That had been a year ago, and disappear it had, her tan smooth and even, without the pale areas now. She was staying with her aunt and uncle again, surprised and touched to find they'd given her a membership of the club as a birthday present. Again it was July 14, National Nude Day, a Saturday this time, so the beach was busier, and her divorce had been final for seven months. The days she'd spent on the nude beach last time had done wonders in restoring her self-esteem, the obviously admiring looks from some of the other members - mostly the men but she'd caught a few looks from other women - going a long way to restoring confidence almost wrecked by her ex-husband's derision, and a well-deserved promotion at the college where she taught had more or less finished the task. The fact that her ex-husband was still at the college as football coach no longer bothered her, as their paths seldom crossed.
Margaret and Joe had a prior engagement, promising to join her later, so Anne had come to the Hay Cove nude beach by herself, determined to shed her clothes for National Nude Day, the first anniversary of her public revelation. The prospect of possibly coming back every day for three weeks during her vacation trip pleased her, but she knew she owed her aunt and uncle for more than a mere membership gift. Their love and foresight had given her back herself.
She'd made friends with some of the members on her last stay with Margaret and Joe, one of them being the club receptionist, Kitty, a bubbly redhead whose personality always made Anne smile, and whose whoop of delight on seeing her left no doubt she was pleased to see her.
"Anne! You came back!"
"You mean you doubted me, Kitty? Shame on you," said Anne, hugging the other girl.
"Naah, I never doubted you, just didn't know when 'next time' was going to be. How long are you staying? "
"Three weeks with Aunt Margaret and Uncle Joe, then a week back home trying to find a new apartment.
"You should move out here. More time for the beach."
"True, but I prefer it as an occasional treat. I'm scared I might turn into an ageing beach bunny if I move."
Kitty laughed. "That's an image to treasure!"
"Many guests in today, Kitty?"
"About a dozen or so." She made a face. "Including some college football jocks who were acting like assholes before they even went onto the beach."
"Gary here?" said Anne, fighting a grin.
Kitty laughed. "Yeah, he is. I don't think anyone needs to worry about some asshole jocks with him around."
"Do you know, Kitty, it's a year to the day since Aunt Margaret persuaded me to come here. She said I'd probably strip off like most of the others did, and she was right. She said most people lasted less than an hour. I think I had my bikini on for a grand total of approximately twenty-seven minutes."
"And never regretted taking it off?"
Anne nodded. "And never regretted taking it off, yes."
"Anne? Tom and I, we're giving a party tonight. Only a dozen, for a barbecue dinner, but all couples except for my cousin, Tad. He just left the Air Force. Staying with Tom and me for a couple of weeks. Would you make the numbers up and be his partner for dinner?"
"Me? Are you sure?"
"Anne, he doesn't really know many people here except me and Tom. I think he's about your age, a little older, maybe, and I promise you he's taller than you!"
Anne laughed. At five feet ten she knew she looked better with a taller escort. She hesitated.
"Please?" said Kitty.
"Just dinner and chatting?"
Kitty smiled. "That's all I'm asking. Anything else has to be negotiated between you and Tad, okay?"
Anne laughed. A chance between slim and zero. "Okay, Kitty. I'll make the numbers up, just for you."
"Thanks, Anne. I owe you. You remember where we live?"
"I think I can find it again," Anne said, smiling.
"Seven-thirty, for eight o'clock dinner. Okay? Dress casual, Anne, smart but casual. Although, with your figure, you'd make any rag look smart."
"Yeah, right," said Anne, her tone dry, and Kitty laughed.
"You would," she said, and held her hands up as Anne made to speak. "But I'll say no more." Some more people had come in behind Anne and Kitty moved away to attend to them. "See you later."
Anne waved and made her way to the ladies' changing area, emerging onto the beach moments later wearing only a smile, and a feeling of coming home. She made her way along to her favored place, near a little cluster of pines. Quiet, because it was a little away from most of the action, it suited Anne. Margaret and Joe, too, because it was their favorite place as well. She spread her towel, set up the folding lightweight backrest she'd brought, and took out her sunblock, beginning to spread it over her arms, moving on to her breasts.
The jeering voice had an unwelcome familiarity. "Well, looky here, boys. How's that for a pair of jugs? Scarcely enough for a martini, never mind a beer."
"Fuck off, asshole," said Anne, her tone even, turning to gaze calmly at her ex-husband, noting with a detached amusement the surprised anger on his face at her retort.
"Hey, you can't talk like that to the coach, bitch," said one of his companions, a husky youth, presumably one of the football jocks Kitty had mentioned. Two of the three other youngsters nodded agreement, glowering at her, but the fourth looked uncomfortable.
"Why not?" said Anne. "It's the only language he understands." She was wary, but she was mad, too, although it didn't show. "You might have noticed I didn't use words with more than two syllables."
"Fuckin' bitch, you think you're funny, don't you?" The sneer would have cracked his face if it got any wider.
"Funny? No. Why would I want to be funny? To amuse gutter rats like you? Grow up, little boy." Out of the corner of her eye she saw Don's face darkening, and got ready to run. She'd already had far too much of his temper. The one who'd sneered stepped forwards aggressively, but she surprised him by stepping forwards, her fists clenched, a rage building in her. Sneer-face stopped, startled, but she felt her arm taken and she was thrown down onto the sand.
Don loomed over her, his face dark with anger. "You don't treat my boys like that, bitch," he hissed. "For that I'm going to teach you another lesson." He raised his hand to hit her, when a new voice broke in. Calm, unhurried.
"Touch her and I'll break your arm."
The tension was sudden and absolute. The newcomer was tall, lightly built, poised, unblinking gaze fixed on Don, who stared back at him, a smile slowly spreading over his face. "You and which army?"
Anne recognized the new voice. "We don't need no army. Leave this beach now, walking, and don't come back. Or you can be carried off. Your choice." Gary Adana's voice was calm, unhurried, no threat in his tone, merely a statement of fact, but at six feet seven and about three hundred pounds, none of it fat, he didn't get many arguments. Muttering, casting angry looks back, the coach and his four jocks trudged away. Anne was momentarily amused to notice that none of the five had gained the nerve to strip.
Gary turned to her. "You okay, Anne?"
She nodded. "Fine, Gary, thanks. Embarrassed more than anything."
"You know that guy?"
She made a face. "Yeah, but I wish I didn't, not any more."
Gary stared at her for a moment, then nodded. "I'll just make sure they leave. Coming?" he said to the other man, who nodded, gave Anne a smile, and the two men moved off after the retreating jocks. Anne was momentarily disconcerted to realize that the stranger was only a couple of inches shorter than Gary. But a lot lighter. Nice ass, too.
"Anne, honey. You okay?" The speaker was a slender, older woman, her face concerned.
Anne forced a smile. "Fine, Jenny, fine."
Jenny nodded. "If you're sure." She nodded and turned away, and Anne was suddenly aware of several other members moving away, realizing that, had Don started anything, it would have been stopped very quickly. Movement caught her eye, and she looked towards the entrance to see Margaret and Joe hurrying towards her.
"Anne! Are you all right?"
"Fine, Aunt Margaret."
"Was that, um, Don?"
Anne nodded. "It was," she said, her answer clipped, toneless.
Her Aunt Margaret was no fool and could tell that Anne wasn't going to say anything. Instead, she smiled. "Kitty tells me you're invited to a party."
Relieved at the change of subject, Anne laughed. "Yeah, purely to make the numbers up. Call it a blind date. I know who my partner is, Kitty's cousin, Tad, but I've never met him." Margaret opened her mouth to speak but then shut it again.
"Nothing, honey. You enjoy the party. You probably will, Kitty's good fun."
Anne spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, enjoying good company, sunshine, sea air. Reading a little, swimming a little, chatting a little, the time passed quickly, and at six-thirty they were home.
"I'll take a shower," said Anne, "and then get changed. If I remember correctly, Kitty's place is within walking distance, isn't it?"
"About four blocks," said Joe. "Don't worry, I'll give you a ride. If it's late and you don't have an escort, give me a ring and I'll pick you up, too."
"Uncle Joe, you're a sweetie," said Anne, kissing his cheek.
He hugged her. "It's easy to be for you, hon."
Seven-thirty, and Anne was dropped off at Tom and Kitty's by her uncle. "I won't come in, hon. Kitty will want to play hostess, and I'm not the guest. I'll just wait until you're in. Don't forget, ring me if you want a ride back."
"Will do, Uncle Joe. See you later, maybe." Kitty must have been watching, because the door swung open as she approached it, and Kitty was waiting for her. Anne turned and waved, and Joe waved back before driving off.
"Hi, Anne, come on in and meet everyone."
Which turned out to be relaxed and easy, as Anne had met most of the other couples before, most of them at the nude beach. Only one couple were strangers, John and Clara, and they soon made Anne welcome.
"Tad's helping Tom with the barbecue," said Kitty. "Or rather, he was. Tad," she called, "I'd like you to meet Anne Jens. Anne, this is my cousin, Tad McCann."
Anne turned, a smile ready on her lips, a smile which broadened as she recognized her rescuer from the beach.
"Hi, again," she said.
"Again?" said Kitty.
Anne smiled. "He rescued me from some unpleasantness at the beach this morning."
"I think Gary deserves the credit for that."
She shook her head. "He was back-up. You spoke first."
Tad smiled. "True, but Gary was the persuader, don't you think?"
"You were both gallant gentlemen who rescued a damsel in distress."
"Looks like you two don't need an icebreaker," said Kitty. "Excuse me, I need to organize some salad." She hurried away.
"Tell me I'm prying if you like," said Tad, "but I had the feeling you knew each other?"
Anne grimaced, and she could feel the distaste. "You mean me and the oaf on the beach?"
"Not the kid, the older man."
"My ex-husband," she said, her voice cold.
Tad nodded. There was a pause. "We say no more?"
Anne smiled. "Please."
"Okay, so tell me about yourself."
"Because I'm curious."
"I thought that was supposed to be a female trait," Anne said, laughing.
Tad shrugged, smiling. "Maybe I have cat genes."
"Okay, I'm twenty-seven, my teeth are my own, my hair really is this color, and I teach at a small mid-west college, where my ex-husband is the football team coach. Our paths rarely cross, thank goodness."
"What do you teach?"
"Oh, of course. Medieval and Elizabethan poetry, and creative writing." Anne grinned. "I tend not to have football jocks in my classes."
Tad laughed. "Interesting mix of subjects."
Anne smiled. "They suit me. It's fun bringing the use of words in poetry, into a discussion on modern authors. 'Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite'," she quoted.
"'Fool,' said my Muse to me, 'look in thy heart, and write'," said Tad with a grin.
"You know Sidney?" said Anne, surprised.
"Only that one sonnet, to be honest. It stuck in my head in high school and wouldn't go away."
"He's one of my Elizabethan poets, along with Shakespeare, of course, Spenser, Aphra Behn - "
"Ah, the first recognized woman playwright."
Anne laughed. "Ex-Air Force, huh. What are you, a warrior-poet, like Sidney?"
Tad shrugged. "Just because I fly airplanes doesn't mean I can't have poetry in my soul."
"True, I guess. Okay, I've told you about me. What about you?"
"Not a lot to tell. Graduated from college at twenty-two, and went straight into the Air Force. Nine years service, and I was discharged a month ago. So I'm thirty-one, currently unemployed, and bumming accommodation for a week or two from my cousin, Kitty, who told me she had a lovely, lady guest coming tonight who I really should meet."