A Long Way from HomebyCharlieB4©
G'day All and Happy New Year,
Yep, I've finally got around to finishing another story. Hope you enjoy it.
Thanks to John, who took time out in a very difficult period for his family, and Alvalanche for their help editing. I couldn't have done it without you.
All characters are the result of my overactive imagination.
I walked from room to room checking to make sure everything was all right. I knew it was, that's all I'd been doing since I got up, but one last look wouldn't hurt. Finally satisfied that the job was done I checked my watch. 1.55pm. They'd said they hoped to be here by 2 so any time now I could expect the doorbell to ring.
Stopping by the hallway mirror I checked my hair and reapplied some lipstick. I took a moment to appraise myself. 'Not bad for fifty,' I thought. The hint of grey had been banished by a visit to the salon. A few lines but I wasn't going to subject myself to the needle. Yes I used creams and tried to limit my exposure to the sun but Botox was a step too far.
"What time are they supposed to be here?" Tom, my husband, called from the kitchen.
"They said 2 so anytime now," I replied as he walked into the hallway where I was standing.
'Damn' I thought looking at him as he moved towards me. 'Men are so lucky. A hint of grey and a few lines only makes them look better.' I thought. Tom smiled broadly as he got close. He moved behind me and wrapped his arms around my body, hugging me tight.
"You look gorgeous as always," he gushed as his head appeared in the mirror over my shoulder and he nuzzled my neck.
"And you're a great liar." I said, leaning back against his firm body and pulling his arm's even tighter around me
We stayed like that for a moment, enjoying the closeness.
"Are you nervous?" Tom asked.
"Fucking petrified," I grunted. "Why did I agree to this again?"
"Because you are a nice person," Tom mumbled as he nibbled on my ear.
"Even nice people don't invite their husband's old flame to stay for the night."
"She's hardly an old flame. I only stayed with her for two weeks, thirty years ago."
"You fucked her for two weeks, thirty years ago." I corrected him.
"She is coming with her husband." Tom countered. "You're just jealous." He whispered as he tried to slide his hands up higher towards my breasts.
"So what if I am." I pouted as I fought to keep his groping hands at bay.
"Hey, they'll only be here twenty hours and in a week they'll be twenty thousand miles away back in Australia." Tom said as he gently turned me around so I was facing him in our embrace. "Beside she's probably fat and frumpy now."
"I'm friends with her on Facebook. She's not fat and frumpy."
"Photoshopped?" Tom tried with a lopsided grin.
"I wish." I replied resting my head on Tom's shoulder.
Tom reached down and cupped my butt pulling me closer. I could feel the beginnings of his arousal as it pressed against me. Just then a chime sounded signaling that somebody had turned into our driveway.
"Save by the bell." I said breaking our embrace and fending off Tom hands as he tried to slap my bottom. "Come on, we'll go outside and greet them."
* * * *
It had been six months ago that I'd got a Facebook friend request from a stranger in Australia. I clicked on the name and glanced at their page. A blonde haired woman with two adolescent children standing beside her on a beach somewhere smiled back at me. Dismissing it as a mistake I had clicked off the computer and got on with my chores.
I could imagine Tom saying it served me right for being on social media in the first place. He abhorred it and always chastised his co-workers for wasting the company time checking their updates. In a small concession to the twenty first century he had allowed me to post a shot of us both as my profile picture.
Later that evening when Tom got home from work we'd been sitting down watching the news when a small piece on some catastrophic wildfires in Australia came on. It had reminded me of the friend request and so I'd related it to Tom.
"You were in Australia for a while after university weren't you?" I'd asked. "Did you know any Julie's?"
After looking at me strangely Tom had replied. "Yes... but the chances of it being someone I'd met would be very small. Did you meet any Aussie's named Julie when you were backpacking in Europe?"
I had shaken her head and would have moved on to something else but Tom continued.
"Whereabouts in Australia was she from? What was her last name?"
I hadn't been able to remember so I'd booted up the laptop, logged onto her Facebook account and passed it to Tom. On seeing the picture Tom's eyes had widened his mouth had hung open.
It had turned out Tom did know that Julie. In fact, he'd known her very well... for a couple of weeks. He'd gone to Australia on an exchange in his third year of an engineering degree, to the University of Adelaide in South Australia. As part of that he'd spent a month in a smaller rural town on a work placement with an engineering firm doing some early trials on a new development for combine harvesters. The boss of the firm had put him up and in his last two weeks, the bosses' daughter Julie, had come home after her first year of university.
* * * * *
As the car pulled up in front of the house we walked out the front door and stood at the edge of the covered decking. The motor stopped and they could see the occupants unclicking their seat belts. My stomach was doing backflips as the passenger side door opened. A woman with blonde wavy hair and a loose fitting sundress got out. She waved and called out "hi" as she walked up the four steps to the deck. Julie had arrived.
I held out my hand but Julie ignored it and pulled me into an embrace with a squeal of delight.
"Ashley, oh my god, I know we haven't really met but after messaging back and forth I feel like we're old friends."
Julie kissed me on the cheek before stepping back at arm's length and looking me up and down.
"Your photos don't do you justice. Those legs, and your skin... you'll have to tell me what moisturizer you use before we go."
I didn't get a chance to reply before Julie's focus moved to Tom who'd moved a little to the side.
"Come on you old rascal. Give me some lovin'." Julie demanded holding her arms out to Tom.
She went through the same routine pulling him close to kiss his cheek before stepping back to examine him thoroughly. But, instead of complimenting Tom, she turned her head back towards me.
"Doesn't it piss you off? We try so hard to fight father time but the boys just get better and better."
I couldn't help but giggle as I remembered having the exact same thought only minutes earlier. The awkwardness of the situation was forgotten as the force of cyclone Julie battered us into submission. The smile that had been forced on my face as we watched the car pull up was now genuine and radiant.
"Uh-hum." Julie's husband cleared his throat.
We had been so caught up with Julie we hadn't noticed her husband was now standing one step below the deck.
"Oh sorry honey." Julie said disengaging from Tom. "Ashley, Tom, this is my husband Richard."
"Hi Richard," I said once again offering my hand. This time with some trepidation because Richard was a massive man.
"G'day," he said as his huge hand, which resembled a baseball mitt, engulfed mine and he smiled warmly. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
His touch was surprisingly gentle and his smile grew wider as he sensed my relief. His face was partially hidden by one of those hats you often Australians wearing in films. An Akubra I think they're called. Still it was obvious from his weather-beaten face and calloused hands that he worked outdoors. I already knew he was a farmer and it certainly appeared he was hands-on in his management.
He released my hand and moved towards Tom. The psychologist in me watched with interest as the two faced off. There was no direct threat but both sized each other up before they reached for a handshake.
"G'day Tom," Richard greeted him in his broad Australian accent.
"Hi." Tom managed as he tried to stop himself from wincing as Richard shook his hand vigorously.
Seeing the two up close it was a good chance to compare them. Tom was probably only an inch shorter in height but Richard dwarfed him elsewhere. That is not to say he was fat, just broad across the shoulders with a barrel chest and legs, that resembled tree trunks. Seeking to save my husband from being shaken to pieces, I intervened.
"If you get your bags I can show you to your room."
"Oh no dear," Julie said as the two men released each other. "We couldn't impose like that. We saw a motel on the way into town with a vacancy sign so we took down their number and we'll ring them shortly."
"Yes I think that was it. Was that right Richard?" Richard nodded.
"No way, no how." I said feeling a bit put out after all the cleaning although Tom shot me a look of surprise. "I'm not letting you stay in that flea pit. We've got a four bedroom house and we are the only ones in it now so there's plenty of room."
"I just didn't want to impose," Julie explained. "I feel like I rather pushed you into this meeting so... "
"Nonsense. If we can't show a little hospitality for people who's travelled so far then we ought to be ashamed."
Richard looked at his wife and she shrugged so he turned and went back down the steps to the car. He hefted a couple of large cases out of the trunk then followed the procession as I led them inside. Tom and I left them to freshen up in the spare room and made our way to the kitchen.
"They let you off the hook and you jumped right back on." Tom said with a bemused look on his face.
"Oh come on Tom, it's only for one night." I replied a little annoyed, mostly at myself for not accepting their offer to stay at the hotel.
But really, what could one do?
Opening the refrigerator, I got out some cheese while directing Tom to get some crackers from the cupboard. We'd just finished putting a platter together when Julie and Richard appeared.
"Too early for a drink?" Tom asked Richard.
"Never too early mate." Richard replied enthusiastically.
"Julie?" I was relieved he was polite enough to ask her as well.
"That would be lovely."
"What's your poison?"
"Well, Richard will have anything as long as it's beer." Julie said with a hint of sarcasm, "and I'd love a white wine."
"Make that two dear," I said as Tom opened the refrigerator." I picked up the platter and curled my finger towards our visitors to indicate they should follow me. "We'll go out on the back deck. It's lovely out there at this time of day."
We sat around a table and made small talk in the way strangers thrown together for the first time do. The weather, the house, their holiday and both our extended families. Julie and I were swapping family pictures on our phones when the boys stood up.
"I thought I'd take Richard for a drive out to the Sattler place. Show him a local farm." Tom said.
"That's fine dear. Just don't be back late. Dinner reservations are for 6.30 tonight." I replied and they both moved back towards the house.
We watched them go, scurrying off like two schoolboys allowed out of detention early.
"They are getting on well considering... " I stopped short suddenly embarrassed by the rest of the sentence I'd intended to say.
"... they've both slept with me." Julie finished it off for me with a chuckle. "Did Tom fill you in on our sordid past?"
"I think every couple has had the, 'how many people have you been with' talk." I said swiveling in my seat back towards her.
"Yes, but they don't always tell the truth," she replied before leaning close to me to whisper, "I know I didn't."
"So Richard doesn't know?"
"Oh, he knows about Tom. I may have just deleted a few others from my backstory." Julie laughed again and took a long sip of her wine.
I refilled our glasses and we drank in silence for a bit. The past sat uncomfortably between us. I wanted to be polite but I also desperately wanted to know. I wondered if she felt the same. Turned out she did.
"So what did he tell you about..." Julie stopped short and it was my turn to help her out.
"You and him?" She nodded so I continued. "Just that he was staying with your parents while he did a work placement at your father's business. You came home on holidays just before he finished up and you, ummm, had a fling."
"That's about it. God, I sound like such a scrubber. It was just he was so foreign and exotic. A yank in our little town." Julie looked skywards as she reminisced. "The slow drawl, those tight t-shirts... ohh and his butt in those little swimmers he used to wear."
With the door open I jumped in with both feet.
"So did he seduce you? Or?"
"No, no, no," she said giggling, "it was all me. He was so worried about dad. Truth be told, that was part of the attraction. I love a man who plays hard to get."
"Did your parents ever find out?"
"No, well, I think mum might have twigged that there was something going on. Dad didn't, if he had then I think he would have blown his top. He liked Tom, but banging his only daughter under his own roof would have been a bridge too far."
There was an awkward silence as I digested the information and Julie wondered if she'd gone too far.
"You weren't waiting for him or anything were you? He said he didn't gave a girlfriend." Julie asked a little worried.
"No, we didn't meet until after he'd graduated."
"Where did you meet?"
"On a beach, in California."
"A tight t-shirt?"
"And those little swimmers that showed off his butt." I added and we both dissolved into laughter.
When we had calmed down again a lot of the my angst was gone. I think I really liked this woman.
"So where did you and Richard meet?" I asked.
"I'm afraid it isn't as romantic as a beach in California. The front bar of the Cleve Hotel in Cleve on a Saturday night. It's a little town of eight hundred people in a farming area known as the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia." Julie replied.
"What were you doing there?"
"I'd just started teaching at the Cleve Area School. He lived on his family farm an hour or so south of there."
We continued chatting amiably till the bottle was empty and I checked my watch.
"Its five o'clock already. Where has the afternoon gone? We'd better start getting ready." I said standing up.
I got the platter and the empty bottle while Julie grabbed the glasses as we headed into the kitchen.
"Where are we going tonight?" Julie asked as she rinsed the glasses under the tap.
"Jake's. It's a bar, but it has a really nice bistro attached."
"What should I wear? Jeans okay or a dress?"
"Either would be fine. They sometimes have a band come on in the bar later, so we might stay for a drink after." I explained.
"Yeah, okay." Julie said but I could see some uncertainty in her eyes.
Inspiration struck me, or maybe it was the two glasses of wine.
"Hey, you're about the same size as me. I've got a dress that would fit you perfectly for tonight."
"No, no I couldn't."
"No, seriously I can't."
"At least come up and have a look."
Julie was wavering so I took her hand and led her up the stairs to my changing room. I got the dress off the rack and held it against her.
"It's beautiful but-"
"No buts take it down and try it on."
"What are you wearing?"
I pulled out two other dresses. A white one and a green one.
"One of these, I haven't decided yet."
"Well, alright. As long as you're sure."
"It will probably look better on you than it does on me."
Julie disappeared holding the dress and I went to run a bath.
An hour later I went back down stairs, dressed and ready to go. The boys still weren't back and I was going to get my phone and find out where they were. Picking it up off the hall stand I turned around to see Julie walking towards me. Wow, I was right. She did look better in it than me. It clung to her everywhere it should, but her breasts were the clincher. I think she must have been a full cup size larger than me so her breasts pushed out of the plunging V neckline creating some impressive cleavage. I couldn't pull it off even with falsies and a wonder bra.
"Tom is going to be staring at you tits all night." It was the afternoon's wine talking still.
"And Richard is going to be drooling over your legs." Julie chirped back.
I was just about to ring my husband when the chime went off again. The men came in muttering excuses about their tardiness but the words dried up when they saw what we were wearing.
"Pick your jaw up off the floor, put your eyes back in your head and get upstairs now Tom Hardy." I scolded him with a smile. "You're late."
"You too Richard." Julie chimed in as she added a sharp slap to his rear end.
The boys gathered themselves and disappeared to get ready while I ordered a cab and got another drink for Julie and myself. The bistro was packed but it was a big room so it only helped the atmosphere. We had a scrumptious meal with a bottle of wine. I was amazed how well we were all getting on. It was as if we'd known each other for years.
A lot of the other diners had gone by the time we ordered coffee. A country swing band started up in the bar next door so soon we were just about the only people left seated. Tom was quizzing Julie about her family and her father's firm. Most of the time he even had his eyes on her face. Richard leaned in and whispered in Julie's ear.
"Maybe later honey," she said. As Julie was turning her head back towards Tom, our eyes met and she stopped. "Why don't you ask Ashley?"
"Ask Ashley what?" I replied intrigued.
"Well, Richard fancies himself as a bit of a Fred Astaire." Richard rolled his eyes at Julie's mocking tone. "Go on," she elbowed him in the ribs, "ask her."
"Would you like to dance Ashley?" Richard asked with some color on his cheeks.
"I'd love to." I replied.
We both got up and Tom said he and Julie would follow us in a bit. The bar was packed but the dance floor less so. It was only early in the night. The band was playing a slower number so Richard held out his hands. I hesitated momentarily, I'd only met him seven hours ago, and if he trod on my foot he'd probably break a toe. But I did like to dance and it had been ages since I'd had the opportunity.
He wasn't Fred Astaire... but he was pretty damn good. For a big man he was surprising light on his feet and very self assured. He squired me around the dance floor with aplomb and for their last song of the set the band went up tempo and Richard cut loose. He started flinging me into twirls and even did a couple of lifts. I felt like I was back at college when I was in the cheerleading squad.
When the song finished we were both out of breath and laughing. We spotted Julie and Tom at a table and were making our way towards them when a divorced woman I knew stopped us.
"Wow, Ashley that was fabulous," she gasped. "Who is this big hunk of a man?"
"Angela, this is Richard. Richard, Angela." I said introducing them.
"G'day," he said in what I thought was a much broader accent than he'd exhibited earlier.
"Ooohhh my, are you from Austria?" Angela gushed.
"If you mean Australia, then yes." He said taking her proffered hand, lifting it up and lightly kissing the back of it.
The poor lady almost dissolved into a puddle. Her manner changed when he excused himself saying he had to get back to his wife. When we got to the table we were glad to see the other two had bought us a drink.
"Was he playing on his accent again?" Julie asked with a wry smile.
I nodded and Richard innocently exclaimed, "who, me?"