Carefree Cove Ch. 07byNigel Debonnaire©
It was a quiet evening at the Q and A Bar amd Grill in Seville Hills, MO. Thomas Albright sat with two of his friends, Petey Harms and Freddy Kleinschmidt, nursing beer. The hour was just past 8:00. Tom was a relatively young man at 51 compared to his two friends, who were grizzled old men in their 70s. The old men was on furlough from their wives of many years; Tom was a fugitive from his home at Carefree Cove, trying not to think where his lover of the past few days, Michelle Hawkins, might be.
The bar filled to three quarters capacity: the heat was making everyone languid. The band showed up and began to set up their equipment on the tiny stage, and started doing sound checks. At Eight, they began their first set. The pool players kept going; the women danced together; the Scarecrow watched with envy; Petey and Freddy drank beer. Every woman in the place asked Tom to dance, and he obliged most of them, limiting them to one dance apiece.
Suddenly, Michelle walked through the door, followed by Mutt Hayes. Michelle wore a blue wrap around skirt and yellow cover-up over a flesh covered bikini. Her graceful curves made Tom's heart leap: her round hips switched back and forth as she crossed the room, and her breasts bobbed gracefully. Mutt pranced behind her anxiously, eager to pull a chair out for her, seating her facing away from Tom's group. Glancing over her shoulder, he beamed at the old men like a Chesire Cat. Tom slid back into the depths of the booth, staying out of sight.
After seating her, Mutt took his place across from her and listen as she spoke. She was too far away for Tom to hear, and he couldn't tell much from her body language. Petey and Freddy looked at each other, and at the new couple before turning again to their beer. The music played and the evening went on; several women tried to catch Tom's eye, but he avoided them.
In a lull, a piece of the conversation drifted to the secluded booth:
". . .I had a lovely time on the boat this afternoon, Mutt. I never realized the Lakeshore was so extensive."
"You're welcome, my dear. Anytime you're in the mood, let me know and we'll go out again."
"You're most kind."
"How was your trip these past few days?"
Her shoulders sagged. "I don't wish to talk about it," she said in a proud voice.
His eyebrows went down. "As you wish. I hope when you're ready, you'll be able to confide in me."
"Thank you." Mutt took a sip of his beer, his eyes fixed on his companion. Tom's eyes bore through Michelle's back, trying to read her expression through the back of her head. "I wish you'd let me take you somewhere nicer for dinner. The Seville House has excellent prime rib."
"No, thank you. I prefer everyday places like this. I'm just a simple girl."
"Hardly," he snorted. "You're the most interesting woman I've met for years. And the most lovely."
"You're kind, Mutt, but you're married. I was hoping you could help me find a job, not take me on a series of social engagements."
"Nonsense, nonsense," Mutt interjected emphatically. "You've been longing for company and you went with me willingly. Don't play games with me; let's keep things honest."
Petey almost snorted in his beer and Freddie rolled his eyes in disbelief. A rail thin middle aged woman with long, brown hair tried to get Tom's attention and beckoned him over, but he refused to go. She looked at him oddly, then tossed her head in disdain.
Ashley Harms and Maria Garcia came in. Ashley wore a Discovery Channel t-shirt, cutoff and flip flops; Maria a brown top and shorts that almost blended in with her Latina hue. Maria was a tall girl, five nine, and rather chubby, with heavy breasts; she'd put on a few pounds in the past five years. Ashley wore little makeup. The girls came directly over to the table where the men were sitting.
Ashley bent over and kissed her grandfather Petey on the cheek, as Tom sought to squeeze himself tighter in the corner of the booth.. "Hi, Grandpa. Fancy meeting you here."
He embraced her tightly from his sitting position, mashing her right breast into his face. "This is my favorite grandchild. How's it going, sweetie?"
"Fine, Grandpa" she smiled.
Freddie leaned across to speak. "Hello, Maria, how's it going?"
"All right, Mr. Kleinschmidt," Maria said, "just taking a night off from the baby. He kept me up most of last night, but today was better. Getting to be a big boy, and I bet he's going to be walking any day now. Mama's looking after him so I can have a break. The music sounds good."
"Yes, it does."
Petey gestured amicably. "Do you girls want to join us tonight? There's some good music happenin' "
Ashley smiled and shook her head. "Maria and I have some girl talk to catch up on. We'd just bore you old men. We'll take a table over there and if we need help fighting off the hordes of admirers, we'll stand up and scream."
The old men laughed. "All right. Don't be a stranger."
As the girls left and their backsides switched to and fro as they walked, Tom caught the bartenders attention and pointed to indicate these newcomers were on his ticket. The barman nodded, and Tom gave a thumbs up.
The girls sat at a table in the back, behind Mutt Hayes. Mutt grew uncomfortable at their presence, and became more animated talking with Michelle, their conversation lost in another song. After a minute, Michelle started to shake her head in negation. He said more and gestured frantically, however she kept shaking her head. Whipping out her cell phone, she bolted from her seat and walked out the door quickly, dialing en route, while he sat dumbfounded. She looked neither right or left, and didn't notice any of the other patrons in the bar. A slamming door and the beginning of a phone conversation marked her departure. Ten minutes later, the town taxi pulled up to take her away.
Mutt finished his drink, and refused to order an evening meal. Nodding to Petey and Freddy, he went out the door with determination, a new objective in sight.
The men sat around a bit longer, in solemn alcoholic vigil for their friend. After 10:00, the older men drifted out the door, with no news forthcoming.
Sirens flew by in the night, around 10:15PM, several in a row. Tom resisted the urge to look out the window; Ashley and Maria came across the bar to see what they could. "State troopers," Ashley said.
"Lots of 'em" Maria observed. "They haven't heard about my moonshine factory, have they?"
Ashely snorted. "No, I bet it's just a drug raid. Maybe they found a meth lab before it blew up."
"Yeah, that's gotta be it." The girls went back to the table with smug looks on their faces.
The ride home went quickly, and Tom noticed Michelle's lights were still on when he got in. He kept the lights off until the girls were inside. Going to the kitchen where his answering machine was, there was a message from Michelle: "Hello, Tom. Sorry you haven't been around today. I need to talk with you. Call me no matter how late you get in. 'Bye."
The phone was answered on the first ring. "Hello?"
"Hi, it's me?"
"Hi, Tom. How's it going?"
"All right. You?"
"Working things out. It's been a rough couple of days." A profound, expressive yawn came across the receiver. "I want to see you."
"I want to see you, too, but I've had a long day and you sound beat. How about breakfast at your place tomorrow morning?"
"How about at your house?"
"Ah, I've got to spend tomorrow cleaning up around here. Let the place go to pot with Amanda gone with her Grammie. Let me come to your house around 8:30, and I'll bring some fresh rolls."
Another yawn. "All right, I guess I'll take that, but I want you now."
"Sorry about that. Just a little longer."
"If you insist. Night."
"Night." He put the phone down and watched as her lights went off a minute later. Going upstairs, he went through his bedtime ritual, but sleep refused to come. He got up and went to his studio to find inspiration was missing as well. In desperation, he switched on his computer and logged into his office in Kansas City. With single minded determination, he lost himself in company busywork and by daybreak, he was six months ahead.
Another Missouri August Saturday morning was beginning to steam. The grass of the hills around the Lake of the Ozarks were showing brown as three weeks without rain took its toll. By the lakeshore, the waters had receded and the mud was drying. No wind was stirring the trees around Carefree Cove, and the world seemed to sit with its tongue hanging out, dreading another struggle against heat and humidity.
The hazy morning was shattered by the phone ringing. Tom picked it up: "Hello?" he rasped.
"Hi Daddy! Did I wake you up?"
"Yes, punkin. You did."
"Just wanted to be the first to tell you good morning."
"Thanks. You succeeded sweetheart."
"I got a great idea."
"I want you to paint my picture again."
"Sure, Amanda. Soon as you get home."
"I want you to paint it with my friend Shelley."
"Fine. Happy to do it," he yawned. Licking his lips, his mouth tasted awful. "That all, sweetheart?"
"Naked. It's gotta be naked. Both of us."
Tom sat up in bed. "We'll talk about it. Aren't you going to the rodeo today?"
"Yes, Daddy. Grammie is real excited about it. She says she hasn't seen a real rodeo since she was a girl."
"That's great. Is she doing all right?"
"Yes, Daddy. She looks a little tired, but she says it's nothing. I gotta go, Daddy."
"All right, Amanda. You have a nice day."
"Thanks, Daddy. One more thing. . ."
"Sing the song, Daddy! Sing the song!"
"That's my daughter in the water. . ."
Tom's voice was worse for wear in the early morning, especially since he hadn't slept the night before but he managed Peter Blegvad's song as best he could. When he finished, his four year old daughter on the other end giggled her appreciation, said goodbye and hung up before he could reply. He went through his morning routine and dressed.
He looked out over his deck at the haze hanging over the lake. His blue swim trunks went down toward his knees; his loose fitting shirt caught occasional breezes; his straw hat provided a large shadow and his water shoes kept his feet protected from hazards on the lake bottom as he waded. Tom never learned how to swim, but accompanying his aquatic daughter to the cove made him appreciate the water. He was sensitive about his weight: his six foot one frame held far more pounds than he wanted, and his dark hair and beard was sprinkled with grey, the result of his 51 years.
Down below he saw Michelle going down the path to her dock around 8:30. She wore a short robe on her Rubenesque frame, her blonde hair flowing down toward her shoulders, and her feet bare. When she got to the lounger on her dock, the robe came off and she stood naked in the morning light, stretching to work out the kinks and greet the sun. She was 42 years old, but Tom would have called her perfect, finely ripened. An unripe woman had been his downfall five years before.
He'd have to go down there this morning. Surely she saw his lights, and wondered where he was. His self esteem was low since he was thinking like a shy high school boy, but even after their intimacy, his doubt was still gnawing at him. If he waited until the next day, Amanda would be home to run interference for him, but Michelle would wonder today why his daughter wasn't around.
He realized there was no choice: he had to go meet her. Finishing his tea, he made his way down to his dock, and stepped into the water. She saw him immediately, and stood up to wave, smiling broadly. "Hello, Tom."
"Hello, Michelle. Long time no see."
"I should say. Where's Mandy?'
"Extended her trip. Just can't keep her from finding things to do with her Grammie in Branson."
"Well, that's good news of its own," she said with a sly smile on her face, which evaporated quickly. "Got some time to talk?"
"Let me come over to you." She dove into the water and swam effortlessly over to where he stood; he felt helpless for a moment since he couldn't escape her. Coming up next to him, she stood on the bottom beside him and gave him a long, hard bear hug in greeting, moving to kiss him hard on the lips and jab her tongue into his mouth. Reluctance was swept away at the warmth of her greeting, and he reciprocated eagerly, his body quivering in anticipation.
"It's good to see you again," he began.
"That's an understatement." Her eyes outshone the sun as they shone on him.. "I can feel how much you're glad to see me, unless you've got a carp in your pocket."
He smiled and chuckled bashfully."You know me so well."
"I know what makes you interested, however, I think we need to talk a while first. All right?"
A quick peck on the lips and a shy smile from her. "I'll run over and put some clothes on, then come over to your house."
"Fine. I'll put some coffee on."
"That's a dear." A quick kiss goodbye, and her generous form kicked back to the other side of the cove.
After waffles, strawberries and cream, they sat in his Great Room next to each other on the couch beside the fireplace. Amanda's portrait dominated the room above them, with her blonde curls, yellow dress with blue sash, and long, tanned legs and feet. Their fingers interlaced, and they turned to drink in each other's eyes.
She said at last: "It's been a lonely week for you, hasn't it?"
"Oh, I've been busy. Had to be, with my two favorite women gone."
"Well, one is back and the other will be here soon. Tell me a story, Tom."
He yawned out of sight. "Which story do you want? I know all the standard children's stories by heart."
"How about an adult story?"
"The Owl and the Pussycat?"
She settled against his chest. "How about your life and loves before Carefree Cove."
He was unsettled by her directness at first, but she stroked his thigh and he relaxed. "All right. When I was in High School, I was a geek. My school was big into football and basketball; the jocks ruled. I was shy and artistic, so everybody naturally thought I was gay. I wasn't, and the teasing I took distanced me so much from them, I never wanted to see them again after I graduated High School."
"Where you a virgin when you graduated, Tom?"
"Yes," he said blankly. "I never had a date, never went to the Prom. Didn't really want to, since I hated those bastards so much. Got a scholarship for Art and when I went to College, I never looked back."
"What happened next?"
"Well, art classes showed me where my life would go. I enjoyed everything about art, I would have been happy being a starving artist in a Paris garret in the '20s. Was still shy with girls, even though I did several paintings and drawing with nude models. That loosened me up a bit, but I rarely dated."
"So you graduated college a virgin?"
"Yes. Went to New York for grad school, worked on an education degree, but teaching wasn't for me. When computer graphics came out, I found that pretty easy and so I was snapped up by the Kansas City greeting card company."
"Did you date there?"
"Oh, yes, I lost my cherry eventually. The first time in a back seat on a country road with a girl I only dated three times. We had nothing in common, but I'd never done it before, so I couldn't pass up the chance. I had girlfriends over the years, some of them in art, but nothing lasted. I've got some pictures of one lover who modeled for me extensively in my file."
"Bring them out, Tom, bring them out," Michelle pleaded.
"All right." He went to his filing cabinet in his darkroom and brought three files out. "This is Jennifer, my first regular girl. We didn't live together, but we spent a lot of time. As you can see, she was dark haired, tall, long limbed, thin butt and very small pert breasts."
"How could you love a tiny girl like that?"
"She was a nymphomanic," Tom answered. "There was nothing she wouldn't do or try. I could give her orgasms by just sucking her tiny tits. And her favorite thing was fellatio."
"Any boy's dream," she murmured.
"She got tired of me, and moved on. Then came Shirley, an older woman. I've only got a couple pictures of her." Shirley was a tall, statuesque redhead with noble breasts and large hips. "A woman of class and taste. Twelve years older than I, but a wildcat in bed. I did a lot of paintings of her, clothed and unclothed."
"Did you keep any?"
"No," he whispered. "I had competition for her, and I lost. She ended up with an older man she married; they were together a few years before splitting up. I don't know where she is now. Sold all the paintings I did of her. Burned the drawings."
"Oh," she said softly. Tom held her and wondered what was going through her mind: was she thinking about Mutt Hayes? There was a long pause as he gave her a chance to start on her love life, but after a decent interval, he got up and went over to an antique writing desk by the sliding door..
He brought out a glamor shot of a brown headed woman of brown hair and ample breasts, larger than Maria's. "This is Kay. She was a nurse I met at a reception. She worked for the company in employee benefits."
"You benefitted from her a lot?" Michelle teased. "She looks rather--chubby."
Tom chuckled. "Yeah, you could say that. She threw herself at me. I went along with her, and she kept pressing. My God, she went along with almost anything I wanted to do, loved to have fun and push boundaries. But she loved me more than I cared about her. I never respected her as much as she deserved, and I didn't care about keeping her. Eventually she found someone else."
"What then, Tom?"
"I came to Carefree Cove. The first few years, I flirted at the Q and A, but kept myself at a distance. Didn't really have much in common with the women around here. I guess over the years I should have sought somebody to live with me and be my love, but I was always preoccupied with something else. A couple of short term flings, lost weekends.
"Then came Renee, the girl I played Pygmalion with. I thought I could be everything for her: lover, teacher, father, friend.We had a baby together, but that was the only good thing."from that relationship.
"I would disagree with that. You did some wonderful work with her as your model."
"Maybe, but the cost wasn't worth it. She was a kid and I never let her be one. At first, I was her liberator, but at the end I was her jailer and she ran from me."
Her hand covered his. "And now?"
He smiled at her. "We're here now."
She gave a long and questioning look before she looked away from the face that was lined with sorrow. "I'm sorry you were burned so badly, Tom." She said deliberately.
There was a long silence between them as the tears dried on his face. Michelle looked at his eyes deeply, and after a long of thought, shrugged in acceptance. "I guess I need to tell you where I've been," she whispered.
"Only if you want to."
"I went to St. Louis to meet my daughter. We parted on bad terms in Maryland, and I wanted to see what I could do to make it better. We were always been close, at least, 'til she got her attitude when her tits popped out. Jenny tried to talk me into coming home."
"Told me how I was bringing shame on the family, how her brothers were going nuts without me, how her father was screaming at the walls demanding to know where I was. Said I was letting them down." Tears began to flow from her eyes.
"That doesn't make sense."
"No, it doesn't. First Jenny screams that I'm useless, then she needs me. She doesn't understand what I was going through. She kept asking me to go with her to another place; I'm sure they had an intervention set up."
"Did you go?"
"Hell, no. They broke my heart time and time again, especially my asshole husband; I can't go back, ever. It was too horrible, it was a prison for me, and I had to get away. Life is better now. I love it here, I love my job. It's not perfect, but between the divorce settlement and what I'm able to make, I'll be all right."