Carefree Cove Ch. 08byNigel Debonnaire©
Life was normal in Carefree Cove on an August Wednesday. Amanda Albright had just taken a vacation with her great-grandmother Gracie, and on awakening was anxious to go back to the cove from the moment the sun peeked over the horizon. When her father, Thomas Albright, reported that their neighbor Michelle Hawkins was at her dock, Amanda was out of her clothes and running down the path to the water at full tilt. Michelle welcomed her warmly, they frolicked in the water while Tom stood above them, watching. He took a few pictures with her digital camera, but carefully, so none of his daughter's forbidden parts were in the picture. The little girl usually had a short memory, except when she was set on something. He hoped she would forget about having her nude portrait with Michelle, but it was a faint hope.
Tom Albright, an artist who worked for a card company in Kansas City, had a difficult time the past few days. Michelle's arrival at Carefree Cove, Missouri had awakened long dormant feelings in his heart: some bitter memories of his teenage lover and protege, Renee Carter, who left a month after their daughter Amanda's birth, and jealousy as the local land baron, Mutt Hayes, romanced Michelle despite being married. Seldom in his 51 years had he been so conflicted over such a short period of time. The return of his 4 year old daughter had lifted his spirits, and Michelle's rejection of Mutt had lifted them more.
After the girls had their play time, he came down the path and got in the water. His daughter swam over to give him a hug and kiss, then over to her little island to swing on the set. Michelle sidled over to stand beside him on the bottom. "How come Gracie isn't living anywhere better than that trailer park?" she asked quietly.
"Gracie's lived in that trailer park for years, and she knows all her neighbors. They've stayed by her through thick and thin, and she doesn't want to leave her home. As long as she can manage it, I'll see that she can stay there."
"Aren't you worried about Mandy spending time there?"
"Amanda's fine there. I've talked to the neighbors: they look after each other."
"But the poverty. . ."
"Is no shame as far as I'm concerned. I don't want my daughter to grow up a snob. Gracie's place is clean and neat, her mother's mementos are there, and Gracie's the only other family she's got. Amanda needs to know what life is like away from the cove. Needs to know everybody doesn't have life easy, and needs to experience her great-grandmother as she is.."
The little girl was swinging naked on her swinging set, flying toward the Lake and the morning sun, singing an improvised song. Michelle took Tom's hand underwater and they watched her.
The three lunched together, and Michelle went back home afterward. Amanda took a bath after his morning in the lake, and was still excited about returning home.
"Daddy, do you like my friend Shelley?"
"Yes, punkin'. I do."
"Did you kiss her while I was gone?"
"No, sweetheart. I only have kisses for you."
"That's nice, Daddy, but you need a girlfriend. Grammie says that a lot."
"Well, it's OK Grammie says that, but I'll be the judge. Do you know your uncle Hoot is sick?"
"No, Daddy. Is he in the hospital?"
"Yes, he's up at Fairhaven."
"We'll have to go see him, and I'll make a picture for him."
"I'm sure he'd appreciate that. But I heard he may be coming home soon. Let's wait until he gets back."
"Okay, Daddy. Daddy?"
"I love you, Daddy."
Amanda settled down for her nap, and Tom also dozed through the heat of the afternoon. As he came back to consciousness, he had an idea that would make get his daughter's mind off her idea to pose for a picture with Michelle. It was simple, fun and it would work. He wondered about Mutt Hayes and what he was up to. Ashley and Maria were obviously happy when the sirens went by: what did they know? It didn't matter. His rival for Michelle was gone.
Sunday afternoon in August was a lazy time. Resting comfortably on his couch after church, and Amanda safely napping upstairs, he flicked his remote to life, and searched for a baseball game, but none were to be found. Cursing, he went down and looked at his portrait of Michelle. She stood in front of a waterfall with a white flower in her hair, buxom and unclad, standing in knee deep water. He regarded it as a lover, a slight contented smile on his face.
The temperatures hovered in the mid 90s in the afternoon, the humidity was in the 70s, and evening found some relief. The teenagers of the Seville Hills, the nearest sizable town, sought refreshment at the local pool, while the unofficial elders lingered in the shade with their memories and their games. Tom and Amanda went to join the usual crew of grizzled old men in the seventies as the game in the shelter house began. A group of young boys in t-shirts and shorts hovered across the parking lot, smoking cigarettes and talking as they snuck peeks at the girls they longed for cavorting in the water.
"Look who the cat dragged in," Chigger Jones exclaimed as Tabitha Smoots and Todd Hayes brought Hoot Pidgeon to the Shelter House. The young people supported him as he walked carefully.
"Already tired of laying around," Hoot's voice rasped harshly. "24 hours in my bedroom bein' waited on hand and foot was too much already. I could hear the grass growing. Got Irma to let the kids take me out."
"And made us promise to look after you, Grandpa," Tabitha noted. Todd shook his head in agreement.
"Bull--ah--nonsense, Tabby. You're going to leave me here with my friends and have fun until the sun goes down."
Tabitha gave Todd a look, and he ran back to the car to retrieve a padded folding chair, which he then set up for the old man. They installed him in his usual place, facing away from the pool and toward the domino game.
"You all right for now, Grandpa? Todd's gonna bring over your cooler, and we're going to be right over there at the pool."
"I'll be fine, Tabby. You kids have a good time and don't worry about me."
She looked around at the other men at the table. "If he has problems, you wave at us and we'll come right over."
"Yes, Tabby," Freddy Kleinschmidt said. "Petey, Chigger and me've had the same operation. We know what it's like. Don't worry."
Tabby put her hands on her hips defiantly for a moment, as Todd did his last errand. She was wearing a plum colored bikini under an open oversized light yellow man's shirt. Turning, she grasped Todd's hand and led him to the pool. He was wearing a straw hat and blue trunks. After a few steps, they broke into a run, laughing as they covered the distance over the green grass.
Hoot looked over his shoulder, then reached into his inside jacked pocket to pull out his rear view mirror. Petey clapped his hands: "Good to see some thing's haven't changed."
"I have to keep an eye on those kids," Hoot groused. "They've been getting extremely too fond of each other lately."
"Yeah, Hoot," Freddy interjected. "What d'ya think of Tabby going out with Mutt's grandson."
"Oh, the boy's all right," Hoot admitted. "Must take after the other side of his family. Hates the old man with a passion. Wants to go to college and be a social worker."
"Let's play dominoes," Tom said, shuffling the tiles in front of him, with a glance toward to pool to find his daughter.
Another summer evening at the Overlook Park Pool. The air was full of splashing, shouting, and sounds of water play. The men looked at the girls from time to time: Tammy Kleinschmidt was wearing a one piece light green suit that turned transparent when wet. Monica Hayes was strangely absent; Michelle heard that she was the one caught having sex with her grandfather when the police arrived. Michelle and Amanda played by themselves over to the side; the men reveled in the lack of requests for a certain musical number from the little girl.
"What's happened to Mutt?' Chigger asked. "He hasn't been in the news since Sunday."
Petey grinned broadly. "Gentlemen, I don't think we have to worry about our friend Mutt Hayes being in the news around here ever again."
"Really? Hoot asked. "I thought that old bastard was bulletproof."
"Not with what they've uncovered. The connection with the computer sites overseas busted him beyond redemption. Five local girls have signed complaints that he molested them. He was looking at serious jail time."
"Our buddy has taken it on the lam. Got an e-mail and picture from him today. Crossed the border into Mexico and he's looking for passage to Morocco. Says he's got enough cash in off shore banks to live on for three lifetimes, and we kin go fuck ourselves." With that he showed them a print of Mutt Hayes, wearing a sombrero and standing in front of a Mexican bar flying a flock of birds.
Hoot smiled with some satisfaction. "I wish we could tar and feather the bastard, but this will do, this definitely will do. He'll never be able to come back until he's ten toes up."
"Amen," Freddy intoned.
"Ashley wanted him to room with a guy called Bubba for the rest of his life," Petey contributed. "She wanted him to get buttfucked as regularly like she did." They all laughed.
"I guess Mutt's Art collection's going up for sale." Tom pondered.
"Oh, no, that's gone, vanished," Petey interjected. "Mutt sent his wife off to visit her mother last Thursday, and since the paintings weren't evidence, they were gone Monday morning. He must have had a crew come in and get them boxed and shipped before anybody knew what was goin' on. Along with a ton of other stuff."
Tom noticed Amanda running across the grass toward him, barefoot in her blue swimsuit, hair plastered to her head. She barreled over to Tom and gave him a big hug from behind. Her father objected: "Honey, you're all wet. What do you want? Say hello to everybody."
Solemnly, she looked at the other men. "Hello Uncle Freddy. Hello Uncle Petey. Hello Uncle Chigger. Hello, Uncle Hoot, how are you feeling?. "
"Hi, Mandy," came the staggered replies.
"Fine, Mandy," Hoot warbled. "All the better for seeing you."
She danced on her feet. "Daddy, Shelley says she'll teach me how to go off the low board. Can I, please, Daddy, can I, can I?"
He looked at the pleading blue eyes for several minutes, but they were implacable. After a few moments, he put his reluctance aside. "You know this is something you can only do here. No diving at home."
"I understand, Daddy."
"Do you really? If you promise me that you'll never try this at home. . ."
"Yes, yes, yes, yes."
"Then I'll let Shelley teach you how to go off the low board."
"Promise me now, with all these witnesses."
She stood up straight, crossed her heart, and looked her father directly in the eyes. "I promise that I will never dive at home, for the rest of my life. So help me, God."
"All right." The blonde comet shrieking at the top of her lungs flew back across the grass in unconstrained joy.
The old men laughed. "Tom, this is only the start," Petey chortled. "The demands keep comin' and never stop."
"Yeah, Tom," Hoot giggled. "And soon, the boys're gonna be seeing how well she fills out a bikini."
"Before ya know it," Chigger added.
"Not they won't, Tom said solemnly. "I have a plan."
"Yes, yes? Let's hear it," Hoot smiled.
"I'm going to home school her until she's 12. By then, she'll know more than any ordinary college graduate."
Freddy snorted. "And then?" he added.
"I'm going to lock her up in her closet until she's 18."
A chorus of snorts and guffaws greeted that remark. "You think that's going to keep her safe from the world?" Freddy inquired.
Tom shook his head. "It's going to keep the world safe from her." The men almost fell off their benches.
Hoot sniggered for several moments, holding his chest. "O stop, Tom, I'm not ready for this."
Later, as they were riding home, Amanda was still electrified from her diving lesson. "I did good, didn't I, Shelley?"
"Yes, Mandy," Michelle replied. "You did splendidly."
"What do you think, Daddy?"
"Honey, you were the best."
"When we get home, can you paint my picture?"
"Only if she wants to stay."
There was a rather long pause. "Not tonight, baby, I'm tired."
Michelle was let off at her house, and by the time Tom got to the door, the little blonde bombshell was in his arms, exhausted. He put her to bed in her room, accepting a muzzy good night hug and kiss before he turned out the lights, then went down to find his answering machine flashing. The return number was a friend of his in New York, who he'd sent samples of the past few days work.
"Hello?" came an irritated, aristocratic voice at the other end. "Make this good, or I'll draw and quarter you and feed you to the wolves."
"Alastair, this is Thomas Albright. You called me."
"Oh, yes, Thomas," said the voice, shifting gears quickly enough to make Tom's head spin. "Thank you for calling me back so soon," he oozed. "Out with a lovely lady, tonight, mais non?"
"Two of them, one a four year old."
"Quelle horreur! You have my sympathy. I got your e-mails and I'm just beside myself with joy, my dear boy. This is your best work yet. You must box those big pieces up and get them on the next plane."
Tom stood speechless for a moment. "I'm flabbergasted."
"Well, I am too, mon cher. I've been waiting for you to break out for years and do something a little more adventurous. Your compositions are fantastic. Get them here, get them here!"
"All right, Alastair, you'll have them by the weekend. Thanks for the feedback; this is more than I could hope for."
"I'll be hovering at my door waiting for them. Ta, ta, Thomas!"
"Good night, Alastair."
"Wake up, daddy. Wake up." Tom awakened in full daylight with Amanda sitting next to him on the bed, prodding his chest. "Did you stay up past your bedtime last night?" She had dressed herself in an orange top and white shorts, making him proud that he could subtract "clothier" from the Father job description. "Daddy, what you wanna do today?"
He stirred and looked at the clock. 8:00AM was the readout. She must have been up for a while and let him sleep. "Daddy had to work late last night, and I have to work all day today," he said, sitting up. "Let me make a call or two, and we'll see what we can set up."
"I can play by myself for a while, Daddy," she said nobly.
He pulled her forehead next to his and grimaced. She grimaced back, then sat back on her heels. "Maybe Shelley isn't busy this morning," she suggested.
"I'll give her a call. And you know what?"
"I think I can use your help painting tomorrow."
Her eyes lit up, her light eyebrows rising high and her face bursting with a smile. "I can really help you paint tomorrow, Daddy?"
"Yes, punkin. And your friend Shelley if she's free."
The rest of that day and the next, Tom prepared his shipment with care and personally drove it to Springfield, after dropping Amanda by Michelle's house. The night they went to a movie.
Friday morning, Tom watched Michelle knock on the glass door of his studio wearing an oversized white blouse over a black bra and shorts with sandals. He beckoned her in, since he was busy applying red paint to his daughter's body. Her little feet were kicking in excitement as he finished putting the paint on her back; she was a solid red from her neck down, with a white bathing cap to cover her hair. "Hi, Shelley," she chirped, "Daddy's gonna use me as a paintbrush today. Maybe if you're nice, he'll let you play, too."
"Hi, Micki," Tom said. "Be right with you. Let me finish up Amanda's back and let her loose." A light blue colored canvas rested on the floor beneath her stool, stretching ten feet by three. Finishing, he told his daughter: "I want you to put your feet on the canvas first."
"Right here, Daddy?"
"Yes, sweetheart right there. After you get the paint off your feet, I want you to lay down on your front and wiggle a little, then crawl forward. When I tell you, flip over and skootch on your butt until your head reaches the top of the canvas. Understood?"
"Yes, Daddy." She hopped down, wiggling her feet into the canvas to get all the paint off. "That what you want?"
"Yes, baby. Now, kneel down and stretch out. Yes, just like that, use your hands and move them as you have to. Good, now slither like a snake." She giggled as she crawled forward. "Now flip over, you've got the paint off your front. That's right, rub it around, get the paint off of your body. Now you're at the top. Give me your hands." He lifted her off the canvas easily and brought her up to his arms. "What do you think of this, Amanda?"
She looked at the new painting seriously. "It needs something else," was the somber analysis.
"Quite right, baby. How about yellow?"
"That would be excellent."
"Let's get the rest of the red off first." He took her outside and hosed her off, her nut brown body re-emerging from the red residue. Taking a huge towel, he wrapped he in it and let her back in the house, where she hopped up on the stool.
"What's going on Tom?" Michelle asked.
"A new technique I tried with Ashley last week. Got a call from Alastair Quigley last night. Pompous as--fool, but an eye for art, especially abstract art. Said the big canvas I did was marvelous and I should ship it and any others I have away immediately. That's what I was doing yesterday, getting it ready to ship as well as a lot of prints from the photographs."
"So you think I'll go for the same thing?"
"Oh yes, Shelley," Amanda interrupted. "It's so much fun. I love to have paint all over my body; it's so much fun. It isn't work at all."
"If you don't want to try it, that's all right. I won't like you any less if you don't want to do it. But I've got a new lease on life and I want to get a lot done while the inspiration lasts."
"Maybe a little bit," she said cautiously.
"All right. Let me get Amanda ready and then I'll think of something to do with you."
She gave him a quizzical look Amanda couldn't see. The little girl sat still while her father covered her body in yellow paint. Tom turned the canvas around to face the other direction. "Okay, Amanda, do the same thing you just did, only a little to the left."
"Right, Daddy," she answered brightly, before laughing at the dichotomy. Following her father's instructions, she left a similar trail of paint on the canvas going the other direction. Michelle watched it all with amusement, taking Amanda out to hose her off when it was over.
"Do you want me to put my body on your painting, Mandy?" she asked the little girl.
"Yes, Shelley. You'll have so much fun."
They came back, and Tom dismissed his daughter, who put on a robe and ran upstairs to play. "I'm trying to teach her a little modesty. Now, about you. I don't think I want the whole package, not for this painting. Green, no, I think not. Scarlet, deep scarlet. No. Gold, with silver accessory. The other way around? Yes, that's it. Take off you top."
Awkwardly, she removed her halter top and her tear drop breasts came into view. He ran his hands over them, gently caressing her with his palms. Taking a brush, he began to coat her nipples in gold paint.
"Fringe benefit. Amanda got tickled as well."
"What are you going to do with me?"
"After I get these lusciously, perfect tits loaded with paint, I'm going have you lie on the canvas, giving me a pair of fuzzy silver orbs with gold centers. Maybe repeat the process, maybe a couple of times."
He finished with the brush; turning, he loaded his hands with silver paint and began covering the rest of her mammaries with his palms. "I think you can repeat this as much as you want," she cooed. "It feels funny, but I like it."