I flipped through the photographs quickly. I didn't glance at any of them for more than a second. They moved before my eyes like a flip book, animating the memories of a past life. My sister, Felicia, began to laugh. I leaned over to look at the photograph in her hand.
"Remember Kevin? My God he was a son-of-a-bitch. What's he doing now?"
I looked at the photo. It was beginning to yellow in the corners. The discoloration hadn't yet seeped toward the image of a man standing in front of Oldsmobile Cutlass with his shirt off.
"I hear he's moved to Minnesota to run some sort of fishing tour company."
"Is that right. Hmmm. Shame."
"Yeah. Shame to lose such a handsome man to the wilderness."
"Yeah. The wilderness where he can lead men out into the seclusion of the woods and have his way with them."
Felicia sighed then said, "I like to forget he liked men so much more than women."
We both laughed.
Felicia passed me a new stack of photos as she grabbed another.
"Now these are the ones I wanted to show you. Remember this weekend?"
One by one Felicia placed photos in front of me. The first was of a mountain landscape. Each rocky mountainside was dotted with trees, full and green. Next was a picture of a cream colored station wagon with wood side paneling. The roof was piled with camping equipment and supplies.
That weekend flooded back to me. I smiled. "I'm surprised that poor station wagon didn't break down."
"It did!" Felicia said.
"You're right it did conk out on us. But it was only the air conditioner."
"Only the air conditioner? It was 110 degrees that weekend."
"I thought I was gonna die," we said in unison then laughed.
"Richard and Donny look so young in this picture." Felicia handed me a picture of two men standing in front of a river. Their arms were thrown over each other's shoulders."
"They were young. We all were."
Felicia dealt out the next five photos onto the table like playing cards.
I gasped in shock. "How did these...where did you..."
I picked up the first one. I hardly recognized myself. My hair flowed free and silky over my shoulders down to the tops of my twenty-two year old breasts. They were pert and happy to be out in the open air. I shook my head at the sight of my flat stomach and narrow hips.
"My God," I said half happy to be reacquainted with my former self and half depressed that I would never be her again. "Why did I ever think I needed to lose weight back then?"
"Why did any of us?" Felicia pointed to the two of us and three other women dancing in the nude around an open field, hands lifted in the air and our feet moving about beneath us in some sort of spirited dance. Gazing into the picture I could almost remember the hot sun on my skin and the way the music that was playing called my limbs to life like the song of the Pied Piper.
"How did you manage to get these developed?"
"Richard. He had that studio in his basement remember?"
"Oh yeah! That studio."
We laughed hysterically.
"What's so funny?"
I turned to see my son, Kaleb, standing in the archway leading into the dining room. His hair was damp with sweat making his dark blond hair look almost brown. He liked to wear his hair long so that bangs hung in his eyes. I pestered him to cut it so that he looked more clean cut but he resisted. He liked "his style". His style included dressing in cargo shorts and t-shirts with the sleeves cut off all the way down to the hem of the shirt so it became more like a muscle shirt. And my son did have muscles. Kaleb had his father's build, long and lean, though he had grown taller than his father by the time he entered high school. I was all too aware of why Kaleb wore those muscle shirts. I made myself look away from the enticing sight of Kaleb's abdominal muscles.
"Oh, Kaleb, we didn't hear you come in," I said then looked down at the table strewn with the nude photos and panicked. I worked quickly to gather them into stakes and stuff them back into the envelopes.
"How could you? You two were having such a good time in here. What are you looking at?"
The photos' slick surfaces made some of them slip out of my hands and fall back onto the table. I looked over at Felicia for help. She offered only an amused look.
"Some old pictures from a lifetime ago," Felicia said.
"Oh yeah?" Kaleb walked closer and picked up a picture, gave it a quick glance then put it down. Luckily it wasn't any of the ones I didn't want him to see. He reached for one more and my heart stopped. I made a move to snatch it off the table but Kaleb grabbed it first.
Kaleb squinted at it then asked, "Who is this?"
"Who do you think it is?" Felicia asked.
Kaleb looked at Felicia then at me. I felt a blush burn up my cheeks to my ears.
I stood from the table then went to the fridge to get the sangria that had been chilling. It was warm in the room all of the sudden.
"Yes, Kaleb, my young nephew, that is your mother. Hot right?"
"Enough." I walked over and took the photo of me standing in front of the camera in all my glory and none of my shame. "Put these away please, Felicia."
Felicia giggled wildly but complied. "You're mom was hot and she knows it." Felicia shot me a side glance. I poured myself a tall glass of sangria.
"I'll take one," Felicia said.
"One for me too," Kaleb said then he squeezed into the chair beside his aunt. He perused the scattered pictures left there on the table.
"I don't think so, Kaleb."
"I'll be legal in two months," he retorted.
"Let the kid have some for crying out loud," Felicia said before sliding her glass over to him.
Felicia's presence made arguing a losing battle. I simply shrugged and poured another glass.
Kaleb fingered the pictures on the table, pulling one close then pushing it away after inspecting it carefully. "This is you here in this one too?" Kaleb asked.
"I like your hair long like that. It's so blonde in the sun. Why don't you wear it like that anymore?" Kaleb said. He looked up at me. His eyes moved over my face as if he were imagining me with my hair styled the way it was back then.
I ran a self-conscious hand through my short bobbed haircut. "This suits me more. It's quicker in the mornings."
"I still like it this way best," he said then took a sip of sangria. "How long ago were these taken anyway?"
"The summer of 1978," I said.
"Richard Snell talked us all into making a road trip to Rios Canyon, on the hottest day of the year no less," Felicia said.
"The heat made you wanna peel your clothes off and walk around naked," I said.
"And we did. Richard convinced us that we were in nature and natural is how we should be. We would be celebrating our Goddess given beauty."
"I like to think it was the heat," I said embarrassed that I had fallen for Richard Snell's sales pitch and thrown caution, and my clothes, to the wind.
Felicia gave me a suspicious look. "What your mother doesn't want to admit is that it didn't take much convincing for her to do anything back then."
I shot her a look to cut it out. She simply smiled at me.
"That was a lifetime ago," I said. "I've grown up and taken on responsibilities that don't leave room for much of that."
I watched the biggest one of those responsibilities sort through another stack of photos from a different envelope.
"Is dad in any of these?"
"No. I didn't meet your father until much later, when I went back to school for my masters."
"He would have fit right in though. Alan loved to play guitar," Felicia said.
I smiled at the memory. "He did. I think he loved the fact that whenever he brought his guitar out to play the woman gathered around him like moths to a flame."
Felicia must have caught how my smile at the mention of my late husband was beginning to fade because she redirected the conversation.
"We should go back."
"Go back where?" Kaleb asked.
"To hang in the Rios Canyon. We'll load up the car tonight, pack some snacks and head out in the a.m."
"Oh, Felicia I don't know. I had plans to get the garage cleaned out."
"I managed to get it swept out just now. You just need you to tell me what to put out on the curb," Kaleb chimed in.
"Great. I wanted to get the yard cut as well before--"
"I know what you're doing, Joann. It's no use. We're going."
I opened my mouth to speak then closed it when I saw Felicia's expression telling me the matter was closed. I really didn't want to go. Rios Canyon didn't sound appealing. The heat, the bugs, the rough terrain were all things I didn't care about when I was twenty-two and carefree. Today, they all sounded like good reasons to stay home.
"I'm stoked," Kaleb said. "I'll pull out the gear." He drained his glass then stood from the table.
"Don't forget to pull out the big cooler. The one we used for the barbeque last week and pick up some ice and drinks," Felicia instructed as Kaleb was walking toward the garage door.
"Okay," he called over his shoulder. The garage door shut.
"You look very pleased with yourself," I said, unwilling to disguise my irritation.
"This will be a good time. God knows you need it. You're so..."
"I'm so what?"
I stood in front of my sister and allowed her to analyze me, judge me.
"Not yourself. What's going on with you?"
I bristled at the summation that anything was wrong. "I'm sorry that I can't have the devil may care attitude you have and have always had but-"
"You used to have that same outlook on life too, Joann. We grew up in the same house. We weren't raised by button up, straight laced parents. Our house was mellow and warm and loving. Yours has turned..."
"Cold? Empty?" I felt sad saying it out loud because it was true and had been from the moment Kaleb went off to college.
"Hard. Lifeless." Felicia's expression turned from her familiar judgment to concern. "Not to mention weird. What's going on?"
I turned away and busied myself with the dishes in the sink so I didn't start wringing my hands in worry. "I'm being a kill joy apparently."
Felicia came to stand beside me. She put her hand on my shoulder. Its warmth penetrated my shirt. I stiffened. Felicia responded by rubbing my back in soothing circles the way she used to do when we were girls lying in bed at night. I relaxed into the feeling and let my head tilt to the side until our foreheads touched.
"What is it?" she whispered.
"I miss Kaleb." I'd finally admitted it and I thought it would make me feel better but it didn't. I felt more anxious. I hated myself.
"He's in the garage, silly. You'll have him here for the whole summer."
I began to sob. "Have him? I won't have him...not anymore. I can't."
Felicia held me at arms length and looked at me. I avoided making eye contact with her.
"You two are..."
"That explains everything. I can't believe I didn't see it before. This makes sense."
I frowned at her. I didn't know how it could make sense to her when nothing about what was going on made sense to me.
"Jo, really. This was bound to happen."
"He's a young man and he has to go off to school. I can't keep him at home forever. I get that. Really. I do."
"Jo...that's not what I mean and you know it."
I did. I don't know how she figured it out but she did. As much as I was reluctant to admit it, my little sister was right. It was bound to happen. This loss I felt, this sorrow that had grown inside me had found a place in my body to fill the void my lover had left. I'd taken things with Kaleb too far and I was paying the price for it. The truth resonated inside me and made me cry harder. In the next several moments I had told Felicia everything.
Felicia sipped the last of her sangria. "I'll tell you Jo, it's all better than letting some random campus tramp teach him all that you've taught him. Don't beat yourself up for it. Hell, mom wanted the same thing for our brother Eldon. They're closer than ever."
"I doubt she let Eldon be with her the way Kaleb and I have."
"We'll never know. I frankly don't want to know because that's between Mom and Eldon. What matters is that you preserve your special relationship with Kaleb."
"We went too far, Felicia."
"You were careful, Jo." Felicia lowered her voice even though there was no one in the room to hear her. "You aren't going to have an accident if you two are doing anal."
"Did. Did anal. It was the one and only time. Like I said, it started out with me instructing him on how to curb his urges, ways to please himself. It was extremely arousing for both of us, so much so that I found myself wanting to please myself with him. He didn't ask me if he could be inside me that night. I knew he wanted to. I was sure of it then. But maybe it was me, all me. Maybe I was the only one who wanted it and I let it happen. It was a mistake. Our relationship changed after that."
"Of course it did. It progressed to another level. Your bond is more special now."
"He can hardly talk to me. I had to bribe him to come home this summer by getting him an internship downtown. If I hadn't he'd be slaving away slinging burgers near campus. That's not what I wanted."
"Jo, I honestly think you're overreacting. He was open towards you...and even complimentary when he saw those pictures of you." Felicia playfully jabbed me in my side with her elbow.
"You really think so?"
"I know so. No one could resist you back then."
I blushed. "No. I mean do you really think I'm overreacting? You think I haven't ruined everything between us?"
"I do think so. If you don't believe me, go to him and see for yourself."
The thought of talking to Kaleb about this made my stomach flip flop. I took a drink of sangria and made up my mind to talk with Kaleb tonight.
"Now aren't you glad I suggested going to the canyon? We can all relax."
I simply shook my head in disbelief that she was and forever would be the little sister who loved being right.
After Felicia left, I spent the remainder of the day labeling boxes in the garage. I knew I would feel a little better about running off to the canyon if some of what I wanted to get accomplished this week was done when I returned.
I kept an eye out for Kaleb to return home. He'd gone out to get the things we needed for the trip then to see some friends from high school. I should have known he wouldn't be right home. Discouraged I decided to not wait up and started my night time routine with a long, hot bath. It helped get the grim of sweat off me and melt my worries.
I slipped into a cotton nightgown afterwards. I liked the light weight fabric swinging around my legs as I walked into the kitchen for a glass of water. Out of curiosity I peeked through the blinds to the driveway. My pulse quickened when I saw Kaleb's Jeep parked at the curb. Here was my chance to see if we were okay. I stood in the kitchen and sipped the water. I was stalling. The not knowing how he would react to this conversation and the possibility that our relationship was forever changed for the worse gave me pause, but I had to know.
I started across the living room to the other part of the house. I stood in the hallway and listened. There wasn't any sound of his stereo or television. If he was asleep I could sit on the side of the bed and say all I wanted to say to him while he slept. I put my hand on the door knob and noticed a faint blue glow illuminating the threshold. I opened the door slowly.
He was sitting propped up against the headboard. One hand was moving rhythmically on his cock. The other was clutching what looked to be a photograph.
"Mom!" Kaleb yanked the sheet over his lap.
I turned my head and looked at his track medals on the wall beside me. He was rustling around trying to conceal what I had seen before. We were reacting to one another how the world around us expected us to react. My son and I weren't what was weird. The world we were living in was weird. I turned to look at him. I couldn't help but smile at how silly we were acting.
"I'm sorry. I should have knocked."
"I thought you were in bed."
I simply shook my head. I walked to the bed and sat on the corner. The weight of my body pulled on the sheet making it taunt across Kaleb's lap. His hard cock was outlined perfectly. I let the words I wanted to say along with the feelings I wanted to express retreat to the back of my mind.
"What were you looking at?"
"Promise not to get mad?"
Kaleb had the guilty expression on his face he's had since he was a boy. It was one that told me, without asking, that he'd been up to something. He reached under the sheet and pulled out the photo. It was one from the trip to Rios Canyon. The picture was taken from above me. I was stretch out on a towel. One leg was straight out and the other was bent so that my foot connected at the opposite knee. I looked like I was laughing or saying something. I couldn't remember which but I looked happy. I barely remember ever feeling that content.
"Why would I be mad?" I said, laying the photo on the bed.
Kaleb shrugged then said, "I dunno. You didn't want me to see them earlier."
I shook my head. I didn't have an explanation for my actions. I was embarrassed to have my son see me naked in those photos but that was so irrational because he's seen me naked on several occasions.
"I liked this one best. You're so sexy here."
I looked at my fresh face and playful expression. I shook my head in disbelief at how firm my body was and how proudly I posed for the camera.
"No. Not that you aren't sexy now. It's...the way you're looking at me. And the way you're showing off your body. You don't let me see you like that."
Kaleb was smiling at me.
"I don't look like that anymore."
"You'll never be this age again but you're beautiful still. I have a hot mom."
"A hot mom?" I laughed. "What, all your friends think so."
"Yeah. Actually, they do. A few have even said how much they'd love to hookup with you. I have to act like that's messed up for them to say but the truth is...I want to too."
I met his eyes long enough to see that he was serious then I looked away. His confession that he wanted me made arousal spread over my body, warm and pleasant, like a summer breeze.
"I like looking at your bush in this picture. It's like its covering a secret." His finger touched the photo where the soft curls grew between my legs. "I know there are nice puffy lips under there. It got me so hard thinking about getting on top of you, the way you are in this picture and using my cock to get between your pussy lips."
My pussy throbbed because I wanted to know how his erection rubbing and teasing me open felt. My body was tight with anticipation. I managed a nod then leaned back onto my elbows.
Kaleb's eyes locked in on my crotch. My nightgown had risen up to reveal that I wasn't wearing any panties. His expression was one of deep concentration while he positioned my legs precisely the way I was posed in the photo. Pleased he had me just right, he rubbed my legs a few times. His hands were warm and strong. I wanted them all over me. We stared into each other's eyes. His were mixed with lust and wonder as he crawled between my legs. It was an awkward position. My bent leg prevented a perfect union of his crotch with mine. The first touch of my son's cock on my inner thigh made me quiver. I liked the pearl of moisture pooling at the slit of his prominent cock head. Kaleb directed his cock in a meandering path on my thigh and left a wet line from my hip to my inner thigh. We felt it together, the desire for more so we both moved to adjust our positions. I let out a soft moan when his shaft pressed into my pussy. My hips rose instinctively. My wetness was spread along the length of him to his balls. The stiff underside of his cock found my clit and caused it to send out quick pulses like a code requesting for it to be rubbed more. Kaleb lowered his chest to mine while he lingered in the feeling of my wet swollen lips against his cock. He began to grind his hips down into me. I felt a swell of emotions as we melded into each other heart to heart. I clung to him. My hands searched into his hair. My legs wrapped around his. The two of us were moving in no particular rhythm and with no other purpose but to gain the right contact that would push our sensations further.