The Tree

byharding©

I realized my thoughts had dragged me away from the answer.

"Twice a day," I said.

Jen spluttered on her drink. "Twice a day? Fuck, Jack, you're one major stud, ain't ya?"

"You said the truth there," I said, and hugged her. She made a noise.

"Have you ever done it twice a day?" she said.

"Sure."

That noise again.

"How often?"

I shrugged, letting her feel the movement against her back. Took the opportunity to let my hand rise again, as if it was a complete accident. The lower swell of her breast now pressed against the side of my wrist.

"Not so often," I said.

"So you don't know you could realty perform twice a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, do you?"

"No." I waited a beat. "But I'm ready to give it a try."

Jen broke up, curling into herself as she laughed and I swear I didn't make a single move, it seemed she placed her breast inside my palm completely on her own.

She stopped.

I drew my hand away.

"Sorry," I said.

I saw her, felt her, nod. "Accidents happen. Just so long as you don't get no funny ideas."

"You're my sister," I said.

"That's what I mean."

"No ideas," I said, lying through my teeth.

"It's been a tough day."

"Sure has."

I felt her relax. She lay back against me.

"You gonna be good if I lie like this again?"

"Promise."

Her hand came searching and found mine, pulled it back around. She laid it high across her belly, almost where it had been before.

"Although..." she said.

I waited.

A minute passed. Jen finished her drink and I finished mine. I made no move to reach for the bottle. It felt good with her lying against me, and my cock seemed to have passed beyond pain into numbness.

"Although what?" I said.

"Maybe I ought to let you fuck me," she said, and giggled. "Sounds to me like you'd be the best fuck I ever had."

"Was Marty any good?" I said.

"Shit," Jen said.

"Who was your best?"

"Is this part of the game?" she said.

"I think I gave an answer. My turn now."

She nodded. "OK, fine. Let me think..."

"Have there been so many?" I said, when she hadn't replied after thirty seconds.

"One or two, sure."

"How many?"

"Save it for your next question."

"I haven't got an answer to this one yet," I said. "You want more alcohol?"

"Is the Pope a Catholic?"

"You've already used that one," I said.

"Do bears shit in the woods?"

"Rumor has it," I said. I lifted her away from me, took her glass and filled them both, topping them high so I wouldn't have to keep doing it so often. Jen took the glass and sipped at it.

"Are you as shit-faced as I am?" she said, looked at me over the rim of her glass.

"I can't tell until I move."

"Walk across the road to the dunes and back. I need amusing."

I pushed her away, spilling some of her drink on the front of her dress but she didn't appear to notice. I stood and went out the front door into the blustery night, across the narrow roadway and up onto the dunes.

Yes—I was as shit-faced as Jen, but I kept going, weaving from side to side. On the couch I'd felt fine. Out here in the wilderness with all of another hundred feet to reach the fence that ran along the top of the dune I felt unhinged.

I made it though.

I leaned back against the fence, which leaned back away from me, and I stared back at the house. A single lamp above the door cast a pool of light. Jen stood caught on the edge of it and my breath caught in my chest. She was the most exquisite creature I had ever seen.

She swayed a little, waved and grinned.

"See if you can make it back. I got a question for you now."

I tried to recall if she'd given me an answer and couldn't. It didn't matter anyway, I wasn't going to remember any of this in the morning.

I fell flat on my ass half way back, but I think I managed to get up with some dignity and made it all the way to the porch before I went down again.

"Help me," I said.

"If you think I can walk any better than you you're one deluded individual," Jen said.

I shuffled to the door on hands and knees, used the post to climb to my feet.

Jen held her empty glass out to me.

"More?"

"Six," she said.

"Six more?"

"I've fucked six different men."

Ah... an answer. So she hadn't given me one before. It felt like progress of some kind, but toward what I had absolutely no idea.

"When was the first?"

"Uh-uh," she said. "Drink first. You think I'm easy?"

"I don't know. Are you?"

She shook her head again, hard, mussing up her hair. It lay across her face in a way so sexy I wondered if it was possible to pass out from lust.

"My question next," she said, starting to slur her words. "I'm enjoying this. Are you?"

She led the way inside and I followed, locking the front door behind me.

"It's fun."

"I think I might pass out soon," she said. "If I do, can we continued the game tomorrow?"

"We got to work tomorrow," I said.

"After work. I'll make you dinner again-" She stopped as I laughed, and pulled a face. She swiped her hair back to clear her face. "OK, so I'll defrost something Mom left in the freezer, and then we'll play the game again."

"Sure," I said. I took her glass and brimmed it, handed it back. Jen skimmed the top off and sat back, legs splayed, dress awry. One of the top buttons had come loose, but unfortunately it showed only slightly more flesh than when it had been done up.

I filled my glass then pulled the table close to the couch, took Jen's glass and put it on the table next to mine, finally sat. It took me a moment to reconcile the slight rocking of the couch with the swaying inside my head.

Jen turned and I lifted my legs and she scuttled back against me and this time I put both arms around her and she sighed as she settled back. I kissed the top of her head and she squeezed my hand, tugging it upward.

"I guess you can feel my tits if you want. But I'm warning you, they're nothing special."

"Shouldn't I be the judge of that?"

"I think most of the guys I went out with wished there was more."

"I'm not most guys," I said. I resisted her offer and my one hand rested across the top of her belly, the other lower down.

"You're not," she said, hugging her arms around mine. "Would it freak you totally if I kissed you again?"

"Again? You kissed me already?"

She laughed. "Don't pretend you didn't notice. Can I?"

"You really want to?"

"I'm wasted, Jack, but yeah, I think I really want to, before this dutch courage drains away." She reached for her glass and drained half of it in one long swallow, placed it carefully back on the table then turned onto her knees and came in close. "Kiss me, brother."

I touched her lips with mine, once more that smoky taste on her.

Jen moved back and I though that was it, but no, it wasn't. Not it at all.

She looked at me as her hands came up and worked a button loose on her dress, then another, another, another. She worked blind, her eyes locked on mine. I guess she knew how to button and unbutton a dress after all these years.

She drew the cotton aside and I gazed at the wonder of her breasts. The nipples were pebbles, hard and round, as pale as the surrounding flesh.

She came back and pressed her mouth against mine and this time her tongue came out, insistent, seeking, and I opened my mouth and probed back.

My hand went to her naked breasts and I made some kind of sound between us as I cupped her, as soft as velvet, as warm as a summer's day. My other hand rested on the rounded cheek of her ass, pulling her towards me.

"Unh," she said, coming to me, spreading her legs. Then she let out a long hissing sigh and slumped against me like a rag doll.

I gave her a shake and she mumbled something, but there was no sense there.

I moved her so she wouldn't tumble off the seat and started to button up her dress then stopped.

I shook her again.

Her head rolled from side to side.

Shit.

I shifted her and got my arms underneath, sat back on my heels and lifted.

She came easy, lighter than I expected, and I stood with her in my arms, swaying a little, then carried her toward the hallway.

I cracked her head against the doorjamb taking her into her bedroom but she gave no response.

After I laid her on the bed I rolled her onto her side in case she threw up. Then I stood and stared at her. I don't know for how long. Could have been a minute, could have been an hour.

I rolled her onto her back again and undid her dress, worked it off.

I stood another immeasurable time staring at my sister's body, naked other than a pair of tiny panties, thinking of nothing at all other than how utterly perfect she was.

Jen hadn't gotten the chance to ask how many women I had fucked. The answer was more than six. But standing beside the bed looking at her I knew there was only one woman I had ever wanted, and she was lying almost naked before me.

I could have her, I knew, right there, right then, and Jen would never know, would remember none of this. I even undid the buttons along the front of my jeans and started to tug them down before sense prevailed.

Maybe Jen would never know, but I would.

I rolled her onto her side again, covered her with a blanket and went to my room.

***

I woke to the certainty my eyes were bleeding and my brain was slowly leaking out my ears. The hissing resolved into the sound of running water. Jen was up and in the shower. I groaned, rolled over.

I had gone back to sleep when she bounced on the bed.

"Wake up, dumbo, there's chores a'waitin'."

I rolled onto my back. Jen's hair was still wet, her skin damp, and the silk of her robe clung against her body—a body I had seen in all its mystery and allure less than eight hours before. I think. The memory was hazy, tinged with a sense of unreality, and I half believed I might have made it up.

"Did you undress me?" Jen said.

"When?"

"Ha-ha-ha. Last night. I woke at three a.m. with a bladder fuller than the Hoover dam and didn't even notice I was near-naked until I came out the bathroom. So did you?"

"I dunno," I said. "Maybe."

She nodded. "OK, that's cool, I guess. I wouldn't have wanted to puke on that dress, it's one of my favorites. Promise you didn't, you know, fuck me or anything, though?"

"What!" I sat up and wished I hadn't.

Jen smiled. "Joking. You think I wouldn't be able to tell?" She stopped and frowned. "Unless you used a rubber. Did you put a rubber on and fuck me?"

"Look at me, sis," I said. "You think I was capable of doing anything last night?"

"You managed to get me good and naked."

True. "You already thanked me for that. No problem. Any time. You only need to ask. Besides, you weren't naked."

"In those panties I might as well have been."

"They were small," I admitted.

Jen gave me a look. "You ready to get going?"

"I need a shower," I said.

"I might have left you some water." She got up and flounced out. That's right—flounced. I didn't even know she could do that.

When I came out dressed in the same clothes as the day before Jen was in sweatpants and a cream tank top that showed off her braless nipples. She was standing in the hallway outside Mom and Pop's bedroom.

"I don't want to open the door," she said.

"We got to clear the house," I said. "You know we do."

"I'll do the family room if you do in here."

"Uh-uh. We both do their bedroom. We got to. It's like, you know, closure. We've got to do it together."

"I hate you," Jen said.

"I know. But you love me too, don't you, just a little bit?"

"Only a tiny, tiniest bit." She held her fingers together, almost touching, before turning and opening the door, muttering something coarse beneath her breath.

***

It was one tough day. And then there was the tree. Maybe the toughest and best thing about it.

There had been moments of deep sorrow mixed with moments of almost ecstatic joy. Both Jen and I were drained by the time we stood side by side at the kitchen sink, me drying as Jen washed.

Packing their clothes had been the worst, our emotions soaring and swooping like a single engine Cesna coming into Catlin field when an easterly was blowing hard.

Jen burst into tears, burying her face in Pop's tweed jacket, and when I went to hold her I caught the scent too, his aftershave, the pipe tobacco he always smoked, the smell of him, his essence, and I broke down alongside her.

Later I went up into the loft and found a box of old photographs, carried them down and we spent an hour we couldn't spare going through them, laying most aside to take away with us. There were more tears but these were of joy, not sorrow.

"How much other junk is up there, Jack?" Jen said. "You know we'll have to clear it all."

"Some," I said, not wanting to go back into the roof space. It was cold and full of cobwebs. And there was a lot of stuff up there. But putting it off would only make the job worse, which is how after a snatched lunch Jen stood at the foot of the aluminum ladder while I carted boxes and things wrapped in old tarp to the hatch. Those she could manage I passed down. Those that were too heavy I manhandled myself.

We laid it all out—dust and cobwebs included—in the family room and stared at the piles.

Jen wiped her hand across her face, trying to clear the spidery feeling, but we both knew only a long, hot shower was going to do that.

We started in on the boxes.

It was Jen discovered the tree, and she sat back hard on her heels and gave a sharp breath so sudden I turned, thinking she'd hurt herself.

"Oh," I said.

The tip of the tree poked out from the top of a wrap of plastic so scarred and faded it was near impossible to see what it contained.

"You remember this sucker?" Jen said, her voice sounding odd.

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. Yesterday was bad enough, this was worse. This was our childhood, all our happy Christmases and the smell of roast chicken mixed with burning logs wrapped into one, and I knelt down beside Jen and lifted her grubby hand.

"Damn," she said, then gave a half sob. "How can we throw this out?"

"It's a shit Christmas tree, Jen. It's not even real. Hell, I'm not even sure if it's plastic. Did they make plastic when Mom and Pop bought this?"

"Of course they did." She breathed deep, let the air out slow. "I want to put it up."

"It's filthy," I said.

"I want to put it up," she said again.

I looked at her, dark hair caught in a clasp behind her head, face streaked, eyes damp, and nodded. "Sure, we can put it up."

***

As I stacked the last of the dishes Jen went to the cabinet and took down two tumblers. She shook them in my direction and I nodded and she walked into the family room.

By the time I joined her she had poured and was sitting on the couch staring at the tree. It wasn't decorated yet, other than a single silver globe hanging from one plastic branch. We had both showered a second time before eating, and she again wore the same dress as the night before.

"I'm not getting drunk tonight," she said.

"Me neither."

"But I want to continue our game."

"OK." I felt my cock stir, already anticipating what was to come. But what was to come? Nothing, I knew. Everything else was delusion. Exquisite delusion.

"Except I can't remember who's turn it was."

I laughed. "Nor me. I'm not even sure what the questions were, or the answers."

"Now I know you're lying. I remember those. And..." She put a finger to her chin in a ridiculous show of coquettishness, "I'm sure it was my question next, now I think on it."

I honestly couldn't remember, honestly didn't care.

Neither of us had touched the bourbon yet, but I knew we would. We needed something to loosen us up.

Jen leaned out from the seat for her glass, hesitated and sat back, turned to look at me.

"I do remember some things, though," she said. "At least I think I do. Did I act inappropriately last night?"

"Not so I noticed," I said.

"I distinctly remember kissing you in a way a sister is not meant to kiss her brother."

"It was only a kiss. And we both did it." As if that made a difference.

"And I think I showed you my tits. But I guess if you undressed me that's beside the point. Except me showing them isn't, is it?"

"They're nice tits," I said.

"Why thank you, sir."

I reached for my glass and took a sip. After a moment Jen did the same.

"I know it was me too last night, but if I ask you to cuddle me like you did, will you promise not to do anything you shouldn't?"

"Define shouldn't," I said.

She put her tumbler back on the table and looked at me. "You know what's right and what's not. We both do. I won't deny I'm feeling something here, Jack, but we can't act on whatever it is. You feel it too, don't you?"

I didn't say a word, didn't make any move to indicate one way or the other, but my heart was beating so hard inside my chest I was sure Jen could see it.

"It's this fucking situation!" She reached for her glass again, taking a big swallow this time. "This is unreal. This whole thing. Packing their stuff up, finding those photos. The tree! We haven't been close like this since we were teenagers, and now we're grown up and should know better."

"We do. Don't sweat it, Jen. We're adults, like you say. You think I can't control myself?"

"It's not you I'm worried about."

I watched her for a while. Her eyes shone with unshed tears and she breathed fast.

I leaned forward and took her hands, laying them palm up against mine.

"Jen—I promise I will never do anything I shouldn't to you. You're by beautiful sister and I love you more than life itself. I would never do anything to harm our relationship."

She wouldn't lift her head to meet my gaze as she sighed so deeply it seemed her heart was leaving her body.

She opened her mouth to say something then shook her head, finally lifting her eyes to mine.

"My question then?"

I smiled. "Sure. Your question."

"And a hug's allowed?"

I sat back and rested my legs along the couch and held my arms out. Jen came to me, holding my face in both hands and kissed my lips. It was half way between last night's first kiss and the second. A little parting of the mouth. A trace of tongue. Then she turned and settled down against me and I hugged her hard. I was getting used to the feel of her body, the dips and curves and crevices. Getting to like the feeling too.

"Who gave you your first blow job, Jack?"

I almost choked.

"Fair's fair," Jen said, "Anything's allowed tonight. The rest of this week too."

"Elaine Philips," I said.

"Was it any good?"

"That's another question," I said.

"Subsidiary. It's allowed."

I laughed. "You mean there are rules?"

"Sure. My rules. I am the lawyer, after all. Was it a good blow job?"

"Maybe the best blow job of my entire life," I said.

"Wow. Did she take you all the way in? Did she swallow?"

"That's two subsidiary questions," I said.

"All allowed, so long as they relate to the original one."

"No, she didn't swallow, and as I recall she barely took me beyond her lips."

"And that's the best you've ever had? Man, you haven't lived much, have you?"

"It was the best because it was the first," I said. "I was so excited I came almost immediately. I think it surprised us both. I don't think Elaine was expecting it to happen so fast. And I'm sure she didn't intend me to come all over her mouth and chin like I did. But sure, it was good. Amazing."

"You ever been swallowed?" Jen said.

"Now that's a different question."

"Nope. We're still talking fellatio here, buster. Same topic."

"I give in. Do I get to ask anything tonight at all?"

"Sure. Once I'm completely satisfied I've got everything out of you I can." Jen wriggled her ass against me. I was no longer worried she might feel my erection. I was sure she was doing it on purpose and I'd pressed against her when she moved. It felt good, her ass sliding across the ridge in my jeans.

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