tagFirst TimeTwice Ten Point Zero (10.0)

Twice Ten Point Zero (10.0)


A Story by XXscribbler

Preliminary note to my readers: this is an old story, written very early in my career, and stowed away for years. I'm not really happy with it - the tale seems (now) a bit heavy in the last half. But it is FUN in its own way. Here it is for what it's worth. Cheers!

Airports themselves were okay, it was the cell phones that he hated.

Used to be, before the cell age, his waiting time in airports was usable and reasonably private: he got lots of reading done back then. Not now. Yammer, yammer, everywhere. A dozen or more conversations within earshot: you could close your eyes but not your ears. His refuge now was his fantasies and memories, where the voices in his head could drown out the verbal trivia around him. The plane was late, but he was patient. Memories were good.

Barry had been in Beijing some months ago. He was the only American, and the only academic, in a group of non-Chinese, mostly businessmen and women, on a multi-week PRC-government-sponsored tour. Not to mention he was the only foreign participant who wasn't significantly overweight, the only one who insisted on getting up and running daily, for both sanity and health. At least the group collectively didn't smoke, and their hosts had tried valiantly, with partial success, to accommodate that despite the amazing prevalence of Marlboro posters on public walls.

He was there because the Chinese Government had admitted, finally, a need for help in analyzing and planning some aspects of their changeover from command to market economy.

The usual PRC arrangements held: well-escorted and tightly choreographed visits, motorcades, lectures and consultations.

A good all-purpose "guide/maitre-de/translator/concierge", too, assigned to their group full-time, from breakfast to taps. Her name was a sibilant mix of sounds unpronounceable by westerners: she warned them first thing that their attempts at her real name would almost certainly result in something quite pornographic, so they should just call her "Missy".

Missy seemed young, and was physically tiny, at most perhaps five foot zero, and maybe forty-five kilos wet? She also seemed plain at first glance: not a trace of makeup, no jewelry. The more one studied her, however, the more one realized that she was quite refined and attractive. At any rate, she was stunningly graceful and quick in her movements, none of the usual unfortunate flat-footed local gait. Squarish face, classically fine-featured, atop a long, elegant neck, a neck emphasized by her shiny, jet-black hair pulled up into a French-roll, distinctly not a local style.

And always, everywhere, even at the nightly banquets (all of which she attended), she was dressed in formless khaki, as were most of their hosts. Too bad, Barry thought on several occasions. Eternally observant, not to mention near-terminally horny, Barry studied her covertly throughout the first few days. He always paid attention to women's exteriors, even as he consciously tried not to let those exteriors get in the way of appreciating a woman's other aspects. In his defense, he also appreciated her interior: she was smart, friendly, and capable.

Within a couple of days, he had had several reasonably long conversations with her during breaks. Missy had a very good, extensive technical background, was mentally quicker than most of the bureaucratic hosts, and also quite obviously better educated in general. She didn't stumble over many terms, handled people and questions nicely. She spoke good simple English, carefully restricting herself to mostly one- and two-syllable words, thus avoiding the trap of "show-off" polysyllabic nonsense that ensnares so many educated non-native speakers.

Missy also had an odd habit that took him some time to spot: she never used contractions, shades of Star-Trek's Commander Data, and that made her sound very formal.

On about day three, when Barry and Missy had already had their first few casual face-to-face talks, and had discovered that they could, in fact, enjoy one another's company, the group had a two-hour bus ride to an industrial plant. For the trip they picked up a factory interpreter who lectured them enroute, thus relieving Missy of her usual duties.

Entirely by accident, they wound up sitting together in the rear-most seats, and passed the time well. He was used to discussing technical subjects with non-technical people, and that ability seemed to help. Early in the ride he praised her English, and compared her very favorably against the current speaker, who was busily boring everyone with murky, over-fast, and generally unintelligible gibberish.

She accepted the compliments gracefully, then told him "My first English teacher once said I should read Mark Twain and Winston Churchill and learn to speak their way. That means using only small words, because they are strong and clear and easy to remember. So Mister Twain and Sir Winston have been my real teachers."

The conversation had later become more personal: she was 37 (Barry would have guessed perhaps 25, told her so, and was rewarded with a blush and "Thank you!"), had a seven-year-old daughter, lived with her twenty-eight year old sister and their mother in a 400 square foot apartment ("Four fifty if you count the balcony and our part of the hallway!") Barry was thinking, "That's half the size of my garage!"

Barry was single, unattached in any significant way at the moment. When in the general course of the conversation he volunteered that information, she returned the confidence, told him she was divorced. There was pain and embarrassment in her face as she spoke. It was so obvious that he apologized for "forcing" her to tell him (which he certainly had not done).

He considered the possibility he might be acting the "cultural imperialist", then explained the term and warned her that he would like to say something about her situation, but from his own cultural perspective. She found that interesting and told him to go ahead, that she wouldn't be offended no matter what, since they could surely agree that cultural differences were a matter of opinions and beliefs, thus matters of taste instead of fact.

Barry didn't know it, but she was mentally gritting her teeth, expecting him to tell her (as if enough people hadn't done so already!) how damaging, how devaluing, a divorce was to a woman, just as in her own society. But no, how wrong an assumption that had been!

He told her, "Missy, everyone makes mistakes. Absolutely everybody, and in all sorts of ways. Some errors are small, others large. A divorce merely means that you had the good sense to see a mistake, and the strength to try to fix it. It means nothing about your worth, you know. My own parents were divorced after twenty years and four kids. In America, over half of all marriages end in divorce within ten years. So for us Americans, at least for me and for most thoughtful ones, a divorce is not evil or degrading or bad for one's face. Many people have several divorces and marriages during their life. People do change, we live a very long time nowadays, and it is a mark of strength to accept and deal with the changes, even if it can be painful."

He paused for a deep breath, then continued: "So, Missy, I could not possibly think badly of you for such a strong and clear decision. In fact, if the Chinese view is that divorce is a disgrace or something evil, then I would admire you even more for making such a hard choice."

She was astounded: nobody had ever told her such a thing, quite the opposite. Her mother and friends all were appalled at the divorce, and kept bringing it up even now, years later. Tears started to come, but she successfully fought them back. She did observe, through her upset, that Doctor Barry carefully took no notice of the tears, and let her settle down without comment. More sensitive than she would have expected.

The conversation continued, but on much more impersonal topics, through to their arrival at the factory. There, she was back into her guide/interpreter role. Barry spent more time watching her than attending to what she was saying.

At one point, while she was standing to one side interpreting, and all the other folks' eyes were on the speaker, she caught Barry staring hard at her and blushed brightly. Barry was embarrassed for having embarrassed her, but he scanned the room and discovered that nobody else seemed to have noticed. By the end of his scan, her color was back to normal, and she hadn't missed a word or broken stride.

He was to learn that these spectacular color changes, and their almost instant resolution back to base-level coloring, were part of Missy's physiology. He found it utterly endearing, and also found himself very strongly attracted to Missy in general, but had the good sense to keep that as much to himself as he could.

He didn't know that she was fully aware of that attraction, within the classical feminine capability of deploying emotional antennae without being observed - aware, and quite flustered. He didn't pick up on that. Of course he didn't, being thoroughly male! He did nothing, she did nothing. Except that they covertly observed one another.

For both, the next day or two were actually moments of studying the other, strung together with periods of "other stuff": trivia!

Dr Barry, she soon discovered, always went running early in the morning, despite the heat and generally poor air quality. For Barry, going out at dawn meant he wasn't simply the central "object-of-gawk" for the whole city, and could avoid much of the worst of the smog.

Each day as he crossed the lobby just after first-light, she was sitting in a comfortable chair, apparently deep in study of the day's itinerary. He always nodded and said good morning, but never bothered her, and completely failed to notice that she followed him intently with her eyes as he passed, lingering as he trotted down the stairs and out of sight.

She thought it was nice to see a round-eye in good shape and conscientious about exercise. He was BIG, by her standards, but lean and not as bear-hairy as many Caucasians. She found his bulk, and the glistening golden hairs of his arms and legs interesting: certainly it was a contrast from the slenderness and baby-smooth hair-free-ness of the local men.

Much more interesting than his coloring and fur was the stretching he did when he returned drenched in sweat after his forty or forty-five minutes of running. Even when he was done with post-run stretching, no other group members were up and about. Slugabeds all.

Finally, on day four, she watched him through the lobby window as he leaned on the building, doing what looked to her like random exercises to cool down, very ineffectual exercises they were, too. She surprised herself when she left her paperwork on the lobby chair and walked outside to say hello.

Barry was likewise surprised, but pleased. From his position leaning against the wall, he eyed her under his arm, and responded quite informally, "'H'lo... I'll be done shortly!"

She felt emboldened by their discussion, on the bus, of her divorce: they seemed to have made real connections then, and he had certainly not been put off by the revelation. And he was friendly in a way that made her comfortable, very different from the ordinary guest-guide interactions. She smiled at him and said how nice it was that he took care of his body, then startled him: "Doctor Barry, would I be impolite if I showed you some better exercises to cool down?"

He said "Of course not. I always can use a lesson. What do you think I should do instead of these?" He wondered what in her background led her to feel like giving him exercise advice? He would find out shortly.

For her part, she was going to show off for him a little: the desire to do so was unusual for her. She kicked off her clogs and shuffled her bare soles against the rough pavement. He watched with interest: she seemed to be testing the surface, then she spread her small toes wide apart and visibly gripped the asphalt. With her feet adjusted, she tucked her shirt tightly into her belt, stiffened her legs, and jack-knifed forward until her forehead touched her ankles.

Then, as he goggled, she put her hands on the ground and rotated in painfully slow-motion into an absolutely perfect handstand. And did several vertical pushups. And then smiled up at him, flipped herself onto her feet, and giggled: "Start this way!"

Her happy-little-kid expression said it all: "Gotcha! Didn't expect THAT from me, did you?"

His totally flummoxed expression amused her no end, so she explained. "I was on the Olympic team for floor exercise. Long time ago, more than twenty years! The real team was five girls, I was number seven. I went to the games as an 'extra' for emergencies but did not compete. The others were too good and too lucky, nobody got injured. My sports career was over when I was nineteen!"

She shrugged: "Then I coached a little while, but I really wanted to become a ballerina. I found out it was too late in my life, and I was too small! Imagine -- too SMALL to be a ballerina! Anyway, I still, today, like my studies of gymnastics. I go four nights every week, for two hours. It is good for the body."

She paused, eyed him much more frankly than he expected, a coach's practiced inspection. He was almost embarrassed.

He returned her long glance silently, then said "Well, Missy, that is very interesting. I am impressed: very few people in the world get to such a level. It isn't important that you didn't get to compete, the important thing is that you were able to advance so far. All I could ever do in sports was finish a few non-competitive marathons. I was not fast, but steady. But I like gymnastics, and I watch it every Olympics... especially the women's floor exercises. The women there are the prettiest in the world."

He almost chuckled: "So, Missy, it's highly probable that I watched you as a child, and with great interest, too. I like pretty women, you know."

The final comment was aimed quite clearly at her, personally. She did another of her patented quick-rise, instant-fade blushes, looked away briefly, controlled herself.

He waited a second, then almost giggled at her, and in a conspiratorial whisper asked "Want to know a secret of mine? Promise you won't be embarrassed if I'm very frank with you?"

She was surprised, but nodded her agreement. His streak of frankness, she already knew, was meters wide, and she approved, once she got it separated, in her own mind, from rudeness.

He told her, "Well, I have always wished the gymnastics could be done in the nude. Naked. The contestants, all of them, men and women but especially the women, and in particular the floor-exercise girls, have incredibly beautiful bodies, and I'd like to see them naked. After all, the ancient Greeks exercised and competed in the nude."

She went a much deeper red, looked away for a second, then back at him eye to eye.

He shrugged and sighed, finished with "Of course, that would be dangerous in a way. Every man watching would be totally aroused. Sexually. Every man in the world, I think, would like to make love to the little women gymnasts. They are so pretty and so flexible, it would be... well, Missy, it would be much more than just interesting. It would be a cosmic experience! But then, I've always been a great day-dreamer. Especially about women."

She was quiet, studying him.

He worried that perhaps he had gone way over her boundaries, didn't understand why he had felt compelled to tell her that.

She relieved his anxiety: "Hmm. I often thought in competitions that it would be easier to be naked: the costumes are not very comfortable, and they hardly cover anything anyhow. Especially how they become transparent when the body gets sweaty! But to perform completely naked? In front of judges and the whole world, on television? I could not possibly do THAT!"

Then she grinned at him, and her face radiated. She could be so extraordinarily pretty! She changed the subject smoothly; "Doctor, you look like you do exercises, too, not just running." She pointed to his arms: "Running does not build up those muscles!"

He told her of his tri-weekly sessions in the gym, on the machines. Thirty machines, lots of muscle groups, plenty of sweat. She understood: they had good older-generation Nautilus equipment in her current gym, and she used it still, although not as much as she should, she told him.

She picked up her story: "So, after gymnastics, I went to technical school, and learned English, and here I am, working with your group."

She then proceeded to show him several new cool-down stretches: she was a good instructor and seemed to instinctively sense just how far he could go with each one. She spent the time watching his muscles work beneath his tight, oddly-colored skin. The most interesting thing to her was the abrupt change in color of skin that showed on his back when he bent forward and down, moving his waistband. He was very white in those hidden places! That did nothing to quiet her imagination.

On the evening of day four, dinner ended rather early, and Barry retired to his room. It was nicely appointed, good view, good solid bed, a nice bathroom (with the usual Chinese plumbing's random surprises). They were busy being good hosts, the Chinese.

He took a quick shower to rid himself of the dust and gunk of the day, then donned the hotel's terrycloth robe. It was Chinese-sized, and hit him about the top of the knee. Very Scottish.

Post-shower, Barry was horny: nothing unusual in that. During his shower he'd developed a roaring hardon, and now he was about to relieve it manually. While he traveled, he liked to masturbate to fantasies about women he had just met, and for the last couple of nights the subject had been Missy... after all, she was the only even slightly attractive woman in view most of the time, and he loved exercising his imagination.

Just as he tied the robe's belt, there was a gentle knock at his door. He was expecting no interruptions or visitors was travelling totally alone, so stepped to the door, left it closed, and said "Yes?"

From outside came a gentle, quiet voice which he recognized instantly: Missy! This was more than merely odd. He pulled his robe tight around himself and opened the door a few inches.

She was standing there looking up at him, face prettily blushed, wearing the first non-government clothing he'd seen her in... a beautiful silk-print dress, flowing, almost kimono-like. His surprise showed, and she apologized for disturbing him. Then she finally noticed the state of his dress, bare legs beneath the robe, and immediately started to back away, apologizing again for interrupting him so late in the evening. Obviously he was about ready to go to sleep after the long day, she shouldn't bother him.

Barry wouldn't have anything to do with that nonsense, just hoped he could keep his erection hidden until it deflated. Whatever her reason for visiting, the company would be nice. He opened the door and invited her inside. After a few moments' hesitation she accepted. He closed the door behind her, wondering what the dickens she was doing here... and being careful not to let his imagination run away with itself. He invited her to sit down, and he sat in another easy chair across from her.

She was very pretty, he decided, especially outside of those awful GI clothes. She sat bolt upright: for the first time ever, he could see traces of breasts beneath the fabric. That didn't help his erection go away.

He waited. She'd come to him, it was her move.

Missy had spent the entire day working herself up to this moment, and was nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but she didn't let much of that show. It took a while for her to get going, but finally, in a very small voice she said "Doctor Barry, I have a problem, and want to ask you for help. But you do not know me very well, so maybe you will not want to do anything. Perhaps even if you do want to, you will not be able to do anything. I am very embarrassed to ask, and it is really not proper, but I have nobody else to go to. You said, on the bus, that you thought it was good when a person had a hard problem and decided to take action. Even if the action was not good in that person's culture."

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