I was humming along with the song playing on my car radio as I drove north, the beating of the wiper blades providing background rhythm. I laughed out loud as the perfect line to accompany that thought came up in Janis Joplin's "Me and Booby McGee". It made me feel a little more confident. I was driving to visit someone and a curious mixture of anticipation and uneasiness filled me.
One week ago I had been at work. The story of my life. Our traveling audit team was running through the records and the stock of a nation-wide discount chain on a store-by-store basis. We had done the same thing last year and I had seen no reason to expect this would be different. We had set up our laptop and printer and then the crew had scattered throughout the store, laser readers in hand.
While the majority of the crew handled the sales floor, I took care of the back room storage area. How this task always ends up in the hands of a 32 year old woman, I can't tell you for sure. Part of it is that I seem to be able to spot the anomalies, the out-of-kilter items, both on the shelves and in the paperwork. For instance that day I came across several cardboard cases marked "School Notebooks" labeled with a stock number that returned a retail price of 20 dollars each. Just a simple error, the reversing of two digits, but multiplied times the several hundred items it could make a substantial difference in the books.
The other quality I seem to possess is an ability to make friends, or at least friendly acquaintance, with the store personnel. Our crew leader, a very nice capable young man right out of college, was technically excellent, but painfully shy. He could be backed into a corner by a manager insisting there had to be more stock than we had accounted for. I could help him out of that corner with a smile and calm pretty much everyone down.
I sometimes wondered why that ability had seemed to make me agreeable with everyone except my ex-husband. He had found plenty to argue with me about. No, that wasn't fair. We had married right out of high school, based on the assumption that since we had so much fun together as teenagers, we would do so the rest of our lives. Some people do, we didn't. After 10 years of our steadily escalating arguments about pointless things he had left, as he later admitted, because he had once come close to striking me. Terrified at the thought of becoming an abusive spouse, he had moved out. That was that.
Strangely enough, it wasn't. We had both continued to live in the same southern city we had grown up in. We maintained some of the same friends. In an amazing discovery, he had found out that underneath the stuffed white shirt and tight rep tie of the successful insurance salesman beat the heart of a poet. He had become a rather well-known regional writer and artist. Recently he had found the time to take several months off work and had traveled through Europe, particularly Italy. He had mailed me dozens of packages; filled with photos, souvenirs and small art works. The accompanying letters made it clear it was not in the spirit of "Hah, Hah, look where I am", but rather a genuine attempt to share with me anything he thought I might find interesting.
As nice, and as strange as it seemed, to be growing ever closer to my ex, it wasn't doing much to solve a continuing problem I had been having, called "no sex". I wasn't much for bars and the few dates that friends had arranged had not turned out well. I had been surreptitiously keeping an eye on Tommy, my crew leader. After all, he was young, pretty good looking and, from what I had seen at a company get-together, had a good body. However he seemed to stick with girls his age. After all, I was 10 years older. I certainly had no supermodel's body, being broader in the hips and smaller in the bosom by several sizes from their specifications.
Oh well, I had to steer him through this audit. I had briefly conferred with the store manager about the first errors I had found. As I left that conversation I heard a bright female voice say "Hi Sherry. Nice to see you again."
I turned around and automatically smiled at the woman who had spoken. I knew she looked familiar but couldn't place her. She was about 5'4" in her heels, with short brown hair and brown eyes. She was perhaps a little older than me, around 40. Her face was unremarkable, plain but nicely made-up. Rather like my own, not a centerfold but not breaking mirrors in passing either. Her smile was nice though, warm and friendly. And that made me even more embarrassed that I couldn't recall her name or exactly why I knew her.
She must have seen through my smiling facade because she suddenly laughed. "Betty Craig. We met last year here. I came down from my store in South Carolina to help out."
"Oh golly, of course, Betty. Sorry."
"Nothing to worry about. First, it was one time and it was months ago. Second, you probably remembered me in jeans and tennis shoes. Now that I've been promoted I'm all dressed up." She laughed again and pirouetted. "I clean up rather nicely don't I?"
Now I remembered her and she did look nice. Her hair was cut and styled, shaping her face. She wore a peach colored skirt that came to her knees, with matching heels and a short sleeve pullover of peach and white. Almost absently, I noted that her body was very slender. Even I had a larger bust than she did and her legs were down right skinny.
We started going through the discrepancy sheets while moving around the store together. We covered what I had found. Tommy started handing me the reports from the rest of the store with an obvious air of relief that I was handling things.
As the hours flew by, Betty and I began to relax more and found ourselves solving the world's problems as well as the audits. I found she had a delightful sense of humor and an ability to take a skewed look at things that more than once threatened to make me burst out in uncontrollable laughter. I also discovered she had a warm, sensitive personality and decided it was a shame she lived on the far side of the next state up. I was sure she would make a great friend.
Besides enjoying her company and her wit, I felt something else. I really had no idea what that "something else was". I knew that for once I was sorry to see the audit come to an end. Tommy dismissed the others and packed up the equipment while Betty and I settled into two chairs in the manager's office to finalize the paperwork. I shut the door, as some of what we had to discuss was confidential.
Betty kicked off her low heels. "Oh my that feels good."
I laughed. I can't imagine wearing heels at work, even low ones. I like them, but to me their place is on a date."
"I know, but I like dressing nicely now that my job allows me. And besides," she smiled, "I get to send a good bit of time sitting down. She stretched her legs, "Still, it does feel good getting them off."
We discussed the final issues. Then we simply talked a bit, as though she was as reluctant as I to end the day. She was divorced too, so we compared stories about our ex's. Tommy knocked and called he was leaving. I told him I'd bring the paperwork by the office later.
"Well I guess we better get on the road then," Betty commented. She signed the paperwork and I gave her the copies she needed and tucked ours into a folder. Betty dug through her pocketbook, pulling out a pen.
"I'm going to be in Charleston next week." Betty scribbled furiously on a business card before handing it to me. "Here's my cell phone number and here's the address of the hotel I'll be staying at. Call me. I'd love for you to come up and see me."
"Sure Betty," I replied, thinking how much I liked Charleston. "I'd like that."
"Great," she smiled. She glanced at her watch, pulled her shoes back on and piled her papers in her briefcase before closing it. She looked at the office door and then turned to me. She wrapped her arms around my neck and before I had any idea what was happening, she brought her lips to mine and kissed me. Not just a peck either. Her lips clung to mine and for just a second I was conscious of her tongue tip.
"Mmmmmm, that was nice," She picked up her briefcase, opened the office door and started out. Pausing, she looked back at me. "Call me. I want to see you again."
I sat there completely astounded. Did what I think just happened really take place? Had another woman just made a pass at me? I thought so, but at the same time it just seemed unbelievable.
The store manager knocking on the door finally snapped me out of my reverie. I thanked him for his cooperation and left. I carefully drove to the office, dropped off my paperwork and went home.
I spent the next few days rationalizing my perception of what had happened. Surely Betty was not making a pass at me. I hardly knew her and it seemed unlikely that she would have just suddenly decided I was a lesbian. It probably was no more than just a huggy-touchy-feely personality and I had obviously imagined that the kiss was more than just that.
Twice I reached for the phone the following Wednesday. I was unsure about what my motives were. I was uncertain about why I wanted to call her at all. And I knew I didn't really know why I wanted to see her again, and why I couldn't seem to erase her face from my thoughts. My mouth was so dry I put a cup of ice water beside me as I finally lifted the phone and dialed her cell number.
"Hi, Betty Craig here."
"Hi Betty, this is Sherry Andersen."
"Sherry! Hi. I'm so glad you called. What's going on?"
I hesitated and then took the plunge, "Betty I'm off tomorrow and Friday. I wondered if you might have some time to wander Charleston with me if I came up there." I wasn't sure that "wandering Charleston" was what she had in mind. I wasn't sure that it was what I had in mind. I did know I wanted to see her again.
"Absolutely. I have a great idea. Come up tomorrow afternoon. I'll give you directions to which store I'll be at. You can come by and I'll give you the key to my hotel room. You could relax till I get done and then we can go out to dinner. After that, well, we'll just see."
"Okay," I said. "I'll see you tomorrow."
I carefully hung up the phone. My mouth was still dry, but my heart was thumping. I went to my closet and began to pull out clothes. While I was trying to decide between a pantsuit and a skirt and blouse combination the phone rang again.
"Hey beautiful, how's my favorite girl?"
I laughed. "Well I don't know how's she's doing but I'm pretty good for an old broken down ex-wife, Pete. How's my favorite high school boyfriend?"
"If he's the one I'm hoping you're talking about, he's great and would like to know if you want to go out to dinner on Saturday? Its been a long time since we just had the chance to sit down and talk. I miss that."
I smiled. "So do I Peter. Sure, I'd love to." We settled the details of when and where. After I hung up I went back to packing. In a flash I decided I would wear the pantsuit and bring the skirt and blouse for dinner. A dress I had been consideringtaking to Charleston went back in the closet. After a moment I took it back out and began to hunt for shoes to match it. When I got back it would be nice to wear Saturday night.
The smile stayed on my face. How much Peter and I had changed over the last five years. He was freer and more relaxed now, and so much happier with who he was. So was I, come to think of it. And I had matured a good bit, calmed down and become more thoughtful. In a way, we were better suited to each other now then when we had been married.
The next day was overcast and threatened rain. I considered calling Betty and canceling. After all, it was just going to visit a new friend, even though I had some strange feelings when I thought of her. Then I decided, I had the car packed and was dressed, I was going.
The threatened rain came and went, but never enough to make me think of turning around. I found the store Betty was at with ease. She greeted me with a smile.
"Glad you made it. Here's my hotel room card. I'm buried up to my elbows here but I should make it by 6. We can go eat then and maybe sample the Charleston nightlife."
Whether it was the four hour drive or the excitement of the moment I don't know, but when I got to the room and stretched out I fell asleep. My eyes popped open at the knock on the door. I hurried to let Betty in.
"Have a nice nap?" she inquired. I told her I had. "Great, well then are you as hungry as I am?" she asked as she casually unzipped her skirt. When I answered yes, she said "Great, I'm starved. Let me change and we'll go to this great place I was told about. I've already made reservations." She pulled her blouse off and headed for the closet area. She looked through her clothes. As she took an outfit out she spotted my blouse and skirt and whistled. "That looks great, Sherry. Are you going to wear that?"
I took the hangers from her and nodded. She touched my hand, the first physical contact we had, and said approving, "You'll look wonderful."
I retreated toward the bed I had been napping on, uncertain whether to change there or go in the bathroom. The casual way Betty changed in front of me made up my mind. I undressed and donned my new outfit. Betty neither looked at me nor away from me while I did. Reassured, I hopped in her car and we took off.
The restaurant was a lovely Italian one. We were seated in the back and Betty got us a bottle of wine. The lights were low enough that we had some privacy. I finished one glass of wine while we ordered. Our conversation picked up almost right where we had left off the other day. By the time the meal was served we just about everything about each other; about our ex-husbands, our jobs, our social lives.
By now we were sitting much closer together. Betty had her free hand on my arm and was stroking it gently. I shivered slightly. She moved closer to me, her leg coming in contact with mine. Suddenly she gave me an impish grin and I felt her foot run along my calf. I jumped and she laughed.
"Surprised you, didn't I?"
"You did indeed," I managed to answer. And not unpleasantly either, I realized. In fact, I had found it quite exciting.
"Don't get too carried away," she looked at me with mock severity. "After all Sherry, its just a date. I'm not asking you to marry me."
A date. I was on a date with another woman. Although I had shied away from recognizing it, I had indeed come up here to go on a date with her. A momentary panic swept over me and I blurted out "Betty, I'm not gay."
She laughed out loud. I think my face must have reflected my unease because she choked back the laughter. Taking my hands in hers, she looked at me. "Neither am I, Sherry. I like guys just as much as any other woman. I just also have an attraction to women. I felt that attraction to you the other day. And I sensed that it was mutual. Perhaps you didn't understand it yourself, but I knew it was there." She laughed merrily. "I assure you I don't wander around kissing every woman I spend a few hours with at work!"
My head reeled. I had one previous experience with another female, if you could call it that. At 17 a friend and I had found ourselves without dates on a fall Saturday night and had decided to go out with a bottle of strawberry wine and my old car. After consuming the entire bottle as a precaution against the cooling evening air we had talked to each other, rapidly and at length without pausing for the other one to answer. Sometime, in the middle of a discussion of kissing, I kissed her, or she kissed me.
There hadn't been much more than that to it. We had open-mouthed kissed and played with each other's breasts. It had been strictly second base. I think neither of us was sure how to handle that night so we simply ignored it. Although there was a blush or two when our eyes met, and we stayed well away from each other in gym class, neither of us ever mentioned that night again.
"Oh gosh," she sobered. "You really didn't know I was asking you out like that." She looked thoughtful. "My Gaydar must need adjusting. I was sure I felt the vibes from you."
Without thinking I answered. "Maybe you did." She looked at me, a quizzical expression on her face. I continued, "I knew I felt something, something I hadn't felt before that whole day we were working together. I didn't know what it was then, but I do now." With that I leaned over and this time I kissed her, softly but trying to transmit my feelings through my lips to hers.
She looked at me, her eyes sparkling, when I released her mouth. "Wow."
"Double wow," I agreed.
In five minutes we were out of the restaurant and on her way back to the hotel. She slipped through the door and then caught me in her arms as I followed. She kissed me, and kissed me again as I trembled, feeling another woman's lips on mine and the pasion it was arousing. She broke the kiss and looked up at me.
"Take off your shoes," she whispered.
Completely under the spell of the moment I kicked first one, then the other heel away. As I settled down in my stocking feet I realized why she had said that. With her still in her heels her height almost matched mine, bringing our bodies even with each other.
She leaned against me. Slight though it was, her weight coupled with the shaking of my legs, pushed me against the room wall. My arms went around her, as much for support as to meet the growing need to have her body against me.
I know she could feel me trembling. Her lips lifted to my ear. Her tongue traced the edges of the shell. She whispered, "Shhhhhhhhh. Relax Sherry." Her fingers were on the buttons of my blouse. She undid them one at a time, pausing each time to trace the growing opening of my blouse with her fingertip. Then her lips slid down my cheek and her tongue was pressing between my lips. Her hands pushed my blouse over my shoulders, momentarily trapping my arms. I felt her lips curve into a smile, as my eyes closed momentarily and I moaned from sheer excitement. "Oh my goodness, you are loving this. Almost a much as I am."
My head was reeling I loved so much what she was doing and how my body was responding. With one tug she pulled my blouse down and off. Her hands burrowed behind me and unhooked my bra. My excitement surged up and I kissed her. My tongue forced its way into her willing mouth. My hands clutched her. My fingers raced over her body, opening snaps and zippers and catches. My skirt fell to the floor. Her clothes were following as our mouths hungrily searched each other. Then we were both nude except for our pantyhose and her heels.
By now all I could think of was how much I wanted her. Our breasts flattened against each others, hard nipples pushing into softness. My hands dropped down her back and came to rest on her bottom. The feel of her smooth tight little ass through the nylon material of her pantyhose made me as wet as anything ever had in my life.
So I thought. Because then her knee pushed my legs apart and her thigh slide against my pussy. Her knee bent and her heel dropped to the floor. She braced her foot against my calf and began rubbing her thigh back and forth between my legs.
By now I was ready to scream. I was lost in a world that consisted of nothing but her mouth on my breast and the movement of her leg. The pressure of her rhythm opened my wet labia and the feel of the nylon scraping inside my slit was incredibly sensuous. A vagrant thought crossed my mind. I was going to have to add this to my masturbation habits.
Then I wasn't thinking at all. The first shudder ran through me. My body tensed. I curled one leg around Betty and flung my arms around her back. Only the wall kept us from falling as I used my own leg to crush my lover to me. Her face turned up towards me. I could see the spasm run across her face, matched by my own as her mouth returned to mine. Her kiss seemed to ignite my orgasm and I came, moaning wildly into her mouth.