Zandra's Valentine Weekend


"Yep, that's the bunch that wants to get their haircut over with before they get any of their other town business done, rather than after. You want to help me out for old time's sake?" As a child, Zandra had often swept the floor of Conrad's clean of hair, for two bits and the opportunity to sit quietly in a corner and listen to what the men were talking about; sometimes to read the Police Gazette and other publications that her mother would not have approved of at all.

"I'd love to," she said. In a few minutes, the floor was swept clean, and the work stations dusted into the bargain, and Mr. Conrad dropped a quarter into her hand. She thanked him with a brilliant smile, and while his back was turned, she picked up one of the razors that were sitting in disinfectant in one of the stations. She tested it on the hairs of her arm, and satisfied that it was good and sharp, closed it and dropped it, along with the coin, into her pocket.

Millie Beck wasn't hard to find at all; Zandra had dreaded the possibility that she was at home, and she would have to devise some way to lure her out. She was with a couple of friends in front of the drugstore. So this was the girl who was making her brother's life miserable. Millie was just as Dennis and his mother had described her, petite with a pin-up girl's figure that she liked to show to best advantage with snug sweaters. She wore a jaunty red-and-white knitted tam on her golden head. She was the kind of blonde that looked good in true reds and knew it; Zandra guessed that red would dominate her wardrobe—and maybe pink, when spring came. Behind her, a display window was laid out with Valentine cards and cut-out hearts and Valentine candy boxes. She might have been posed there. Zandra studied the girl's face with cold-eyed objectivity. She was pretty enough, she supposed, but something about her nose made her look common, and there was meanness in the set of her eyes.

Millie was chatting and laughing with the other two girls when she saw Zandra walking toward her. Zandra noted with sardonic amusement the way the meaning fled from the girl's smile, while the muscles of her face stayed in exactly the same position; suddenly she looked like a gargoyle.

"We need to talk," Zandra said. She did not even have to tell Millie's two friends to get lost; they melted away quickly enough.

"I suppose you've come to talk to me about Adam."

"What do you think? You want to talk here, or should we go somewhere more private?"

"Here is fine," Millie said. She looked around nervously, scanning the sunlit main street to see who else was around. She's afraid of me, thought Zandra. As well she might be. "Look, I don't know what you've been told, but I had to do something to protect myself. He just wouldn't leave me alone."

"Oh, cut the crap, Millie. He told me what happened, and I'll believe him over you any day. Him I know. When he lies, he does it badly. Just what kind of game are you playing, making him out to be the bogeyman?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Can you stop with the playacting for just a minute? You're talking to me, woman to woman—not that clutch of saps you've managed to snow into thinking you're some kind of damsel in distress. We can talk straight. The way it looks to me, your regular boyfriend ditched you for the night, and you couldn't survive for a whole hour without male attention, so you glommed onto my brother. And then the next day Ritchie Fenton heard that y'all two spent the evening with your tongues in each other's mouths and you had to make up something to tell him."

Millie's fair skin turned red. She had the kind of complexion that mottled when she blushed. "If that's the way you see it," she said sullenly.

"Are you saying it happened some other way?"

"Ritchie and I have been going steady ever since we were the tenth grade. We'd quarreled about things before, but this was worse than usual. He'd never just gone off and left me high and dry at a party before! I didn't know your brother that well, but I did want someone to talk to, and when Mrs. Reynolds went to lie down, it turned into a petting party, and we just ...went along. I'll admit he's kind of cute, in his own way, but...are you here to plead his case?"

"Case? Case?"

"A girl has to choose. Going around with your brother wouldn't get me anywhere."

"It all depends," Zandra said, "on where you want to go." Thinking: not with our family. I'd hire assassins first.

Millie tossed her head. "Where would I get with a Hunkie farmer's son with a sister who's one of the biggest sluts in Koenigsburg?"

Zandra sighed. People had called her that even when she was still a virgin. It was for not liking to wear dresses, for speaking her mind, for choosing a man's career. And if her grandfather and her father had not succeeded in educating Koenigsburg that they were not Hungarian, she didn't think she could either. In an insulting drawl, she said, "Better a slut like me than a trouble-making little cunt like you, who thinks she's virtuous because she has the goddam Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval between her legs, that's if you really still have it and won't have to get a fake one for your wedding night..." Millie was now open-mouthed and popeyed. "Time to ring down the curtain on this melodrama. The show closes now."

" do you expect me to do that?"

"I don't know. Tell your little bunch of gallant knights to fade? Publish a retraction? You started it. You figure out how to finish it."

"Why should I?"

Zandra took the razor out of her pocket and flicked it open. "Because you could wake up in a back alley somewhere with your head shaved as bare as a cue ball, that's why. Don't bother looking over your shoulder, either. You'd never see me." Before Millie even had time to flinch, the razor flashed, and Zandra held a big swatch of blonde hair in her left hand and Millie's smooth pageboy had an unsightly ragged place in it. "You want to talk about someone? Talk about me, because you see, I don't give a damn." She blew the lock of hair off her palm into Millie's face, and this time the girl did flinch. Zandra closed the razor and put it back in her pocket, and then she turned on her heel and strode away.

Dennis was waiting for her at Haller's garage. "Done?"

"For good or ill."

Gene came out from under the hood of a '39 Packard. "Zan! I thought I heard your voice. When did you get here?"

"This morning. Was Dad in here?"

"He just left. I think he was going to the store. What're you doing here in town, anyway?"

"Taking care of some business. Besides, Dennis asked me to come home for a visit. Did Dad say when he was coming back?"

"No. He'll be back sometime, unless he wants me to walk home...hey, I've got to get back to work." Gene had an arrangement with Mr. Haller, that he worked in the garage on Saturday and whenever school was out. He smiled at Zandra and disappeared under the hood of the Packard again.

"You ready to go home?" Dennis asked.

"Yeah, let's go."

When Dennis pulled up in front of the house, Marie was on the front porch. Dennis took one look at her face and said, "Well, it looks like you're in trouble now. Let me know what happens. If she kicks you out, we can run away and get married." Zandra gave him a fleeting smile and jumped out of the truck.

Sure enough, the news had beaten her home. "Mary Alexandra, what is this you've done?" Marie cried. "I just heard from Helen Beck. She says you attacked her daughter with a razor."

"I did not attack her with a razor. I threatened her with a razor."

"As if one of them were better than the other." They went into the house.

As soon as they came in, Adam popped his head out the door of his bedroom. "Thanks a heap, Zandra, for making me look like a complete nance that can't look after himself."

Marie continued to scold. "What on earth possessed you to do such a thing? And where did you get the razor?"

"Lifted it from Mr. Conrad's shop. Don't worry, he didn't know." She wondered if her easy relationship with Conrad would continue after this. "If you could hear about this less than a half hour after it happened, why didn't you hear that the little bint was putting your older son through hell for two months?"

"Kids have to work their differences out for themselves," said Marie.

This made no sense to Zandra. Why did they have to work out things that adults could go to court over? But she'd heard it all her life, and that was why she'd learned to fight.

She went to Adam's room and opened the door. He was lying on his back on his bed, looking at the ceiling.

"Go away," he said.

"I will when I've said what I came here to say. Nobody's supposed to look after himself all the time—that's what you have family for. Otherwise, you might as well be a bear. I didn't think a man could fight something like this. It would be like fighting a swarm of wasps with a ball bat. When you want to get rid of a swarm of stinging insects you take out the queen. I don't know how to do girlie revenge schemes and I didn't have time for them. There had to be a third way and I took it."

Adam turned his head and looked at her. "I know you were sticking up for me. I just don't know if it will have the results you want."

"I couldn't not do anything."

"I know. Just—don't do anything more for a while, OK?"

"Ok. But I don't think I'll have to. I scared her out of a year's growth. I've got to wonder, bro, why her? I didn't think she was your type."

"She's not." Zandra had observed what girls her brother looked at the most, and knew this was true. "But she was pretty and she was there. Are you going to tell me that you never settled for something because it was there? And sis, don't panic. I'm not going to do anything drastic. I've only got three more months that I have to put up with this crap, and then I can enlist."

"Did you give any thought to how you were going to get back to school?" Marie asked when she had finished talking to Adam. "Train doesn't stop here for two more days."

"I can get back the same way I got here," Zandra said.

"I told you how I feel about that. Your father and I can take you, but not tomorrow. Tomorrow I have some fences to mend...I wish you would try to remember that I live here full-time, and may I remind you, you did say you were planning to practice here. An apology from you would go a long way to help."

"I am not going to apologize for something I'm not sorry I did."

"In that case," said Marie, "I don't want to see or hear much from you for the next couple of days."

And in the middle of the day, Anton and Gene came home to get some lunch. They had heard all about it in town, but Marie had to tell them again, with her own comments. Gene, who knew Millie and didn't much care for her, thought it was funny and the rest of the day kept breaking out into snorts, to Marie's disgust.

"Aw, Marie," said Anton. "Try the offended duchess act with someone that it works on. The girl did what she felt was right, and that's the way she's been for the last twenty years. I've gotta say, though, this is one of these times that life would be simpler if I had three sons." To Zandra said, "I understand the spirit you acted in, but it was Quixotic in the extreme. And he won't thank you, you know."

"I know," Zandra said. "He didn't."

And so, having come home for the weekend, she was about to be gone again, and she hadn't even gotten as far into the house as her room, let alone unpacked.

The tourist court motel an hour away from the veterinary college was a half-circle of cottages that from a distance looked hardly any bigger than the outhouse that had once stood behind the house before the family had indoor plumbing put in. The bed took up most of the room inside, leaving hardly any room for the dresser and the tiny round table and two chairs near its foot. Zandra sniffed suspiciously at the bed linens. They smelled a little bit bleachy, which was good, and a little bit damp, which was not, but at least they did not smell like the last person to have used them.

"What name did you register us under?" she asked.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Kroginold, what else? We might as well try it on for size." All the luggage they had was Zandra's duffle bag and Dennis's grip with a change of underwear and toiletries. He dumped them at the foot of the bed and went back to the truck one more time. Now he came in bearing a battered ice chest, as easily as if it were a cardboard box instead of the heavy thick-walled object it was. On top the ice chest was something vaguely cylindrical in a white paper bag.

"What have you got there?"

"It's a surprise. You'll get to see it later." He set the ice chest and the package down next to the minuscule round table. . "C'mere." He put his arms around Zandra and kissed her, meanwhile taking her beret off and tossing it onto the dresser. He unpinned the long fat braid from the back of her head and began to work it loose. In a few minutes, her hair hung in a black crinkled mantle over her shoulders. "Help me with the rest of this," he said. "I said I'd come up with something better than a quick stand-up in a barn, didn't I?"

"That you did," she said. She had been silent and abstracted most of the journey eastward, thinking of what she had said and done that day, and wondering if she had completely broken everything she had set out to mend. The rest of her time at home had not been very pleasant. Marie had been short with her; they had done wash in near-total silence, and this was usually a chore that promoted mother-daughter togetherness. Anton was less so, but nevertheless seemed troubled and lost in thought. After being holed up in his room for a while, Adam had gone out for a run. The only person in good humor had been Gene, who couldn't stop snickering at intervals, even after Marie told him it wasn't funny. Some Valentine's Day weekend this was turning out to be. Finally Zandra took up her duffle bag and walked up to the Kroginold farm. She hoped that Adam would have come back before she left, but he didn't. She had accepted Dennis's offer to drive her back to school eagerly. While waiting for him to get ready, she talked for a while with Anna, still hurt by Marie's coldness toward her. "You've known her for a long time," she said. "Was she always such a stick?"

"By no means," Anna said. "I've known her ever since she came to town, and I could tell you some things...but the things I know about her aren't mine to tell."

Zandra tore her mind away from her family troubles and started undoing Dennis's clothes, even as he was undoing hers. The chilly air in the room raised goose bumps on her skin. "It's cold in here," she said.

"Not for long," he said. "We'll warm the place up in no time."

It wasn't often that they got to see one another completely naked, nor did they get to enjoy each other without rushing or worrying about someone coming upon them. Dennis lay down on the bed, where the top sheet and bedspread had been pushed well out of the way, his feet hanging out over the end. Though he was fair except for his face and arms, in the twilight air of the room, all of his skin looked exotically dark against the whiteness of the bed linens. Zandra looked with anticipatory greed at his cock which lay massive and twitching on his belly, but when she got on the bed, she leaned over him so that her hair tented both their faces and merged her mouth with his. She settled down on his strong warm body, and lost herself in the taste and feel of his mouth until she felt herself molding to him like hot wax. He insinuated a hand between them and found one of her high, pointed breasts, teasing the nipple with his fingers. She rose up and brushed her nipples over his lips, teasing him back. He caught one of them between his lips, sucking gently but deeply, but he closed his teeth lightly on the other. She gave a soft whimper of pure desire; it was as if there were fine gold wires running through her body, and they all met in a heated nexus between her legs. She slid her hot, wet open pussy over the underside of his rigid cock. It fit there like a piece of a puzzle; they often managed like this when it was a time she knew was unsafe. But she was sure she was safe now and she ached with the need to have him inside her.

"Dennis," she whispered, "I want you so bad I'm hurting."

"You have me," he said. "Come get what you want." With his hands on her hips, he guided her down onto his cock. She whimpered again with delight as its solid length and width filled her up."Hey, babe..." Dennis slid his hands around to the small of her back. "We've got the evening before us. We can take our time." He rolled over on his side, taking her with him, and wrapped her top leg around his hip. They now lay facing each other, still connected. Occasionally they kissed. Zandra was so wet that had they not been such a tight fit together, they would have lacked for traction. By means of his top hand pressing against her back, and her top leg hooked around his body, she slid back and forth on him, almost languidly, fetching up against the thick base of his phallus and bouncing back. Her pleasurable sensations gradually built up, sharpened, deepened, took her over—

"Now—" she gasped. "Now! I've got to—" She lunged forward on the slippery broad back of her man's cock, gliding faster and faster, and then she was pressed tightly to him, crying out as she clenched around him. He rolled on top of her and stroked powerfully within her. As tall as many of the men she knew, and bigger than some, she liked being held down and covered by a man who outweighed her. She twined her legs around his, rose to meet him, and felt him reach that charged moment when he couldn't have stopped if he'd wanted to, and he didn't want to—

"Oh Zandra—" he groaned, and he tensed up and spurted inside her. "You always take me with you."

When he was completely done he shifted his weight off her and lay beside her. She made a little sound of contentment and kissed him, feeling the aftershocks running through her body. Dennis had a chin dimple; she inserted the end of her tongue into it, and said, "How do you manage to shave around that?"

"Very, very carefully." She nipped his chin with her teeth, and he began tickling her until she dissolved into giggles and begged him to quit. Abruptly he sat up and said, "I'm hungry. Aren't you?"

"Oh, Lord yes," Zandra said. She had just realized that she was very hungry indeed. She had eaten breakfast at dawn at the Kroginolds' house and hadn't had anything since. "I've never stopped anywhere to eat on this route—what are the good places?"

"It doesn't matter. Close your eyes."


"I told you it was a surprise. I've got to set it up."

Zandra shut her eyes and sat up in bed, trying to figure out by the various creakings, rustlings and thumps what could possibly be happening. There was the skritch of a match being struck and the smell of sulphur. "You can look now."

Dennis had set the small round table with a cold picnic dinner, two Bakelite plates, eating utensils, two bottles of beer, and a lit candle in a pottery holder. The soft light from the candle made him look even handsomer than he was. "Oh, Dennis! How lovely!"

Dennis opened the two bottles. "I reckon I'll have to be home and you'll have to be at school tomorrow, so I thought we'd celebrate tonight," he said "I wanted to get champagne, but I couldn't find any. And I'm sorry about no glasses. I was afraid they'd break."

"Oh, who needs champagne? Do we even know what's really in it? I know where the beer comes from." Anna Kroginold was a very good brewer; she had been plying her craft longer than either Zandra or Dennis had been on the planet. The law had never bothered her during Prohibition because she made sure that the law was well supplied with her products. Zandra took a sip. "And it's the kind she makes with peaches!" Anna brewed a very limited supply of the peach-flavored beer, and few people outside the family got to taste it.

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