A Third ValentinebyA_Little_Show©
Jack sat in the Student Union with his laptop. He was there every Thursday and Sunday evening while his fifteen year old daughter, Susan, attended swim team practice in the University's pool. Susan's high school didn't have a pool and rented the university's. Given the 20 minute commute from home to campus, Jack stayed until practice ended. It didn't make sense to drive there and back twice each time.
Jack's wife, Diane, often walked on a home treadmill for exercise and stress relief, so one day, Jack suggested she walk with him at the university while they waited for Susan. Like many professionals, both worked hectic schedules. There were always dishes to be done or reports to be written or children to be chauffeured. Sex happened now and then but usually consisted of ten frantic minutes when one or both should have been catching up on sleep. Pillow talk never seemed an option. Jack missed just talking.
Walking hand in hand like a young couple in love brought the middle aged couple closer than they had felt in years. They shared stories about coworkers, told each other jokes, and reminisced about the kids when they were babies. Plans were made and sweet nothings exchanged. The children probably wondered why their parents smiled so much.
On a chilly October evening, the couple approached a young woman in a wheelchair stopped on the sidewalk. The woman wore a wool hat and donned thick wool mittens. "It's a cold one tonight," Jack said half joking about the woman's seeming wardrobe overkill. Jack and Diane each wore light jackets and were comfortable.
"It is," the woman said. "Are you two power walking?"
"More of a stroll," Diane replied while swinging her hand and Jack's playfully.
"Do you know about the university's marked routes? There's one that's a quarter mile, a three quarter mile route, and one mile route."
"We've seen some signs," Jack said. "We've been mixing it up for variety"
"Oh? You walk here often?"
"Twice a week," Diane said.
"I'll probably see you then," the woman said with a smile, "I like to cover two miles every day."
Jack extended a hand and said, "Jack - and this is my wife, Diane."
"Pleased to meet you," the women said in unison.
"I'm Kari," the younger woman said around a smile.
After a short awkward silence, Diane said, "Well, see you around," and the couple walked away.
Jack looked over his shoulders a few times. He found something about Kari compelling.
"I hate to see a young person in a wheelchair," Diane said when they passed out of range to be overheard.
"I know." Jack squeezed her hand. Diane worked as a neurophysiology researcher but seldom met patients. She analyzed tissue samples to identify treatment options for a group of genetic disorders affecting the nervous system. Years earlier, Diane had worked in a clinical setting with mostly newborns. She often had to deliver bad news to doctors and in a few cases, parents. Diane grieved every time and still suffered nightmares. She would have quit the profession entirely if she hadn't found a position in the laboratory.
The couple crossed paths with Kari many times over the following weeks, and they gradually began to think of Kari as a friend. If they didn't see Kari while they walked, Diane worried. Each time, Jack comforted his wife and suggested she call. Diane made excuses about not wanting to smother Kari.
Jack and Diane met up with Kari several times during the university's holiday break. The younger woman had arrived in the fall to start graduate study in psychology. The women were often engrossed in conversation as Diane persuaded Kari to specialize in neuropsychology. The banter about myelin sheathes and other topics made Jack's head spin. He had mostly tuned out the women when a phrase caught his attention.
"I envy you guys walking hand in hand," Kari said.
"Touch is important," Diane said. "Babies who aren't held never really overcome the early deficits."
"I get my hair styled every month just to have it washed in the salon." Kari sounded wistful.
"I know what you mean. Enrique over at Spa Natural has magic fingers. I have the feeling he could bring a woman to orgasm just by caressing her scalp."
"Hey now," Jack interjected. "Why am I hearing about this now?"
The women smiled, and Diane said, "Don't worry sweetie. Enrique is gay."
"Where's this place?" Kari asked. "I need to experience that."
Jack interrupted, "You used to love the back rubs I gave you."
"It's true. He turned me into melted butter more than once," Diane conceded but added, "So when was the last time you gave me one of those amazing back rubs?"
"Right now, if you want it," he said with a puffed out chest.
"It's the worst part about the chair," Kari said with a serious tone. "Apart from caregivers, nobody ever touches me, and the caregivers' don't make it very pleasant."
"Have you had a massage?" Diane touched Kari's shoulder.
"I used to get them sometimes when I was a teenager living at home, but poor students can't pay the rates for massage these days."
Diane looked to her husband as the three progressed along the sidewalk at a slow pace. "As much as I'd like that back rub," Diane mumbled, "Maybe you should give it to Kari instead."
A look or horror passed across Jack's face for an instant, and both women caught it. Kari looked away. Diane scowled.
With uncharacteristic perception, Jack explained, "Kari, I reacted because back rubs have always been sensual and even sexual for me. I was shocked to hear my wife suggest I give one to any other woman."
Kari's eyes shimmered, and Diane's body language relaxed. "Don't let him fool you," Diane said. "The back rubs aren't all that fantastic." She stuck out her tongue to taunt her husband.
The walk ended because it was time to take Susan home. That night, Jack talked around his toothbrush while Diane washed her face. "Do you really want me to give Kari a back rub?"
"Maybe just her shoulders," Diane said as she patted dry.
Jack spit. "Would it change your mind if I told you I find Kari attractive?"
"She is twenty-three and beautiful," Diane said. "You should tell her that. She needs to hear it."
"Honey," Jack pleaded, "You don't know what you're asking. It makes me uncomfortable."
"You aren't going to fuck her. It's not that big of a deal. We both like her. She's new in town. The other students don't see a nubile beauty. They only see the chair and probably act like she's contagious."
Jack shook his head in disbelief. It might have been the first time he ever heard his wife say "fuck".
The following Thursday, Kari found the older couple rounding a corner on the edge of campus. "Hey you two," Kari greeted.
"Good to see you, Kari," Diane said. Jack formed a quick smile with his lips closed.
"Have you given any more though to that back rub?" Diane asked.
"I don't want to cause trouble," Kari replied with a shrug.
"It's no trouble," Diane said. She bent over to hug the younger woman. "Let Jack rub your shoulders and neck while we walk. There can't be any harm in it."
Jack hesitated, and Diane pulled her husband into position behind the chair. "We'll go slow," Diane said.
Jack placed his hands on either side of Kari's neck and brushed her hair out of the way. He gazed down upon the glowing youthful flesh. He saw her pulse and the little tufts of short hairs along the hair line behind her ear. His fingers rested at the juncture of neck and shoulders inside the collar of her coat. She felt warm.
It was difficult to massage Kari's shoulders while walking. Jack found it strenuous. He worked his way outside her coat toward her arms and felt her muscles flexing as she wheeled her chair. "Why not a motorized chair?" he asked.
"I need the exercise," she said.
"Keep at it," Diane said.
Jack returned attention to Kari's neck and worked his way up until his fingers combed her hair and caressed her scalp.
"Oh, that's nice," Kari said.
Jack moved back down and worked his hands under her coat.
"He does that to me, too," Diane said.
"What?" Jack asked.
"When I make a noise of pleasure, he moves on. If you want him to stay right where he is, you have to suppress the squeals."
It was true, and he had never realized it. The weight of Kari's breasts resisted the movements of her bra straps as Jack kneaded flesh underneath them. After his wife's revelation, Jack returned to Kari's scalp.
The women continued their chat about genetic predispositions to psychological disorders. The warmth and sensation of lustrous hair coursing between Jack's fingers mesmerized him.
"That really is lovely," Kari sighed.
"Jack, tell Kari what you told me," Diane said.
"What was that?" Jack wondered aloud. A major part of his blood flow wasn't going to his brain.
"What you said in the bathroom last Sunday - about Kari." Diane waited, and when her husband didn't respond, she added, "Jack thinks you're attractive, and I should be too jealous to let him touch you."
Kari smiled. Jack pulled his hands away.
"It's true - more or less," he confessed. "I shouldn't do this."
The threesome proceeded in silence. Jack put his hands in his jacket pockets.
"Well, it was lovely anyway," Kari said with forced lightness.
At home, Diane asked, "Why are you being such a prude?"
"I can't believe your attitude. Aren't you jealous to see me touching an attractive younger woman? I'd burst a vein if you tried to seduce another man."
"Is that what you're doing? Seducing Kari?"
"Not exactly. You saw what was going on in my pants. I can't think straight when I touch her."
"Jack," Diane said in a condescending tone. "Don't flatter yourself. You aren't seducing Kari. You aren't on the verge of an extramarital affair."
"I don't think you should be so sure."
Diane sighed. "Listen, I shouldn't tell you this, but Kari couldn't have sex with you if she wanted. Her accident crushed her pelvis almost cutting her in half and did a lot more than nerve damage."
"When did you learn that?"
"She and I have been chatting online."
"You should still be jealous," Jack said.
"I am a little. Is that what you want to hear?"
"Yes. Thank you. So why did you put me up to it?"
"I told you why. She has been suffering for years feeling alone in the world."
"You're more generous than me. I wouldn't ask you to caress another man no matter how mangled he was."
"Stop making it so sexual. Can't you give her compassion and human contact without it being about sex or cheating?" Diane sounded exasperated. "And don't ever tell her what I told you about her condition. She's sensitive about it."
Jack gave his wife the much delayed butter melting back rub, and she fell asleep with him sliding his hands over her buttocks. He stayed awake for several more hours. He asked himself why touching Kari felt like cheating. He replayed the sensations of her muscles moving under his hands and the risqué act of sliding his hands under Kari's bra straps.
Jack masturbated with one hand on his cock and the other caressing Diane's buttocks. He felt like a teenager groping in the back seat of a car with fogged windows. He kept his pace slow to avoid waking his wife. The scent of Kari's hair and the soft skin of her neck ruled his thoughts as his orgasm came. It was neither powerful nor satisfying, and it inspired guilt more than pleasure.
A few weeks after the new year, Diane and Kari visited the notorious Spa Natural together. They met on campus and rode the bus because it provided a wheelchair lift. Enrique washed Kari's hair, and Diane asked, "Did I lie? Was it as great as I said?"
"It was good," Kari replied.
"What?" Diane complained. "Are you disappointed?"
"No. No," Kari said. "It was very nice."
"But nothing," Kari said.
"Tell me." Diane could be demanding at times.
"It was impersonal. That's all. I never met Enrique before, and it was perfunctory."
"Perfunctory - huh? Are you saying you like Jack better?"
Kari blushed. "Are you mad?"
"No." Diane examined her feelings. "Jack is being weird about it. He thinks he's seducing you. He gets turned on touching you and thinks you feel the same way."
Kari's blush deepened. "That's flattering," she said around an emotional choke.
"Yeah," Diane said. "I see that."
The friends avoided further discussion of Jack. The bus returned them to campus, and Diane drove herself home.
"Sweetie," she said while her husband showered the next morning. "Kari's accident happened when she was fourteen."
"Ah-huh," Jack said as he lathered his short hair.
"She probably never had a chance to feel seductive. I bet she's never been felt up or kissed on the porch of her house or anything. Can you imagine how it would be to think you faced an asexual life - that nobody would ever lust for you?"
Jack finished his rinse before replying, "I don't like where this is going."
"Let her know you find her attractive sexually. That's all I'm saying."
"Honey," Jack paused to collect his thoughts. He stepped out of the shower and faced his wife. "I would die before I'd ask you to tell another man you lust after him."
"I do lust after other men." Diane put her hands on her hips. "I didn't go blind when I met you."
"I know honey." Jack sighed. "There's a difference between finding some guy attractive and acting on it. You don't flirt with the men you find attractive, do you?"
"No." Diane said, "but I let a man buy me a drink that time, and I danced with all the hunks at my sister's wedding."
"Are you trying to make me jealous? Do you want me to tell you about all the women I find attractive? Do you want me to flirt with them?"
Diane turned away from the view of her fit husband's naked dripping body and stormed out of the bathroom.
Jack refused to go to the university with his wife and daughter. He sat at home reading work email when is phone buzzed. The text message from his wife said, "I'm sorry. I didn't realize how strongly you feel about Kari."
Jack hated sending text messages from his crappy work provided phone. He didn't want to ignore his wife's apology, so he tediously punched a reply. "It's OK. Say hi to Kari. I miss you."
Diane showed Kari the message she sent and Jack's reply. "You have him slathering like a man-beast," Diane said. "He didn't come today because he's too tempted to cheat with you."
"Aren't you jealous?" Kari sounded worried.
"I'm turning green," Diane confided, "but I'm happy too, and I know you wouldn't steal him from me."
"I couldn't steal him."
"Don't be so sure. You're young and beautiful. He's ripe for a midlife crisis, and you make him feel young again." Diane struck a chord of fear in her own heart as she voiced the words.
"Yeah, but I told you..."
Diane interrupted, "Sex isn't just tab A in slot B."
"I wouldn't know," Kari snapped.
"I'm sorry." Diane said.
"What could he even do with me? What's in it for him?"
"You had him ready to come in his pants just by letting him rub your shoulders. Don't worry about him. Imagine how it would feel if he nibbled your neck and slid his hand inside your bra."
More and more often, talking with Diane made Kari blush. "I can't believe you say these things about your own husband."
"I don't know why." Diane continued, "It's getting me kind of hot saying it."
Tears dripped from the corners of Kari's eyes. "I know a little bit about what I'm missing - what I've lost. I had a few orgasms before the accident. Now I'm dead down there. I have a colostomy bag. I can't even pee without a catheter. I'm a freak - a horror show."
"Jack doesn't see any of that. He sees a beautiful young woman flush with sexuality. He wants to touch you so much that he thinks he'll ruin our marriage. But, forget about Jack for a minute. If he can see you like that, it means other men can, too."
"If I let Jack - or any man - won't it leave me frustrated even more than I am now?"
"I don't know. All I can tell you is that your brain is plastic. It may be able to adapt. You might discover you can have an orgasm from being touched on your elbow. Stranger things have happened."
"Why hasn't anybody ever said these things to me?" Kari gasped around suppressed emotion.
"It's easier to pretend you don't have sexuality. People seldom talk about it under normal circumstances. They probably think there's nothing they can do to help you, so they stick their heads in the sand and deny the obvious."
"What's obvious?" Kari wiped her eyes.
"You are a sexual person. Your body and mind want what everybody else wants. You need touch, intimacy, and love."
"You would let your husband give me touch, intimacy, and love?"
Diane grumbled, "I don't know." She collected her emotions and asked, "Do you even want him?"
"It felt good when he touched me." Kari whispered.
Diane wrapped her arms around Kari in a hug.
"He's good looking for an old guy." Kari said.
"Yeah, he is, isn't he?" Diane laughed.
Kari returned the laugh, and some of the emotional weight lifted from their conversation. "So, you were telling me about ataxias and spinocerebellar degeneration."
Diane let the subject change, and the two women enjoyed each other's company for the remaining hour before swim practice ended.
Jack accompanied his wife for the next walk, but Kari never showed up. When Kari failed to appear the next time, Diane broke down and called the younger woman.
"I haven't been feeling well, and I needed time to think," Kari said.
"It's Valentine's Day. Is that what you're thinking?" Diane asked.
"I think I should stay away from Jack."
Diane started to object, but Kari continued, "You are both too kind. You've made me realize I could fall for Jack. You've made me admit what I couldn't admit to myself. You're the best friends I've ever had, and I don't want to screw it up."
"Where are you now?" Diane asked.
"At my apartment."
"You are not going to be alone on Valentine's Day. We'll be right there." Diane pulled her husband to the car. He didn't resist as much as he complained.
When Kari let her friends into her apartment, she backed her chair into a corner as a kind of defensive position. Diane told her husband to sit on the only chair Kari kept for visitors. Diane paced with nervous energy.
"Kari," Diane said, "I want you to seduce Jack. Prove to yourself that you can do it. He's half mad for you already, and he was always kind of easy."
"Thanks for that," Jack mumbled.
"It's wrong," Kari said.
"I'll be right here. I'll tell you when it's wrong. I want this for you." Diane had her hands on her hips again.
"Do I get a vote?" Jack asked.
His wife's glare provided answer enough. She turned to Kari and asked, "Are you comfortable enough? Would you like to be in your bed?"
Kari didn't reply. She stared at Diane with a blank expression.
"Come here, Jack," Diane commanded, and he obeyed. Diane unbuttoned his shirt and opened it to reveal his white t-shirt. "Take it off," she said.
Jack shed his shirt and pulled the t-shirt over his head. A small belly and some gray in his chest hair betrayed his age, but he remained healthy and strong. Both women enjoyed the sight of his masculine physique.
"Come here, Kari," Diane said with a little less authority than she applied when commanding her husband. Diane guided Kari's hand to Jack's chest and dragged Kari's fingers through his chest hair. "Take it off," Diane demanded referring to Kari's knit sweater.
Kari hesitated, but her hands tugged at the hem. Diane lifted the sweater over Kari's head, and Jack pulled it the rest of the way off her arms. Kari's breasts, encased in a bland white bra, lifted and fell with her deep breathing.
"Can you still do it one handed?" Diane asked her husband.
Kari looked confused until Jack reached behind her back. He stood so close that his belly pressed against her face, and he unhooked her bra in the back.