tagNovels and NovellasDecades Ch. 03

Decades Ch. 03


Aunt Doro greeted Doug and Kelly in the front room. "Welcome back, Kelly," she said. "I've made some fruit salad if the two of you would like some dessert before you disappear upstairs."

Doug was used to the mischievous gleam in the old woman's eyes, but Kelly was taken aback. "Oh, Aunt Doro, I wasn't – sorry, I guess I shouldn't call you that, but –"

"Nonsense, darling, any friend of Doug's is welcome to call me Aunt Doro," she reassured Kelly. "In any event, I certainly didn't wish to make you uncomfortable. I hope Doug has let you know that you are welcome to stay the night here if you wish. I shouldn't want him to get lonely here now that all his friends from high school have gone."

"I hadn't told her yet, Aunt Doro," Doug said. "It hadn't come up."

"Always the gentleman, that's my Doug," Aunt Doro said to Kelly with an approving nod at Doug.

"I'm coming to appreciate that," Kelly admitted. "Thank you, Aunt Doro. And I'd love some of that fruit cocktail if it's okay with Doug?"

Doug had no objection, and they were soon seated at the kitchen table while Aunt Doro ladled out the diced fruit. "So how has your week been at the restaurant, Kelly?" she asked as she worked.

"Had today off, thank heavens," Kelly said. "I got to spend the day on the beach instead of just looking at it, that was great. Yesterday was rough, though. Doug, have you told her?"

"No," Doug said. "We had a really nasty altercation with Mr. Sanborn," he told Aunt Doro.

"No surprise there," Aunt Doro said. "Guess I've told you both already, that man never had any respect for anyone. Always very self-important, even when he was screaming about peace and love all the time." A pause, and then she looked at Kelly. "I always used him as an example when Doug got to pining for the sixties and feeling like he missed out on the age of love. It wasn't always like what you young kids hear."

"I get that, Aunt Doro, I promise," Doug said.

"Do you really?" she asked him.

"I think he's learning, Aunt Doro," Kelly piped up. "We've been talking about some...things, and I think he's learned a lot."

"Good for you, then," Aunt Doro replied, now sitting down with her share of the dessert.

"And he went to bat for me with Mr. Sanborn yesterday, too," Kelly continued. "He ordered Doug to write me up for a comment I made that he really deserved, and Doug handled it perfectly."

"Good for you, Doug!" Aunt Doro exclaimed. "His heart usually is in the right place," she told Kelly. "Always has been. Living with his grandmother and me, he never did want for strong women in his life, after all. It's just that he had some very unrealistic ideas of what life was like in the past. Honestly, Kelly, you probably do too. I doubt any girl your age really knows what it was like for women back then."

"I'm trying to learn too," Kelly said, flashing a knowing grin at Doug.

"Now, your friend Mr. Sanborn," Aunt Doro continued. "I don't suppose I even want to know what he said. But whatever it was, dear, I know exactly why he felt entitled to say it. So many years back in the day he was surrounded by women who put up with him because that's what they'd been taught to do, and it certainly went to his head. Back when he was a student here, class of sixty-one, you remember, that was before the boys wore their hair long, and he was clean cut and all but he had a big mouth even then. Always taking charge in the classroom like he owned the place, talking about the downtrodden and disenfranchised and about going down South to do his part. The girls loved it of course, and they used to follow him around like puppies even then. His wife, Meg, she was the most enamored of all, naturally. Hung on his every word."

"And I'm sure by the hippie days he was practically a cult leader," Kelly said.

"It looked that way sometimes," Aunt Doro said. "He and Meg were married by then, and they'd had their adventures out in California – Meg still won't talk much about what happened out there – and they lived in the old Templeton mansion up at the far end of the beach. It's a bunch of condos now. Back then the place was a wreck and they lived like a bunch of pigs. Doug's grandmother and I used to see Meg on the street and she just looked dead inside from living in that hovel, but Jimmy was always on about how they were living like the kings of the disenfranchised, finding the one true answer and all that hippie garbage. He even used to harangue people about it on the beach, especially the young ladies."

"Even though he was married?" Doug said. "I mean, that doesn't surprise me much, but..."

"Yes, Doug, even though he was married," Aunt Doro confirmed. "Mary Aston, class of sixty-four, she lived with them for a time, and she told me once how Jimmy would sweet-talk the naïve young college girls here for the summer that they were selling out to the oppressive imperialist government if they didn't sleep with him."

"And that worked?!" Kelly said.

"More often than you might think," Aunt Doro told her. "You can't know, because you weren't around back then, just how backwards a lot of men still were. Freedom and equality was all great for men, but the women were still expected to do the cooking and cleaning. And Meg did, at the Templeton place. Mary as well, she told me. The whole lot of them waited on their men hand and foot even as the men talked about the coming revolution and setting people free, if you can imagine that."

"Geez," grumbled Doug.

"I told you feminism started later than you think," Kelly said.

"She's right, Doug, it did," Aunt Doro confirmed. "Mary and some of the other women there, they did see the light after a while, and most of the other hippies went off to find other things to do with their lives after a few years. But not Jimmy and Meg. He stuck with his long hair and beard and his larger than life attitude for years, and he never left town and she never worked up the courage to leave him."

"Didn't you say she wanted to go off and see the world?" Doug asked.

"I did, and she did want to," Aunt Doro confirmed. "But Doug, I think she was so used to being under his thumb, she never really tried to make her own way. Jimmy was perfectly content to hang around the beach for most of his life, tossing off his opinions to anyone who would listen, and there's always an impressionable young woman somewhere who will listen, and I think Meg was afraid to go off on her own because then she would lose him for good, and even sharing him was better than being on her own, that's what she thought. They've been together since she was fifteen, after all."

"That's so sad," Kelly said.

"Well, Kelly," Aunt Doro said with a twinkle in her eye, "Now you see why I'm more than happy to have you here. You and Doug are good for one another in a world that can really mess up a young person who ends up in the wrong crowd."

Kelly blushed. "Aunt Doro! I..."

"Oh, Kelly, it's none of my business, of course," Aunt Doro reassured her. "You and Doug don't owe me an explanation. I just want you to understand I approve of whatever might develop, and you're welcome in our home."

Kelly blushed but allowed a smile all the same, and Doug took it upon himself to change the subject while she finished her fruit cocktail in silence.

"Has she pulled that one on any of your other girlfriends?" Kelly demanded of Doug once they had made their escape upstairs.

"My other girlfriends?" Doug teased, brushing her hand with his as he closed the door of the red room – Doug's favorite bedroom for reading novels for English class back in high school, with the softest mattress on the third floor – behind them. He had picked up a bottle of merlot that afternoon in hope that Kelly would turn up, and it was waiting for them on the bedside table.

"Oh, don't even!" Kelly exclaimed. "I mean, Doug, I'm not saying no, but...I'm torn. You know that."

"Yes, I do," Doug admitted as he went about opening the wine. "Heck, I don't know what to make of us right now either. But to answer your question, yes. I think it has to do with, you know, what I suspect about her and Grandma. After what they must have gone through hiding their secret from the world, she just didn't want me or anyone I cared about to have to do the same."

"That's sweet," Kelly admitted. "But still, welcoming girls to spend the night?"

"Well, she didn't make a point of it pre-emptively like she did with you," Doug said. "But after the senior prom, my date – Sarah was her name – she spent the night here, and Aunt Doro brought us breakfast in bed the next morning, and –"

"What?!" Kelly interjected. "Doug, that's just creepy!"

"Yeah, a little," Doug admitted. "But like I said, she just wanted us both to know there was nothing to be ashamed of. I guess she figured it was better than having us sneak around behind her back, which it probably was. Anyway, I had told Sarah it would be no big deal if Aunt Doro knew she was here, so at least it wasn't a complete shock."

"Oh, I'll bet it was," Kelly said.

"Well, she was definitely embarrassed," Doug admitted. "But Aunt Doro could see she was uncomfortable, and she told her, look, it's fine. You're both eighteen years old and there's no shame in what you've done, and I just want you both to know you've got a safe place here."

"What you've done," Kelly repeated. "Did she know you'd been having sex?"

"We hadn't, before that night. It was the first time for both of us."

"Losing your virginity on prom night? Doug, that's so clichéd!" Kelly said with a laugh.

"Had to happen sometime," Doug said, handing Kelly a glass. "It wasn't great, but for a first time it wasn't bad. Most of the stories I've heard from my friends about the first time make me think I was lucky to have it happen here. Creepy or not, at least we didn't have to sneak around in a car or behind a barn or something."

"Wow," Kelly said thoughtfully between sips of wine. "Your Aunt Doro is either really creepy or the coolest mom ever. Or both." She paused and when Doug said nothing she continued. "You're right, though, having your first time in a comfortable bed where you don't have to worry about getting caught, that would've been nice."

"So your first time was worse, was it?" Doug asked.

"Yes, and that's all I've got to say about it for now!" Kelly said. "That and I wish I hadn't even given the guy my phone number if I could do it over again. Now I want to hear all about your adventure from last night. I'm sorry I missed it, Doug."

"I'm sorry too, but I have to admit it probably couldn't have happened with both of us there." Doug paused for his first sip of the wine. "Then again, you probably would have made a better teacher than I did," he mused.

"A better teacher?" Kelly asked. "So just what did you teach?"

And so Doug told Kelly all about Mrs. Kittredge, beginning with the horror stories he recalled from high school of the fights with her late husband and the perils of walking on her lawn, continuing through his own altercation with her the afternoon before, and through the dance and their encounter in the parking lot afterward. He wrapped up the tale with their conversation at the restaurant just a few hours before. "So I couldn't save her from killing herself with cigarettes, but at least she didn't marry the creep," Doug concluded.

Kelly set her wine glass down and laughed. "So let me get this straight. You saved Mrs. Kitt...I mean Miss James, Ms. James, you saved her from an abusive marriage by teaching her to masturbate? Really?!"

"I wouldn't believe it either if I hadn't been there," Doug admitted. "But I was there. It sort of makes sense if you think about it, teaching a person to learn to love herself in the most basic way." Kelly laughed, so Doug continued. "I'm serious. You should have seen the change that came over her. It was beautiful. She was beautiful."

"So you're one of..." Kelly paused. "I'm sorry, Doug, I did promise I would try to stop putting you down every time we got close, didn't I?"

"Yes," Doug said. "Are you saying we're getting close?"

"Well, I'm...comfortable," Kelly said the last word with a relieved smile, almost as if it were a revelation to her. "Your story about Mrs. Kittredge is, well, it has a sweet ending. I guess I'm a bit surprised at your reaction, if you don't mind my saying so."

"You expect a man to feel threatened when a woman masturbates, because it means she doesn't need him."

"I didn't say that!" Kelly protested.

"You didn't say it, or you didn't mean it?" Doug probed.

"Well, Doug, I read all about it in Human Sexuality, and it made a lot of sense!"

"I'm sure it did," Doug said. "But think about it, you're hearing this from me in person, and you'd prefer to believe something you read in a book at a school that doesn't even have any men."

Kelly thought for a moment, then announced, "I hate it when you do that. You're right."

Doug let out a relieved laugh as he sipped his wine. Kelly looked adorable curled up on the bed, and he longed to do more than just chat. "So tell me, then," he said. "And please, forget what you read in some textbook and tell me based on what you know about me personally, what makes you think I would feel threatened by watching Irene masturbate?"

Kelly thought for a moment. "I guess I was expecting you to push for more," she said. "Nothing personal, it just seems kind of funny to stop there."

"Not if you could smell her breath," Doug reassured Kelly, and they laughed. "But even more than that, it just didn't feel right to do it knowing I'd never see her again – at least not until she was old and sick."

"You and your ethics of sex, Doug, it's so frustrating!" Kelly laughed harder now, but with a note of frustration in her voice.

"Why do you say that?"

"It's just that I don't know what to make of it all," Kelly said, and in the heat of the moment she stood up and began pacing back and forth before the bed. "I mean, I'm sorry I started off with so many preconceived notions about you – although you realize they weren't all wrong, don't you?"

"Yes," Doug admitted. "I get that I don't always appreciate male privilege."

"Thank you." Kelly got up and began pacing before the bed, her wine glass held firmly and never sloshing a drop. "I guess it's just now I see you're more enlightened than I had thought, and getting more so, and that's great, but as I'm getting to know you better and feel closer to you, I really don't know how to handle things because I've never had to deal with a guy like you. I started off thinking, right, he's your manager, forget it, but there's always been this little reminder about how he's cute, he's smart, and maybe he knows how to treat a lady –"

"A lady or a woman?" Doug asked. "Or a womyn with a Y?"

"Right, right, I needed that," Kelly said. "See, that you would even bring that up, it's just what I mean. I'm conflicted."

"About how you feel about me," Doug said – it was a statement rather than a question.

"Yes, I'm afraid so," Kelly said. "There's still a lot you don't know about me, and some of your issues with women that I don't know about either, remember. It was easy enough at first when I really thought it was just friends, period, to just sass you when things were getting too intimate – I'm sorry about that, too, Doug, I'm afraid you hit the nail on the head with that. But since we've been talking, and then the big adventure the other night, now I'm not so sure what I want. I guess that's why I did what I did at the beach, with you and Jennifer."

"You got naked because you were jealous of Jennifer?" Doug asked.

"I wouldn't put it that way, but...well, maybe I should," Kelly admitted. "Yeah. I have to admit, there I was sitting on the rocks and the two of you seemed to be having such a great time splashing around in your underwear, and just for a moment I set all my doubts aside and I really wanted you. And I thought, well, I know how I can top this Jennifer gal, so I went ahead and took all my clothes off without even thinking much about it. And then after we woke up, I thought, whoa, better pull back there, girl, you don't know him that well yet. Plus, I was embarrassed." She took a swig of wine. "To be completely honest, Doug, I still am."

"The first time usually is embarrassing," Doug agreed. "That night with Sarah that I told you about certainly was. Took us ten minutes to get naked, and then we both had to undress ourselves with our backs turned and then turn around on the count of three, that's how shy we were."

"That's cute!" Kelly said. "I don't usually find that myself, though, actually. Once I'm ready to go all the way with someone it's just, go for it. It felt different with you for some reason. Not that I didn't enjoy it, I mean, you've got a lovely body too, Doug..."

"Thanks." He was mollified, recalling how she had avoided saying it the other night.

"Just that it was unexpected, and I'd been telling myself I didn't want that with you, and suddenly there we were in the water."

"I see," Doug said.

"Do you really?" Kelly probed.

"I think so."

"So what are we going to do about all this uncertainty?" Kelly set down her wine glass and smiled at Doug. For a wonderful moment he thought she was going to undress again. But she didn't.

"How about we continue on the adventures and let things develop naturally?" Doug asked.

"You want to travel through the ages teaching women to masturbate, do you?" Kelly teased.

"Or better yet, watch you do it," Doug shot back.

"Dream on!" Kelly hooted. "But yeah, I'd love to go on some more journeys and see what we can both learn."

"Sounds like a plan," Doug said. "I'd love to exact some rough justice on Mr. Sanborn, wouldn't you?"

"Heavens, yes!" Kelly agreed. "Should've quit after what he said the other day, but that would've been letting him win."

"Maybe if we go back to the sixties, we can change his attitude," Doug mused.

"I doubt that," Kelly said. "But maybe we can at least save Meg from him and that might change something."

"I'd love to do that," Doug agreed, recalling his beloved Mrs. Sanborn and the occasional bruises he saw when shopping at her store when he was younger.

"Great, then it's a plan," Kelly said. "Let's just finish our wine, and go."

"And if we find ourselves in more intimate situations with people back then?" Doug asked.

"Remember we're going to wake up together back here," Kelly said. "Just the two of us. Whatever happens in the past stays there."

"So we're only sleeping with others for the good of the future," Doug said. "Got it, and I like it."

Kelly looked at Doug like she wanted to smack him, but she gulped down her wine and held out her hand. "On to the sixties, then," she said. "But first, can we have some more of Aunt Doro's fruit cocktail?"

"Now that you've said that, there'll be some waiting for us in the jukebox room," Doug said.

"How do you know?"

"Just trust me."

Doug was correct: two bowls of fruit were waiting for them when they arrived in the room. "I don't suppose I should even ask about this," Kelly said as they sat down to eat.

"I don't know how she knows," Doug said, "But she does. She mentioned the root beer last night too." Doug was surprised to hear himself say 'last night', as it felt more like fifty years ago. Then he remembered that in a way, it was.

After they finished off the second helping of fruit, Kelly stepped up to the jukebox and set about searching for the right era. "This is my dad's era for music, big time," she said. "He was too young to go to Woodstock, and he's still bitter about it. Here we go, Canned Heat. Right style, right time."

"What a strange name for a song," Doug mused.

"It's the name of the band, silly, although they were named after a song," Kelly replied, turning back to join Doug on the couch as "Going Up the Country" kicked in on the jukebox.

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