This is a copyrighted original work of fiction. All rights reserved.
All characters featured herein are at least eighteen years of age, even if not expressly stated. Any resemblance between actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Many thanks to editor Tom Graham of Girls_cum_first. He suggested that I extend the story. I did.
My neighbor Julie sat on a stool at my kitchen counter making us ham and cheese sandwiches. Topless. I sure as hell hadn't seen that coming.
I live in a country house just outside of town. The five and a half acre lot consists of about one and a half as a nice lawn and garden, the rest woodlands up the mountain behind the house. There is a mountain stream, rivulet really, that comes down partially on our property. It's a big four bedroom house with a nice fireplace and large rooms. I love the property. We've been here twelve years and raised a family here. 'We' being my wife and I. Now it's just me. She left me three and a half months ago.
On the other side of the mountain stream are the Cavanaugh's. Bill died four years ago from Lou Gehrig's -- ALS, at age fifty two. It was horrible to watch Bill disintegrate. It was even worse to watch Julie cope with the inevitable.
The Cavanaugh's have a similar slice of property to mine, but theirs is a big rambling two story, six bedroom home. A very nice home. Their three boys are gone now. Two are in university, one has his own place.
Our kids, a boy and a girl are both away at university too.
Before Bill died and before the ALS got really bad, Cora and I would get together with Bill and Julie and have a glass of wine or two (or nine) and a barbeque or pot luck. That's just the way things work in the country. Your neighbors are your neighbors and you've got to look out after each other. As their youngest boy is about three years older than our eldest, the kids didn't interact much and at first we weren't too close.
Nevertheless eventually the friendship grew even though Bill and I were completely different. He was about a year and half older than me, an executive with a large bank -- VP maybe, and an avid golfer. I refuse to play the wretched game. I would motor around on my ride-on Lawn-Boy, he had a service. I have every conceivable tool in my garage shop, he had people. It seemed to me that Bill spent half his time away, either in New York, Montreal, Washington or overseas.
Bill was the life of the party though. I really liked him. He was a larger than life character, physically big too. You couldn't help but be drawn in to him. It was no wonder that he was so successful at the bank.
Julie and I were more similar. She was an artistic, free spirit type. And I'm...well I'm just nuts. The one thing that Julie and I had in common, we both had spouses that were doing very well, thank you. Cora has a very high profile position with an international pharmaceutical company. She looks after regulatory affairs.
The other thing that Julie and I had in common was an inability to interact with each other without figuratively poking each other in the ribs. We were always playful and sometimes there was a little sexual innuendo thrown in for good measure.
Lou Gehrig's changed all that.
As soon as Bill was diagnosed his joie de vivre was gone. Julie's too. Not only did she have to remain strong and deal with Bill's degeneration, but she also had to deal with three teenage boys who had their own issues coping with their father's disease.
When it was eventually over Julie was, not surprisingly, a changed woman.
Long gone were the parties. Long gone was the close friendship we had. Long gone was Bill.
We tried to comfort Julie as much as we could after Bill was gone. She was busy coping with the kids. Although we would occasionally get together to have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, the spark was gone. It was just polite neighborly interactions that were left 'can you let the dog out?', 'we're away on holiday can you water the plants?' -- that type of thing. We still had to look after our neighbors. Being out of town, it's simply inconvenient for others to come and look after such trivial matters. That's part of living in the country.
Julie still used a lawn service but did look after the flower beds and a vegetable garden. Basically I didn't know what she did to keep herself busy. Sadly, I just didn't see much of Julie any more, even though she was only a couple of hundred yards away.
I separated from Cora after twenty six years of marriage. Cora moved out, leaving the house to me and the kids. Graciously she still supplemented my income with hers. There was no animosity between us. She definitely loved her kids. I still loved her, but in a different way now.
I got back from town one day laden with groceries to find a voice message from Julie. I called her back.
"I'm finally having the kitchen redone starting tomorrow, do you have room in your freezer for one fairly large bag of frozen things?" Julie asked.
"Sure, no problem," I said, "do you want me to come and get it?"
"No, I'll be right over."
When she came over I asked if she would like a glass of wine. She declined explaining that she is still unpacking the kitchen into the dining room.
Sure enough, bright and early the next morning there were a bunch of trucks in her driveway. I wished I had a new kitchen going in.
At about nine in the morning Julie phoned, "Jim," she said, "this fucking dog will not stop barking at the workmen. Can I bring Lulu over?"
"Sure," I said.
Lulu her spaniel and Gomez my mutt, get along fine.
Julie brought the dog over. She tried to just hand the leash through the kitchen door, but I said, "Come on in, have a cup of coffee."
She pulled off her jacket and sat on a stool at the kitchen counter. She had jeans on and a loose knitted multi-colored sweater. As usual, she looked great.
We sat at the counter sipping coffee as she explained she was getting all new appliances, new cabinets, counters, new floors, ceilings, the whole kit and caboodle -- in four days.
"Cool," I said, "are you thinking of selling the house?" I wished I hadn't ask that question, but it was out.
"No, I love it here. I can't imagine living anywhere else. The kitchen hasn't changed since we moved into the house," she paused to think for a moment, "eighteen years ago. It definitely needs to be updated." There was a bit of sadness to her eyes.
"I wish I could afford to redo mine," I said almost half under my breath.
"Well now I can look forward to cooking dinner for myself in luxury," she said in a voice that betrayed her emotions. She knew Cora had left me and that I too now shared the same fate as her. Living in a big house with a dog as a companion, waiting for the kids to come and visit.
It hadn't even occurred to me to perhaps rekindle the friendship that we once had, or to even pursue it to another level. I knew I could never be half the man Bill was.
Although Julie was about a year and a half older than me she was still a very striking woman. I'd say five eight, thin, shoulder length bleach blonde hair covering grey I'm sure, brown eyes, dark eyebrows, perfect teeth, high cheekbones and a winning smile. Aside from the chiseled lines on the face that middle age brings, she had very few wrinkles, just a few crow's feet around her eyes.
"Julie, you've got a new kitchen happening. You should be happy about that."
"Hey it's better than a kick in the ass Julie."
"I'm not so sure," she countered, "at at least a kick in the ass can be construed as physical contact."
"Now you're being silly." I said. What a bitter woman she had become. I wondered if I had morphed into a similar grotesque since Cora left.
"I'm sorry," she said, "I'm just being miserable."
"Yeah, you are Julie. And frankly I'm worried about you. When did Bill die, was it four years ago?"
"It'll be four years next month."
"You've got to move on Julie."
She gazed at me.
"And so do I." recovering quickly. "Tell me Julie, what do you do during the day?"
"Oh I keep myself busy, I play bridge, I play tennis and I volunteer at the library. And I still do some of my painting. Although, I've been told it's all dark now."
"That sounds to me like a slow slide into old age. Have you met anyone? Have you even considered building a new life together with somebody?"
"Oh, I've thought about that. I've thought about that a lot."
"And," I paused, "what have you done about it?"
Julie looked down to the floor. "I...I...," she exhaled, "I don't know what to do about it."
"Come on Julie," I said with perhaps a too optimistic tone of voice, "go on-line, go to a bar. Take a singles cruise..."
"I've never dated in my life, other than Bill. I wouldn't even know how to act."
"Come on Julie. You're a perfectly fine, intelligent, good looking woman."
She stared at me.
"I know you've been through a lot," I continued. "Before Bill got diagnosed you were a glorious, vivacious woman. Full of energy, funny, fun."
She continued to stare at me, with no emotion to her face.
"That woman is still inside you."
"That was eight years ago." She said dismissively.
"That's exactly my point Julie," I said to her, "before Bill died, you had to deal with Bill, the kids, the house. I know it was stressful and you didn't have a choice." I paused for a moment then added, "I suppose you could have simply run away from it all, but you didn't Julie. You did the right thing. What a loving wife and what a loving parent would do. I have a lot of respect for how you dealt with it. And I know Cora feels the same way too."
Why did I bring her up? Julie continued to stare at me blankly. I didn't know if I was being too harsh, or too intrusive or just plain judgmental. Maybe I was way out of line.
I continued, "When Bill passed away, it was sad..."
"It was a relief," she cut me off.
"To a degree only Julie. You lost your husband. You still had to go through a grieving process. Maybe you still are, or maybe you haven't yet."
She sighed and took a sip of her coffee.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I'd just like to see the old Julie back."
A tear ran down her cheek.
"I'm sorry Julie, I didn't mean to upset you, please forgive me." Now I felt bad. Clearly I was stirring things up that perhaps should have been left alone.
She wiped the tear from her cheek, "No, you're right Jim. Even the kids have been bugging me." She stared into her coffee cup. Another tear rolled down her cheek. "Is it that obvious Jim? Am I just a sad, miserable, old woman?"
"Hell no!" My voice perked up. "You're a beautiful, kind, intelligent, woman."
She grinned at me dismissively. As if I was supposed to say that to make her feel better.
"I'm dead serious Julie, and quite frankly I'm worried about myself too."
Her eyes looked up to me, wondering where I was going with that last statement.
"I'm not joining no frikkin' bridge club, I'm not volunteering for squat..."
"Is Cora ever coming back?" She cut me off.
"No," I said with some finality to the word. I paused for a moment before I continued my thought, "I'm not going to fall into a depression and become a miserable old man."
"Like your miserable old woman neighbor," she stated, rather than asked.
"Sorry," I said staring into her eyes.
She sipped her coffee with downcast eyes, then lifted her head taking a deep breath.
"Tell me Jim, are you seeing anyone new these days?
"Sadly not," I answered. "I had one date as it were since Cora left. I think I did it out of spite or revenge or something. It wasn't going to go anywhere."
I knew what she wanted to know. I could see it in her face. Did we have sex? I wondered when the last time Julie had sex. I wasn't going to go there.
After a moment Julie said, "Listen, I've got to get back to see what they're up to. I'll call you before I come by to get Lulu. Thanks for the coffee."
She stood up grabbed her jacket and headed to the door.
She turned back to me.
"You don't have a kitchen. Come back for lunch."
Before she had a chance to answer I continued, "But can you get the other Julie to come instead? You know the one that used to live next door, the one that used to always be laughing and joking."
A smile broke across her face.
"And," I continued, "can we not talk about history? Can we just move forward with our lives, you and I?"
Her smile, got even bigger.
"Okay," she said, her eyes twinkling, "but the other Julie likes a glass of white wine with her lunch."
"Deal," I said.
As she walked across the lawn I noticed that she held her head up higher and that her back was straighter than before. Maybe my little tirade worked. Maybe my brutal honesty with her could snap her out of her funk. I knew too, that I needed to snap out of one myself. There was no way that I was going to let us both wallow in misery and self pity. Enough is enough. Time to move on. Perhaps we could help each other? Hell, why not.
Then self-doubt crept over me. Maybe she's just tired from all the work in unpacking the kitchen. Maybe I was the bitter one and she was just reflecting my mood.
Either way, I resolved that when Julie comes back for lunch that I'll have to lighten up her mood somehow. And mine.
I had bread, cheese, ham, mayo, lettuce and plenty of white wine. Lunch no problem. I didn't know when she was going to be over or what she wanted. I simply pulled out the groceries and left them on the counter. I decided I was going to make myself some soup for later on.
I pulled out what I had. Tomatoes, frozen beef stock, onions, celery, green onions, garlic, green pepper, red pepper. What to make? I had some leftover cooked white rice in the fridge.
As I popped the cork to a chilled Chablis Julie tapped on the kitchen door.
"Come on in it's open!"
Lulu and Gomez greeted Julie as she stepped into the kitchen. I handed her a glass of wine as she slipped off her jacket. She was dressed the same as before, in jeans and a multicolored sweater.
Smiling she said, "Thanks."
"Ahh...do we have old Julie back?" I hoped that I did.
"I'm afraid so, that old broad from next door is here. I'm so sorry about this morning."
"No I am Julie,"
She took a sip of white and put down the glass.
"You're hardly an old broad. You're middle aged like me, and a damn fine looking woman. Remember, were not going there."
"You're right. We're not. Sorry." She smiled after she said that, paused then added, "Do do really think that?" then gazed at me with a bit of a smirk on her face.
"That you're good looking, intelligent and a fine woman? Yeah, I do," I said with I'm sure, honesty in my face. I washed the tomatoes in the kitchen sink.
She smiled and sat herself down on the stool at the kitchen counter.
I recognized that this was a make it break it moment with Julie. I had to take the initiative. Maybe she recognized too that we had come to some sort of emotional Rubicon.
"What's for lunch?"she asked, looking over the groceries on the counter, clearly changing the subject.
"Nothing yet," I answered, "ham and cheese with lettuce and mayo okay?"
"Sounds ideal," she said, "can I help?"
"Sure, you make the sandwiches, I'm making some soup for later."
"What kind of soup are you making?" Julie asked in an upbeat voice.
"Mulligatawny? I've heard of it but I've never had it."
"Well I've not had it in a while," I said.
"I've not had it in a long, long while."
"Ah, let's not go there Julie." I said holding my arms out, face up to the ceiling.
"I'm sorry I can't help myself," she said. She straightened her back and drew a deep breath. "Right, no more of that."
As she said that I could see that she was putting a brave face on. There was a steely determination in her eye. Maybe my harsh tirade had forced her to come to grips with herself. I hoped it had.
"Good. We're moving forward Julie, you and I. Even if I have to drag you kicking and screaming. I'm not going to let the two of us wither and grow into cranky old farts." I picked up my wine glass and held it towards her, "Do I have to drag you kicking and screaming or are you going to come along willingly?"
She picked up her wine glass, clicked my glass, smiled bravely and said "I'm going to come willingly."
I think we both blushed at the same time, then both burst out laughing.
After the laughter subsided, while wiping a tear from my eye, I said, "I've got the old Julie back."
"Yes, you have the new old Julie." She replied with a huge smile on her face.
We clicked our glasses together again.
Still chuckling to ourselves I picked up a tomato and started slicing one up as Julie applied mayo to a slice of bread. At least I got her mood in an upswing.
She eyed what I was doing and said, "Those are really nice tomatoes, juicy and ripe."
There was no way I was going to drop the sudden shift in mood, "I like your tomatoes, too," I stated calmly with tongue firmly in cheek.
"What these?" she fired back, pressing her breasts upwards with her wrists, knife with mayo in one hand, slice of whole wheat in the other. "I'll give you that they're ripe!"
"Yeah -- those tomatoes," I said. I couldn't help but grin at her.
She had a look of shock and disbelief on her face, but stilled pressed her boobs up, "I hardly think they're juicy anymore." Her eyes brightened up.
I liked where the conversation was going.
"I think I'd be a better judge of that," I answered right back to her.
"Really?" She put the knife and bread down. With both of her hands, in one motion, pulled her sweater right off revealing her very nice, ample breasts encased in a white sports bra. In a second single motion, the sports bra came off revealing a great pair of boobs, albeit a little saggy, but with large, dark brownish-pink areola and thick long nipples pointing up and out.
My eyes bugged out, "Wow!"
"Well, what do you think of these tomatoes then?" she asked with glee in her voice.
"I think they are lovely, luscious, obviously very juicy," firmly tongue in cheek now.
"You really think so?" she asked, her voice had a tinge of apprehension to it.
"Yes I do," I answered back with certainty, "and I'm liking this new Julie a lot."
Julie couldn't help but smile as she sat back down on the stool. Topless. She picked the knife and bread back up, "Did I shock you?" she asked.
"Well, I'm seeing a different Julie yet again today. How many of you are there?"
"Mmm...maybe there are a few more you haven't met yet," she answered with a devilish grin while placing the ham on the bread.
She's probably right. I'd not seen this coming. This conversation was definitely going in the right direction.
"You know you're staring at my breasts," Julie said breaking my reverie.
"I'm sorry," I answered giving my head a little shake, "well, they are very nice though."
"Would you rather that I put my top back on?"
"Hell no!" I snapped, perhaps a little too crudely.
"Oooh, okay...we'll just leave it off for now," she came back with a giggle. She passed me my sandwich.
"So, how do you make this soup?" she asked as she bit into her sandwich.
After clearing my mouthful I looked her in the eyes, rather than her tits, and replied, "I can't show you, unless you agree to try some." I thought I was being clever. "But it won't be ready until tonight. So Miss Julie, seeing as you don't have a kitchen -- would you care to come to dinner tonight?"
With a smirk on her face she answered, "I suppose you would expect me to dress the way I am now?"
I wasn't expecting that. "Something not too far off...it is a tomato based soup after all." I said chuckling.
"So are we going on a date then?" she asked, with a little uncertainty in her eye.