New Year’s SurprisebyLothario the Great©
"Yes! That's just right."
"Otherwise, we'd completely destroy our friendship."
"Okay, same page."
"And we'd probably have to keep it from getting too physical too fast."
This last point disappointed Ben—he wanted Tamara now in a new and completely unbridled way—but she had actually made the point he needed to hear. "Same page exactly."
"Well then... what next?"
Ben's heart still beat a little too fast. Never before had he been so excited, relieved, hopeful and elated all at one time. He wanted nothing so much as to dive head-first off the cliff, but if he wanted this to work, it had to work right, and it had to work the very first time. Logic must play a part.
He tentatively added onto the plan. "I say, we've set the groundwork today for a much stronger friendship, the kind that we could build something more on top of."
"We've got everything out in the open, and we're enjoying our time together, and Beverly isn't anywhere to be seen."
Tamara gave a knowing grin. "Yes. It's just about us now."
"Yeah. So I say, let's take it slow. Just let it happen. Or not happen. Maybe we're just... I mean, today, with all that's gone on, maybe we're just reacting to..."
"To how horny we are."
Ben laughed out loud, and Tamara joined him. She'd hit the nail on the head.
"Also," she added, "you couldn't start dating someone else today anyway. You just, like, got dumped this morning."
"There's that, too." Ben laced his fingers together. "Although... I'm not missing her very much at all right now."
Tamara played with her hair. "I'm not missing Gil, either."
"So at least we got that out of the way."
"Yeah." Tamara, not knowing what else to do, piled her trash onto the food tray. Ben could sense it, too—they'd found the closure he'd been seeking, if that was indeed still the goal. The girl asked, "Does this mean, I dunno, you take me back to my car now?"
Ben ran his fingers through his hair. "Geez, I don't know. I mean, it's New Year's Eve and the entire town is empty. We could at least go see a movie or something."
Tamara perked up so visibly that she almost bounced. "Excellent! You wanna go right now?"
"Yeah! I really do."
"It would give us a chance to, you know, wind down."
"Okay, that's cool."
With a new plan of action in hand, Tamara and Ben proceeded confidently back to the car and down the highway to the movie theater. They found a toilet humor flick they'd both been wanting to see (the kind that might star Adam Sandler or Ben Stiller, you know the type), with a showtime in forty minutes. They sat in the dimly lit theater, completely alone, right next to each other, and talked some more about movies and television until the show started.
Together they ripped apart the previews for upcoming films ("Craptastic sequel," Tamara called one sci-fi pic, and they both giggled about that for far longer than they needed to), then the movie started and they continued talking and laughing as though they were the only ones in the theater, which they were.
At some point, Ben's quieted mind realized how relieved he was that his so-called plan of action had not resulted in separation for the rest of the day from this lovely girl he seriously planned to date soon. About a minute later, as though on cue, Tamara slipped her arm around Ben's, found his hand and placed hers in it. No hesitation, no apologies or permissions, just the natural act of holding hands. They continued to laugh at the movie from time to time, but not nearly as hard as before. Something was on their minds, and they liked it that way. At first Ben's heart raced, then it settled down. He was amazed at how much he had been looking forward to this moment, perhaps since he first recognized Tamara as a "girl" at the age of eleven.
As the movie wound down toward its obvious end, the two untangled their arms and prepared to leave. End music, rolling credits, and then Tamara was the first to break the silence. "Not bad," she said. "I liked it."
"Me too. Not as good as their last one."
"I totally agree. Remember when Bev shot Coke out her nose during that one scene?"
They laughed hard as they remembered. It occurred to Ben that, no matter how close he and Tamara became from this moment all, his sister would always be somewhere in the background, and essential part of the mix. And he was okay with that. They probably wouldn't be able to continue dating if Beverly disapproved, but that was a bridge they'd all cross when they came to it. But she wouldn't disapprove. Bev wanted them all to be happy, right? And now, they would be. It was almost inevitable.
Not much talking as they made their way to the car, but once inside with the key in the ignition, Ben felt compelled to ask, "So where to?"
Tamara bit her lip. She shrugged.
"You know," Ben said, "we were talking earlier about having someone to kiss when the clock strikes twelve tonight..."
Tamara's eyes lit up. "Yeah?"
"So I was thinking, we're both stuck here with no parties and no dates... Maybe we could just rent a movie or grab some dinner. Keep this thing going, at whatever level. Then tonight, we could watch the ball drop and maybe... You know. If you wanted a kiss, I could be the one."
It didn't happen often, but when Tamara batted her eyelashes, she transported Ben back to that time when they were little kids together, and neither had a care in the world. It was a nice feeling. "That would be lovely," she said, something Ben couldn't remember ever before hearing her say.
Ben rubbed his hands together like a coach whose team was doing well. "Alright then. In that case, I think we should just spend the rest of the afternoon together, until dinner time."
Tamara nodded curtly, like a team member concurring with the assessment. "Yes, absolutely."
"But if we go to my house..."
"... we'll just start making out."
Ben swallowed. "Probably, yeah."
"I've got it."
"You know I've got keys to the Johnson Center."
Ben laughed. "Oh man! That's a great idea."
"We could just hang out there. The staff is gone, and there won't be any students because of the holiday. It's just fun to wander around and snoop through all the offices. Beverly comes with me all the time. I know where to find the codes for all the lockers and everything."
"You have no reservations about this at all, do you?"
"Nope." Tamara shook her head to reinforce her point. "I don't believe in privacy anymore. I'm a voyeur, and I always will be. Maybe it's a compulsion, maybe it's just a decision I've made. I don't care. As long as I don't get caught, no one gets hurt."
"But I caught you," Ben said with a smile.
"Right," Tamara responded, not missing a beat. "And now you're in it with me. My fellow voyeur."
"Okay, let's do it." Ben started the car, and they drove directly to the campus athletic building, the Johnson Center, where Tamara worked part-time as a facilities assistant, cleaning and organizing and whatever. Tamara just happened to have the keys on her keyring, and the sense of danger began as soon as they stepped through the front doors.
For starters, they took a leisurely stroll across the basketball courts, where the heat had been turned down before the Christmas break. They shot some hoops to warm up.
Ben asked, "So what will we find in the lockers?"
"Everything, man. Diaries, laptops, sex toys, lots of embarrassing stuff."
"You and Bev ever snatch-and-grab?"
"No way. The fun is thinking about the other person continuing to write the embarrassing stuff after we're done with it, without knowing we'd been there. Bev's good at hiding shit on the computers. I don't know much about it."
"But you work with computers all the time in your chem labs."
"Yeah, but that's not Windows and the Internet and shit. Those chem analysis programs are the only ones I know."
"Can I ask a question?"
"You're about to."
"Do you get porn online?"
Tamara shot a hoop. "Beverly does, sometimes. I look at the stuff she's downloaded, but it's pretty old now. She's mostly getting her nut cracked by Tony."
"But if you have the computer porn, what do you need mine for?"
Tamara smiled. "It's the nostalgia factor, I guess. There's something comforting about it. Plus, there's the Benjamin factor. Knowing I'm watching the same tapes you watch, seeing the new stuff you've bought over the years... it's strangely romantic."
"If I'm hearing you right, you're saying you've been thinking about me romantically for a while."
Tamara dribbled once, twice, then paused. "More than a while." She took the shot and missed.
Ben asked, "Is this topic still off limits?"
"I don't guess so. I'm not embarrassed about it anymore, at least."
"Okay. So what kind of stuff did you and Beverly do together?"
Tamara laughed. "Did I say I wasn't embarrassed anymore?"
"Come on, I'm curious."
"Alright, here's the deal. You name something, and I'll tell you if we did it or not. Just yes-or-no questions."
"Okay. You kissed, obviously."
"And you masturbated in the same room together."
"Yes." Tamara continued to shoot hoops, mostly to avoid looking Ben's direction, he suspected.
"Did you masturbate each other?"
Tamara buried her face in the basketball and screamed. Then she said, "Yes."
"Was there any oral?"
A giggling fit snuck up on Tamara. She threw the basketball away. "Some."
"Well my god, Tamara, that's everything! You were totally fucking each other."
Tamara folded her arms, speechless.
"So why'd you make me go through the twenty questions?" Ben asked, jokingly.
Suddenly, Tamara started walking. Over her shoulder she said, "Can we change the subject now?"
Ben followed her. "Yeah, might as well. We've covered this one pretty much."
Tamara led Ben through the women's locker room, which looked exactly like the men's locker room, if Ben's memory served. They walked right to the opposite exit. "Come on, the locker codes are in the office on the other side of the pool room." The locker room door opened directly into the pool.
"Hey, it's warm," Ben said. He leaned down and felt the water. "They left the heat on here."
"Yeah, they did." She kept moving in the direction of the office door, but when she reached it, she walked past it and kept going, following a path around the edge of the pool. It was triple-Olympic size, with all the high-dive equipment at one end. Ben watched the girl walking, walking, not saying a word. He wondered what she was thinking. At last she completed the circle and walked back up to him, but instead of stopping, she gave him an indecipherable look and kept going right past him. Ben followed at a distance, listening to the sound of their footsteps and the lapping of the water.
"What you thinking?" Ben asked very softly.
Tamara, hands clasped behind her back, didn't slow down. "I wanna go for a swim."
Ben liked this idea very much. "You know where we can get clean swimsuits? I'm not wearing some other jock's Speedo."
Tamara stopped. "Actually, I thought we might not need swimsuits."
Ben's mouth went dry, a neat trick considering the humidity of the room. "Oh... yeah?"
"Not NAKED naked. Just underwear. You could stand that, right? I mean, I've been sleeping over at your house since the fourth grade, I'm sure you've seen my panties before."
"Your point is... technically valid," Ben said, hoarsely.
"I wouldn't want to make you uncomfortable."
Actually, Ben was growing more comfortable by the second, perhaps too comfortable to reveal what was happening beneath his zipped fly. But he wasn't shy about his body, either. Besides, he really really really wanted to do this. "Make a move, sweetheart."
And that's just what Tamara did. She ripped her sweater off and tossed it against the wall, revealing her lovely, athletic torso, her beautiful white arms, and the pink cotton bra that revealed every delicate subtlety of her shapely chest. She gave a girlish curtsy that affected Ben on two levels, appealing both to his sense of humor and his pounding libido.
"Better than you remember?" Tamara asked, hands on hips. "Worse?"
"Better," Ben said, almost choking.
Tamara unbuttoned her pants, revealing a matching pink set of underpants. "This is just like 'Vacation' with Chevy Chase," she said while stepping on the heels of her tennis shoes, "when the girl dives in and he's just standing there wondering what to do."
That woke Ben up. He pulled his long-sleeve collared shirt over his head, along with the white undershirt beneath. "Not exactly like. They were complete strangers. You and I are anything but."
"Not after today." Ben caught one quick flash of Tamara's nearly naked body before she dived without warning into the five-foot section of the pool. Either knowingly or not, she skimmed along the bottom of the pool long enough for Ben to tear his jeans and shoes off and jump in the water before she could see how, er, excited he'd gotten.
The cold water solved that problem, and just in time as Tamara made her approach. She bobbed to the surface, catching her breath and smiling like a kid, with most of the natural curl gone from her shoulder-length hair. Her wet shoulders and face glistened like the juicy skin of some forbidden fruit, and Ben wanted nothing more than to take a bite. Was that what should happen next? Should they talk, or do laps? Tamara set the tone by splashing a huge gush in Ben's face.
"Tramp," Ben growled, then splashed her back. They horsed around from a distance for a few minutes, and then Tamara pounced, dunking the boy with a vengeance. She let go when he tickled her sides, and soon their splashing and shouting was pretty indistinguishable from any of the hundreds of pool moments they'd shared throughout the years. They might as well have been wearing swimsuits instead of boxers and bras.
The workout was exhausting in the most useful. Tamara held her hand out, commanding Ben to stop. "Truce," she called, wiping water from her eyes.
"Yes, truce, asshole."
"I'll drown you like a rat if you call me an asshole again."
"You wish, bitch."
"You're pushing it, Tamara. I'm a man. I have my pride."
"Okay, okay. You're a man."
"No, I'm agreeing so you'll shut the hell up."
Ben splashed her again, and she returned the volley, squealing and laughing all the way. "TRUCE!" she demanded. "Truce, damn it!"
"Say I'm a man."
"You're a man! My god, you're a man."
They shared tired laughter as they caught their breath. Ben found himself questioning once more what the right next move would be, and once more, Tamara decided for him. They would continue their discussion. She floated at an angle, her breasts sometimes bobbing above the water line. Ben stared helplessly at the perfect curves, the slightly hard nipples. Was there no way to keep his throat from going dry?
"Is this what you had in mind for the day?" she asked.
"Not exactly, huh? Better? Worse?"
Tamara smiled. Ben realized that most of his memories of her involved her smiling; it seemed to be her default state. So many girls he dated thought their sexiest look was a glare of distain, but Tamara either never had the same sadness to carry around or she carried it in a safer place. Of course, there had been that phase in high school with both Tam and Bev went goth—black lipstick, black fill-in-the-blank—but even then they'd been making more of a fashion statement, not really working out any dangerous teenage angst. Tamara was a smiler, inside and out, always had been, always would be.
And Ben was in big trouble. She might just break his heart, and smile while doing it. Hell, she was doing it now.
He said, "I thought we'd talk about our exes all afternoon and share a box of Kleenex."
"Ha!" Tamara said. "Fuck that. I can't even remember his name."
"Good for you."
"Besides, he wasn't really a man."
"Not a man? What's that mean?"
"Nothing, it's just, now that I've seen one up close, I know what one looks like."
"Ohhh yeah," Ben said with mock pride. "The ladies can't look away."
"It's true. You're something else, Ben."
"Shit, I know. You couldn't keep your hands off me in the movie theater."
Tamara's jaw dropped in mock-horror. "I didn't think we were even gonna bring that up!"
"So now what? What you gonna do about it?"
Tamara kept swimming. "I'll find a way to punish you. I always do."
"You don't have a knife hidden in those panties, do you?"
"A knife? No."
"Because you might break my heart with it. Or without it."
Tamara purred. "That's sappy."
"Yeah," Ben laughed.
"You're not upset I held your hand during the movie, are you?"
"Of course not."
"'Cause it could have meant anything. Just friends, you know?"
"Yeah right. I'm surprised you kept your hands off me this long."
Tamara stood (which only put her head above the water) and gasped, pretending to catch her breath. "You bastard!" she said with a smile.
"Sorry. Too much?"
"Maybe," Tamara said, shaking her head in disbelief. She continued swimming a circle around Ben.
"Time to get serious?"
"Not if you don't want."
"No, I'm good with serious... for a minute."
"Okay, seriously. You're attracted to me, right?"
"Pshh," Tamara spit in disgust. "What makes you think that?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe the fact that you touch yourself while watching a tape of me jerking off."
"Holy shit! Say what you mean, why doncha."
"I'm not being smarmy! I'm just asking."
"Why, don't you find ME attractive?"
Ben went silent, letting the seconds tick by, until Tamara was forced to stop swimming and give him her full attention. She knew he was waiting to say something, but she couldn't guess what.
At last Ben said, "Tamara, you're the first girl I ever had a crush on. I've wanted you my whole life. You were the first girl I ever thought of as a 'girl.' I... wow. I'm just saying all this out loud, aren't I?" But Tamara didn't interrupt. "I remember the year you got boobs. I watched you every day for three years, as they got bigger, fuller, tighter in your shirt. I'm not trying to be gross, I'm just saying... I wanted you so bad, and I didn't even know it. I wanted to touch you so much. I wanted to be your boyfriend." Another pause, then Ben started speaking again. "And now, to find out you wanted me too, it's like... it's like finding out I had a million bucks hidden in my bedroom, and maybe it's still there."
Time stood still, or maybe it all crashed together, past and future pouring into the present. The nostalgia factor was there, as the two friends relived and re-imagined all those moments they spent together and apart, but somehow the kids they'd been weren't in the pool with them. They were two college students struggling to make two decisions, one emotional, one physical, or perhaps coming to the realization that the decisions had already been made, and the inevitable was upon them.
Tamara's next words were almost plucked straight from Ben's head. "Ready to make out?"
"Someday," Ben said, smiling to show he was half-kidding, himself not sure if he was.
Tamara grinned, letting it be known she was either also kidding or she wasn't. "Let me know if you change your mind."
"Keep talking. You might change it for me."
"I like that plan."
"I thought we already had a plan. We were going to take it slow."
"Yes we were," Tamara confirmed.
"We're not taking it very slow," Ben observed. "Are we?"
"No," Tamara said softly.
"I'm having trouble remembering why we came up with that first plan."