Madelyn Ross had her cell phone cradled against her ear while she flipped pages in her workbook - that was propped against the steering wheel of her mini van - with one hand and held a cigarette with the other. She was parked at a drive-in, arguing with her editor while she waited for her dinner to be delivered.
She wasn't making much headway either.
"...No really, Carol...Why can't..."
Then the carhop was at Madelyn's window.
"That'll be $5.69."
The carhop was holding out a soda, patiently waiting for Madelyn to get off the phone and take her order.
"...Carol...Carol...I gotta go. Bye."
Madelyn closed her phone and tossed it into the passenger seat. She quickly blew out her last drag, attempting to be courteous to the carhop and blow the cloud of smoke away from the carhop. Of course the prevailing breeze blew the entire cloud right into the carhop's face.
The carhop coughed a bit, smiled awkwardly and pulled back.
"Sorry. Uh, hi...uh, just a sec," Madelyn started to reach for her wallet in her purse and realized she still had her workbook in one hand and her cigarette in the other.
"Uh," she flustered, "could you hold this?" and she awkwardly thrust her workbook at the carhop and smiled an embarrassed smile.
The carhop smiled back. She'd waited on Madelyn before and this was becoming a routine between them. "Uh, sure...here, uh, take the Coke please..."
Madelyn took the Coke and sat it on the dashboard. The carhop juggled the workbook and slid it flat against the bottom of her tray. Madelyn fumbled for her wallet, pulled out the first bill she touched and gave the bill to the carhop as the carhop gave her the order.
"Ummm, what'd I give you?"
"A ten ma'am."
Madelyn smiled again, this time more composed, "Keep the change."
The carhop's smile got bigger and more at ease as well. It always did when she served Madelyn because Madelyn always tipped big and despite whomever she might be arguing with on her cell phone, she was always pleasant.
"Thanks. See you next time?"
Madelyn started her car and pulled out of the space while lighting another cigarette and flipping open her phone to resume her argument with her editor.
Carol cut Madelyn off, "What was the big rush, missy, that you had to cut me off like that?"
Carol snorted a short accusing laugh, "Uh-huh, more like you came you randy bitch. Eating at Sonic again are we?"
"Hey, shut up. You had me arguing with you over sentence structure and I didn't have time to fully appreciate her."
"Eating all that fast food is going to go straight to your hips and thighs you know. Why don't you just come out and ask the girl out?"
Now it was Madelyn's turn to snort an accusing laugh, "Yeah, right. You've been editing erotica too long. I can't just ask this total stranger, who is probably not gay, who is probably not even of legal age, if she'd like to go on a date with a 30 something, married, bisexual woman - who when she's not selling real estate writes dirty stories for a living."
There was a pause on the line.
Madelyn laughed, "You are incorrigible, you know that?"
"Yeah, and you love me for it. Come see me after you eat and we'll work out your story. Irwin is getting antsy about getting this project wrapped and you know we don't want to get Irwin antsy."
"Yeah, well tell Irwin he needs to go spend some quality fuck time with Jeff and chill out.
"Uh, Okay. I'll be over in about an hour or two. Gotta check on Kent and the kids."
Madelyn pulled into the parking lot of the publishing offices, turned off the engine and reflexively reached for her workbook in the passenger seat.
Her hand came up empty.
She flipped the passenger side map light on thinking the book was on the floor.
"Oh, shit," Madelyn half whispered. She must have left it at home. She asked her husband Kent to look over the story that Carol and she were arguing about. She wanted ammunition for her meeting.
"Carol's going to kill me," Madelyn said as she put her hand on the key to start the car and then a rather chilling realization hit her.
"Oh, my fucking god!"
Madelyn put her hands to her face, her mouth open, and her eyes wide.
Kent said he couldn't find her workbook. She thought she left it in the car and after she was done eating and spending some time with the kids she'd go and get it and bring it to him.
She handed her workbook to the carhop when she got dinner.
She didn't remember taking it back.
Out came the cell phone for the first of three calls.
"Carol, Maddie. Uh, something came up and I can't make it tonight. Irwin doesn't get in the office until after 10, can we do this first thing in the morning?"
"You okay Maddie?"
"Yeah, it's just that Wolfie ate Jennifer's math homework and I need to help her." Madelyn flinched at the lie.
Carol paused. "Let me get this straight, sweetie. Wolfie, your diminutive Chihuahua, ate Jennifer's math homework? They give math homework at pre-school these days?"
"Well...It's a tough, college prep pre-school. Anyway, that's my story."
"And you're honestly going to stick to it?"
"Until I can think of something better... Oh please, Carol, really something has come up, I just can't tell you. At least not now."
"Well, okay, Maddie, hope things work out but you better have your sweet ass in here by 8:30 or I'm going to let you suffer the wrath of Irwin.
"I talked to his lordship, Irwin, a while ago and he and Jeff are having a tiff or a spat, I forget which, but that means that he hasn't had sex for at least, oh, four or five hours. He's a bear."
"Thanks Carol, you're a dear."
"That's what editors are for, babe."
Madelyn dug through the heap of fast food napkins, magazines and other bits of flotsam between the front seats. She triumphantly came up with a receipt from Sonic and dialed the number.
This was call number two.
"Uh, hi, I was through a couple of hours ago. I believe a girl named Michelle waited on me. I think..."
"...Oh, oh, great! Wait a second, I need a pen."
Madelyn grabbed a pen sitting in the cup holder.
"Okay...555-1483? She doesn't mind me calling?...Great! Thanks."
Madelyn mumbled to herself as she dialed, "Please, dear God, don't let her have read it."
There wasn't anything illegal or bad per se in her workbook. The current story she was working on, a lesbian romance story, and notes for a couple of more rough and raw stories involving group sex and BDSM.
But then - there was the pencil sketch of her carhop and notes about various ways she could incorporate her into a story.
Madelyn had her eye on her carhop for a couple of weeks. Last week she brought her husband Kent along to see her and he made several very erotic, very nasty story suggestions - that Madelyn had written next to the sketch.
She just didn't want this young girl to think she was some sort of pervert. Just the week before the cops had busted some perv who was jacking off as one of the other carhops brought his order out.
Oh PLEASE God, Madelyn begged.
The voice on the other end of the phone was so sweet, a contralto, at ease, open. It was so beautiful.
"Uh, hi, this is that crazy woman who left her notebook with you," Madelyn tried to sound nonchalant and lighthearted.
(Please, dear God, she hasn't looked in the book.)
"Oh, hi. Yeah, I have your book. I'm glad you called. Would you like to come by my apartment and pick it up?"
"Uh, will your parents be there?"
There was a pause then, "I live alone; Apartment C in the Sunnyvale Apartments on Lowell. Please, come on by. It'll be okay."
Madelyn fought the impulse to blurt out, "Have you read it yet?" Instead, "Well, it's getting kind of late. I wouldn't want to keep you up."
"No problem, uh, Mrs...I'm sorry, I don't know your name."
"It's Madelyn Ross. You can call me Maddie."
"I'm Michelle. I don't have a class until noon tomorrow and I need to wind down before I hit the books so please, come on over." Madelyn breathed a sigh of relief.
No mention of the book's contents, no parents, apparently a college girl.
This was going to be okay. She'd swing by, pick up her workbook and be home in time to snuggle - or do something more risque - with Kent.
"By the way, Mrs. Ross, I really love your writing."
"Uh, tha...thank you. I'll be over shortly."
"Great. I can't wait." Michelle's voice sounded happy.
Madelyn was in shock.
The reason for Madelyn Ross' shock over finding out her carhop, a girl she'd been fantasizing about since she'd seen her at the drive-in, had read from her workbook was that Madelyn was a bit of a poseur.
Madelyn Ross was a romance and erotica writer - when she wasn't selling houses for Century 21. She was an excellent agent, almost had her broker's license.
She could also write the most tender and sensuous scene between two lovers or the most nasty, most rousing gangbang scene in a biker bar.
She practiced at her art and the more she practiced the better she got.
She had a bit of talent at spinning yarns.
She had a huge imagination.
And she had a sex drive that bordered on the pathological.
She could count the number of men and women she had been intimate with over the entire span of her thirty something years on two hands - well, a hand a half.
She wasn't in "the scene" - any scene: lesbian, swingers, BDSM. Anything.
She just wrote and had a small circle of people she was intimate with.
In all those intimate contacts, with the exception of Kent, her husband and Heidi, her college room mate she had always been the pursued and never the pursuer.
She always played demure.
But there was something about her carhop, her Sonic Girl as Kent came to call her, that made her very hot and wet and want to pursue her with a passion. Well, maybe not pursue her but have her.
Stroke her gently.
It was just something she couldn't quite put her finger on.
And no one, outside of the publishing house that had recently picked up some of her short stories and was publishing an anthology, had ever said they liked her writing - at least not verbally, over the phone; sort of intimately.
Oh, there were the emails from anonymous readers off several web sites extolling her literary erotic prowess but those readers were disconnected voices in cyberspace.
And she respectfully and lovingly considered all the people at her publishing house completely debauched so they didn't really count either.
(Irwin, the publisher-in-chief, a "confirmed bachelor" for the adult years of his life, was so taken with several of Madelyn's stories that he made a confession. Something, she was told, that was completely out of character for the 50'ish, Boston born and reared patrician.
("Ms. Ross, I was so aroused by your story entitled," and he sniffed somewhat in disdain, "'Cynthia Pulls Her First Train' that I ordered Jeffrey, my partner of many years, to dress in a miniskirt and bra and play the part of Cynthia as I and our friends, um, performed a ritual gangbang. Jeffrey, of course, whore that he is, loved every moment. And so did I. Thank you.")
Now, here was this girl who held, in Madelyn's eyes, an extraordinary balance of innocence and smoldering sensuality. And in her beautiful, guileless contralto voice said she liked Madelyn's writing.
Madelyn had butterflies.
Madelyn rang the doorbell of the small garden apartment and waited.
Michelle opened the door, still in her carhop uniform of yellow polo shirt and black running shorts. "Hi. Please come in." Her voice was soft and welcoming. Madelyn had planned on getting the book and running but the invitation tugged at her.
"Uh, sure. Thank you."
"Come on back. It's a mess but I live in my bedroom. I hope you don't mind."
Madelyn laughed, "Oh, you should see my house."
Michelle turned slightly as she lead the way to the bedroom, she smiled coyly, "Gee, is that an invitation Mrs. Ross?"
"Uh...do you want it to be?"
Michelle did not turn back around. Madelyn just heard her softly chuckle.
"Well, here we are," Michelle motioned expansively with her arms as she sat on her bed Indian style.
Madelyn took in the room. There was classical music playing softly on the CD player. The walls were covered with newspaper clippings, pictures and certificates. There was a shelf with several trophies.
"Wow, so that's where you get those legs of yours."
Michelle smiled with genuine embarrassment, "Uh, thanks. Yeah, cross-country and middle distance during track season and basketball. Those are all from high school. I'm not a jock anymore."
Madelyn sat down in an overstuffed chair directly across from the bed. "Oh?"
"I'm doing my pre-reqs at juco for a nursing degree. No time for sports. I still run every morning though."
Madelyn pointed at the CD player, "I hope my daughters have your taste in music when they grow up."
"Oh, yeah. That's Anne-Sophie Mutter. I love her music. But I also like classic rock."
Madelyn wasn't sure what to say so she just smiled.
"I'm sorry I'm still in my uniform and haven't showered. I just got home when you called and didn't know how soon you'd be here so I waited."
"That's perfectly all right. There's nothing quite like the smell of a nice sweat."
Michelle grinned, reached behind herself and pulled out Madelyn's workbook. She ran her fingertips slowly over the cover. "Yeah, I kinda noticed your appreciation for sweat in a couple of your stories.
"Why do you write in a notebook? I mean most writers use a word processor don't they?"
Madelyn chuckled nervously, crossed her legs, elbows on her thigh and rested her chin in her hand. "Well, I like the feel. I like the feel of the paper against my skin. I like to watch the smoothness of the ink as it flows. Can't get that on a computer."
"Mmmm. I know what you mean. I'm very tactile.
"You're an excellent artist. I can't believe this sketch you did of me. Uh," Michelle looked down seemingly embarrassed, "why didn't you sketch me naked?"
Madelyn felt a flutter in her belly. "Michelle," she spoke her name softly and paused, "I haven't had the pleasure of seeing you naked."
Madelyn's eyes widened but she didn't change her posture.
Michelle stood up and in a fluid motion pulled off her polo shirt and unclasped her bra letting it slip to the floor.
Next came her running shorts falling in a puddle around her ankles revealing a black thong.
"Uh, Michelle, honey, you don't need to wear a thong unless you have a lover who insists. They ride up on me something fierce."
Michelle was staring at the floor as she hooked her thumbs into the sides of the thong and sent it to the floor to join her shorts. "I actually kinda like the way it feels. I'm very sensitive, uh, back," she motioned toward her ass, "you know, uh, back there."
Still staring down at the floor Michelle took the scrungy out of her black hair and shook it out, the hair falling on her shoulders and across her face in wild black tangles.
Then she looked at Madelyn.
Madelyn gasped quietly.
"You're so very beautiful Michelle." Madelyn half whispered in a voice that was starting to thicken with the lust she felt growing in her belly.
"Thank you," Michelle whispered.
Michelle looked away, just a little to the side of Madelyn, as if suddenly she was grossly self- conscious. She slowly and with some awkwardness raised her arms to shoulder level.
She struck a pose - brazen and blatantly seductive Madelyn thought.
Michelle was showing the fine lines of her long torso, her flat belly and small, firm breasts as well as the long and elegant muscles of her arms.
But then Michelle moved one foot on top of the arch of the other and moved her thigh over the other one slightly as if she were trying to cover the core of her sexuality.
In a small, quiet voice, Michelle - still looking slightly to the side of Madelyn with her head slightly bowed and still in her outstretched pose - asked, "Mrs. Ross, would you lay with me?"
The question snapped Madelyn back into the real world from being lost in her visual feast of Michelle's body and her innocent sexuality.
Madelyn's first impulse was to laugh; really laugh, really hard.
A belly laugh.
'Would you lay with me?' she thought? My god, how cliched or how Biblical or how cheap, pulp romance fiction.
But...there she stood in her pose.
Part 'Venus Rising from the Sea' and part 'Christ on the Cross.' Madelyn sensed no seduction, no debauchery at hand. This girl was offering herself. She was self- conscious, maybe frightened as she did, what Madelyn assumed, she had never done before in her life.
"Why?" Madelyn whispered.
Michelle looked up, her eyes darting to Madelyn's and then away.
There was a hot blush of embarrassment filling her cheeks.
Michelle stuttered some, her voice barely audible; "I want to feel your touch on my skin, your breath on me, the texture and wetness of your tongue and lips."
She licked her dry lips, tilted her face down more. She seemed to push the words out in her breath as opposed to clearly vocalizing, "And I want to feel you: your softness, the weight of your breasts in my hands. I want to smell you. I want to taste you. I want to feel the slickness that comes from between your legs."
Michelle completed her list of reasons, head completely bowed. Madelyn saw she was trembling.
As if in shame, Michelle covered her face with her hands. Her trembling increased.
Madelyn stood up and closed the distance between Michelle and her in two steps. Madelyn's hands were trembling slightly as she ever so lightly lay her fingertips on the back of Michelle's trembling hands and slowly pulled her finger tips down Michelle's wrists, to her forearms.
Madelyn kept a light hold on Michelle's elbows, parting them slightly so that more of her belly and the bottom of her breasts were exposed. She leaned in so that the fabric of her suit was barely touching the naked skin of Michelle's hips, belly and lower chest.
Madelyn's lips were mere inches away from Michelle's ear. "Why?" More a soft, hot breath than a whisper.
Madelyn gently took Michelle's hands in her own and placed them slowly, gently on Madelyn's hips. Then the hands returned to hold and caress Michelle's face.
Michelle's eyes were wide and moist as she opened her soul to Madelyn. Her breath caressed Madelyn's lips and face as she whispered, feverishly.
"Sometimes. Sometimes I feel so alone. I read your stories, I watch movies, and I see my friends, and even total strangers...They're so...so close.
"They hug, hold hands, and kiss.
"They share beds. They share their bodies.
"I wonder...I wonder what I am missing. Why? Why am I missing it?
"I'm sorry," Michelle half laughed, half sobbed and momentarily buried her face in Madelyn's shoulder, "this sounds so selfish...so small and inconsequential. But I wonder why I can't have that companionship...why do I have to be alone?
"Why do I have to be deprived of the sights and smells and tastes of another human being?"
Madelyn took a step back, took Michelle's face in her hands and wiped a couple of tears from her cheeks with her thumbs.
"It's not small, or selfish or inconsequential. It's okay." Madelyn let her fingers fall from Michelle's cheeks slowly down her throat.
With an index finger of each hand Madelyn traced Michelle's well-defined clavicles and then opened her fingers as they slowly descended down the flat of Michelle's chest to the soft flesh where her breasts began.