Author's note: My aim with this story is more the build and the social aspects of crossing class lines than the sex. There is sex, but not before the stage is set. I hope you enjoy.
For two days now, she'd been watching the carpenter build the new deck. Although both she and her husband wanted it, the deck was her project.
"I don't have time. You make it happen," he'd said.
A photographer, she spent most days at home, only going on shoots a couple of days a week. Yeah, good, she thought, 'cause I work at home, I've got time you don't. She knew though, that she did have more time than he, didn't spend three hours a day riding the Metro North train to Manhattan through the Bronx and Harlem. Still, his presumption pissed her off. But if she wanted a deck, this was how it would happen. And if she was getting a new deck, she wanted a new door to replace the old aluminum slider that only worked half the time.
That spring, she'd begun a round of calls to her friends looking for a carpenter, but all she got were horror stories of half-finished kitchens, un-returned phone calls, trampled azaleas.
"Honey," her pal Rebecca had said, "they'll take your money, trash your house, and screw your baby sitter." Half a breath later Rebecca recanted, "Okay, you don't have a baby sitter. Watch yourself then."
The horror stories proved out, at least the ones about missed appointments and sleazy contractors. The one guy who'd bothered to show up for his appointment was caricature from a Tennessee Williams play – he rang the doorbell wearing a wife-beater, chewing a half-smoked cigar. He didn't even get it out of his mouth for introductions before she slammed the door.
She checked the ads in the Penny Shopper and Craigslist, on the corkboards at the package store and the deli. She called Westchester numbers, she called Connecticut numbers. Either she got voice mail, which judging by the lack of returned calls, seemed to be just a way to tell her to go away without the embarrassment of personal contact, or they were booked until the fall.
The fall! Who the hell wants a deck in the fall? She wondered.
On the Sunday before the Fourth, her husband had gotten snotty about the deck. "How hard is it to get some schmo who can knock some 2x4s together?" he'd asked. "Do you want me to make some calls? Maybe a man's voice on their voice mail will get a response."
She picked up the Metro section of the Times and pretended to read. Shit, she thought, I'm a college graduate, I make good money, I can't get a fucking guy who hammers nails for a living to return a god damn phone call, and my asshole lawyer husband thinks he can help. Fuck you, she telepathed over her coffee. Fuck you. And that's the best fuck you're getting for a while.
That Wednesday she saw the carpenter's 8 ½ by 11 sign hanging on the deli's pin-up board amongst the ads for lawn services, unwanted motorcycles, and dog groomers. Half its phone number tabs had been torn off already. She tore off the rest, kept one, and dropped the rest in the garbage.
She was so surprised when she didn't get voice mail that her tongue tied up like a kid calling for a date. "Uhm, uh, do you build decks?"
He spoke clearly, answered her questions about schedule – "Yes, I can do it before the fall." "No, no crew. Just me." "Yes, I can come by on Friday. What time?" He came to look at the job at the appointed time, dressed in Carhart shorts and a clean, button down shirt. Neat hair, friendly, professional, answering her questions as if they were all intelligent. After ten minutes, she knew.
"When can you start?"
"What? We haven't talked money yet."
"Okay, talk money."
"First, we need to talk about what you want."
"I want a god damn deck."
Half an hour later, her head was swimming with words like "ipe'" and "Trex" and the carpenter had said, "Good. I've got it. Give me two days to put together a price."
Which, to her utter amazement, he did. It was at the high end of what she and her husband had talked about, but she'd have paid this guy whatever he wanted.
"Okay, now when can you start?"
"Second week in August."
And here it was, the second week in August. She was watching the carpenter, his back bent as he fastened heavy, 2 x 10 joists in place, his working man's shoulders rounded as he carried the green colored lumber from where the lumberyard's flatbed truck had dumped the stack in the driveway around the garage to the backyard.
They hadn't talked much the first day, just for a few minutes at eight in the morning after his pickup truck had rolled into the driveway.
He'd rung the front doorbell, and stood back on the stoop a polite distance.
"Good morning," he'd grinned. "Ready for me to start?"
Over the next days, she was surprised at her interest in his work. Several times through the day, she stopped at the kitchen sink to look out the window, or watched him through the big sliding door in the eat-in. The carpenter did everything in an easy, practiced way, never seeming in a hurry, always seeming to know the next step.
The deck building continued through a rare stretch of blue sky high summer. The carpenter wore short sleeve button shirts, and shorts. The third morning, feeling oddly awkward about her jobsite voyeurism of the days before, she'd opened the slider to ask if he'd like a cup of coffee.
He looked up, sunglasses shading his eyes, "Thanks, yes."
"How do you take it?"
She'd gone back in, taken down two mugs from their hooks, and filled them, filling her nose with the earthy coffee smell. The mugs advertised Nantuckett, famous apparently, for its clichéd swoop-wing seagulls. To hers she'd added milk, then walked out through the garage and its ground level back door, avoiding the yet open framing of the deck.
He stood on the deck framing, leather boots overhanging the joists, sawdust already lighting on his socks, the turpentine smell of the pine now competing with that of the coffee. She was unsure whether to hand the cup up to him, but he saved her figuring it out by jumping to the ground. His knees bent gymnastically as his feet touched down, then he was standing at her side.
"I hope you like strong coffee," she said.
"Hot, too," he said, wincing a little as the first sip burned his throat.
Without thinking, she reached out and touched the carpenter's shoulder, concerned, "Are you alright?"
She drew back her hand fast as she'd put it out, and he said, "Oh, fine. Just need to learn to go a little slower."
The carpenter leaned back, moving aside his tool bags to hitch a leg up onto the joist, coffee cradled in his hands. Out of the sun now, he pushed his sunglasses up on his head, looked right into her eyes, broke his gaze to sip the coffee.
Liking his blue, clear eyes she raised up her mug, smelled the coffee like wine, sipped.
"So, how do you learn this," she asked, "Do you go to school to be a carpenter?"
"I guess you can. I didn't. I've always just sort of known how. There are books, and I've worked for other carpenters."
"My husband is hopeless at anything like this."
"Well, I'm not sure what he does, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it. And whatever that is pays well enough to hire me." He spoke with no regional accent – not Boston, not New York, not southern. Just clean middle-American English that offered no clues to his origin. He smelled slightly of sweat, of the leather tool bags, and pine.
"He's a lawyer."
"My husband. He's a lawyer."
"Good thing I didn't know that when I bid the job," he grinned. "What do you do?"
"I'm a photographer. Mostly women's magazine stuff."
"You must get around then."
"Not that much. A lot of studio shots, a few house interiors, but they're within a day's drive. Nobody wants to pay travel expenses. I was wondering though, would you mind if I took some shots of you working? I won't bother you, but the light is so good, and the lines of the framing are really interesting."
"Sure. Why not? Maybe you can send me a nice shot of the finished deck for my marketing?"
The rest of the day she photographed the carpenter affixing expensive hardwood decking to make a floor where none had been, a place where her husband's partners would talk about clients and sports and drink bourbon as the sun set and the salmon grilled. Where their chicly casual wives would eye the rings on their counterpart's merlot-holding fingers while talking pedicures and causes, she photographed the carpenter on his knees, driving screws. Her photographer's eye was drawn to his elemental work, the deep textures of his laden, leather toolbelt, the play of sun and shadow on him as he worked through the blue August day.
As the sunlight flattened through the afternoon, it threw small shadows. She became acutely aware of textures, of his close cropped hair, the lumber, the flexing of his calf muscles. Every so often, he'd stop working to look at her composing a shot, and she'd lower the camera, look into his eyes and say, "Keep working."
Looking up from below, she shot one photo that silhouetted the carpenter, his biceps straining to raise a long plank against the blue sky, his blue eyes completely focused on his work. The composition particularly struck her. She was looking at that photo on her computer screen that night when her husband came home.
"What's for dinner?" he asked.
"Oh, something. Come in here and look at this. Doesn't it remind of that socialist realist mural in the old Post Office?"
Her husband wasn't the art fan that she was, and all he saw was a guy working. She saw a lot more.
"Yeah, I guess it sort of looks like that mural. What did you call the style?"
"Socialist realist. You know, like those war bond posters from the '40s? That Thomas Hart Benton mural in the museum?"
"Okay, sure. What something do you have in mind for dinner?"
That night she lay in bed listening to her husband breathe, feeling his arm draped over her chest. She wore an oversized T-shirt, pulled taught by how she lay on it. An awareness of the fabric grazing her nipples lazed through her. She moved so her ass touched her husband's boxers, to feel him rub against her. Tightening and relaxing her glutes brought a pleasure and a frustration, but didn't wake him.
Drifting in her mind, enjoying the minor sensations, she remembered the smell of sweat and leather and wood, the firmness of his shoulder when she'd touched the carpenter that morning.
What to do with this, she wondered?
Without thought, she found her hand touching her mound, the hair coarse against her fingers. Softly, to avoid waking her husband, her fingers moved down and she stroked the lips of her cunt. She felt a warmth as blood flowed in and they opened up, moisture flowing from within. Pinching herself, rubbing her hand along the opening, she couldn't help but move her hips. After a little time, she started to circle her clit with her middle finger, then slid it down into her opening. The slippery warmth and softness engulfed her fingers, as she pressed her clit with her hand.
So involved was she that the feel of her husband's hard cock against her ass surprised her. Awakened by her movement, he had pulled down his boxers and started sliding between her ass cheeks.
Lifting her upper leg provided access, and he slid his cock into her from behind. His hardness filled her, but she couldn't thrust as she wanted this way.
"Wait," she said, pulling away from him and rolling to her belly. With her ass raised, he entered her again from behind, and she pushed back to take him deeply. His balls draped against her as he pulled her to him, and she gasped from the depth of the penetration. She rarely came from fucking this way, but her closed eyes were filled with the carpenter's broad chest and she could almost smell this leathery sweat and her husband's cock was rubbing her just right and then it hit so hard and so suddenly that she cried out in surprise as she orgasmed.
Morning now, and she sat at the kitchen table with her coffee, enjoying the warmth of the cup as she held it to her lips, the smell so much better than any taste could be. Her husband was gone for the day, but along with the coffee she was savoring the memory of his cock in her, the coarse cotton of her T-shirt rubbing her nipples as her chest pressed to the mattress. He'd become wonderfully hard just before he flooded her with warmth. Feeling her husband ebb inside her, she'd sagged down on the bed away from him and almost instantly fallen into a dreamless sleep.
When the alarm rang that morning, he'd reached over and turned it off, then rolled back to her. With a hand on her breast, he nuzzled her ear, nibbling, sending thrills she loved so right down to her clit.
"What got you going last night?"
Dodging the answer, she'd sad, "I don't know. Couldn't sleep, and started, well you know, playing." Lying on her back, not wanting to talk more, she'd let her hand drift to his thigh and his renascent cock, enjoying the smooth flesh against her palm.
The distraction worked, but after a few minutes, he'd pulled away. "Got to go to work. Hold that thought," he said. He'd showered and left for work, leaving her to lay in bed thinking and dozing.
Thinking so, immersed in the earthy smell of good coffee, feeling the warmth of the mug, she found the carpenter's wide shoulders and direct blue eyes filling her thoughts. His shape drew her in a surprising way, made her re-evaluate. She wasn't accustomed to men who earned their way through the world with physical work. The carpenter was clearly strong, yet not in the gym-sculpted way she expected from muscular men. Wide shoulders rounded at the corners, and calf muscles that flexed in and out of definition as he moved across his construction site. His construction site – In an odd way, that section of her own back yard where he was turning a mysterious pile of lumber into a place for she and her husband to entertain their white collar friends was his for the duration. He wasn't dumb, either, although most of her peers would look down on his high school diploma as much as his calloused hands.
The carpenter's practiced leap onto the deck framing broke her reverie. He balanced a moment on the joists, straightened up and stepped toward the slider.
Right. Shit. He's going to work on that today. Inside, she thought, suddenly feeling vulnerable in the same T-shirt she'd worn while fucking her husband last night. She could have run to dress when he knocked on the slider, explaining her actions later. But the thought took her that this was her house, her kitchen, and she wasn't going to be chased out. Completely, anyway.
Opening the slider partway, feeling more secure with the glass between them, she fought off the wave of nervousness, stuck her head past the edge of the door, and gave the carpenter a smile. A quick brush with her hand moved errant strands of brown-blond hair from her face, and she said, "I'm still dressed for bed. (Shit – What did that mean?) Give me a minute to get upstairs please, then come in and get started."
Turning in, she knew he had a full view of her ass cheeks and panties as she retreated. As her bare feet slapped across the foyer's floor tile, she heard the slider open. "Help yourself to coffee," she shouted, as she bounded up the carpet clad stairs.
What is going on? she wondered. This is my house. I'm paying him to be here, and yet I'm offering him self- serve coffee like he's my brother dropping in on a Saturday morning. Sitting on the bed, thoughts jumped around.
More than that. Jesus, I'm like a schoolgirl with a crush on him. What's up with that?
She got up, walked around, opened and closed drawers. Showered, carefully washing the mingle of her moisture and her husband's semen from her pubic hair. She chose a tank top, no bra, covered up with a light rayon blouse that she left unbuttoned, and shorts, then headed down.
The carpenter had indeed helped himself to coffee, the half-finished cup sitting on the countertop near the edge of the slider, the panels of which were now out and leaning against the side of the house.
"You don't waste time, do you?" she asked.
"No, ma'am," he replied. "Good coffee," he added with a gesture toward the cup. "Thanks."
"Good that you enjoy it," she said. "I'm going to do some work. If you need anything, my office is off the foyer."
"OK, probably won't, though."
The carpenter turned back to tearing out the door, and she paused to watch for a moment, marveling at his facility. Without looking, he'd locate a utility knife or a small pry bar from within his toolbelt, then apply it to the task at hand with ease and competence. The door trim, casing he called it, came off piece by piece, each one perfectly re-useable. A drop cloth on the floor caught the debris, the dust and small bits of insulation.
Realizing she'd stood there for an awkward time, she turned quickly and headed to her office, turned on the Mac, and tried to get some work done. The photos flowed across the screen, and again and again she fought to stay focused.
Shit. I can't think this. I'm married. He's a good guy, he trusts me.
Still, the images in her mind didn't match those on the screen. The screen didn't show the blue eyes, didn't convey the smell of sweat and leather.
She started at the knock on the office door, spun in her chair.
"Sorry," he said. "Didn't mean to scare you. I'm going down to the deli to get some lunch. Thought I'd let you know since the door is out."
"Thanks for letting me know."
Then, "I'd rather not be alone with the door out. Could I make you some lunch instead? I open a mean can of tuna."
"Sure, that'd be great. Save me some time running around. I'll get back to work."
"And I'll get right on the can opener," she said, laughing. "I wanted to see what you've done, anyway."
"Fine, come see what you're paying me for."
When she followed him outside, the degree to which her house was torn apart shocked her. The clapboards were removed in a zig zag pattern for several feet to either side of the slider, as well as for a row above the door.
"This will all go back on, I took it off planning to reuse most of it. I picked up a few new pieces on the way here this morning to replace what got damaged."
As he went on to point out more details, her mind locked on the fact that morning barely started at eight for her, an hour after her husband caught his train, yet the carpenter had time to stop at the lumberyard?
"What time do you get up?" she interrupted.
"You know, in the morning. How early do you get up if you can stop at the lumberyard on the way here?"
"Oh. I'm up at 5:30 or so."
"Wow," she said, the thought springing to her mind that she'd been sleepily giving her husband a hand job about that time.
"OK, that's before my time," she said.
"I kinda noticed that that this morning," he smiled, knocking her right back off balance.
She darted him a look, thinking, Does he know what I'm thinking about? He can't.
"How about I start those sandwiches?" she asked.
They ate at the kitchen table, and the carpenter said, "Thanks for this. Lots of homeowners kind of pretend I'm invisible."
How's that possible? she thought, but said, "That's pretty rude of them."
"Oh, I don't know. It feels sort of neutral. I'm invading their homes in a pretty personal way, and they have to accommodate a stranger disrupting their lives. And they're not all like that."
"You must get to know some of them pretty well."
"It can seem like that at the moment. I don't know how many times people have told me they'd invite me to the first big deck party, or cook a dinner for me in their new kitchen. It almost never happens, though," he said.