The Nymph's PoolbyWatchingCloud©
"Oh, I am. But I like art, too. I was thinking more along the lines of computer animation or digital design."
"Yeah, I hope it will be," he said. "Not sure what my fall back would be if I don't like it."
"Well, I'm sure you'd be good at just about anything, if you're half as smart now as you were back when we went to school together." She handed his canteen back after taking a long pull.
"You know, it's nice knowing we're going to the same school," he said. "At least then I'll know one person, even if our paths never cross."
"Well, they'd better cross," she said. "I'd be offended if you avoided me."
Josh tried not to read too much into that, but he hoped she was sincere. It really would be comforting to have that bit of old familiarity to stay grounded.
"Ready?" he said.
* * * * *
"You hear that?"
Josh stopped and listened. It took a moment, but then he heard the sound of moving water somewhere off in the distance.
"Yup," he said.
"Sounds promising," she said.
They had hiked further than Josh anticipated, and the day's sun was penetrating even the shady depths of the woods with an oppressive heat. Both were glistening with sweat and the idea of dipping his feet in cool water sounded very promising indeed.
"Good thing you suggested we try this little side trail," he said. "I think I've walked past it a couple times while on that main trail and never even noticed it before."
"Yeah, first time I've seen it too," she said. "Must have been some sixth sense pointing the way."
They crested a small rise and were stunned by their discovery. A waterfall no more than eight feet high and twice as wide emptied into a broad, crystal clear pool. At the other end of the natural formation, the water converged back into the stream and wound its way through smoothed boulders and off into the woods. The near side of the pool even had a small beach of sorts, comprised of sand and small polished stones. It was the ultimate in idyllic little getaways, and in all their years of vacationing and hiking nearby neither had ever seen it before.
"Wow," Maya said.
"Yeah, wow," Josh said.
She plunged on ahead of him, grabbing his hand as she went. The intimacy of the gesture wasn't lost on him, but she seemed far more interested in getting down to the water. At the beach, she let go of him and knelt down to dip her hands in the water and splash a little up on her face.
"Oh, that's nice," she said.
He dipped his hands in as well and enjoyed the invigorating properties of the cool water on his skin. They splashed water up on their own arms and then at each other after Maya sent a playful splash his way.
"Man, wish we'd thought to bring suits and towels along," Josh said.
"No kidding. And maybe a picnic lunch. I could spend all day at a place like this."
Josh was just standing, admiring the gentle waterfall, when Maya went walking right past him and into the water. He noticed then that she had shed her hiking shoes and socks and was wading out to where the water just started to reach her knees.
"Oh, this is heaven," she said. "C'mon. It's pretty shallow across this part."
Josh quickly shed his own hiking boots, leaving them on the shore neatly beside hers, and waded out after her. The pool clearly got deeper toward the middle, but by skirting the edge they were able to walk around to where a larger boulder protruded from the water and offered a bench of sorts with just enough room for two. Hip to hip, they sat on the rock with their bare legs dangling in the water and enjoyed the waterfall's performance before them.
"So, we're coming back here tomorrow, right?" Josh said.
"Yeah, definitely," she said. "We'll just have to make sure we know how to find that little side trail again."
Their conversation wandered back to school and the old days. Josh listened in amusement as Maya filled him in on how several of their mutual schoolmates from elementary school had turned out by the end of high school. While his move to California had been relatively painless, with new friends coming more easily than he'd expected, he envied the continuity of acquaintances that Maya had enjoyed by growing up in the same neighborhood her entire life - the way she seemed to know everyone so well and could relate their character through stories of their exploits.
Maya nudged him and nodded back up the rise near the strip of beach. A couple, probably about their parents' ages if he had to guess, were working their way down the overgrown path. Both carried towels, suggesting they were no strangers to this place. Josh was a little annoyed at the invasion of their privacy, especially now that he had a good excuse to sit so close to Maya, but he couldn't fault anyone for wanting to come here.
The man was the first to spot them and he waved in their direction. "Good afternoon!" he said.
"Hey," Josh said as he and Maya waved back.
"Lovely day for a swim with Joella, eh?" Josh looked and Maya, finding the same uncertain look. Neither knew what he meant.
"Uh, sure," Josh said.
"Mind if we join you?" the woman said, already hanging her towel over one of the branches.
"Not at all," Maya said.
The man sat on a rock to untie his shoes. "I'm Mike, by the way," he said. "And this is my wife, Carol."
"Josh and Maya," Josh said by way of introduction.
"Nice to meet you," Maya said.
"You look familiar, Josh," Mike said, studying Josh with just enough scrutiny to make him slightly uncomfortable. "Have we met? You from around here?"
"I grew up about half an hour from here," Josh said. "But I moved to California seven years ago."
"He does look familiar, doesn't he," Carol said. Then she snapped her fingers. "Oh, I know...he looks like Stan. Remember him?"
"Oh, right! That's it."
Josh was stunned. Stan was his father's name, and people frequently claimed that they looked a lot alike.
"Stan Henderson?" he said.
Mike and Carol's eyes both lit up. "Yeah! You mean to tell me..."
"Yup," Josh said. "I'm his son."
"I'll be damned," Mike said. "Explains why you're here at Joella's, though. Not too many people know how to find this place."
"We were good friends with them...oh, must have been twenty, twenty-five years ago," Carol said. "We'd hang out here with them all the time. Guess after they had you, we kinda drifted off our separate ways. How are they, anyway?"
"They're good," Josh said. "We're here on vacation, catching up with the Thorntons."
"Tom and Rachel?" Carol looked back at Maya, who raised her hand in acknowledgment.
"Yup, I'm theirs," she said.
"Well if that doesn't beat all," Mike said. "Full circle, eh?"
Josh sensed Maya's discomfort at the same moment it began to dawn on him just what the older couple was really here to do. They were shedding their clothes to go for a swim, but there was no swim wear underneath. Casual as could be, both stripped naked and began wading into the water. Josh was so stunned he didn't know how or whether to even acknowledge it. It seemed that it would be equally rude to stare or to avert his eyes when it clearly didn't bother them.
"So how are your parents, Maya?" Carol asked as she sank chest deep in the middle of the pool.
"Uh, good," Maya said. Josh could sense in her voice that she was just as uncertain about how to act as he. "Dad's still running his practice and mom's still teaching, though I think she's looking at some early retirement options to maybe pursue something else."
"Good to hear it," Mike said. "Man, seeing you two down here sure brings back a lot of old memories. Oh, the things we used to do down here."
To Josh's relief, both of the skinny dippers now had most of their private bits underwater. For forty-somethings, he conceded that they seemed to keep themselves in pretty good shape. Both carried a little extra weight and had skin starting to sag here and there, but the absolute unselfconscious way they carried themselves made him feel a little more at ease with the strangeness of the situation.
"Guess I don't remember my parents ever telling me those stories," Josh said, suddenly very curious about his parents in their youth. While they weren't entirely uptight for parents, neither did they seem like they had ever had much of an adventurous side.
Mike chuckled and Carol seemed to blush a little. "Yeah," he said. "I suppose they probably wouldn't tell you some of those stories."
"I don't think they ever even mentioned this place," Maya said.
"Really?" Mike said, clearly surprised. "How'd you find it, then?"
"Just happened to spot the trail about half an hour ago while hiking past," she said. "We decided to follow it a little bit just to see where it went."
"Must have been Joella," Carol said, as if that was somehow an explanation. "A sign."
"Joella? What is that?" Josh finally asked.
"Oh dear, they really don't know," Mike said. Josh couldn't tell if he was being serious with the gravity of his voice, or just playing at being serious.
"I tell you, it was a sign that we came here today," Carol said.
"I thought we came here because you read somewhere that it was National Nude Day," Mike said.
"Well, that too," Carol said with a smile. "But maybe the fact that I read about it and it reminded me of here was all part of the plan."
"I think you lost us," Maya said.
"Joella is a nymph," Carol said. "A spirit that inhabits this area. She is the guardian and keeper of the falls and the pool."
"Uh, ok," Josh said, still not sure if they were playing with him.
"Well, that's the story, anyway," Mike said. "It's not like you can see her...being a spirit and all...but we've always considered it best to treat the story as true and make sure not to offend her."
"What does that involve?" Maya said.
"Well, it's pretty simple, really," Carol said. "First, you must never vandalize or otherwise despoil this place. No leaving trash behind; no major changes to the natural environment; no harming any animals. Second, you always need to thank her for her hospitality when you leave. And third, you're not allowed to wear clothing in the water."
Now Josh was pretty sure they were playing with him, but it was still a fun little story to attach to a place like this all the same. "How come?"
Mike just shrugged. "Guess Joella likes to keep things all natural in her place," he said. "We don't question her reasons, we just abide by the rules."
"What happens if you break them?" Maya said.
"We've always been pretty careful to stick to them," Carol said. "Still, there was that one time that Ken brought his cousin along. She absolutely refused to shed her bikini, even though everyone else was playing by the rules. I think the rest of us were more worried about what might happen than she was."
"Did something happen?" Maya asked.
"She slipped on a rock while climbing back out of the water and broke her ankle," Mike said, his voice quiet and sincere.
"Ouch," Josh said.
"That was the only bad thing I ever remember happening down here," Carol said. "And the only time I remember anyone breaking a rule. So, after that, we were pretty careful about what we did down here and who was allowed to know about it."
"Needless to say, we did a lot of skinny dipping in those years," Mike said. "Carol and I, both of your parents, and a couple others, we were down here almost every nice weekend for several years. Lots of good times."
"Sounds like it," Maya said. "Though I have trouble picturing my parents skinny dipping, especially with anyone else."
"Oh, you might be surprised about your parents," Mike said. "Both of you."
"Anyway," Carol said, perhaps cutting him off, "if Joella meant for you two to find this place, and I believe she did, then it's a good thing she conspired to get us here to share the rules. And maybe just in time, too, since you two are dangerously close to being overdressed for being that far out in the water."
"We hadn't planned to swim," Josh said. "But, yeah, we had already talked about coming back tomorrow."
"Guess we won't be needing the suits, then," Maya said, giving him a playful nudge and suggestive smile.
"What, you still want to come back here with those conditions?" Josh said.
"Sure, why not? You got something against skinny dipping?" Maya's eyes locked onto his, her expression challenging. He knew she was searching for something in him, but he couldn't tell just what she was after. Did she really want to go skinny dipping with him? If so, was there more to be read behind that, or was it just in good fun?
"Uh, well, no, not really," Josh said. "Guess I just haven't tried it before."
"That makes two of us, then," she said, her smile returning.
"No time like the present to try something new," Carol said. "Besides, we don't bite. But if you'd feel more comfortable trying it in private first, we can head on back and give you some space."
"No, no," Josh said. "If anyone should be giving the other some space, it would be us."
"Pish posh," Carol said. "We've done this so many times before, it scarcely crosses our minds anymore. Think it over. No pressure."
Mike and Carol swam over to the waterfall, where they let the cool water splash down over their heads. The distance and noise of the crashing water gave Josh and Maya some degree of privacy in which to speak.
"Well, what do you say?" Maya said. "Ready to give it a try?"
"Mmmm...still seems kinda odd doing it with a couple strangers, even if they do seem pretty cool."
"Well, I'm fine with them being here," she said. "It's like they're setting the example of how to do it right and not make a big deal of it. Besides, what if something comes up or the weather gets bad and we don't get another chance to come back here? Shouldn't pass up an opportunity when it's trying so hard to get your attention. Besides, we might offend the nymph."
"You sure seem pretty relaxed about stripping nekkid," he said. "You always been like this?"
"No, not always," she said. "But in the right company, I'm not opposed to going au naturale. And I know you don't have anything to be ashamed of."
Josh blushed slightly at the suggestive comment and compliment. "Ok, fine, I'm in."
Maya gave him a sly smile and squeezed his hand. "Last one naked fixes lunch when we get back, then," she said. And with that, she slid off the rock and started wading back toward the shore, peeling off her shirt as she went. Josh shrugged in amusement and followed, not in any particular hurry to beat her.
By the time Josh reached the shore, his own shirt in hand, Maya was folding her shorts and stacking them with her shirt alongside the shoes. She had her back to him, affording him a nice view of her shapely ass clad in light blue panties. Her entire backside was tanned, so he assumed she must have seen a fair bit of sun in a bikini this summer, a thought that brought additional happy images to mind.
Josh folded his own shirt loosely and started a pile next to Maya's. As he started to unbutton his shorts, Maya unclasped her bra and wiggled it off her shoulders and down her arms. He couldn't help himself but to steal a glance at her bared breasts, small handfuls with inviting curvature and nipples that were starting to protrude in spite of the warm air. She noticed him looking her way, but only smiled and dropped the bra onto her pile.
"Hope you're a good cook," she said.
"Hope you like sandwiches," he said. "Too bad we forgot to bring towels, huh?"
Maya peeled off her panties, teasing him with only a brief glimpse of her close-trimmed fuzz before she bent over to drop them on the pile. In further confirmation of her summer sunning, she bore sharp bikini tan lines across her butt and around her breasts. In spite of the sheer joy of getting to see her nude, there was still a desire to see her in the responsible two-piece.
She turned to face him as he folded his shorts with only his boxers remaining. She seemed completely uninhibited and unabashed at letting him see her nakedness, from only a couple feet away no less. He did his best not to stare.
"Guess we'll just have to air dry, then," she said. "Can't imagine that should take too long on a day like this. And yes, I like sandwiches."
"As this is your first time here, I'd suggest jumping in from that rock next to you two," Mike said, calling out from where he and his wife were still soaking next to the falls. Not ten feet away was a broad rock that jutted out a few feet over the pool, looking like both a nice place to sit or to jump in the water.
"Sounds good," Maya called back. "Just waiting on slow poke here."
Passing the point of no return, Josh hooked his hands into the waistband of his boxers and slid them down and off. Immediately, he felt the soft summer breeze cool his balls in a way he had never before experienced. Foreign as the feeling was, he had to admit that it was rather pleasant. And thanks to his nerves, he was very relieved to find that he had not become aroused in front of Maya or their audience. Maya, for her part, just glanced down at him and quickly brought her eyes back up to meet his, smiling politely.
"Let's go," she said, offering him her hand which he happily took.
They climbed up the rock, which was a couple feet above the level of the water and the beach, and walked to the edge. Hand in hand, naked as the day they were born, and standing not twenty feet from the middle aged friends of their parents - and Josh couldn't help but grin in the crazy joy of the moment. It's a singular sort of carefree release that he had never experienced before, enhanced only in that he was sharing it with Maya.
"How deep is it?" Josh said. In spite of being able to see the bottom through the reflection of the green canopy above, it was difficult to judge details.
"About four or five feet," Mike said. "It's a safe jump, but I wouldn't be trying anything headfirst off there."
"Ready?" Josh asked Maya. She squeezed his hand back. "Yup."
Together, they jumped in, the cool water offering a brief shock that perfectly quenched the day's heat. And if feeling the breeze on his balls had been novel, floating naked in cool water was an entirely alien and wonderful experience. He reluctantly let go of Maya's hand while she dunked under the surface and swam around a bit on her own. He did likewise, letting the cool water carry away the heat and sweat from his head as he plunged under the surface.
"Well, were we right?" Carol asked when both had finally surfaced and wiped the water from their eyes.
"It's wonderful," Maya said. "So glad you told us the rules about this place. It just wouldn't be right any other way."
"My compliments to Joella for keeping such a lovely little place," Josh said, and everyone agreed.
The two of them made their way over to the older couple, joining them under the splashing water of the falls for a bit. Standing at a depth where just their heads made it out of the water, they chatted idly about a range of topics - with the upcoming freshman year of college dominating much of the conversation. Maya stood near Josh, and their hands occasionally brushed, but aside from the otherwise frequent eye contact they made no further intimate gestures throughout.
"So, just what sort of wild things did our parents do down here?" Maya said, abruptly changing the topic.
"Oh, I don't know if we should tell those stories," Mike said. "Your parents might not forgive us."
"We can keep a secret," Josh said. "Besides, you never know when you might need a little leverage."
Everyone laughed. Mike and Carol looked at one another for a long moment, trying to read in the other's eyes whether they should or shouldn't pass along any stories. "Maybe a hint," Mike finally said to Carol, who nodded.