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AWLL 2 - Book 3 - Jessica

Michael Loucks

Cover











For Stephie







Copyright © 2015-2020 Michael P. Loucks


First publication date: 2016-10-30

First revision publication date: 2020-01-08



You may contact the author at: author@michaelloucks.com

https://a-well-lived-life.com/

Prologue

May 30, 2002, Chicago, Illinois

“Do you know what today is?” Birgit asked.


“The day after your 14th birthday!” I chuckled.


“Which means you owe me, Dad!”


“I knew you wouldn’t forget,” I chuckled. “Come sit with me, Pumpkin.”


She came over to the lounge chair where I was reading the newspaper and lay down next to me and snuggled close. Everyone else was still asleep. I was almost always up by 5:00am and Birgit had, since she was little, risen at the same time so we could spend some time together. School had finished the previous Friday, so everyone else would likely be in bed for at least an hour, though her moms could get up at any time.


“You know what I want!” she giggled.


“Here? What if someone comes in?” I countered with a grin.


“Then we stop!” she said, continuing to giggle. “Or they get a show they’ll NEVER forget!”


“You are SO bad Birgit Elizabeth!”


“And whose fault is THAT? I don’t know who’s worse - you or Mom!”


“Me. You know SHE won’t allow what you asked me for yesterday.”


“I know. But you did promise me the other thing I wanted.”


“To tell you about the first Birgit,” I said.


“Yes. You promised the whole story, with nothing held back. I guess that includes what happened with Karin, too.”


“It does,” I said. “I don’t see how I could tell the story without talking about her. Did you enjoy their visit in February?”


“A LOT! They’re so cool. Kristian, Karin, and Kjell are awesome! Aunt Sofia is like that, too. Maybe we should move to Sweden. Nobody there is as uptight as people are here! I swear, Tiffany’s parents are such dorks!”


“We talked about that beforehand. I warned you what might happen.”


“It’s so stupid! It was just me, Tiffany, Jesse, Matthew, and Amber! It’s not like any adults were in there!”


That was true, though Tiffany reminded me of Mary Harrison when she was that age, and I wouldn’t have minded being in the sauna with her! I HAD been in there with Amber, who, despite her age, was so much like her mom that it scared me. But we had rules to keep our family safe.


“You know full well that Aunt Penny has NO problem with Amber being in the sauna naked with you guys, or even with adults. But you shouldn’t have had Tiffany naked in there with you. That’s when we wear suits or use towels. We used to call it the ‘Weekend Rules’ before you were born.”


“But it’s DUMB, Dad! It’s not like we were having sex or anything!”


“Birgit, honey, the fact that you would freely walk naked up and down Woodlawn Avenue doesn’t mean that everyone would, or would be comfortable with you doing so. Tiffany’s mom obviously wasn’t comfortable with the idea of how we use the sauna.”


“But Tiffany was OK with it! She just took off her clothes and walked in like a NORMAL person.”


“I know, Pumpkin. But her mom gets to decide what’s right for her. Just like we do for our kids.”


“But you let us decide almost everything! You told me I could go on the Pill whenever I wanted to! You told me I could have sex when I thought I was ready!”


“Yes, I did. And the same is true for your brothers and your sisters. But your moms and I, and Aunt Elyse, Aunt Josie, and Aunt Jennifer are NOT normal Americans. And neither are Aunt Kathy, Aunt Penny, or their husbands.”


“‘Normal’ Americans are a bunch of uptight, prudish dopes!”


I chuckled, “You’ve been talking to Aunt Penny, haven’t you?”


Penny still used the word ‘dope’ just as she had when I’d first met her. She also still had a dog named Pete, though this was Pete II. He was just as hyper as his predecessor, always one bark away from a stroke.


“Yes. She promised to tell me all about the two of you when I turn fifteen!”


I groaned, “I may have to kill her! But didn’t you come here for something else?”


She traced a finger up my arm, “Oh, I did! Start talking or you’re going to give me the other thing instead!”


I hugged her tightly and related the story of the beautiful young Swedish girl who had captivated my heart twenty-four years earlier, and who, through her life and death, had set me on a journey of self-discovery and opened a whole new world to me. And whose memory I now honored by telling her story to her namesake.

I. Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

November 24, 1988, Chicago, Illinois

Authors Note: You will very likely find the first eight chapters of this book VERY hard to read. You will likely (surely?) hate Steve. Heck, you may well hate ME. You will very likely be disappointed in his actions. All I can say is, grit your teeth and gird your loins. I believe the pain will be worth it.



“Steve?! Steve?!” I heard muffled voices say. “Are you OK? Steve!”


“Please don’t kill our baby,” I whispered.


“What’s he saying?” I heard Kara ask.


“Something about a baby,” I heard Stavros say. “Jorge! Help me get him up and back into the house.”


Strong arms lifted me from the sidewalk and supported me as my friends more or less carried me into the house, my arms over their shoulders and their arms around my waist.


“What happened?” a strange voice asked.


“I think he passed out,” Leila said.


“Did someone attack him?” another strange voice asked.


“I don’t think so,” Alejandra said. “I don’t see any blood or any injuries.”


“Get him on the couch,” Sofia ordered the guys. “And get some blankets.”


“Should we call 9–1–1?” my sister asked.


“No, Squirt,” I whispered.


“Steve, what happened?” Kara asked frantically.


“Kara, let him recover a bit, please,” Sofia said.


I felt blankets being put over me, and someone, I thought it was Sofia, checked my pulse. Cold glass slipped into my mouth and I recognized it as a thermometer.


“His heart rate is a bit elevated,” Sofia said. “About 110. That’s not dangerous.”


“Sofia,” Alejandra said. “He’s been running five days a week, and going to karate seven days a week. I bet his resting pulse is around 55 to 60. 110 is high. We really need to check his blood pressure, but none of us have the equipment.”


“Temp is 35.6°C, uh, sorry, 96.2°F,” Leila said. “That’s a bit low, considering he was only outside for about ten minutes from the time he left with Jessica until Penny was pounding on the door.”


“That’s normal for him,” Stephanie said. “I have the same temperature as my normal. We’re always a couple degrees low.”


The light-headedness slowly passed, and I went to sit up, but felt several hands restrain me.


“Stay lying down,” Sofia said. “Can you tell us what happened?”


“I got dizzy, everything went black, and then I heard all of you.”


“Penny was out to take Pete for a walk and saw you on the sidewalk,” Sofia said. “She freaked out and ran here. She took Pete home and I’m sure she’ll be back. Do you know what might have caused you to pass out? And what happened to Jessica?”


I knew. I just couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud.


“You said something about a baby,” Stavros said. “But I couldn’t understand.”


“Steve, do you think you can make it up to bed?” Kara asked. “If Stavros and Jorge help you and we take the elevator?”


“I think so,” I said.


“Guys, help him,” Kara said. “Girls, let me deal with this, please. Elyse, I think you should come with us.”


The guys helped me to my feet and steadied me as we went to the elevator. The girls went up the stairs and Jorge and Stavros rode with me and helped me to my room, where I laid on the bed. They left, and I was with Kara, Elyse, and Birgit.


“Is Jess pregnant?” Kara asked.


I nodded, “Yes.”


“Why did she leave so suddenly?”


I sighed, and tears ran down my cheeks, “She only came tonight to tell me she was pregnant, that she couldn’t have my baby, and that she was going to have an abortion!” I sobbed.


“Oh, my God!” Elyse gasped, then I heard her whisper to Kara, “Becky.”


“Jessica is going to kill our baby!” I croaked through the tears.


“What do we do?” Elyse asked.


“I’m calling Doctor Barton,” Kara said firmly. “You get in bed and hold him, please.”


I felt the bed sag as Elyse got into bed and pulled me into her arms. I cried softly as I heard Kara make the call. Her voice was urgent, but muffled, and I didn’t hear the entire conversation. Less than ten minutes later, Al Barton basically burst into our bedroom.


“Let me examine him, please,” he said. “Syncope isn’t something to mess with.”


I felt Elyse move from the bed and opened my eyes to see Al with his stethoscope. He listened to my heart and breathing, then used a penlight to check my eyes. He had me sit up and listened to my breathing again, and put the stethoscope to my neck.


“Checking to make sure you don’t have diminished blood flow to your brain,” he said. “How long was he out?”


“I’m not sure, maybe five or six minutes,” Kara said. “He was only gone for ten before Penny found him on the sidewalk. When we got to him he was groggy.”


I felt pressure on my arm as a cuff was inflated and Al checked my blood pressure.


“Probably vasovagal syncope. In layman’s terms, a fainting spell. Has this happened before?”


“I think so,” Elyse said. “At least a few times since he was a teenager.”


“It’s not uncommon in adolescents and young adults. Do you know what brought these spells on?”


“I think the first was when his girlfriend died when he was fifteen,” Kara said. “I’m not sure of the other ones, but this one was because Jessica told him she’s pregnant and going to have an abortion.”


“What?!” Al exclaimed. “She told him this? Tonight?”


“Yes. She called this afternoon out of the blue, asked what time dinner was, ate with us, then took Steve outside and dropped the bomb on him. She left, but I don’t know if that was before or after he passed out.”


“If she left, knowing he was passed out…” he sighed.


“She didn’t know,” I said. “She sped away before I fainted.”


“Do you know where she went?” he asked.


“I’d guess back to her cousin Carissa’s place in Riverside,” I said.


“Kara, someone needs to stay with Steve tonight. Preferably awake, so if there’s any breathing difficulty, or severe headache, or another bout of dizziness, or anything like that you should call 9–1–1 immediately. I don’t think he’s at risk for a stroke given his diet and exercise regimen, but even very healthy people can have blood clots. I don’t see ANY signs of a stroke or TIA, and I’m not trying to scare you, but keep an eye on him.”


“Should he go to the hospital?”


“They’ll do exactly what you’re doing, and I think the risk is negligible. If you call 9–1–1 immediately, he’ll be at the hospital quickly enough to give him emergency treatment. If I thought there was a serious risk, I’d send you now. I don’t think there is.”


“There are plenty of us here to take turns,” Kara said. “We’ll take care of him.”


“Good. Call me if you have ANY questions, no matter what time. And call 9–1–1 if you see ANYTHING that concerns you. I mean that. Anything at all. I’m going to see if I can track down my wayward Resident and put an end to this entire sordid episode.”


“Thanks, Al,” I said.


“Yes, thanks, Doctor Barton,” Kara said.


He left and Kara got into bed with me while Elyse went to arrange shifts with the girls. I was just so tired that I fell asleep before I even knew it was happening.

November 25, 1988, Chicago, Illinois

I woke before the sun came up, though there was soft light in the room. I saw I was snuggled between Kara and Elyse, but I sensed another presence. I sat up, blinked my eyes, and shook my head to clear the cobwebs.


“Penny?” I whispered. “What are you doing here?”


“Making sure you don’t die, you dope!” she answered equally quietly. “That doctor friend of yours was checking you over when I came back.”


“Thanks, Pretty Penny. I’m fine,” I said. “Well, healthy I guess.”


“You HAVE to explain what is going on!” she said.


Beside me, Kara stirred and sat up.


“How are you?” Kara asked.


“Physically? OK, I guess. Al seemed to agree. Mentally? Emotionally? Don’t even ask right now.”


“What happened?” Penny demanded. “And where is Jessica?”


Elyse sat up as well.


“You should probably tell her,” Elyse said. “After last night, everyone knows something is seriously wrong, if they didn’t already suspect.”


“What is going on?” Penny asked more forcefully.


“Jess left me,” I said.


“What?! Why?! When?! I just thought she was working strange hours!”


“About five weeks ago,” I said.


“But what happened last night?”


“I can’t say just yet,” I said. “Go home, Penny. I’ll talk to you. I promise. Just not right now.”


“I KNEW you should have married me!” Penny said.


“You don’t share, Penny. Kara’s still here, you know.”


She sighed, “I know. You better talk to me later today!”


“Penny, let him get his bearings,” Elyse said. “Please.”


She nodded and reluctantly got up from her perch on the loveseat. She came over and gave me a soft kiss on the lips, the first time she’d done that in a couple of years. I smiled at her, and watched her leave the room.


“I need to go meet Jacquelyn,” I said.


“You are NOT running this morning,” Elyse said. “You need to rest.”


“She’s expecting me,” I protested. “At least let me walk over to see her.”


“I’ll go with you,” Kara said. “But just for you to tell her that you can’t run because you had a fainting spell.”


“Fine,” I sighed. “Remember, I’m supposed to take her to dinner and a movie tomorrow.”


“If Doctor Barton says it’s OK, then you can. If not, you have to postpone. I’m sure your friend will understand.”


“Fine,” I sighed.


I scooted down and got out of bed and went to the shower. Both girls followed me to keep an eye on me.


“Do you know what you’re going to do?” Kara asked as I stood under the hot spray.


“What can I do? She won’t talk to me. And last night she told me she hates me enough to KILL my baby.”


“She’s upset and confused,” Kara said.


“That’s a bullshit excuse and you know it,” I growled. “Quit defending something that has NO defense!”


I turned off the water by savagely twisting the knob and then yanked a towel from the rack. I dried myself roughly, threw the towel in the hamper, and went to the bedroom to dress.


“Relax, Steve,” Elyse said.


“Relax? Are you fucking kidding me?”


I grabbed some underwear and put them on, then checked the thermometer attached to the outside of the window by a suction cup, saw that the temperature was 43°F, and put on sweat pants, a t-shirt, and a sweat jacket. Without a word I went down to the kitchen, poured myself some juice and drank it down. I went to the front hall to put on my running shoes.


“I’m going alone,” I said. “I’m fine. I need to think.”


“Steve! You can’t!” Kara protested.


“I can. I will. I’ll come back when I’m done.”


“No!” she said, almost frantic.


“Kara, just stop, OK? I’m in NO mood. Just leave me alone!”


“Let him go,” I heard Jennifer say from behind me. “He has to work this out for himself, just like I did with my issues.”


I grabbed my Cincinnati Reds baseball cap, and walked out the door, past a sobbing Kara and an angry Elyse. I didn’t care at the moment. It had nothing to do with them, and when I got control of my emotions, I’d apologize. For now, I needed the fresh air, I needed to run, and I needed to think.


There were a lot of things I could forgive Jessica for doing, but having an abortion wasn’t one of them. Up until she’d told me that the previous night, I’d have taken her back, no questions asked, and done everything I could to help her get reinstated into the Residency program. But after doing what she stated clearly she was going to do? I didn’t know if I even wanted to see her again. It was Becky all over again, though in this case, I’d purposefully set out to create a life.


In a way, it was no different from my reaction to finding out about Rachel Rizzi. If I helped to create a life, then I was responsible for caring for that child; not out of a sense of fatalism, but one of duty and of honor. What kind of man would I be if I didn’t care for a child I helped bring into the world? And what kind of man would I be, if I was party to the death of a child, even an unborn one? And to me, when it was my child, even acceptance or tolerance of such a despicable act was beyond the pale.


Yes, there were cases when there were no good options. But Jessica had good options. In fact, she had plenty of them. It felt like she’d decided on the one option that she knew would thrust a dagger right into my heart. An option that would hurt me worse than walking in on her in bed with another man. An option that would hurt worse than losing her to estrangement and divorce. I didn’t know that I had the capacity to mourn another death, but I was going to be forced to do so, and that both angered and frightened me.


I understood that Jessica was upset, but I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t talk to me about it, or anyone else for that matter. What happened with Carla was long before I met Jessica, and I simply couldn’t fathom how another child could somehow be the breaking point when Jennifer had been pregnant before Jessica and I got engaged, and she knew that Elyse and I were going to have children, and that I would have children with Kara.


All of my three children so far - Jesse, Matthew, and Birgit were ‘out of wedlock’ in a technical sense. And a fourth was on the way; Elyse was pregnant with the child she already referred to as Michael, but who could just as easily be Michelle in my mind. I simply couldn’t understand how the existence of Rachel Marie Rizzi changed anything. It wasn’t like I’d lied to Jessica or hidden anything from her. She knew I’d been with many girls, and she’d known what had happened with Becky. It seemed that I’d found the unforgivable sin in Jessica’s book, and I’d committed it long before I met her, and hadn’t even realized it.


Here I was, the father of three kids, with a thriving business, a 2nd Dan black belt, surrounded by loving friends, and I was at the point where I was ready to just give up. Even the thoughts of Bill Elliott winning the Winston Cup after making his promise to Stephie couldn’t pull me from the morass I felt I was sinking into. All because of an unintended pregnancy with a girl who I had no real feelings for and had not seen in four years. Fate was truly fucking with me again.


“Hi, Steve!” Jacquelyn called to me as I rounded the corner, snapping me out of my depressing thoughts.


“Hi,” I said, trying not to sound upset. “We need to take it easy today.”


“Why?” she asked.


“I had a fainting spell last night. Nothing serious and I got checked out by two medical students and then by a good friend who’s the Chief of Emergency Medicine at the hospital. But I don’t want to push it. We’ll just jog at a slower pace, OK?”


“If you’re sure.”


“I am. How was your Thanksgiving?”


“Good. I was careful how much I ate. Know how much I weighed this morning?”


“How much?”


“119! I lost 31 pounds in 5 months!”


“Congratulations!” I said, trying to sound happy for her. “How do you feel?”


“Fantastic! It’s like I’m a whole new person! Can we keep running together even after tomorrow?”


“Sure,” I said, then realizing that didn’t sound encouraging, so I added, “I’d like that a lot.”


She flashed me a huge smile that penetrated my gloom, and for just a second, I felt happy. Unfortunately, Jessica’s words from the night before crashed back into my consciousness, dampening the mood.


“Come on,” I said. “We’ll stretch and then I’ll set the pace.”


We ran at about half speed, and I felt OK physically, but I was just barely keeping my emotions in check. I felt like crying, but I didn’t want to burden Jacquelyn with my troubles. I would have to figure out a way to be in a better mood on Saturday night, since I didn’t want to ruin something she’d been looking forward to for months. Try as I might, though, I couldn’t get Jessica’s words out of my head.


When we finished our run, I told Jacquelyn that I’d see her at 4:20pm the next afternoon so that we could get downtown, have the valet park the car, and be at the restaurant a few minutes early. She was positively glowing when she bounded up the steps into the house, and I waved to her mom, who was watching out the front window as she often did. I walked home slowly, my stomach doing backflips from what was becoming barely controlled rage.


I stopped at the corner of Woodlawn and 53rd Street and took several deep breaths before I turned and walked four blocks north to the house. I walked up the steps and went inside to find Al Barton waiting for me.


“That was dumb,” he said without any preliminaries.


“I’ve run five days a week for five months, and been to karate seven days a week for nearly as long, and six days a week before that. I used to swim 50 laps every morning in my parents' pool when I lived at home, and ran regularly when I first moved here. I jogged today. Slowly. I didn’t push myself.”


“It was still dumb, Steve. We don’t know for sure what the problem was. I came to check on you this morning and Kara and Elyse said that you had gone running.”


“Fine. It was dumb. I needed to do it. Let me get a shower and you can see for yourself that I’m fine.”


I walked past him and up to my room. I quickly stripped off my sweat suit, t-shirt, and underwear and took a quick shower. I dried, dressed, and went back downstairs. Al was waiting for me in my study, with a very cross Kara.


“Sit,” he said, indicating the edge of the desk.


I waited while he took my pulse, listened to my heart and breathing, checked my eyes, and then pulled a sphygmomanometer from his bag and checked my blood pressure.


“You heart rate is low, but that’s consistent with being a runner. I’m a bit worried about your low blood pressure. Has it always been low?”


“95 over 60 is pretty common if I’m relaxed. It’s sometimes a bit lower. The same with my resting heart rate being around 58 to 60. You didn’t check, but my body temperature runs about two degrees cooler than normal.”


“How many bouts of syncope have you had? When did they start?”


“The first one I remember was what the girls told you. It was when Birgit, my Swedish girlfriend, died when I was 15. She’s who Kara’s daughter is named for.”


“OK. That’s more than just a little weird, but with you, I expect weird! Go on.”


“Anyway, when my friend Melanie told me about it, I fainted. The next time I remember was when I was sixteen and a girl called me to tell me she was pregnant; a pregnancy that she trapped me into. I didn’t pass out, but my head spun and I was unsteady for a few minutes. She later had an abortion over my protests.”


Al raised an eyebrow at that revelation, and I knew that I’d need to talk to him about it.


“I’ll explain about Becky, but later. Continuing with the answer to your question, the next time I recall was when Kara told me that she was going to take a year off between High School and college, and not move to Chicago as we’d planned. I don’t think I passed out, but it was close.”


“You didn’t,” Kara said. “But you were really out of it for a few minutes.”


“I came close to fainting at the sight of my friend Stephie’s coffin at her funeral - I became very lightheaded and nauseated, and my knees weakened. I also nearly fainted when I was served with the papers for the paternity suit about five weeks ago. And then last night I actually fainted,” I said. “I, uh, have also had some light-headedness after particularly intense sex.”


Doctor Barton chuckled, “I think we can attribute that last one to other causes, though honestly, they’re all probably related to your low blood pressure. Do you get dizzy when you stand up quickly?”


“I used to until I was like twelve and thirteen,” I said. “But I learned not to stand up so quickly.”


“Then I think that’s it. Your response to emotional shocks, combined with your low blood pressure, produces vasovagal syncope - fainting spells. When was your last complete physical?”


“In the spring,” I said. “I see Doctor Kulczycki who has offices in the medical center.”


“I know of him, but don’t know him. He’s an internal medicine guy?”


“Yes. I also saw him about my whiplash and concussion after a minor car accident in Georgia several years ago, in addition to my annual physicals.”


“Do you know your blood and urine test results?”


“All good. My fasting blood sugar was good, along with the other stuff they check, and so were all the things they check for in urine. My cholesterol was really good.”


“How much caffeine are you drinking?”


“I usually have a cup or two of coffee in the morning, and a cup or two of tea during the day. And some soft drinks, but I don’t really keep track.”


“I’d prefer you gave up carbonated sugar water, but the coffee and tea are fine, at least for now. You eat regularly? And a good mix of all food groups?”


“Yes. And very few sweets. My one vice is very good ice cream.”


“Me, too,” he chuckled. “I’m pretty sure that you’re OK, but I would like you to call Doctor Kulczycki and make an appointment just to be sure. Have him do a complete blood and urine workup, and tell him everything you told me. Tell him that I think you should have a stress test, just to be sure. You ran without any difficulty this morning, so it most likely won’t show anything, but being hooked up to the heart monitor would show us any irregularities.”


“OK. I’ll do that,” I said. “Did you find Jessica?”


“I know where she is, but she won’t take my calls. I’m tempted to drive out to Riverside and camp out until I can corner her and try to talk some sense into her. Every day she stays away it becomes harder for her to be reinstated. As it is, they might insist she start this entire year over.”


“Shit,” I said.


“That’s a very likely outcome, and she’d also be on probation. If she’d just accepted the counseling offer, we wouldn’t have this problem.”


“She’s not going to,” I said. “Aborting our baby is her announcing to the world that she’s done with me. And maybe everything. I don’t know anymore. And I’m at a point where I’m finding it harder and harder to give a damn.”


“Just relax, Steve. I doubt that she’s done anything yet, but I think you just pushed me to drive out there before Monday and see what I can do. Let me ask you, will you help her?”


“Not if she kills my baby. Then I’m done with her.”


“That might just push her over the edge,” he sighed.


“Yeah? And what about her pushing ME over the edge? If that happens, I’m done, Al. I just won’t fucking care. I’m sorry.”


Doctor Barton nodded, his face grim. He packed up his bag and left without another word.


“You scared me!” Kara said. “And you’re scaring me now!”


“Kara, I am not going to hurt myself if that’s what you’re worried about. I couldn’t do that to you, Elyse, Jesse, Matthew, or Birgit. Or to my employees. I’m upset. No, I’m beside myself. But I’m not going to kill myself. You know me better than that. Beyond that, I don’t know what I’m going to do, except have breakfast. Want some?”


“I guess. I’m worried about you, Snuggle Bear. We all are.”


“I know. But I need time and space. I’m not in a good place right now. I promise I won’t cut you out. But I do need some time to think.”


“OK,” she said.


We went to the kitchen and I fixed breakfast. As more of my housemates and their guests filtered in, I added more bacon and eggs, though I had made enough waffle batter to serve everyone.


“You OK, big brother?” my sister asked when she and Jorge came in.


“Physically I’m fine. I jogged this morning and Doctor Barton was here to check on me. He thinks I’m fine, but he wants me to see Doctor Kulczycki to be safe.”


“What are you going to do?”


“What can I do? She won’t talk to me. The first words she said to me were that she’s pregnant. The second words were that she’s having an abortion. Al Barton is going to try to talk to her, but she’s cut him off just as she has everyone else.”


“That sucks. I can’t believe all of this is happening because of a kid you fathered four years ago!”


There were gasps and looks of shock from Jorge, Leila, Trent, Alejandra, and Stavros.


“God damn it!” I spat at Stephanie. “That was NOT public information!”


I dropped the spatula and walked out of the kitchen and to the front hallway. I got my shoes from the rack and started to put them on.


“Steve! I’m sorry!” Stephanie said, frantically grabbing at my arm.


“Just shut the fuck up,” I hissed. “Get the fuck away from me! You’ve done enough fucking damage for one day!”


I pushed her off of me so that I could tie my shoes, then stood up to get my jacket from the closet.


“Steve, stop!” Kara said.


“I need some air,” I said, thrusting my hands through the arm holes in my jacket and pulling it on.


I grabbed my fedora and put it on, then opened the door.


“I’ll be at the office once I finish my walk. I just need some time alone,”


“Big brother, don’t…” was all I heard before I slammed the door shut behind me.


The cat was totally out of the bag now, and in an uncontrolled fashion because my sister had a big mouth. That was what had concerned Bethany all along, that she’d slip that way about our incestuous relationship. I didn’t think so, but after what had just happened, it was certainly possible. Not that it mattered at this point. If Jess followed through on what she said, we were done. I saw no possible way that I could take her back.


I walked north on Woodlawn for a few blocks, then turned towards the lake. I was royally pissed at my sister and needed to cool down. I walked about six blocks towards the lake, then turned south, and eventually made my way to the office. I used my access card to get into the building, disarmed the alarm, turned on the lights, and went to my office. I realized that I hadn’t eaten, so I went back outside and walked down the street to get a bagel and coffee, then went back to the office. I sat down at my desk and turned on my computer.


I needed to get my mind off Jessica. That meant trying to occupy my mind. I munched the bagel and decided to start with checking my mail on the Unix system. I fired up Kermit and used the serial connection that I’d set up to connect to the computer and log in. I found a reply to my latest move in the chess ladder, checked my magnetic chess set, and contemplated my next move. About ten minutes later, I sent my move to my opponent. It probably wasn’t the best move I could have made, but given my state of mind, I just didn’t care.


Next I looked at the results of the previous set of Diplomacy moves that I’d submitted and sighed deeply. I’d been screwed by the French player which had caused what should have been a sure victory against Germany to turn into a defeat. I didn’t see how my position could be recovered, but I could ensure that the French position was completely undermined by making a deal with Germany and Italy. I wrote to those players proposing my plan and hoped they’d accept it. I’d teach the jerk playing France a real lesson. Revenge would be sweet.


I checked the newsgroups and didn’t see anything that held my attention, so I disconnected. I fired up cc:Mail and found an e-mail from Cindi to Julia and Elyse recommending that we hire Andy Stevens, as well as a request to officially put Barbara in charge of the Western region as of December 1st, which I felt was certainly deserved. I also approved of the raise that would come with the promotion.


Because we’d been closed for Thanksgiving, there wasn’t anything else of interest in my mailbox, either the electronic one or the paper one. I picked up the folder that had the notes from my last meeting with Jeri on Monday and went to my white board to sketch out a plan for the interface modules which I needed to write for the Windows version of our frontend to talk to the server and database. I couldn’t concentrate and tossed the papers on my desk and sat down again. I finished the last of my coffee and was just about to go to the machine and make a pot when I heard a voice.


“Hiding out?” Penny asked.


“More or less,” I sighed. “How’d you know I was here?”


“Kara. She thought maybe you would talk to me.”


“I don’t really feel like talking to anyone right now. I’m confused, upset, angry, and hurt.”


“Talk to me, Steve!” she insisted. “What the fuck is going on?”


“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I sighed.


“It can’t be that bad, can it?”


“It can’t? You have NO fucking idea how bad it is!”


“Steve,” she said gently. “It’s me, Penny. Just calm down and tell me.”


She was right, but that didn’t make it any easier. I sighed deeply, then took a couple of deep breaths.


“I don’t know if you remember a girl I dated briefly named Carla. I’m not even sure if you met her.”


“The girl who was a photographer or something?”


I nodded, “That’s her. Anyway, about five weeks ago she filed a lawsuit against me saying that I was the father of her nearly four-year-old daughter.”


“Holy shit! Are you?”


“Probably. At this point, I’d be more surprised to find out that I wasn’t.”


“Why wait so long to tell you? And why sue you?”


“I have no fucking idea,” I said. “If she’d come to talk to me, I would have asked for a paternity test, and if it had said I was the little girl’s father, I’d have helped her take care of her. But Carla didn’t. The first I knew about it was when I was served the papers five weeks ago.”


“And that’s why Jessica is upset?”


“I think so. But until last night, she hasn’t talked to me since I told her about Rachel - that’s the little girl’s name. Jessica ran away, and then she got into really serious trouble at work. They suspended her.”


“Wait? Like suspended from school?”


“Yes; exactly like that. She’s been kicked out of the program because she refused to go for counseling. She might not be able to continue. Ever!”


“What is going on? This makes no sense!”


“Tell me about it,” I sighed.


“What exactly happened last night?”


“She called and asked what time dinner was. She wouldn’t talk to me on the phone, so Sofia told her what time to show up. Jessica came right on time, we ate, then she asked me to come outside with her. You know the rest. We walked to her car and out of the blue she told me that she was pregnant. Then she said that she was going to have an abortion.”


“What the fuck?”


“Yeah,” I said.


“So are you getting divorced?”


“I suppose that’s next. I can’t take her back if she kills my baby.”


“No, I don’t see you doing that. It’s like what you told me about with you and Becky.”


“All over again,” I sighed.


“Oh, Steve! I’m so sorry. I know how much you love kids and how much they mean to you! I wish I could help!”


“I don’t think anyone can at this point, Pretty Penny.”


“Are you sure? Maybe I could help you feel better,” she said.


I shook my head, “No. You’ll only make things worse by cheating on Terry. As much as I want to take you into my arms and make love to you, it would only make things worse all around. Right now, I just want to be alone.”


“Are you sure?” Penny asked.


“I’m not sure of much of anything right now, except that I love my kids, I love Kara, and I love my friends. Everything else? I just don’t know.”


“You aren’t going to get all depressed and do something to hurt yourself, are you?”


“No,” I said. “That would hurt so many people. I could never do that to Kara, Jesse, Matthew, Birgit, or any of the rest of you; especially you. Don’t worry. I came here to work to try to get my mind off the mess. I’ll be fine. Go back home, please.”


“Promise you’ll call me if you need anything? And that you’ll talk to me every single day?”


I smiled, “Yes, Penny. Now scoot.”


She came over to me and gave me a big hug, then kissed me on the cheek. She walked out of my office and a moment later I heard the outside door open and close. I checked the clock and it was still too early for lunch. I wasn’t sure if I’d go home or eat at a café or deli, but that was a question for later. I tried again to work on my design and couldn’t make any real progress. My mind kept going back to Jessica and the abortion.


I threw the papers on the desk in disgust and went to the kitchenette and got myself a Coke from the fridge. I wandered aimlessly around the office for a bit, then went to my desk. I couldn’t focus on my design, so I pulled up the bug lists for the medical and legal software and decided to try fixing bugs. I made almost no progress doing that either, so I shut everything down, put my feet up on my desk and closed my eyes.


The turmoil of the previous five weeks was weighing on me, and the added stress from the previous night made it impossible for me to concentrate. I thought about going home for a sauna, but I didn’t want to be around anyone right now. At least not anyone who knew what was going on. There would just be too many questions at home, thanks to my little sister. And I didn’t feel like answering questions.


I got myself another Coke, and was standing staring out the window at the building behind ours, when I heard the outside door open. I wondered if Penny had come back, or if someone else was coming to check on me. I wouldn’t have put it past Kara to send someone else on some pretext, just to make sure I was OK. I hadn’t unlocked the door, and I knew Penny would have ensured it was locked when she left, so I knew it had to be someone with card access. If it wasn’t Penny, it was probably going to be Dave or Cindi. I was surprised at who showed up at my door.


“Steve? What are you doing in the office?” Kimmy asked.


“I should ask you the same thing,” I said. “I own the place. What’s your excuse?”


“I was walking by to get some lunch at the deli down the street and saw the lights on. I thought maybe someone forgot to turn them off on Wednesday when they locked up. Then I saw the alarm was disarmed and came to see who was here. What are you doing here?”


“Trying to work,” I said.


“Why aren’t you home with your family?”


“I needed to get away,” I said.


“Those problems are really bad, whatever they are. Why don’t you take a break and have lunch with me?”


“I’m not sure I’d be good company right about now,” I said.


“Nonsense. You need to eat. Come have lunch with me.”


I thought about it for a moment, and decided to go. Maybe lunch with Kimmy could take my mind off of Jessica, even for a few minutes. Maybe it could help me collect my thoughts.


“Sure. Why not?”

II. Crash and Burn, Part I

November 25, 1988, Chicago, Illinois

“Where were you going for lunch?” I asked.


“Paul’s Deli,” she said. “I was getting take-out. I was going to eat at home. Come with me. I’m a good listener.”


“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I protested.


“Nonsense,” she said. “You need to be with someone who has a friendly ear.”


“I really shouldn’t,” I replied.


“You obviously need someone to talk to. You obviously need a friend. You’ve been down in the dumps for weeks and I can’t stand it any longer! Let me try to help, please?”


I looked over at Kimmy and the fantasies I’d had about her came rushing out of that storage area in my mind reserved for things I should never do. She gave me one of her winning smiles, her eyes sparkled, and then she took my hand. Her soft, warm touch was electric and crushed any remaining resistance.


“OK,” I said.


We walked hand in hand to the deli where we each ordered a sandwich and chips. Kimmy said she had drinks at her place, so we didn’t order any. I paid for both our lunches, and then I let her lead me into a section of Hyde Park where I knew quite a few UofC students had apartments. The building she led me to wasn’t quite as nice as the one Elyse and I had lived in, but it was well-kept and had large windows, and each apartment seemed to have a small balcony. We walked up to the second floor, and she used her key to open the door to Apartment 203.


I walked into a small, clean, nicely decorated one-bedroom apartment. Kimmy pointed to a small dinette table with two chairs and I set our lunches on the table and sat down.


“Root Beer, Orange Crush, or Lemonade?” she asked.


“Orange Crush, please,” I said.


She went to the fridge and came back with two bottles. She took off her jacket and hung it on a hook by the door and held out her hand for mine. I took it off and handed it to her, along with my fedora. Kimmy motioned for me to sit, and I did, then watched her as she moved to sit, her skin-tight jeans clinging to her butt and legs, and her tucked-in t-shirt clinging equally tightly to small breasts, so clearly defined that there was no way she was wearing a bra. Her blue eyes sparkled as she flipped her blonde hair over her shoulders.


“Let’s eat!” she said.


I took the sandwiches and chips from the bag and then used the proffered bottle opener to open both bottles of Orange Crush. Kimmy smiled and held up her bottle, and I laughed and clinked mine to hers, and then we each took a drink. I marveled at her soft lips surrounding the top of the bottle and my mind ran away with me again. I thought about fighting the fantasy, but I wasn’t in the mood to fight.


“What’s bothering you, Steve?” she asked after we’d each taken a few bites of our sandwiches.


“Life in general,” I said. “The details don’t really matter.”


“Sure they do. What happened that has you so down in the dumps?”


I looked at her, considered what I should say, and decided to just let it all out. It might help, and at this point, what could it hurt?


“It all started that day that I nearly fainted in the reception area. I’m being sued, and the reason isn’t important, but it really upset Jessica and she left me. She hasn’t talked to me in five weeks, except last night to tell me something that really hurt me. Something that hurt me so bad that I don’t think it can be fixed. She even got suspended at the hospital.”


“You’re joking,” Kimmy said, more serious than I’d ever seen her.


“I wish I was,” I said.


“So I guess it’s over? What happens with your kids and stuff?”


“I didn’t have any children with Jessica yet, so nothing changes in that regard. I guess the only thing that changes is I won’t be married any more.”


“Wow. Can I ask what you did that upset her?”


“That’s just it. I didn’t do anything to her. This is about something that originally happened in March of 1984. I didn’t even know anything about it until five weeks ago, and I didn’t know Jessica when it happened.”


“I don’t get it,” she said, taking a bite of her sandwich and washing it down with a swig of Orange Crush.


“In a convoluted, round-about way I guess I could see it bothering her, but not to this extreme.”


“You didn’t, like, kill someone, or something? Or break some law that means you have to go to jail.”


“No, nothing like that. It’s a civil lawsuit, not anything criminal. If I lose, it’ll cost me some money, personally, that’s all.”


“Whew! I was worried it might cause problems for the company, and I really like working there. You take such good care of all of us. Thanks for letting me try to help you and return the favor.”


We finished our lunch, and Kimmy cleared away the wrappers and the empty bottles. She went to a small bookshelf and turned on a stereo, and tuned it to WXRT. I was still sitting at the table and she came back and put her soft hands on my shoulders.


“Wow, you’re really tense,” she said.


She was right, of course. Before I could protest, she gave a small squeeze and started massaging my shoulders.


“Kimmy,” I protested weakly.


“Shh! Just relax!”


Her hands felt good and I simply let her continue. She massaged my shoulders for a few minutes, then moved her fingers to my neck, and then to my temples. I sighed deeply as I felt some of the tension flowing out of my body. Her hands returned to my shoulders and I felt them slip forward, and she nimbly unbuttoned the buttons of my polo. I was past the point where I was able to protest.


Kimmy slipped one hand inside my polo and rubbed my chest. She leaned close and I felt her small breasts on my back, and then soft lips on my neck. I tensed slightly at the touch.


“Just relax,” she whispered. “It’s OK.”


Her lips moved to my earlobe and I felt a tingle as she gently sucked it into her mouth. If I’d had any ability to resist, if vanished at that point. Kimmy kissed my cheek and I turned my head. Our lips met and I felt her warm, wet tongue begin to probe. I slid my tongue forward to touch hers, and both of us moaned softly. Kimmy broke the kiss, and slipped her hand from inside my shirt. She moved around and sat on my lap, and put her arms around my neck. I put my hands on her waist and our lips and tongues met in a soft French kiss.


I felt Kimmy’s hand slide down my arm until it reached my wrist, and she tugged until I let her move it up to her small breast. I cupped it, feeling the hard nipple press into the palm of my hand. Kimmy covered my hand with hers and pressed hard. Our kiss became deeper, and stronger, and I no longer needed an invitation. Using my free hand, I tugged at her t-shirt. She released the hand that she’d trapped against her cloth covered breast, and I tugged at the other side of her t-shirt. It came free from her jeans and I pulled it up. We broke our kiss, and Kimmy raised her arms so that I could pull the t-shirt over her head.


I dropped it to floor, and looked down to see small, perfectly round globes with hard, pink nipples. I lowered my head and took one in my mouth, gently sucking and licking on it. Kimmy groaned deeply and her hands flew to the back of my head. She held me in place as I feasted, tasting a mix of salt and body spray. After a minute, I felt her hands move, and she began tugging on my polo shirt. I released her breast, causing her to whimper, but she tugged hard, and I raised my arms so that she could pull my shirt over my head just as I’d done with hers.


“I’m on the Pill,” she whispered invitingly.


There was absolutely no question in my mind what she wanted, and I wanted the same thing, but first I wanted to see the rest of her lithe body, and taste her most private spot. I put one arm behind her back, and the other under her legs. Kimmy put her arms around my neck and I stood up and carried her down the hall to her bedroom, where I laid her on the bed. I wasted no time in unbuttoning her jeans and pulling down the zipper. I grasped them and tugged and she wiggled and wriggled to help me pull them off, revealing plain, white cotton panties with a large and growing wet spot.


I lowered my head and breathed deeply, inhaling her scent. The aroma drove me onwards, and I hooked my fingers in her cotton panties. She lifted her butt from the bed and I swiftly removed her final garment, revealing sparse blond public hair above her swollen labia. I gently spread her legs and moved my face between them, and then slowly inserted my tongue in her dripping pussy.


The flavor was overwhelming, a mix of musk and copper, and I lapped up the juices hungrily. I probed as deeply as I could into her tunnel and she bucked hard against me. Taking the cue, I latched onto her clit with my lips and sucked hard. Kimmy groaned deeply and shivered, and a gush of fluid ran from her already sopping pussy. I lapped it up and continued pleasuring her until she had a second orgasm.


I felt her hands pushing my face away and she quickly jumped from the bed as soon as I’d moved. She came to where I was standing and her fingers searched for the clasp of my belt. She undid it, unbuttoned my slacks, pulled down the zipper and then roughly pulled both my pants and underwear off. She gently pushed me back onto the bed motioning for me to move so my head was on the pillows. I did so, and she lay next to me, her head at my waist.


Kimmy took a deep breath, then let it out, and took the head of my dick in her mouth and ever so slowly took me deep. I’d already been rock hard, and the sensation of her soft lips and warm tongue almost put me over the edge, but I managed to control my reaction. I felt her fingers on my thigh, and then she danced them lightly over my balls, while sucking gently. I groaned from the pleasure, fearful that I was going to cum before either of us was ready. Kimmy bobbed several times, running her tongue along my shaft and around my glans, each time taking me nearly completely into her mouth. I felt her slowly raise up and then felt cool air on my dick as she released me.


I opened my eyes and Kimmy smiled then sat up. She threw one leg over me and straddled me. She leaned down to kiss me, and I felt her lift up. Soon, I felt a hand on my shaft holding me straight up, and then pure pleasure as she slowly lowered herself onto me, her soft, moist, super-heated folds engulfing me until I was fully embedded in her.


“I’ve wanted this since the first day I saw you,” she whispered.


Before I could say anything, she bent down to kiss me. Her tongue probed my mouth as she began sliding up and down my shaft, grinding against me each time our pubic hair meshed. I put one hand on her butt, and the other one went to her breast to strum a nipple. Ever so slowly, Kimmy increased the speed of her movements, and when she ground against me, she squeezed her muscles tightly around me. She’d had me close to the point of no return since we started, and I managed, just, to keep control.


Kimmy suddenly broke our kiss, threw her head back and ground hard against me. She groaned loudly and I felt spasms undulate up and down along my dick, trying to milk my seed from me. I resisted and when her orgasm passed, I pulled her down so that I could suckle her breast. She gasped and redoubled her movements. Two minutes later I was rewarded with even stronger spasms and that was enough. Cum blasted forth from my dick and her pussy milked each successive spurt until I had nothing more to give. She sat up and smiled.


“I’ve wanted to do that since I first met you,” I gasped.


Kimmy leaned forward and gave me a soft kiss, then stretched out on top of me.


“That,” she gasped, “was the best I’ve ever had!”


I wrapped my arms around her and held her tightly. There was potential hell to pay at NIKA, but right at that moment, I didn’t care. We cuddled for a bit until I slipped from her, and she moved next to me. I pulled her close and held her.


“Did that help?” she asked softly.


It had, in a way. An unplanned, unsolicited fuck seemed to be just what I’d needed. It didn’t make the problems with Jessica go away, but it made me feel wanted, needed, and actually quite special.


“It did,” I said. “Thank you.”


She rose up and crossed her arms on my chest, and rested her chin on her arms.


“Did you really mean what you said?” she asked.


“Yes. You don’t know how many times I looked at your cute butt and thought about being with you!”


She smiled again, “I’m here anytime you need me,” she said. “Day or night. I know I can’t be your girlfriend, or anything like that, but if I can help, I want to. Just ask. What we just did was perfect.”


I started to speak, but she put her finger on my lips.


“Don’t promise me anything you can’t keep,” she said. “Just be happy we could make each other feel really, really good. All I want to do is make you happy, and if you let me, make you feel really good. No demands. No favors.”


She removed her finger from my lips and nodded.


“OK,” I said.


She smiled and we lay like that, just looking into each other’s eyes. I lost track of time, thinking about what we’d just done and staring into her deep blue eyes.


“If you can go again, we could,” she said softly.


I chuckled.


“What’s so funny?”


“If? I could go four or five more times if you wanted. But I really should get back to the office.”


She smiled, “Someday, I’d like to test that! But I understand. Do you want to clean up?”


“Shower with me,” I said.


She nodded and gave me a broad smile. We got out of bed and went to the bathroom and climbed into the combination tub-shower. Kimmy adjusted the spray and I pulled her to me and we stood under it for several minutes, her head resting on my chest. Kimmy giggled when I washed her breasts and between her legs, and I sighed as she gently washed my groin. We dried off with thick towels and then found the clothes we’d strewn through the apartment. We dressed, and then I pulled Kimmy into a tight embrace.


“Thanks,” I said. “I’m glad you stopped in the office today.”


“I’m glad I stopped in, too!” she smiled.


We exchanged a soft kiss, then I left her apartment and headed back to the office. When I arrived, I saw the message lamp flashing on my phone and listened to the voicemail. It was Kara calling to check on me. She’d only called a few minutes before, so I called back.


“Is everything OK?” she asked.


“Yes. I just got back from lunch. Penny stopped by earlier.”


Kara laughed, “You know full well that once she found out where you were, wild horses couldn’t keep her away. You didn’t do anything foolish with her, did you?”


“No. She offered and I turned her down flat. But to be honest, it was mainly because of Terry, not because I’m in the best state right now. But Penny didn’t push the issue. She knows better.”


“Good. You know I’d be OK with it, but Jess wouldn’t.”


“I’m not sure that Jessica’s opinion warrants consideration right now,” I said. “Did you hear from Al Barton?”


“No. He was going to drive out to try to see her, wasn’t he?”


“Yes. But I’m not sure that he’ll have any better luck than anyone else.”


“When are you coming home?”


“I’m not sure. I might stay here into the evening. I have work to do and I need to keep myself busy.”


“Don’t stay out too late. Is there karate this evening?”


“No. Remember, Sensei Jim closes the dojo for four days at Thanksgiving plus four days for Christmas and New Year’s.”


“That’s right. What are we doing tomorrow?”


“I figured we’d play with the kids. Don’t forget I have to take Jacquelyn to dinner and a movie. She wants to see Mystic Pizza.”


Kara laughed, “And you’ll hate it, won’t you?”


“Yeah, probably. Anyway, don’t plan dinner for me tonight. I’ll just order a pizza or Chinese or something if I get hungry.”


“Oh, before I forget, Jolene called. She wants you to call her.”


“Did she leave a number?” I asked. “I never had her home number.”


“No, she didn’t.”


“I’m going to get one of those new Caller-ID boxes that show you the phone number. Maybe I’ll walk over to her place in a bit.”


“Are you staying at the office?”


“Yes, I’m not sure for how long, though.”


“Don’t get lost in your zone, Snuggle Bear. You’ll forget to eat!”


There was little chance of that, but I wasn’t going to say anything that would worry Kara. I’d tell her about Kimmy, but not over the phone.


“I’ll set my alarm,” I promised.


“I love you! If I hear from Doctor Barton, I’ll call you!”


“Thanks. I love you, too!”


I hung up the phone and tried to do some work. I had no better luck than I’d had before lunch. I grabbed a Coke and walked around the office, stared out the windows, and otherwise tried to clear my head so I could concentrate on my work. But no matter what I did, all I could think about was Jessica and what she’d said. I finally gave up and decided to take a walk. I didn’t have a destination in mind when I left the office, so I walked west until I came to the park then turned south for a few blocks and then turned east, and found myself walking past the dojo.


The dojo was dark, as I expected. I stopped and looked in the window, and saw the trophies that Sensei Jim had won in competitions. That reminded me that I was supposed to meet the other instructors in the area, but it also made me wonder why we didn’t participate in the city or regional competitions. I was sure that Sensei Jim had a reason, but I couldn’t fathom what it might be. Then it dawned on me and I shook my head. Both Jolene and I were such egomaniacs that the last thing either of us needed was a trophy to make it worse.


Thinking of Jolene made me remember that she’d called the house. Her apartment was close, and, honestly I owed her an explanation for the mood that I’d been in lately. She’d asked several times and I hadn’t told her. I looked at my watch and it was only about 3:00pm, and I decided that I’d stop by and see her. If she wasn’t home, then I’d go home and do my best to avoid the onslaught of questions that were sure to come.


I walked the few blocks to her building and walked up the steps. I checked the buzzers and found button with ‘Baxter’ written next to it. I pushed the button and waited.


“Yes,” came a muffled voice.


“It’s Steve Adams,” I said.


“3B,” I heard.


The door buzzed and I pushed in. I found the steps and walked up the two flights and down the hall. I found 3B and rapped on the door with the small knocker. A shadow fell across the peephole and then the door opened.


“Hi!” Hope said.


“Hi. I’m looking for your mom,” I said. “She called earlier.”


“Come in,” she said.


I followed her into the brightly lit apartment.


“Do you want something to drink?” she asked.


“A Coke or Dr Pepper, if you have it.”


She got a Coke from the fridge, opened it, and handed to me.


“Mom’s not here right now,” she said.


“Uh, then I should leave,” I said. “Thanks for the Coke.”


“Oh stop!” she laughed, walking over to the stereo and turning up the music. “Mom went shopping. She likes to do her Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving. She won’t be back until much later.”


“Then I REALLY shouldn’t be in here,” I said.


“Why? Are you afraid that I’ll attack you? Are you afraid you can’t handle a little girl? Sit down and drink your Coke.”


“Hope, your mom will KILL me if she finds me here.”


“She’s gone for hours. Just sit on the couch. I’ll sit over here! There’s nothing on TV right now and I don’t feel like reading. We can listen to music and talk. Please? I won’t come near you!”


I laughed, “You think I’m that weak willed?”


“No, I think you’re scared of my mom!”


“I should be! I feel like a teenager in my girlfriend’s house when her parents are gone!”


“And this is what you did? Sat across the room from her drinking a Coke?”


“Well, no. But this is different!”


“Yes, you don’t have to worry about my dad with a shotgun!”


“One dad had a lot of guns,” I chuckled, thinking of Dona Bingham for the first time in YEARS.


“And did that stop you?” she smirked.


“I think we need to change the topic,” I said.


“Coward! Did those guns scare you as much as you are right now?”


“No,” I chuckled. “But it’s different now than when I was seventeen. Can we PLEASE change topics?”


“I suppose. What’s going on between you and my mom?” she smirked.


That was a nicely laid trap. If I refused to answer or asked to change the topic, that would confirm her suspicions. I had to be careful.


“It’s what I told you at the party when we danced. I’m helping her with karate. We practice and talk on Sunday mornings.”


“So she says. She’s not your girlfriend?”


“No. She’s not my girlfriend. She’s a really close friend, though. Did she tell you she’s going to help me run the dojo next spring?”


“Yes. She said you’re really helping her.”


“I’m trying, but she has to help herself. To get what she wants, she has to just relax and let it happen. The more she fights for it, the less likely she is to get it. That’s her problem.”


“She’s been trying for that promotion ever since you got your black belt. She was so upset when you got what she wanted.”


“I know,” I said. “But the full-court press doesn’t work with Sensei Jim.”


“Or you,” she smiled. “Can I ask you something without you getting upset or defensive?”


“I’ll try. What?”


“I’ve done everything but directly ask you. Any guy in my school would have taken me without a second thought! Why? Is something wrong with me?”


A dangerous question. I didn’t want to upset her, but I also didn’t want to encourage her. I thought about leaving, but the conversation was keeping me from thinking about Jessica. If I left and went home, that’s all anyone would want to talk about. And it was the LAST thing I wanted to talk about.


“It’s complicated. I’ll try to explain, if you promise not to get upset.”


“OK. I promise,” she said.


“First, you’re very young. I know your mom was younger, but that’s irrelevant. Second, you’re the daughter of a friend of mine. Third, I don’t think you want an old guy who’s married and has kids. Fourth, it’s illegal. I’m sure there are fifth and sixth reasons, but I can’t think of them right now.”


“I have another question, but you have to answer me truthfully. No evasion.”


“I can try,” I said.


“Do you think I’m sexy?” she asked.


That was an interesting question. She looked like her mom, who I had decided was the ‘fresh-scrubbed, girl-next-door’ type. Nice looking, trim and fit, but not like Victoria Principal or Jennifer Jason Leigh, two women I considered stunningly sexy. But I wasn’t sitting in the room with either of them. And I also knew that Hope was asking me if she was sexually attractive, not ‘sexy’, per se. And she was. There was no doubt about that.


“Yes,” I said carefully.


“Thank you for telling the truth. Can I tell you something?”


“That does seem to fit the pattern we’re following. Go ahead.”


“I think you’re handsome. Another question?”


I nodded, “Sure. But I always reserve the right not to answer.”


“If I was older, and my mom wasn’t your friend, would you think about it?”


“Are you kidding?” I chuckled.


“That’s a yes?”


It was too late to prevaricate at this point. I’d already crossed the line with the answer to her question about being sexually attractive.


“Yes.”


“And you know that I want to do it with you?”


“That’s pretty obvious,” I said. “You haven’t exactly been subtle about it.”


“You don’t like direct?”


“I guess it depends.” I said. “Sometimes being direct is OK, but in most cases, it should just kind of happen.”


“Can you explain the difference?” she asked.


“You mean why I feel that way?”


“Yes.”


“Because when it just happens naturally over time, it gives both partners time to think about it. To decide what they really want. It’s too easy to get caught up in the moment and do things you might regret later. Consent can be a tricky thing, and the last thing anyone wants is for someone to realize afterwards that they shouldn’t have done it, or that they didn’t want to but got carried away.”


“Consent? Isn’t that just being OK with it?”


“Not really. I’ve run into a few situations where I probably shouldn’t have done it. One of my female friends likes to say acquiescence is not consent. In other words, if you haven’t talked about it and agreed, then you don’t have consent, and things can go wrong. Horribly wrong. Sometimes it’s a long, drawn out conversation. Sometimes you just come right out and ask if they want to screw.”


She nodded, and then giggled, “Steve, do you want to screw?”


I did. The hour or so that I’d spent with Kimmy had, at least temporarily, taken my mind off Jessica. And this conversation had as well, except when I was thinking about what I was saying and doing rather than just going with the flow. I didn’t want to think about Jessica any more. I was tired of the topic, tired of fighting what appeared to be a losing battle, and tired of trying to control my emotions.


“Careful,” I said. “That can get you into real trouble someday. The subtle way lets you think about it and take it a step at a time.”


“I asked you a question!” she said firmly. “I was serious. I don’t have days or weeks or months. I have a few hours. You’re here. I’m here. You think I’m sexy. I think you’re handsome. I want you. You want me. So, Steve, do you want to screw?”


“There’s a difference between ‘want to’ and ‘should’,” I protested.


It was a weak protest, and I could see that Hope sensed it. She got up and walked over to sit next to me on the couch. I knew I should stand up and leave, but something kept me pinned in place. At first, I thought it was just pure lust. But then I realized that it was something deeper, something visceral. I was angry at Jessica. Earlier, when I’d been with Kimmy, I’d broken one of Jessica’s primary rules. I’d also broken my rule against sleeping with anyone from NIKA. And it had been glorious.


Following the rules hadn’t improved my life. It hadn’t helped. And apparently, I’d broken one of Jessica’s rules which I never even knew existed. Fuck the rules. Fuck Jessica. I was going to do what I wanted to do and what I thought would make me feel good. And more importantly, make me forget Jessica. If Hope wanted me, she could have me. Here. Now. And damn the consequences.


Hope reached over and took my hands, “I want you to do it with me. I want you to be my first.”


I wanted that, too. Badly. To hurt Jessica, even if she never knew that it happened; I would know. But that didn’t mean I could hurt Hope. She wasn’t experienced, like Kimmy. Kimmy knew and understood the situation. I wanted to take Hope to her bed and make love to her, but I didn’t want to hurt her. Not now. Not in the future.


“You know what you’re asking for?” I asked.


She nodded, “I’m asking you to come to my bed and have sex with me.”


“Why me?” I asked.


“I really, really like you. You’re handsome, I want someone experienced for my first time, and I think you’ll be very gentle. And I’m sure it will be wonderful.”


“What about birth control?” I asked.


She smiled, “Mom got pregnant when she was thirteen. She made me start taking the Pill when I got my first period when I was twelve-and-a-half! That shouldn’t surprise you.”


“No, it doesn’t. You’re really sure about this?” I asked.


“Yes. I’m sure. I know what I’m asking for. I want to screw. Will you kiss me?”


I turned a bit and put my hand under her chin and tilted her head a bit. I kissed her softly, then moved my head back so I could look in her eyes.


“That was nice,” I said.


“Again?” she asked.


I smiled and then kissed her again, but this time I held the kiss for about ten seconds before I stopped.


“Come to my room!” she said, her voice full of urgency.


She stood up and took my hand. I got up and let her lead me down the hall to her room. I saw posters on the wall for Chicago, REO Speedwagon, and Journey. On the desk were a stack of schoolbooks. Her bed had a blue comforter and a pair of stuffed rabbits. On a small bookshelf were pictures of her dancing, plus pictures of her and her mom. It was a room that had a feeling of ‘transition’ - from little girl to young woman.


The little girl shut the door behind us. When she pushed in the knob and turned it to lock the door, she took another step along the path. She smiled and walked over to the desk and turned on the lamp, turned on a radio, then went back to the door and turned off the overhead light. She walked back to the bed, and when she pushed the stuffed rabbits onto the floor and turned down the bed, that transition was complete, at least mentally. All that was left to do was confirm it with a physical act.


She turned to face me and smiled. She pulled her gray sweater over her head and dropped it on the floor, smiled again and pushed her loose-fitting jeans to the floor as well. She stepped out of them and bent down to take off her socks. She stood up and I looked her over head-to-toe. She had long muscular legs from her ballet dancing, a flat stomach, and very small breasts that were not much more than bumps. She pulled her black sports bra off over her head and smiled coquettishly. I watched with rapt attention as she pulled off her black panties revealing a mons that was shaved smooth.


She struck a pose and giggled.


“Wow,” I breathed, taking in the sight before me.


“I shave because of my dance outfits!” she said, as she moved over to the bed.


She climbed into the bed, pushed her legs under the comforter but didn’t cover up. She propped herself on her elbow and patted the bed next to her and arched an eyebrow. It was quite clear what she expected me to do at this point, and I didn’t want to disappoint her. I quickly removed my shirt, then my belt, pants, socks, and finally my underwear. I moved over to the bed and climbed in next to her. I propped myself on my elbow and faced her.


“I’ve never seen a guy completely naked before,” she said. “It has to get hard before we can do it, right?”


“Yes. And it will!” I chuckled.


“Will you kiss me again?” she asked.


“That is how it usually works!” I chuckled.


I leaned closer and kissed her softly. She kissed back and I felt her hand on my hip. I put mine on hers and we kissed for a few minutes before I parted my lips and pressed my tongue forward. Hope responded by parting her lips and sucking my tongue into her mouth. We French kissed for a few more minutes, then I gently pushed her on her back. I kissed her shoulders and she giggled as I kissed across her collar bone. I kissed down her breastbone and then to one of her small breasts. I ran my tongue over the pea-sized nipple then sucked gently on it.


“Oooh!” she gasped. “That feels great!”


“Just wait,” I replied.


I switched to the other breast and did the same, then began kissing down towards her navel. She giggled when I kissed her stomach, and I pressed my tongue into her belly button. I kept kissing down across her smooth mons.


“There?” she whispered.


“Oh yes,” I said running my tongue along her thin labia.


She giggled again.


“You think it’s funny?” I chuckled.


“It just feels strange!”


I kissed up and down along her labia, then gently pressed the tip of my tongue between them and ran it up and down. I slowly pressed it deeper into her and got my first taste of her spicy juices. I began licking up and down, and probing. I didn’t find any barrier, which didn’t surprise me given her ballet dancing. I moved my mouth and gave a quick, hard suck on her clit.


“Oooh!” she gasped. “Do that! Please!”


I sucked, licked, and about three minutes later Hope gasped, groaned, then bucked her hips hard.


“That was WAY better than my fingers!” she gasped. “Can we do it now?”


Hope’s taste and smell had been all I needed to become fully erect. I moved up between her legs and rested my glans against her labia.


“Are you absolutely sure?” I asked.


“Oh God yes,” she gasped. “Please, I want you inside me. Now!”


I pressed forward but didn’t make any progress. I reached down and grasped my shaft, and ran it up and down along her labia, coating it with her juices. I tried again and the head slipped inside her.


“Oooh!” she gasped. “Keep going!”


I pushed a bit further, then pulled back a bit, and pushed forward again. Four gentle thrusts later, I was fully inside her. She was very tight, but very wet. I savored the feel of her silky tunnel that enveloped me. Hope flexed her hips a bit and I felt her muscles contract tightly around my shaft.


“God, I feel so full!” she gasped. “And it didn’t hurt!”


Her hymen had most certainly broken during ballet practice, or perhaps she’d never had much of one. I didn’t expect to find any blood on her sheets when we finally got up.


“You feel really good,” I said, and kissed her softly.


I pulled back and then pushed slowly into her again. Hope wrapped her legs around mine and on my next thrust; she moved her hips to meet me. I leaned down to kiss her again and we began moving together. As my dick moved in and out of her, her tongue moved in and out of my mouth. After a minute, Hope broke the kiss and gasped.


“Yes! Do it!” she gasped.


“You like this?” I grinned.


“Oh God!” she groaned bucking hard against me.


She was close, so I made sure I ground against her clit with each thrust. A minute later I was rewarded when she groaned loudly and her pussy spasmed tightly around my dick. We continued moving and three minutes later she groaned again. She began bucking harder so I matched her speed. She tightened her legs and arms around me and humped hard. I thrust hard in and out of her and she came again.


“Oh God!” she gasped. “Ugh! Ooooh! Yes!”


I continued pounding in and out of her, bringing myself ever closer. Hope was nearly out of control, and we were fucking as hard as we could.


“Screw me!” she gasped. “Make it happen again!”


I did and her orgasm brought me over the edge. I pushed deep inside her and filled her with my cum. We were both gasping and she held me tight until I deflated and slipped from her.


“That,” she gasped, “was amazing! Did you like it? Was I OK?”


“Are you kidding?” I gasped, then kissed her softly. “You were fantastic!”


“How long before you can do it again?” she asked with an impish smile.


“fifteen or twenty minutes,” I said. “When will your mom be home?”


“Probably around 8:00pm. We’re safe.”


We cuddled and kissed, and when I felt I was ready, we began making love again. Hope was just as enthusiastic and we screwed hard and fast for fifteen minutes with her having four orgasms before I came again. When we finished, I pulled Hope to me and held her tightly. She put her head on my chest and snuggled close as we lay listening to the music.


The quiet was shattered by a pounding on the door to the bedroom.


“Hope? What are you doing in there?!”


“Oh no!” she whispered frantically. “It’s my mom!”


I was frozen in place. I was so dead. Jolene was going to kill me. My hat and coat were on the arm of the couch, and she had to know they were mine. Fedoras were not all that common.


“Hope?! Hope?!” Jolene called out, pounding again.


Before I could get out of bed and get dressed, I heard scratches, then the knob turned and the door opened.


“What the FUCK are you doing with my daughter?!” Jolene screamed.

That was a preview of AWLL 2 - Book 3 - Jessica. To read the rest purchase the book.

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