"Well," Lash LaRue said with his cocky grin, each hand perched on one of two pearl-handled .45's at his side, "that takes care of the McGraw Gang."
"Sure does," said Fuzzy St. John, nodding and spitting a wad of tobacco juice.
Lash LaRue tipped his hat to the pretty gal in the calico dress, who beamed at him admiringly from the wooden sidewalk. Lash LaRue cocked his cocky, self-assured head toward Fuzzy St. John.
"Let's get goin', Fuzzy," Lash LaRue said, and he and Fuzzy mounted their horses.
Their steeds reared up. Lash LaRue and Fuzzy spurred their horses and galloped outta town.
It was my ninth summer, pushing for my tenth year.
Things had changed. I knew it as I watched this absurdly out- dated B-grade western for the third time, the first time being with Uncle Johnny when I was five years old. At ten I bid a fond but not reluctant farewell to Lash LaRue and Tex Ritter and Roy Rogers.
Martha Jane had graduated high school, on time and with high grades. She started college immediately that summer at the largest of the local campuses, Memphis State. She was determined to get her teacher training in less than four years. My mother dated almost always on weekends, and since I spent every weekend with relatives, no one was needed to overwatch me. These were gray, uneventful days. I got bored every fifteen seconds.
Life had tragedy now. It had dire consequences, uncertainty, loneliness, nuclear warheads. Left more often to my own devices by my relatives on weekends, I searched the downtown movie houses for an intensity of experience not found with the Bowery Boys or in Gene Kelly musicals. I would hit the Main Street cinemas as soon as they opened at eleven A.M., my pockets jingling with the movie money with which my relatives bribed me into conformity. They assumed I was watching Abbott and Costello or cowboys. Instead, I sat tearfully absorbed in more than a dozen showings of the archly romantic "Cyrano de Bergerac". I was fascinated with the impressionistic Technicolor of "Moulin Rouge"; again and again I watched this moody film, empathizing strongly with Lautrec's pitiful infirmity.
My relatives, staunch stay-at-homes, had no idea these films existed until I told them what I'd seen--and at that they seemed bewildered as to why a boy would be so magnetically drawn to Bogart's sarcasm, William Holden's cynicism, or Brando's hostility. They were amazed when I told them I had spent an entire day in the same movie house watching over and over as a somber Robert Mitchum portrayed a death-obsessed army officer in "G.I. Joe."
I saw Martha Jane on our front porch once or twice in the early summer. By August she had disappeared. Once I knocked on her front door, expecting her mother to answer. But no one did. My Mom didn't mention her. It seemed Martha Jane had been swallowed up into nowhere. Knowing she was in summer classes, I assumed a break would occur soon, probably in September. But by September I'd heard nothing.
Associating with others had eroded my confidence. My impression was that other kids regarded me as a little weird; I had a fatalistic attitude toward people and events. Repression and criticism from Mom and relatives didn't help. By age ten, I was on a psychological downer.
I began to expect that life would either take people away from me, or me from them. Stepper and Uncle Robert was a case in point; Mom and all the dead of the war were others. When the Korean War started, Josephine Louise's dad, my Uncle Lawrence, was called back to active service. He paid us a farewell visit in the early Fall. He smiled and saluted me when he left our house, bound for Fort Hood, Texas. By October he was killed in action.
My future step-dad had little interest in my activities. His name was Anthony. Mom called him Tony. He was a dark-haired, virile, handsome man. I disliked him somewhat; he had a deep and relatively loud voice, very different from the softer voices of all the aunts around me, different from the breathy Italian quality of Uncle Johnny and Josephine Louise. By the end of that summer Tony started hanging around our apartment more often. He came over many mornings before opening the supermarket in our neighborhood and had breakfast with Mom and me while I prepared for school. Our interests never interlocked. He assumed I was interested in sports, in being a fireman or doctor when I grew up, in playing with other boys. When he found out I wanted to be an artist, he was taken aback. His idea of art was limited to portraits of the saints.
One morning at breakfast as I ate my milk and oatmeal, he sat at the other side of our tiny kitchen table, reading a newspaper article to my mother who was working at the sink. He was mildly agitated about a report on small business regulation. He read until he came to a word in the article that made him stop.
"What is that word?" he asked irritably, squinting at the page. "Why do they have to use words this long in newspapers?"
"Ask Speedy," Mom said, so he handed me the paper and pointed at the word. "What's that word say?" he asked me.
Chewing oatmeal, I glanced at the word quickly and announced, "Antiestablishmentarianism."
He sat back in amazement. "Well, damn," he breathed. "How'd he know a big word like that?"
"I don't know," Mom answered absently. "He just does. I think his Uncle Johnny taught him to read from the comics."
"The comics?" he echoed, dumbfounded. He reached for his coffee cup. "Damn," he breathed again.
In my isolation, movies became my life. I devoured them like popcorn and soda. I saw three or four films each weekend. If new ones hadn't opened I'd frequent the rerun joints and the art film outlets. My relatives didn't mind, as it kept me out of their hair all weekend, didn't cost much for a child's admission (twelve cents in those days), and Uncle Johnny was getting a little too old and arthritic to escort me all over town the way he did when I was younger.
Truly, I enjoyed the freedom of doing mostly as I pleased. They knew I was smart enough to find my way around town; most of the movies were a short walk from the restaurant. But the art film outlet was far out in the eastern part of town. With my usual brazenness I allowed folks to assume that I never traveled that far out of the way. But one Saturday I took the No.10 bus all the way to the Ritz theater to see "Cyrano de Bergerac." I was so affected by the film that I stayed inside and watched it again, then again, then a fourth time. The movie was longer than most, so that when I left the theater I discovered I was just in time to catch the last inbound No.10, which stopped running by ten PM.
It was nearly eleven when I arrived at Aunt Frances' house and let myself in. Entering by the long unlit front hallway, I assumed everyone was asleep. But Aunt Frances was waiting up for me in her long white nightgown on the living room sofa.
"Where the hell have *you* been?" she demanded as I walked into the room.
I knew from long experience that the best tactic for handling Aunt Frances under these circumstances was to appear unfazed and keep on grinning.
"The movies," I answered.
"You trying to give your Aunt Frances a heart attack? Huh? You want your poor old Aunt Frances to have a heart attack? What kind of movie they let you into that lasts till this time of night?"
"Cyrano de Bergerac," I said.
"Syrup what?" She squinted hard.
"Cyrano de Bergerac," I repeated. I sat sideways on one of the ornate dining chairs in the room and slipped my arm around the back of the chair. I smiled and batted my eyelids.
"Don't give me that look. What kinda movie is this, uh, Cereal di Hajiback?"
"It's what? It's fresh?"
"French, Aunt Frances. French."
We both looked up as Uncle Johnny appeared in the doorway leading to the bedrooms. His hair mussed, his eyes squinting in the light, he scratched his tummy over his pajamas.
Aunt Frances huffed, "Look, Johnny. He walks in like nothing happened. You see him, Johnny? Look at him."
"You home?" Uncle Johnny mumbled drowsily.
"I'm here, " I said. "I'm okay."
"It's late, Speedy," Uncle Johnny said.
"You okay? We were all worried about ya."
"Have any trouble?"
He yawned. "How'd you get here this time of night? Walk?"
"The Number 10 Bus."
"Oh." He yawned again. "Well, you be careful out there. You oughtta call us next time." Another yawn. "Good night, Frances." He walked back into the dark.
"That's all you have to say?" Aunt Frances called after him.
"Good night, Frances," Uncle Johnny said, disappearing.
"I'll be damn," she muttered, settling back into the sofa. "Two of a kind, you two. Listen, you're too young to be watchin' French movies at eleven o'clock at night."
"How old do I have to be?"
"Seven years old is too young!"
"I'm not seven years old, Aunt Frances, I'm ten."
"Ten? You ain't no ten years old. What kinda movie is this? Is Clark Gable in this movie?"
"No. Jose Ferrer."
"Never heard of him."
I leaned forward and peered at her. "Aunt Frances, are you sure you're not asleep?"
"Of course I'm not asleep. I look asleep?"
"Well, the things you're asking and saying to me don't make much sense."
"How'm I supposed to make sense with you talking French, or whatever it is?"
I rose from the chair and bent down to her and kissed her on the cheek--a surefire technique for calming her down. Poor Aunt Frances, who had not been anywhere except to work and church and bed since the 1920's, had no idea how the world had changed.
"You think you're gonna kiss your Aunt Frances and that's all you hafta do?"
"I just don't want you to be worried."
"You look just like your poor daddy when you do that. You love your Aunt Frances?"
"Yes, ma'am, I sure do. You're my favorite." I kissed her again. "Now you ought to go back to bed. I'm all right."
"You think you're smart, don't ya? That's what your daddy used to do. You love your Aunt Frances like your daddy did?"
"I sure do," I cooed, knowing I had her in the palm of my hand.
"Okay, then" she said, blushing childishly. She looked up at me with her big round confused eyes, as if trying to comprehend how the universe had become what it was without her knowing. It had taken me years to fathom this hysterical woman. I had learned, with coaching from Josephine Louise, that Aunt Frances had not been all there since my father's death. A couple of years before, I would not have been able to understand it. Now, after many weekends, I realized that her thoughts and feelings were stuck at a single moment in time and would go neither backward nor ahead.
"You look just like your daddy," she said wistfully, looking at me and seeing someone else. Then she scowled mildly and said, "You don't do that to me and your Uncle Johnny any more. You hear me?"
"Yes, ma'am," I said, sweetly.
"Your Uncle Johnny loves you too. You know that, don't you?"
"We don't want anything to happen to you, like what happened to your daddy."
"I know," I said gently. "Now," I began, standing up and holding her hand. "I'm gonna go to sleep, and you go back to sleep too."
"You love your Aunt Frances?"
I bent down and kissed her again. "I sure do."
With that, she was satisfied and sloughed off in her fluffy houseshoes to her bedroom. For a while I sat in the living room, breathing a long sigh of relief. I asked myself, seriously, if I would ever again find someone with whom I could communicate without the need for these convoluted tactics. Trying to follow Aunt Frances' line of thought was like working one's way through a trick maze or a hall of mirrors.
When I stayed with them I slept in the front bedroom with my Aunt Frances' mother, my great-grandmother Nifa. She was, everyone esti- mated at that time, in her nineties. She wore black. She wore a simple black dress and black shoes and black hose all day long, and she wore a black nightgown and long black stockings when she slept. She had worn nothing but black since her husband's death in 1936. She spoke no English, only a Northern Italian dialect that other Italians found difficult. Speaking with Nifa was similar to speaking with Aunt Frances; their minds were elsewhere, their words and memories and thoughts had not changed over many years. Being among them was to be among memories of loved ones never seen and long since gone, of time long since past and silenced. It was a lonely experience, like talking to the blind and deaf, who could neither hear nor see me.
Somehow I had learned to understand, pity and love these lost souls. I may not have known what they thought (no one did), but I somehow knew what they felt.
But as for me, by the summer of 1952 I didn't see a soul-mate in sight. Not anywhere.
Late that Fall I did have one baby-sitter when my Mom had a rare weeknight date. The sitter was none other than Evelyn, Martha Jane's sister.
Evelyn spent almost the entire night on the phone. She was working days at a clerical job and attending the University of Tennessee Medical Extension at night, studying for work in medical research. She was an attractive woman in her middle twenties now, tall, rather chic and long-legged. Only in her eyes and general posture did she resemble her sister. Objectively, most people would have thought Evelyn to be more beautiful: she was brunette and had a svelte, sophisticated air, with a lazy voice and large dark eyes and high cheekbones. But being among young women other than Martha Jane, which didn't happen often, taught me something about my own needs-- Evelyn, though sexy, did not appeal to me at all. I found her nice to look at, friendly, and boring. I was beginning to learn the vast difference between just any "good-looking woman" and one who has a compelling, irresistible, unsettling appeal. At that point I could be brought under the spell of only two females on the planet: the physically devastating Josephine Louise, and the warm, captivating, and equally devastating Martha Jane.
Evelyn told me that night that she was herself so busy with career and friends (she admitted she had no steady man and was tied to her work), she seldom spoke with her mother or Martha Jane. But she offered me the last phone number she had for her, an apartment somewhere near Memphis State that Martha Jane shared with two other students. I was certain Martha Jane must have found a boyfriend by then and had little time for anything except school. Evelyn also told me she last saw her sister for lunch in downtown Memphis at Woolworth's, where Martha Jane worked part-time. She was 19 now, "busy as a busy little bee." Evelyn promised that when she contacted Martha Jane again she'd ask her to give me a call.
I missed Martha Jane. I missed her sexually, of course, but at that age sex was still secondary. Mainly, I missed just her, her warmth and the ease of simply being with her. At age ten I saw her as a sexual object much more clearly than I had a few years earlier, though I still had a while to go before the full impact of sexual attraction hit home. At that point I wanted the sisterly, motherly, girl-woman of her more emotionally and intel- lectually than physically.
As soon as I could I dialed the number Evelyn had given me. No go. A young girl answered and said that Martha Jane shared a place with them but that she had moved again and they didn't know where. Besides that call, I had no idea what happened to Evelyn's promise that she would have Martha Jane call me.
That left me with the part-time job at Woolworth's. On impulse I went to find her on a Saturday afternoon one weekend when I was staying at the downtown restaurant. It was warm weather, right around my 11th birthday.
Telling my folks I was going to a movie, I took a bus down to the end of Main Street and went straight to the big three-story Woolworth's. Once inside, I had no idea where to look. It was a huge store, especially to an 11-year-old. I searched the whole place, checked at every sales counter, roamed through every aisle.
After a while I gave up and stood outside on the busy sidewalk. I thought that perhaps it was her lunch hour, or perhaps she came to work later in the day. Since I had movie money, I went to a movie nearby and feasted on a lunch of popcorn and Coke. By then it was after two, so I went back to Woolworth's.
The second search proved futile as well. She was nowhere to be found. Despite my aggressive, snoopy attitude in so many other areas, I seem to have lost all my "fight" in this situation. I wan- dered aisle to aisle, feeling dejected and lost. I walked around the waterfront area for a while, then up and down Main Street several times. By then it was 4:00. I returned to the store. It was crowded nose-to-nose with Saturday shoppers. After yet another hour of searching, I had not found her and it was near closing time.
I asked some salespeople if they knew Martha Jane Graham. They didn't. Puzzled, I thought about hanging around and asking every employee I could find, but everyone was preparing to close for the day. I asked one more worker if they had a personnel department. They did, but it was closed Saturdays. She referred me to a sales counter where she thought Martha Jane worked.
But when I arrived there, I found only a redheaded middle-aged lady who didn't look anything like her and wasn't particularly interested in helping me find my way. She eyed me suspiciously. "You have parents?" she asked, frowning. "Where are your parents? You shouldn't be here all by yourself, we're getting ready to close."
I felt odd and disoriented. The whole situation was becoming eerie, dreamlike. The redhead now confronted me with the fact that I was still only 11. Aggressive and independent though I might have been at that age, and though I was an 11-year-old kid who in many ways didn't act or think like an 11-year-old--yet I was, nevertheless, still a kid. Perhaps it was a feeling of frustration: if I were not such a kid, I thought, these people would take me seriously and give me the information I was looking for. And if I did find Martha Jane wouldn't she, like Evelyn and the redhead and everyone else, notice that I was not an adult? Had something changed, such that now she would recognize me for who I really was? And besides, she probably had a boyfriend now; she was among college students her own age at a big coed state college.
The day had such a strange effect on me that I was in its grip for months. I soon became fearful that Martha Jane would not want to see me again, as least not as she had seen me before. She was in a different world now. Effectively, she had left the project and in leaving the project she had somehow changed everything. I began to feel she was "too old" for me now.
When I went home after that weekend I mentioned Saturday's search to my Mom, but she was unconcerned. Paranoically, I didn't trust her as someone I wanted to talk to about Martha Jane, not in any way. She might want to know why I was so desperate to find her, she might suspect something was going on--especially since Martha Jane had not been around for more than a year. I didn't mention it to her again, and sulked around our apartment for most of that week.
One day several weeks later when I came home from school, Mom said Martha Jane had called and asked how I was getting along.
The first thing I asked was, "Did you get a number to call back?"
Mom shrugged. "Well, no, I didn't think it was important anymore. You haven't mentioned her in so long..."
I didn't hear the rest of what she said. I felt as if I had fallen from a high place and landed on my face. I didn't want to betray my feelings, so I said nothing more. I didn't even know what my feelings were.
As I approached and then reached twelve years, I became involved in that strange activity in grammar schools known as "dramatics," which consumed my energy and my thoughts. Because I had gleaned from movies so much about effective acting, I became very successful at it. The more successful I was, the harder I worked. Though I had no close relationships among my peers and teachers at the newly built St. Michael's School, I did find a source of attention and recognition on the stage. Being in a new school in a different part of town made me feel that I, too, had started the process of moving out of the project. By the time the thirty-minute bus ride to St. Michael's ended each morning, I had readjusted to an entirely different place; I felt almost as if I were spending those five hours a day in a different town.
Then came the day my Mom announced she would be getting married and that we'd soon be moving out of the project. That day, Martha Jane seemed to disappear for good. I made it so. I went into our bedroom the night of Mom's announcement and saw the moonlight on the window sill. And I forced Martha Jane out of my mind.
In December 1953 my Mom married and my stepfather moved into the apartment temporarily while they searched for a new house. The ceremony was little more than a small tea party in a room in the reception house at St. Mary's Church. This being my mother's second marriage, she didn't think a large wedding would be appropriate, and my conservative step-dad agreed. They took over the old bedroom, and I slept on the pullout sofa in the living room (which, I did not realize until that time, had a bed inside it!).
Problems with finding a new home caused them to postpone their honeymoon. But near Easter, 1954, they announced that a house had been found and purchased, and before moving in they were going to take their honeymoon week in St. Louis. The concept of a honeymoon was rather a vague one for me. Mom said it was just a "vacation"
take when they marry (even with my limited knowledge of the marriage state, I knew better than that! My relationship with Mom certainly had not improved).
I came home from school one day shortly afterward, on the last day before the start of the Easter school holidays. There in the kitchen with my mother sat Martha Jane, sipping coffee and chatting merrily away.
"Well, Hi!" she said as my eyes bulged out of my head.
I could tell--immediately--that her Southern accent had only thickened. It was still the same musical voice, a bit rambunctious now, a little louder and more confident. But the same eyes; a more slender neck and arms, and definitely an older and more adult figure. She was 20. Her hair was the same, maybe a little more blonde.
"Well, hotshot, are you going to speak?"
I did, but don't remember what I said. I was numbstruck. It was Martha Jane but it wasn't Martha Jane. It was the same person but it wasn't. She was not a teenager anymore. And she smoked cigarettes. One dangled lazily from her finger as she sat cross- legged at the kitchen table with Mom.
"Say hello to Martha Jane," Mom said, and laughed. "You forget about her already?"
"I did say hello, didn't I?" I asked, dazed. They both shook their heads and waited for me, amused. I said falteringly, "Well, then, uh--" I shrugged helplessly-- "Hi."
Martha Jane rose from the chair. "Oh, what kind of welcome is that?" She walked across the room--on noisy high-heeled shoes! --and came straight to me, moving the cigarette from one hand to another so she would be able to give a great big hug without burning me with the thing. I was grateful for the hug. Deeply grateful. But my feelings were so firmly entrenched, espe- cially when I was around my mother, that I denied myself the luxury of any response at all.
"Let me look at YOU!" Martha Jane exclaimed. "You're only an inch taller than me now! Can't you grow any faster than that?"
I shrugged and blushed. "I'm only 12 years old," I said.
"Well, that won't last forever, hon, don't worry." She took my hand and leaned closer to me. "How are you, Speedy? Did you forget all about me, after all I had to put up with from you?"
"I didn't forget," I smiled. I was overcome by a blush attack that I strongly resisted. She saw my problem, and immediately she gave a sympathetic "Aawwww, c'mere," and putting her arms around me she gave a stronger, more affectionate hug.
"How are you, hon? I haven't seen you in so long."
I saw my mother watching us, pleased. But not trusting myself, I pulled back and simply gave Martha Jane an appreciative nod.
My mother announced: "Martha Jane lost her job."
Martha Jane shrugged. "Laid off, hon." She shrugged. "What the heck! At least I'm still getting the GI Bill money because of my father. All I have to say is, 'Thank you, Uncle Sam!'"
My Mom went on, greatly amused. "Martha Jane showed up just in time. While your daddy and I are in St. Louis on our honeymoon next week, your Aunt Yvonne was supposed to drop by here and check up once a while so you wouldn't be here all by yourself. Well, guess who showed up just in time to take her place?"
I didn't answer. I was afraid to.
My mother nudged her head toward Martha Jane. "Your old neighbor over there."
I looked at Martha Jane.
She pointed her thumb at herself. "The old supervisor herself, honey. Yvonne got fired, I got hired. Gonna be next store again anyway, so why should she have to traipse all the way over here?" She moved closer to me again and pointed a finger into my chest. "Gonna be checkin' on you, buster. Better clean up your act."
My act, considering how little I revealed of myself at that instant, couldn't have been more antiseptic. My feelings were jumbled. She didn't seem the same. She moved and spoke with an aggressiveness I found difficult to accept. Nor was it so easy for me to switch emotional gears after two years of not seeing her, having spent that time surrounded by people in whom I had so little trust emotionally.
The next day, a Saturday, Mom and my new dad left Union Station for their honeymoon. At the grandiose Victorian building a number of people were present to see them off. Most of them were my step-dad's folks. They were friendly, earthy people, But the thought of the sheer size of his family was intimidating: he alone had fourteen brothers and sisters. The day he married my mother, I gained over three hundred new cousins and an undetermined number of uncles and aunts. I had yet to meet most of them, a task I estimated would take years.
I spent Saturday with my grandparents, the Ricci's. Grandpa Joe Ricci, my father's father, packed me into his Oldsmobile on Sunday morning to give me a ride back to the project.
As he drove he griped, "Don't see why you can't spend the rest of the week with me and your Grandma Rose."
"I have too many things to do at home, Grandpa Joe. I got a dozen library books over there to go through while my Mama and Daddy are gone."
"Your 'Daddy'!" Grandpa Joe swore mildly in his slightly gravelly voice. "He ain't your daddy. Your daddy was Steven Joseph, Senior. And he's dead."
"My step-daddy, then."
I didn't know if I really wanted to see Martha Jane or not. She called from a friend's place and told me she was packing the last of her things to move back to the project, then she had to change and go to a funeral. She said she would be job hunting all day Monday. But she'd come over tonight, Sunday, and the next night as well, and fix dinner for me. I was on Easter vacation, a dubious advantage of being in a Catholic grammar school. I had no friends and nothing I particularly wanted to do. I spent most of Sunday rummaging around the apartment, which seemed relatively large with no one home but me. Over the years I had spent so much time alone that I began to realize and appreciate that it did have certain advantages: I had absolute freedom of movement, and freedom from being hassled by the foibles and demands of others.
But as Sunday evening neared, I was considering whether or not to be home at the time Martha Jane was due to fix dinner. I did not trust my feelings at all. I could always hop a bus and go back to my godparents or grandparents for the whole week...
In my mind she had changed. She was not the primal, simple child I knew. She wore high heels. She smoked. She talked loud.
She showed up shortly before six. She greeted me with a hug, and when she saw I appeared numb she insisted that I give her cheek a hello kiss, after which she set her purse down on a table in the living room and went into the kitchen to make dinner.
I stared at her purse. It was one of the slick black patent leather purses that adult women carried around. It seemed she moved faster, too, or maybe it was an illusion created by her seemingly longer legs and the heels. From the kitchen she asked what I wanted to eat. I told her I didn't care. As she prepared to cook in that tiny kitchen with the obsolete refrigerator and the two-burner gas stove, she kept joking and seemed in fine humor.
"Won't you be tickled pink to get out of this tiny place and into that big house out on Macon Road? Got a nice big kitchen in there, I saw it. Your mom drove me out there last week."
"Last week?" I asked, confused. I didn't know she had been around for almost a whole week before seeing me.
"Yes, hon, last weekend, you know? I *missed* you, I asked them where you were, and you were at your grandmother's all weekend."
"My mom didn't call me," I muttered. Betrayed by mom again!
"Well, she couldn't, I couldn't stay long anyway. Rent Overdue, Speedy, I had to move out of that apartment. Heck, I sure collected a ton of junk in there." She was setting the table but she stopped to grin at me. "You're gonna love that house. It's new, all *new*, not a scratch on it! Even the grass is new. And three bedrooms, hon. See this?" She held up three fingers. "Three bedrooms! You'll have your own room, and to heck with that sofabed in there."
I was not overly pleased. "I guess it'll be okay," I muttered, moving to take my seat at the small table. "I could learn to like it."
She came over to me. She bent down. I became very aware of her breasts--not her pert teengirl titties, but her adult female breasts under the white blouse and under the white bra. She hugged me from one side and her voice softened. She said earnestly, "You need your own room, hon. You need your...own..room." She emphasized the last three words. She pulled back and looked at me. "My lord! How old are you now, about forty-five?"
"Umpteen," I answered blandly.
She laughed. "Does it really feel that way?"
"And you?" I asked as she sat in the chair before me.
"Umpteen," she answered, giving a muffled laugh. "Closer to twenty, really. Speedy, you look wonderful. You're getting so cute. I thought you'd be a little taller, though. Don't you eat your spinach?"
I didn't answer.
"You look like your daddy's picture."
"I know," I said.
"Bet every aunt and uncle you know tells you that at least once every fifteen minutes, don't they?"
"Yep," I said, aware of the dull tone in my voice.
"Not everybody that flew a B-17 won a Silver Star, hon." She chewed her food and swallowed, and her face and voice became more serious, more leveled. "Doesn't mean you have to win a Silver Star too, Speedy."
I didn't know what to say to her. I didn't know exactly what she meant, but I did feel that she knew so very much more about me than I did.
She said, with a mouth half full of spinach, "You didn't say you missed me."
"Well," I said, "I did. I'm not as talkative as I used to be."
"Tell me something I hadn't noticed," she chuckled. "You don't smile as much, either. Of course, you also don't clown or blush or shuffle around. Those are improvements, anyway. You're getting to be too nice-looking a young man to be that painfully shy. You're growin' up. Guess we all have to grow up sooner or later."
"So how do you like it?"
"Like what?" I asked.
"This growing-up business."
"Holy smokes, what an answer." She shook her head. "You're right, it's not all it's cracked up to be." Then she changed the subject. "I'm going out right after we eat dinner, I might buy a used typewriter from somebody across the driveway. I really need one."
"I have a typewriter," I offered.
"The old Underwood? No, Speedy, you need that. I need a small one. Portable." She chewed her food quickly and checked her wrist watch. "But I'll be back later, about eight or eight-thirty."
I swallowed. "Okay."
She would eat, chew, look at me, eat, and chew. Then look at me. She went rapidly from one subject to another. She sounded like one of my curious aunts. But her constant effort at searching me out left me feeling that she was almost as uncomfortable as I was.
She left after dinner. I sat and played with the Philco, going from one radio show to the next. Bored, I took a bath. I got all dressed again in jeans and a plaid shirt and sat listening to the records and going through the record albums. Just before 8:30, Martha Jane showed up. She looked tired now, and didn't move around as quickly. She plopped down on the sofa and gave a loud moan. "Whew! How are you, hon?"
I ignored her question. "How's your typewriter?"
"I just left it at home, next door. It'll do." She slumped into the cushions and caught her breath. She used each foot to push the high heels off. "I hate these! Hate, hate, hate."
"They make a lot of noise when you walk."
"Yeah, don't they?"
She looked at me for a long time. "What's the matter, hon? Do you just go off into nowhere when you get to be 12 years old? It is 12 now, isn't it?"
"It's 12," I said, not looking up from the records. I sighed. "Just tired, I guess."
"Your mom and your brand-new daddy won't be back until next Friday night. So you can make as big a mess as you want, you're getting too old for a baby-sitter. But I'll check in. Just be sure to clean the place up before mommy and daddy day on Friday."
"He's not my daddy," I said flatly, not looking up from the album.
"Of course he's your daddy. What do you mean?"
"My daddy's dead," I said without emotion, recalling Grandpa Joe.
"Speedy...what a morbid thing to say."
"That's what Grandpa Joe told me to say."
"I met your Grandpa Joe and he's a very nice man who's done a lot for you and your mom. But he's an unhappy man who lives in the past and likes to make others think the same way he does. You have to mind him and do as he says, but he doesn't have to tell you how to think."
"Okay," I said, paging the record album.
For a long minute she didn't say anything. I could feel her, above and behind me, looking at me from the sofa. In a moment she said, "Would you like to go to a movie with me this week? I mean, what are you gonna do all week?"
I looked up at her, rather blankly. "Okay," I said. "I like movies, I know every inch of every theater in Memphis."
"Oh, yes? You must spend a lot of time there."
She moved from the sofa and sat down on the floor next to me. She began removing bobby pins from her hair. "You still spend a lot of time alone, don't you? That hasn't changed, has it?"
"No," I said.
She leaned toward me. "Give me your face," she said.
I leaned toward her. She kissed my two eyes, lightly, and then my nose. "I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off since six o'clock this morning. Do you promise not to run away from home while I take a bath?"
"I promise," I said.
She studied me, her face close to mine. She put an arm around my shoulder. She smiled. "What's been happening to you?"
I looked at her and asked, coldly casual, "You have a boyfriend yet?"
Her grin disappeared. "Yes," she said. After a pause, she added. "He's a schmuck. You know what a schmuck is?"
I shook my head.
She leaned back on her ankles and took out one more bobby pin. "It's some kind of Jewish word, I think. From my New York. A gal from New York who's in one of my classes keeps using that word."
"What's a schmuck?" I asked.
"A schmuck," she said slowly and distinctly, "is...a...schmuck! A creep. A jerk." She shook her head. "You'll figure it out." Then she said firmly, "Being a schmuck is what your Grandpa Joe was being when he said that horrible thing about your daddy."
She got up and kissed me on the forehead. "I'll be back. Stay here."
Into the bathroom she went. She was in there for quite a long time, bathing away. I was getting sleepy and started putting the records away. It was not so bad, I thought. She does slow down after a while, and obviously she was warming up to me like a long-lost friend. She wasn't *that* old, certainly. Not *that* different. Obviously we were still buddies. But she had a boyfriend!
A little voice in me said: of course she has a boyfriend, stupid. She's twenty years old. When you're twenty years old,
can have a girlfriend. She deserves to have a boyfriend.
I put away the record album, sat on the floor, and watched the closed bathroom door. Water running furiously in there. No change in the way she kept herself, she always hated being clammy or sweaty.
During the rest of her stay behind the door I worked up the courage to apologize. I stood waiting in the middle of the living room with my hands in my pockets. I still had my pride, of course. I didn't want to seem as dejected and desolate as I really was, that would be giving too much away.
I heard the bathroom door open, saw the light go out. She came into the doorway of the living room. She was in light pink, floppy silk pajamas. She was drying her hair with a towel and saw me standing with my hands still in my pockets.
She asked, "What are doing, just standing there?"
I asked, "Is a schmuck just being rude, or a party pooper, and stuff like that?"
"Yes, I'd say...that qualifies as fairly schmuck-like." She fluffed her head with the towel.
"Is it, like...being snotty?"
I searched for words a second. "Acting like you're always right and everybody else is wrong?"
"...like...the way I was acting today?"
"Yep. That's a schmuck, all right."
"So I was bein' a schmuck."
"That's one of a great many things that schmucks do." She put away the towel and came to me and grabbed me by the hand, leading me toward the bedroom. "C'mon. Beddy-bye. It's ten o'clock."
I resisted. "I thought this was supposed to be a vacation!"
"A vacation doesn't mean you stay up all night. Anyway, young man--my young schmuck--you've been pretty cranky all day, and if you want to have a good time with me this week and keep up with me, you better rest while you can."
I stood near the bed as she rapidly pulled back the bedclothes.
"Okay, okay, but I *am* twelve years old. I can get myself in and out of the bed."
"Right," she said. "Well, you're not all that old. Besides, I want to ask you about something before you turn in." She came to me and began removing my shirt. "Your mother told me, schmuck, that you went to Woolworth's looking for me one day and you couldn't find me."
"She told you that? Here, I can unbutton my shirt myself. Is a schmuck somebody who can't unbutton their own shirt, too?"
She stood eyeing me sternly with her hands on her hips.
"Anyway," I said, "that was months ago."
She nodded. "She told me. She said you were very disappointed. She said you were down in the dumps. All...day...long."
"Sure, I was disappointed. What's wrong with being disap- pointed?"
"No no no, schmuck. Not just disappointed. She said you were down in the dumps for a week."
I raised my eyes to the ceiling. Didn't mothers know when to shut up? I removed my shirt and started on my jeans, not saying anything, avoiding her gaze.
"It so happens," she continued, "I wasn't there that day. So was she correct about that? What's your version of the story?"
I blushed. I made a what-the-hell shrug. She started to help me with the belt. "Look," I said, "I can do this."
She stepped back. "Okay. Take charge. But get into bed. It's late."
"I thought I could just stay up all week. It's Easter vaca- tion."
She eyed me with a comic, bugeyed sternness, firmed her lips, and pointed dramatically at the bed.
I did an aw-shucks and got down to my underwear. I was taller and more developed than I was when I had last seen her. I had a little hair on my legs, not much, but visible. I also had under my jockeys a healthily burgeoning patch of pubic hair that had replaced the light blond fuzz and which, I suddenly realized, might be dimly visible through the thin cloth. Hurrying into bed, I also realized with even greater embarrassment that I had developed in another area as well, which must surely have been noticeable, not as the thimble-shaped white bulb near the slit of my jockeys that she had seen in the past, but as a definitely larger and more shapeless bulge.
Quickly, I lay on my side and pulled the sheet to my waist.
Looking officially satisfied, she reached to turn out the bedside lamp. But instead, she changed her mind. Leaving the light on, she got into bed with me and shoved me farther to the other side. She lay next to me, facing me, on her side with her head propped on one arm.
"Wanna talk?" she asked.
"I mean, seriously. Talk."
I shrugged again. "Not really."
"I do," she persisted.
So I got into the same pose as she, propped on one elbow and facing her. "All right, but I don't need a baby-sitter to put me to bed."
"I don't know what to do with you. About you. You are spoiled and too independent. I know you don't like all your fussy old aunts and uncles so much, but you have to admit they spoiled the heck out of you. And, brother, did I help! You are so strange. In so many ways you're older than me, in the ways you connect with certain things inside people, but...such a strange boy."
"Boy," I echoed dryly.
"Well, Speedy, you *are* a boy...No, no, no, you are what looks like a boy, you do boy things, you have boy habits. But you're not really a boy. Wars took your boy away from you. I did, too. I'm going to die and go to hell for it."
I gruffed, "Oh, That's what the nuns say all the time..."
"Do you know what I mean when I say I'm going to hell for it?"
"...and you say that all the time, too."
"I know, but do you know what I mean?"
"I guess. No."
"I'm in hell for it now, Speedy. I'm in hell every day thinking about this and about us."
"You mean...'this' and 'us' being...?"
She mouthed the word s-e-x, and nodded.
I felt a crashing, cutting disappointment. All I could say was: "Oh."
"I think what we did together was very unusual. Very out of control. I don't think I will ever be able to be like that with anyone else again, as long as I live."
"I didn't know you felt so bad about it."
"No no no no no, not 'bad'," she moaned, beating her fists lightly on the bedsheet. "Not 'bad'!" She beat her fist again, once for each word: "You...don't...understand."
"Explain it to me."
"I am explaining it to you!"
"You don't understand that...I...that I *did* like it. I liked it more than anything. I'm trying to tell you that I...that I know, looking at you right here and now, that I know I'll never be able to do that with anyone else."
She stopped me. "Not even with my boyfriend."
I shrugged: a sort of, a maybe.
"I'm trying to tell you, Speedy, my dear sweet little man, my somehow grownup somehow not grownup little man--Oh, my my you are so grownup in bed. You are so strange. I'm trying to tell you that...I liked it... But...I'm afraid of you. I'm afraid of myself. You do something to me, we have something, we do something to each other that--" She stopped. "Yes, I have this boyfriend but it's not the same, it's not--" She stopped again and sighed almost tearfully. "Oh, heck!"
"You think it was wrong?" I guessed.
She shook her head no, impatiently dismissing my question. Then she sighed. "I have this problem."
"Yes." She pulled a wet strand from her hair and then picked a little crumb of something off her tongue and couldn't find it again and just gave up. "The problem is...I still remember it."
"Yes, 'Oh'. I remember, and I--ah, this is so complicated."
I sat up. In some ways this was beyond me. In some other strange way, I sensed what she was saying. "Maybe we should not have done it."
She looked suddenly and deeply into my eyes. There was consternation, frustration, impatience in eyes and face.
"I mean, what we were doing makes you feel bad and you think you're going to hell, so we shouldn't do it."
"Oh...!?" She squinted at me. "Tell me something: did you think we would do it again the next time you saw me?"
"But you sort of hoped we would," she prompted.
"But if you think it hurts my feelings, you wouldn't ask me?"
She stared at me for a very long time. "I should have known you'd say that. I should have known." She played with her wet hair again, and lay back on a pillow. "Let me ask you something. Did you really find yourself thinking about it? I mean, thinking about it a lot?"
"I guess...I didn't think about it a lot, but it made me sad when it looked like it wouldn't happen again."
"I see..." she mused. "But you thought about it."
"Sure I did. For a while."
She smirked. "I hope you don't grow up to be like one of those good-looking hotshots that I don't want you to grow up to be. Darn, that's what's so strange about you, and me *with* you...If only we weren't so good at it together, then neither of us would always be expecting that it's supposed to happen that way all the time." She shook her head ruefully. "Do you have any idea at all what you would have to do to seduce me, to make me do it?"
"You mean...like really *make* you do it with me?"
"It wouldn't be the same."
"Because you wouldn't want to do it."
"I see," she said, pondering again. She squinted at me. "I wish you were twenty. I wish you were thirty. I wish..." She stopped, searching my eyes.
I was looking down, away from her, absently toying with a wrinkle in the bedsheets. She leaned forward and forced herself into my view. "Have you made yourself cum yet?"
I blushed and shrugged.
"You haven't, have you? I took your boy but I didn't give you enough man to work with did I? And you made it so good for me."
This chat was annoying me. Talking with adults was something I never, simply never enjoyed. They had such a baffling way of complicat- ing matters. As I did with other adults when they wanted a "serious" discussion, I tried to appear unaffected. Now, as Martha Jane talked with me that night, the room seemed crowded and too small to hold the thoughts I was trying to keep from her. I felt alienated from her, especially now that she had so obviously begun her move from a teenager to a woman, a woman who worked for a paycheck, studied in a college, went out with other people her own age who lived in a world that I was totally unfamiliar with. It was an odd and unsettling sensation for me to feel that way about Martha Jane.
She went on with difficulty. "I don't know what it is we...we do to each other..." Absently she started to reach toward my thigh, but stopped. "You want *me* to ask *you* to do it?"
Still propped on my elbow, I shrugged again. "Sort of...I mean, the only time I used to know you wanted to was when you said you did."
"I...see..." she said ominously, looking at her own hands and appear- ing troubled by my reply. She rolled onto her tummy and crossed her ankles in the air behind her.
She asked, "Why did you feel so bad when you didn't find me at Woolworth's? Hm? I really want to know, Speedy. Was your mama right, were you down in the dumps all day?"
I gave shrug number one thousand or so. "I don't know," I pouted. "That was a long time ago."
"Oh, baby, that's not an answer. C'mon, talk to me."
"I don't know. I just...didn't know what else to do."
She prompted in a singsong voice, "You could have come ba-aa-ck...on a different day-y-y."
I didn't say anything. She was right, I could have gone back and looked for her again. I didn't know what she was getting at.
In the same singsong she continued: "You could have...mmm... called my mother...called my sister."
I blushed again, but I was also a little hostile. All I could do was lower my head and say, "Well...."
"Speedy, why didn't you ever call me after I left home and moved into an apartment?"
That remark left me slightly bristling. "I did call. Evelyn gave me a number. But they told me you had moved to another place."
"Why didn't you look for me again? I was very busy at first, I was so busy I didn't sleep. Half the time I'd eat breakfast or lunch walking between classes. And after a few months, I heard nothing. I said to myself, okay, so what, the kid's only ten years old, how does he know what to do? What should I expect? And I met boys, nice boys, interesting people, friends--for the first time in my life. And after a while I figured, well, he's growing, he has his own things, his own life. Maybe he doesn't want to see me, maybe he doesn't even remember who I am. We really didn't have to see each other, period. We could have just talked. We could have just said hello. We were still friends, weren't we?" She looked at me with pleading eyes. "We were so close, we had been through so much together. What happened? Why didn't I hear anything from you? Even my mother said she never saw you, not once."
I remember the day I had gone to her front door, and no one answered. Apologetically, I told her about it.
"But, Speedy, how many times did you knock on the door? How many times did you walk next door to see where I was?"
I shrugged. I didn't answer.
"Come on, how many times?"
I nodded. I held up one finger. I avoided her eyes. I was getting the point.
She repeated, angry, incredulous, "You went to my house *once*? That was it? Once?"
I nodded. I saw her anger mounting. I wanted to run away. I had never seen her angry with me. I began to shuffle around in the bed, looking for an excuse to get away and relieve the tension for a while. "I think I have to go to the--"
"No you don't, buster." She held me down by one hand, which she pressed tightly into the mattress. "Now just let me calm down a minute," she said, and she sighed two long sighs and then she let go of my hand. She closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead, and squinted. "Oh my, I have so much work to do with you! You're like a wild boy that's grown up without parents, without friends, without--" She shook her head.
Patiently, she lightly touched one of my hands. "Why didn't you fight a little for me, hon? Why didn't you try to find me? I want to know, I really do. I can get frustrated with your stubbornness and your turning away sometimes, but I can't dislike you. I like you too much. You mean too much to me. But what on earth...what was going through your strange head about me? I want to know. Can you tell me? Do you want to tell me?"
My head was bursting. My heart, too. In time I had forgotten her and had grown used to not seeing her. And now she was trying to make me depend on her all over again. I made a face at her, a silly boy's face, a creepy grin, and then a pout. I felt and acted exactly like the child that I was.
She ignored it and continued earnestly, "You would just keep looking for me in places where I'm not, wouldn't you? You would go into a room by yourself, and if I wasn't there you'd wait. And you wouldn't find me."
"I guess," I said, embarrassed that she had me pegged.
"You 'guess'...You wouldn't find me because I wouldn't be there."
She rested her chin on her hands, her elbows propped under her. Her voice became sweetly, gently prompting. "Maybe you didn't want to find me? Maybe...you wanted me to find you? Is that it? You didn't go looking for me because you wanted me to come looking for you. Because that's the way it always was, wasn't it? I had always come to you. You never had to go looking for me."
Something was welling up in me. I wasn't sure what to do about it. I tried to think up a cute, innocuous answer. But I couldn't. I was struck dumb by a sudden awareness of how well she knew me, how little I knew about myself.
"Hon?" she asked. "Isn't that what happened? Is that what I did to you?"
Silently, I cried. A big fat tear rolled out of my eye and down my cheek. I turned away from her.
She moved over to me and put her arms around my back and her cheek against my neck.
"Tell me, hon. Please tell me. What was wrong?"
"I'm sorry," I sniffed, my cheeks shiny with tears.
"No. I don't want you to be sorry. I just want you to tell me."
"But I am sorry. I got you mad at me, I did everything wrong!"
"No no no no no no, hon. Now sit up. Sit up and look at me and let's dry off this cute face and stop this, okay? See, if you hand'nt refused to talk to me, me your old tried and trusted girlfriend, we wouldn't be going through all this, would we?"
"I guess not." I wiped my nose with my t-shirt.
"Don't use your t-shirt, hon. You're so intelligent, but you can be such a mess sometimes." She wiped my eyes and face with a kleenex.
"I thought you didn't want to see me anymore."
"Sweetheart, I couldn't see you all the time, not the way I used to when I lived next door. You'll be in college one day, and just watch-- you won't speak to your folks for months at a time. Even in high school things will be different; in high school they don't have nuns who walk you to class from eight o'clock mass every day."
"But you never came around," I continued.
She grabbed my face and ogled me with mock sternness. "You see what happens when we don't have any faith, when we don't talk to each other? It got all mixed up, didn't it? Stop it, now. Stop. I want to tell you something."
"Pay attention and stop sniffing."
"Okay, okay." I said, wiping my face and eyes.
She squeezed my nose with a kleenex and kissed my ear and looked at me again. "Hon, I don't want you to grow up all by yourself like this. Are you listening to me? Do you know what I'm talking about?"
"You--?" She huffed and scratched her forehead. "Oh, you don't, do you? Oh, how can I get this through to you?"
"I'll try," I volunteered. "Go ahead. Try me."
She thought for a long time. "Do you know how much I like you, Speedy? Hm? I like you so much, it doesn't even make sense. Not to *anybody*! I don't even have anyone I can talk to about you. I don't care about them, really, or what they think. It's you I care about." She paused, raising her hands with a shrug. "If we're supposed to be 'friends', then I want you to come lookin' for *me* sometime, okay? I don't want you to grow up always thinkin' that people are always depen- dable or that they'll always be comin' to you. Sometimes you have to go out and get them. You know what I mean?"
"If you say I guess to me one more time..."
I gave her a silly, friendly smile. I had stopped crying.
"Well, I have news for you, I was really lookin' forward to seeing you today, and last week too. Now, last week we can't do anything about, that's past. But we do have today. And I'm glad to see you, and I'm worried about you because I show up and you walk away from me, into yourself. You can't keep doin' that."
She was growing a little petulant herself, nervously playing with her fingernails. "Now don't say okay, hon, if you don't really mean okay."
"Okay." I grinned.
She resisted laughing, but finally gave in to it and held her head in her hands in mock frustration, and beat the sheets with her fist again. "Stop...makin'...me...laugh!"
"So you're saying..." I pondered aloud, squinting, "you're saying I should have looked more."
"I am saying," she explained patiently, "that you have to have some faith. Not in others, in yourself. I'm saying that you're getting older now and you have to learn to start looking for--" She stopped herself, shut her eyes briefly, then lowered her voice and continued slowly, "Sometimes, I want you to come to me. I want you to learn to come to me."
"I want you to ask *me*. For a change. I want you to start it, I want you to talk to me. I don't want you to sulk away from me, or from anybody, just because they don't follow you around all day trying to figure you out. Hon, you're too sensitive. You're gonna lose sometimes, you're gonna be disappointed. But you still have to try."
"Do you really mean that?"
"Look at me. Really?"
She put her hand on my shoulder. She squinted one eye. "Listen, cowboy. I want you to mean it. I'm concerned about you, you know that? Everybody who knows you likes you, but they don't always give you everything you want. Ask for it sometime."
She threw up her hands. "Oh lord, another okay!" She rose from the bed. "Well, you're all ready to go to sleep. Maybe you can now, and you'll feel better. *I'm* going' to the bathroom." She rose and left the bedroom and disappeared again into the bathroom.
I settled down into my pillow and pondered all that she had said. It seemed sensible to me. A little too-much-grownup, I thought. But then I also knew, from all the sad grownups around me, from all that my scientifically-inclined mind had observed among the many tragedies in that housing project and in my family, I knew that I would not always be 12 years old. I would be older one day. Those who provided for me would no longer be around; certainly, I had seen this happen often enough to others. I was not ready at the time, not ready to forge that far ahead. But, I was aware, that day would come. And I did know for certain, again, that Martha Jane was my friend, not a bed partner or a playmate. If she had done some growing up, then so should I.
She shut the bathroom light and came into the hallway, but stopped there. She yawned and scratched her head.
"You ready to go sleep?"
"Yeah," I called from the bed.
She came into the bedroom and turned out the table lamp. In the dark I felt her lean toward me and kiss me on my cheek.
"G'nite, hon. I'll be in the other room if you need anything."
I didn't respond. This was not exactly what I expected.
"Okay?" she asked again.
"G'nite." The hem of her pajama legs rasped along the floor as she left the room. I heard the squeaks and rattles of the sofabed being made in the living room. Shortly after, all the lights went out.
I lay there for about fifteen minutes. I looked out the window. I kept hearing her say she wanted me to ask her first. She wanted me to come to her. I turned over and propped up on one elbow and listened. Not a sound from the other room.
Lying back down, I tried to fall asleep.
But a torrent of thoughts overpowered me, struggling mightily within my head and chest. The flood was so chaotic, I lay with my eyes tightly shut and concentrated on sorting them out. Among them was a new thought, a new impulse that rose over the others with an almost deafening voice: I wanted her. And I wanted her to want me. I wanted to make myself desirable in the ways she had talked about that night. Her words had me asking what had happened to that rebellious, independent, indefatigable 'me' of only a few years before? I realized I had changed. Had Grandpa Joe and my fussy aunts and the tough kids and the stern teachers changed me so much?
With each question came a plenitude of conflicting answers. I real- ized that I had not interacted enough with others to know how to handle myself on my own terms. I could not voice this realization so articulately at age twelve, but I could feel it. I knew that I had absorbed a great deal of information, had amassed countless observations. But I felt powerless when it came to doing something with what I knew.
I sat up in bed.
I lay down.
Sat up again.
Was she asleep? Or was she waiting?
Soon I grew impatient with wondering. I put the sheet around me (still somewhat embarrassed about all that my underwear now contained), and walked through the dark into the living room...
I walked toward the living room and stood in the doorway, allowing the sheet wrapped around me to make as much noise as it wanted, and hoping she would respond if she were awake.
Dimly across the room I saw her rise and look toward me. "Speedy?"
"Yes," I answered. "It's me."
"I thought you were going to sleep?"
"Are you awake?"
"What do you think? Of course I'm awake. I was worried about you."
I told myself: Do something, show her some fight.
In the faint light I saw a pencil on the lamp table near the door. I reached for it and held it like a cigarette, twiddling it gingerly in my fingers and puffing on it. The bedsheet wrapped around my waist and below, I walked into the middle of the room. Martha Jane had turned toward me on the sofabed and was lying on her side, staring at me quizzically.
I took a deep breath and started my act in full force. I opened with my Deep South truck driver's gruff and heavy drawl.
"Hey, bay-beh! Wonna beer?"
She smirked. On her side, she leaned on an elbow and propped her head in her hand. "Oh my, what is this strange child up to?"
Then I made the pencil a cigar, touted and flipped it one hand. and with my other hand on my hip I faked the higher-pitched, tightly clipped voice and speech of the Bowery Boys' Leo Gorcey.
"Dey call me Doubtless Dan. 'Cuz "When Dan's About, There Ain't No Doubt!'" I smugly pretended to straighten my tie. "Pahdon me, ladies, while I make myself presentable."
Then I jammed my hands deep into my pajamas' pockets, stuck out my tummy to simulate a beer-belly, put the pencil in one corner of my mouth, and rocked back and forth as I did my W.C. Fields.
"I recall when were stranded in the Andeeees. It was TERRibble, couldn't find a bottle o' booze anywherrre. Had to live on nothing but food and waterrr for tennnn daaayzz!"
Each character brought me a step or two closer to the sofabed where she still lay propped on an elbow and keeping a straight face.
Then I put one hand behind my back, pursed my lips, and at the same time raised my eyebrows and squinted my eyes--not easy to do, but it was essential for an effective Clark Gable.
"Now listen, Scarlett. I know we haven't been gettin' along, sweet-heart, so...I'll make a deal with ya. You keep the child, and the money, and the lumber company, and...I'll stay here at Tara with Ashley Wilkes."
With understated sarcasm she broke in. "Does this have an end?"
"Why, Scarlett, whenever you say."
Myself again, I dropped to my knees and my face was level with hers. "Yes, ma'am."
"Speedy...What in the world are you doing?"
"You're trying? Trying what?"
"Trying. You wanted me to try harder."
"Well...that's not *exactly* what I had in mind, angel."
"Well," I said, simply, "that's...right now, that's all I know."
"Oh," she said forgivingly. "Well then...what's next?"
"I want to kiss you."
"Yeah. Kiss me, you fool."
She looked at me blankly. Perhaps she realized, as I did, that we had never truly, romantically kissed.
I prompted, "Alright?"
"Well...sure. I guess so."
"Why wouldn't I be sure?" She frowned. "What are you going to do?"
"So kiss me."
I took a deep breath for courage. "Okay."
This was something I had not only never done, but had never imagined doing and had no idea how to go about it. I walked the short distance to her on my knees, stretched up over the edge of the sofabed, and brought my face close to hers. She appeared a little apprehensive and unsure, but she didn't flinch. A step at a time, I gently took the arm she was propped upon and laid it flat on the bed, which forced her to recline on her side. I touched her hips and nudged her to lie flat on her back, which she did, smiling indulgently and watching me closely. I leaned forward a little more and put my right hand on her cheek, then I slipped my left arm under her neck. Cradling her in the best romantic style of the movies, I held her thus and brought her a little closer to me. She adjusted herself uncomfortably and I waited until she was settled.
I looked into her eyes. At first I attempted to do this with a certain panache, or a soppy, longing Charles Boyer gaze. But her eyes and her face undid me. Immediately, I fell victim to her effect on me, and the phoney gaze disappeared. Her half-lowered eyelids, her milk-smooth, softly sculpted face, her slightly parted, expectant lips with their moist, dewy glaze, and her lucid, penetrating, expectant blue-green eyes...
All pretense disappeared. I wanted, more than anything else in the world, to give Martha Jane the kiss of her life. A real kiss. A kiss that would be uniquely me. The kiss of the century. I returned her waiting gaze with one which I'm certain must have reflected the piquant tenderness that swept over me. Gently I lowered my lips toward hers, miraculously managing on my first effort to get the interlocking tilt of our faces just right. I waited ever so momentarily before touching my mouth to hers. Then I joined our faces. Never before had my lips felt hers -- and never before had they felt anything like it! Meeting no resistance, I mouthed her gently at first, massaging my way into a complete awareness of the shape and texture of her yielding petals. Amazed, I felt her return my kiss with a slight, tentative, moist pressure against me. I settled my lips into hers until her almost imperceptible return of movements matching my own told my lips that her lips had found the most agreeable, the most telling contact. Suprised, my lips began melting into hers, into the wondrous, creamy silk of her that met my seeking mouth with a seeking of her own, which I learned to read and respond to like a mirror image of her every oral gesture. Enthralled, I allowed my lips to caress hers with slightly more pressure and a series of small, slow, ovular movements, which seemed as natural to me as breathing. She, too, returned the pressure and the movement. Enraptured, my insides sizzled as she slid one arm along and then around my should- ers. A wild hunger rose in me; but I controlled and tempered it, expressing it with my hand on the side of her face as a small caress and a tender hug, a subtle drawing of her head closer to me. Captivated, I lifted my lips only slightly and, still touching hers, I allowed mine to caress hers like a tantalizing, slippery, mothering feather. Enchanted, I felt her return the favor. Intoxicated, I moved my mouth closer again, this time with a sure but carefully restrained ardor, and simply allowed my lips to disintegrate into hers. Gently we writhed our mouths against each other for another long and nourishing moment, increasing the pressure gradually, then releasing, withdrawing with languid, reluctant slowness, until I opened my eyes and saw hers still closed, blissful, tranquil. Never had I been so close to her mouth or her face, which filled my view and shut out any and all interference from the rest of the universe. My lips were still wet with hers; my own felt hers, felt like hers; mine seemed to have disappeared, her own lips taking their place.
Gazing raptly, I stroked her cheek.
She opened her eyes sleepily. At first they were questioning, uncertain. Then she seemed to come awake and she gently pushed me away.
"Where," she asked skeptically, "did you learn to kiss like that?"
"That's the way I kiss."
"No, Speedy, nobody kisses like that. I bet you picked that up from the movies. You kissed me the way somebody like William Holden kisses."
"That," I insisted, "is the way I kiss."
"No. That's the way William Holden kisses."
"He got it from me."
"Oh...I see. Well, that's some kiss."
"Thank you." Daringly, without pause, I declared, "I wanna sleep in here."
"There's not room enough for two."
"Then, uh..." My eyes rolled as I tried to overcome this latest obstacle. "Okay, I'll have to sleep on top of you."
"That would be very uncomfortable, Mister Holden."
"Well, then...I guess we'll have to sleep in the bedroom."
She smirked. "Well, then...I guess so."
"Well, then..." I echoed, waiting.
But she didn't move. After a pause she queried me with her big, smiling, waiting eyes. "Well?" she said in a small voice.
I leaned toward her and took her free hand which rested near the edge of the sofabed. "I want you to sleep in the other room with me, because I haven't seen you in two years. And because I want the first thing I see in the morning to be you. And because I might never get the chance to do this again."
Her eyes softened. "That's better," she whispered. She tilted her head and looked at me warmly, tenderly. "That's more like what I wanted to hear you say."
Then she rose from the bed and headed straight for the bedroom in her floppy silk pajamas.
Perplexed, I rose and followed her. "Well...why didn't you tell me that's what you wanted in the first place?"
"Oh, how unromantic."
"But why didn't you just tell me?"
"Because all this time, I made it too easy for you. Because I wanted you to learn something. Because I was playing hard to get." She settled into the bed near the lamp table, lying back with her hands behind her head in the dark. "That's the way girls behave in real life, hon. They want you to figure them out."
I stood near the bed. "But why do girls have to play hard to get?"
"Because they're girls."
"But boys don't play hard to get."
"I know. They're boys."
"I see," I pondered. "So the girls play hard to get...and the boys do the getting."
In the two years that I had been away from her, I had forgotten what it was like to look down on her alluring body in the dark. As I stood watching her from the edge of the bed, it all came back. And it came back with a vengeance. I did not pause, but followed my impulse and climbed onto the bed from the foot of it, and in one smooth motion I stretched over her and lay on her, both of us fully clothed.
She smiled, opened her arms, and I snuggled into her neck.
She asked, "The lesson wasn't too hard on you, was it?"
"Did you like my Clark Gable?"
"I liked your 'you', though. And what a kisser." She hugged me.
I hugged her back. I lifted my face and looked at her. I felt it was my move. I shifted my weight to her side, letting my right arm cradle her neck. I looked down at her breasts. Her nipples stood out tautly under the cloth of the pajamas. They were different now, less girlish, more womanly. Or perhaps I was two years older, had new juices flowing from my glands, and saw her differently. I lifted my hand to her right nipple and with two fingers cradled and squeezed it gently over the cloth. She shifted slightly, leaning into me. She watched my fingers, then she watched me. I allowed my hands to sweep across her chest, down her tummy, around to her hip. She felt different; more firm, more sleek, more smoothly sculptured. At the crotch of her pajamas the shape of her tuft and mound were revealed in sharp relief. She had lost some baby fat; her mound was more distinct, more feminine, its contours more erotically enticing.
With my hand I covered the gentle swell between her legs. Right away I realized she wore nothing underneath. I felt her heat. Her tuft was thicker now, crisper. I made a small circle on her cunt with my palm, which could feel where her thick outer lips gently folded in and parted. As I continued circling, I felt her hand go to the slit in my underwear. With three fingers she formed a cone with which she lightly enclosed the outline of my tip. Cupping it, she squeezed almost imperceptively, with a slow rhythm. I felt an incredible itch that ran the length of my cock.
As I caressed her over her pajamas her thighs parted. I looked at her. "Feels different with clothes on," I whispered.
She nodded lazily, slipping her lower lip naughtily under her teeth.
"Feel good?" I whispered, smiling.
Her eyes narrowed. She nodded slowly again.
I rubbed her another moment until I sensed moisture in the cloth under my hand. Her slit had widened. And my erection was underway. I searched her darkening eyes. "Do you think it would still feel good to fingerfuck you like I used to?"
She shrugged. "I guess," she said, grinning impudently.
I sighed a little laugh at her joke. I lay down flat, lifted my hips, and pulled off my underwear, flipping it onto the floor at the foot of the bed. I had expected she would take a while to unbutton her pajama top, but she sat up and grabbed the hem of the shirt and pulled it over her head and off, like a sweater. She lay down and arched and pulled off her bottoms.
She was nubile and naked. She was beautiful. Her pubic patch had indeed thickened and darkened and extended below the top of her slit. Her nipples were larger and a darker pink. As soon as I saw her I realized I would have to learn about her all over again.
Settling on one elbow I carefully fondled her outer fold, which was already slick and blossoming open to invite my finger's search for her clit. When I found it she swallowed and her staring eyes softened. I began to stroke her nub in slow tiny circles. Immediately it began to lubricate and stiffen, and her long thighs drifted apart...
She whispered, "Yes..."
With her fingers she formed a small cone around my tip again, then she found I was hard. Her fingers searched, finding that I had smooth curls now instead of fuzz, and she investigated my balls and my hardening shaft, then enclosed me, gripped, squeezed up. Her fingers found pre-cum at my tip.
"Speedy," she whispered.
I looked at her. "Hmm?"
"Your not a baby anymore, hon," she whispered, circling my corona with a wet finger. She shook her head and smiled, repeating to herself, "Not a baby anymore..."
"Let's do this for a while," I whispered. "Just this. Okay?"
"Yes." She swallowed again. For a while we silently enjoyed touching and stroking each other with no particular goal in mind other than pleasing ourselves and discovering all the things about us that had changed.
As we touched and played we talked. I told her about the plays I'd done, how movies and photography had captured so much of my life. She told of her classes, her work, what she had learned.
I didn't entirely take the lead; I didn't yet know how. But I was not as passive as in the past. I marveled at how she had grown so lithe and graceful. She marveled at my new shoulders, my well-formed thighs, my growing cock, and the hair appearing on my legs, chest, and groin. As the night wore on we became alternately playful and serious, lewd and virginal. I can't remember all of it. Very often I try to, but it all gets jumbled. Our old devils had entered the dark room and overpowered everything and everyone in it. For a while during that night, each of us appeared to be trying to see who could bring out the deepest sensuality in the other, who could come up with the naughtiest turn-on, who could make the most endearing gesture. We shut out the narrow world and the narrow people around us, and the world inside the room expanded. At one point she sat up and watched and held her pussy open while I licked her. Then again, I stood up and watched her suck me as she lay across the bed, having to make her stop sucking early because my larger cock could now feel more of her knowing mouth and tongue. She would stop now and then to play with my balls and ask if it felt good. Then I lay on the bed and she held onto the headboard while she hovered over my face and gave me detailed licking instructions until she almost came. She stopped, not wanting to end it yet. We lay down and hugged for a while and then began masturbating each other again. Our devils seethed out of us in a slow but steadily mounting stream. We remained gentle, held back by some subtle self-imposed constraint that would not let us take anything too far too quickly. We would hold ourselves at an intense edge, as if what we needed and what we felt could be dealt with and satisfied only by its own intensity and its own fire, one step at a time.
Because it had been so long since I had been touched or excited, the nature of my arousal was new to me. For the first time I felt a tightness and a pain in my balls that was not there before. I became more aware of our physicality together, and understood more fully the mysteries and the implications of what we were doing.
I knelt on my knees over her, while she lay flat and sucked me.
"You're dripping," she said. She touched my tip to one nipple and rolled a finger round the sticky fluid I left there. "You know that? You're dripping a lot."
"You're making more cum, hon. Do your balls feel tight?"
"Yeah, they're...very tight."
She grinned with delight and expectation. "Maybe you'll cum. You've never cum, have you?"
"I don't...I don't really know."
"You're so much bigger and hotter than you ever were." She gently touched and squeezed beneath my balls. "Does that hurt?"
"A little. Yeah, It's...feels kinda sore."
"Even when I touch just a little, like that?"
"Oh, Speedy," she said, laughing to herself. "I think we have an opportunity here that we shouldn't pass up. Be honest. You never came before? Not even by yourself?"
I shook my head. "I never tried it. Other boys told me they did, but...I didn't see how doing it by yourself could be much fun." I looked down at her hand and the amount of fluid she had drawn from me. "Maybe...I could cum."
"What happens? I mean, how will I know?"
"You'll know, hon."
"Do you want to fuck and see if you'll cum?"
I nodded. "We haven't fucked in a long time...Yes."
"Then I hope..." She stopped. "Never mind," she said, shifting her torso higher in the bed and then leaning back into the pillows. She was long and the color of the dim moonlight. She raised her knees a little so her trim thighs could fall apart and spread wide, and then reached down and held her cunt open for me. "Fuck me, hon."
I lay on her, feeling physically larger than I remembered. This made her seem smaller to me, more delicate. Certainly, my erection was larger than it had ever been. I propped myself on my arms and my toes, looking down as I aimed my new hardness at her dark core. My tip could feel her wet outer lips, a feeling that had not occurred with such clarity in the past, and I paused there, unable to prevent a sharp intake of breath at the surprising intensity of this sensation.
"Yeah?" she whispered. "Feel me?"
I smiled and breathed hard and nodded. "Wet me."
She knew what I meant. It meant that I held my erection at the mouth of her cunt, the tip barely inside her, while she made small circles with her hips, bathing my glans with the tight ring around her opening. From the first moment, I felt a twinge that told me this was different from the way it had been before. I was pain- fully and frighteningly aware of the thin slippery skin of her inner lips moving on me.
My arms trembled a little, and despite my effort to remain calm I felt a rush of adrenalin that demanded more air in my lungs. I heard my breathing quicken and wobble nervously.
"Feel me on your tip? Feel me moving?"
"Yes, it feels...different...very strange...very nice."
"Keep doin' it," I said, and she did. Her movements were slight, just enough to keep the sensation going. I could feel myself getting bigger and stiffer. Very slowly I began to move forward as she maintained her movement. I gradually moved deeper into her, hearing her whispers: "Let it go in me, let it go in... slow, slow. I want us both to feel all of you..."
I bent down to watch. "It feels so good going in..."
"Feels good for me too, hon. Ah."
Very gradually I slid all the way in and could feel her muscles rolling around my length. "Oh," I gasped, and my head fell back involuntarily. My dick arched blissfully at the sensation of being warmly gloved in the new world of her syrupy, finely textured inner self. Feeling this was quite a surprise, and quite alarming; I felt something beyond me was threatening to take control.
Trying to slow the whirl a bit, I pulled out just as slowly. She kept up the gentle grind. Again I moved forward, still gradually, but this time without pause, going all the way into her. With a soft hiss she took in a long slow breath that she let out as a hotly whispered "Ahhhh" just as I my entire length settled in her.
"Speedy," she whispered, "you're bigger now. I've never felt so much of you inside me."
I forced myself to pause, to adjust my outspread arms and give myself time to absorb what was happening. There was more of me down there now, more flesh, more nerves, more to feel her with. Shakily I began to ascertain the texture and narrow shape of her inner cunt. I was fully, warmly, snugly encased. It was almost entirely new, as if I'd never ventured there before. Despite my best mental efforts at wanting to stop until I figured out what was going on, I began to slide in her, still remaining deep, adjusting my angle so that I sensed the familiar nudge of her clit against my shaft.
"Ah, hon...you still know how."
I looked at her, her eyes gleaming with what seemed an almost painful pleasure. She looked as if she might cry at any moment. She fucked with her cunt and her eyes and her breath.
"Is that okay?", I asked, grinning and pumping.
She hissed, "Yes! It's just right. Just right."
I began stroking her more deeply and purposefully. An animalistic urge welled up. The purely physical began to assert itself, eroding my resistance move by move. I wondered, if I really wanted to stop, whether or not I could. For the moment, I couldn't.
After a few strokes she whispered breathlessly, "Go all the way in me, all the way...Yes, hold it there...like that, yes. Be still a minute. Let me milk you inside me." She ground her belly against me, her inner flesh softly wringing my entire length.
My head snapped back again, then fell forward. I moaned, I moaned again. I looked down at her.
She was smiling at me, her eyes half-closed with lust. "Like it?"
"It's wonderful...your cunt feels so good..."
"Getting closer, hon? Does it make you want to cum?"
"I don't...I don't want to yet. It feels too good."
"I like making you feel good...I missed this, I missed you...I want to make it so good for you, the way you always did for me."
Alarmed by a sudden and overpowering surge of pleasure, I pulled out slightly. "Wait," I panted. "Wait a second."
She slowed and stopped. She, too, was a little out of breath. "Are you okay?"
"Just rest a minute." It wasn't merely the physical sensations I was resisting. It was something else--new, unfamiliar, otherworldly. I felt I might be in better control of myself if I did the moving while she lay back and enjoy it.
I finally regained some of my air and composure. "Let me move in you, now, for a while."
We both looked down and watched as I stroked steadily and deeply. I felt that if I went too fast it would end too soon. My existence centered more and more tightly on Martha Jane's wet and sweetly enclosing nether-mouth and her spread thighs and her whispers and irregular gasps. The itch in my loins spread to my thighs; my strokes into her became less controlled, more self-driven. I could feel my glans warming inside her. The something new and wonderful that I held back kept licking at me from somewhere behind my brain.
After many, many strokes I looked down. I could not wrest my eyes from what I saw. She was looking straight into me as I looked deeply into her. I could tell by her taut neck and the force of her inner spasms that she was starting to cum.
"Don't stop...," she uttered, hardly able to move her mouth. Her eyes and face were alive with pleasure. She swallowed, she even seemed to try to stop her cumming and she did not want to look away as she usually did; cumming or not, she seemed determined to stay in touch with what was happening to me. Her neck was very taut. She gradually stiffened under me. She smiled, wild-eyed and holding her breath. She was no longer undulating under me. I kept fucking with the same rhythm while the dimming light in her eyes signaled that she was sinking deeper and deeper, and then she was entirely still for several seconds, during which her channel tightened on me several times. I was growing incredibly excited. Her face and eyes were locked in a joyful stare, and I fucked her eyes with mine. I wanted to intensify her pleasure and her lust with words, the same way she always intensified mine, and so in the middle of her cumming I bent down and uttered "fuck" against her lips. Immediately she whimpered and then uttered that wordless cumming sound that she made in her mouth somewhere and her cunt clutched, the tendons in her neck bulged and pulsed. I whispered, "I feel you cumming," and her eyes widened for a second and seemed completely unfocused; and then with a long sigh she gradually relaxed, and then jerked and made a little whimper deep in her neck, then shut her eyes tight and let go of my arms which she had gripped so tightly with her nails, and she let her head fall back and gasped, "Oh!" and quickly caught her breath, wiping an arm across her brow; and then holding onto my arms again and returning her eyes and her face and her attention to me, she began again her smooth undulations beneath me. Her half-closed eyes glued themselves to mine as if she wanted to miss nothing that might happen while I was in the grip of my new and (to me) almost terrifying pleasure.
"Keep fuckin', hon."
"It's gettin' better," I whispered, growing breathless again.
Her eyes widened eagerly. "Yeah?"
"It's getting..." I could not describe it.
Seeing me without words, she began a mothering croon. "It's okay, hon...Just feel it. Enjoy it..."
"It's okay. Don't stop, it's okay." As I moved on her she reached up a gentle hand and stroked the back of my neck. "Let it happen."
My strokes became more deliberate, deeper, stronger. It was a strength I'd never felt before. I didn't direct it, it directed me. I didn't move faster, but I moved with more urgency. My swelling cock sought more of her. It raced out ahead of my mind, which seemed to keep falling farther and farther back, outraced by everything else.
"Ready...?" she asked. She could hardly talk. And I couldn't speak at all. Uncertain of losing myself so completely, I clung desperately to her eyes for safety. An incredible fullness welled up in my balls, along with a wave of electrifying, undiluted lust.
She whispered, waiting, "You're so hard in me..."
She reached down between us and lightly wrapped two small fingers around the base of my cock. Her touch was all I could stand. Something told me, then, that I was lost and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about.
Apparently she knew, as her fingers at my root must have sent the signals of my first penile throbs. I didn't think her lewd grin could get wider, but somehow it did, and her eyebrows raised in wonder, delight, victory, as she watched my face.
"Yeah. Yeah, you're gonna cum. Cum in me."
All I could say was, "Oh, I'm..."
She raised her eyebrows again. "Ah, it's starting--"
Her cunt sucked at my tip. It tickled intensely, insanely. Her circling hips slid her inner walls against the swollen underside of my exulting cock, which took over completely. My body lurched and, utterly surprised, I felt the eerie, uncontrollable twist of unknown tubes in my lower gut that writhed and spewed the first of my life's cum inside her. My dick pumped into the splash.
A low, gutsy moan oozed out of me.
She wept happily, "Yes, baby...Yes!"
An onslaught of pleasure gripped me. The universe shrank into a dot inside of which there was only my wildly twitching cock and her begging cunt. All I could do was groan and spurt again, spurt twice, three times, rapidly, wetly, violently. Her face flooded with joy as she watched me through slitted eyes. I heard only her loving chant, "Cum... ahhh, so warm...cum..."
I was no longer fucking--I rutted, blind. More streams of me leapt from the slit in my tip that wetly scraped her hugging walls. Soon I began to slump under a final wave of bliss and the rest of me slurped into her, into her eyes and her voice, her nipples and her squirming belly, her spread thighs and her auburn tuft, as the last remnants of my virginity disappeared forever into the hot, wet, sweet depths of Martha Jane.
Once finished, I quivered above her, exhausted. I was com- pletely out of breath, out of strength, out of cum, out of my mind. But she wouldn't let me have air; she grabbed me by the neck and pulled me down to her. She held me so tightly I couldn't breathe. I didn't care. I couldn't hold her tightly enough. If I had died, it was fine with me. My young dick still throbbed, and she answered the throbs with a low chuckle and a tightening of her inner muscles. The fingers she had used to make the small but catalytic ring around my base were now pulling on my dick as I softened. With half my length still inside her she whispered hotly, "Get it all in me" and firmly wrung me dry. "All of it..."
I could only murmur into her breasts. "Oh...so good! Whew!"
"I know, honey. I know."
I could only think to myself: I am out of control. I'm completely out of control. I am going to hell. It's so good and we both like it so much that it has to be a sin. I'm Adam in the Garden of Eden and I've taken deeply, enjoyably of the apple. Everything is different now, forever.
I raised up to look at her face. She smiled at me, and then pouted, and then blushed, and then one of her eyes squeezed out a large tear. "Oh, baby, you came inside me. Oh...oh, I didn't think I'd..." She wiped the tear away, quickly, and sniffed. I kissed her wet cheek, and she pulled me to her with a strong hug.
She sniffed again, holding me to her. "I'm so happy for you. You feel so warm in me."
I whispered against her flesh, "It was soo good."
She tightened her hug, still panting. "I know, hon. Oh, I know." She gave a little laugh. "Will you still respect me in the morning?"
I nodded against her.
She hugged me, held me. Soon we were calm. She stroked my hair. She asked, "How do you feel, hon?"
"I am..." I gulped. "Am I going to go to hell?"
"We are both going to hell, hon." Slowly she shook her head back and forth against mine, murmuring sleepily, "But I can't help it."