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Once again they parked beneath the shade of the three-car porte-cochere. They went up to ring the doorbell. Jamie answered. Her smile told them they were most welcome.
"Hi guys," she said. "I"m glad you came. Come in."
After carefully wiping their feet on the mat, the boys moved past her into the wide entry hall, which was well-lit by recessed wall lighting and an eight-feet-square skylight.
Jamie was dressed in a short, white lounging jacket. She didn't appear to have anything on beneath the jacket. More as a plea than as a question, she asked them if they would like to go for a swim.
Sure," said Linc. "Where's Pete?"
She rolled her brown eyes and said, "He said to tell you he'd be joining us later--and that's just how he put it, too: he said 'joining.' Pete can be a little stiff sometimes, but he can also be a very accommodating host." She smiled up at Linc. '"So, do you need to borrow some trunks, or are you going to swim as you are?" She looked at their jeans doubtfully. Dan told her they had their cutoffs in the car.
You can get dressed in there," she said, indicating a powder room. "I'll be out by the pool. You can join me when you change."
Dan went and fetched their shorts from the car. The boys took turns changing, and then they wandered through the confusing, brightly lit house until they discovered a way out to the swimming pool. It lay just beyond the wide patio doors in the television-viewing room.
The pool was oval in shape, scalloped at one end, and of Olympic dimensions. There was also a round wading pool of twelve feet in diameter. There was a tall stand of shrubbery, unbroken but for an opening which led to steps going all the way down to Pete's dock, providing complete privacy for sunbathers. The lawn was of Bermuda grass, closely trimmed and lush. There was eight feet of concrete around the pools, conforming to their shapes, with inlaid medallions of grinning, blue dolphins placed haphazardly all throughout the concrete, lending a distinct maritime touch to the overall effect. This would be a perfect oasis for the three youngsters.
Jamie was seated in a deck chair near the edge of the pool. The boys ran past her and dived into the cool, blue pool.
After splashing around a bit, as children are wont to do, Linc swam over near Jamie and asked her if she would be joining them. She wore a broad-brimmed straw hat and knew that it suited her well. She rose up out of her chair, tested the water with a pretty toe, and then unsashed her lounging jacket and let it fall to the ground before Linc, revealing the tiny, baby-blue bikini she wore. She stretched her perfect form a bit, a bored look on her face, sat back down, and said, "I think I'll just be lifeguard."
She gazed out over the water, allowing Linc the opportunity of admiring her. Unlike the skin of a lot of girls with dark suntans, Jamie's was smooth and soft looking, inviting a caress. Linc wanted to do just that. He told her to come on in, because the water was fine.
"No," she said, not even favoring him with a glance. "You children are only seventeen, so you need a lifeguard. After all, rules are rules." She pulled the brim of her hat down low over her eyes and feigned sleep.
Some lifeguard, thought Linc. He told her to suit herself. He pushed with his feet off the side of the pool and began floating on his back toward the center of the pool. He looked in every direction save Jamie's. Eventually he bumped into Dan, who was treading water with his back toward him. "Says she's not coming in," said Linc.
"The landlubber," said Dan.
"Just another classic case of a girl playing hard-to-get. Let's just ignore her, Dan; she'll be in the water soon enough."
"We'll give her the old S.T."
"Yeah. The old silent treatment always works best on a girl who wants to be the center of attention. We'll just keep our backs to her and pretend we're having a conversation that she's not allowed to be in on."
"All right," Dan agreed. "But let's laugh a lot so she doesn't think it's a boring conversation. If she thinks we're just boring each other, I don't think she'll care one way or another about being left out of it."
"Whatever, Dan. Just make sure you don't look in her direction."
"After the way I saw her yesterday, I don't care anything about seeing her all trussed up in that bathrobe, or whatever that is she has on."
"No, Daniel--steady now--she took it off and had a bikini on under there."
Instinctively, Dan turned for a quick look; but Linc was quicker, and he stopped Dan by grabbing his shoulders, fixing his attention.
"Listen," said Linc, "it's my turn today. You had her yesterday."
"Okay, okay," said Dan, wanting to be fair; besides, he was still smitten with his barber.
"All right, now, just pretend like we're talking," whispered Linc.
The boys moved closer together.
"Ha! Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho! Ho!" boomed Dan, pretending to be laughing hysterically.
Well, Linc thought that sounded really stupid. He wondered what had got into Dan. "What in the hell was that?" he whispered firmly.
"I'm trying to make her wonder what we're laughing at."
"Oh, yeah, that sounded real natural, Dan. Now cut it out! No more of that fake laughing. She's gonna think we're idiots!"
"Let me try it one more time. I'll make it sound like you just said the funniest thing I ever heard."
"Oh, all right," said Linc, sneaking one sidelong look at Jamie, who wasn't paying the boys any notice. "But it better be good. Try not to make it sound so forced. Try to make it sound real natural."
"I'll try. . . . Listen to this." Dan leaned his head back and then thrust it forward, crying, "Hee! Hee! Hee! Haw! Haw! Haw!"
"Oh, great, Dan--just like a damn donkey! I swear I should drown you, just dunk you right under. What's the matter with you? What are you thinking?"
"I promise I thought that would sound good, Linc. Try it yourself if you didn't like it."
Linc thought about that for a moment, and he decided the cause was lost if he didn't do something. He decided to try it. "Ha! Ha! Ha!" he began, and then, seeing the ridiculousness of the situation, he nearly drowned in a fit of genuine laughter.
"What's so funny out there?" Jamie called out, raising her voice just enough that it might carry across the water.
The boys ignored her, Dan innocently gazing skyward, studying intently the few wisps of fleeting clouds. But for the sound of the water dripping off the boys' bodies and into the pool, silence reigned.
"I asked what's so funny out there?" she repeated, hoping that, instead of ignoring her, they hadn't heard her the first time.
Linc's scheme had worked. For the moment, the lifeguard wanted to be part of whatever was going on out in the swimming pool.
"Just guy talk," said Linc, too noble a beast to go on ignoring her, certain he was on the verge of reeling her in.
Then Dan pitched in: "Just a lot of really interesting conversation. Nothing you need to worry yourself with."
She said, "I wish you two would include me. I never get to talk to anybody my own age. . . ." Her voice trailed away as if it had been a tremendous exertion to reveal to them her feelings.
Ah, so now we're the same age, thought Linc. The boys turned around to look at her. She wasn't looking at them. She was looking down at the concrete beneath her feet. And then, as if in retaliation for its laughing at her, she stomped down on one of the playful, smiling dolphins inlaid just before her on the ground, sending the tiny puddle of water that had gathered there radiating in all directions. She looked sad and lonely. The boys then turned to each other as if to acknowledge the sweet sadness in her request. Both of them charmed, they swam over to her, Dan beating Linc.
They hoisted themselves out of the pool. They dripped past Jamie and, with Dan pushing and Linc pulling, moved a sturdy cast-iron table to where Jamie sat. Then they dragged up a couple of chairs so the three of them could sit together. Her gloom notwithstanding, Jamie looked more appealing than ever. She had taken off her hat and begun to brush out her lovely black hair, the sun lighting it in places, giving it a metallic sheen.
"I'm sorry if we were rude, Jamie," said Linc. "We were only messing around."
"Well, I had it coming; I was pretty smart to you earlier with that lifeguard stuff," she said.
"Are things not too great with old Pete?" asked Dan. "Don't you like it here?"
She crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. She said, "Pete's real sweet, but he's so . . . ancient. All he does is work. He works, and I get stuck here all by myself. I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of things.Feel like, that's a laugh--I know I am." She looked thoughtful and gazed out over the swimming pool just in time to see a dragonfly dip at the water; it then darted for the edge of the pool and lit there for a second before disappearing far up over the house. Then it, or one identical to it, was back in seconds, sizing up the pool ladder, only to disappear once more beyond the hedges.
"Like what?" asked Linc. "What have you missed out on?"
"Like, for instance, the way you two are going to graduate tonight," she said.
"That's nothing, Jamie," said Linc. "I don't even want to go. I'm just going so I can watch Dan here graduate." He slapped his friend on the back.
"But that's just the point," asserted Jamie. "Maybe the idea of graduating doesn't mean that much to you now, but at least you have the opportunity to do something now that you might look back fondly on when you're . . . when you're Pete's age. You might come to appreciate it, I guess that's what I mean to say. My own opportunities have been pretty scarce lately. I've missed out on so much."
"I see what you're saying," said Linc. "But if millions of people graduate every year, how can it be so important? What's the big deal if so many others do it?"
"But millions of people fall in love, get married, and have babies every year, too. Don't you think those things are important?"
"I'm not so sure," said Linc. "More important than graduation, I guess. But if so many people are doing it, I don't see how it can be such a big deal."
Dan asked her what else she had missed out on.
After thinking a moment, she said, "My sixteenth and seventeenth years. Now that I look back on it, it was like being a prisoner. Since I was still jailbait, I never got to set foot out of this place--I mean never, except maybe to go see my parents or, maybe once every couple of months, to go out driving late at night with Pete. It turned him on to be taking the risk of driving me around, knowing he was liable to be caught with me at any minute. He made me ride around wearing nothing but my panties and a tee shirt."
Linc's stomach recoiled at the thought of someone having a girl do something like that. He felt it was an adult's duty to look out for children. "Old Pete is an old pervert," he said.
"At the very least," said Dan.
"Don't get me wrong," she said, "I love Pete to death. I'm just ready to get out of his castle," she added, turning in her chair for a look at the big house.
"Won't the old grimsir let you leave?" asked Dan.
"I'm sure he would. I don't want to hurt his feelings, though, so I'm afraid to ask. . . ." Her voice trailed off. After a quiet moment she said, "You two get back in the pool. I'm tired of talking." She folded up her legs beneath her in the chair, plopped her hat back on, pulling the brim down low over her eyes, and bowed her head. She was like a startled turtle drawing in her exposed appendages, presenting to the world an impenetrable carapace.
"I said get away!" she fumed, lifting her head just enough to show her flashing eyes, still obvious to all, though in the shadow the hat provided. "You kids don't know anything."
A depressed air fell across the poolside. Linc knew enough not to bother her any more. He pointed out to Dan that it was very hot, and that it wasn't a bad idea to go cool off in the pool.
Dan would have liked to have come up with something soothing to say to her, for even he was touched, but he settled on: "Let us know if you need us, Jamie." Then he reluctantly followed Linc, who had already jumped back into the pool. Jamie hadn't replied. She sat unmoving, gazing between her knees.
The boys floated for several minutes until they heard Jamie say: "Oh, Linc Lebeau." She let the last syllable of his name sound until he turned around and looked at her.
She was sitting on the edge of the pool, dangling her feet in the water. She leaned over and took handfuls of water and let them splash over her trim thighs. Now hatless, she glanced up at the boys.
Dan said, "I think she wants you, Lincoln."
Linc didn't need Dan to tell him that. He swam over to her, his blood alive in his veins.
When he reached her, she said, "I'm sorry everything got so serious back there." She smiled down at him and reached for more cooling water.
He didn't respond. Pretending not to know what it was doing to Linc, she continued to douse her thighs.
"You're a pretty one, Linc. Do you think I'm pretty?"
Still no response. He only watched her glistening thighs.
"Come closer, Linc Lebeau."
He took one swimming step forward. She leaned over and took his wrists and then placed his hands on her thighs. The heat around the pool was stifling; all was glare and closeness.
She slid down into the pool and was held fast by two strong arms. He thrilled to the touch of her sleek, willing body. She rolled down her bikini bottoms and then wriggled out of them.
Since the pool was six feet deep all around, they were unable to do what they wanted. Jamie went up the ladder with Linc close at her heels. She found her towel and placed it down in the closely cropped grass. That was all Jamie knew any more: some ephemeral moments of pleasure punctuating the repetitious tale of her life.
Dan was oblivious of the two and had begun a series of rather amateurish dives from the side of the pool. (The shallow depth of the pool made it impossible to have a diving board.)
"Hey, Linc," he yelled, "CANNONBALL!" Just before hitting the water, he lost his grip around his knees, resulting in a clumsy effort.
Undeterred, he climbed out of the pool and yelled, "All eyes on the high diving board. Daniel Blair is readying himself for a daring jack-knife. I must ask you all to remain completely silent. You, down in front--quiet, please."
Unsure exactly how to execute the maneuver, he simply jumped as high as he could and made a scissors motion with his legs. Once in the water, and for effect, he stayed submerged for as long as he could hold his breath, then broke the surface, gasping: "He's all right! The lad's all right! And I see the scorers have given him ten's all 'round. A perfect score! Good show, lad! Splendid really!"
Though Linc was vaguely aware Dan was making his usual amount of noise, he and Jamie never even acknowledged him. The two of them were better occupied.
Dan did several more "dives," making up names for them as he went along. He still hadn't looked in Jamie and Linc's direction. Because he had so many opportunities, being alone so much of the time, Dan had a knack for amusing himself. He was having a jolly time.
Finally, after one particularly taxing effort, Dan stood breathing hard beside the pool. He leaned over, resting his hands upon his knees. When he had his wind, he walked back over to the others.
"Y'all didn't see any of that, did you?" he said disgustedly.
"Huh? What is it, Dan? said Linc. "Leave us alone."
Dan dragged a chair over beside them. He sat down next to them and looked out over the pool. Linc and Jamie were not disturbed.
A voice: "Aren't some of us busy?"
It was Pete. He stood there with a bottle of tequila in his hand, empty but for one last mouthful. He tilted the bottle to the sunny heavens and drowned that last gulp. He wiped with his free hand his lips and let the bottle drop to the grass behind Linc and Jamie. He then let out a loud war whoop and mumbled something incomprehensible about being left out of the party.
Linc had quickly removed himself from Jamie. Jamie remained as she had been: supine, unflustered.
Dan said, "Where have you been keeping yourself, Pete? You drink all that?"
"I wanted to allow Linc his turn with my girl. Just a bit of unfinished business from yesterday. Oh, but then I changed my mind. I've been observing the two of them from that window," he said, indicating a window behind where Jamie lay. "And yes, I drank all that . . . but not in one sitting. . . . No, I only drank most of it today. I wanted to get myself into a festive party mood."
"Me, too," said Dan. "I sat up close, though."
Then, addressing Linc, Pete said, "Isn't she incredible? Have you ever had a lay like that?"
He dropped to his knees and grabbed the bottle. He tilted it back and waited for the final drop to reach his tongue.
"No, he hasn't," said Dan, answering for his friend.
"Only eighteen, too, and she can't get her fill. Just look at her," said Pete, "she hasn't even broken a sweat."
And she hadn't. She lay on her back, breathing easily.
Dan said, "Pete, you're an old pervert."
Pete didn't answer; he just kept ogling the reclining girl. Yes," he said finally, slurringly.
Linc was sitting bare-assed on the lawn. He put his back to the others and pulled on his cutoffs. Then, red-faced, he sat back down on the grass.
"That was a real pretty picture, Linc," said Dan. "We all appreciate you showing it to us."
The four of them sat together on the grass. Taking her cue from Linc, Jamie had put on her bikini bottoms. She left her chest bare, however, and lay back on her elbows.
Dan said, "This is a pretty nice lifestyle you have here, Pete."
"It does have its advantages," said Pete, crawling on hands and knees over to Jamie and beginning to rub her shoulders. "What am I bid for my girl?" he asked. He kissed the side of her neck. "Any bids?"
"My firstborn," said Dan.
"You talk too much," said Jamie to Dan. She didn't like whatever this show was Pete was putting on for the boys; she didn't want Dan to encourage him any further.
"And bid too little," said Pete. "Come now, how much? I invite you both to have a closer look at this heavenly child's flesh. Only serious bids will be considered."
Linc felt his stomach turn. It was the same feeling he had experienced when Jamie told him about the pleasure Pete derived from driving her around half naked. "It's not funny," he said softly, uncomfortably.
"I think it's hilarious, Linc," said Pete. He then let out a mad howl, causing even Jamie to look at him questionably as to where this unusual behavior was leading. And it was unusual behavior. Pete had always had the mildest, often downright gentlemanly, of temperaments.
"She's not just some piece of meat," said Linc, summoning great self-restraint to keep his cool.
"No, she's not. She's the choicest cut of meat: juicy and delicious," said Pete. Then, moving his hands around to Jamie's breasts and beginning to touch them, he added, "But what's more, she's fresh."
Linc wasn't sure whether or not Pete was egging him on, so he said nothing, hoping for a quick end to the strange conversation.
"No takers?" said Pete. "Is there not a testicle between you?"
There was a moment of silence until Dan said, "I believe I've made the highest bid."
"So you have," said Pete. He stood up, groggily, looking down at the girl. "Will you have this lad, Jamie?"
Mechanically, Jamie lowered her bikini panties halfway down her thighs; she then spread her legs apart as far as the panties would allow.
Breathlessly, Pete said, "Take your prize, young man."
Dan located his zipper and then moved toward the beauty.
"Leave her alone, Dan," said Linc, barely audibly, his disgust now divisible between Dan and Pete.
Ignoring or not hearing Linc, Dan tugged at the panties. Linc was quickly behind his friend and, taking him by the shoulder, said, "Let's get out of here, Dan."
"What the hell!" growled Dan. Then, turning and looking into Linc's eyes, he saw the familiar expression that told him: I know better than you in this, Daniel. That was all Dan needed to see. He immediately stood up and said, "Let's go."
Linc asked the surprised Jamie if she would be all right.
"Thanks, Linc . . . yes," she said.
He then turned to Pete and said, "You're just drunk, right, Pete? There's not gonna be any trouble after we leave here, right?"
Pete stood there silently. He was feeling terribly guilty about how he had just treated Jamie. He had never treated her with disrespect that hadn't been part of some scripted charade designed to entertain their guests. He looked pitiful, like a child who had no one show up for his birthday party.
"Pete?" said Linc.
Pete sighed. "I would never lay a hand on Jamie," he mumbled.
Linc said, "I'm glad, because she's a friend of mine. Why don't you go on in and drink some coffee, Pete? Sober up."
Pete turned without another word, fell once more to his knees, and gathered up his bottle. He wanted to leave no reminder of what had passed before. He struggled to his feet and went back inside the house.
Linc asked once more if Jamie would be all right. She insisted that she would, and that Pete had never before given her reason to fear him.
Dan and Linc went back into the house. They found their clothes and walked in their wet cutoffs out to Linc's car.
Completely unaffected by the late events, Dan said, "Hey, Linc, I forgot to tell you about Bully Biggs."
"You told me. Big deal. He didn't recognize you. So what?" Linc was short with his response.
"No, man, I saw him again after that."
"You did? When?"
"While I was signing the kids' books. He busted me on the chin--and man, I flew over my chair! I thought he killed me."
"So what happened after that?"
"You know me, Linc: as soon as he had his back to me, I hit him with my chair. I just laid him out as smooth as anything. Boy, you should've seen that lard butt fall like I'd clouted him with a pole axe."
"How did he like that?"
"Not much, probably. I didn't stick around to find out."
"Sorry I left early, Dan, I had to--"
"Hold on, Linc. That's only the first of it. When I was in bed, he came tapping at my window. I thought it was you out there, so I opened up the window to tell you to get lost or drop dead, one of those; but when I stuck my head out the window, he grabbed me by the wrists and pulled me clear through. Man, he nearly pulled my damn arms off!"
"How'd it feel?"
"Not too great. How do you think it felt?"
"So, then what?"
"Then I called him a sonuvabitch--and man, I was ready to fight!"
"Were there any chairs handy?"
"Not a one."
"So he didn't want to fight! He told me I have guts. It was the damnedest thing. I think we're friends now. I think he loves me."
"Have you two picked out the rings yet?"
"Only window shopping, so far."
Linc laughed. After a moment he said, "Hey, if you were in bed, that means you didn't have any clothes on, doesn't it?"
"Not a stitch. Even my loins were in the buck."
"I've always told you that something like that would happen some day, Dan."
"And I've learned my lesson, too: no more sleeping in the nude for Danny Blair."
"Well, at least something came out of it."
"Guess so. Hey, let's go get a burger: I've got to be fed."
Linc was hungry, too. The big cookout at Pete's had never come about as promised. He
reflected on what might be going on back there at Pete's. Nothing, he concluded, hoped. No, as
Pete had said, he would never lay a hand on Jamie. Linc would try to get himself into a
Continue . . .
All text copyright John T. 1995-Present. All rights reserved.