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HEART A movies Shannon was but the


"Heart Ball 1-4" (mf pett rom MF cons m-solo f-solo toys)

IF YOU ARE UNDER THE AGE OF 18, or otherwise forbidden by law to
read electronically transmitted erotic material, please go do
something else.

This material is Copyright, 2001, Uther Pendragon. All
rights reserved. I specifically grant the right of downloading
and keeping ONE electronic copy for your personal reading so long
as this notice is included. Reposting requires previous

All persons here depicted, except public figures depicted as
public figures in the background, are figments of my imagination
and any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly
# # # #
by Uther Pendragon
Chapter 1

Steve Anderson didn't really think that petting was something
that Shannon owed him. As much as he wanted to bare her lovely
breasts, he didn't want her to permit him *because* he had taken
her to the first dance of their senior year. But still....

Shannon Bryant buttoned her blouse up again, before moving back
into his arms. She really liked Steve, loved him, loved his
kisses. But she felt so exposed in the seat of his mother's

"But this summer, you... we...." Steve said.

All summer they had ridden their bikes out in the mornings while
their friends slept in. They'd both had jobs that interfered
with their afternoons and evenings. He'd made deliveries for old
man Hauksbee's drugstore; Shannon had ushered at the movie
theater four evenings a week and sat for Mrs. Green on the other
three. Mornings were their times together.

They had found a meadow on an abandoned farm where they could
talk in absolute privacy; and, when they would stop talking, the
privacy had been even more important. He had felt her breasts,
and then seen her breasts, and then kissed her breasts.

"It's not the same, Steve," she said, wondering why he couldn't
see that. It was one thing to be alone in the meadow, sharing
all their thoughts, no one to see them but God; and then they
shared some other things, too, things that she couldn't have
mentioned to another soul. "We were clean, then."

"After a five-mile bike ride? I showered before picking you up

"We were sweaty, but what we did was clean," she said. "Now we
are just a couple of kids making out in a car. And anybody could
come by. It's not the same. And I have to be home in fifteen

The last was inarguable. He kissed her with closed lips and with
his hands off her covered breasts. "I love you," he said. "I
don't understand you, but I love you." He started the car.

She loved him, too. She even understood him a little bit,
sometimes. She had enjoyed their summer petting, and it didn't
make sense to feel more exposed in the dark car than she had in
the sunlit field. She just did. And, he *did* back off when she
asked. Finally she said, "I love you, too. Just have a little
patience with me."

He'd thought that the conversation was over. They were nearly to
her house, having driven in silence. "Patience" didn't sound
that bad to him; not good, but better than "never."

They kissed chastely at her door. Her parents might be watching.

As a matter of fact, her mother was. She was favorably impressed
that Steven always walked Shannon to the door as Curt almost
never had; she was happy that they hadn't made a spectacle of
themselves for the neighbors. Still, Allison Bryant didn't think
for one minute that this kiss represented the extent of the last
hour's activities. "Did you have a nice time at the dance?" she
asked. From the state of Shannon's hair and lipstick, she'd
clearly had a nice time afterwards.

"It was great," Shannon said with a lack of enthusiasm even she
could hear. "Actually, it was. It's just that neither Jones at
the theater nor Hauksbee at the drugstore have much respect for
their peons' social needs." Which was a constant annoyance, even
if not one that she had thought about that night.

- = -

Steve stopped his mother's car at a gas station to fill the tank.
His earnings, after current expenses, went into a savings account
intended for college. The money in there was probably enough to
buy a beater; he was tired of having to explain to his parents
before every date just why he needed to use one of their cars.
Kids who worked much less than he, younger kids, kids doing worse
in school, kids who had been in trouble with the law for God's
sake, drove their own cars to school every day.

Later, lying in bed, he thought that his having to ask for the
car was typical of his life. Bill, a year ahead of him in school
and Hauksbee's delivery boy two years ago, had worked in the
store and been trusted with the cash register *his* senior year.
With Bill gone, Hauksbee or Thompson handled the register. Steve
was still just a delivery boy.

Steve got good grades, and had been sent to the principal's
office only twice in the three previous years. Both times were
with Ken, and the principal had little to say to him except "Stay
away from Ken; he'll just lead you into trouble." Now Ken was
president of Student Council, and Steve was nobody. Well, that
was unfair; he'd helped Ken win, and Ken had wanted him to run
for Council. Steve just hadn't wanted to put in the time. And
Ken was brighter than his grades showed; when Mr. Jenkins was
teaching them the evils of sentence fragments, he'd handed one of
Ken's themes back with the comment: "Laughed out loud; grade of
F." Ken had written the whole thing in sentence fragments.

But still, Steve colored within the lines and got diddleysquat.
Even Shannon (especially Shannon because Shannon was what
mattered most) didn't want them to be "a couple of kids making
out in a car." Well, what did she think they were? That was as
good as saying that she would give him less than his classmates
were getting, and some of those guys treated their girlfriends
like shit.

To be fair, though, some of those girlfriends were shit. And
some of the others were nice girls except for a terrible taste in
guys. But not one of them was as nice as Shannon. That was the
problem, really. It wasn't only that he wanted to touch some
breasts; he wanted to touch Shannon's breasts.

To be honest, he wanted a lot more than that. He wanted to fuck
her, but Shannon wasn't the sort of girl who would do that. Not
now, at least, and it was too long to wait for any future in
which she would. He could imagine it, though. And he did.

He would remove Shannon's bra and see those smooth breasts again;
he would kiss them until she was panting, much more excited than
she had ever been in the summer. Then he would strip her
flowered panties down and see the heart-shaped hair again.

Maybe it was the way he'd seen it, on their last free day before
school opened. She had lain back on their two shirts while he
picked her a bouquet of wild flowers. After handing her the
flowers, Steve had knelt at her head and kissed her eyebrows. He
kissed her nose where it was peeling ever so slightly, and then
her chin. They'd tried for a meeting of tongues, but that is
hard when one face is upside down from the other. He'd kissed
her breasts, and she'd kissed his chest. He'd pressed on to lick
her bellybutton. Then he had pushed down on her shorts. She
hadn't objected. He'd had no idea why, but he'd accepted his
luck. It had been that sort of day.

The shorts had moved down revealing a line of pale skin, then the
panties which he'd pushed too, and then the hair. It had been an
arrow pointing at him, not at all like the slight arc on his
body. It had been fine, darker than her head, but he'd been able
to see the pale skin through it.

"Oh Shannon," he'd said. He couldn't express his wonder. She'd
raised her hips to let him push the shorts and panties down to
her thighs. The hair was pointing towards him, and then it
broadened. At the very end, hard to see from his position, it
parted into two lobes. "That's where they get it," he'd said.
The hair was a perfect heart shape.

She had pulled her panties back up. He noticed, when they had
covered that revelation of beauty, that they were pretty, white
with blue flowers and a line of lace at the top. Then she'd
pulled up her shorts, too. The magic moment had ended.

Someday, she wouldn't stop him. He would remove her panties
completely and kneel between her legs. Then her hands would
replace his, guiding his cock into her and he would stroke, and
stroke inside her. At that point, he reached for the Kleenex.
He wrapped it around the head of his cock and imagined his
entrance into Shannon's body one more time. He erupted, and then
stroked until it all came out.

Satisfied, but somehow feeling dissatisfied, he slid into sleep.

- = -

The next week, Hauksbee began showing him how to operate the cash
register. Kevin, a junior whom he knew slightly, started working
one night a week on deliveries. It was how Steve had started.
He got a fifteen-cents-an-hour raise, but still was making less
per week than he had made in the summer.

His parents fought his idea of buying a car when he brought it
up Sunday afternoon. "You need that money for college," his
father said. A representative of a fertilizer company, he was
getting ready to start a three-day road trip visiting dealers.
"You don't need a car."

"What would I have done if I hadn't found a job?" he responded.
"I'm tired of having to get down on my knees every time that I
need a car. I want my own."

"That's quite an exaggeration. It's not your car; you have to
expect to ask."

"That's just the point. The cars aren't my property. So I can't
say that I will drive somewhere with my friends or tell Shannon
that I can take her on a date. I have to tell them all that I
will *try*; I will *ask*.

"I'm not going to break the law, speed, run away from home. I
just want a car which I can decide to drive somewhere; which I
can tell people that I will go there tomorrow or next week." It
didn't work; talking to his parents almost never did.

He was still in a negative mood when Ken turned his way when they
left AP Calculus the next day. "You know, we really need your
input on the Harvest Ball," Ken said. The school had dances to
records more Friday nights than not, but the fancier, rarer
Saturday-night "Balls" were done by committees. Ken was
responsible for getting those committees together and having the
dances a success. It was the real work of the student council
president -- the student council having power only where neither
the administration nor the teachers gave a damn.

The idea of Ken being responsible was funny on the face of it,
but not funny enough to lighten his mood. "Not this time, Ken.
I'll ask Shannon to the dance, but I don't have time to be on a
committee." Ken was walking in the opposite direction from his
next class; not having much time to argue, he switched lanes and
hurried back.

- = -

Wednesday night, Roger Anderson muted the commercial. "Getting
down on his knees," he said to his wife. "You ought to make him
get down on his knees next time he asks."

Rachel had almost forgotten the exaggeration, but had been
thinking about the incident. "I can see what Steve means about
making plans. Still kids have very flexible positions on
property and privacy. What's yours is theirs; what's theirs is
private. He was rooting around in our closet just the other day
for one of your ties."

"Well, he did ask after he found it."

"Still, would you dare go through his closet or drawers if he had
forgotten to return it?" She wondered if she should mention the
incident with their daughter when she was home from college.

"Nope." Roger said, and clicked "Ed" back up.

She was the one who clicked the ending commercials down.
"Mallory is just as bad, maybe worse. Last summer, she was
looking through my lingerie drawer for a half slip...."


"She found the vibrator," Rachel continued.

"And you caught her with it in her hands?"

"No. She *confronted* me with it. She thought it was disgusting
that a woman of my age used one. But she knew what it was, and
never considered that it had another use." The straight-wand
shape wasn't *that* suggestive. "And she had been looking for a

"Huh?" He'd been thinking about the vibrator. They only used it
occasionally, but he had spent the last two nights in motels.
And Steve was out of the house for more than the next hour.

"A half-slip, my dear innocent, is what a girl wears so the boy
can reach her breasts without fully undressing her." As Roger
should have remembered, she thought as she clicked to change

"Do you really want to watch 'West Wing?'" Roger asked. The
picture of some boy molesting Mallory's breasts was disturbing.
The picture of her with the vibrator in her hand was almost as
bad. But the vibrator evoked other pictures as well.

Not when she considered the alternative. "Is there anything
better on?"

"I thought we might check out whether Mallory damaged the
vibrator. Whether it still works, you know."

He was in pajamas when she came back from inserting the
diaphragm. She dug out the magic wand while he took his own
bathroom time. The shower didn't run three minutes.

He shed his pajamas to join her in bed. Skin a little cool for a
hug, he gently scratched her back. All Rachel's emotions melted
into a puddle; this was bliss. Minutes later, she reached her
leg back and parted his with her foot. "Mmmmm," she said.
"Don't really need the vibrator."

But much as the scratching pleased her, it had never seemed to
him that she was actually turned on. Grateful, yes, receptive,
but not eager for him. Besides, vibrator times were special.
"All that tells us is that the fingernails still work."

They took a while, kissing, fondling, rubbing, before he started
the tests. The vibrator still worked on her breasts, and it
still worked on her thighs. As he stroked it around her lower
lips, he kissed from one breast to the other. The taste of the
prominent nipple, combined with his sense of her arousal, was
almost enough to keep him firm. The move dropped his dick onto
her thigh; the quivers ran from the vibrator, down her thigh, and
onto the sensitive head of his dick.

She was enjoying the feeling of his lips on her nipple when he
finally brought the wand to the top of her thighs. Much as she
loved that climbing excitement, she didn't want to climax empty.
She reached over to where his erection was pressed against her
leg. She brushed up the shaft to reach his balls, while he
raised his top leg to accommodate her. She cuddled the sack,
letting the balls move against her fingers, while the shaft
hardened against her wrist. It would be there when she needed
it. Meanwhile, she relaxed her attention to let the wand carry
her higher and higher.

He was kissing her tightening belly when her hand shoved his
away. He turned off and dropped the vibrator while climbing
between her legs. Guided by her hand, he journeyed the route he
knew best in all the world, so familiar but always dramatically
new. The light touch of her fingers in his shaft, the moist
caress of her lips, the mock-resistant hug of her portal, the
slick yielding of her tunnel -- all built the same excitement in
him, each contributing in its own unique way.

She led him just where she needed him most. The warmth, the
breadth, the *humanness* gave her sensations which the wand never
did. Slowly, he entered her; slowly he widened her; slowly he
filled her. And every millimeter scratched an itch more acute
than he ever scratched on her back. Only when he was fully
inside, his groin pressed against hers, pushing her legs outward
and upward, did she reach for the wand. She turned the speed all
the way down before tuning it on.

When he heard the growl of the vibrator on low, Roger pulled out
half way. Rachel raised her knees around his waist. Then she
moved the wand slowly across her hips towards him. She could
feel the shaking deep inside her when the contact was made. With
the vibrator against the bottom of his dick and her warm
slickness trembling around him, Roger stroked in and out as his
excitement soared.

Her mind knew that she needed only the shaking of his organ deep
within her to take her over, but her body still answered his.
She dropped her feet to the bed to drive her groin up around his
organ as it drove down into her; it dropped back as he withdrew.
Meanwhile, her spirit soared.

Surrendering to his needs, and hers, Roger stroked faster and
faster. Much as he luxuriated in the slick friction, the
shaking, the warm grip and her drive against him, he knew that
even more was coming and he wanted that. He desperately needed
that. Then it came for her first.

Rachel spun upwards, tightening as she rose. Then the tightness
caught her and shook her. She dropped the wand, clutched the
bed, spasmed as Roger drove into her and into her. Roger felt
her clutch around him once -- he pulled back, almost coming out
-- twice -- he drove into her, felt his knees slip on the sheets
form his force -- thrice -- then he joined her, his dick pounding
as he thrust again and again.

It was a long time before they parted. He recovered the vibrator,
turned it off, wiped the fluids off its surface. "That was
something, but I need you," he said.

"I need you, too, darling. This is a banquet. Alone it is like
the meals, MREs, you ate in the National Guard. It satisfies all
the physical needs, just not very tasty."

He checked the clock. "Steve's still in the store. He won't get
here on his bike for half an hour."

"You know," Rachel said, "he won't really be able to handle the
deliveries when it's two feet deep in snow. He couldn't last
year." She snuggled back against him.

"So let him get down on his knees."

"I think we might be a little more permissive. Staying home on
his work nights isn't that much of an imposition, and we still
have your car when you're here." And Gertrude didn't sneak into
the garage like his bike did. Still, she felt protective of her
little Honda Civic.

Roger felt generous towards all the world, so long as he didn't
have to move. "It's your car." She rolled over to lie on his
shoulder. In that position, his fingers just reached the
sharpest curve of her butt. Later, though, he scratched her back
a few more times. Arching her back in response pushed her
breasts tighter against his side.

While Steve rode up to the house, he toyed with the idea of
joining his parents for the end of "Law and Order." The rest of
his homework could be done afterwards. Once inside, he found
that they had already gone to bed. He renewed his decision that
he wouldn't let himself turn so sedate and inactive when *he* got

He went up and finished his homework. But, conscious of being
the opposite of sedate, he took a centerfold to bed with him
to study before he turned off the light.

- = -

Shannon had once thought that getting paid to watch a movie was
heaven on earth. But she'd seen too many, and the hours sucked.

"I have a date Friday night," she told Mr. Jones.

"Cancel it!" he said. "I have only so many usherettes, and Cathy
can neither work an R-rated show nor handle the booth. Besides,
this one will be full without the high-school crowd. When the
show starts, come out and take the booth from Julie." Julie,
older, was allowed to watch the show. She also was paid
significantly more because she handled the booth. Jones didn't
say anything about paying Shannon a bonus.

"I'm going to quit the theater," Shannon told her mother the next
evening. She'd started dinner as a peace offering.

"What are you going to do for spending money?" Shannon bought
her own clothes, school lunch, and incidentals.

"Babysitting. It is less regular, but it pays more per hour.
What's my balance these days?" Her mother was also her banker;
Shannon shopped on her mother's charge card, and -- until the
double employment of that summer -- she'd run a deficit more
often than not." Besides, I can do homework there, half the time;
and I can set my hours better, instead of always working when
Steve's not."

"I think that you are letting your life revolve around Steven."
Well, she knew that Shannon was; she just wished that she

"I know that you do." Actually, while many of her thoughts
revolved around Steve, almost none of her actions did.

"Well, it's your life." Mrs. Bryant wanted so much for her
daughter, and feared so much for her. And she realized that
neither the hopes nor the fears would make a damn bit of

Oddly enough, Steve's question was the same as her mother's.
"What are you going to do for money? Will your parents put you
back on an allowance?"

"No, silly. But I saved a ton over the summer, and I have nearly
two weeks coming from the theater. More than that, I have old
babysitting customers and can get more. Anyway, lay out your
schedule for me."

He was glad to do so. But he had to check with old man Hauksbee

"You two getting serious, aren't you?" the druggist asked. Once,
Carl Hauksbee had been serious about Carol Thunborg. He had been
a pharmacist at County Hospital, courting a girl who wanted a
solid place in the town in which she had grown up. Winning one
of the lesser prizes in the then-new lottery, he'd used it for
the down payment on the drug store and to establish himself in
the town. He felt a little nostalgic, and more than a little

"Well," he continued, "it depends on Mrs. Thompson's health, and
Kevin of course. But I can use you Saturday mornings and Monday
and Wednesday evenings, regular. Your girl going to forgive you
if there is an emergency?" He was a lot more protective of his
employees than he wanted anybody to know. No kid was going to
work for him two school nights running and ruin his grades.

"I think she would." Steve hoped so. Shannon was really not one
of those demanding girls who got jealous of jobs and parents. On
the other hand, it was going to be hard to persuade his folks
that he should date on Tuesdays when he had work the day before
and the day after. Even so, Fridays were what counted most.

"But not forgive me?" Hauksbee asked. He figured he could live
with that. "Now, you would have to get up early on Saturday."

"Not really early." The place opened at nine-thirty, sweeping
out started at nine; weekdays, he had to be in school at eight-
fifteen. He didn't find that particularly difficult.

- = -

"Can you work those hours and still get your schoolwork done?"
his mother asked.

"Sure I can. I just have to actually study during study hall."
It was a concept which would ruin his reputation if he spread it
around, but he'd done it before.

"Look, you know my schedule. It's still my car, you have to ask,
but you can assume that you can use it when I don't need it."

- = -

Shannon found that getting babysitting business back was harder
than she had expected. She had abandoned everyone else for Mrs.
Green in the spring; other girls were now the regular sitters for
her old customers. "Just keep me in mind," she said. "And, if
your friends ask, please give them my number." Finally, out of
desperation, she considered Mrs. Green. But Mrs. Green's hours
ran from four to midnight.

"Mom, remember when I babysat for Mrs. Green?"

"Indeed I do. And your dad and I were real proud about how you
kept it up despite the boys' behavior."

"Remember how I got up early the next morning?"

"Well, you could nap there." And Shannon had got up early for
Steven. Allison Bryant wasn't sure that any other motivation
would have worked. The negotiations took some time, partly
because Allison checked with Wayne before giving permission.

"I know that you have a regular sitter, but I'm not ushering
anymore. So, when you need me, I might well be available one
night in a week. And could you tell your friends about me?" She
figured that Mrs. Green's friends would respect the skills of
anybody who could handle those brats.

The first job, however, was for Mrs. Lundberg whose older kid had
changed critically in the year since Shannon had seen her last.
Cheryl's added height was nothing, but her added curiosity was a
problem. Shannon told Steve about it when he took her out on a
burger-and-movie date. They'd picked up the food and driven out
to where they could watch the sunset while they ate. She was in
the middle of describing her embarrassment at being the target of
sex-related questions when he looked at his watch.

"Look," he said, "this is entertaining me more than the movie
would, but you already know the punch line. Do you want to get
back in time for the start of the show?"

"I don't care if I never see another movie again. Can I finish?"

"So what did you do?" Steve was nowhere near as bored with
movies as Shannon was, but the change in plans suited him quite
well. Shannon's tales from the front were always entertaining,
and this particular one was somewhat arousing. While neither he
nor Shannon had any ignorance of where babies come from, that
wasn't something that they usually discussed.

"For ten minutes, I wished that I was back sitting for Mrs.
Green. She's a nurse, I know that she would want her kids told.
Anyway, Billy was listening to Cheryl's question, and he started
in...." It was funny, and she took a while to finish the whole
story. They did nothing more physical than hold hands until the
last light from the sun was gone. When they finally kissed,
however, it was intense.

Whatever reservations Shannon had felt over being a couple of
kids making out in a car faded with the glow of the sunset. This
was Steve, and he had dropped his plan for the evening as soon as
she had asked. His mouth was salty on hers, and the kiss was
thrilling. Even through the bra, his hand excited her breast.
So, when he finally unbuttoned her blouse, her only response was
to lean forwards so that he could reach the bra, too.

Again, he felt those smooth breasts. He was so hard that he
ached, but that was only one sensation. Her tongue welcomed his
back into her mouth; her nipple firmed against his palm.

Shannon got back home fifteen minutes before her school-night
curfew of ten. She was neatly dressed and unmussed, albeit with
a grease stain on her blouse. She had enjoyed the date more than
any since school began. It was strange. She and Steve talked
almost every day in school, but sitting in his car talking made
her feel closer to him than a dancing with him for an evening.

And talking had been the key to the evening, if not the whole
thing. She dressed in a nightgown and brought a history book to
bed with her, but more recent events held her interest. She
remembered the exciting feelings when Steve had held her breasts
and brushed her nipples. She tried to evoke those feelings with
her own fingers, but they weren't quite the same. For one thing,
nobody was kissing her. And Steve's kisses had been particularly
exciting that evening.

Soon her right hand wandered to the center of her excitement.
For the first time, she pretended that Steve was the one touching
her. Even in imagination, it was a little embarrassing; she
would hardly want Steve to feel the moisture that she produced.
Soon, however, she swept herself up to the peak. When she
returned, she had a vague memory of calling Steve's name, or
imagining doing so. She desperately hoped that she had imagined

- = -

Steve had come home from the date particularly happy. His very-
real enjoyment of Shannon's imaginary presence in his bed had
been tinged with belief that his goal was nearer if not near. He
greeted the next morning more cheerfully than he had greeted any
in weeks.

The morning didn't reciprocate. It was a dull and dreary day
with light rain. His father gave him a ride to school in the
Jeep. Coming home was another matter. He forgot that he was
without his bike until after the bus left. He had to walk or
hitch; and he didn't connect to those of his friends whom he
could ask. His walk home soaked him to the skin despite his
raincoat. Dried and fed, he rose from the dinner table to go to
his work.

"Do you want to drive Gertrude?" his mother asked. The rain was
coming down nearly as hard as it had been when school let out.
Steve's long raincoat was hanging in the entrance hall still
wringing wet; he'd have to wear a jacket. She didn't want her
son working for three hours after having been soaked below the
waist. She had Wednesdays off from her job. Maybe, on days like
this, when the weather was too rotten for her to go out anyway,
she'd let him drive to school.

"Thanks Mom. You're wonderful." And she usually was, although
he never would understand her. She fussed over his borrowing the
car when it was a social necessity, and then volunteered to lend
it to him when it was a minor convenience.

He used the car for deliveries and left it for his mother with
less in the tank than he would have wanted to. He left a note,
however, warning her of that. He ended: "I'll pay. I just
wasn't carrying the cash last night."

"The car was fine, dear," she said the next night. "Why don't
you just take the mileage off the speedometer. If it's close to
empty, fill it up and leave me the receipt. We'll settle up the
balance." Since Steve's savings weren't going to cover anywhere
near the cost of tuition, the difference between her purse and
his savings was merely a matter of his learning about the real
world. Settling up on his paydays was a fine way to teach him
what he had spent.

Steve figured that if his father hadn't yet taught her the
difference between an odometer and a speedometer, she wasn't
going to learn from her son. Besides, she was being nice. He
bit his tongue.

Kevin missed too many days. Mr. Hauksbee hired another junior
named Martin, but Steve was back on delivery duty much more often
than he worked inside for a while.

"Listen," Hauksbee told him one day. "Not the booze and
cigarettes, which you can't buy or sell legally, not the
prescription drugs of course; but anything else in the store that
you want, but maybe don't want to mention to me, you take it and
ring it up on the register. I'll trust you to do it right."

Steve bought a few magazines that way; but, as time went on, the
boxes of Trojans kept catching his eye.

Not that his need for them seemed immediately pressing. He and
Shannon watched a few more sunsets. The dark, which came earlier
each time, brought more petting and more kisses. One Thursday,
nearly drowning in her welcoming mouth, he petted her breasts and
felt the nipples harden in response. When she broke the kiss to
breathe, he nibbled all over her face and neck. A greater
smoothness was calling him, though. "Please, darling," he said,
"let me." He felt her stiffen before he dropped his head to kiss
the softness of her breast. She gradually relaxed in his arms,
and then stiffened again as he sucked on her nipple.

Shannon had completely misinterpreted his request. She'd fought
her way out of the haze of desire in a desperate effort to
protect her virginity. Before she could say a word, however, she
realized that her breasts were his only goal. How could she deny
these to him when his tongue and lips there brought her such
pleasure? Only when he had walked her to her door and she had
climbed to the safety of her room, did she remember her error.
And she wasn't sure that her reaction had all been negative.

In bed, she remembered Steve's hands and mouth on her breasts.
Then she imagined Steve's hands caressing her more intimately.
She tried imagining Steve entering her, but went back to his
mouth on her breasts and his hand between her legs. With the
stimulus of her real fingers supplemented by Steve's imagined
ones, she climaxed with a moan.

She got a call from an old customer the next night. "This is
William Jensen, Amy's father. I hear that you are babysitting

"Yes." She was puzzled. The Jensens had a new baby and were
staying home. "Mrs. Jensen told me that you weren't going
anywhere these days."

"That's the thing. We aren't, but she needs to. I think that
she would trust you more than someone new. You know about Amy."
Amy, four by now, had a serious asthma problem. "Peggy really is
no bother at her age. A few changes. Theresa is breast-feeding
her, but we'll leave you a bottle."

"When were you planning to go out?"

"Listen, Theresa needs to get out of the house. She trusts you.
It might not look like it, but it is more trust than she gives
anyone else. So what days are you available, and I'll work
around that."

"It's six dollars an hour for two children." Which was her rate,
though not quite fair, being what she charged Mrs. Green. On the
other hand, Amy and a small infant were serious responsibilities,
if not serious pains in the butt. "Anyway, I'm usually free
Monday and Wednesday evenings, if I haven't taken other

"Anything scheduled for this coming Wednesday?"

"Not yet," she said.

"I'll try to get her to agree. I'll call you back either way."

- = -

Mr. Jensen drilled Shannon before he left. "Tell me about the
inhaler," he said. She did. "Tell me about the pills." She
did. "We'll be seeing the early movie; they'll flash us on the
screen if they have to. The number is by the phone. Peggy will
wake in about an hour. The bottle is in the 'fridge, but you'll
have to heat it. Help yourself to the munchies, but don't let
Amy see them. Graham crackers are okay. Dr. Wyatt's number is
by the phone, as well. Same place as always."

Amy didn't really remember Shannon, and made a fuss as her mother
left; but soon afterwards she was cuddling into Shannon's lap for
a book. Shannon lavished her with attention and told her stories
about when she had sat with her before. Peggy was a dear, a
drenched dear, but still sweet. Amy could now brush her own
teeth, if not too effectively. Shannon got to see most of
"Norm." Then she settled down with her homework.

The Jensens came home rather early. With their worry about Amy,
they had never been particularly remunerative customers. On the
other hand, he calculated her hours from the time he picked her
up until the time she got out of his car after he drove her home;
she had never seen either of them drunk; he never made a pass at
her; he waited in his car until she had closed her door.

She finished her homework in her room. She took college catalogs
with her to bed. Having taken the college boards in the spring,
she had some idea where she would have a good chance at
admission. Her mother was an alumna of Albion, and Shannon hoped
that she could follow her there. That, however, would require
financial aid. She needed back-ups.

- = -

Steve bought a *Penthouse* when there were no customers in the
drugstore. When he got it home, he still had physics homework to
finish. He did all the assigned problems, but not so thoroughly
as was his habit. Then he enjoyed his purchase until his climax
led to sleep.

He regretted that neglect on Thursday. Mr. Babaian, his physics
teacher, gave a pop quiz. Steve, who had been hoping for a
strong A for his GPA and maybe a letter of recommendation out of
the class, knew that he did poorly on that quiz. That night, he
buckled down to learning what he should have learned the night
- = -

Chapter 2

Friday, there was a home game. He and Shannon went to the game
together and parked afterwards. They were dressed for the
weather, and his hand was icy; so he took some time to burrow
under Shannon's parka and her sweater. Finally, caressing her
through her warm sweat shirt, he reached the soft mound formed by
her breast. And it was remarkably soft. Before he touched the
peak that the shirt made over her nipple, he knew that she hadn't
worn a bra.

"Oh, Shannon!" he said. She was so soft, and he knew how those
glories looked. Hell! He knew how they tasted. He kissed her
more deeply while holding her. Probably his hand was still too
cold to go under the shirt. "I love you. I want to be with you

"I want that too," she said. Then she kissed him back. A minute
later, she pushed his face away. "Steve," she said, "I do want
to be with you always. I want to be with you next year."

It took him a minute to hear what she was saying. Somehow, all
of his attention was on his left hand and none on his ears.

"We should go to the same college." She said it aloud, and
wondered how much she was pushing him.

"Well, I've applied to U of I already. I need some backups, and
the counselor told me that I looked good enough in science to add
a better school. You know what they say, one for a dream and one
for a parachute."

"You can do better than Champaign-Urbana." That was her idea of
a parachute. Besides being with her for four more years, he
should realize his potential.

"Don't make it sound like a pile of garbage; people from out-of-
state pay big money to go there. It's not Cal Tech or MIT, but
it is a good school for chemical engineering. It is a lot
cheaper than any comparable school when you're paying in-state

"There's always financial aid. Mrs. Swenson said that you could
do better."

"She told me that I had a decent chance. Anyway, what is your
dream school? U of C?"

"Fat chance! I don't want to live in the big city. I've applied
to Albion College. It's small, it's liberal arts, and my mother
is an alum."

"And *you* were wondering if we would be together."

"You really are more interested in chemistry. I'm sure that you
could get a great education in chemistry at Albion."

"I'll look into it.

"By the time that conversation was done, it was almost time to
drive her home. They kissed deeply, his hand still outside her
shirt, and he started the car.

- = -

He thought that there were better things to do on dates than

However there was never enough time to talk. They shared one
class that year, English, and a lunch period. But Shannon had to
cross the entire building after English class. Shannon belonged,
had belonged since grade school, to a group of girls that got
together for some lunches. While they mostly didn't meet as a
group anymore except to celebrate birthdays, one or another of
them might join Shannon and him at a table. She would sometimes
wave them off, but she got angry if he did. Even if she did, the
table would fill up one way or another.

Their talks on the phone were only private if both sets of
parents were elsewhere.

He lived more than four miles from the high school, an
uncomfortable walk but no great bike ride. He could walk Shannon
home, wheeling his bike. In bad weather, he took the bus which
left right at the end of home room. He didn't even get a chance
to wave at Shannon those days. The bus also followed a cicuitous
route, taking almost as long as walking did.

- = -

Shannon was second back-up on Mrs. Green's call list when the
regular babysitter couldn't make it. She would gladly have been
third. One time in mid-October, Mrs. Green called back after
having received a refusal.

"I told you that I have a date," Shannon said. "My boyfriend
works, and I sit for other people. We don't have that many
evenings when we are both free. Anyway, I promised. I can't
possibly come."

"Look, half the nursing staff is working with the flu. I can't
call in and say that I can't get a sitter." There must have been
a Mr. Green at some time, but not within Shannon's acquaintance
with the family. "Were you going somewhere special with your

"It's special *because* it's with my boyfriend," Shannon said,
biting back the question of what business it was of Mrs. Green's.

"I trust you; you know that. Wouldn't leave you with Ralph and
George otherwise, right?" Shannon wasn't sure that she had all
that much choice; for the night in question, she didn't appear to
have any. "You could have him over while you sit. If he picks
up pizza for the four of you, I'll reimburse him that night."
Steve wasn't happy; hell, Shannon wasn't happy, but she didn't
want to deepen the hospital's staffing crisis. She reluctantly

Picturing all the possibilities of the two of them alone, Steve
rang up a box of condoms and hid it away -- slightly lighter --
at home. The reality was different. His condom stayed in the
secret compartment of his wallet; the belt to Shannon's jeans
stayed buckled. He and she even -- once the little terrorists
were actually asleep -- got some studying done. He had to leave
before Mrs. Green arrived, too; he got get his reimbursement from
Shannon the next day.

A precedent had been set, however. From that time on, Shannon
invited him over whenever she sat for the Green kids. Steve
would come soon after their bedtime, or later if he worked that
night. Once the kids were settled down, they would have time for
some serious petting. Shannon didn't go around without her top,
afraid of the kids' waking up or someone's coming to the door;
but he pushed it up in the soft lamplight. She removed her bra,
and he could feast his eyes (and hands and mouth) on her beauty.

The pleasure that Steve afforded her almost made up for the
struggles that she had with those kids. And, she was vaguely
aware, the tension from those kids made her a little more eager
for Steve's kisses -- and his hands.

- = -

Steve wanted Shannon. He was reconciled to the knowledge that he
couldn't have her completely any time soon, but he was pulling
for the long run. Together in college, with parents far away, he
thought that he would have a chance. For that matter, he wanted
the very long run, as well. If he had to wait until marriage,
there were still the kisses -- and the magazines.

Shannon's college plans, however, seemed to be driving them
apart. He stopped her in the hall one morning. "Can you get a
pass to see the counselor seventh period?" They each had study
hall that period, unfortunately in different rooms.

"I'll try." Lots of kids used that as a way to cut, get the pass
but don't show up. Or show up very late. She hated to lie,
however, and Steve should know that.

"Good, I want both of us to see the same thing at the same time.
I'll see you there."

So, she didn't have to lie.

Mrs. Swenson looked surprised to see the two of them together.
"Actually," she said, "I'm more of a career counselor than...."

"Well," said Steve, "you're the person we are supposed to see
about college applications. And, anyway, it is more that we want
to see your Blue Book."

She gave them the book and took another student into her inner

"Read it and weep," Steve said. "Albion's *weaker* in academics
than the U of I. It will cost ten thou more to go there. And I
can't get a degree in Chem-E. There's no reason for me to go
there, except you; and the only reason for you to go there is
your mother's nostalgia."

"You could get a chemistry degree at Albion. It's a fine
school." It *had* been her mother's dream; it had become hers,

They were still wrangling when Mrs. Swenson called them in. When
the problem was laid out for her, she sighed. She almost wished
that the problem that they brought her had been the one that she
had suspected first.

"Look at this objectively," she said. "You guys like each other.
You want to go to the same school. I can understand that. But
going to different schools is not the end of the world." It
would probably be the end of their romance, but so would going to
the same school in nine cases out of ten. Suggesting that they
might grow out of their relationship was not, as she was well
aware, the way to reach these kids.

"He could get a chemistry degree *with* the liberal-arts
experience," Shannon said. "It's a better school. And they give
financial aid."

"Including both loans and grants," Steve pointed out. "Everybody
does that. My father is still paying off *his* student loan.
And look at the ACT scores. It's not a better school."

"Well," Mrs. Swenson said, "it's a less *selective* school, but
not really significantly so. That doesn't mean that they teach
you less. You're comparing apples and oranges. The university
has, what? twenty times as many students?"

"About that," said Steve.

"And it has graduate programs. That means that there will be
many more faculty there, and some of them will be significant
researchers. You won't meet them in your first two years, maybe
never. You will study under their grad students; and, however
advanced the subject you want to study, there will be someone
there who can teach you.

"On the other hand," she continued, "if you want a piece of paper
without really learning anything, that can happen at a big
university more easily than anywhere else. Nobody watches to see
if you go to class. Nobody watches to see if your interests are
being met. Nobody cares.

"A good, small, liberal-arts college provides anybody who wants
one an introduction to the thinking which has passed the test of
time or has attracted academic approval. Almost always the
original thinking is going on elsewhere. It is a great
experience. I enjoyed it. And the professors are hired to
teach, more likely have an ability to teach. You don't get
graduate students who are finding out whether they can teach or

"But, if you want something particular, want to be a chemist, did
you say?"

"That or a chemical engineer," Steve said. "I never thought that
I was Nobel-prize material. And I don't want, with all due
respect, to teach. I want to put things together."

"Then you should go where they have that as one of their aims.
Now, with a degree in chemistry you can do all sorts of things.
You can become a doctor, or even a lawyer."

"I don't want that."

"But many people do. And many people go to college wanting some
sort of an education and major in chemistry because they are sort
of good at it or because the teacher is great. Those do just
fine in liberal-arts schools. If you want to do technology, it's
probably smarter to attend a school where they train people for
that technology.

"That doesn't mean," she told Shannon, "that you should follow
him there."

But Shannon wanted to be with him.

- = -

"What is my balance with you anyway, Mom?" Shannon asked.

"I don't know precisely. I haven't added up the books lately,
but you have plenty even after you deduct the taxes you'll owe.
Why do you ask?" Her daughter was good about earning money,
Allison Bryant couldn't deny that. She was also a wild
spendthrift. If she told her that the balance was several
thousand dollars, it would be gone next month.

"Steve's birthday is next week. If I have lots in the bank, I
want to buy him something really nice."

"You have lots in the bank, but does he?"

"Well, he's saving up for college, but what does that matter?"
Her mother was always bringing up these irrelevancies.

"Shannon, I'm glad that you're feeling generous. I'm sure that
you would feel really good about getting Steven something
expensive. And, if he gave you something less expensive on your
birthday, you wouldn't let that bother you.

"But would it bother Steven?"

Dammit! It would. She could see that now. "I just want it to
something he really enjoys. And he dresses sort of.... Well,
he's not quite a nerd."

"And now, you have to think of something he would *like*, instead
of something which isn't in his style but is really expensive.
Now you have to find something which you know he will like
because you know him better than anyone else does."

"Gee thanks, Mom." But she was right, after all.

- = -

Mr. Jensen picked Shannon up for a babysitting job on Wednesday
night. When she got to the house, Amy burst into tears. Shannon
wanted to say, "Look, kiss her good-bye and leave. The tears
will last all of five minutes after you're out the door." She
didn't say anything, though. Mrs. Jensen dithered, Amy wept
herself damn close to an attack, and Mr. Jensen finally drove
Shannon home.

"I'm sorry about this," he said.

"She really cried more than she would have if you had just left.
She doesn't *enjoy* having the two of you gone, but the parting
is what's traumatic. It's like her playing with Peggy's bottle.
You don't say, 'Look Amy, here's a bottle you can't have.' You
put it where she can't see it and say, 'All gone.' She looks for
something else to want."

"Theresa needs to get out of that house. The constant worry is
going to drive her around the bend. Look, don't give up on us.
We'd have been gone, what? Maybe five hours. I'll pay you half
what you would have received." He paid her a ten and a five
before she left the car. She put it in her pocketbook. If her
mom said that there was loads of money in the bank, there really
was no reason to build that credit any higher. Checks, now,
would have to go to Mom.

- = -

Shannon asked her other customers for privileges similar to those
Mrs. Green gave her. The responses were mixed. Some families for
whom she sat refused to consider allowing a strange boy into
their house; one never called her again after she asked. Others
checked up on Steve, or asked to meet him. Some, however,
figured that -- simply by asking -- Shannon had demonstrated
enough responsibility to be trusted. Gradually, Shannon moved
the less permissive ones (except the Jensens) to the bottom of
her customer list; she also started a pattern of cleaning up the
mess that the kids left, as well as any that Steve and she
caused, for those parents who trusted her that much.

One Monday, Steve was pushing the deadline on a major paper due
that Wednesday. Shannon told him in the hall that he could visit
her at the Larkins' where she was babysitting that Tuesday night.
He was foolish enough to mention the paper.

"Well, if you come over," she said, "bring the theme. I want to
see that you have finished it." He rushed to get something down
on paper; it showed. She took the last two pages and tore them
in two. "You are going to do that right. I have some studying
that I can do as well."

Mr. Larkin, who brought his wife home early with a migraine that
night, would never understand why the two teenagers whom he
surprised studying across from each other at his dining-room
table seemed so flustered.

By mid-November, they had established a pattern. Shannon would
make sure that Steve met any kids where he was allowed to visit,
not wanting any of her charges to wake up to find an absolute
stranger in the house. Steve had limited chances, however, to
see Shannon on nights when he wasn't working.

More usually, he would stop off at Shannon's job after the drug
store closed. They would work together to clean up the mess and
then spread out their books to look like they were studying; that
ploy had worked with the Larkins, after all. Steve would push up
Shannon's top and unhook her bra; after the near miss at the
Larkins', Shannon only took her bra off at Mrs. Green's. Then
his hands would feel that marvelous smoothness and heft while
they shared a long deep kiss. When his lips replaced his hands,
he caressed the length of her thighs and squeezed her butt.

Compulsively drawn to those curves, he would stroke them as long
as she let him. He usually would arouse himself to the point
where he had to adjourn to the bathroom for a little relief.
Then he would leave, usually before the parents got home.

Shannon, too, was aroused by the kisses and stroking. She never
distinguished the physical sensations from the knowledge that
Steve desired her and thought her a beauty. While Steve's tongue
played with hers and his fingers stroked over her breasts, her
nipples would tingle. Then he would lick them until the feeling
turned into an ache and the tingle moved downwards to her stomach
and then to the junction of her legs.

Shannon always remembered, however that she had responsibilities,
for herself and for the parents who left her in charge of their
houses and their children. She had a good idea what Steve was
doing in the bathroom before he left. She didn't understand how
he could leave the warmth and love of her arms for the cold,
smelly, borrowed room full of enamel and pipes. Shannon put
herself back together and waited patiently to be relieved of her
responsibilities and driven home.

Only in the warmth, comfort, and safety of her own bed in her own
room would she allow herself to really remember Steve's hands and
lips and words. Then she would hug a pillow that she called
Steve and take her own hands where she wouldn't permit Steve's.
She pretended that they were his hands, however, and dreamed of
the day when they would be.

On their wedding night, they would kiss until she was as dizzy as
she was on the best of these dates. And he would kiss her skin
every time he removed a piece of her clothing, then kiss her
mouth again. Then, while she hid in the bed, Steve would strip
as well. Lying beside her, hugging and kissing her, he would
stroke her until she was aroused as she was now. And then, and

And then she climaxed from her own hand. It was exciting, but it
was merely a promise of what was to be. And Steve wasn't there
to hold her as she drifted off to sleep.

- = -

Meanwhile, they reached a compromise on schools; more accurately,
they put their problems off. Steve applied to Albion, and to the
Illinois Institute of Technology as a might-get-in. Shannon
applied to the U of I as well as to Albion. Neither really
applied to a "parachute" school, although Shannon thought of the
U of I that way.

They continued to go on dates. For most of these they wore blue
jeans. For the Thanksgiving Ball, however, Steve wore a coat and
tie and Shannon a fancy zip-up-the-back dress. The heater hadn't
been able to overcome the hours-old chill in the parked car, and
Shannon couldn't bring herself to permit the near-nakedness that
was the only way to give Steve access to her breasts with that
dress. She was wearing a slip, for heaven's sake.

"Please, darling," she said when he started fumbling with the
zipper. "Anybody could drive by and see in. Let's just kiss."

Steve thought ruefully that he would have enjoyed the evening
more if Shannon had taken a babysitting job. But it wasn't
really true. He had held her in his arms for every slow dance;
he'd shown her off in public as his girl. "Anyway," he thought,
"I only have about half an hour. I can spend it fighting her and
ruin the evening, or I can spend it kissing her." The choice
seemed obvious.

"Kissing you is never 'just a kiss.' A kiss from Shannon is an

And, at that, they kissed. He tasted her lipstick, and then her
mouth opened wide -- letting their tongues meet, and he could
taste Shannon. She raised no objection to his hands roving over
her dress; but, while the shape was vaguely like Shannon's, the
softness that he loved was buried too deep. When he stroked her
leg, however, the story was entirely different. Through the
three layers of soft cloth, the curves of her thigh were much
softer than the usual sculpted shapes armored by jeans. The
softening made those curves even more magnetic. It was minutes
before he could tear his left hand away and hold it in front of
the heater vent. He kept his right hand, terribly restricted by
their location, on her left thigh.

Shannon also experienced these strokes differently. First, she
had entered the car still excited by the evening; then, the
embarrassment geared her up to fight Steve off; not needing to
fight led to gratitude mixed with the annoyance of all that
combative adrenaline going to waste. By the time that she melted
through those layers to really experience the kiss, she felt
Steve's caresses on her leg. Without the interference of the
jeans, it was every bit as arousing as the attention to her
breasts would have been. She had even felt her nipples tighten
into the beginning of their ache when Steve had removed the more
arousing hand.

Wanting more but afraid to say so, she pulled his face against
hers to deepen the kiss. For once, her tongue had pressed into
his mouth. He sucked it just when the warm hand touched her
knee. Only her panty hose was between them. She knew that she
should say no; but she'd already said that once this evening, and
the hand was out of sight, and her body was saying yes. She
compromised by closing her legs together. His strokes on the
outside of her leg were exciting in the sense of daring, but less
arousing than the earlier strokes on her thrice-covered inner
thigh. Soon it had been time to quit.

"Break!" she said. "My curfew is coming up."

"Damn!" he said. But he put the car in gear, anyway. At her
house, he opened the car door for her, walked her to the door,
and gave her a quick peck on her mouth. Not that this fooled her
parents when they saw her smeared lipstick.

"You're two minutes late," was all that her father said.

"We could have been on time," she answered. "Steve just doesn't
like to break the speed limit." And it ended there.
Up in her room, Shannon paused before donning her nightgown. She
looked once again at her naked figure in the mirror. She thought
back to the end of the summer. The meadow had been a special
place, and the summer mornings had been special times. The last
morning there had been most special of all.

She had been lying in the meadow holding a bouquet of wild
flowers Steve had picked for her. He had been kneeling at her
head and kissing all over her face. While he'd kissed her
breasts, she had nipped at the bronzed skin arching above her.
Then he'd kissed her bellybutton while she wiggled in response to
the tickle. She hadn't resisted when he pushed down on her

She still didn't know why. Maybe it had been the non-threatening
position, maybe it had been the school year looming over them.
One tiny part of it had been the posies in her hand that she
didn't want to crush. Then he'd pushed her panties down to the
edge of her mound. "Oh Shannon," he'd said.

She'd responded to the wonder in his voice by raising her hips
and pushing the shorts and panties down to her thighs. She
*really* couldn't tell why she'd done that.

"That's where they get it," he'd said.

Suddenly frightened, she had pulled her panties and shorts up.
"Get what?"

"The heart, the Valentine heart. It doesn't look much like the
illustrations of a heart in the health books; but it looks just
like your hair. Look if you don't believe me. No wonder it's
the symbol of love."

"I'll look," she had said. "But when I'm alone, thank you."

"You have to think of it upside down, if you use a mirror."

"I shouldn't have let you do that."

"Yes you should," he had said. "I love you."

"That doesn't follow." And soon they'd had to leave the meadow,
and the summer.

She had looked, though, that night and later. Sometimes she
could almost see what he meant, sometimes she thought that he'd
been making it up.

Tonight it looked like a valentine's heart. Tonight it looked
like a symbol of their love. Tonight, she was sorry that she had
closed her legs in the car. She donned her nightgown and climbed
into bed. She shivered; the gown and the sheets were even colder
than the air.

She'd never caressed as far down her legs as Steve had started,
but she tried it now. The feeling, even from her own fingers,
was erotic. By the time that she reached the junction of her
thighs, she was ready, and she had barely touched her breasts
yet. She did so, and then took herself over.

- = -

"About last night," Shannon said during supper Sunday night.

"Look," her mother responded. "We don't want to make a big thing
of a few minutes, but the curfew is your deadline. You're
supposed to be home *before* eleven. We wouldn't mind having you
invite Steven in for the time remaining until eleven."

"But when I come home late from babysitting, you don't make a big
thing of it."

"That's different, dear," Wayne Bryant answered, atypically. He
left these things to his wife most of the time, feeling that she
could better judge the fine line between the rules that needed to
be enforced and those which would drive Shannon to rebellion.

"It's different," Shannon said, "because those are adults who've
broken their commitment. If Mr. Larkin says that he'll be home
at eleven and staggers in a little after twelve, that's okay.
But if Steve took one drink before he drove me home, you wouldn't
let me ever date him again."

"It's different because you can nap when you're babysitting
late," he said.

"Oh? If I were sleeping beside Steve, it would be okay?"

"Shannon!" her mother said.

"I was only teasing. You know that I wouldn't."

Allison Bryant, who knew no such thing, was much too wise to say
so. "That's all right, Shannon. We know that you are a kid who
teases us. But eleven o'clock is really awfully late for a kid
to be out." Shannon had lost that one, but she planned to bring
it up again. Later that night she went through her wardrobe
choosing which skirts were a little too passe or too worn for
wearing to school.

- = -

Her parents looked at each other when she had gone up to her
room. They knew that she was a basically good kid, Steven too.
They'd been glad when this romance had started, partly because
Shannon felt so awful after Curt, partly because Steven was in
the same year and acted like a gentleman.

They continued the conversation in their room. "I don't know,
Wayne," her mother said as she sat at her dresser to remove her
makeup. "We do let her babysit for Mrs. Green on school nights.
And that doesn't get her home much before 1:00, sometimes later.
What about keeping 10:00 for dates on school nights, but letting
her stay out until midnight on weekends?"

"When you get up late, it's hard to change back. She needs to
get up at 6:30 tomorrow, she dragged herself out of bed when?
8:30 this morning." He sat down on his own bed to remove his

"Well, she got to church, which is what you care about. I don't
know. She never seems to spend time with anybody but Steven. I
wouldn't mind if she still had sleep-overs with her friends...."

"One friend excepted," Wayne Bryant said. Once he had been a
husband to this woman. They had shared the triumphs of his
career, her wars with the neighbors. Hell, they had shared the
joys of their bodies, and they had shared a bed. Now, he was her
co-parent. Almost all they seemed to share these days was a
concern for Shannon.

"Oh, you. You're as bad as she is. Still, I guess it could be

"It could always be worse. We want it to be good. And all her
cave-man ancestry is there in her blood telling her that it is
time to become a mother. It isn't. She's going to college."

"Do you think she is? That they?..." When she saw Shannon's
tousled appearance after a date, she worried about what she had
been doing; Shannon had been going steady for nearly a year, and
they worried that she and Steven were getting too serious too
soon, never dreaming that Shannon saw Steve more often -- and
more privately -- during her babysitting appointments than on

Wayne didn't think so, partly because imagining his chick having
sex filled him with fury. It must be fury. "No. But the
hormones in her blood are urging her on. As, without doubt, is
Steven. So *we* will weigh in on the other side. There is a lot
more time between the end of the dance and midnight than there is
between the end of the dance and eleven."

Allison looked at him. Bending over to put on his pajama pants,
he showed the beginnings of an erection, and it *was* Sunday
night. "Well," she said, "you'll have your way. I'll tell her
that the curfew stands when she brings it up again." Then she
disappeared into the bathroom with her nightgown and robe.

When Wayne came back from his own bathroom break, he saw her in
his bed. He stripped off his pajamas before joining her.
"Hmmm," he said, "what have we here?"

They kissed for a while, and he stroked her breasts through the
nightgown. Abruptly, she sat up in the bed while he helped her
remove the gown.

Now he could kiss her breasts, bury his face between their
luscious abundances, suck the red tips to firmness. While he did
so, he played with her nether lips, seeking her moisture.

While her body reacted to his approaches, her mind wished he'd
let her breasts alone. Once, they had been firm mounds worthy of
his attention. Now they were loose sacks, only looking decent
when she poured them into wired brassieres. But the nipples
still betrayed her, and his hands knew her too well. As her body
responded to them again, one finger touched her clitoris. She
felt that touch from her follicles to her toenails, it suppressed
her mind and its preferences. He teased it, retreating,
advancing, circling. She was reduced to a body, he was reduced
to a finger.

When he reached her moisture, he spread it. He teased it upwards
to where her pleasure waited. His ear, pressed to her chest,
could hear her heart rate speed. Slowly, in response to his
toying, her knees rose and spread. He sucked hard on her breast
one more time, and then left it to climb between her legs.

The finger teased her, controlled her, mastered her. And then he
was more than just a finger. Something thicker, warmer, drew the
fluid up over her clitoris. It rubbed it directly, excited it
more fully, slid downward against it. Then it left her clitoris
to enter her. Driving into her body, it took possession.
Responding to it, her body rose and fell, rose and tightened.

Sliding into that moisture at last, he was home. Stroking in and
out of her, feeling her respond to his strokes, he felt the
decades-old love swell and displace the years-old resentments.
This was his woman; this was his bride; this was his love. And
this was her response, as she kicked her heels against his thighs
and shuddered under him. Then those feelings disappeared. There
was only him, only his phallus, only his sensation of coming and
coming. Then he was lying on her.

For one instant, she was her body, soaring and pulsing;
responding to him, belonging to him. But, when she dropped onto
the bed, he scarcely noticed her. He was still moving
mechanically within her body, pouring himself into her, and then
lying on her. His torso crushed hers while his organ slid out,
trailing slime down her thigh. When he rolled off, she evaded
his grasp to return to the bathroom. Her body, clean and sweet-
smelling when she had lent it to him a few minutes ago was now
slack, mussed, and leaking his waste. Her left nipple was sore,

Being married to Wayne was more pleasant than the marriages that
most of her friends seemed to have. Her body enjoyed its
marriage too. It was just that when her body and Wayne's went
off to have their fun, they always left the cleanup to her.

Wayne lay on the wet spot, too spent to move. He'd certainly
enjoyed himself, and -- more important -- he knew that Allison
had too. He just wished that she would acknowledge it
afterwards. But, as usual, she came back from the bathroom
dressed in nightgown and robe, climbed into her own bed, turned
away from him, and seemed to go to sleep. Did she know that she
slept on her left side only when they had either quarreled or
made love?

- = -

Shannon's next babysitting job was with the Jensens; and they
wouldn't let Steve visit. She could almost understand.

"Amy's been having a real good period," Mr. Jensen told her,
"but this was a bad day. Well, after Theresa, I'd trust her best
with you. Tell me about the inhaler; tell me about the pills."
She covered both. "We'll be having dinner at the Blue Ox. It's
about forty minutes away. The number is by the phone. Peggy
will wake in about two hours. The bottle is in the 'fridge.
Help yourself to the munchies, but don't let Amy see them.
Graham crackers are okay. Dr. Wyatt's number is by the phone, as
well. Same place as always. I know that I say the same things
every time. Enjoy yourself; you know how to get all the

She did, but that wasn't as much of a perk as Mr. Jensen
thought. Shannon's secret about her job was that she enjoyed the
company of most of the children more than the after-the-kids-are-
in-bed entertainment. That didn't count, of course, the
entertainment that Steve provided.

Amy clung to her mother and then cried for five minutes after she
had left; then, however, she sat in Shannon's lap while they read
stories. Shannon wasn't particularly surprised when Amy almost
dropped off before her bed time. They went though the ritual.
When Amy was tucked in, Shannon sat by the bed while Amy eased
into sleep. Peggy was all right, and then there was only
homework or the extra channels.

Shannon was reading her history book -- well, she was thinking
about Steve's hands and lips on a long-ago day at the meadow; but
the book was open in front of her and she had actually read half
the chapter -- when Amy came down the hall to announce that she
felt sick. One look told Shannon that the inhaler wasn't going
to work. This was a time for the pill, and Shannon took out the
last pill from the bottle and fed it to Amy. They cuddled while
the pill began its work. Shannon started for the phone. The
Jensens must have known that it was the last pill, but she'd
mention it when she called. The restaurant, however, couldn't
find the Jensens. That meant that they would be back within --
what had he said? -- forty minutes which would be....

Shannon knew, as well as anyone, the schedule of Hauksbee's drug
store. It would close in ten minutes, and the workers would be
out in fifteen. Hauksbee, who had long before tired of people
pounding on the glass while he tried to close up, had it cleaned
in the mornings. She knew that she would look like a damn fool
in four chances out of five; but Amy was a sweet kid, and would
be in danger in the fifth case. She dialed Hauksbee's. "Steve?
Thank God it's you. Listen one minute then I'll have to talk to
Mr. Hauksbee; I'll tell him that you will deliver some medicine
here after work. Back me, please back me!"

"Of course I'll back you," he said. He didn't like the tone of
her voice. "Are you at home?"

Chapter 3
"No. I'm babysitting." She gave him the address. She took a
deep breath before Mr. Hauksbee came on the phone. She gave him
the prescription number, and read him the other material from the
label on the pill bottle. "I gave her the last pill. She's a
little kid. If they haven't bought some quite recently, then
they are out of the medicine. Look, I know it's a lot to ask,
but Steve will drop it by here. If you could check out if
they've maybe bought a bottle today and it's likely to be in a
coat pocket still, that would be nice. But I'll pay for it if
worst comes to worst, I just don't want her to have an attack
without her medicines being here."

"I'll check the prescription. Give me the phone number, and I'll
get back to you if there is a problem."

"Is this your girl?" he asked Steve when he had looked up the

"Yes. Shannon is rock solid. If you don't get paid any other
way, you can take the cost out of my pay."

"I'll get paid. They haven't bought any really recently, but
they should have more than half of the last bottle left. Give me
the address." Steve did, and it checked. "Tell them that they
are using it too fast. Tell them to check with Dr. Wyatt in the

The last thing Carl Hauksbee was worried about was getting paid
for the medicine. There had already been a drugstore in the mall
outside of town when he'd bought this place; back then Olsen had
admitted his fears that he would have to close the business at a
loss. Hauksbee's was still in business partly because Hauksbee
took care of his customers. And Dr. Wyatt had backed him when
the store was picketed over the magazines he had on his rack.
Hauksbee wasn't about to put one of Dr. Wyatt's patients at risk.
He sent Steve off with the pills a few minutes early.

Bill Jensen was in a fine mood on his way back from the
restaurant. It was as far as they had got from town since
Peggy's birth, and he had watched the worry lines ease from
Theresa's face. The mood shifted when he saw a strange car in
his driveway. Seeing Steve on the porch didn't help. "Shannon,
didn't I ask you not to entertain anyone while you sat for us.
Who is this?"

"I work for Hauksbee's drugs," said Steve. "Shannon thought that
there might be an emergency."

"Is Amy all right?" asked Mrs. Jensen.

"She's fine now," answered Shannon. "She had another attack,
though." Mrs. Jensen rushed in to see her daughter. "I gave
her a pill," Shannon continued. "It was the last one. You may
have some more somewhere else, but I couldn't reach you. Steve
wasn't in the house; he was doing me a favor."

"The last pill?" said Mr. Jensen. "Come with me."

They went through the house to the kitchen. He found the pill
bottle still in its bag on top of the refrigerator.

"I really should have told you," said Mr. Jensen. "What would
have happened if she had another attack?"

"That's why Shannon called me," Steve said. "I brought over
another bottle. But Mr. Hauksbee told me to insist that you call
the doctor in the morning." He would have liked to say something
cutting; but he felt that he represented Hauksbee's just then,
and snapping at a customer wasn't his privilege. The old man,
now, snapped when he chose.

"Just a minute," said Mr. Jensen. "Let me take this where it
belongs." By the time that Steve drove Shannon home, he had an
apology and a firm invitation to visit Shannon anytime that she
babysat there.

"I still feel that he was snooty when he first came in," Steve

"He's just nervous whenever they're away," Shannon answered.
"She's called me in twice and then refused to go out. He says
that she needs it. Once they went, once he paid me a bit and
sent me home. They're just worried. Wait till you meet Amy and
Peggy, they're such sweet kids. And thanks for helping me out."

"Anytime," he answered. "You're my girl. I want to be there for

"Leave me off in the street in front of the house. I don't want
to explain why it was you and not Mr. Jensen." She did give him
a light kiss, though.

- = -

Their very next kiss was at the Pollocks'. This time Shannon had
worn a skirt, and knee-high socks. They settled into an easy
chair in the corner which was farthest from Kyle Pollock's
bedroom (not that Kyle had ever awakened while she sat for him).
She perched sideways on Steve's knees while he unhooked her bra
with his by-now-practiced left hand.

Steve held Shannon's weight in his lap. It was a little more
than his legs really wanted to support in that position, but it
was truly intimate contact. Her sweet thighs pressed into his
legs, and her unmentionable -- but so often imagined -- mystery
touched his left thigh. He was lost in the play of tongues for
one minute, then freed her breasts from sweatshirt and bra.
Given full rein, his hand explored that smoothness, and then the
roughness of the areolae, and finally the responsive firmness of
the nipples. When he broke the kiss, his lips took her right
breast while his hand still played with the left one.

Shannon found that her enjoyment of the kiss, however deep and
lovely, and Steve's caresses on her breasts, however thrilling,
had been compromised by her nervous anticipation of what might
come next. Sure enough, Steve began stroking her legs as soon as
he kissed her breast. She relaxed into the arousal from his
suction on her nipples and his smoothing of her skirt down her
left leg.

The skirt, with its promise of access to her smooth legs, had
beckoned Steve from the beginning. He stroked down the rough
fabric compulsively. He kept reminding himself that they had
lots of time, but he couldn't forget that this was the only layer
of cloth between him and Shannon. His third pass reached her
sock. He stroked upward to her bare knee and rested for a

Shannon had stopped paying attention to particulars well
before his hand reached her bare right thigh. That caught her
attention! For one thing, his hand was cold; but that was the
less important cause of her shivers. She had imagined that his
hand petted her there, pretended that his hand stroked there,
brought herself to climax starting with an imitation of his hand
stroking there. But her imaginings had never been accompanied by
suction on her breasts, and she had never felt quite the tingle
in her thighs that Steven evoked there. Her legs clasped
together for one moment, and then they fell apart. So did she.

Steve was expecting some objection, but none came. Even when he
reached the smooth, bare thigh, her only response was to trap his
hand by pressing her legs together. He stopped then, but moved
upward again when she released the pressure.

Steve knew that one reason that Shannon allowed him the liberties
she did was that he always stopped when she told him to; but he
was far from sure that he could stop this time when the
inevitable command came. She didn't say a word, just breathed
more deeply two inches above his ear. Then he reached the
sweetness that he had only glimpsed once, months before, but had
imagined every night since. Shannon felt his hand touch her
panties. Then he was clasping all of her there, her mound and
her lips, through the thin cloth.

"Oh Shannon," he said. The way he spoke her name made her feel
that he was sharing her feeling of exaltation. She clasped her
legs together again. Then, she pulled his face to hers for a
sweet kiss. She kissed him, hungrily, desperately, she pulled
his head into the kiss as hard as she wished he would clasp her.

The kiss excited Steve, but not nearly as much as the acceptance
it signaled did. His palm kept up a light pressure while his fingers
began to move back and forth. Her hips moved in response to his

They were more responsive, she thought, to his hand than they
ever were to her own. She needed something more, but mostly she
needed to breathe. When she freed herself from his mouth to gulp
in air, he moved to her left breast. That suction spiraled her
to a tension which she knew couldn't be relieved while she wore
those panties. And then it was relieved. She writhed under his
real touch more than she had ever writhed under the imagined one.
Experienced in the need to keep silent, she clamped her jaws
tight to contain her moans. Then she sagged in his arms. It
should have been much less comfortable than her bed, but it was
comfort and support and love and safety -- until he moved her off
his lap.

When he had touched her panties, Steve's hand had been at the
center of his every dream. He'd had his mouth on the sweetest
morsel that he had ever tasted. It was unthinkable that he would
be distracted. But distracted he was. Her hip, pressed against
his erection, began to move. With her moans in his ear and her
warmth under his hand, he felt mostly his own culmination in
glory. And then in stickiness. He was too sated to move, then
he was too pleased by his location to move, and then he was too
embarrassed to move.

Finally, however, he had to move. He put Shannon down on the
couch beside him and shuffled out of the living room to the
bathroom. Some of it had seeped through to his trousers, more of
it was on his shirt and undershirt. He cleaned all of that off.
His underpants were beyond recall, he would have dumped them if
he weren't afraid that someone would find them. He finally
scraped them (somewhat) clean, rinsed them, wrapped them in a
good portion of the toilet paper then on the roll, and stuffed
them in his pocket. It felt odd walking down the hall bare
against his trousers. He stuffed the incriminating roll into his
back pack. When he turned to face Shannon, he blushed beet-red.

She smiled at him impishly. He blushed more deeply at that, but
soon they were both laughing uproariously. "Come kiss me," she

The kiss was tentative at first, and they each broke it with
grins. By the time they had finished, however, it was a sign of
passion and a seal of love.

She looked at her watch. "Shouldn't you get home sometime soon?"
He had stayed later previous times, but knew that she was right.
This night was over.

They kissed again, more lightly. "I love you," he said.

"I love you, too," she replied. She said it lightly, some words
to end an evening; but she meant it more deeply than she ever had

She thought about the evening while she cleaned up herself, and
then the living room. She hadn't meant for them to go that far,
was her first thought; she would have to find a way to control
their petting. Then her fundamental honesty took over. She
hadn't meant it to go that far, *yet*. She loved Steve, she
wanted Steve, she had dreamed of Steve's hand just where it had
been (except for the panties in the way). They were just moving
awfully fast.

What she would have to work on was not a way of turning back the
clock, but a way of slowing down their momentum. She might need
a way to keep Steve from doing anything so embarrassing again, as
well. But those were details; she dreamily recalled her feelings
until the Pollocks came home. Later, snuggled safe in her bed,
she did her best to reproduce them.

- = -

"Your friend with the asthmatic baby paid for the prescription
the next evening," Hauksbee told Steve. "Thinks our service is
great. Of course, it is. But thanks for holding up the

And it didn't end even there. The next time he deposited his
check in the bank, the teller looked at him strangely. "You're
Shannon's young man, aren't you. I'm Bill Jensen, Amy's father.
Thank's again for what you did."

Steve still thought that Mr. Jensen had been a prick, but he was
being nice enough now. "You're welcome," he said. He picked up
his bankbook and two week's cash and walked out.

- = -

Steve had retaken part 1 of the college boards when he took part
2. The results were somewhat disappointing. His Math score was
only 20 points higher, 650 rather than 630. His Verbal score had
actually dropped from 580 to 570. The chemistry was a strong
710; the math achievement was good at 670. English composition,
at 510, was his weak spot; but he had expected that. Indeed, if
he felt one of the tests overrated him, it was that one.

Even so, he felt he still had some chance at IIT. And Mrs.
Swenson, who had experience with the U of I, thought that they
were 95% sure to accept him.

- = -

Steve's notes on the English assignment were a little hard to
read. It looked like page 340, but that made the reading
assignment shorter than Mrs. Foster usually gave. Besides, that
was the class he shared with Shannon. He had a perfect excuse to
call her.

"Hello." It was Shannon's mother.

"Mrs. Bryant? This is Steve. Could I talk to Shannon, please.
I'm not clear about the English homework."

"I'm sorry, Steven. Shannon's babysitting tonight."

"Not for Mrs. Green, I hope."

She laughed briefly. "No. For the Larkins. But I don't think
that you should call her there. Why don't you ask another person
in your class?" She knew why not, but she was willing to keep up
the social fiction. Indeed, aside from what the family was
paying for the second line, she didn't mind the kid's long phone
chats. Even then, the second line was useful for (and charged
off on their taxes as necessary for) her real-estate business.

"Well, thank you very much. And I'm sorry to have bothered you."

"No bother."

While Shannon's mother might not have been bothered, Steve
definitely was. Why hadn't she told him she was going to be
babysitting for the Larkins? And on a Tuesday, too!

Shannon got a note when she returned home:
"Steven called. He said it was about English.

She knew that the last line stood for "Shannon's social
secretary." Considering the number of messages that she took for
her mother, the joke had lost what little humor it originally

As they were leaving English class, Steve said to her. "I drove
today. You can have a ride home, if you still want to talk to
me." Then he ducked off. Chasing him would make a spectacle of
herself; he was spectacle enough with his long stride. Besides,
she had a class on the other side of the building and needed to
go in the opposite direction.

"'Still want to talk to you'?" she asked at lunch. They both got
there early, and had two minutes before their table got crowded.
By now, she had a suspicion of what was bothering Steve. But she
didn't want to discuss her period with him, let alone with him in
front of a third of the school. She opened the box of chocolate

"You didn't tell me that you were going to be babysitting for the

"I didn't want you over that night. I had a visit from my friend
on Monday." She took a deep sip of the milk, which served to
cover her blush.

"Well," Steve said, "if you would rather talk to your friend
than to me...."

She gasped, and the milk went down the wrong pipe. Then she
coughed it up, half running out her nose.

"Shannon!" Steve said. He pounded her back, and she got her
breath back. By this time they were the center of a crowd.

"Thanks." She managed to say. "I do want a ride home. I'll
meet you at your car. Now, I've got to get myself cleaned up.
Guard my tray, will you?"

Steve, totally confused and rather angry, considered tossing out
her food himself. But he'd been loyal to Shannon for a long time,
and it didn't really sound like she was dumping him. Beside the
waste of her money would probably bother him more than it would
bother her. Shannon didn't think money was real unless she was
spending it. He guarded her tray until she returned. At that
point he had to leave for class.

Shannon was late to math, but she had a good excuse. She raced
to Steve's car at the end of the day. He'd looked mad enough to
leave without her.

"Get us out of here," she said when he arrived, "and I'll explain
everything." When they were alone in the car, however, it was
harder than she had thought. "Look straight ahead, please."

Steve looked straight ahead. Was she going to break up with him?
Was that why she needed the privacy of the car? Was it because
he had expressed such reservations about going to college with
her? But his reasons for choice of college were sounder than
hers, and he hadn't actually said no.

"I don't," Shannon began, "like talking about my menstrual
periods... especially to you. They make me feel icky. I want to
feel something else, pretty perhaps, or romantic, when I'm around
you. But I'd rather feel embarrassed around you than break up
with you."

He looked over at her sharply. She did want to continue, but
what about this friend?

"Don't look at me!" she said. She could feel her face burning.
"Anyway, my period started Monday. I was feeling icky and my
breasts were sore. I didn't want to feel icky around you. I
didn't want you touching me. I sure didn't want to tell you why
I didn't want you touching me. I don't like doing it now. And
ten people asked why I had choked on the milk. I couldn't tell
them. Can't you trust me a little bit?" And, if he couldn't,
did he have to be so damned dense? It had been funny, though.

"Sure." Which was a lie, but he could act as if he weren't
jealous. Maybe he could. "But then this friend...."

"Was my period, silly. It's what we say."

Now his face was red as a beet. He was still staring straight
ahead, but she hadn't promised not to look.

"Um, Shannon," he said as they got near her house. The drive was
never long enough. "I can understand it if you don't want even
that, but I'm open to study dates if that is all you want. After
all, it was at the Larkins."

She laughed. "I'll think about it. Now get home; you'll barely
have time to eat before you leave for the drugstore."

"Yes, Mama."

- = -

Fueled by her mother's enthusiasm, Shannon had been looking
forward to attending Albion for two years. The acceptance letter
should have made her happier than it did. She could see Steve's
point, though. She decided to say nothing to him until the U of
Illinois responded.

Her mother, however, was unambiguously thrilled. She called her
husband at work with the news. Wayne Bryant, who ran the finance
side of County Hospital, was as excited as she was. At dinner he
noticed that the family member least excited by the news was

"What's wrong, Chick?" he asked.

"The thing is, Dad, that I'm not sure that I want to go to
Albion. Steve and I want to go to the same school, and he
applied there. But he doesn't think that it would prepare him
for chemical engineering."

"A liberal arts education is a good preparation for any career,"
Allison said. "He'll be a lot better prepared for chemistry than
you would be prepared to teach history at the University. It's
not just the courses; it's the life. You learn to relate to
people, and you are introduced to the thinking of the ages."

Wayne had heard it all before. His wife's picture of what went
on at a big university didn't represent his memories of Michigan
State very accurately, but that didn't matter. She had been
happy at Albion; Shannon would be happy at Albion. If he'd had a
son, he might have put up more fight, but he *did* think that a
small denominational college would be slightly more protective of
his daughter.

Shannon was bright, but she'd never seemed to want to learn
anything in particular, never seemed to want a particular career.
She was good with children, and would make a fine teacher. But
he couldn't believe that she would be happy as an old maid. He
could admit to himself that he was jealous of Steven, who seemed
to be stealing his Chick away when she was too young to leave the
nest. Still, that was what she wanted.

"But Mom," Shannon said, "Albion's average SAT's are *lower* than
those of the U of I. How can you say that the educational
experience is superior?"

"Admission tests hardly measure the educational experience, dear.
It's interacting with all those other young people who are there
to learn. A big university doesn't have that; you are a faceless

"I can't see that being there to learn is totally independent of
scores. Why didn't they learn in high school?"

Wayne couldn't see that, either. But he kept his mouth shut as
he watched the two people whom he loved most lock into a
situation where one of them was going to be quite unhappy.

After Shannon left for her babysitting job, Wayne helped load
the dishwasher. There was very little that he could hide from
Allison in any case, but this was nearly a signal.

"Are you going to turn against me, too?" she asked. She was sure
that Shannon had.

"I wouldn't call it that."

"What would you call it?"

"I'd call it accepting that our little Chick is about to fly out
of the nest," he said. "We knew that this was coming. Let's not
have her leave hating us."

"You've changed your mind since we talked about the curfew. And
*I* am the person who enforces your rule."

That was a little unfair. Allison had thought that they might
ease that rule; he'd been against it. But she'd agreed. The
fight went round and round. Finally he said, "We will support
Shannon if she wants to go to the U of I; we said essentially
that years ago. You can still tell her how despicable an
education people like her father got at big state universities.
But if you don't tell her that her decision is final, I will."

The hospital was open all night. He was seriously tempted to
return to his office. He stayed home, watching tv until Allison
had gone to bed. She was facing away from his empty bed,
however, when he went up. This time he faced away from her, too.

The next evening was a little friendlier, but nobody mentioned
college. Tension eased over the next few days, without resolving
anything substantive.

- = -

Babysitting for Mrs. Green had several advantages (none of which
compensated the kids being monsters). She was not going to come
home early, she was not going to come home drunk, she paid by
check at the beginning of the evening, and she had no interest in
finding fault with how Shannon had behaved. The last point was
becoming more important to Shannon.

By the time that Steve showed up at the Green house, he had done
some planning. He was glad to see Shannon in a skirt again. He
kissed her slowly and sweetly while they were still standing.
After loosening her bra, he led her to the couch and eased her

Shannon's first thought was that Steve was going to try to do it.
When he knelt beside the couch, however, she relaxed and let him
renew the kiss. She noticed that he kept his hands outside her
clothes much longer than had become their habit. When he did
push up her sweatshirt, he took his time on her breasts before he
reached their peaks. "Help me," he said, and pushed up the cloth
to give his mouth full access. She raised herself enough to
allow the sweatshirt to bunch under her arms. She felt his
kisses everywhere, beginning on her stomach, before finally
reaching her nipple. He stroked her leg, and then her mound,
from outside her skirt. He put his other hand on her head and
raised himself up so that they were looking each other in the

"I love you, Shannon," he said.

Then, still gazing into her eyes, he stroked down her leg and
under the skirt, luckily a wide one. He gave her one short kiss
on the mouth and then bent to her nipple. It was her left breast
this time, and his chest was pressed onto her right one.

Shannon felt every shift in Steve's position as an arousing
movement against her stiff nipple, and his tongue and lips on her
other nipple were even more arousing. The overwhelming source of
her arousal, though, was the back-and forth motion of his hand on
her thigh. His palm was firm on the top, but his fingers trailed
lightly across the inside. One finger occasionally brushed the
inside of her left thigh as well, sending tremors upward into her
belly. Steve's hand was moving back and forth, but it moved
upward more on every cycle. Finally, one finger touched her
through her panties. She wanted more, she wanted his whole hand
on her as it had been last time.

Steve felt her panties with one finger, but it was a finger in a
critical position. Even without pressing against her, he could
feel those mysterious folds through the cloth. He wanted to
clasp her there, he wanted to explore those folds, he wanted to
see that heart shape which he had only seen once, he wanted to
plunge into her depths. He knew that she wouldn't allow any part
of what he wanted. He abandoned her breast to tell her one
percent of his feeling. "Oh Shannon," he said.

Without any conscious decision on the part of her mind, her
knees raised and spread. She thought that he looked almost
shocked, but he kissed her before she could really read his
expression. It was a warm, gentle, kiss; Steve licked her lips
rather than invading her mouth. When she finally sought his
tongue with hers, she felt his hand slowly move to cup her mound.

Steve had been shocked speechless when he felt her legs open for
his hand; but not, luckily, shocked kissless. Once touching her
center, he could neither leave it nor keep still. Instead he
compulsively petted her pantied crotch. He wanted to seize it
and clasp it tight, but he was frightened of the violence
involved in his desire.

The way he petted the cloth between her legs reminded Shannon of
petting a cat. It was exciting, then it was excruciating; she
pulled his arm to get more pressure.

Steve had tried to be very gentle until Shannon grasped his arm.
"She's going to shove me away," he thought. "She's going to push
me away and send me out of this house, and I'll never touch her
this way again."

Then she pulled him tighter. He knew that this was her
acceptance of his desire for her and her expression of her desire
for him. Everything was all right. "Shannon," he said. "Love."

She heard his words and felt him bend to her breast again,
sucking on it and pressing it with his tongue. Steve sucked her
sweet breast and stroked her sweet center. His own arousal was a
tightness and a torment, but he had no hand to relieve that
torment. It was too much for Shannon, then it was not enough.
And then it was just right, and she flew away. When his beloved
responded to him in a way that, even to his gross ignorance, was
clearly a climax, Steve was in heaven, sharing her joy and
experiencing his own pride.

When Shannon came back to the couch, it was suddenly all wrong.
She shoved his hand away and curled up to cry.

"Shannon," he said. It had been marvelous, feeling her and
seeing her react to him. And then she had rejected him. And
*then* she had cried. Had he hurt her? Had he offended her?
"Did I hurt you? What did I do wrong? What do you need? I'm
sorry if I was too rough. Shannon, are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she finally managed to say. "You didn't do anything
wrong, just hold me." So he held her, hugging her head with one
hand and her knees with another. She felt his chest crosswise on
her back. Steve cuddled her from a very contorted position, but
happy that she accepted him again, he was glad for the
connection. Finally, she straightened and relaxed. Then she
said, "Let me get up." He moved back, accepting that she always
pushed him away to put herself together. She sat up and
refastened her bra. She would have liked to straighten her
panties, too, but didn't want to do it in front of him.

Logically, the brief glimpse of breasts that he had kissed and
caressed minutes before shouldn't have stimulated Steve; but
logic had little to do with his feelings. Needing a little
relief, he headed up the stairs to the bathroom.

Shannon watched Steve leave her, and then she remembered having
seen Mrs. Green's diaphragm on the top shelf of the medicine
cabinet on a previous evening. If Mrs. Green didn't hide it when
she knew Steve was going to visit, Shannon probably had no
obligation to do so. Still, she felt that it was a real invasion
of her hostess's privacy. "Steve," she called, "can't you use
the bathroom down here?"

Steve's reason for going upstairs was to place as much distance
between himself and Shannon. Explaining that was worse than
using the bathroom a few feet from her. He went down the few
stairs that he had climbed and shut the door. After his
experiences that evening, Steve found that freeing his cock from
his Jockey briefs was harder work than bringing it to climax.

He sniffed his right hand, which still retained Shannon's odor,
for a few seconds before beginning a vigorous stroking over the
toilet bowl. He cleaned up the spatters, used the facilities to
piss as well, and washed his hands. The latter was a matter of
real regret, but he could hardly keep his hand dirty just to have
something to sniff at odd moments. Besides, he was afraid that
others would be able to smell it, too.

Each of them was dressed neatly, if in a rather high color, when
he came back into the living room. They actually got a little
studying done before he began to yawn. Their kiss good night
left them a little more mussed, but it didn't necessitate any
rearrangement of underwear.

Steve dreamed of Shannon that night; Shannon was considering,
rather than dreaming.

- = -

Shannon remembered something about positive reinforcement from a
Social Sciences course in tenth grade. She hoped that attending
church with Dad would reinforce whatever effort he was exerting
behind the scenes about Albion.

Anyway, she generally tried to fulfill parental expectations the
mornings after she saw Steve. "Well," she could say, "you never
asked if Steve were there, and -- after all -- the study evening
didn't interfere with my getting up and going to church."

Besides, Miss Olson, a member of the church, had been Dr. Wyatt's
office nurse since Shannon was his patient. "Miss Olson," she
started out, "could I speak to you privately?"

"All right, Shannon," she said, "what did you want to discuss?"
She kept her voice neutral. This could be anything from business
for the UMW, of which Miss Olson was currently treasurer, to a
request for a secret appointment with Doctor. Shannon had been a
patient when she came to work for the Doctor.

"It's little Amy Jensen. What's going to happen to her?"

"And what makes you think that I know?" Information about
patients was confidential. Shannon really shouldn't ask.

"She's a patient of Dr. Wyatt. She has asthma bad. Every time I
go to babysit, I see Dr. Wyatt's phone number on the pad. She's
such a sweet kid, and so young! Couldn't you ask Dr. Wyatt?"
Shannon felt like crying.

Miss Olson patted Shannon's shoulder. Curiosity was one thing,
sympathy was another. "She is a lovely child, isn't she? But
you know the parents. They know the prognosis; ask them. I'm
sure that they'll be glad to tell you." Which, without quite
breaking confidentiality, should let Shannon know that the long-
term prognosis was good. "But Doctor doesn't like me talking
about his patients, don't you see? I think that your father is
looking for you."

In fact, Wayne had seen Shannon and was waiting for her to join
him. Happy to have his daughter to sit with him, he wished he
had his whole family. Raised a Presbyterian, he was now a
Methodist because Allison had insisted. She, more committed to
denomination than to faith, missed more services than she
attended. He and Shannon found seats just as the prelude was

- = -

The theme of the ball before Christmas break was going to be
Santa's reindeer. Ken approached Steve about working on the
committee. "I don't think so, Ken. I'm putting in all those
hours at the store and trying to keep my grades up."

"Come on, Steve. Every senior should be on one dance committee,
at least. It gets you a free ticket, too."

"Maybe later."

"I'm thinking of something like 'Be a Dancer or a Prancer at the
Donner Party.' How does that sound?"

"Fine Ken, but not good enough to get me on the committee. I'll
come to the dance, though."

- = -

The weather, which had been unseasonably mild up to then, turned
vicious. Steve reluctantly stored his bike in the garage and
took the bus every day. The bus wasn't all that reliable either,
but you never got into trouble when the school bus made you late
to class.

That meant that Steve couldn't walk Shannon home, couldn't even
stay after school to chat with her. On many Wednesdays, he could
borrow the car. Those days, he could drive her home; but
Wednesday afternoons he had to rush home, eat in indecent hurry,
and get to Hauksbee's.
- = -

"Shannon," Mr. Jensen asked over the phone, "are you free next
week? I know it's getting close to Christmas..."

"What day next week?"

"That's it. She won't trust any other babysitter but you. You
reacted so fast to the pill matter. We figured that we would ask
you first."

"One thing, you said that you didn't mind Steve visiting."

"Of course."

"I'd like him to meet Amy. I don't want her coming down and
seeing a man that she has never met. How about Tuesday, he's off
that night."

"Of course. And we'll make it early." They didn't need to do
that for Shannon, but she knew that this was a lost cause. Mrs.
Jensen was still breast feeding Peggy, and expressing one bottle
was her limit.
Chapter 4

Steve showed up, by design, well before Shannon. Peggy looked a
lot like a warm lump to him, and one who didn't smell that nice.
Amy, on the other hand, was as bright as Shannon had suggested.
Besides, Peggy wasn't going to report any wrongdoing; they
didn't need her good will.

Amy was used to playing second fiddle to her new sister. When
Steve's attention concentrated on her, she responded tenfold. He
used a histrionic voice for reading her books, and Amy was
charmed. She was getting in serious lap time when Shannon showed
up. Shannon's arrival, which always heralded her mother's
departure, was bad news. Ten minutes after her parents were out
the door, however, Steve was reading *Horton Hatches an Egg* for
the third time.

Shannon didn't know whether to be jealous of Amy for capturing
her boyfriend's attention, or of Steve for having a lap that Amy
clearly preferred to her own. Then Peggy needed attention, and
each of them had a kid to deal with. "Okay," Shannon said when
Amy's bed time rolled around. "Do you want to walk to your room,
or do you want me to carry you?"

"Teef!" Amy said, and triumphantly rode down the hall in Steve's
arms. Shannon did most of the work, but Steve did the lifting
and tucking in necessary to put Amy to bed. They both kissed her
good night.

"And what," Steve asked when they were again in the living room,
"do mommy and Daddy do when their kids are tucked in?"

"They check their watches because the four-year-old is going to
want a glass of water in five minutes." That wasn't really true
of Amy, though, and Shannon didn't mind spending the time
kissing, so long as that was all they did. They broke to put
Amy's books back on her shelf, but ten minutes later Shannon was
lying down with Steve kissing her. When he reached for the
bottom of her skirt, she grabbed his arm.

"Do you know when to stop?" she asked.

"When you tell me to."

"What if I set a limit now?"

"Are you telling me to stop, now?" And, he wondered, what is
stopping? Does she want my hand outside her skirt? If so, why a

Instead of answering, she hiked up her skirt. It was tight. She
didn't have many full ones that weren't also too dressy for

"Are you telling me to stop?" Steve asked.

"Not yet. Just establishing that you will."

"You are weird, Shannon. Beautiful but weird." He was quite
happy to go back to kissing her, though. And his lips and hand
brought her to her crisis once again. This time, when she pulled
his hand from between her legs, she brought it to her mouth and
kissed it. That made him feel much better. He knew about
wanting the stimulation to stop, and didn't mind that she felt
that way; he just didn't want her rejecting him. He cradled her
as much as the awkward position allowed.

They stayed like that until Peggy's cries interrupted them. This
time she was wet and messy. Shannon changed her and gave her a
pacifier, but Steve was holding her when the Jensens came home.

Mrs. Jensen shed her coat and recaptured her baby in one
continuous motion. She gave Steve an odd look before hurrying
down the hall.

Mr. Jensen drove them home. "Was Amy all right?" he asked.

"She was perfectly sweet," Steve said. "Shannon was right about

"Humph," said Shannon. "She tried to steal my boyfriend. There
wasn't a sign of the asthma, though. That's what he was asking,

- = -

Steve normally got paid on the third and the eighteenth of every
month. Conscious of his employees' needs, Hauksbee got the payroll
done by Saturday the sixteenth. Steve got to the bank in the
last half hour it was open.

"I'm sorry," the cashier said. "This account needs two
signatures for withdrawal." Steve knew that, but it wasn't a

"I'm making a deposit. This is a check. I've done this twice a
month for more than a year now."

"I *know* that it is a check, sir; but, technically, you are
depositing the check and withdrawing the cash. We don't enforce
that rule when the cash is a trivial amount, but you are asking
for more than half the check in cash."

"I need that money for my Christmas shopping."

"Well, I can't give you more than seventy-five dollars."

He took it.

- = -

The ball that night was called "Reindeer Ramble." They both
enjoyed themselves greatly at the dance, Steve enjoyed himself a
little less afterwards. The parking time was spent more in talking
than in petting.

"I'm not saying no to you, Steve," Shannon said. "I'm saying no
to the time and the place. You do see that?" She'd have to
remember this, though, when she bought a dress for the
Valentine's Day Ball.

"I see it, Shannon. I love you. Look, I want things that I
can't have. I'm willing to wait for things I can't have
*tonight*. Besides, although I shouldn't admit it to you,
dancing with you in my arms is a sexual experience."

"You're right," she said. "You shouldn't have admitted it.
I just thought that you had brought a sausage in your pocket."

"Shannon!" Steve was a little bit shocked. He was also amused
and aroused. "Can we -- at least -- kiss?"

They did, until it was time to take her home. After they parted
at her doorstep at precisely eleven, they made their separate
preparations in their separate houses to ready themselves for
their separate beds. There, finally, they met again -- but only
in their separate imaginations.

- = -

Steve knocked at the Bryants' door the afternoon of the next day.

"Hello, Steven," Mrs. Bryant said. "Shannon's not here. The
church youth group is rehearsing carols. I'm surprised that you
didn't know." Shannon seemed to know, Allison thought,
*Steven's* every move.

"That's why I'm here. Could you sneak that under the tree before
your family opens presents." He handed her a bag containing a

"Come in a moment, won't you." She searched up the present
Shannon had bought Steven.

Looking at the gorgeous wrappings, Steve felt guilty. "I had the
store wrap hers," he said.

"Probably just as well." Kids, she thought as she watched him
walk to his car, had such tender egos.

"I gave Steven your present," she told Shannon when she got home.
"He came by."

"What did he want?"

"I'm sworn to secrecy." But Allison was not willing to live with
her daughter's worrying for a week about whether Steve would get
her a present. She would be bad enough wondering what it was.

- = -

Steve's father advanced him the cash for the rest of his
Christmas shopping. Steve would sign over his check next payday,
and get his dad's check for the difference.

Over the Christmas break, Steve and Shannon got to see each other
occasionally and to talk on the phone a lot. Most of their
meetings were, however, in public and in the light of day.
Mallory was back from college, and Steve's parents insisted that
the family do things together. Besides, she hogged the phone and
accused Steve of doing that himself.

- = -

Saturday, Shannon had another baby-sitting job from Mrs. Green.
Steve had previously promised to work that night, relieving Mrs.
Thompson, but he could stop by afterwards.

That was the only thought that kept her sane while the little
monsters were awake. When she finally got them to bed, however,
they slept the deep, dreamless sleep of the conscienceless.
Mrs. Green had, indeed, moved her diaphragm from the medicine
cabinet, making Shannon's earlier worries unnecessary.

That checked, she put her frazzled spirit back together, finished
the dinner she'd abandoned when the boys had finished theirs, and
cleaned up the worst of the mess. She checked on the boys one
last time and settled down with one of Mrs. Green's bodice-
rippers to prepare herself for Steve's visit.

Their first kiss was brief. "Brrr," she said.

"Well, let me get this coat off," he replied. That accomplished,
he kissed her again.

"Your hands are still cold as ice."

"Cold hands, warm heart," he claimed.

"And what do cold lips demonstrate?"

"That I'm a healthy dog?"

"That's a cold nose, silly."

"I have that too," he said. "I remember now. Cold lips are an
infallible sign that the sufferer hasn't been kissed enough by

"Does that mean that I should stop kissing you when your lips get

"Warm lips are a sign that the sufferer hasn't kissed Shannon

She wouldn't let him put his hands on her, though, even over her
clothes. He broke the foolishness to use the bathroom. He
washed his hands afterwards, rinsing them for minutes under the
hottest water that he could stand.

"Much better," she said when he came out and cupped her face for
another kiss. Soon, she was lying on the couch with him kneeling
on the floor beside it. Their tongues played together while he
slipped his hands under her blouse and up to her breasts.

She relaxed into the familiar pleasures, only shaken when he
first kissed her breasts. His face was still a bit chilly. His
hand was not, however. It slid up her leg and then stroked down.

Steve found her breasts marvelously warm as well as soft. Her
nipple puckered firmly for his mouth even more rapidly than
usual. Convinced that he would be allowed access to her pantied
mound at the culmination of the evening, he tantalized himself,
and (he hoped) Shannon, by approaching this treat very slowly.
He got into a rhythm of moving his hand upwards well above her
leg and then resting it on the skin to stroke down her thigh.
The smoothness of the soft curves under his hand was hypnotic,
and he had to remind himself to switch breasts.

Shannon wallowed in the sensations coming from the licking and
suction on her breast and the gentle caresses on her thigh.
Steve's slow and gentle approach reminded her that she could
trust him and relax. Moreover, since he was doing it, she didn't
need to think of what to do next. After a bit, however, she was
ready for a next stage which seemed slow in coming. When he
leaned across her to reach her other breast, she expected the
clasp of his hand. It didn't come. She raised her knees and
spread them as much as the couch allowed.

Despite the discomfort in his groin, Steve felt that he could go
on stroking Shannon's soft curves forever. Then she adjusted her
position in clear invitation. For one moment, he was tempted to
climb between those welcoming thighs. Then his common sense
kicked back in; Shannon might be in the perfect position for his
joining her, but that was clearly not her intention. With that
picture still dominating his thoughts, he tickled her other leg
on the way to her panties. Once there, he stroked his fingers
over the smooth, damp cloth. He tried to read the configuration
of her mystery through the constraining panties. Needing to
straighten up on his knees to adjust his erection, he took that
opportunity to kiss Shannon's mouth once more and to switch
breasts after that. While he moved, he rested his hand on
Shannon's mound and clasped her groin with his fingers.

Shannon felt that clasp with a rush of excitement. Steve's
strokes in the new position were firmer and more exciting. "Yes,
Steve," she said as he pressed more firmly against her labia.
"Oh, yes," she said as he rubbed her more rapidly. She pulled
his hand tighter against her and moaned "Yesss!" as the climax
finally took her. This time he kept stroking until she was done.
When she pushed his hand away, he kissed her immediately.

"I love you Shannon," he said. "You are wonderful." Then he
kissed her again.

Steve really meant that Shannon was wonderful, and he thought that
she had been especially wonderful for the previous few minutes.
She had always seemed sexy and desirable to him. It had also
been clear for many months that she thought him a nice boy. But
only recently had he seen her respond as a desirous woman, behave
as though she thought that *he* was sexy. This increased his
arousal a thousandfold. He felt he should hug and kiss her
forever in gratitude for this gift; on the other hand, he really
felt the need to escape her presence so that he could do
something about that arousal. He kissed her forehead and
whispered, "I'll be back."

Shannon listened to his footsteps head toward the downstairs
bathroom. She sat up, refastened her bra and buttoned her
blouse. Steve had only undone the bottom buttons; the top two
were still in place. She stood to tuck everything back in place.
She needed the mirror in the bathroom to check herself out,
though. She smiled at the idea of breaking in on Steve.

Then she thought, 'Why not? He's seen me. What he's doing is no
secret.' She took a deep breath to gather up her courage and
walked to the door. No inside door in the Green home had a lock
that the kids could use. She turned the handle quietly.

Steve had his cock out and cooling a bit while he sniffed the
Shannon-odor once more. He wondered what Shannon would think if
he used a handkerchief to rub her down there. He could keep it
in a test tube with a stopper and only open it at night in his
bed. On the other hand, there were already too many layers of
cloth between his hand and her mystery this way.

Shannon saw Steve standing in front of the toilet with his penis
pointing up; he had his hand against his mouth as if he were
stifling a yawn. A little after she entered, he glanced towards
her in shock, and turned towards her. "Shannon," he squeaked.

"You would have preferred Mrs. Green?"

Conscious of his erection in plain sight, Steve turned his back.
Shannon could see Steve's blush creep across his neck. Maybe it
was anger instead of embarrassment, but she wasn't going to stop
now. She glided behind him so close that he could feel her firm
breasts press into his back. Her hands slid around his waist and
toward his groin. Somewhere in his forebrain he was scandalized
and horribly embarrassed. None of this was communicated below
his waist. There, her hands were touching him, holding him.
When she touched it, it jerked in her fingers. The skin moved
with her fingers, although she tried to stroke it gently.
Beneath that loose surface, however, she felt something much
firmer and hotter. "Tell me what I should do," she said. He
didn't answer, but that soon was irrelevant as it jumped in her
hands and shot out pulse after pulse. The first ones hit the
raised toilet seat; only the last pulses went inside the bowl.
His hips moved back and forth within the circle of her arms, and
he was sort of grunting. Then her right hand had some of the goo
on it.

All Steve could think was that doing it himself had never felt
like this.

She washed while he stood there. All in all, she thought, it had
been interesting -- even a little arousing, but not in the least

Steve used the facilities when she had left. Then he cleaned up
his mess and washed himself. He blushed scarlet when he had to
leave the bathroom at last.

Shannon had decided to put that experience on the back burner
until she could think about it in private. She was deep into
her math book by the time he came out. She wanted to get all the
studying out of the way before the New Year's rush.

Steve had taken advanced algebra and trig the previous year.
Still, he stammered when she asked him a question about it.

"I'm serious," she said. "What's this business with amplitude?"

"Simple enough. You're just asking the wrong question first.
Where is the middle line of that function?"

"Here?" She sort of sketched a line across the book with her

"Good enough. Y equals negative three. Now how high can the
function get?"

"Positive one."

"And its minimum?"

"Negative seven."

"Okay," he said. "The difference between positive one and
negative three is four. The difference between negative three
and negative seven is four. The amplitude is?"

"Four... Or eight?"

"Shoulda stopped while you were ahead. The standard sine wave
looks like this." He sketched it out. "Max value, positive one;
minimum value, minus one; amplitude one."

"I know that." Steve was good at math, but that was no reason
for him to patronize her.

"Right. This is math; we start with what you know. Wait till
the teacher gets to the part that you don't know and you'll get
lost every time." He'd been saying that since the beginning of
the school year. It seemed to him that she ignored him every
time, and that she got lost nearly every time.

"Anyway," he continued, "the distance from the center line to the
maximum is the amplitude of this function. So that is the
amplitude of any function. Or the distance from the center line
to the minimum, they had better be the same."

She went back to her book, and he opened his English book. He
kept hoping that reading Shakespeare one more time would make
"Romeo and Juliet" clear. Half an hour later, they kissed good
night. It was a warm kiss, with lots of tongue; but neither of
them brought the passion to it that they had experienced earlier.

- = -

Shannon took a job babysitting on New Year's Eve, while Steve and
Mallory were designated drivers at their parents' party that
night. Steve drove the guests home in their cars, and Mallory
followed after in the Civic. Steve would climb into what he
considered Shannon's seat and ride back. They participated in
the party until they were needed, but not in the main activity.

"You each can drink as much as you want Monday, though," their
father promised. At one point, Steve doubted that the guests
would leave anything undrunk in the county, let alone their
house. As he couldn't go into Hauksbee's with liquor on his
breath, he'd have to do his drinking on Monday night.

Steve did grab an unopened bag of caramels from the candy stash.
He hid it in his coat pocket and ate them in his old style. The
light-colored ones, which he liked well enough, he ate first.

"Give me a couple," Mallory said.

"Get your own. We'll be back at the house in a few minutes."
But he dug into the bag to find a few. He passed her the two
light-colored ones, dropped two of the three dark ones back into
the bag, and started to peel the third for himself.

"Come on. Give me one of the dark ones. You have lots."

"Get your own. I have lots of dark ones because I eat the light
ones first."

"You're a puritan. My little brother is a puritan even about
eating candy."

Entering the house through the kitchen, as the family always did,
they surprised a couple petting more heavily in a half-lit corner
than Shannon would in a dark closed car. The man and his wife --
not the woman in the kitchen -- were his next passengers.
"Seeing the big world, little brother," Mallory said as he got
back in their car. She liked to pretend to be a woman of the
world dealing with an innocent hayseed.

"I'm not surprised it happens," he said. "I just expect that,
when *I* am married, I'll stick to my own woman, and my own house
for that matter."

"And meanwhile, you stick to your own hand. Don't try to
bullshit your big sister. You'd take it if it were offered.
It's just that nobody would want you."

On a later return, he really was shocked. His father was pressed
against a woman bending over one of the kitchen counters. "Dad!"
he gasped. Then they moved apart, and he saw that the woman was
his mother. All Dad had been doing was scratching her back. He
did that lots, although they probably wouldn't have dodged out of
their own party for it if either one had been sober.

"I hope," he told Mallory in the car later, "that Dad forgets
that incident. It must have been clear what I thought he was

"He had his groin pressed up against Mom's butt. What could you
possibly have thought he was doing?"

"Well, I didn't know it was mom at first. And what he was really
doing was scratching her back."

"Someday, little brother, you should take lessons from Dad in
backscratching. mom started offering to do my back, instead of
him, soon after they decided that I couldn't sit on his lap. And
she definitely doesn't know how."

- = -

Steve took Shannon out for a drive on the second. They necked as
well as talked, but they had become nervous about the lack of
privacy in the car, especially with the better places full of
snow. Besides, it was cold in the car, and he had a hangover.

Steve hadn't heard from IIT yet, but he had received acceptances
from both Albion and U of I the week after Christmas.

"This news is supposed to make me jump for joy," he said.

"Yeah. Me too." They'd gotten the letters within days of each

"The admissions offices aren't going to make our decision for us.
Financial aid just might," she said after a minute of two.

"I don't know. They all say that they give aid to all students
who really need it. And I don't think that either of us is going
to get a great scholarship based on our academic record."

"I'm scared of telling my mother that I'm choosing a school to be
with you."

"I'm more scared," he said. "It's unlikely to cost your parents
any more, probably less."

But Shannon was thinking it less and less likely that the college
for both of them would be Albion. The question was whether there
would be a college for both of them. And Steve might still be
accepted into IIT. She couldn't go there, but she could find
another college in Chicago. She didn't want to, though;
Champaign-Urbana was quite large enough a town, thank you. If
Steve wouldn't give up her plans for her, why should she give up
her plans for him? The thing was that Steve hadn't asked her to.
And he hadn't really said that he wouldn't give up his plans,
either. She wanted to be with him. And his plans, after all,
were lifetime plans.

Could they keep a long-distance romance going for four years?
That was four times as long as they had been dating.

- = -

Her parents scheduled an attic cleanup for Saturday morning. As
Steve was working then, she made no objection. But they didn't
start until after ten, took a long lunch which was devoted to
"remember when," and finished grungy at nearly five.

Steve called, but he wasn't really free then either; and Mallory
wanted the phone after only fifteen minutes. "E-mail," he said.
She did, but she never felt the same about these. She logged on
later to read two, one written while Mallory hogged the phone and
he couldn't send it, one in answer to hers. They were nice, but
she missed Steve's voice.

- = -

The Bryants all got to church the first Sunday of the new year.

The financial secretary had the records of giving piled on a
table when they got out of service. Shannon opened hers in the
back seat of the car. She was three weeks behind at the end of
the year. "Mom," she asked "is there enough to pay the back
offering next week? It's fifteen bucks."

"Sure," her mother said. "But give me your babysitting money
when we get home. I'll finish last year and start this. Nobody
wants to show houses with the Christmas lights still on them and
the ice dripping down."

"Shannon!" she called half an hour after they got back. "Where's
the money from the Savages?"

"They paid in cash," Shannon called from her room. "I spent it
at the after-Christmas sales. I only used your card for the big

"Then tell me the amount. I need to know cash amounts for
keeping these books, and I'm starting the books for the new

"Why," Shannon asked in a perfectly reasonable voice, "does the
new year change the rules? I kept the cash just as I did last

"Shannon!!" her mother screamed.

"Let's," her father shouted from downstairs, "get all this in one
room and keep it to a dull roar."

But he sided with her mother when the matter was laid out. "I
work for the hospital; it's the county's money. But every penny
which comes in, and every penny which goes out, has to be
reported to my office. It may be your money, but it is your
mother's *books*. And you should be damn grateful that she keeps
them for you. Maybe she shouldn't."

Luckily, Shannon kept records of appointments, expected starting
and ending times, and -- since she wanted the warning before she
went there again -- any late return or underpayment. She went
over them with her mother in excruciating detail. For some
reason, this required another column in the accounting record.

"And he paid me fifteen dollars, and that was the first time,"
she finally said. They had been working backwards.

"Did you finish up this year's books?" Shannon asked at supper.
She'd cooked it to pay back her mother for the extra effort on
the books.

"No thanks to you. Honestly Shannon!"

"So how much was my balance brought forward to the new year?"

"Well, you bought things at the sales. And you'll really owe
taxes this year. The theater withheld, but nobody else did.
Mrs. Green could get in trouble for that."

Shannon hoped that she wasn't as transparent when *she* was
evading the subject as her mother was. "How much was my balance
brought forward?" Her parents exchanged looks.

"Two thousand four hundred thirty-eight dollars and fifty-four

"Two thousand dollars!!" she screamed.

"Remember the four hundred thirty-eight dollars and fifty-four

"Two thousand dollars! And you didn't want to tell me! What I
could have done with that."

"You could have wasted it," her father said. "What did you want
that you didn't buy?"

"I could have got Steve something really nice for Christmas and
his birthday."

"We went over that," her mother said. "The limit was what Steven
would feel obliged to spend on you. He was embarrassed that your
wrapping of his Christmas gift was better than the job that the
store did on yours."

"There is another point that you need to consider," Dad said.
Shannon felt that they were double-teaming her; but there was
none of that nonsense about good cop - bad cop. "We'll pay your
way to college. We've said so. We'll pay tuition, books, room
and board. It's only fair that you pay for your clothes and
entertainment. Certainly, if we have to pay for them, you will
be on a much tighter allowance than you spent this year."

"You've been talking about this. It's my money, but you've been
talking about it behind my back!"

"We didn't talk about it." Dad was using his explain-the-obvious-
to-the-retards voice. "Didn't need to. Back in the summer, you
were getting $162 a week from Mrs. Green. How much from the

"Almost ninety."

"Not take home," her mom said.

"Nobody," Dad said, "not even Imelda Marcos, could spend two
hundred and fifty dollars a week on clothes. Not in this town."

"And," mom added, "you were with Steven almost every moment that
the stores were open." Which was a gross exaggeration; so was

"So," Dad finished up, "I knew that you were accumulating money
without watching the amounts. Your mother knew that you would
accumulate more through the summer before it even happened. Why
did either of us have a duty to point that out to you? It wasn't
as if you missed one, single, opportunity to spend money. I
didn't actually talk to your mother. But I sympathize with her."

"You know, Shannon," mom said, "you haven't the faintest idea
what the style details will be at college. Every time you buy
something now which may be appropriate for the next few months,
you decide that you won't buy something next year -- maybe
something which you will actually need."

- = -

Having two personal problem to stew over and more than the usual
amount of homework Wednesday night, Shannon found when she reached
the Pollocks that Kyle -- normally a low-maintenance fifth grader
-- hadn't been turning in his homework. Instead of burying
himself in his room, he had to sit across the kitchen table from
her and show her his homework as he completed each assignment.
Kyle's reaction could have been have predicted; he found ten
times as many things to distract him, and her, than any adult
could possibly have found. Half his homework was still undone
when his bedtime arrived.

She was rather frazzled when Steve appeared. More than that,
this Kyle was a different boy; she no longer trusted him to sleep
through the night. The house was a "ranch," and the door to
Kyle's room was not six feet from the living room. When their
books were spread out, she led Steve into the kitchen before
giving him a welcoming kiss.

"What is this?" he asked.

"As much privacy as we are going to get. I'm nervous."

"Where is a glass?"

"Here." She got him one. He ran the water, filled the glass,
poured half out.

"Now," he said, "we have a reason to be in here." He had a wad
of tissues in his coat pocket just in case she would repeat her
delightful strokes. That possibility was looking dimmer.

"You have a devious mind. I like that in a guy."

When they kissed again, she began to relax in his arms. He felt
her breasts press into his chest. He left her mouth to sprinkle
kisses over her face, but the differences in height made that
uncomfortable. He stopped on her forehead while pulling her
sweatshirt out of her skirt. He raised it enough to reach her
bra clasp.

He liked the next kiss better, with her breasts a little softer
and an inch lower on his chest. Even through her sweatshirt and
his clothes, he could feel the hardness of her nipples.

Shannon never mentioned the annoyance of a bunched-up bra. The
alternative was obvious, and she didn't want to remove her bra
here. The kiss was great, though, and there was always something
sexy about having her breasts swinging free.

Steve hunched down, hugged Shannon to him, straightened up, and
set her on the edge of the countertop. After a little
adjustment, he was standing between her legs, and her face was
above his. They kissed again, his tongue playing in her mouth.
He ran his hands under her shirt, up her back, and then around to
cup her breasts. All that smoothness was against his palms; his
thumbs played with her nipples.

Somehow, the different angle made the kiss different for Shannon.
She had her arms about Steve and her face above his; his hands
were busy at her breasts but not holding her to him. She was
kissing him rather than his kissing her. At that thought, she
broke the main kiss to kiss his nose and forehead as he sometimes
did for her. When she returned to his mouth, she invaded it with
her tongue. She felt daring, as well as turned on.

Steve's mind was concentrating on keeping his hands gentle on
Shannon's breasts. It couldn't handle her tongue in his mouth.
His body, with no such limits, arched forward rubbing his
hardness along her belly. Luckily, their clothing interfered.

Shannon had felt his erection pressing against her many times at
dances, but usually closer to her rib cage than to her groin.
Indeed, those experiences usually marked the less erotic parts of
their evenings; and she'd always thought of the male reaction as
slightly humorous.

This time there was nothing funny about it. This time Steve was
pressed against her mound, an inch from their having real sex;
and it turned her almost all the way on. When she curled her
legs around him and hugged him to her body with all four limbs,
the action was only partly motivated by her realization that they
couldn't go further while pressed together. Mostly it was
instinctive acceptance of her mate.

Somehow Steve realized through his fog of lust that Shannon's
lovely breasts were being crushed by this position. He dropped
his hands from them and hugged her. His left hand pulled her
hips towards him while his right petted compulsively up and down
her back.

They had to breathe, and eased back. When Steve put his hand on
Shannon's knee, she loosened her legs. His stroke up the inside
of her thigh tightened them again. "I'm not trying to stop you,"
she said.

"That's okay." He reached between them to caress her mound.
They kissed again, but his fingers couldn't quite reach where he
wanted them. Which was where she wanted them, too.

"Did you mean what you said about knowing that there were things
that you can't have?" she asked.

"I guess so. What did I say?"

"I'm going to wear white on my wedding day. Do you know what
that means?"

"You mean that you are going to be a virgin then."

"Will you respect that limit?"

"Of course, Shannon. What do you think that I am?"

She thought that he was a male, a teenage male at that. But she
didn't have quite the words to express that. "Bring that chair
over here so that it faces that way. Then sit on it."

He wondered what he had done, but he obeyed her direction. She
hopped down and walked over to him. She sat on his lap
straddling him, careful that she wasn't sitting on any part of
her skirt. "Are you comfortable this way?"

He shifted until her weight was balanced. "I'm okay." More than
okay, the discomfort of her weight hardly compared to his delight
in her accessibility.

"Don't lift my top. I don't want Kyle coming out and seeing me."
That sounded more limiting than she had intended. She took his
hand and put it under the sweatshirt.

Steve couldn't kiss her breasts like this, but it was Shannon's
call. Besides, she knew the kids; he had to trust her judgment
on that. Her breasts were delightful, but he began stroking her
thigh after a minute. She made no move to stop him.

Shannon was actually enjoying this less than she had the kiss on
the countertop. She'd jumped down, after all, so that he could
touch her between her legs. Finally he did, stroking so softly
that it tickled. Even the tickle was arousing, and his tongue
was delightful in her mouth.

Steve was trying to figure out Shannon's shape through the
layers of cloth. He'd seen diagrams in sex-ed books and pictures
in the raunchier magazines; but all he'd seen of Shannon was the
mound, and that only once. His curiosity didn't mean that he
wasn't enjoying the feel, of course. He was also enjoying her
response. She was breathing into his mouth, and he could gauge
every increase in her excitement by the raggedness of her breath.
Her hand was on the back of his neck, controlling the firmness of
the kiss. As she would press her mouth more firmly into his, he
would press more firmly with his fingers.

Shannon didn't want to break this off, but her breast was
starting to feel sore. She grabbed Steve's arm through her
shirt and switched it to her left breast. "More gently," she

He felt guilty. He *knew* that he should move from one of her
breasts to the other. He touched her much more gently, above and
below. Shannon broke the kiss and touched the arm that he had
thrust between her legs. "Less gently," she said. Then she had
to wait for Steve to stop laughing.

Soon, however, he was again brushing her nipple very gently.
Soon he was stroking her lips quite firmly through her panties.
Soon she, kissing him, feeling all of these sensations, started
on her journey.

Steve could feel more dampness through the cloth. That must have
made his detection of her shape easier, because her lips felt as
if they had become larger. The confinement of his jeans was
becoming a torture, but he could bear that torture for the
rewards his hands and mouth were receiving. Shannon pressed
harder against his mouth and breathed more rapidly.

She was soaring. He was taking her as high as she had ever taken
herself. Then she shattered with a gasp. Unable to support her
own weight, she slumped in his arms.

Steve felt her gasp into him. Then he had to abandon his
stroking to keep her from falling. She gasped an inch from his
ear for what seemed like a really long time. Maybe it was merely
that his foot had fallen asleep. Anyway, he figured that an
armful of Shannon was worth a little discomfort.

Finally, she gathered herself together and stood up. She was not
quite steady on her feet, but better than Steve. He didn't even
attempt to rise for another few minutes. He was on his feet, and
considering whether to mention the Kleenex he had brought for his
own relief, when the garage door opened. It made an unholy
racket, startling them into action. Shannon fixed her bra
immediately; Steve headed for the other room. His coat would
hide his erection.

Mr. Pollock didn't seem to be in a very good mood when he came
in, especially considering how much liquor he had obviously
consumed. He paid Shannon, though, and accepted Steve's offer to
drive her home. Steve would have worried with Mr. Pollock at the
wheel. Steve thought about the Kleenex again on the short drive,
but there wasn't really anywhere to park. Shannon stopped him a
block from her house to give him a big kiss. He dropped her off
at her door, drove home, marked the mileage and gas level, and
went upstairs.

In his room, he savored his memory and the odor still on his
fingers. He felt too sleepy, though, to linger on his road to
completion. He still had the sticky Kleenex in bed with him when
he awoke the next morning.
Continued in Chap. 5
Heart Ball
Uther Pendragon
This is one of a series of pages holding the novel
*Heart Ball*. The novel isn't completed as yet.

The next page in the series is:
Chapters 5-8
The directory to all my stories can be found at:

While you're waiting for the next chapter to be completed on this
story. you might read another story about another couple:


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