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HEART C movie date I dont see how


"Heart Ball 9-12" (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 9

"Mommy!" Amy said. "I'm sick. I want my mommy."

"We'll get your mommy," Shannon said. "She'll be home in a
minute. But we need to get your medicine first." She rose and
put Peggy in Steve's arms. She headed into the girls' room.

Steve arranged Peggy in a more comfortable position, and started
to search the kitchen cupboards for a glass. A plastic
monstrosity looked like it was intended for Amy; he filled it
with water and showed it to her. "Is this your glass?" Amy
nodded and reached for it. "Just a minute. Wait till Shannon
comes back with the pill."

Shannon brought back the pill and helped Amy get it down. She'd
also brought back a blanket from Amy's bed. She took the girl on
her lap and cuddled her for a minute. "Steve," she said. "Write
down the time, please. On the pad by the phone. Then, Peggy's
bouncy seat is next to her crib. Can you put her in it and bring
her back here.

Steve did what she asked. He could hear the flat
we-are-not-in-a-panic tone in Shannon's voice. The lack of affect
was so different from the usual exaggeratedly bouncy tone that
Shannon used with the kids that he knew that this was serious
business. He put Peggy in her bouncy seat and the pacifier in
Peggy's mouth. She didn't look like she was terribly pleased,
but not screaming was satisfactory right then.

"Want me to call?" he asked.

"Bring the phone here. Damn!" The Jensens' phone wasn't
cordless. "Please. The phone number is by the phone. Something
Foster. Ask for Bill or Theresa Jensen." She wrapped Amy in her
arms and pulled the blanket around them both.

He called and got a busy signal. "Busy," he said. He dialed it
again, carefully making sure that each number he punched was
correct. The result was the same.

Shannon cuddled Amy for another minute while she thought about
her options. Really, she trusted Steve. The responsibility was
hers, however. Besides, Peggy still hadn't been burped.
Watching Steve pat a baby's back as softly as he would pat her
head was great entertainment, but it wasn't very effective.
"Amy, honey, I have things to do so I can get your mommy to come
home. Steve's going to hold you for a few minutes while I do
those things."

At the hint, Steve came over and lifted the blanket-wrapped
bundle out of her arms. He sat down and cuddled her. "Teef?"
Amy asked.

"Yes honey," he said, "Teef." Amy was either content with that
or tired from her illness. She lay quietly in Steve's arms.

First Shannon checked the number on the pad to make sure that
there wasn't any possible confusion. But each numeral had been
drawn as distinctly as a bank teller could. Then she dialed the
number again, punching it slowly and carefully. The result was
still a busy signal.

Then she burped Peggy. With Peggy wriggling in her arms, she
pushed the redial button. Busy still. Peggy's car seat had a
rod across it with a few interesting shapes attached. With the
seat on the couch where she could see the others, with a pacifier
in her mouth, with those toys to shove across the rod, Peggy
should be content for fifteen or twenty minutes. By that time,
her parents should be home -- how long could a phone conversation
take, anyway?

- = -

"Roger," Rachel asked when she was sure that she was connected to
his room, "are you comfy? Do you want to heat the lotion in the

"I'm saving up for tomorrow. How about you? Got your friend
with you? Checked the batteries? Sure that Steve isn't going to
get his ears burned?

"Your son is out tom-catting around."

"My son?" Roger asked. "How could *my* son engage in such lewd

"Heredity. Anyway, he tells me that they study together.
Considering how much studying he does at home, they must. I
don't ask him what else they do."

"Good! I hope I've taught him that there are things a gentleman
never talks about. We couldn't expect him to tell you and not
tell his buddies."

"You could have told him that there are things that a gentleman
never *does*."

"You mean like spread his lady-love's legs and lap all the liquid
from between her lower lips? Do you mean that a gentleman never
slips behind his sleeping woman and slides into her sluttish slot
until she sluggishly awakes totally possessed? Are those things
no gentleman would do?"

"Who said that you were a gentleman?"

"I rest on my elbows. A gentleman rests on his elbows. QED.
Did I ever tell you that the other ending in Euclid was QEF?
That means 'Quite Effectively Fucked.' You put it at the end
when they ask for an erection."

"There's a difference between a construction and an erection."

"Who took Euclidian geometry anyway?" he asked. "You took that
modern hodgepodge. In geometrical proofs, I can lick you with
both hands tied behind my back."

"Should I get rope for tomorrow?"

"I don't even need the rope. I can lick your ear and throat
until you're helpless with giggles. I can lick your nipples
until your legs spread for me. I can lick up your thighs until
you can't lie still. I can lick you open, and I will hardly have
begun. I will lick you in the bedroom, I will lick you in the
living room, I will lick you in the kitchen; and I will never

"Promises, promises." But she took the magic wand in her hand
and scrunched down further towards the foot of the bed. Roger
did have a wicked tongue, and she wasn't thinking of his sexy
talk over the phone.

- = -

It had been forty minutes since the pill. Shannon pushed redial,
and then carefully punched the numbers again. Neither process
got through. She pushed down on the bouncy seat on her way
across the room to uncover Amy, who didn't look one bit better.
Could she have spit out the pill? No, the medicinal smell was
still on her breath.

Dr. Wyatt's number was on the pad, too. She dialed it. After
three rings, she got: "Oomph?" And she had thought that Steve
had bad telephone technique!

"Dr. Wyatt?" She could have got anybody.


"I'm babysitting for Amy Jensen. Your patient and she has
asthma. I already gave her a pill, but she doesn't look any

"Just a moment." There was a pause that she thought longer than
could fairly be called a moment, but the doctor's voice was
stronger when she heard it next. "The patient is?"

"Amy Jensen?"

"You are?"

"Shannon Bryant. I'm the baby sitter."

"Yes Shannon, used to be a patient of mine didn't you?"

"Yes. Maybe five years ago. I'm nearly eighteen now."

"Good. Now have you called the parents? Theresa and William?"

"They left a number. It's busy. I gave Amy a pill forty minutes
ago, called them maybe five minutes after. They haven't answered

"All right, I want you to describe what Amy looks like." Shannon
gave him the description. "How is her color?"

"Just a minute." Shannon turned on another light and uncovered
Amy again. "Does she look pale to you?" she asked Steve.

"Awfully. But I don't often see her in a good light." What he
had seen, as often as not, was a lump on the bed in the dark.

"Well, she looks awfully pale to me." Shannon walked back to the
phone. "She looks awfully pale."

"This is what we are going to do. You get her to the hospital.
First, you get her dressed or wrapped up for the cold; then you
give her a second pill; then you drive her to the hospital. Even
if she looks better, take her to the hospital. I'll call ahead
and come in as soon as I can get myself dressed and my car
started. Get myself started, too. Be *sure* to tell them that
you have given her two pills within the hour. Tell them that I'm
on my way and that I'm admitting her. Take her to the emergency
room. Nothing else is open. Bring the pill bottle with you."

"They have an old bottle by the phone. Empty. Will that do?"

"Excellent. Leave a note for the Jensen's if you have to, but
call them just before you leave."

"How," she asked Steve as she hung up, "are we going to get Amy
to the hospital?" She picked up Amy still in the blanket. "Come
on, honey. We have to get you dressed warmly."

"I'll get the car," Steve said. He started by putting on his
shoes. Peggy complained, and he stuck the pacifier back in her
mouth. He sat where he could bounce the seat with one foot while
putting a shoe on the other one.

"We're in a hurry," Shannon said. Her voice started to show a
little bit of the fear that she had hidden so well.

"I'll call Mom. That will get the car here." He dialed his own

- = -

"Tell me, Roger," Rachel gasped. "Tell me."

"I love you, Rachel. Always" [Ticktickticktick-tick] "you,
always will love you. I love your taste; I love your touch; I
love your luscious" [Ticktickticktick-tick] "love your brave
little clit -- always ready to meet my tongue. I love the sound
of your voice and the smell" [Ticktickticktick-tick] "and the
smell of your juice and the clutch of your cunt."

[Ticktickticktick-tick] "Damn it to hell!" she said

"Didn't turn off call waiting? Want to answer?"

"I" [Ticktickticktick-tick] "can't." Tell me!"

"That's me in there. Clutch me. Hug the" [Ticktickticktick-
tick] "vibrator as you hug my rod. Come, Rachel. Come for me.
Let me hear you come."

And he heard her. He heard her come despite the damn clicking,
and he almost came himself. They each lay panting in their
separate beds in their separate rooms in their separate towns
while the God-damened caller finally gave up. If they couldn't
be united by the narrow link of flesh, they were united by the
much narrower link of copper.

And by a breadth of spirit. Rachel, Roger thought, was sexier
over the phone than most women were lying beside. He'd known her
for nearly half their lifetimes, and Rachel could still amaze him
twice an hour.

"Yours?" she asked.

"I'm saving up."

"What is your schedule for tomorrow, anyway?"

- = -

"Mom doesn't answer the phone," Steve said. "I'll be back in
fifteen minutes if Gertrude is there." Probably it would be, he
thought, mom hadn't mentioned going anywhere. She was capable of
ignoring the phone when she was showering, but she was also
capable of driving off to buy something she'd just decided whe
needed. Hell! She might be visiting a friend for hours;
tomorrow was her day off.

"Fifteen minutes? Oh, Steve! Could you drive Mrs. Jensen's car?
It's a Volkswagen."

"I can drive anything. I can't hotwire a car, though."

"There are two sets of keys on the nail by that door." He threw
on a coat and looked at the keys. One set was labeled 'GM'; he
took the other. The car was a VW Golf. It started right up. He
adjusted the seat and left the engine running. Even the garage
was damn cold. Back inside, he tossed his scarf around his neck
and the pack on his shoulder. He'd finish dressing at the

"There is a car seat. Do I put her in it?"

"At four?" Shannon asked. "That's Peggy's. I'll get her in the
car; you drive. I have to stay here." Peggy's screams
emphasized her point.

"You'll freeze out there. Give her to me before she overheats."

"Here! Take this bottle; it's Amy's prescription." It wasn't
worth fighting about who put Amy in the car. "Be sure to tell
them that she had *two* pills. Promise me that! And that Dr.
Wyatt is on his way."

"I promise." He shoved the pill bottle into his coat pocket.
"Dr. Wyatt. Two pills."

"And take her to the emergency room." Shannon turned, still
talking. "I want you to go with Steve, Amy. Momma will be
there." Amy's screams matched Peggy's, and she held on with what
seemed like ten hands. They peeled them off and got her --
dressed in the sleeper and a coat, and still wrapped in the
blanket -- into Steve's arms. Shannon turned to Peggy, whom --
she realized -- was in the draft from the door.

As the garage was lit only from the door, she moved Peggy to her
room rather than closing the door. The garage door rumbled, then
rumbled again while she was changing Peggy. The Pamper wasn't
that wet, but that was the only one of Peggy's problems that she
could deal with at the moment.

Leaving Peggy in the crib, she went to close the door. It was
already closed, though the kitchen was freezing. She called the
number once again. It was still busy. The cold kitchen wasn't
the only reason that she was shivering, but she could put her bra
and sweater back on -- pantyhose, too. Peggy was screaming,
though, and she would deal with that problem first.

- = -

The exhaust in the closed garage was just, Steve thought, what an
asthmatic child didn't need. He carried her through it and
inched open the right-hand door. He slung the backpack on the
car's roof and managed to get every bit of Amy inside the car.
He raised the garage door manually on his way back. The wind was
much colder -- who'd have guessed that a tee-shirt helped that
much? Able to see in the light from outside, he slammed the
kitchen door. Once in the driver's seat, he slung the pack under
Amy's feet.

He figured out Amy's seat belt and slammed first her door and
then his. "Steve's not real used to this car, Honey," he said as
he backed out. "This may be a rough ride." He did find the
automatic door closer, however, and they were on their way.
"Considering the time we've taken already," he told her, "we
don't need to speed." Though he was talking to himself, Amy
seemed to settle down.

He knew where he was in town, and where the hospital was.
Choosing the streets was easy. Once you were approaching the
hospital, the path to the emergency room was clearly marked.
Weird that he hadn't noticed those markings driving this route on
other days. "Dr. Wyatt is on his way," he recited. "Amy has
already had *two* pills." Shannon had never needed anything from
him before -- not really. He wasn't going to fuck this one up.

- = -

Shannon remembered Mrs. Jensen's telling her that Peggy was going
through a growth spurt. Peggy had been ignored, and she had been
slung around from room to room and seat to seat. That had ruined
her temper. She had also had only half a meal, ending an hour
ago. She was quite hungry and telling the world.

Shannon put a pacifier in Peggy's mouth and headed for her
backpack to change. Peggy sucked twice, hard. When that didn't
work, she spat the pacifier out and wailed again. Shannon picked
her up and held the pacifier to her mouth. She spun around a few
times and headed out the room. Satisfied by the motion for the
moment, Peggy started sucking again.

- = -

Steve saw an ambulance ahead of him at the emergency-room
entrance. He stopped well behind it, and went around to gather
up Amy. Leaving the door on that side open, he carried her into
the emergency room. People were rushing around; it took him a
minute to see that other people were sitting around. If Amy
didn't get treatment, if he joined the sitters, Shannon would
never speak to him again. Besides, Amy was a sweet kid who
trusted him. "Pardon me," he said to a nurse walking briskly
across the room.

"Kelly?" she asked without stopping.

"No." She turned away and kept walking.

He caught sight of the desk across the room. One of the men
there looked at him when he got there. "Dr. Wyatt told me to
bring Amy to the hospital. It's a serious case of asthma; she's
four and a half; the doctor's on his way."

The man grabbed a form and started asking questions. Steve
couldn't answer half of them, and the guy repeated the insurance
question twice. Then, when he told him that Amy had already had
two pills, he didn't write it down. "Okay," the guy said. "Sit
down over there." He turned to the woman behind Steve.

Steve sat on the edge of one of the chairs. Emergency room,
hell! he thought. All these people cared about was getting the
name of the insurance company on their forms. As he warmed, he
took the blanket off Amy. She slipped to the floor, and stood
between his legs. Her color looked ghastly, but -- he finally
realized -- so did everyone's in the lousy fluorescents.

- = -

Bill Jensen glanced at his watch. It was after ten, and they had
promised Shannon to get her back by eleven. On the other hand,
Theresa hadn't enjoyed herself so much in a long time. You could
see the worry lines melting off her face. Well, the drives
weren't that long. He'd call for the last deal at ten-thirty.

Theresa also thought that the silent phone was too good to be
true. The breast pump had drained one side, and Peggy had
drained the other just before they had come here. Now, her
breasts were feeling comfortably full -- not painfully full, but
as if she could meet any demands tonight. Hadn't she told the
babysitter to call when Peggy's next feeding was finished? Well,
it wouldn't be the first time that she had slept for hours. That
just meant that she'd be *real* glad to see mommy.

And then they picked up the next hand and dropped into serious
card-player mode.

- = -

It seemed to Steve that it had been hours, but the man who had
been sitting on his right when he sat down was still sitting
there when a nurse came out and called "Jensen?" There was a
scream of sirens outside.

"Amy Jensen?" she continued.

"Here!" Steve called. He had to change his grip on Amy before he
could stand up. He left the blanket on the seat. "Amy has
asthma," he told the nurse when they met in the middle of the
floor. He heard a crash, and a gurney came rushing in the door;
the nurse motioned him back. It was followed by another crash,
and another gurney sweeping by them. "Amy has asthma; she's had
a bad attack and we gave her two pills. Doctor Wyatt told us to
bring her in; he's coming here. We gave her two pills."

"Two pills of what?"

He pulled the bottle from his coat pocket. When he tried to read
the name of the medicine, she plucked the bottle out of his hand.

"Who's the fucking idiot with the Golf blocking the drive?"
someone shouted from the door. Steve jumped.

"Come with me, sweetheart." The nurse held out her arms to Amy.

Amy, who had complained so over coming with him, clung to him
with both arms. "No," she said. "Teef."

Despite her crying, Steve and the nurse peeled her arms off him.

"Who has the Golf?" The speaker was an ambulance driver. "I've
called for a tow."

"I'm moving it," Steve told him while zipping his coat back up.
He grabbed the blanket. "It was an emergency after all."

"Don't give me 'an emergency,' punk. You're blocking real
emergencies. You never should have parked it there...." He
grabbed Steve's arm.

"Do you want me to move it?" Steve asked in a level voice, but
one clearly audible by half those waiting. "Or do you want to
tell me what a bad boy I am?" The guy had missed his calling as
a monitor in a high-school lunchroom.

It was bitterly cold outside. Two ambulances were in front of
the little Golf. Before Steve could get the passenger door
closed, the rear one pulled out and passed the front one without
effort. So much for blocking the drive with a tiny VW. He'd
left the car running, and the gas was a little low. He'd worry
about that later.

- = -

"Mrs. Jensen?" Shannon asked when the phone rang.

"This is Dr. Wyatt. To whom am I speaking.?"

"This is the Jensen's home. I'm Shannon Bryant, the babysitter."

"Yes, Shannon. I was afraid that you wouldn't be able to get Amy
to the hospital. Do you want me to call the ambulance? They'll
come when I ask." He would guarantee payment, he meant. And
they knew that he was quite capable of filing charges if one of
his little patients was badly served.

"My boyfriend was here. He drove Amy to the hospital. I haven't
heard from him. Not Mrs. Jensen either." Peggy squirmed in her
arms, turning so that her head bumped against one of her breasts.
Peggy knew what that was. Ignoring the flannel, she latched on
and sucked as hard as she could. Shannon gasped.

Dr. Wyatt figured that the gasp was Shannon's realizing that she
had told him that she'd entertained a boyfriend while
babysitting. "Don't worry," he said. If the Jensens complained,
he'd read them the riot act. Not that he expected them to
complain, though. The person who got Amy to the hospital when
she needed to get there was Mrs. Jensen's dear friend. "I'm
leaving for the hospital now. If you hear from the Jensens, tell
them to meet me there."

It was all very well to tell her not to worry, Shannon thought.
She could trust Amy to Dr. Wyatt, but she had already trusted her
to Steve soon after they drove away. All she had time to worry
about now, was Peggy. And Mrs. Jensen meeting the doctor at the
hospital made that worse.

She pulled Peggy off her breast, shifted her in her arms, shoved
the pacifier back in, and hit redial while holding it in. She'd
never criticize Steve again. He hadn't sucked her breast one
tenth as hard as Peggy.

- = -

The first entrance to a parking lot that Steve found required a
hospital personnel ID to get in. Finally, though, he parked the
car, tossed the blanket into the rear seat, grabbed his backpack,
locked the doors properly, and got back to the emergency room.
He was chilled to the bone.

"Jensen," a guy in medical garb and a blue shower cap called out.
"Where is Jensen?"

"I brought the Jensen girl in," Steve told him. "Is something

"Why didn't you stay here? You shouldn't leave this location in
case we have a question." The guy looked like he hadn't slept in
the last day and hadn't shaven in three.

"I was parking the car," Steve said. He wished the authorities
around that place would make up their minds.

"Well you shouldn't have. This prescription is more than a year
out of date. If you gave her these pills, I have to find out
whether the medicine loses its efficacy over time. Did you use a
left-over bottle of medicine?"

"The prescription is current. *That* bottle was kept by the
phone so we could show it to you if we had to come to the
hospital. Kept empty for a long time. We gave her two pills."

"Yeah. We heard that. Anyway, stay here if there are more
questions." He went through a door.

Steve found a bathroom. Just after he'd put his tee-shirt on, a
cop came in to use the facilities. He got an odd look from the
cop, and reddened a little. It was probably obvious what he'd
been doing when Peggy interrupted them. Properly dressed, he
used the facilities himself.

He half-expected to find the guy looking for him with another
question when he popped out, but nothing like that happened.

He settled down. Too bad he hadn't anything in his backpack but
a notebook and a couple of disks. At this point, his dullest
textbook would have been a relief.

But why was that cop giving him the fishy eye. Even if he would
hate for Shannon's parents to know how far they had gone, he
doubted that they had broken any laws. Kids caught petting in
parked cars, screwing in parked cars for that matter, were merely
sent home with a warning. And the guy didn't have any proof. So
why was he looking at him like that?

- = -

"Three hearts," Theresa bid. Hearts was Bill's suit; three would
make game. Her tone would have counted as table talk in any club
in the world; call it the marital convention -- Bill wasn't going
to raise after that. The other couple hadn't anything to raise

She dropped her singleton ace on the low-club lead, stacked her
other suits so Bill could get to them, and headed for the phone.
She wasn't really worried; her breasts weren't really overfull.
This was just a precaution.

She had actually dialed three digits before she got the receiver
to her ear. It was howling like a banshee. She took a minute to
recognize the sound of a fax. She replaced the receiver and
looked for Sandra or Ted. She needed to tell them that she might
have messed up an incoming fax.

"Okay," asked young Bobby Foster from the hallway, "who blew my
internet connection?"

"How long," his father answered, "have you been on the modem
after your mother asked you not to?" He strode into Bobby's room
and knelt by the computer.

"I'll get offline," said Bobby. "The program needs to be shut
down in a regular order. Don't foul it up."

Ted Foster unplugged the phone cord from the wall jack. "Take as
long as you want closing down. But the next time I come in here,
I'll probably want the power cord, too." He unplugged the other
end from the computer. "Your Aunt Theresa and Uncle Bill needed
the phone. If something happened to Baby Amy, you'll shave
before you're online again."

He went out to where Theresa was still holding the receiver in
her hand. He pushed the buttons down in the cradle. "Give it a
minute," he said, "to get a dial tone. Then make your call."
The phone rang before he had finished speaking. Theresa handed
the receiver to him. "Hello. Look, could you call back in
fifteen minutes we have a situation here...."

"No!" said Shannon. "This is an emergency." She held the phone
out to Peggy and pulled her off her breast for the millionth
time. Peggy screamed what an emergency it was. Shannon put in
the pacifier and took the phone back. "Please let me speak

"Shannon," Theresa shouted into the phone, "hold on there. We'll
be there in ten minutes." Her breast had started flowing at the
cry of her baby.

Bill put his hand down without even picking up the previous
trick. "Play my hand, Sandy," he called. "Or somebody." he
headed into Bobby's room to gather his coat and Theresa's.

"Don't come here," Shannon said. "Amy's at the hospital. Steve
took her in to the emergency room. Dr. Wyatt's meeting her
there. Probably there by now. We *do* need you, but take care
of Amy first."

When Shannon heard the phone click from that end, she called her
own home.

"Bryants' home. Allison Bryant speaking."

"Mom? This is Shannon. Listen, I'll be breaking curfew big
time; but I have to. I'm at the Jensen's. Little Amy was taken
to the hospital. Both parents are there; I'm here with baby
Peggy. I don't know when they'll get home, and it might be even
later that they can drive me home. This is really an emergency."

"It certainly sounds like it. Do you want me there?"

Did she ever. But she still hadn't been able to dress. And
Steve might come back at any moment. "No, That's all right."

"If they can't drive you home, and I can understand that, Dad
will come and get you."

"If it comes to that, Mom, I'll call again. I just wanted you to
know that I hadn't been attacked by wolves. Ouch! Not that a
hungry infant is much better." She hung up.

- = -

Harry Stewart hadn't studied police science to ride in the right
seat of a state-police cruiser and interview accident victims.
The problem was that local police forces mostly paid even less
than the state police. In this part of the state, the local
forces didn't do all that much real police work, either.

If his hands weren't tied, he could make some real arrests. But
they *were* tied. Take that punk kid in the down jacket. He was
guilty as hell. Every time that Harry looked at him he squirmed
more. A simple search would find drugs and -- just maybe -- a
weapon. But the courts would throw out any search, and he looked
like the sort whose family could afford a lawyer.

The courts kept themselves in business. If cops -- good cops
like Harry -- couldn't search the obvious criminals, if punks
like that could hang around hospitals until they made their
deliveries, then the gangs never would be broken and the lawyers
and judges would have jobs forever.

Steve felt the cop's scrutiny once again. By now, he'd figured
out the problem. It wasn't petting with Shannon. In the
excitement and worry over Amy, the only question he and Shannon
had asked was whether he was able to drive Mrs. Jensen's car.
He'd looked at it like the cars of his father's guests on New
Year's Eve.

The difference was that Mrs. Jensen hadn't told him that he could
drive it. She hadn't known that we would drive it, might not
know even now. Any minute now, the cop would ask him how he had
got there. Should he lie? There were probably fingerprints all
over the car; people must have seen him get out of the car; there
were certainly witnesses to his statement that he was driving the

But the cop didn't ask him anything; all he did was stare at him
all the time. Maybe he could drive it back to the Jensen's, but
the guy had told him to stay here in case there were any more
questions. And, if he did drive it back, he would have to face
Shannon with the news that he had chickened out.

"Steve?" It was Mrs. Jensen. "Are you Shannon's boyfriend?"

"Yes. How's Amy? What's next?"

"Can you tell me where the car is? Show me, I guess; I'll have
to get you home, and Shannon home." She felt herself falling
apart. She would not fall apart. She had to get the kids home;
they'd done so much for Amy. She had to feed Peggy; her breasts
were leaking as it was. *Then* she could fall apart. "They're
keeping her in the hospital, but they think she's passed her
crisis. I can't tell you how grateful I am. Bill's staying with
her for a while."

They went out the door. The cold was nothing compared to that
cop's eyes. "Walk on my right," he said. "It'll block the wind
a bit." She gave him a hard look, but walked on his right.

He was still taking care of her, Theresa Jensen thought, shading
him from the wind. Everyone had been so kind. "Can you drive?"
she asked.

"Sure. You don't mind my taking the car?"

"For Amy?" Did he want to borrow it later. That would be a fair
trade, but she needed it to visit the hospital tomorrow.

"Well, that's what we thought -- Shannon and I -- and me. But
that cop kept giving me the eye in there. And I remembered that
I had taken your car without even asking. I don't know the law."

"You will *not* suffer for taking Amy to the hospital." If the
law said that he had to have permission at the start of the
evening, he'd get permission dated the start of the evening. She
was so grateful. "I still have to get you and Shannon home, but
I have to feed Peggy first." Sandra had fed Bobby in front of
everybody, probably including that awful Jerry. Steve had been
so good, she couldn't send him away. Still, she felt like a cow.

Steve remembered what his mom had said about not being present
when he wasn't wanted. Not that he especially wanted to be
present. Mrs. Jensen wasn't bad looking for an old lady; he
wouldn't at all mind a surreptitious sight of her breasts. Not
with Peggy messing them up, however, and damn-well not with
Shannon able to see his interest. Besides, it had been a long
enough night already. "I can walk home. It's not far from
here." For that matter, he was driving her car for the second
time tonight. "Do you want me to drive Shannon home?"

"Oh, could you?" After everything else he'd done for her.
"Drive yourself home, too. Leave a message on the answering
machine about the car." Bill could drive her to pick it up.

Yeah, Steve thought, the gas is real low. He started to tell
her, but thought better. She didn't look like much was sinking
in right now. She was right, leave the message on the answering
machine and she could deal with it in the morning. Mention the
blanket then, too.

They stopped on her driveway. "I'll send Shannon out when I can.
Thank you *so* much. Leave the car running so you don't freeze."

Steve was wearing a down coat. Better sit in a cold car than
risk a walk from the car running out of gas. He turned the
engine off.

Theresa had a hard time fitting her key in the door. "Peggy
needs you" was the first thing that Shannon said to her. She
dropped keys, bag, and coat on her way to the chair. Her left
breast had leaked badly. She fumbled open her blouse and opened
the bra on that side. Shannon put Peggy in her arms, and the
baby latched on. The intensity hurt at first, but soon they both
relaxed. She heard the front door slam; was Shannon gone?

Shannon handed Peggy to her mother, and started cleaning up the
mess. She closed the door, picked up the keys and dropped them
in Mrs. Jensen's purse, closed the purse and put it on the table.
She hung up Mrs. Jensen's coat in the closet. She took her
backpack into the bathroom with her.

When she came out, she was wearing bra and pantyhose; her shirt
and skirt were decently buttoned and neatly arranged; her eye
makeup was back on. Mrs. Jensen had what Peggy needed, that was
for sure. She donned shoes and sweater and packed her
schoolbooks into her backpack. Should she take Steve's? They
had their first class together.

"How's Amy?" she asked.

"They're keeping her for the night -- maybe the next day or two,
but she's past her crisis. Did I say how grateful we are for
what you two did? Could you get me a pen and paper and something
to write on? A book or something." Shannon brought Mrs. Jensen
a school notebook opened to a blank page. It was long past time
for this night to end. She wanted to call her dad for a ride
home, but she didn't want Mrs. Jensen talking about Steve in
front of him.

"To whom it may concern," Theresa wrote.

"What is your boyfriend's name? Steve what?"

"Steve Anderson."

"To whom in may concern,
"Steve Anderson is driving my car tonight, Jan. 23,
"with my permission and at my request.
"Theresa Jensen"

"Give this to him when you go out, would you. My checkbook is
somewhere in my purse. If you could find it for me, I'll write
you a check. Better yet," Theresa still felt at the edge of
collapse, even with Peggy in her arms; and she wished that
Shannon wouldn't watch her, "you write the check and I'll sign
it. I don't think that I could calculate the hours, and you
deserve something extra, anyway."

Shannon was still trying to figure out why she should give the
note to Steve when she went out with him, and she didn't want to
figure out what extra she deserved. Let them figure out what
extra she deserved, everybody would be happier that way. "Where
is Steve anyway?"

"He's waiting to drive you home."

"Look, let's settle up next time. You don't need me for anything
else tonight?"

"No." Shannon must see how embarrassed she was over being seen.
"He'll drive himself home and call me and tell me where it's
parked. Bill will pick it up later. I'm sorry." She started to
cry. "I can't handle this."

Shannon gave her a brief hug. "You're doing fine. Dr. Wyatt is
giving Amy what she needs; you're giving Peggy what she needs."
She put the car seat on the floor by Mrs. Jensen's feet. She put
on her coat, buttoning everything for the outside cold. Her
backpack actually went on her back, and she piled Steve's books
together. "When should I give that paper to Steve?"

"When you go out there. It's his permission to drive the car."

"Goodbye. Hope everything works out." She made sure that the
door locked when she shut it, and walked over to the car. Steve
looked like he was asleep. She pounded on his side.

Steve looked up and there was Shannon. They got his stuff in his
backpack and her backpack in her lap.

Shannon felt that the kiss before she buckled up was perfunctory.
On the other hand, sitting beside Steve again was quite a relief.
"We survived," she said.

"And Amy survived. I told them about having given her two pills.
Let's get you home." The drive was silent until he pulled up in
her driveway. He grasped her hand. "Love you," he said.

"Love you." But she was less reluctant to leave Steve than she
had been since going out with him. What kept her in the car was
that she was too tired to open the door. She sighed, opened it,
shivered, and hurried to her door. Steve waited until the door
closed, then she heard him drive away.

"Who brought you home," he mom asked.

"Look, it was a night from hell. Let's talk in the morning."

- = -

Steve left the Golf in the Jensen's driveway, and the keys in
their mailbox. The walk home revived him, then it froze him to
the bone. He fell into bed in his underwear.
Chapter 10
Rachel Anderson didn't set her alarm any later for her day off.
It was a snooze alarm, and half the pleasure of sleeping in
consisted of half-waking, thinking "It's Wednesday," and slapping
the button. This morning, however, after she did so there was
still an annoying -- although very low -- buzzing.

By this time, she was awake enough to need the bathroom. Coming
out, she traced the buzzing to her son's room. His alarm was
ringing -- hadn't he come home the night before. She burst in,
almost tripped over his coat, and saw the mound under the covers
which must be Steve.

She checked for breathing, thrown back fifteen years for one
moment. His chest was moving, but he didn't respond to her hand
at all. This was a case for the chinese water torture. She
moved the clock as far away as the cord reached, and brought a
dripping-wet washcloth back from the bathroom. Pulling the sheet
down from his face, she dripped a bit on his face. He kicked.

She squeezed. Be blinked, thrashed, turned over, but didn't seem
to awaken. The next squeeze went into his ear -- an accident,
but an effective one.

"Holy hell! Leave me alone!" He turned over. She watched for a
moment as the alarm started to penetrate. One arm came out and
slapped where the button was before she had moved the clock. She
squeezed again, but the washcloth yielded only half as much."Let
me sleep."

"School day. Work day for that matter. I'm the one who deserves
to sleep. Get up!"

"I'm not dressed," said Steve, sounding nearly awake.

"I've told you before about wearing underwear to bed. Pajamas
will keep you nice and warm, but allow the air to circulate. You
probably smell like a gym sock under there." She had to talk
about something; it might as well be the health tips he ignored.


"Here." She threw him the jeans from the floor. "Pull this on.
I want you to take a shower, late as it is." She grabbed his
robe and left the room. She handed the robe to him in the hall.
He was wearing the jeans, his tee-shirt, and one sock. She went
in and turned off his alarm, putting it safely back on the
nightstand. By now, her alarm was sounding again; she shut it
off and dressed for the day. What a way to begin her day off.

Even so, she started breakfast for both of them. Steve took a
second cup of coffee. "Why can't I stay home one day? I'm
exhausted. Let them treat it as a ditch, if they want."

"Let's get this straight. You are ready to give up on this
performance-standard thing. I run your hours until you go off to
college. I supervise your homework; I decide whether you can go
on dates; I set your curfew?"

"Mom! One day?"

"You had no business staying out with Shannon so late. You are
supposed to choose times that won't wreck you for the next day."

"That's not exactly what happened." She cupped her ear to
signal that he should say more. "Shannon was babysitting. One
of the kids got sick. I took her to the emergency room. I
didn't see Shannon again until the parents were located. I drove
her home, returned the car, and came right home. It was not the
most romantic evening in our lives."

"I don't want to hear about your romantic evenings. I'll tell
you what, though. Since you were such a great hero, I'll drive
you to school this morning. You've already missed the bus. I
won't cut back on the performance-standard rule if you don't do
it again."

"Well, I think getting a sick child to the hospital *is*
performance. The kid's mother thought so too."

"And I'm sure that Shannon's parents are praising her to the
skies. Taking care of those kids is her duty, her performance.
Getting you to help is an accomplishment on her part. Meanwhile
you have to get to school and get some grades."

- = -

"Feel all right?" Allison Bryant asked her daughter as she
served breakfast. Normally Shannon should make her own, but it
had been quite a night.

"Tired. I hope none of the teachers pops a quiz today. And
there is a meeting after school, too. I just hope Amy does okay.
Gah!" She dug into her food.

"Sounds exciting," said Allison. "I'm not sure I know what
happened exactly. How did you get Amy to the hospital? How did
you get home? You know that your father would have been glad to
pick you up in an emergency."

"Even that late," Wayne put in.

"Look, I'll give you a blow-by-blow tonight. A neighbor drove
her to the hospital, okay?"

It was hard to keep her eyes open in class; but then, it often
was. Steve got caught nodding off in English. "What were you
doing last night, Steve?" Mrs. Foster asked.

"If you must know, I was driving a sick baby to the emergency
room. I'm not paying attention very well this morning, and you
can mark me down for it; but it is not a moral fault this time."
It wasn't like Steve to mouth off to teachers like that.

"I'll mark you down for attitude as well," Mrs. Foster said.
"That was a very brief reformation that you showed yesterday."

- = -

Robert Kirkland sometimes wondered if the bank had ever had
enough business to justify the size of its lobby. It certainly
didn't have enough these days. Which left a desk for his law
practice far enough away from the next desks to give his clients
privacy -- a privacy which they seldom desired. He stopped by
Charlotte for his messages and the news.

The president of the bank could, in theory, terminate his month-
to-month lease on the desk in the corner; but he would have to
justify that to his board. The lobby gave Kirkland exposure, but
it also gave the bank an image of providing a range of services.
And, of course, he paid rent.

Charlotte, on the other hand, could say, "Kirkland? The lawyer?
He's not at his desk. I don't know where he is."

She could also say, "Mr. Kirkland is in court today; he'll be
back this evening from about four to five." Or she could say
"Mr. Kirkland stepped out for a moment; why don't you wait for
him?" when he was in the john.

Keeping Charlotte happy was much more important to his business
than keeping bank president happy was. He listened to the news
she shared.

"Bill Jensen's baby, Amy, is back in the hospital. Poor
Theresa." Charlotte was one of those who remembered when Theresa
had worked at the bank. "Bill's nephew got put on the internet
for Christmas, and yanked off for monopolizing the phone lines.
Their babysitter had to act by herself. She sent Amy to the
hospital with her boyfriend. Theresa praises them to the skies.
Anyway, Amy's better this morning; but you might put her in your

At his desk, he did bow his head for a moment. The bowed head
was to keep Charlotte happy, but -- since he was there anyway --
he did pray for Amy.

Bill Jensen stopped by his desk on his break. "How do you do,
Bill. I was sorry to hear about Amy."

"She's better," said Bill, "but that was what I wanted to talk
about. Still have that rule on consultation for bank employees?"

"Nobody's waiting." The free first consultation took only his
time, which was often free. It generated some business. It kept
bank employees happy with him

"Look, this is what happened." Bill told the story of Steve's
driving Amy to the emergency room in Theresa's car. The part
about his being questioned by the police wasn't particularly
clear. If the cops thought the kid had stolen the car, why
didn't they take him in?

"Look, here's my card. Give it to him next time you see him. If
the cop's arrest him, he should call the pager number. I'll show
up and deal with them. Let him know that he is *hiring* me if
he does call me.

"But I don't think he will become a client. Here's how it goes.
They could have taken him in right then. If they didn't, they
may well not be pursuing the matter. Which is fine.

"You said the girl gave him permission to drive the car?" he
finished up.

"We weren't there, which was the whole problem, but she must

"Implicit permission, anyway. If this actually goes to the
police station, let alone the court, I'll check all this out in
the law books, but I don't expect that to happen. Anyway, did
your agreement with the girl mention the car?"

"Theresa is willing to swear that she gave the boy permission."

"You should tell her to never swear to anything false, especially
when it is both unnecessary and implausible. You didn't mention
the car when contracting for her services, but now -- thinking
about it afterwards -- do you think that your state of mind when
you put her in charge of the house included giving her that


"Does your wife?"

"Absolutely. She's damn grateful for what those kids did."

"Then we ask the girl the same question. If she agrees, then you
have three parties to a verbal contract who agree that she had
that authority. A contract is a meeting of the minds. Verbal
contracts can cause all sorts of trouble, but the minds met in
this verbal contract.

"If you gave her the authority to permit the boy to drive the
car, then he did it with permission. The state has some sort of
level of proof to meet, It may well be beyond a reasonable
doubt. It's not a question I've seen before."

"Pardon?" Bill said.

"Pardon me. I was getting off into complexities which don't
matter. The police may well be dropping this. If they aren't,
they should talk to you -- or your wife. The answer is that he
did drive the car, the babysitter did give permission, and she
did have authority. You might also point out that he drove your
baby in your car to the emergency room. You won't sign a

"It isn't the sort of case that the police want to pursue."

"Well, he drove it afterward. Theresa asked him to drive her
home, and then drive Shannon home."

"At that point, there is no question that he had permission.
Now, I think that I do have a paying client." He went to greet
him where Charlotte had asked him to have a seat.

After dealing with the lawyer about Steve, Bill took care of
Shannon's pay. Theresa had pointed out that she deserved
something extra. She also deserved something special. He wrote
a check for cash, and pulled a one-hundred dollar bill out of his
drawer. It was a nice fresh, clean, bill. Someone who preferred
cash might get a charge out of the denomination and the
freshness. He'd take the pay and the news to Shannon this
afternoon after seeing Amy. Wednesday was his early day.

- = -

Rachel Anderson had lunch ready to go when she heard the Jeep in
the driveway. Roger kissed her at the doorway, pulled off his
gloves and put them in his pockets, and kissed her again, He
kneaded her hips during the second kiss. "Now," he said, "that
is a welcome."

"Lunch will be three minutes," she said. While he fetched his
luggage and washed up, she heated the frying pan to toast the
cheese sandwiches. He came up behind her. "You could take the
stew to the dining area," she said.

"Sure I could." But he moved his hands up from her waist to her
breasts, instead. He ground his semierect penis into the crack
between her asscheeks.

"Eat first. You're going to need your strength."

"Boy, the honeymoon is really over."

"Happens," she said, "to most couples who have a kid in college."
Roger was her lover, but he was also her family. And feeding her
family was almost as primal an instinct as sex.

When they had eaten, however, they shared a sweet kiss. She
pulled Roger against her while his hands smoothed her dress down
her back again and again. They finally stopped on her hips
for a squeeze. She leaned back to unbutton his shirt.

"I left room for dessert," he said. "Wanna move this to the

"Somebody was boasting about the kitchen over the phone."

"Want that?"

"It's nice and warm," she pointed out. She'd left the oven on
after the brownies were done.

The high butcher-block table which separated the dining area
from the kitchen proper had been cleared. Rachel had obviously
been thinking about this. The drapes were closed over the doors
out to the deck, but then they often were in winter. Not that
anyone was likely to be able to see in. She followed him over to
the end of the table.

When he took off her dress, he saw a large wet spot on the skirt.
She was left wearing slippers and a bra. She returned to his
buttons while he removed the bra. She jumped; he lifted; and she
was perched on the table. He stood between her knees. Her
breasts were now high enough to kiss easily. His first approach
included roving hands as well as sucking lips, but he withdrew
enough to remove his shirt and -- in one moment totally abandoning
contact -- his undershirt.

She leaned forward for a deep kiss. Tongue played with tongue;
breasts pressed into chest; four hands roved. He kissed down
from her mouth. He took his time on neck and shoulder. He
kissed all over the smoothness of her breasts and the valley
between. He licked and sucked each nipple while his hands
stroked her thighs.

Rachel had been anticipating this all day. Hot words and a cold
vibrator might get her off, but they were poor substitutes for
her warm lover. She sank back on the table as Roger's mouth
trailed lower. When he finally reached her mound, however, he
jumped to the inside of her thigh. She felt the sensual tide
rise as his sucks and licks crept up her right thigh from just
above her knee almost to the crease where her leg met her groin.

When he got a nose-full of Rachel's odor, Roger almost dived in.
He was tempted to abandon his play for immediate kisses to her
center; hell, he was tempted to drop his pants and give her
genitals what they *really* needed. But that would be better
this evening, when she'd already had an explosive orgasm earlier.
He retreated to her other knee and approached her center even
more slowly. With her desire now fully stoked, though, he could
suck almost as hard as he wished.

A kiss on one side of her lower lips, a kiss on the other side;
Rachel needed more than teasing. She spread her lips with her
hands so that Roger's next lick would strike within them.

She was spilling her nectar now, and he was lapping it up. He
licked one side of her valley, licked the other side; She
writhed. When he finally touched the button on top, she grabbed
his hair to press his mouth against her. Still he teased with
soft licks which just missed her clitoris. She sobbed, writhed,
and soaked his chin with her juice before he sucked there.

She'd been pulling him into her groove as hard as she could pull;
she'd been trying to push her clitoris into his mouth with
thrusts of legs which were simply dangling in the air; she'd been
crying in her desire and frustration. She'd been just this side
of a climax, and she had *needed* it.

Then it crashed into her. She pulsed, pulsed again and again.
It tore through her. The tearing was glory. Then the tearing
was a joy. Then it was agony. Then there was nothing.

He stopped licking as soon as Rachel stopped responding. One
last soft kiss for those lovely, liquid-soaked lips. Then his
kisses were for the belly, now quivering with her gasps for air.
After granting her two minute's grace, he lifted her knees onto
his shoulders. He had her breasts in his hands when he bent to
her cunt again.

She was so sensitive this time that his tongue on her lips almost
hurt. Still, she spiraled upward. The climax took her, gathered
her up, shook her, and left her gasping on the table. But this
time Roger was supporting her when next she noticed the outer
world; he was holding her legs against his warm chest.

"I love you," Roger said. It was the first thing that either of
them had said in ten minutes. This was one thing that phone sex
didn't give them. Hearing her orgasm was nothing like seeing it,
to say nothing of smelling and tasting it. He lowered her legs
to his waist. He *did* love her; he loved her orgasms and her
spasmic response to them. That didn't mean that he really
enjoyed her heels kicking his ribcage.

"I love you, too," she said. It took all the breath she could

His fingers entered her as he bent to her breasts. As he kissed
them, his finger searched out the little bump on the top of her

Rachel felt overwhelmed. She crossed her ankles behind his back
to keep her legs on that unstable platform, His mouth was on her
right breast, a hand on her left one. Two fingers of his other
hand had invaded her vagina, exploring gently but relentlessly.
A different stimulus, this rubbing nearly allowed her to catch
her breath before she spiraled upwards again.

He heard her breath grow ragged and sensed the tension in her
belly beneath his chest. These, much as he welcomed them, were
only warning signs. The actual orgasm gripped his fingers. "Oh
Rachel," he said. When she tightened around them, he sucked hard
on the nipple in his mouth. When the grip loosened, he resumed
his stroking. After a final flutter around him, she relaxed all
over. Even her legs loosened their grip on each other and slid

He left his fingers within the liquid warmth. "Oh Rachel!" he
said. "That was so wonderful. You are the loveliest woman, the
loveliest *sight* in the world. And you feel better than you
look." He watched the mottled skin return to her normal
pinkness, saw her nipples reassert themselves, saw her gasps
change to deep breaths.

"Help me up," she said.

"I'll help you up to the sky."

She shook her head. "Can't."

"Sure you can. Question is whether you want to. Come on...."

After a long moment, she nodded. He slid his fingers across her
G spot again, moving very slowly. He kissed each nipple briefly
and then sucked hard and long at the valley between her breasts.
He kissed slowly down to her mound. He only licked above his
fingers, but she was flowing so freely that he could taste it
even so. He clitoris was withdrawn, and he touched the hood with
just the tip of his tongue. He lapped up the neighborhood,
though, and increased his pressure on the inside.

Despite her denial, she certainly could respond to the double
stimulation. She moaned this time just before she came. When
her gripping tunnel held his fingers still, he licked directly
over her clit. When she relaxed her grip, he rubbed her G spot
again. Finally he sucked when he rubbed. He was rewarded with a
stronger and longer grip.

Then she collapsed onto the table. He went to her head, grabbing
some paper napkins from the table as he passed. He wiped his
face before kissing her forehead. Then he kissed each eyebrow.
He wiped his hands as clean as he could. He kissed her near
shoulder and waited for her breathing to return to normal.

When she puckered up, he kissed her on the mouth. They didn't
try tongue-play this time. He kissed her forehead again and
asked, "Want help up?"

"Minute." A bit later, "Wanna try?"

He helped her straighten up on the table. She sat there for a
few minutes, and then came into his arms. He straightened while
hugging her, stepped back, and set her on her feet. She grabbed
her own clutch of napkins and held them between her legs. They
both walked to the bathroom, she sat on the toilet seat while he
drew the tub. He steadied her as she eased down into the hot
water. He washed his hands and wiped his face with a washcloth
before leaving her to her soak.

He unpacked and changed his slacks. Somehow there were two
smears of wetness on his right pants leg. He lay down for a
minute, but forced himself to rise when he started drifting off.
Rachel would be much happier if the table were cleaned when she
got out of the tub. Besides he probably had room for another
bowl of stew.

Rachel had turned the hot water on again when Roger knocked and
walked in. "I'm an old woman, mother of college girl in her
twenties," she said. "I am not the sort of person you should
make love to when I'm lying on a wooden table. Besides, you gave
me *two* hickeys."

"Can you dress so they're hidden?"

"Between my breasts and here." She pointed to the inside of her
thigh. It was almost to her groin.

"Somebody suggested the bedroom. Somebody else insisted on the

"Look," he continued, "we have a problem." She raised her
eyebrows. "Your juices were all over that table. Enough that
some dripped to the floor. More soaked in. In a few hours Steve
is going to be sitting a foot or so from where that puddle was.
Now, Steve isn't the most perceptive kid in the world. Still I
keep reminding myself that the boy I dandled on my knee is now
old enough to vote. (Damn! I'm not old enough to have a kid of
eighteen.) Anyway, he probably knows what pussy juice smells
like by now."

"He's always so oblivious," she said.

"Sure, and that's half the problem. Most kids his age have
accepted that mommy sometimes enjoys daddy in bed. I don't want
his first realization to be that mommy enjoyed herself on the
table where his food is prepared."

"Somebody else enjoyed himself, too. Is it really detectable?"

"Dearest, I had spent all that time soaking my face in attar of
Rachel. I was saturated. My sensitivity to that odor has to be
at an all-time low. I smelled it before I walked in the dining
area. I'm soaking it up with bicarb; then I'll use bleach. What
happens if we greet Steve with a meal in the Jeep? Then we can
drive him to the drugstore."

"Get me my robe, will you?"

She decided on spaghetti instead of the traditional Dad's-home
venison. Spaghetti not only was a good meal for an in-car
picnic, the odor of a good spaghetti sauce would mask anything in
the kitchen.

- = -

"I'm not here," Steve said when Ken started to mark attendance
at the meeting. He got some laughs. "My parents are picking me
up in forty minutes. I just thought I'd see what I had to do

"Well," said Mr. Babaian. "Still it is generous to give a little
extra time." After Heather showed how to cut out the hearts, Mr.
Babaian came over to the table where Steve and Shannon were
sitting. "By the way, Steve, one tiny point. You said, 'I so
move,' when you made the motion about the cupids."

So much had happened since then that Steve had to think back.
"Um, yes."

"Actually, 'I move that whatever' would have been better. When
Ken asks 'May I have a motion for adjournment?' that's when you
say 'I so move.' That's because you don't state the motion.
When you state the motion you move.... Are you following this?"

"Not too well. It was so long ago."

"Steve, it was yesterday."

"Steve had a long night," said Shannon. "I was babysitting this
girl who got sick. Steve drove her to the hospital for me, and
he didn't get home till late. Maybe he had better concentrate on
the art lesson today, and cover the civics when he's awake."

Mr. Babaian laughed. "Maybe he'd better concentrate on physics
tonight. We'll cover *Robert's Rules of Order* another day.
Your girl?" he asked Steve.


"Keep her. You'll never do better than that." He went off to
another table.

"I don't see it," Steve said. "Admittedly you're a pretty girl.
But I got written up in Mrs. Foster's black book for saying one
tenth of that." Shannon shrugged. "Look for the Jeep when you
leave. Maybe there'll be a piece of venison for you."

- = -

Bill Jensen held a children's book on his lap as Amy watched the
television. He'd used the surface to write his letter to
Shannon. He'd expressed his gratitude, he'd mentioned the pay,
he'd explained why the lawyer felt that Steve was in no danger.
What more was needed? Oh yes. "Amy, do you want to say thank
you to Shannon for taking care of you when you were sick?"

Amy nodded her head and went back to watching the televised art
lesson. He put "Amy says thanks" in the letter. He'd been
planning to read the book as his last act, but it wouldn't
compete with the TV. He kissed her goodbye, got a truly warm
hug, and saw that she was concentrating on the screen when he
waved from the door.

He'd considered Shannon's being home and nobody being home.
(Would he leave the letter with a hundred dollars in cash in
their mail box? What if there were a mail slot in the door?
The actuality was that Shannon's mother was home. "She has a
meeting after school. I don't know how long it will last but it
can't be that much longer."

"I just wanted to thank her for what she did last night."

"And what did she do? I got the impression that there was an
emergency, but don't know any of the details."

So he told her everything from his perspective. He stressed that
they had given permission for Steve to be present. He told her
the lawyer's opinion that Steve wouldn't get into any trouble.

She seemed interested in the history of the permission for
Steve's visits. That was a bit odd. Shannon hadn't had much
time to tell her about the previous night, but you'd think that
the incident of the medicine bottle would have been worth
mentioning. Then he corrected himself; he wasn't all that
important in Shannon's life. He'd felt like a heel, but probably
one more adult heel hadn't impressed her that much. He ended
with detailed assurances about Amy's current health. When he
repeated his statements about Steve's legal situation, she
stopped him.

"I'm not certain that I can follow all of that. I'll get you
Steven's phone number, but this is one of his nights at the
drugstore. Maybe you should call later or tomorrow."

When he felt that he had overstayed his welcome, he left the
letter with Mrs. Bryant. He figured that he could catch Steve
at Hauksbee's later on.

- = -

When Shannon got out of the meeting, the Cherokee honked at her
from the school parking lot. Steve got out to help her in.
"Want a little spaghetaroni, Shannon?" Steve's mother asked.
"It's macaroni with spaghetti sauce. You know Roger don't you?"

"Yes." She'd met both of Steve's parents several times, been at
their table for dinner. "Hello Mr. Anderson -- Mrs. Anderson.
I'd like just a little, I'm due home for dinner."

She got a paper plate with a few noodles, a brownie, and a cup of
coffee. With the coffee, Steve's mother passed her a carton of
cream -- an unopened carton of cream. "You shouldn't have
mentioned that," she told Steve.

He merely shrugged. "Yes, he should have," his mom said. "Now,
if you want to change him, and don't have the illusion that you
can change much, change a bad habit. Keep him from walking all
over town in the middle of a blizzard."

"We've talked about that," Shannon said.

"Now, Mom." Steve had been nagged from two sides for that walk.
He'd bitten off a little more than he could chew comfortably, but
it hadn't deserved all that comment. "I knocked on the door.
She let me in, I was already there; I already needed to walk
home. What did you expect her to do?"

"Shannon," his mom said, "repeat after me. 'If you ever do
something that stupid again...'"

"If you ever do something that stupid again," Shannon began,
after all she *had* worried about Steve out in that cold.

"'I won't kiss you again for a month,'" his mom concluded.

"I won't kiss you again for three days," Shannon said.

"It's that simple," his mom said. Nobody commented on the

Shannon finished up her noodles, took a sip of coffee, and
started on the brownie. "You do these so well. Have you
considered teaching Steve the recipe?"

"Heavens forbid! These are my only means of influencing my
menfolk at all. But Steve did buy a kiss with one of my last
batch did he? That is true love, or true lust -- which is the
best you can expect from teenage males. I was afraid that he
would decide to eat it himself."

Shannon looked at Steve. This had lost her totally.

"I shoveled the sidewalk." Steve said. "Mom claims that she
worried about the damage to me from my walk home, but she had me
slaving away bright and early the next morning."

"Early the next afternoon, and he didn't look all that bright to
me. Anyway, I kissed him as a reward; and he said 'Aw mom.' So
I gave him an extra brownie to trade for a kiss from *you*. I
knew that he valued those."

"He's shared his brownies with me several times, but he doesn't
ask for kisses in exchange."

"Shannon doesn't *sell* her kisses," Steve said. Although they
did bet with kisses from time to time. Trading kisses for
something sounded just slightly like whoring.

Shannon couldn't believe that she was talking about, joking
about, this with his parents. Her parents were reconciled to his
kissing her, but they didn't laugh about it. "I wish that my
parents were as cool about this as you are."

"Seriously for a minute," Steve's mom said. "Don't blame your
parents. I had a daughter as well, and I worried much more about
her. That's the way parents are. For that matter, that's the
way our society is. We don't put a strict curfew on Steve.
Don't need to. He gets you home on your parents' schedule, and
he's home half an hour later. Medical emergencies excepted, of

Steve directed his dad on the route to her house. "Face
forward!" he said. While Shannon was facing forward and trying
to figure out why, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her.
Then he got out, helped her out, and walked her to the door.

"Love you," he told her. The kiss in the Jeep was recent enough
that they just held hands for a moment. This tiny party was
over, although both didn't want it to be.

"I love you," she responded. "And I'm serious. I really like
your parents." He wasn't convinced. When she'd gone inside he
climbed back in the jeep.

"Worried more about Mallory than about me. did you?" he said
when he sat down. "That couldn't have been because Mallory's
behavior -- let alone her claims about that behavior -- gave you
more to worry about. Shannon's parents *should* be worrying
about her. After all, she's dating Steve."

"Now, dear," mom said, "you had your wild times, too. Different
times. I used to worry that you would get yourself killed. Not
that I'd have been happier if you had died frozen to the
sidewalk. It's just that parents don't worry about their sons'
dating. Presumably, when they're with their girlfriends, they
aren't speeding and risking car wrecks. I worry less when you're
with her; her parents worry more when she's with you. Sons can
be a pain in the neck, but they don't get pregnant."

"Get pregnant! mother dearest, if Shannon and I were doing what
you suspect, and if by criminal neglect or sheer bad luck she did
get pregnant, what would I do?"

"You'd propose," mom admitted. "But that doesn't put the risks
in balance. First, *I* wasn't worrying about Shannon; her
parents are. They'd answer that question with a lot less
certainty. Second, such a proposal doesn't balance the risk.
Sure, you'd end up a parent much sooner than you would want; but
you wouldn't have to carry the baby. And somehow the girl ends
up not going to college much more often than her husband does.
So never tell her that she should go to bed with you because
you're taking half the risk. It's a lie, and your own mother
will tell her that it is."

"And, while holding your girlfriend's hand as she recovers from
an abortion is a lousy way to spend a weekend," (Roger Anderson
felt that this alternative really needed to be mentioned) "it
doesn't compare at all with the pain of undergoing one."

"Sheesh! My own parents think that we are doing the deed."

"No son," Dad said, "we think you are considering it. All these
comments would be a little late otherwise. Anyway, you don't
want to tell us whether you are; and we're sorry if it sounds as
if we're prying. We just want you to act responsibly."

Steve had thought of responsibility in terms of the rubbers from
Hauksbee's. Now, they were laying a whole different load on him.
"And I'd prefer to arrange for my own kisses from Shannon, thank
you very much. You don't have to manage that part of my life for

"Grouchy mood, are you?" Dad asked. "Shannon thought it was
funny." They let him off at Hauksbee's. He was early for work,
and they had left the Honda in the parking lot.

- = -

"Well, Shannon," Allison Bryant asked her daughter when the three
of them had begun eating. "You had a big day last night, Why
don't you tell us all about it?"

"All right. You know that the Jensen's went out later than
usual. They were at an anniversary party for his sister. They
left me the number. Things were going great for a while, but
then Peggy woke up hungry. Her mother had only left her half a
bottle, and I gave her that. I was thinking about calling them --
no hurry, but Peggy isn't going to be satisfied for long -- when
Amy came out. I gave her the pill and cuddled her for a minute
or two.

"Okay. Now it was hurry time. I called and the phone was busy."

"Busy?" asked Wayne. "Don't they have call waiting?"

"The Jensen's do; I don't know about the sister-in-law. Anyway,
it was busy. I called a couple of times, and it stayed busy.
Meanwhile, Amy isn't getting any better. I finally call Dr.
Wyatt. He tells me to get Amy to the hospital. The phone still
doesn't answer.

"Now, you are going to get mad. But I called Steve. He drove
over, took Amy to the hospital, and stayed there until Mrs.
Jensen came home.

"Peggy was driving me mad. Not her fault, but she was hungry and
desperate. She figured that I had milk where her mommy did."
Shannon blushed at that. "Finally, the hundredth time I called,
I get through. They go to the hospital. Steve drove her home --
not immediately. Steve drove me home. You know the rest."

"I," said Allison, "know the rest. So Steven drove you home?"

"At the time, Mr. Jensen was still at the hospital; Mrs. Jensen
was feeding a very hungry baby. Who did you expect to drive me
home? I could have called Dad, of course; but Steve was there --
and dressed."

"And he drove you home in his car?"

"Yeah. His mother's car, really."

"So why did you get out of a Volkswagen Golf when you got here?
And why didn't I hear Steven, who always walks you to the door,
walk you to the door *this* time? And why did you tell us that a
neighbor drove Amy to the hospital?"

"Well, that was true. Steve is a neighbor of theirs. It's all
the way across town and he lives very close."

"Shannon, 'Steven drove Amy to the hospital -- he lives much
closer than we do,' is not a complicated sentence. Or you could
have told us that Steven drove and that you would explain the
circumstances tonight. Calling him 'a neighbor' is certainly
misleading. But that still leaves two questions. The Golf, and
not coming to the door."

"I didn't want him coming to the door," Shannon said, "because I
wanted to avoid just these questions." She took a deep breath.
"He couldn't get his car started. It was an emergency. He took
her car -- Mrs. Jensen's. She approves, highly approves."

"But why," Wayne had entirely forgotten that he was supposed to
let Allison handle this matter, "didn't you call *me*? I can see
calling Steven first, sort of. He lived closer. But when he
told you that his car wouldn't start, you could have called me.
You should have!"

"Okay!" Shannon was close to tears now. "Steve was already
there, okay? He was there; he called home to get the car from
his mother; she wasn't home. So he took Amy to the emergency
room in her mother's car. He was right there; the car was right
there; Mrs. Jensen approved later. And she asked him to drive me
home afterwards. He did. I'm sorry that I didn't check with you
to see if you thought that you were sober enough to drive. Okay?"

Wayne shut his mouth. He had been well under the legal limit
that night, but there were enough evenings when he hadn't been
for that to hurt. He didn't -- bar the rare party -- go to bed
drunk, but he seldom went to bed totally sober. At that point,
he remembered that Allison had asked him to keep out of this

"And Steve just happened to be at the house that night?" Allison

"Yes! It just happened. And I'm damn glad he was there. He
solved the problem." Her parents were looking at her. Her dad
had his mouth clamped shut; her mom quirked an eyebrow. "All
right, he's visited me there before. He's met Amy, and she loves
him. Darn lucky too. She really wanted her mommy; I was
definitely second place; She fought against going with Steve. Who
knows what she would have done about a stranger?"

Allison sat there and stared at their daughter. Wayne had to say
something. "Look, Chick, you are making this much worse. Your
mother knows something. I don't know how much." He suspected,
indeed, that Allison had run out of her knowledge. Shannon was
unraveling without Allison's prompting now. "Anyway, you've
lied enough that nobody is going to trust your word. Why don't
you try the truth? It could hardly work any worse."

Chapter 11
Time at work dragged worse than it ever had for Steve. He was
awake, and standing up helped him stay awake; but just standing
up took effort. To make it worse, the store seemed busier than
usual. At least that kept Hauksbee from riding him.

The time came, however, when the last customer in the store was
at his register. With a few exceptions, customer flow was
unpredictable. The old man walked up to his end of the store.

"Sorry," Steve said. "Long day after a short night."

"What a coincidence," Hauksbee began. "I was just going to
describe your performance tonight, and 'sorry' was the word I'd

Luckily, the door opened just then. "Mr. Hauksbee," Amy's father
called out, "could I have a couple of minutes with Steve."

Carl Hauksbee didn't like his employees to conduct private
business on paid time, but the Jensen's were fairly good
customers. Even so, the two steps back which conveyed his silent
permission didn't take him out of hearing range.

"First," Bill Jensen began, "I'd like to thank you for what you
did for Amy last night. The second thing is that I've talked to
the lawyer at the bank. He thinks that the police will drop
their interest in the car. If they ask us, we'll tell them that
Shannon gave you permission; and Shannon had the power to give
permission under those circumstances. Anyway, here is his card.
You can call him if you are arrested, but that means that you
would have to pay him."

"So," Hauksbee put in, "you're changing careers, Steve. No
wonder that you find being a sales clerk so boring tonight;
car theft is so much more exciting."

Steve could hear the joking tone in his boss's voice. He just
didn't appreciate the joke. He looked at Amy's father.

"He *didn't* steal the car at all. It was an emergency." Bill
Jensen was determined that he wouldn't get Steve in trouble for
what he'd done for Amy. "My daughter was sick, and Steve and
Shannon couldn't reach me. Dr. Wyatt told them to get Amy to the
hospital. Steve drove my wife's car."

"Well, Steve knows I was only teasing him. But nobody is going
to suffer here for following Dr. Wyatt's orders." Carl Hauksbee
thought that he might just get that on the record.

They were busy from then until lock-up time. "One thing puzzles
me, Steve. Why didn't you tell the police why you were driving
the car?"

"Well, he didn't really ask. I was in the emergency room. Amy
was God knows where. The cop kept staring at me. I don't see
how they could follow up, though it was nice of Mr. Jensen to
tell me. But sitting there with a cop staring at me and nothing
else to do made me worry. I think I told Mrs. Jensen that."

- = -

Shannon felt as if her world were collapsing. mom just stared at
her. Finally, Dad broke the silence. "Look, Chick, you are
making this much worse. Your mother knows something. I don't
know how much. Anyway, you've lied enough that nobody is going
to trust your word. Why don't you try the truth; it couldn't
work any worse." Yes it could, but she was at the end of her

"All right," she began. "Dad, remember the bad flu that had all
the nurses out?" She turned to her mother, who was still
staring at her. "I *am* telling it. This is where it began.

"Anyway," she continued, "I had a date with Steve, but Mrs.
Green was in a panic. She finally suggested that I have Steve
over for a visit. She popped for pizza, and he and I ate with
the boys until I got them into bed. This was a Tuesday, maybe a
Thursday. Anyway, the next time she wanted me, I asked if Steve
could come after work. She hemmed and hawed, but it was okay
when it suited *her*. After a while, I asked other customers.
Some said yes; some said no...."

"And you got their permission, but not your parents'?" her mom

"Sure. It was their house. Anyway, I was getting more customers
than I could serve, so I concentrated on the ones who said yes.
Usually, Steve met the kids, but only once. I didn't want some
kid waking up and saying, 'Who are you?' He met Amy a couple of
times, though. And Peggy on almost every date at the Jensens'
Not that Peggy has much of a memory for people yet. I mean, I do
the work, but Steve helps when he can. He got real good at
reheating Peggy's bottles. And we usually neaten up a place that
allows Steve to visit."

"You developed a real system, didn't you?" Allison felt the
pounding in her temples and the tension of the muscles in her
back. She tried to keep all that out of her voice.

Shannon never knew how to deal with her mother when her voice got
like that. This time, she played it straight. "I suppose. You
sort of have to when you're taking care of somebody else's kids.
Anyway, the Jensens were about the last people to agree to
Steve's visits. I was there alone, and I used the last pill --
Amy's pills. I panicked and called Hauksbee's; they came home
and found Steve on the front porch. Mr. Jensen was nasty about
it until he heard why I had called Steve. I think that they
changed their mind in apology. And they are damned glad they
did, too, today."

"You had Steve visit every time that you babysat anywhere?" her
mother asked.

"Yeah. Well, not quite, but you aren't going to be less angry
'cause of the exceptions. There were short nights when he
worked. There was New Year's Eve...."

"And Steven drove you home after?"

"Sometimes. Less often than not, really. Not ever from Mrs.
Green's for instance. He left long before she got home. He
might leave before the parents got home, depending. He could
have the car or not. Usually, after work, he had it."

"And he didn't walk you to the door."

"I asked him not to."

"Wayne," Allison said, "would you excuse us?"

"Sure. I'll go...."

"Stay here. We'll leave."

"I'm not done," Shannon said. Indeed, she'd barely started her

"Oh yes you are. We'll go up to your room." Shannon thought
better of arguing.

They walked upstairs and shut the door without saying another
word. Her mother took the chair and looked at her for one long
minute. "Have you had sex with Steven?" she asked.

"What do you think that I am?"

"If you ask that question again, you'll get an answer you won't
enjoy hearing. Have you and Steven had intercourse?" Allison
was on the horns of a dilemma. Taking Shannon to a gynecologist
just now would be granting permission for her sex life. If she
were already doing the deed, however, or on the verge of it, she
needed contraception immediately.

"No! I'm going to wear white on my wedding day, and wear it
honestly. He understands that, understands it better than you."

"What did you two do in those hours in other people's houses --
those hours you hid from your parents?"

"We did lots of things. You think we only petted; but we talked,
and we studied together."

"Did you put your mouth on him? Down there?"

Shannon was horrified. The idea was revolting and the question
showed how perverted her mother thought she was. She had, after
all, considered sex. Steve hadn't even asked for this kiss.
"No. I've only *touched* it once or twice."

"And has he done that to you?"

Shannon decided to tell the whole truth this time. First, lies
had really failed. Second, she *hadn't* had sex with Steve.
That was important, and she felt -- half superstitiously -- that
the truth would convince her mom of that much better than a
convenient lie. Third, the coming punishment would probably be
the maximum that her parents could produce. The truth wouldn't
make it worse.

The most important reason, however, was only a shadow at the back
of her mind. She needed to ask some questions. Dad was a lot
easier to talk to than Mom, but impossible to approach about some
things. She and mom had had The Talk some time back, although
the school sex-ed classes had covered the biology a lot better.
Now, however, she knew perfectly well what would happen if she
and Steve did one thing or another. What she didn't know is what
that meant. Was it so important? Was it so wonderful? Did it
hurt? Was it worth the hurt?

She had no relatives in town but her parents, no woman she could
go to. Some of her friends had more experience, and she had
heard their confidences. But her friends were her age.

And what about Steve's latest attack?

Petting was something else. There were bad things which made you
a bad person, like murder, adultery, and robbery. There were bad
things which everyone did, like taking the Lord's name in vain,
or not honoring your parents. Petting was definitely in the
second class; you shouldn't, but everybody did. Sex, however,
made you a bad person -- a bad girl at any rate. The problem
was, however, that over the past year or so, a good many of her
friends had done it; and *they* were still good girls.

Still, she wanted to stick to petting. Steve could kiss her
breasts; he could pet her down there. They wouldn't go any
further. And Steve had taken 'no' for an answer, or had he?
Sucking on her nipples was part of petting, it was instead of
sex. What was nibbling on her neck? What was kissing the inside
of her elbow and the palm of her hand? Was it just another kind
of petting? Was it the beginning phase of real sex?

"Has Steven kissed you down there?" Allison had waited an
awfully long time for an answer to her question, much longer than
she thought Shannon needed to give her a truthful answer.

"Not really. I think he wants to, though. Is it as magic as the
books make it sound?" These weren't things she discussed with
her mother, but -- if they were breaking those barriers tonight
-- there were things she wanted to know. There were things she
needed to know.

Allison did not like the twist this conversation was taking.
Whatever she'd done, she'd done with Shannon's father; and that
wasn't a subject that she wanted Shannon to hear. Anything else
she'd done, anything she'd done before him, Shannon *really*
shouldn't hear. Anyway, they were discussing Shannon's past
activities and why those were wrong. They weren't going to go
into future activities, except to say that those would be much
further in the future than Shannon might have thought coming home
this evening.

"What did you do? Not studying, not talking -- though I'm sure I
wouldn't enjoy hearing what you talked about. What did you do
last night before the baby interrupted you?"

"You want to hear all of it?"

"I don't *want* to hear any of it. But I'm your mother, and I
think I had better."

"Well, before he got there, I took off my bra and put the shirt
back on. We kissed for a while, and he unbuttoned the shirt.
Kissing is much better when you're skin to skin, but we kept the
shirts in case Amy would come out. You know, one button and
we're covered.

"Anyway, you're sure you want to hear this?"

"I'm fascinated. What was Steven wearing?"

"An open shirt, same as me. And he was wearing jeans, of course.
I was wearing a skirt. We both we're in socks. I'd taken my
pantyhose off."

"And your panties?"

"I was wearing them. It was the tail end of my period, for
heaven's sake.

"Anyway," she continued, "we kiss with our shirts open, skin-to-
skin. Then he kisses me all over: face, neck, arms, the back of
my ears. You two will say, 'Evil Shannon; our daughter's a loose
woman; she lets Steven kiss her breasts.' And so I do." Maybe
she did a little more than 'let' Steve kiss her there, but the
main point was accurate.

"And when he kisses my nipples, it turns me on. I knew it would
long before he did it. The thing is that Steve kisses me all
over; that turns me on, too. My arms, the palms of my hands, the
inside of my elbow. Is that petting? And he scratched my back.
That doesn't sound like much, but it feels gorgeous.

"After that he did kiss my breasts -- he kissed my mouth and
other places, but mostly my breasts. And he petted me too.

"We had just finished when Peggy started to cry. After that, I
told it about how it was. Except that I only buttoned my shirt
and later Peggy attacked my breasts.

"Anyway, Steve will take 'no' for an answer. And we are going to
pet -- what did you think we were doing when the dance or movie
got out and we took an hour to drive home? An hour you allowed
us? The problem is that kissing and nibbling at my neck and ear
and elbow -- elbow for God's sake! Is that petting? Steve will
take 'no' for an answer, but he'd be awfully willing to take
'yes' for an answer. Are we petting or is he taking us further?"

Allison had been told more than she wanted to hear, and less
than she believed. Could Shannon, who'd started the night
telling a bunch of whoppers, be trusted when she said that she
hadn't yet done the deed? Allison almost believed her.

On the other hand, what Shannon said told loads about what she
hadn't said. If Steven had kissed her breasts *and* petted her,
Allison knew what parts of her daughter he had petted.

"Well," she said, "maybe a break in your busy schedule of petting
will let you decide for yourself. I have to talk to your father,
but I'll tell you now that you are due home ten minutes after
school lets out. No extracurricular activities, no dances, no
dates. And, since you have such problems telling the difference
between babysitting and dates, no babysitting. Stay in your
room, except for bathroom breaks, for the rest of this night. No

"You, my girl, are grounded."

She told Wayne her sentence. "She *says* that they haven't done
the deed. I don't know whether to believe her. How long has she
been wearing skirts to babysitting jobs?"


"Never mind. I didn't catch on, and I did notice it. She's been
wearing skirts so she didn't interfere with Steven's wandering
hands. I don't know, Wayne, everything I've done for years was
about Shannon. You have the hospital at least. I'm a total

"Let me hold you."


"Nothing beyond that. Just let me hold you." He climbed onto
her bed. They were both dressed except for shoes. He did hold
her, cuddling her on his shoulder. "Listen, you've done lots
beside Shannon. Maybe the real estate was to pay her tuition,
but you performed a service to earn that, a service for your
customers, a service for your boss.

"And Shannon isn't a dead loss. Now isn't the time to tell her
that, but she did take care of the kids. I've been thinking.
We're still her parents; we've been betrayed, but that's not what
we should be thinking about."

"What about? About how great a hero Mr. Jensen says she and
Steven are?"
"No. Let Mr. Jensen tell her that. She did wrong. We aren't
out for vengeance for her betrayal of us; we are out for a
daughter who won't do something like that again. As her parents,
we have the responsibility of teaching her to do right. And,
this is the hard part, I can't put my finger on her crime."

"Oh Wayne!" Couldn't he see how badly Shannon had acted.

"Hear me out. Yes, she behaved immorally when she was hidden
away with Steven. Certainly, she lied like a trooper when you
questioned her. She did wrong, but neither of those is the
essence of the wrong she did. Let me think about that overnight.
Anyway, I have three ideas. I'd like your thoughts on them.

"The first is that she needs a heavy punishment, and we don't
have time for a long-drawn-out one. I'd like to make it as
intense as possible. What do you think of barring her from

"It's an idea. I've already told her no social life."

"Does that mean no birthday party?"

"It pretty much has to. And she's been looking forward to that
for months."

"Well, it wouldn't be punishment if it didn't include what she
really wanted. Anyway, I *want* it to be intense; I don't want
to drag it out. She had what? Five or six months of petting."

"We already have our gift planned."

"And that will make a great graduation gift. Let her suffer a
bit now. Anyway, the second thing I would like is that the
specifics that she told you don't count towards the severity of
her punishment."

"She didn't *tell* me anything. At least not anything we
couldn't have guessed."

"All the same, if she has something to tell you, let her do it.
We can't punish her for that. The third is going to hurt. But I
think that we have to. We don't try to break her away from

"I said no social life."

"Oh, she can't date Steven for a while. But, when she can date,
she can date him. When she can go to dances, she can go with
him. Does that make sense?"

"I suppose. And you're right about confiding in me. But her
romance with Steven was cooling anyway. I'm not sure that he
won't find somebody else to date while she's locked away."

All Wayne said was "Umm?" He hugged her more tightly.

"Oh my God!" she said. They still went to the dances, the public
announcement of their romance. What they had dropped was meals
together and movies. Instead of sitting in the darkened theater
while Steven put his arm around her and felt the side of her
bra-clad breast through her blouse, she kissed him 'skin to
skin.' Then he kissed those breasts and did more. And they did
that often enough that Shannon would have had to cut back to go
on a movie date. "I don't see how I could have been so blind."

Shannon, who was never hesitant to express her dissatisfactions,
hadn't mentioned that Steven was asking her out less. For that
matter, many weeks, the babysitting appointments she took wouldn't
have allowed more dates. And Steven, who found the oddest
reasons to call her and then spent an hour on the phone after his
one-minute question had been answered, almost never called when
she was babysitting. And Shannon had taken to wearing skirts to

Shannon knocked on the door then. "Look, can't I at least go
down to get my homework?"

"Of course, dear," Wayne answered. "I'll be out in a minute."
He pulled his shoes back on.

They walked down together, and Shannon picked up her backpack.
She looked towards the kitchen, but he shook his head. "Do you
know," she asked, "how long it's been since I was sent to bed
without my supper?"

"One hour, certainly less than two."

"I mean before that."

"You don't know what a quandary you've put your parents in. If
you had asked Steven over once or twice, we'd ground you for a
week -- more or less. You were sneaking around for what? Six

"Less. And it was only Mrs. Green at first." He shook his head.
"Look, you two have always made it a rule that I got some credit
for honesty. About what I told Mom...."

"Honesty! You told more lies at dinner than I think I've ever
heard at one time." She had, indeed, told more lies than could
ever have worked. He wanted her to be honest, at least with
Allison and himself; but he was also worried that his little
Chick was going out into the great world with no idea of when
lies weren't working. This was the wrong time to tell her how to
be more effectively dishonest, but she needed that knowledge.

"But after. I answered Mom's questions perfectly honestly.
Don't I get any credit for that?"

"Well, you did something shameful. And hid it elaborately. When
you went upstairs, I knew that you had done something shameful.
The very stream of lies that you covered it with told me that. I
don't see how being specific about precisely what shameful thing
you had done mitigates the punishment. We haven't been talking
about what you did hidden away so much as your hiding it away.
And, of course, the lies you told to cover that."

Shameful! Shannon walked up the stairs in what she hoped was
dignified silence. She and Steve had done nothing shameful.
Nothing at all. Sure, she hid it away. Didn't her parents lock
their door? There was a difference between keeping her
activities with Steve private and believing those activities were
shameful. Her parents were simply trying to keep her a child.

Her dad knocked at her door as soon as it latched. "What
punishment have you thought up now?" she said.

"Your television. May I have it, please.?" She unplugged it and
handed it to him. "And, Chick, your mother already told you that
you can't have any social life. That includes your birthday
party. Your friends deserve to know that."

"My birthday! My *eighteenth* birthday!"

"Sorry. You chose what you did; we didn't. If you didn't choose
when we would learn of it, you risked that we would learn at this
time. You're grounded."

- = -

Steve's parents were in their bedroom when he got home. He
got himself a quick snack of beef stew. In his pajamas, he
checked his e-mail. He had received two copies of the real story
of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a reminder from Ken of the
work sessions on the next two days, and an inquiry if he still
played MUDs on-line. There was nothing from Shannon.

"Thinking about you," he sent her, and signed it "An Unknown

When he went off-line, he slipped the disk from Dave into his
floppy drive and looked through the pictures. Steve figured that
once a day was about right. He could come more often than that,
but he wanted to exercise some self-control. In the past forty-
eight hours he had lacked relief. Not only that, he had been
petting with Shannon and almost at the limit when Peggy
interrupted. This wasn't a time for dreaming of Shannon; this
was a time for something really dirty.

Dave had his own indexing system. Steve looked through the rear
views until his cock demanded action. Then he switched to the
pictures of rear entry sex. At the fifth couple, he shot into
the Kleenex until it was soggy. He dropped that in the waste
basket and took a last piss in the bathroom. He turned down the
monitor, removed the disk, and crawled into bed.

He'd do homework on the bus. There was no sense trying to stuff
his head when it had turned itself off.

- = -

Steve woke to the alarm in the morning. His recovery was
complete, except -- ironically -- the he had the firmest morning
erection that he had suffered in some months.

Dad being home, mom cooked breakfast for everybody. "Want some
spaghetaroni to take for lunch?" she asked. "There doesn't seem
to be any stew left."

Instead of cafeteria lunch? "Sure. Thanks Mom."

"If you'll actually study this morning," Dad said, "I'll drive
you to school. No 'just checking my e-mail.'" Well he had a
point; checking e-mail could take all the time available. And
Mr. Babaian had all but told him that there would be a quiz that

"Thanks, Dad." He got nearly forty-five minutes in on physics,
and left in plenty of time for the start of school.

"Shannon impressed me as a really nice girl last night," his dad
said in the Jeep.

"I coulda told you that. I did tell you that."

"I meant 'nice' as a person, not her looks."

Steve sighed. His parents thought that he was so superficial.
"That's what I meant, too. Look, Dad...." This was as good a
time as any.


"If you had the chance to change your life, you could have gone
to a much better school, gotten a better education. Only, it
would have meant never even meeting Mom. Would you have done
it?" He seemed to be jumping back and forth in time. Could Dad
hear what he was asking?

Roger Anderson could see where this was heading. "You're not
really considering this Albino College?" That couldn't be right.

"Albion. And no. But what if IIT *does* accept me? What if I
want to go to U of I instead?"

"Well, it's your choice. Your mother and I might think that your
commitment to Shannon is a little premature, but we're seeing it
from the outside. Everybody always does. If that last sentence
makes sense."

"Sure. But you can see a little of it. Shannon is a class act,
through and through. Question is what she sees in me."

"Don't sell yourself short, son. That's part of being a class
act, seeing your potential. Just don't ruin all of that."

"Thanks Dad." They were turning into the parking lot outside of
school. The thanks could have been for the ride, the advice, or
the permission. He didn't know. It even could have been for the
approval of his choice of girl. The approval wouldn't make much
difference in his relationship with Shannon, but it would make
his next eight months at home easier.

Shannon, who looked unhappy, sent him a questioning glance just
before the class started. All he could do was shrug back. It
wasn't really during class time, but Mrs. Foster asked them both
to stay after class.

He'd decided to take the punishment in silence, however unfair.
Mrs. Foster graded mostly on tests, anyhow. When they got to
her, thought, she had something else on her mind. "Look, that
baby you said you took to the emergency room. What was her

"Amy Jensen." Wherever this was going, he didn't see any sense
in lying.

"And," Mrs. Foster continued, "you were babysitting for her?"

This was addressed to Shannon and she answered. "Yes."

"Well, the party where the Jensens were? The host was Ted
Foster. He's some sort of cousin, third cousin twice removed or
second cousin thrice removed, something like that, of my
husband's. We aren't close enough to go to the party. They'd
have to hold it in the gym. *You* know." The last was directed
at Steve. There were larger Anderson clans in town, but his
relatives weren't all going to fit into one house either.

"But," she continued, "we're close enough to hear the gossip.
Ted's son, Bobby, was on the Internet when you called; he's been
grounded for life. Ted's wife says that the mother thinks you
two walk on water. I'd not go all that far, but I over-reacted
to Steve's comment yesterday. I'm not taking those points.
Here's an excuse for each of you."

She handed them the slips which would excuse their lateness to
the next class. They started in Shannon's direction. "The kid
is grounded for life, is he," Shannon said. "I'll bet that his
grounding ends before mine does."

"Shit!" Then he looked around, but no teachers were listening.

"Didn't check your e-mail?"

"Last night after work. I got a ride this morning if I spent all
the time on homework. Dad approves of you."

"Can I come live at your house? My parents definitely disapprove
of me."

"The last thing I want is to have you for a sister. Even in
exchange for Mallory. I gather that they found out about our
babysitting dates."

"You drove me home in Mrs. Jensen's car and didn't walk me to the
door. mom guessed the rest. About five hundred percent of the
rest. I poured my heart out to you in that e-mail."

"And I'll read it. Can we finish this at lunch?"

"We'll have to." And she continued while he turned around and
headed for class.

There wasn't a quiz in Physics. At lunch, Shannon laid out the
rest of her punishment. "Thing is," she said, "they probably
haven't finished yet. Dad asked for my tv late last night. They
canceled my birthday party, my *eighteenth* birthday party."
She wiped her eyes at that. "I'd better tell people." She'd
made short work of her lunch, being quite hungry that noon.

He offered her one of his brownies, then -- impulsively -- all
three. She took one, then broke the other in half and took that
half. She left him to tell her friends that there wouldn't be a

There *was* a quiz in calc. It covered enough that he wasn't
absolutely lost. On the other hand, the grade on that quiz
wasn't going to do anything for his GPA either.

The hearts for the dance decor were much easier to prepare than
they had been the previous day. He asked Mr. Babaian to repeat
his explanation, and it made sense. His problems (except for his
share of Shannon's) were clearing up; hers had just begun. What
hadn't happened, despite Mr. Jensen's visit to the drug store,
was that either one of them got any reward for their good deed.
Well, he'd noticed something similar often enough before.

"Where was Shannon?" Ken asked him on the way home. "Will we see
her tomorrow?" He had specified two meetings out of three.

"She's grounded. I doubt that she'll get to another meeting.
I'm starting to worry about the dance itself."

"Grounded? What did she do? The dance is more than two weeks
from now."

- = -

Allison Bryant had arranged her schedule so that she was home
when Shannon was due. "I said ten minutes." It was a nearly
fifteen minutes after school let out.

"Come on, Mom. The busses don't even leave ten minutes after the
ending bell rings. I had to get to my locker, arrange my books,
put on my coat, and then trot home. You only count walking
home. I'm not sure that I can make this schedule. I never did
for Mrs. Green. Of course, if I slip on some ice and break a
leg, that will cut out my social life for you." The walks along
her path home were mostly clear, but there was sure to be more

"All right. Fifteen minutes after the ending bell rings.
Tonight, you'll need to start dinner at four-thirty. You can
study till then." Shannon decided not to try her e-mail. Steve
couldn't have replied; he was still at school. She suspected
that her parents might block that connection to the outside if
they noticed her using it.

And she did want Steve's reply. In the middle of the night,
despite how tired she had been, she'd awakened and hadn't been
able to go back to sleep. She had written Steve about her
parents, and then about what he meant to her. She'd never quite
said those things before.

Which meant that she was still tired. She'd make an early night
tonight, what choice did she have? And so it was time to start
on homework. She did so until her mom knocked on her door.

Some of the best times she'd had with her mom had been working
together in the kitchen. This wasn't going to be one of them.
For one thing, Shannon did all the work. Her mom supervised from
a chair.

"Let me guess," Shannon said. "This isn't going to get me out of
doing the dishes?"

"You're right. Look, one thing I'll give you. Anything you told
me last night, you can change your story without penalty.
Anything you forgot to mention?"

"Not really."

"Then tell me one thing. Steven called once when you were
babysitting. He sounded very surprised at the news."

Shannon could feel herself blush. Someday she'd laugh at that
mess, if she didn't die of old age first. "Remember that I told
you that Steve was sensitive and picked up on things real well."

"Something like that." Allison remembered it very well.
Shannon's boyfriend was sensitive, unlike her mother.

"Well, usually he does. But there are exceptions." She told the
story of his being jealous about 'the visit from her friend.'

Allison wondered where Shannon had picked up that euphemism. Not
from her mother, who had been careful to use the correct terms.
Anyway, despite Shannon's emphasis on the study and the talk,
messy genitals made the entire visit undesirable. She could
believe her about the talk, on the other hand. Those kids could
spend an hour a day on the phone talking about the e-mails that
they had already sent each other.

- = -

Wayne Bryant looked up Nurse Green on the roster. She was on
orthopedic, scheduled to work that night, and -- as he already
knew -- on the second shift. He called the supervisor of ortho,
and asked if he could speak with Nurse Green for a very few

"This is Mr. Bryant of the finance office," the supervisor told
Nurse Green. "He needs five minutes of your time." Wayne hoped
to keep it down to three.

"More to the point," he told her on the edge of a wide hallway,
"I'm Shannon Bryant's father. She's babysat for you."

"Yes. She's very reliable."

"Fine. And you allow her boyfriend to visit while she's there."

"Yes," she said. "I suggested it the first time, then she almost
made it a condition. I don't have any complaints, though. She
always gets her job done, and with two boys that isn't easy."

Wayne had heard stories about those two boys, but that wasn't who
he was worrying about. "Was Steve, the boyfriend, at your place
last Saturday?"

"Well, he's usually gone when I get home. I get off at twelve
thirty, you know. But last Saturday? The big storm? She told
me that he'd been there."

"Well," Wayne told her, "I'll let you get back to your duties.
But don't count on her for babysitting anytime soon. She's been
grounded." He turned to go.

"Grounded? Why would you? She's such a fine girl."

But Wayne was in no mood to discus parenting with some stranger,
let alone such a failure at parenting as this one. And seeing
that he was done, the senior nurse of the outgoing shift grabbed
Mrs. Green. There was still a lot to do.

- = -

After dinner, Shannon filled and started the dishwasher while her
parents watched tv in the living room. "Let's go up and make
some phone calls," Allison said when her daughter joined them.
"Which of your customers need a warning that you aren't

So Shannon followed her upstairs to make the calls. She left a
message on Mrs. Green's machine, feeling a little relief when she
did so. About having to make the next one, she felt unmixed resentment.
"Mr. Jensen, this is Shannon Bryant. First, how is Amy doing?"

"She's home now. Did your mother tell you what I'd told her?"

"Not really."

"Well, the attack didn't help, of course; but she's basically
recovered. I hope your mother gave you the envelope if not the

"Just a second. Mom, did you get a letter for me?"

"I forgot!" Allison went to get the envelope.

When she got back, Shannon was saying, "They don't need a reason;
they're my parents." There was a pause. "That might have been
it. But I don't blame you." Another pause. "I'm sure that
wouldn't do a bit of good. I'll just have to wait until they
change their minds."

"Shannon! We do have a reason, and you know very well what that
reason is."

"Do you want to call back and explain? I'll give you his phone
number. For that matter, do you want to make these phone calls?
It's not fun telling parents who have trusted you to care for
their children that your own parents treat you like one of those
little toddlers." Shannon put the envelope in a drawer. "I'll
save that for later, when I can read it in *privacy*."

Shannon figured that the customers who hadn't called in the new
year didn't deserve a warning, and she made the rest of the
calls. Most didn't ask why she had been grounded. For the
others, she stuck to, "My parents think I did wrong." She gave
recommendations to a few customers, but most already had their

"Wayne," Allison called, "we're done."

He came upstairs at the next commercial and removed the phone and
the jack to the modem. "You can keep the computer," he said.
"It was supposed to be for homework anyway."

"I use the connection for homework," Shannon pointed out. "The
Web is full of reference material."

"Well, dear," her mom said, "not every kid in your school is
connected. Anyway, you can do research using my computer when
I'm home and not using it. I'll need to check on you."

"I set up a new user name on AOL," her dad said. It goes from
the computer in your mom's office. It is *just* for homework."

Her parents watched television; *she* did homework. There was
enough of it to do, Tuesday's not having been quite completed,
and Wednesday having passed in an emotional blur. When she was
done, she read Mr. Jensen's letter. The hundred-dollar enclosure
gave her ideas. She hid both away, turned off the light, and got
into bed. For a long time, however, she lay sleepless and
scheming in the dark.

- = -

Steve went to his computer and downloaded Shannon's e-mail as
soon as he got home. He didn't really do the venison justice
at dinner, much less the conversation.

"Still not recovered from your long night?" Dad asked.

"Well, I chose to sleep rather than do homework last night. I
still think it was the right decision. But I'm running behind,
and Shannon got grounded for having me over when she babysat. So
my body's recovered, but my situation isn't. I don't know about
my mind."

"Anything that little isn't worth worrying about," Dad said.

"Steve, really," mom said, "helping Shannon break her parents'
rules is breaking our rules for you. You should know that."

"It really wasn't breaking her parents' rules; she just didn't
mention that I would be there. Now they are mad." Of course,
what his mom had said was retroactive as well. Still she wasn't
threatening punishment.

"Please don't eat the daisies," mom said. Dad nodded. Steve
didn't ask. Shannon wasn't the only one with weird parents.

He actually spell-checked his response to Shannon. He'd spent
less time than he usually did for a paper for school, but one
hell of a lot more care.

What she would read on AOL would be:

> Beloved,
> I don't know what to say about the punishment, except that it
> sucks. And you knew that already.
>> And, the horrible thing is that they intend to hurt you,
>> too. If nothing else, all the time that you've spent on the
>> Valentine's Ball is lost. Even if you want to abandon me,
>> you'd have a hard time finding a girl worthy of you that
>> soon.
> Don't worry about me. Your the one who is suffering directly.
> I'll see less of you, and miss it awfully. But you're being
> cut off from everybody. As for a girl worthy of me, I already
> have one I'm not worthy of. I just can't take her to dances
> right now.
> I'll probably finish what I'm committed to on the Ball
> committee. For one thing, I seem to have more free time and
> less social life all of a sudden.
> I'm not being a martyr, that would be playing into their
> hands. I'll hang out with the guys as much, probably more,
> not deprive myself because you're deprived of hanging out with
> the ladies.
> But I don't WANT to dance with anyone else.
> Anyway, what they complain about is what WE did. Any
> injustice is to US. If they have a case against you, they
> have a case against me. (And, really, they do. They're just
> being totally unreasonable about it.)
>> I don't know what we have. I really don't. Part of the
>> reason that I confessed everything we did to mom was I wanted
>> to ask her questions. You know, what's it like? Is this
>> marriage? That sort of thing. She's being totally unhelpful.
>> Shannon's been a *bad* little girl for the past few months,
>> but never what Shannon might be in the future.
> I don't get this thing about the confession and your mother.
> I do know what you mean about not knowing what we have. I
> certainly can't imaging being married to anyone other than
> you. The problem is, I can't imagine being married AT ALL.
> Oh, PARTS of it. I can imagine our wedding night just fine.
> But I don't know what marriage means.
> I can look at my parents (or at yours). They're married all
> right. But they are also old and tired. What did marriage
> mean when there was a spark between them? I'll admit it makes
> me feel all funny to even think about it. But I'm here; for
> that matter, Mallory is here, or somewhere.
> And what does "engaged" mean (except for the ring, which I
> couldn't afford)? Anyway, the reason that I haven't proposed
> is not some alternative in the back of my mind. The reason is
> that I have no future in the front of my mind, or anywhere in
> my mind.
> (One point WRT the future, I mentioned to my father the
> possibility of my going to Champaign in spite of being
> accepted at IIT. He wasn't thrilled, but he said that was my
> decision. (What he actually said was that he and mom thought
> that my commitment to you was premature -- but that was a view
> from outside. And that the view from outside was always that
> the commitment was premature.) Anyway, there would be nothing
> on my side of things comparable to what your parents are
> doing. Assuming we do that.)
>> You keep doing things. I like petting with you. I *love*
>> petting with you. I don't want to have sex. It isn't not
>> wanting to have sex *with you*. I simply don't want to do it.
>> And I think that this is moving from petting to having sex. I
>> asked whether this is so, but mom was on her "Bad Shannon" gig
>> and wouldn't answer the question. You're my only friend,
>> don't try to trick me. Is that what you are trying to do with
>> all those nibbles and kisses on my ears and elbows, *elbows*.
>> Anyway, couldn't you turn off that attack for a while? I know
>> that you want to go farther. But I can't fight the whole
>> Goddamn world. Could we, maybe, put that struggle on the back
>> burner until I have another friend in turn to?
> 1) I don't think that we'll be having problems restraining
> ourselves in the next little while. I don't know when I'll
> see you again off school grounds.
> 2) I wasn't trying to trick you. I want to seduce you, you
> should know that. But I haven't brought a rubber along on a
> date for the longest time. (For one thing, carrying them in
> my wallet or pocket ruins them after a little.) Get clear on
> that, if you are suddenly carried away, I'm not prepared.
> I want to make love to you, make love with you. But I want
> you to wake up the next morning saying, "Steve and I had a
> wonderful time last night. We expressed our love for one
> another." Even if it is not such a wonderful time, and I hear
> that it often isn't for a girl's first time, I want you to
> say, "Steve and I BOTH DECIDED to start something. It will
> get better as we gain experience."
> What I couldn't stand is your saying, "Steve tricked me last
> night. I won't trust him ever again."
> 3) "Is this secretly the road to real sex?" What do you
> think I am? "93 of the last 100 girls with whom I have had
> sex got carried away when I kissed their ears"? ALL my real
> experience of petting has been with you. I read, oh how I
> read. I look at pictures. I study the techniques of
> fictional lovers. But I don't KNOW anything that you don't
> know. I know less about how girls react than you do. I know
> one *HELL* of a lot less about what turns *SHANNON* on than you
> do. And that's the question, really.
> When you decide that we'll do it, you can tell me what turns
> you on most. That's the real question.
> 4) What happened with the kisses? You controlled what we
> could do. As long as we did more fairly often, I wasn't about
> to complain. Then you said, "That's as far as we go. That's
> as much as we do."
> Now, I'm not a rapist; I have to accept the first half. (I
> also learned a little from Curt. A guy gets one grab at
> Shannon.) So that's as far as we go.
> But why is it as much as we do? If we are only going so far,
> there are such lovely spots along the way. Every single bit
> of you is kissable. Sometime I'll get you back to that meadow
> when you think you must wear jeans. You'll let me take off
> your blouse. I'll kiss parts of you that you have forgotten
> exist. I'll kiss your shoulder blades and each single
> vertebra. I'll kiss your fingers, and I'll kiss your toes.
> I'll kiss your elbows, and I'll kiss your nose. I'll send an
> hour on your left arm and another hour on your right.
> I'll take one whole morning on your breasts and another
> morning (still above your belt) on your belly. You have an
> extraordinarily attractive belly, did you know that?
> 5) You set the limits. You always have. You've stepped
> back. Remember when you wouldn't pet in the car? All I need
> (far from all I want) is for you to express clearly those
> limits. I've managed to figure out that I can kiss your mouth
> but not your mound. If you want me to kiss your breasts but
> not your ears, you'll have to tell me.
> Look!
> That's the bottom line.
> Steve.

He decided to print out a hard copy in case they had confiscated
her computer,

He even copied the file onto a disk in case they had cut her
connection but left her the computer. He put extra quotes into
the file on disk so it would read the same (and so Shannon
wouldn't foul up the attributions).

Chapter 12

Allison gave Wayne some highlights of her evening while they were
preparing for bed. "And then she told him, 'They don't need
reasons; they're parents.' I could have strangled her. And, of
course, the Jensens aren't going to listen to my side when
they've heard hers."

"Can't quite blame them," said Wayne. "I mean, she asked them;
what do they care whether she asked us? Mrs. Green feels that
we're overdoing it, too, though I don't think I told her what our
objections were. There was no polite way to express my opinion
of her advice on parenting. The boys are hardly a

"Shannon kept insisting that they didn't *only* pet. I'll
believe that they talked. Why does she think that we got the
second phone line? And she says that they studied together,

"Now, I'll believe they studied together. Look, let me just hold
you." She pulled back the covers in invitation, and he did hug
her. He could speak much more quietly this way. "Let me run
this past you. What she did, beyond the particulars, the essence
of what she did, is this. She constructed an elaborate scheme of
dates at her babysitting appointments, and hid them from us. She
was clearly willing to lie to hide them. How often she actually
lied doesn't really matter. What matters is that she lived a
secret for months, and she was *willing* to lie about it every

"Now," he continued, "I don't know how long this punishment is
going to go on. Until she feels it, for sure. Her birthday and
this next dance, the fancy one...."

"The 'Ball'?"

"Yeah. Those are clearly within the punishment. When those are
past and we see some contrition, then we can ease up on the
rules. But I really want to see the contrition first. What I
see now is dumb defiance."

"You see *dumb* defiance," she told him, "because you weren't
there to hear her describing our tyranny to babysitting clients.
She's verbal enough then. And what do we do about her allowance?
She's sure to have some money in her purse."

"Good! We want her to learn to budget. Dole out precisely what
the school lunches cost. She has some cash above that, and no
idea how long it has to last. That'll teach her to budget."

She grinned. "I don't know about contrition, though. Contrition
is awfully easy to fake."

"Well, we won't ease things much until after Valentine's Day. By
then, I -- at least -- might be willing to settle for fake
contrition. After all, that still establishes the consensus
reality. As long as she is saying that she didn't do wrong, we
can't forgive her without agreeing with her. But these are just
my opinions. I'm not going to relent without talking to you."

"I know. You just need to think these things out on a deeper
level than I do."

He hugged her back to his front. "A different level. I'm still
the guy who the hospital hired years ago to establish their
procedures." His hug pressed his semi-erection against her

Immediately, she pushed off his arms and moved away. "Wayne, you

"I meant it. Look, different question. What is there about sex
with me that you dislike so much?"

"It's not really dislike. We do it almost every Sunday and other
times, too."

They did it maybe one Sunday in two. Every Sunday unless she was
having her period, or was at the end of an especially bad week,
or was especially angry at him. "Is it the mess?"

It was mostly that her body betrayed her with him. It was almost
as bad as those talks he and Shannon had when they were away from
the constraints of her presence. But the mess was one part of
it. "Well, I have to shower before, and then I have to shower

"You don't have to, especially before. Couldn't you tell that
just now?"

"*I* have to." She watched him climb out and into his own bed.
"Thanks for supporting me with Shannon."

"Always!" he answered.

- = -

Shannon was rested and had her homework done when she got to
school Friday morning. What else did she have to do? Mrs.
Foster was beginning Act Five. Shannon and Steve weren't as far
ahead of the class as they had been on Act Four, but they were
clearly among those who knew what was happening.

"I used your questions," Steve said as they left the room. "Only
the first scene, but I can catch up over the weekend."

"They took my connection away," she said. "Did you reply to my
old e-mail? If so, I'll never see it."

"Talk at lunch," was all Steve could say before the streams going
in opposite directions tore them apart.

At lunch, Steve wasn't as desolate as she thought that the
situation deserved. "First," Steve said, "I wasn't trying to
trick you. Never about anything serious. I'm on your side.
Second, what did they do to your computer?"

"They cut off the connection. The modem is gone. I have a new
connection to AOL. But it goes through my mom's computer. And I
can only use it when she's watching, and only for homework."

"And your old computer? I mean the one in your room; I should
have something so powerful. Does that still work?"

"Yeah, but it isn't connected. I can use any programs but the
Internet ones, but I can't talk to you."

He held out a disk. "Just don't let your parents see this. Or
anyone else, really."

"Did you read my e-mail?" He'd said something about tricking
her, he must have read her letter.

"And answered it. And saved the answer on disk. Never mind what
the file is called. It's not executable, and it's not a game.
Open it with your word processor, same as usual."

"You're making this all very complicated."

"I'm trying to make it secure. Is your dad going to read your

"Nobody can! It was connected to that computer. Until he
reconnects the modem, nobody can use it."

"Shannon, it can be read from any computer which can connect to
AOL. I installed that connection on both computers, but you can
connect from your mom's."

"Well, Dad's not going to read my mail."

"Anyway," he said, "You write your answer on that disk. Monday,
I'll have another disk -- and another message. You bring that
one, and we'll swap disks. You put your answers on the scenes in
Act Five on that disk, and I'll have mine on the other disk. We
can even keep studying together."

"It's not the same."

"It's absolutely not the same. But it's the closest we can get.
It's us against them; and the more contact we can have, the more
points for our side."

"I want to hold you, and I get to read what you write. It's just
not the same. You're taking this awfully easily."

"I'm taking what I can get. I have practice after all."

She did smile at that, a little ruefullY. "That's not the same."

"It's a lot more different from your end than it is from mine,"
he said. She could see what he meant. "Anyway, I'm doing what I
can. You got Amy to the hospital; you didn't cure her. Same
thing. Figure out what would bring us closer -- what I could do
to bring us closer. Then criticize me for not doing it. So what
could I do to help bring us closer?"

She'd had an idea in her head since the previous morning, and his
question brought it forth. "Could you buy me another alarm
clock? My money, but I don't have the shopping time right now.
Hauksbee's carries alarm clocks don't they?"

"Loud and wind-up or low and electronic. And the electronic
come with radios but are cheaper without. Is Monday soon

"Sure, buy it Monday and give it to me at lunch on Tuesday."

"I can do that, but I meant delivery Monday. You're not going to
tell me how it would bring us together?"

"Monday is even better. Actually, it might help a little bit,
but I was thinking of helping me cope with them." He gave a nod
which seemed to say that this goal was worth doing. "I woke up
in the middle of night-before-last and wrote that letter to you.
I've thought since that I could go to bed earlier than usual, and
get up in the middle of the night. I've plenty of experience
waking up when I was babysitting late. It isn't too bad unless
you haven't had enough sleep anyway.

"Actually," she continued, "I could read and answer your letters
then. So it would do something to bring us together."

"Helping you through this period is reason enough. It's just
that bringing us together was what we were talking about. I'm on
your side, Shannon. PDAs."

"PDAs." Public Displays of Affection were banned on school
grounds. Some couples ostentatiously crossed the street and
kissed or hugged at the end of the school day. Steve and Shannon
had been among their number briefly. Now, 'PDAs' meant what
kisses at the end of letters meant. The speaker would like to
hug, kiss, or something, but wasn't allowed to. And, since the
extreme of PDA was not defined, there was always something
suggestive in the use. Shannon might have been saying that she
would like to squeeze Steve's hand right then; she might have
been suggesting that she would have liked to squeeze something
Shannon had looked forward to the last bell almost every school
day since third grade. Now she dreaded it. But the end came,
and she rushed home to meet her mother's deadline. Her mother
wasn't there. The downstairs phone rang minutes after she got
home. "Bryant residence, Shannon Bryant speaking."

"Nice to hear your voice, Shannon. This is your father. Your
mother has an appointment. As you know, that means we don't know
quite what time she'll be home. You have a dinner to cook. Tuna
casserole, asparagus for the vegetable. The usual beverages and
the dining room table set as usual. Ready for a meal at six. I
might call from time to time, and your mother will be home when
she's done with her customers. Is that clear?"

"It is very clear, warden."

Minutes later, she was upstairs reading Steve's letter. Some of
it was delightful. She needed his support just then. But much
of it was pressure, and she already had more pressure than she
could handle.

When it was time to start dinner, she put the asparagus on to
boil immediately, and then started on the casserole. Her dad
hated soggy vegetables. Fifteen minutes later, with her mom
still not home, she got another phone call. By now, she had
thought through her response. "Yeah."

"Shannon, this is Dad. Haven't you learned how to answer a
phone? What if it had been one of your mother's clients?"

"What if?"

"You know, you are mad at her right now. But she is doing that
selling to pay your college tuition. You could at least
cooperate on that."

"You're absolutely right, Dad. You're absolutely right. I

The conversation continued on that vein until she said,
"Something's on the stove. Gotta run."

And she did turn off the asparagus as soon as she got back to the

- = -

"I have an announcement," Ken began the meeting of the Ball
committee. "One of the obligations of committee members is to
sit at the entrance table for a while. A chaperone sits there,
too; but the committee members are supposed to do the work.
Anyway, in the past, I've taken almost all of that assignment.
That isn't going to happen this time. I'm sorry to tell you so
late. I'll take one shift, but the rest of you will have to take
shifts, too."

There were murmurs at this, some resentful, some wondering what
Ken would be doing when he wasn't sitting at the admissions
table. Anybody else would be dancing with his date, but Ken?

- = -

Wayne knew Steven's hours at Hauksbee's. Still, he breathed a
sigh of relief that Steve wasn't somehow on the cash register
when he went in. Hauksbee himself made no comment on his
purchase of condoms. If Allison resented the mess, he would
control the mess.

Dinner was a disaster. Whether it had been caused by his phone
call or not, he couldn't guess. But Shannon looked much too
happy over the results to believe that it was a total accident.

Shannon retreated upstairs as soon as she had washed the dishes,
Wayne decided to skip his evening drink, but there was no chance
that Allison would cuddle in front of the tv screen with Shannon
able to come down at any moment.

- = -

Shannon set her alarm for two a.m. She answered Steve's letter

> Don't worry about me. Your the one who is suffering directly.
> I'll see less of you, and miss it awfully. But you're being
> cut off from everybody. As for a girl worthy of me, I already
> have one I'm not worthy of. I just can't take her to dances
> right now.
> But I don't WANT to dance with anyone else.

You're a dear. You really are. I've been spending my days with
two people who have nothing to say but what a bad girl I am. And
then you write such sweetness. *I* don't deserve *you*!!! I
love you. Really I do.

>> I don't know what we have. I really don't. Part of the
>> reason that I confessed everything we did to mom was I wanted
>> to ask her questions. You know, what's it like? Is this
>> marriage? That sort of thing. She's being totally unhelpful.
>> Shannon's been a *bad* little girl for the past few months,
>> but never what Shannon might be in the future.
> I don't get this thing about the confession and your mother.

After giving me the third degree about why you were at the
Jensen's until I had confessed the entire scheme. (And it wasn't
anything either of us had done. Mr. Jensen visited and spilled
the whole thing. I used to think he was such a nice man.)

Anyway, then mom took me upstairs out of Dad's hearing and asked
if we had done it. I don't know if she believed me. Then she
got *very* specific about what we *had* done. I told her
everything; right then, I needed a mother. Fat chance! What I
got was a special prosecutor.

> I do know what you mean about not knowing what we have. I
> certainly can't imaging being married to anyone other than
> you. The problem is, I can't imagine being married AT ALL.
> Oh, PARTS of it. I can imagine our wedding night just fine.
> But I don't know what marriage means.
> And what does "engaged" mean (except for the ring, which I
> couldn't afford)? Anyway, the reason that I haven't proposed
> is not some alternative in the back of my mind. The reason is
> that I have no future in the front of my mind, or anywhere in
> my mind.

I never asked you for an engagement ring.
Well, I suppose that you don't say that I did.
I don't know.

> (One point WRT the future, I mentioned to my father the
> possibility of my going to Champagne in spite of being
> accepted at IIT. He wasn't thrilled, but he said that was my
> decision. (What he actually said was that he and mom thought
> that my commitment to you was premature -- but that was a view
> from outside. And that the view from outside was always that
> the commitment was premature.) Anyway, there would be nothing
> on my side of things comparable to what your parents are
> doing. Assuming we do that.)

Do what?

>> Anyway, couldn't you turn off that attack for a while? I know
>> that you want to go farther. But I can't fight the whole
>> Goddamn world. Could we, maybe, put that struggle on the back
>> burner until I have another friend in turn to?
> 1) I don't think that we'll be having problems restraining
> ourselves in the next little while. I don't know when I'll
> see you again off school grounds.
That's not what I mean. Can you stop pushing, even in words.
It's nice to be wanted. It's just that I can't push you off
right now.

> What I couldn't stand is your saying, "Steve tricked me last
> night. I won't trust him ever again."

Okay. I can see that.

> fictional lovers. But I don't KNOW anything that you don't
> know. I know less about how girls react than you do. I know
> one *HELL* of a lot less about what turns *SHANNON* on than you
> do. And that's the question, really.

You seem to know a *lot* about what turns me on. You keep doing
things that turn me on when I would have honestly answered "no"
if you had asked whether they would.

> When you decide that we'll do it, you can tell me what turns
> you on most. That's the real question.

Are you saying that we can stop where we are for a while?
That is what I would like.

> 4) What happened with the kisses? You controlled what we
> could do. As long as we did more fairly often, I wasn't about

I never controlled *anything*. You did, and I could say no. But
I didn't want to say no to you. I wanted you, couldn't you see
that. So I was always faced with two bad choices. You were the
one in control.

Could we just stop all of this:

> But why is it as much as we do? If we are only going so far,
> there are such lovely spots along the way. Every single bit
> of you is kissable. Sometime I'll get you back to that meadow
> when you think you must wear jeans. You'll let me take off
> your blouse. I'll kiss parts of you that you have forgotten
> exist. I'll kiss your shoulder blades and each single
> vertebra. I'll kiss your fingers, and I'll kiss your toes.
> I'll kiss your elbows, and I'll kiss your nose. I'll send an
> hour on your left arm and another hour on your right.
> I'll take one whole morning on your breasts and another
> morning (still above your belt) on your belly. You have an
> extraordinarily attractive belly, did you know that?

All talk about anything down to here.

> 5) You set the limits. You always have. You've stepped
> back. Remember when you wouldn't pet in the car? All I need
> (far from all I want) is for you to express clearly those
> limits. I've managed to figure out that I can kiss your mouth
> but not your mound. If you want me to kiss your breasts but
> not your ears, you'll have to tell me.

I don't know. But can we stop for a minute. Well, can we stop
for a month? I sort of feel the pressure everywhere right now.

Anyway, this is what I have on Shakespeare:

And she wrote her take on the content for all the scenes in Act

- = -

Steve selected the clock radio before the doors opened Saturday

After bringing his other classes up to date, he turned to
English. He read the entire last act and then went through it
with Shannon's questions. He'd got the job done, roughly, when
it was time to redo his letter to Shannon.

When it got done, both original stuff and insertions into
Friday's composition, it looked like this:

S weetest girl in whole world.
H eart's delight.
A wesomely beautiful
N aiad of the
N uzzleble nape
O f the
N eck.

I'll do better when I've got farther in the dictionary. But I
wish I were nuzzling your nape right now.

I've set this margin very short. Write what you want. I'll
reformat and enter both quote marks. That way we'll see who
said what when.

I love you. That's the starting point. Never forget that I
love you.

The rest is practicalities.

One question is whether you want to fight fair with all flags
flying. Or do you want to give them what they think they want?
"Oh, mother I see the error of my ways. I will only meet Steve
in the most public places for the rest of my life. I will
preserve my reputation of maidenly virtue by following each of
your rules as if it was cast in stone."

The odd thing, you know, is that you do have a reputation of
maidenly virtue. Not that you don't deserve it. But when my
friends razz me (about you, they razz me plenty about other
things) it is always about how little you give me, not about how
wildly we behave.

(And, of course, I smile and let them talk.)

Anyway, if you could stand it, what you should do is find a
class in which you could do an extra-credit project. One in
which you might need to search the WEB for information for hours
and hours. Of course, you can only do that while your mother
watches you.

I don't want to make it too hard on you. But it'd make it even
harder on her. And "But I'll NEED extra credit in English. I
can't study with Steve any more, and we used to help each other
so much." would be an extra aggravation. Really, of course, all
the help flowed the other way, but she doesn't need to know

More tomorrow.
I love you.
Friday night.


I got the alarm clock! You didn't really say radio or not, so
I got the radio version. You don't want to play the radio in
the middle of the night, but I thought that you should have all
the options.

As I didn't go to the dance last night, I'm swimming in cash.
Don't think about the cost of the clock until YOUR cash flow

I'm sitting here typing in my PJs, robe, and socks (it's COLD).
You wrote that I was suffering, too. Well, one way that I am
suffering is that I don't get enough reality to feed my fantasy

If this doesn't bug you, write what you are wearing each time.
What do you wear to bed, anyway? We have a thermostat, but
still my room gets colder in colder weather. (Parts of the hall
get hotter in cold weather, go figure.) Anyway, I wear pajamas
in January, but I sleep in my skin much of the year.

Of course, none of this does anything for girls, does it?
Anyway, write what time you bathe, too. Shower or tub? Then I
can picture you like that.

I've got something on all of Act Five, but I'll look it over
tomorrow before sending my version on to you.

Steve loves Shannon.
Sat. 11 pm.

Once in bed, he pictured Shannon in a nightgown. It was short
and far too sheer for January. The only response of the vision
to the cold, however, was nipple erection. She soon took it off,
stepped into the tub and stood under the shower. As she stood
there, ecstatically facing the rushing water, Steve erupted. He
fell asleep still picturing her washing and rinsing her erogenous

The Anderson family went to church together the next morning.
They were all happy to be together again and enjoyed letting
others see that togetherness.

- = -

Shannon's family all went to church, too. Shannon, who enjoyed
the Sunday socializing even when she was free to socialize the
rest of the week, was eager to go this week. She wasn't willing
to make it easy on her parents to take her there, however. She
didn't reset her alarm, for example.

Allison thought that the moral atmosphere would be good for her
daughter. Wayne, who thought that they all should be there every
Sunday, wasn't about to pass up a chance for that ideal to be

The atmosphere at church was much less supportive of her position
than Allison had expected. Miss Olson, Dr. Wyatt's office nurse,
came up to her and Shannon while Wayne was still parking the car.
"I'd guess that you have all the customers that you want during
the school year, Shannon. But Doctor is ready to recommend you
any time."

"I'm not doing any babysitting these days, Miss Olson," Shannon
said. "I'm grounded."


Shannon pointedly looked at her mother. "Well," Allison said,
"we had some limits on dates, we knew when she was going out, and
where, and with who. Then we learned that she had been seeing
Steven every time she babysat." Shannon had betrayed them,
anyone could see that.

But no one seemed to. When Wayne got there from parking the car,
Miss Olson repeated her offer as if the grounding would lift in a
week. After the service, another woman came up. "Are you Amy's
babysitter?" she asked. Shannon admitted it. "Theresa can't get
over how well you acted. She says that you and the boy saved
Amy's life."

Shannon was feeling a little better by the time they left. Wayne
could see it in her face when she got in the car. It was time to
drop the other shoe. "Do you remember our little talk here last
week, Shannon?"

He was, Shannon was sure, going to bring up her statement that
she would only enroll in Albion if Steve went to IIT, Shannon
thought; they bitched that she didn't tell the whole truth, but
they would break a solemn oath. "Yes. So what?"

"I asked you when Steve was going to catch up on the play. You
had every chance to tell me that he had studied with you the
previous night. It's not a matter of his visits not coming up.
It's not a matter of your being tired after your ordeal with the
Jensen girls. You lied to me then."

"Dad, honest...."

"That's the problem isn't it? We don't know that you're being
honest. I've told you that. So has your mother. Lying is
immoral, of course; but it's also self-destructive. Now, when
you tell us something, we have to ask if what you tell us is
true. And it gets worse. Right now, Steven got to be with you
because you lied to us. I'm sure he approved. But, somewhere,
somewhere deep inside, he knows that Shannon will lie to get her
way, or lie to smooth things over. Sometime you will say to him,
'Please believe me.' And that day he will remember that
Shannon's word isn't to be trusted.

"Anyway, that's the far future. Usually, I would punish you
immediately for lying to me. In this case, I won't. I can't
ground you. But what you really did wasn't lie to us one
evening, or lie to me one morning, though you did both. But what
you did was construct a pattern of untruth. Every time you went
out the door for babysitting, you lived a lie."

Shannon had thought about that attack, and her defense. "And
when mom told me there was 'plenty' in my surplus with her? She
dodged and danced over that one. Why was that different?"

"Because your mother was prepared to tell the truth. We were
looking forward to the time when you would take responsibility.
You had handed her the responsibility, and you had to *take* it
back. You, on the other hand, lied every time you had to choose
between lying and getting caught. That makes the entire period a
lie. So you are being punished for wrongdoing which covered a
period of months. You still haven't even acknowledged the
seriousness of what you did. And when you see that, you'll see
why this grounding isn't for one week. But don't worry, we'll be
done by September; we'll let you go off to college, all right."

The ball was in less than two weeks. He said that they would end
the grounding in nine months! A much-chastened Shannon went up
to her room.

A little later, she returned down to cook dinner as her mother's
assistant. When she was done stacking the dishwasher, she took
the *Folger's* edition back up to her room.

- = -

The Jensens were at Ridge Baptist for the services. When it came
time for prayers for the community, Pastor Richards mentioned
that Baby Amy had been through a rough week but was back from the
hospital. The entire congregation had been to praying for Amy
and her family since the asthma had shown up. When Theresa rose
and said "Pastor," he nodded for her to add to his request.

"Pastor," she said again, "Amy was taken to the hospital by Steve
Anderson, her babysitter's boyfriend. We'd originally told
Shannon that she couldn't have him visit, but he went out of his
way to bring us a prescription when Shannon thought we had run
out, so we gave permission. Looking back, I see the hand of God
in his getting our permission then; because that was why he was
there Tuesday night. I'd like to thank God for his presence
*studying* with Shannon when Amy needed him."

She sat, the pastor said "Amen," and the congregation echoed him.
Theresa figured that, having told the Lord that the two kids were
studying together, some of the people around her would think
twice before telling their neighbors that they were doing
something less benign.

Now, in the first place, Theresa had seen their books spread out,
and hadn't noticed Shannon's braless condition. In the second
place, however, she might not have changed her words if she had
found a large puddle of their mixed juices in the middle of her
and Bill's bed. There were only two sides in Theresa's world,
and Shannon and Steve were on Amy's side.

And her audience was easy to persuade. The people around her
felt -- if not at all so strongly -- some shadow of her emotion.
The abstract moral question of whether teenage couples should
meet in private might compete with the abstract moral question of
whether it were meritorious to rush a sick child to the hospital.
(Although, even then, some parents might take the question
personally.) There was nothing abstract about Amy, however.
They would see her after the service, one of theirs; she was
adorable so often; it was so difficult to avoid interpreting her
cheerfulness as bravery.

- = -

Steve didn't wait for evening to finish his letter to Shannon.

It's Sunday. We've been doing the family thing since Dad got
back on Wednesday. We always do. This morning we went to

There, Dad congratulated the new manager of the supermarket we
use. His wife was right beside him. The guy said something
like "We figure that we can afford a family now." Dad said
"Trying for a kid," and the lady blushed a little. The guy said
"As of last Wednesday," and the lady blushed a LOT. She didn't
stop smiling, though.

(The lady isn't particularly pretty (Well, not actually ugly,
but she doesn't have anything on YOU -- except for maybe ten
years and a few pounds) but I'll have to admit that her BLUSH
was pretty.)

Anyway, this led to an entirely new fantasy. Remember that
this is a fantasy. It isn't anything which will happen, or even
that I want to happen. It's just fun to picture.

Steve and Shannon have been married and working for a few
years. But, having decided to make a baby, they return during
their vacation to the old home town, staying in Steve's old

On Shannon's first fertile day, they drive out to the old
meadow, which looks the same as always. (That is the REAL
fantasy.) They spread an air mattress down in the shade of the
treeline, and begin to kiss.

They are soon bare above the waist, leaving Steve in jeans and
shoes, Shannon in only a skirt. In between kissing her all
over, Steve picks Shannon a beauquai (My spell checker doesn't
have that word.) of wildflowers. He kisses each breast for a
long time, checking the progress of the rising sun.

Then he moves to her delicious thighs, throwing the skirt up to
her waist. He kisses them, strokes them, kisses the backs of
her knees and her sweet calves before kissing up the insides of
her thighs -- kissing left and then right in turn -- to the
place where they meet.

They have brought her climax in this fashion often in their
married life, but not this time. He licks her sweetness until
she is writhing in desire, and then break to remove her skirt
and his clothes. He returns to her mouth for a long kiss, and
then he kisses down to her breasts. There he sucks her nipples
to diamond-hard attention, before slipping lower.

He is lapping up the sweetness from between her lower lips
again when the sun breaks over the top of the trees.

Shannon squints into the greater brightness. "Steve," she
calls. She spreads her legs still further.

In the full light of the sun, he rises and moves into her.
They make love until they have a simultaneous orgasm. She
clasps him to her, and they fall asleep as his seeds soak into
her fertile ground.

Later that day, she sprays his back where the sun burned it.
She sees, brown of the old tan against the brighter red, the
prints of her hands where she had held him.

"I love you," he says. "I know," she replies.


Anyway, that's MY fantasy for tonight.

And I love you in reality as well as in fantasy.

I did reread the R&J, but I changed less than I had expected.
Anyway, here it is:

And, midafternoon though it was, he took that fantasy and two
pieces of Kleenex with him to bed.

The entire family were couch potatoes after supper. His dad
finally turned the set off at 10:30, and they dragged themselves
to bed.

- = -

Shannon decided that she wasn't going to be able to transcribe
all the notes on Shakespeare that evening. She went downstairs
and cooked supper as skillfully as possible.

"Well, dear," her mom asked after dinner, "do you remember our
discussion on budgets?" Shannon nodded. "Well, there are some
things in the budget which you won't be needing for some time to
come, but I do have your lunch costs for next week."

Shannon counted the money she had been handed. It would cover
lunch, except for dessert. "Thanks, Mom," she said. Every
little bit helped. "Did you put the offering in?"

"Well, that has to be your decision, money you control."

"How about I ask you to put it in or give it to Dad? I do
control it, just not for another purpose." Dad and mom were not
quite in synch over church. It was one more chink she knew about
in the enemy's armor.

"That's fine," Allison said. "That's the way we'll do it."

Wayne and Allison knew their Shannon. This looked more like the
calm before the storm than it looked like surrender.

"Well," said Wayne when Allison had joined him in his bed,
"Friday's dinner could have been an accident. Or she might have
reconsidered since; she hasn't done anything like that for the
last two days. I did give her a stiff lecture over the phone;
and she did tell me that she had something on the stove."

"Wayne, I got home before the asparagus should have gone on the
stove. And she was much too easy about the allowance. She
accepted the allowance reduction because all is fair in war, and
she definitely is at war."

"Well, tonight," he said, "let's concentrate on the other." He
continued to share his thoughts, though, as he smoothed the night
gown over her skin. "I know that this is almost as hard on you
as it is on her. I did just a little supervision Friday evening,
but I can call home only so often. We can only surprise her by
your absence very rarely."

"And you aren't the one to supervise her cooking," Allison said.
He could handle meals when it was absolutely necessary and either
the recipe was laid down for him or they abandoned her meal
schedule to let him make one of the few dishes he knew. The mild
pressure of his organ had been so offensive Thursday. Tonight it
was just a bit early. Since he wasn't doing anything about it,
neither did she.

Wayne kissed her shoulder. He had to whisper when he was so
close to her ear. "I'll help where I can, though. Don't
hesitate to tell me when you see something I can do. One thing I
will try, I'll have a talk with Dr. Wyatt -- hopefully Monday.
Maybe he'll take a little of Mrs. Olson's pressure off." He
stroked her breasts through her nightgown, hoping it wasn't too
early. He felt her push back against him.

Allison was floating. She appreciated the strokes, but her body
wasn't yet fighting for control. He held her in the spoon
position, nibbling her neck and playing with her nipples through
the cloth.

"Really," he whispered, "these outsiders are pains in the neck
but a compliment, too." He kissed her ear and then around her
neck to the back. "Does talking like this bother you?"

"No. Besides, I want to hear how they compliment us."

"Well, they look at what we believe is the nadir of what Shannon
could be." Talking so seriously while playing with her lovely
nipples was weird. He remembered his grandfather's telling him
that a guy who could steer a car while kissing a girl wasn't
paying enough attention to the kiss. "And what they see is one
of the better teenagers of the town." There was all this
cerebration on top, but his hardness was pressed into the
softness of her hip on the bottom. "They are telling us that the
standards we set our family are ones they've abandoned long ago."

Suddenly she sat up and pulled away from him. He feared that
he'd talked too much and had lost his opportunity. Instead, she
pulled the nightgown up. He helped her take it off. Lovely
naked Allison was revealed to his eyes and hands, lovely breasts,
lovely butt, exquisitely lovely mound. "You're a delight to the
eyes," he said; and she was an even greater delight to his hands.

"And the bit about the offering?" she asked. This was shameless
self promotion; she knew that she'd done that right. Still, he'd
been talking about her, and she wanted to hear a little more
about herself. He'd be talking about her body soon enough. "I
wish I could have consulted you."

"Ah, but you did." He kissed her near breast, on the side not
the tip. "You carry a little bit of me inside your head after
all these years." He wanted to mention the other little bit of
him that would be in her soon; the concept was clear, but the
words wouldn't come. Maybe he should keep his mouth shut.
Mentioning all those years to a woman who thought that age had
dimmed her beauty hadn't been such a bright move.

He kissed her mouth while his hand played with her breasts. Then
stroked her belly while he sucked her nipples. She was
responding to him, nipples rising, legs parting. He reached down
to stroke her thighs, which lifted to welcome his hand.

Well, she'd had his attention for a good long time. And her body
*did* carry her around with few troubles for her age. She let go
of her control; let them have their fun. And from the moisture
down there, she could tell it would be fun indeed.

On the way from one nipple to the other, he kissed down the side
of one to the firmness between them. He sucked there for a
moment while he brought both hands up to press the lush flesh
around his face. He breathed in her odor then, inhaling until he
was inhabited by her just as he was surrounded by her.

As his mouth climbed the other breast, his hand strayed downward
to her cleft. Parting the lips, he found abundant moisture. It
had almost spread itself, but he rubbed and tickled just to make
sure. And he so loved the feeling. He felt her tighten, her
knees rise and spread, her breath quicken under his mouth and
roughen to his ear. He'd almost forgotten the rubber.

She was ready, readier than she usually was. Then he left her
for a moment or two, while her excitement sank slowly. He put
something on; was it one of those "tickler" things he had tried
once? No. It was smooth as he entered her.

The excitement climbed again. He was stroking within her,
playing with her nipples. She joined her body for a moment, or
an eon. Fire struck her, passed through her, left her once again
apart. But he didn't follow on to his own completion; he was
still moving, still exciting her.

This was paradise, if a paradise with which Wayne was familiar.
She clasped him as intimately as ever, even if the friction was
milder. He stroked within her, not -- for once -- needing the
slight changes of rhythm to delay his culmination. She welcomed
him; she pressed herself against him; she spurred him with her
heels; she spasmed around him. And still he went on, careful to
press home on each stroke.

She was responding again. "Oh love!" he said. "Oh darling,
darling, darling, WIFE!" And, on the last word, he thrust harder
than before.

She couldn't believe that he was still going on. Still less
believable was that she was responding again. This time she
joined her body well before it reached its peak. She climbed
with it felt its warmth -- and then its heat -- as truly hers.
Nearing the goal, she heard him speak, his usual praise for her
body and then the last word, "wife." He loved her, not just her
parts! And, too soon for her to complete that thought, the parts
took over. She felt him reach his completion. He drove into
her, gushed into her, collapsed on top of her.

He lay there, crushing her body which had collapsed at the same
instant. She couldn't breathe, but it was her decision to hug
him. She was his wife; he was, whatever his other desires, her

Finally, he could move -- and needed to move. He managed to keep
the rubber on his rapidly shrinking phallus. Then he stripped it
off and rolled it out. He dropped it into the wastebasket, and
wrapped himself in a piece of tissue. She was still there when
he turned back towards her place. "Stay a minute," he said.

She hadn't the energy to move, anyway. And his arms held her
warmly without straying onto the sexy parts. He pressed against
her down below, but not much; and he was wrapped in something to
keep the mess off her. She nearly dropped off to sleep, and was
sure that he had. She moved the blankets back.

"I'll miss you," he said.

Silly! she thought. Her bed was only two feet from his. She
appreciated his thoughtfulness as she walked to the bathroom.
Nothing was seeping out for once, but she still needed a shower.

He barely woke when she returned, but he noticed that she lay
facing him from her bed.

Continued in Chap. 13
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 13 - 15

The first page in the series is:
Chapters 1-4

The directory to all my stories can be found at:

While you're waiting for the next chapter to be completed on this
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