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NOW hurt that you said it Help


"For Now" {Pendragon} (MF mf f-solo rom pett voy)


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, 1996, 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
Part 1

The Christmas break from high school was two weeks, which
was both good and bad. The bad part was that I wouldn't be
seeing Terry every day in school. Terry is Terry Randolph. He's
a sophomore like me, and we'd been going together practically
forever. The anniversary of our first date was coming up in
January, and I was already looking for some way to celebrate it.
Hallmark really missed out on that one. My name is Vi (Katherine
Violet) Brennan.

Monday before Christmas we went for a drive. It wasn't
really a date. Terry is only a few months older than I am, but he
has a driver's license. Dad, who won't let me get my learner's
permit until I enroll in driver's ed at school, made it real
clear that he didn't like my going out with an inexperienced
driver in the wet weather. I was tempted to tell him that we'd
spend most of the time parking, but I resisted.

mom took the edge off the inquisition by inviting Terry to
dinner on the twenty-sixth. My brother was coming in later that
night. His in-laws had made a big thing about having Christmas
dinner there. So mom scheduled our Christmas dinner for the day
after Christmas. I had argued for an invitation for Terry, and
had gotten it.

We actually drove a lot and talked. Then we parked and
talked. Okay, we kissed too. We both had our coats and shirts
open, and we were hugging skin to skin. Although the car heater
couldn't beat the chill, that wasn't the reason for most of my
shivers. Terry is a very good kisser, and his hands did things
to my breasts which my hands can't. Then he spoiled it all.

He started undoing my jeans. Now, I admit that he needed to
push things sometimes. We would still have been kissing with our
mouths closed if he hadn't. I usually don't mind saying 'no,'
but this was ridiculous.

"Come *on*, Terry. Get serious. This is hardly the time or

"When is the time, Vi?" Well, sometime when it was warmer,
and I was wearing a skirt so it wasn't so blatant. Let's face
it. I loved how he could make my nipples feel, I suspected that
his fingers might feel much better than mine between my legs.
On the other hand, I had real mixed emotions about even Terry
feeling me there. And my emotions about the next step were
totally unmixed. Not now, not soon.

"Who says there is a time?" I asked. I share about half of
my inner conflicts with Terry, those not about him.

"There is going to be a time, Vi. And soon. We have been
playing on the edges long enough. I'm tired of going home from
these dates with my balls hurting. I wasn't trying to do it
tonight." At this point I became quite clear that we weren't
talking about feeling the outside of my panties. "But sometime
soon we have to take this relationship to an adult level. We're
sixteen. We've been going together for a year. And dammit, I
love you and I want you."

"I love you, too." Which was less true than it had been
five minutes earlier. "That doesn't mean that I'm ready to go
to bed with you."

"Yes, that is what it means. If you aren't ready to take
that step, maybe you don't love me."

"I'm not ready to take that step. It doesn't have anything
to do with how I feel about *you*. It has to do with what I
feel about me."

"Maybe your feelings aren't what I thought. Maybe we aren't
the couple I thought we were." We damn well weren't the couple
*I* had thought we were.

"Maybe you don't want to be part of a couple who doesn't
sleep together."

"No 'maybe' about that."

"Please take me home."

That he did. I'll grant him that. I climbed the stairs
still in my coat because it was the only thing that was
fastened. I hurried into the bathroom, great excuse. By the
time I took my coat back downstairs, my bra was fastened; and
my shirt was tucked into my jeans. I thought I looked calm,
cool, and collected. "What's wrong, dear?" asked my mother.

"Nothing at all," I said, and fled to my room.

mom knocked on the door. "Want to talk?" If I had, would I
have hidden in my room? Parents!

"No! Go away." She did.

Okay, I could have asked Mom's advice, and maybe she
wouldn't have freaked. The problem was that I knew her advice.
What I really wanted to ask was "Mom, did you wait? Are you
glad you did? Mom, did you and Dad start before the wedding?
Did it make a difference?" Hell, they met in college. "Mom,
was Dad your first? Did that matter to him? Does it still
matter to him?" Yeah. Right. I'd rather die.

Two days before Christmas, and dying looked like a better
and better option. I pasted a smile on my face and went for the
gift wrap. That was an excuse to shut myself in my room the
rest of the night. And then I came upon the game cartridge that
was my gift for Terry.

That sent my mind spinning again. I wanted Terry. I even
wanted him in my body, but not yet. Dammit, it's *my* body.
Finally, though, I had the presents wrapped and myself in bed.
Then my mind circled the problem again until I fell asleep.

mom picked up my brother and his wife at the bus depot in
the middle of the night. I woke and put on my robe when they
came in. Nobody was feeling terribly sociable. It was "Hi, Bob,
hi Jeanette. 'Night Bob, 'night Jeanette."

That raised another possibility. I happen to know that
Jeanette had waited until, or almost until, her wedding night.
Bob had come home from college with the decision that changed
his career plan from lawyer to history professor. That takes a
lot longer and produces less income afterward. This had led to
a whole series of family conferences at which we learned that
Jeanette's family would not put one dime into her education once
she was married. Jeanette had suggested that she drop out and go
to work. "After all," she had said, "I'm the one who wants to
get married."

"That's not true," Bob argued, "I want to marry you."

"Eventually, but you'd be quite content for the next two
years if we just slept together."

At which point, Dad diplomatically asked something about
student loans, but not before I had blurted out, "You aren't?"
It was embarrassing at the time. That whole series of meetings
was a disaster. Jeanette always treated me as a friend after
that, though, and had made me one of her bridesmaids.

That thought solved nothing, but did introduce new
questions. Did I have the guts to ask her? What did I want to
ask her? Did it apply? While Terry makes more than my heart go
pitter-pat, Bob isn't what you'd call a sexy guy. If you had to
pick the media star whom he most resembles, you'd go for Mr.
Rogers, not Brad Pitt. Some women have a naturally low level of
sexual desire. I don't think I'm one of them; was Jeanette?
Maybe she didn't particularly want to have sex with Bob, anyway.
Wanting to live in the same house with him, though, is
*perverse*; been there, done that, tripped over his things.

I went over the whole mess again and again before I fell
asleep. There didn't seem to be any answer.

- = -

The morning was brighter, as mornings tend to be. It was
Christmas Eve. I had a library book to finish before I opened
my presents Christmas morning. With my wrapping done, I didn't
have to do anything before it was time for church. Thinking
about my problems and sleeping on them had done no good; maybe
a couple hours with Patricia Phillips would let a solution
surface. It has happened.

Bodice-rippers are better distractions from some problems
than from others. Rolfe would stroke Marged's breasts; I'd
tickle mine; I'd remember Terry's sexier strokes. Then I would
run the whole circle of worries again. I hadn't reached page
300 before I heard stirring from the next room. Bob and
Jeanette had awakened, and I thought of having breakfast with
them. Breakfast didn't seem on their minds, however. Bed
creakings, bathroom doors, and such were followed by very low
voices. Every word spoken in a normal voice in that room can be
heard in mine.

Then the bed creakings resumed. I couldn't help it, I went
to the point on the wall where the sound was loudest. Nothing
was clear for a couple of minutes. Then Jeanette started
speaking softly. "Yes, love. Please. Right there."

I was still in my nightie and already damp from the reading.
I brushed my nipples where they were poking out the cloth. I
tried not to picture the couple. Then I tried to picture them.
Sex ed classes are much better on how the critical parts fit
together than on how the rest of the body can be arranged. I
knew that sex meant rhythmic motion, but the creakings became
quieter and had never been rhythmic. Bob was utterly silent,
but Jeanette was making sounds between moaning and humming. I
didn't know what they were doing, but I could guess what she was
feeling. I pulled my nightie up and stroked my groove as I
heard her voice rise in both pitch and volume.

She moaned much louder and the bed shook as I began stroking
my clitoris. "Oh," rattle, stroke. "Ah?" rattle, stroke. "Ah?"
rattle, stroke. "Oooh," rattle, stroke. "AH! AH! UHngh!" much
rattling, which my stroking couldn't keep up with. I heard one
more rattle and a grunt, then silence. I continued on, memory
making me as hot as any bodice-ripper ever did.

"I love you. Love you desperately!" from Bob. My brother
is no Cyrano. Then there was a pause with a little bed rustling
but no talking.

"Yes, love. Now!" said Jeanette in a voice loud enough to
startle me. A moment later, the bed creakings did become
rhythmic. Now, I could picture them, Bob pushing in and out of
Jeanette . I stroked myself in time to his motions. Jeanette
started moaning again, very softly but timed with the bed
noises. I almost fell to the floor as I came. I caught myself
against the wall, but any noise I made wasn't noticed in the next

The bed motions were getting faster and faster. "Love ...
you.... Love ... you!" Bob gasped in time with the creaks.
Then the bed shook but not rhythmically. Bob was only grunting
like an animal. Jeanette sounded more like a low organ pipe.
It was almost a pure tone. It was also the most erotic sound
that I had ever heard. I almost came again without touching

In the silence from the next room, I tiptoed to the window
seat which was the point farthest from that wall. I sat on it
very slowly in hopes that no sound would be heard next door.
There was low talk and a laugh or two from that room, then that
door and the bathroom door. I hurried to dress.

I was well into my second waffle when Bob and Jeanette came
down for theirs. Jeanette did not look, if you'll pardon the
expression, freshly fucked. She didn't even look besotted,
which she had -- to an embarrassing extent -- during the whole
wedding period. She looked freshly showered but not quite
awake. Bob seated her as I got up to operate the waffle iron.
He poured two cups of coffee and brought her one. She drained
it, and he got her a refill before he sat. My brother as a
gentleman was a new experience, and a brief one.

"Morning Kaytoo," he said. "My, you must have grown a
millimeter since June." If your name is Katherine, *please*
don't name your daughter Kathleen. mom was Kate or Katie, and I
was Kaytoo until I rebelled. Kaytoo is Kate, too, or Kate Two.
Do you think that's cute? Well *I DON'T*! mom and Dad learned,
after I stopped answering to that name at age nine. Another
member of the family is taking a little longer.

"Good morning, Jeanette," I said, "it's nice to see you.
Did you enjoy your trip?"

"G'morning, Vi. Great to see you. On a bus in winter?
Nice to be here, though." I slipped the waffle on her plate and
sat down. Bob moved over to make his own, stealing a big piece
of mine in the process. I didn't mind. I'd put boysenberry
jam, which he hates, on it.

"Now children," Jeanette continued, "it's Christmas Eve.
Santa has loaded his sled already, and he doesn't want to go
back for more coals and switches for your stockings. Do you
think we might have a little peace?"

"From these two?" mom asked from the doorway. "Keep
dreaming." She replaced Bob by the waffle iron and put the
rather mangy waffle he had made onto his plate. He smothered it
with syrup and started wolfing it down. "Lunch is obviously
going to be waffles and pick-up. Good morning, sleepyheads."

Jeanette looked a little sheepish. It could easily be the
look of a guest who had slept through the first morning of a
visit and then looked for breakfast before her hostess. It
could also be the look of a guest who had taken a private
pleasure with her husband instead of greeting the rest of the
family. I knew which. I also knew that mom had included me in
the greeting. Bob, of course, had no conscience whatever. He
mumbled something which could well have been "morning" around a
large bite of waffle.

Then he shocked me completely. He swallowed and said, "I'm
sorry, Vi."

"Accepted," I said. If the fight with Bob was over for the
day, I could still finish the library book before church.

"Jeanette," said Mom, "you were already welcome here. You
know that. But that little miracle makes you even more welcome.
Is the room okay? We could move the rug back, but that's a major

Each of us had had an oriental rug in the bed room,
reminders of another life, until Bob had moved out. His rug had
been moved to the living room to cover worn spots in the carpet.
The rugs are beautiful when I look at them, but bring up worries
when I hear them mentioned.

My father works for Ward Tech, one of the larger and more
predatory conglomerates. He used to be in the acquisitions
division, leading a team to evaluate middle-sized companies.
Ward Tech only buys companies that it can turn around. The team
interviews the workforce and studies the books and the company's
operation over two or three weeks. They say "buy" or "don't
buy." Then they prepare a report as to how to improve
performance for the companies that they recommend buying. Those
teams are highly paid, their leaders are very highly paid and on
the path to the upper reaches of Ward Tech. They sometimes get
to see their families on weekends.

Dad's year-end bonus when I was seven was more than his
annual salary since his heart attack. We spent money
accordingly. He protected his family's future with high
insurance; he tried for real wealth by putting all he had saved
and all he could borrow into a start-up company run by two
business-school classmates. He'd covered all the possibilities
but recovering from a heart attack.

While he was getting well, we had our first real family
meetings. At seven, I participated. We decided unanimously
that we wanted to have Dad home instead of trying to return to
the old life. His investment went down the tubes. Ward Tech,
which had continued his salary during his recovery, paid him no
bonus. They did move him to run a company, Brewster Equipment,
that they had acquired.

Growing up here was weird. Dad was one of the highest-paid
executives in town, but his salary was half his previous salary
(not even counting bonus). We had a huge debt, but the
president of Brewster Equipment had to have a certain life-

mother got a teaching job. We took no fancy vacations. We
worked off the debt. There is no way that Bob or I can qualify
for student financial aid; I can sort of understand that. Our
family income is in the top percentiles. On the other hand, we
had five months of savings when Bob entered college. The
oriental rugs are increasing in value as we walk on them; I
don't know why. They will cover tuition when both of us are in
school. Jeanette is another problem. She is one of us, and
cutting the family's expenses on Bob. Someday she'll need to
finish college, too.

"The room is delightful," Jeanette said. The room wasn't
delightful, it held the few remnants of Bob's childhood that
even he had outgrown. Outgrowing isn't Bob's strong point.

"We could move in a cot. That twin bed's too small for

"No it isn't!" said Bob. Jeanette blushed a little, but
shook her head at mom.

"Young love," said Mom. Now Jeanette and I were both
blushing. Bob never blushes.

"Honest, Katherine," Jeanette said. "Everything is

"Dear," mom replied. (You have to look at mother when she
talks. She calls everyone "Dear.") "Now that you are part of
the family, don't you think that you could call me 'Mom'?"
Jeanette froze. mom saw it and her face fell. She must have
forgotten the times when Jeanette picked up mail from Bob here
because she didn't trust her mother not to open letters at her
house. Then Bob, of all people, came to the rescue.

"And now that she's part of the family," he said, "you could
call her 'Aunt Amy.'"

mom and I both broke up. "That bad?" asked Mom.

"Worse!" said Bob and Jeanette together.

"It meant so much when you said I could call you
'Katherine.' Can't I still?" said Jeanette.

"Of course you can, dear." The two of them hugged. You can
call mom anything if you hug her. "Is there anything that you
two need?"

Bob, knowing that he was included for the first time, spoke
up. "The wrapping paper, if we could. We brought most of the
stuff unwrapped." Of course Bob hadn't wrapped anything. It
was only noon on Christmas Eve.

"I have it," I said. "I'll bring it around when I go

Dad wandered in and greeted everyone. We all had sausage
and more waffles and applesauce. I followed Bob and Jeanette
upstairs. I brought them the wrapping paper knowing that I had
made a decision.

"Bob, do you have anything that needs to be wrapped in
Jeanette's absence?" I asked. It was a rhetorical question.
"Then could I have a little talk with you, Jeanette?"

"Go along," Bob said. "I'll do the wrapping. You do the
fancies." I already knew that my package would rattle if I
shook it. The nails and Bandaid tins were saved from year to
year. Jeanette followed me into my room and over to the window

There didn't seem to be any easy way to work up to it.

"May I ask you a question?" I started.

"Ask away. I may not answer." Oh great!

"You delayed sex till you got married. Are you happy you
did?" I sort of gasped at the end.

"Kathleen Violet Brennan, if this is your idea of a subject
for an English theme, your teacher will be unhappy. But not one
millionth as unhappy as I will."

"No. This is important." I stopped but she just waited.
"This is personal."

"It is important enough to invade *my* privacy."

"You can't tell anyone."

She just held out her hand palm out. "Dump it."

I talked in fits and starts. I had to go back to explain
things. Finally the whole thing was out. "So, I have to know.
Is waiting worth it?"

"So he told you to lie down or walk?"

"That's one way of saying it."

"For the record, I really think that you should talk to your

"I'd die. I chose to confide in *you*."

"I won't tell anyone unless you ask me to. Do you love him?"

"I know that you think it's only puppy love. But..."

"Vi, at your age I had been going with my future husband for
nearly two years. Being sixteen doesn't make it insignificant.
Being sixteen *does* make it a pain. I ask again. Do you love

"Yes. I think I do. I was never in love before."

"Does he love you?"

"I think so. If I can't tell with myself, how can I tell
with him?"

"Does that matter to you?"

"You know, you aren't answering any of my questions."

"Sex is the most beautiful thing in the world. It makes the
earth move. You should wait.

"Those are the answers; and they are true, even if they
don't make sense. But you have heard them before. I'll tell
you this, I'm not going to bed with this, ... this Terry?"

"Yeah, Terry."

"So my answers don't matter. Your answers do. Is it
important to you whether he loves you?"

"Desperately." She grinned at this. I must have looked
hurt, I certainly felt hurt.

"Sorry. It's your brother's favorite word. Okay, let me
tell you a story. This is private. If you have to tell it to
your daughter, or mine more likely, fine. Otherwise, don't say
anything to anybody, including Bob. We're invading his privacy
as much as mine.

"Anyway, 'lie down or walk' were Bob's words. Some friends
of ours had broken up after the boy made that sort of demand on
the girl. Somehow, everybody knew about it. Anyway, Bob told
me that he might -- actually, he told me that he would -- make
the same sort of demand on me someday. He asked me to promise
that, after he did, I would forgive him.

"He said something like 'That won't be me talking, it will
be..." Her pause made me suspect that she was making everything
up. " ... his lust talking." Then I decided that she was just
censoring words.

"He said something," she continued, "about penance after he
laid the demand, not immediate forgiveness. Of course, once he
put it like that, the demand became something else. He'd said
that if I said 'no' -- when I said 'no,' actually -- he would
still want to date me. He had made it impossible to actually
threaten to leave me.

"And I'll tell you this. If he had actually told me that he
would quit dating me unless I slept with him, if he'd said that
and I had believed him, I would have slept with him. But it
would have destroyed the heart of our relationship. Did you
know that Bob once said that if I wasn't going to finish college
the wedding was off?"

I was still trying to digest her statement that she would
have slept with Bob. Was she telling me to say "yes" to Terry?
I had heard Bob say that the wedding was off. So had the rest
of the family and our neighbors. I just nodded. She took a long
breath and resumed.

"I went home that night and cried. We never set conditions.
We never said 'I'll love you if....' In the morning I saw that
I'd been silly. He wasn't setting a condition on his love. And
he was promoting what he saw as *my* benefit. Our love is
unconditional. The time of the wedding wasn't. It would have
been two years earlier if it had been up to us.

"I'm not saying our love will never end. If I walk out that
door and a truck runs over me, you can be sure that my love will
end damn fast. But that's okay, because I'll end with it."

I'm sure that she made some more points. I had stopped
listening. That last statement had floored me. I and my friends
joke about dying all the time, I've wished I would die instead of
taking an algebra test. We don't mean it. Jeanette did. She
thought dying was the okay way to stop loving Bob. Bob? That
was ridiculous. But it was true, you could hear it in the
casualness of her statement.

I was in love with Terry. Did I love him? If I never saw
him again, I'd sure miss what he could do for my feelings. I
dreaded going to school with all my friends knowing that I was
without a boyfriend, without a boyfriend again. Was that love?
Not by the Jeanette test.

Did Bob's love match Jeanette's? I didn't know. Maybe. He
wanted to marry her, but not if *she* was going to get hurt by

When I finally got back to her, Jeanette was telling another
story. "So I finally got clear that he was talking about the
indefinite future. If this was going to be a permanent thing
between us, having him go to Ohio to work for the summer would
pay off in the end. If it was only going to last another year,
then the summer was too precious to waste.

"I was half a year older than you. We'd been going together
maybe a year and a half longer than you and Terry. We started
talking marriage. To tell the truth, I'd been thinking of it
before that. He had to have been, too.

"Look, Vi. I know brothers are sort of dorky by definition,
but that's all right. Consider Bob a minimum standard." I held
up my hand for her to stop, and she did. I was considering.

Would Terry bring his summer work plans to me? That might
be a little unfair. The Brennans hold family meetings, not
everyone does. I was going around in that circle when Bob
knocked on the door.

"Got them all wrapped," he called. "Want to do fancies?"

"Yes, darling, later," she shouted back. "Vi is telling me
all about your past sins."

"All? C'mon, Vi. We have to be at church at nine. Just
hit the high spots." He went clattering down the stairs.

"You know," said Jeanette, "you have a lot of options."

"I only count two."

"You can say 'yes' and mean it. You can break up with him.
But! You can also string him along. You can pretend it never
happened. You are being rather hard on him, you know."

"That is a strange thing to say."

"I ask again, is it important whether he loves you?"

"It's very important."

"Okay. Accept first that he wants to have sex with you.
Boys do. Don't hold that against him.

"If he meant that he would leave you unless you slept with
him, then he is a total user. He doesn't love you. He may
think he does, not knowing what the word love means.

"If it was only his, uh, lust talking, then you are in a
total tailspin over a much less important situation. Your
boyfriend went too far. Slap his face or wash your hair on your
next scheduled date. Let him know that he hurt you. Accept his
apology and go on."

"How do I tell?"

"There is a third possibility, actually the only
possibility. He is somewhere in between. Part of him wants to
be your paladin, part of him wants to get all his sensory
jollies and be one of the big boys at your expense. That's what
I mean when I say that you are doing him an injustice."

"What's a paladin?" I could almost tell. Mostly, I was
trying to cut down the flow of ideas until I could deal with

"A paladin is a knight, a champion, a loyal protector.

"It would be a mistake to only think of dealing with his
lustful part. That would strengthen the lustful part. He *did*
take 'no' for an answer. He *did* drive you home. Shouldn't
you deal with that part? Shouldn't you strengthen your loyal
protector? Or, maybe, someone else's loyal protector. Maybe
you'll spend the rest of your life with him, maybe you won't.
You claim to love him. Couldn't you love his better part?"

"Are you saying that I should say 'yes' or that I should say

"Neither. Sort of both. I'm saying -- rather I'm
suggesting, knowing that this is your life -- that you say, 'I
know that you are too fine a man to have meant it, but I'm still
deeply hurt that you said it.' *Help* him be your loyal

"That sounds much better."

"Uh, Vi. Are you still planning to be a psychiatrist?"


"Then get hold of your own psychological reality for a
second. This option sounds better because it assumes a
different Terry. It will be better *if* he is interested in
keeping a relationship to the girl with the most intelligence
and finest personality that he is ever likely to meet. It
*won't* be better if his highest priority is dipping his wick in
a real, live vagina. It sounds better than your last choice
because your last choice assumed that the latter was his

"I really think that you're right about Terry. That he's
basically a good guy who got carried away."

"That's not what I said. I have never met him." Terry was
at the reception. I understand her not remembering. "I said
that it is a possibility that you have to consider. *I* don't
want you dating Terry if he is more interested in what's between
your legs than what's between your ears. But *you* may very
well still want that relationship."

"I don't know. You'll meet him on Thursday." Then I
stopped and thought. "Maybe you won't. So, did you have to
train Bob to be your loyal protector? How many times did you
have to slap his face?"

"Mostly he was there before me. I don't think I ever
slapped his face, but I used my elbows a lot. Your brother has
no sense of propriety."

"I know."

"On the other hand, there was a lot of display behavior in
what we did. You know, 'We are a couple, and the boy is a
lustful boy, and the girl is a good girl.' I mostly used my
elbows in public. Words were sufficient in private. Again:
brothers are sort of dorks by definition, but Bob was a paladin
to *me*.

"Enough of this baring of the soul. We're invading his
privacy as well as mine. And I don't think it is necessary any

"Thanks. Thanks for answering. Thanks for letting me
invade your privacy. I think that I have my answer now."

"Uh, Vi. As a charter member of Future Psychiatrists of
America, you should know this. You already had your answer."

"Huh? No I didn't. I was going around in circles."

"You came to me. You knew my answer. You asked me to
persuade you. You know girls who are involved in affairs, some
of them in the first heady days of pleasure. You could have
gone to them and gotten a different answer. For that matter,
you could have asked me if it were worth *doing* instead of
worth *waiting*. You didn't want my answer, which is perfectly
all right. You wanted your answer validated."

She might be right. "I guess I have some growing up to do.
You did suggest answers that I hadn't thought of, though."

"We all have some growing up to do. Don't think that asking
for a sounding board is immature. Or even asking for advice
when you really want a sounding board. Speaking of growing up,
this conversation threw me for a loop. I think that neither
walking down the aisle, nor the honeymoon, nor even getting a
job which we depend on for food, put me over the line as firmly
as this talk."

"Over the line?" I hadn't followed her at all.

"Being an adult. You were the first person to call me a
Brennan, now you're the first person to come to me for advice as
an adult. It threw me, but it complimented me. I think that I
like having you for a sister."

Were we sisters? I and this woman? I suppose so. I know
what she meant by a line, however. When I was her bridesmaid,
Crystal, one of her classmates, had tried to make a point of
the distance between nineteen and fifteen. She was wrong. She,
Jeanette, and I had all been girls together then, most clearly
in Crystal's need to create a distinction. This Jeanette was a

We went downstairs together. mom was in the kitchen. "Is
there anything that we can do?" Jeanette asked.

"The question, dear, is are you comfortable in that room?"

Bob wandered in and asked, "Finished with all my sins

"We decided to take a break when you got to first grade,"
Jeanette answered.

"When I was in first grade, this one was still in diapers."

"And you thought I would forget, didn't you," I chipped in.

"Dear, we were discussing whether your wife was comfortable
in that room," said Mom.

"I'm comfortable in this house. Warm hearts are more
important than warm floors," said Jeanette.

"Look," Bob broke in. "When I saw Jeanette walk down the
aisle, I realized that I didn't know that woman in satin and
lace. You, mother dearest, don't know my hiking companion.
Jeanette has lived a lot rougher than that room. She has

"Don't you think," Dad began from in back of me, "that a
husband more fittingly sees to his wife's needs than belittles
them?" To mention Bob to Dad or Dad to Bob in the other's
absence is to see a glow nearing adoration. When they are
together, they tend to strike sparks.

"I think, sir," Bob replied, "that a man notes whether his
wife's psychological or her physical needs are more important to
her. Fussing over Jeanette is no favor. Do you want to make
one minor improvement?"

What could Dad say? "Of course."

"Lend us that rag rug in your room. The one that protects
the carpet from the rocking chair. That will give her something
warmer than floor to put her feet on before she finds her
slippers. While you're at it, you might let us have the rocking
chair, as well. Everyone enjoys a rock now and then, and we
don't have one at home."

mom and Dad exchanged the oddest looks. mom was clearly
trying not to smile. "I care for the comfort of both of you,
dear," she said. "Why don't you move it in now?"

So Bob did. That meant one conversation was ended. "Mom,"
I began. "Remember when you invited Terry for dinner?"

"Don't worry, dear, I'm not about to forget." Great. That
wasn't my worry.

"The thing is," I went on, "that I now think that this was a
very bad idea. It was my idea, not yours. It was my mistake,
and I'm going to correct it. So, I'll be calling him in a few
minutes to withdraw the invitation."

"No, dear. *That* would be a mistake. Besides, it was my
invitation and it stands." Great. Have you ever noticed, in
stories about divorce, that children never fight for the custody
of parents?

"Katherine," Jeanette said, "you know how much I respect
your judgment. That is why your last decision surprises me."
Mom looked at her. "I know that you want Vi to have the benefit
of your judgment, but that can only last a few years longer.
Then she'll have to act on her own."

"Now here is a case which won't ruin her life if she's
wrong. She made her decision. You didn't get your judgment out
of the air, you got it from making decisions and taking the
consequences. She needs to do the same. I know you want to
shelter her from the consequences, but that would be penny wise
and pound foolish. She has to take consequences to learn."

mother was trying to say something, but was too polite to
interrupt a guest. Jeanette sailed right along. "Here is a
situation where the consequences will fall on her. It is a
situation where she made the decision. If she's wrong, the
lessons will be worth the pain.

"And there is always the possibility that she's right. If
you have the superior judgment, she has the better information."

"Then she can give the information to me," said Mother. On
the other hand, I could commit hara kiri. I could always let
Terry come and pretend everything was all right. The three
choices were looking equally painful.

"If it's that kind of information," Jeanette said, "she
certainly can. I'm certain that she would. But what if it's a
gestalt? What if it's private information that would hurt Terry
to have it known? What if she's promised secrecy on it?

"But that's not important. Probably you are right. In
which case, Vi learns a lesson. Possibly you are wrong. What
lesson does she learn then?"

Jeanette has an odd method of argument. In one of those
horrible family conferences, she got permission to speak until
finished. Then she said, "Let me examine this from a selfish
standpoint. What's good for Jeanette?" I was a bit shocked.
Brennans don't look at things from a selfish standpoint in
family meetings.

Then she had gone on to argue that she would be better off
having worked to put Bob through school than getting an
education herself. She said, "I'd be far happier as a high-
school-educated office worker married to a college professor
than as a college-educated office worker married to a grad
school drop-out." Maybe she would. Maybe the family could
finish Bob's education before going broke while I was in school.

Now Jeanette was arguing that mother should back my decision
on the assumption that it was a mistake. mother was thinking
about it.

"Dear," she asked Jeanette, "are you sure that you don't
know more than you are telling?"

"Probably less."

"All right, dear," mom said to me. "Go withdraw my

I got Terry's mother on the phone and exchanged Christmas
wishes before she would call him. He was a lot less cheerful
than she was. "Terry, about having you to the family dinner."


"I think, now, that it would be a *real* bad idea."

"You do?"

"Well, first of all, you set a condition on our continuing
the relationship. It's not a condition that I feel that I can

"It wasn't exactly a condition. It was an opinion." Terry
had an audience. I was afraid that I might have one any second.

"And I had planned to introduce you to my brother and

"I've met them."

"Only briefly, not sitting around a table for a couple of
hours. And the thing is, I don't know how to introduce you. I
knew yesterday morning. I don't know any more. You are a
different person than I thought you were. You see us as having
a different relationship than I saw it."

"Look Vi, I'm really sorry that what I said hurt you."

"Well it did hurt me. And I'm sorry about it, too."

"Uh, Vi. I didn't mention the invitation to my parents."


"After I got home, I thought that you might be mad."

"I think that 'hurt' was the better word." ("Crushed" was
an even better word. Try "devastated.")

"I'm sorry."

"We'll talk in school, okay?"

"Look, I have a Christmas present for you."

"I have one for you, too." Bought for the boy I loved.

"How about if I bring it over the day after Christmas. We
can talk."

"Talk here?" I get privacy in my room, if that. I sure as
hell am not going to invite him to my room. My parents wouldn't
allow it if I tried.

"Or go for a drive."

"No. I might talk in your car in the driveway, though.
Make it Friday. We'll be cooking on Thursday."

"Fine. Look, I have an audience. I love you."

"That's nice." Those were the cruelest words I have ever
spoken to anyone.

"See you Friday." And he hung up. I did, too. Then I went
to my room and cried. It was a little as if a friend had died.
It wasn't Terry, it was the Vi that had believed in him.

I went back to the bodice-ripper. It went much better this
time. Rolfe didn't give quite the payoff that Terry had given,
but he was much safer. mother called me to set the table, and
Jeanette followed me to the kitchen. "You find, I'll carry,"
she said. We did it that way, with her following my lead in

Dinner was a time of catching up, and we stayed around the
table until nearly time for church. "Let's get this straight,"
asked Jeanette. "This service is carols, and Bob participates?"

"I'll sleep through the carols. Just wake me for the
voting." The service is "Lections and Carols." Only Bob thinks
that a pun on "elections" was ever funny. Which means that he
thinks it is funny every year.

"Just hope, Jeanette," I said, "that Bob thinks you are a
joke." This brought distraught looks from my parents. "Bob has
never abandoned a joke."

"What ingratitude," Bob replied, "towards the man who taught
you to stick out your tongue and touch your nose." The truth is
that having a brother with a third-grade sense of humor was fun
in the first two grades. It was embarrassing well before I got
to junior high.

Jeanette was watching this as if it were an entertainment
put on for her enjoyment. To a certain extent it was. We would
still have been sparring in her absence, but it was great to
have an audience who hadn't heard it all before.

We, even Bob despite the jokes, sang; we heard the story.
Preparation was over, it was Christmas. Dad and mom each
offered a few people rides home in the van, separately. We
turned out to be a tight fit, and Jeanette sat on Bob's lap. I
sat beside them and felt like I was in some sort of magnetic
field. Jeanette was definitely besotted again, and this time Bob
was as well. The waves reaching me were only partly those of
desire. When the second family was dropped off, I told
Jeanette, "You can get off his lap now," before switching seats.

"No, I can't" she responded, but she did.

mom and Dad shooed the rest of us off to bed. stockings are
as much a part of our Christmas as carols or the tree. I
stripped and put on my nightie. Then I lay there with my ears
twitching. The sounds from the next room were domestic rather
than erotic for a while. Then Bob said, "I'll help." Jeanette
murmured something too low for me to hear. Bob responded, "And
a filthy mind is a terrible thing to waste." There was more
movement before Bob said, "Are you sure?"

"I've had my foreplay," Jeanette replied. "I need you now."
I pulled my nightie up to my neck while I listened to some

"God, yes," said Bob. "You're absolutely drenched." She
wasn't the only one. I stroked my groove. As the bed springs
began to sing, I timed my strokes to theirs. "Love," Bob said
on one stroke. "You," he said on the next. "Love, ... you.
Love, ... you. Love. Love. Love, ... you."

Jeanette's response, at first, was a low humming. It was
driven from her by every stroke. Then she started to say,
"Oh, ... yes," with the strokes. Meanwhile, I was tickling my
nipples with one hand and rubbing my clitoris with the other.














"Ah?" Jeanette was sounding tonal again. It was almost as
if she were singing.




"Ohhh!" Some grunts from Bob and an irregular shaking of
the bed. "Yesss!" That last word from Jeanette pushed me over.
I think it would have done so if I hadn't been touching myself
at all. It was the most satisfied sound possible.

I didn't hear what happened for a while.

"I do love you," said Bob, "desperately." I almost laughed
aloud, and forgave Jeanette her smile. There were some
confusing bed sounds and then murmurs too soft to hear.

I felt a little guilty, both for masturbating -- whatever
mother says about natural -- and for eavesdropping. I felt much
more jealous. Not only had Jeanette got more satisfaction in
this one day than I have in the past two years, but she was
falling asleep cuddled in the arms of the man she loved. On the
other hand, that man was *Bob*. That night, however, I wanted a
cuddle. I probably would have settled for Bob.

On the night before Christmas, I fell asleep thinking about
neither what I would get in the morning nor what people would
think about my gifts to them. I'm getting *old*.

Part 2

My parents have the utterly ridiculous rule that we can't
set our alarm clocks any earlier on Christmas than we do on
school days. Nor can we go downstairs before they ring. Most
Christmases I'm waiting in my robe when the clock goes off. This
Christmas, it woke me.

I had the world's briefest shower, put on my nightie and
robe, and grabbed the stockings for mom and Dad. Twelve minutes
after the ring, I met Bob on my way downstairs. He was coming up
with two cups of coffee.

I let him pass, but the thought hit me. Were they going to
make morning love on *Christmas* morning? I needn't have
worried. They came down twenty minutes later. Bob got them
coffee and then brought Jeanette her stocking before getting his

In our house, everybody gets the stockings, and Bob and I
get one present, before breakfast. Jeanette was officially a
child this year, too. Christmas breakfast is fancy. Then we get
dressed and gather before passing out the rest of the gifts.

Somehow, there was mistletoe in all the doorways this year.
Dad caught me once and mother several times. She said, "Oh
Russ"; but she didn't duck. Jeanette's idea of revenge for Bob's
ambushes were ambushes of her own. There was a piece of
mistletoe over the center of the couch, and Bob and Jeanette
were seated there for opening of the packages. Before he sat,
Bob got a cup of coffee for each of them.

Dad had warned me that Bob and Jeanette's tight budget
wouldn't leave much room for Christmas shopping. I already
understood that; sometimes Dad thinks that I'm a child. On my
seventh birthday, my main present was a television for my own
room; my main Christmas present that year was a VCR to go with
it. My main present on my eighth birthday was a doll, a nice
doll but not the equivalent. I threw the doll across the room,
and one of her arms doesn't move right to this day. That was
when I was eight, but parents never forget.

When I opened Jeanette and Bob's present, after the ritual
shake to hear the rattle, the first thing I took out was the
Bandaid box. "Just what I've always wanted," I said
dramatically, "a box of nails." Then I unwrapped the other
gifts. Bob lives in a university town. (Okay. University
students do.) He'd bought me three used paperbacks which I
probably couldn't find here. There was Hall's *Primer on
Freudian Psychology*, Freud's own *Psychopathology of Everyday
Life*, and Skinner's *Science and Human Behavior*.

I ran over to kiss him. This time, my thanks were genuine.
I gave Jeanette a hug, too. She whispered, "Bob really did it."

"I know," I whispered back. "This is for other things." I
noticed that her cup of coffee was nearly empty and Bob's looked

My next turn at Santa, I dug through the stack to find a
neatly- wrapped package with no bows. (Jeanette had added the
bows and stickers to everyone else's.)

Jeanette opened the box. I stood by her and gathered up the
wrappings. Inside was another wrapped box. Inside that was
another wrapped box, which was empty. I felt the wrappings as
she handed them to me. When she had properly thanked Bob for the
quality of air that he had given her, I handed her one piece of
wrapping paper. She found the envelope taped to it with no
further prompting. "Vacuum?" she asked. "Do you know what that
verb means?"

Bob answered, "I love you so much that I will explore the
most arcane examples of new technology for you." Then they
kissed. The coffee cups caught my eye. Bob's was empty,
Jeanette's was half full.

Her gift to him was hanging on the tree in a plain envelope.
When he opened it, the look on his face was as disturbing as the
creak of their bed springs. "You darling," he whispered. Then
he put the paper back in the envelope and put it in his pocket.
You don't have to hit me over the head with a two-by-four. I'm
not sure that I approve of sexual favors as Christmas gifts, but
it was the only gift that year which got more appreciation than
his to me.

As Bob and I get older, the gifts become fewer, but there is
more of a sense of "What did you get?" rather than "What did I
get?" Every year the tree takes longer. It was nearly time for
Jeanette and Bob to go to her parents' house, and we hadn't had
the poetry yet. We put off the Dylan Thomas record, and Dad read
us "King John's Christmas."

Dad drove them while mom fixed lunch.

I got my presents together and finished the list of who gave

Given the choice between brooding and reading, I read from
lunchtime until Jeanette and Bob got back. Her brother Greg had
driven them and came in. He was a naval lieutenant JG,
"equivalent to the army rank of colonel, sir." He was wearing
his uniform, as he had at the wedding.

A real charmer, he referred to mother and me as "sisters."
Now, my mother is an attractive woman who takes care of her
looks; I sometimes envy her style. I can pass for twenty when I
make the effort, which I had not that night. But mom and I do
not look like sisters. He called me "Ma'am," as he did Mother.
Dad was "Sir," Bob, he called by name. Jeanette was sometimes
"Sis" but "Twerp" more often than not. I think neither he nor
Jeanette noticed. More surprisingly, Bob didn't blink an eye.

Half an hour into his visit, Jeanette abruptly said, "Greg,
Vi, can I talk with you in the kitchen?" We both followed her.
"Look guys, this is practice, right?"

"Why Twerp, what do you mean?" asked Greg.

"Vi, here has been through enough problems with your gender
this week. She needs to know that your flirting is simply

"I was just being friendly," said Greg, his southern accent
nearly disappearing. "If Vi ever needs the attention of a suave
naval officer, however...."

"We'll ask you for the name of one." Jeanette was being
unfair. Greg was suave. He was about as sincere as a concession
speech, but he was suave. He returned to the living room and the

"I wasn't about to succumb," I told her.

"Good. He's really a nice guy. Follow your mother's lead
and wallow in it. Just don't believe it."

"I had wondered why his accent is so much more southern than

"Served two years in San Diego. They thought he had a
southern accent, so he developed one for social purposes."
Jeanette does have a southern accent. So do Bob and I, according
to my cousins.

"How did the dinner go?" I asked.

"We survived. You holding up?"

"With all the books that you gave me? I'm doing fine."

We had a brief hug and went back to join the rest.

The conversation had moved to Jeanette's family and their
resistance to the marriage. "The question in my mind," mom asked
Greg, "was why your parents went all out on a wedding when they
wouldn't put anything into Jeanette's education afterwards. If
they thought that this marriage wouldn't work, they should want
their daughter prepared to support herself."

"Ma'am, you think a marriage works if it makes the couple

"Well," mom allowed, "there are other considerations. I
don't see where those apply. Anyway, we suggested that we cut
our guest list in half and *that* saving be passed on to the
kids. We were even turned down on that."

"Our mother *wanted* the guests of the president of Brewster
Equipment at that wedding. She put an awful lot of effort into
her daughter, and that wedding was almost the only payback she
will ever get. There are kids in this town who will never leave,
and kids who will never come back. Bob was transparently the
latter at eighteen, let alone today.

"Jeanette will never carry mother to the social peak. But
that wedding, at least, is one piton holding her to her present

"Do adults really treat social rank so seriously?" asked

"Adults, alleged adults, play the Hot Stove League, Sir.
They treat it seriously. There are people living today who
remember when ladies didn't have any other game but social
status. I don't blame mother for playing, but for taking out her
frustrations on her family."

The subject changed to his memories of young Jeanette. Greg
was charming again, then he stopped himself in mid-sentence. "As
much as I'm enjoying this," he said, "it's time for me to return
to the little house of horrors." When we all saw him out, I
happened to be standing under the mistletoe. He only kissed my
cheek, but the hug was warm.

We stay-at-homes had supper. Jeanette had a glass of ginger
ale, and Bob a small plate, to participate in the supper. We
talked until yawns started. Then it was time for "A Child's
Christmas in Wales." Jeanette had not heard it before, and we
all -- I think -- switched our attention to the newest member of
the audience when That Voice ended. Minutes after the record was
back in its jacket, she shook herself. "Beautiful," she said.
Bob hugged her.

"Glad you're a Brennan?" he asked.

"Delighted now. I knew there was a payoff for the last six
months of suffering." Jeanette was almost purring. Bob just
hugged her again. Not even mother reacted to her words.

"I love you, Mrs. Brennan," said Bob. mother reacted to
*those* words. Well, she addresses everybody as "dear."

"I love you, Mr. Brennan." They didn't look like they
could spend ten more minutes in public.

"Thanks for the books, you two," I said. "I think I'll get
back to Skinner now." I figured that preceding them upstairs
would look more innocent than following them, and I normally
spend the vacation reading in bed, anyway.

As I'd expected, Bob and Jeanette came upstairs very soon
after I did. I waited for them to begin. I was lying under the
covers with my nightie already up to my neck, but they were
nowhere neqr as ready as I was. It seemed to take them forever.
"You really liked it?" Jeanette asked.

"It was better than my birthday because I didn't have to

"Well, the tables were reversed then."

"I will be yours to command."

"I have to wait till then to command?" Her tone was

"Well, you might try seduction until then."

"I don't know how to do that, why don't you teach me?" I
had to muffle my laugh in the pillow. Bob sounded like he'd
found a better place to muffle his.

There was a period of silence. Then she said, "My, that
*was* seductive. Is there more? ... Are you going to kiss the
other one, as well? ... Let me try.... They do stand up, does
that show that I'm being properly seductive?"

"No more lessons," Bob said, "until you pay tuition."

"Well, if that's the tuition, I'll have to get under the
covers. Are seduction lessons possible horizontally?"

"Only if you are taking it for grad credit." The rocking
chair took about five rocks, and the bed settled under their

"Hey, it's cold," Jeanette said a good deal more loudly.

"Press against me."

"You're cold, too."

"That's why you should press against me," Bob said in his
explaining-the-obvious voice. "It'll warm me up."

"Someday I want a list of the things which don't warm you
up. It would be shorter."

"The only thing about you that *doesn't* warm me up is your

"And Dave."

"Among the strengths of the Spanish Inquisition...." They
laughed together. Then there was a period when I couldn't hear.
I gave up and went back to the wall, putting on robe and slippers
on the way.

"Please don't," said Bob, "I want this to last." I still
couldn't hear what Jeanette was saying, though she was saying
something. The bed moved a bit. "Is that okay," asked Bob.

"Lovely. You like this, don't you?"

"It is something special." Bob was crooning. "There in the
tent in the forest, with your back grinding into my front, you
had your first orgasm with me in you. That was wonderful. Even
among our times, that was special. I'll remember it always."

"My husband is a hopeless.... Oh, yes. Just like that."
What "like that" was, I could not guess. I used my imagination,
however, and my hands. I pictured them lying in bed, both facing
the wall, with her bottom pressed into his lap. I pictured him
moving back and forth with the rhythm of the creaking bed
springs. My imagination, already having removed the bed clothes,
turned Jeanette into one of those medical illustrations. I saw
the penis moving back and forth in her vagina. I was rubbing
myself while I listened.

"Love. I can't," Bob gasped. The creakings speeded up. He

"Oh, Bob!" Jeanette was nearly screaming. Her cries after
that sounded muffled. My fingers flew across my little clitoris
and took me to my own orgasm. I grabbed a Kleenex as I crept to
bed. Wiping off my hands and between my legs, I decided to sneak
into the bathroom for more thorough cleaning after the lovebirds
were safely asleep.

- = -

That decision was still firm in my mind when I woke to a
sunlit room. I did shower and clean up. I also put on a new
nightie. Other appetites had become more important than hunger
for breakfast. Ten minutes later, I heard Bob leave the room and

"Coffee," said Jeanette, "I knew that there was a reason to
get married." Then later she said in a much lower voice, "Not a
reason to marry a Brennan, though."

"Sorry, gal. Do you want me to empty the pot and make it to
your strength?"

"That would be greedy. So, give me your cup and let me be
greedy in secret."

"Are you willing to pay the price?"

"Eager. Just let me drink it first.... Let's be fast,
though. I feel that I'm not pulling my weight this trip."

"Everybody loves you greatly, or -- in one case -- dearly.
They aren't counting how many meals you help with. But, if the
lady wants a quickie...."

"Not that quick. I have to take care of things." There was
a pause while I heard the shower.

"Slugabed," she said when she came back.

"I'll get up. Want to try the rocking chair?"

"Too nice a chair for a quickie. I guess that I have to
join you in bed."

"Mmmm nice, all that clean skin."

"It's supposed to be a quickie. You can't taste it *all*."

"'Pardon me, Mom. May I borrow your sous-chef? There are
parts of my wife that haven't been kissed this morning.'"

"You wouldn't!" Yes, he would. She should have learned
about Bob before marrying him.

"Wanna bet?"

"No. Never bet with you." Maybe she had learned about Bob.

"Compromise. I'll start at the knees."

"Oh you!" Jeanette was laughing. Bob made a couple of
smacking sounds. Then there was a long pause during which the
bed shook a little, but I could hear almost nothing else. I was
playing with my nipples and trying to picture them.

Once again, I gave up and crept to the wall.

"Oh," said Jeanette. "Ah!" ... "Love." ... "Unh." ...
"Please no!"

"Ouch," Bob said. "But you're so close."

"I know, and I want my husband in me. Cover me up and hold

There were irregular bed noises then Bob said, "Oh darling."

"There you are," Jeanette said. I could picture them now.
I licked a finger and put it in my groove.

"Here *we* are," Bob responded. "One body." The bed began
its regular rhythm. My finger matched it.

"Ah," said Jeanette, "Ahhh." Then "Oooooohh!" Again she
sounded a pure tone. "Bob. Bob. Bob!" Two strokes later, the
bed sounds stopped. The memory, however, was enough. I brought
myself to orgasm, remembering those sounds of completion. I was
leaning against the wall when Jeanette spoke again.

"You didn't."

"I will." Bob sounded smug.

The bed resumed its singing. I didn't have the strength to
do anything but listen. The pace seemed slower this time. I
took a few seconds, and the risk of a creaking floor, to grab my
clothes. The bed was continuing at its slow pace when I got
back. Soon, I heard Bob softly calling, "Love. You. Love.
Please." The speed increased. Then Bob said, "Love I can't
hold...." He started to grunt.

"Oh, yes," Jeanette answered. "Oh Bob!" The bed shook.

I dressed in the silence. "Love you," said Bob.

"Love *you*. Oh, dearest, stay inside for a minute." He
stayed inside (the room, at least) while I tiptoed downstairs and
put on my shoes.

Tonight's dinner was a feast, and mom was already in the
kitchen. I cooked my own bacon and eggs. Dad had left, but I
was on breakfast duty for the others.

mom talked to me while she worked. I wasn't supposed to
interrupt, "Listening to you takes thought, dear." She mostly
retold stories but interspersed that with comments on why she was
cooking things this way. The stories could be from her third
grade classroom, her time in her mother's house, or stories her
grandmother told about *her* ancestors.

She started on one of my favorites. "Bob was five, and
disturbed already that I had stopped picking him up. He was a
little jealous. He came around, however, when you could track
him with your eyes. He would do something silly, like spin
around until he fell down, and you would watch from the car seat
and crow. Your father would come home from those trips, give me
a kiss, pick up Bob and spin him -- you don't think that silly
streak is genetic do you? -- then he would go look at you in the
crib or wherever and grin. You two spent the longest times just
looking at each other. Then he'd get into decent clothes,"
(Mother meant something comfortable, rather than the business
suit that he traveled in) "and pick you up. For the rest of the
weekend, I got to hold you while I was feeding you, period. I'd
be talking to him and he'd turn his back, not because he'd
stopped listening... Have Jeanette and Bob come down?"

"I just fixed Bob's plate."

" ...but so you could see what mommy was doing.
Disconcerting all the same. In those days, dear, *he* was the
one with hair. Once your Grandmother Brennan and Gramma Grant
were.... "

A little later, Bob came back to put the empty plate and
silver in the dishwater. He took a new set over to me and
whispered, "Two sunny, three bacon." Now five eggs on a morning
is not a personal record for Bob, but I thought two plates
excessive. Then I woke up.

Sure enough, Jeanette came in later carrying the plate.
"Put me to work," she said to Mom.

"Can you peel potatoes, dear?" mom asked.

"Sure. How many? Where?"

We got ourselves two workstations across from each other at
the kitchen table. She peeled potatoes while I sliced carrots
and filled celery.

"But really, dear," mother continued, "I always felt it
looked much better when it grew out again. Doesn't Vi have
lovely hair now, dear?"

"It's gorgeous," Jeanette answered. "But I can't claim to
have noticed the change."

"Oh, the change was before you knew her." It was when I was
two, to be terribly technical. Having one of her rhetorical
questions answered threw mom enough off track that she switched
topics to the reasons for having ordinary old-bread stuffing like
(her) Grandmother Olsen, instead of fancy chestnut stuffing like
(her) Grandmother Grant.

Does this make mom sound a little dizzy? Not to cooks. You
put together a full feast complete with both turkey and pies (a
neat trick in a one-oven kitchen). You won't have your full
attention on the conversation, either. Meanwhile, I've made
every dish at least twice under her supervision; and I know my
family history (maternal side).

Jeanette worked quickly and wasted almost nothing. I
watched her hands when I didn't need to watch mine. At 12:20, I
got out the leftovers and lunch stuff. Bob used the two left-
over waffles to make cheese sandwiches.

mom chased Jeanette and me away in the early afternoon. We
were to return, dressed up, just before dinner.

Jeanette beat me down. She was watching pots while mom
changed her clothes. I had the table set before mom came back.
Mother dished out, and we carried in. All the work having been
done, Dad and Bob appeared and assisted us frail ladies into our
chairs. As we bowed our heads for the grace, Dad asked, "Perhaps
our guest...."

"Sir," Bob interrupted, "I see no guests at this table."

Dad looked at Jeanette.

"That's the way I would prefer it, sir," she said.

"That's the way it is. Then perhaps our prodigal would say
the grace." So Bob did. He sounded a lot like Dad, too. Bob
can produce a nearly convincing imitation of an adult when he
wants to. The way Dad handled the prayer was typical of him.
Bob was being honored, "prodigal" or not. Dad carved, everything
was served and praised. Then came time for conversation.

"This isn't a Christmas present," Dad began while the rest
of us had our mouths full, "but a family council decision. From
now on, books and fees, as well as tuition, are our

"That's very kind of you, of you three," said Jeanette.

"It isn't kindness," said Mom. "It's reality. I hope you
two had fun trying to live within that budget." mom is a great
believer in practical education.

Everybody had a few details of the past six months that they
had forgotten to cover the night before. After that, we told
stories from further back. One of them was about my short-lived
ambitions for a basketball career. "Well, I was the tallest kid
in the whole fifth grade," I defended myself. "I didn't know
that the growth spurt would slow down."

"That's why I always encourage her," Bob said. "I tell her
that I've seen another millimeter growth in the last year."
Great encouragement. That's four inches a century.

"Vi has grown," Jeanette said. "It's just growth that a
brother isn't supposed to notice." That is how nice people
behave. My breasts are now larger than hers. Instead of being
jealous, like I was of her, she was glad for me. I blushed for
two reasons.

"Has nothing to do with being a brother," Bob said. "I only
notice the looks of one woman."

"Does that mean that we can throw away those boxes of
magazines in the garage?" mother asked in her sweetest tone.

"Please don't," said Jeanette. "The nicest thing I've heard
about Bob all year is that he left some of them behind."

Bob, demonstrating the difference between a strategist and a
tactician, abandoned that lost cause. "So Vi reads a kid's book
about Freud six months later and decides to be a psychiatrist.
We all laugh behind our hands and wait for the next passion.
We're still waiting, but we've stopped laughing."

"We even thought," says Dad, "of getting her head examined
for having that odd goal. Never could quite decide how to
express the problem to the psychiatrist, though."

"Poor Vi," said Jeanette. "Did they put you through a lot
of that?"

"Horrible jokes," I answered. "Bob called me 'Sigmund' off
and on. But nobody ever suggested that I *couldn't* be a
psychoanalyst. I had to figure out by myself that I would never
make the NBA, for that matter."

"Like teachers," said Mom, "parents are there to tell
children that they can do things they wrongly think they can't.
Let the children find out for themselves what they can't do. So
many of my fellow teachers think that they build self esteem by
telling their students that mediocrity is good enough. None of
my children ever worked up to capacity." I think that she meant
none of her third graders, but she may have included Bob and me.

Jeanette reached over and held Bob's hand. Bob did what
eating he could with his left hand.

"Now," Dad said, "Bob's ambition to be a lawyer seemed
perfectly reasonable. He could be paid for arguing. Better than
a mattress tester."

"It was perfectly reasonable, sir," Jeanette said. "So was
his decision to switch to history."

Jeanette had found her name for Dad. Now, when he tells me
that I'm not enough help to Mom, or that "Getting home on time is
*your* responsibility, young lady. All that I can do to Terry is
to tell him that he cannot date my daughter," even I call Dad
"sir." During one of Bob's more argumentative stages, mom
suggested that he use it to show respect to Dad while still
disagreeing. Bob still uses it more than "Dad." Jeanette might
have the same problem with the word "Dad" that she had with
"Mom." She had no problem calling him by the same term Bob used.

Neither she nor Bob seemed to give the conversation the
attention it deserved. We all took the hint and dug in for a few

"Jeanette," I started off, "You've hit the job market most
recently. Do you have any hints for summer job seekers."

"I'm the worst person in the world for that. I worked in
The Pharmacy," her family's drug store, "but I never filled out
an application. Never filled out a W4, either."

"Seriously, Vi," Bob put in, "the first job that you should
think about is babysitter."

"Oh Bob!"

"Hear me out. After umpteen years, you have your office.
You have, however, neither a gray beard or a Viennese accent.
People are going to have you pigeon-holed, and kids are one of
those pigeon holes. It's no problem that they think that two X
chromosomes makes you an expert on kids. It is a problem if that
is your sole qualification.

"Even before that. When you study Ericsson, it might be
nice to have a few real kids in your head to hold up against his
theories. Now I watched a baby grow up...."

"And I watched a baby not grow up." That opening was too
good for me to ignore.

"But that doesn't count towards understanding normal
childhood." You can't get Bob's goat by attacking his
immaturity. He glories in it.

"Think about it, Vi," Jeanette broke in. "At least you'd
have job references when you apply for regular work." She didn't
sound happy.

"What's wrong, dear?" mom asked.

"I can't help comparing your family with what Dave did to

"Dave wasn't the only one," said Bob. "Can't we skip it?"

"No. We can't," said Dad. "You've said it yourself.
Jeanette is part of this family. You can't decide what she'll

"We'll both tell it," said Jeanette. "Well, I had been
going with Bob for a while when he showed up one night driving a
car. Dad said 'No way.' To be fair to Dad, he did drive us to
that dance. You remember that controversy. Freshman and
sophomore is one thing, fourteen and sixteen is another. Aside
from the new license thing. Then Greg, bless his pointy little
head, heard about it. 'A kid with a new driver's license lets
his parents drive him to dances just so he can take a particular
date? Must be serious.' Nobody else had noticed that. So Dave,
who never had a protective thought before or since, decided he
had an excuse to shove around a sophomore. Bob?"

"I'm leaving school Friday afternoon. This kid that I think
is a senior, ..."

"He was," said Jeanette. "He was just a senior the next
year, as well."

"Senior walks up to me and asks, 'Bob Brennan?' I agree.
'Well you'd better keep your paws off my sister's tits.' Jeanette
had never introduced us. I'd never seen him at home. It took
minutes to get straight that the sister in question was Jeanette.
At this point in history, Jeanette and I had one kiss per date,
goodbye, with mom or Dad watching.

"Anyway, being a wise ass in those days, ..." Dad cleared his
throat. "I decided to annoy this bully. 'Wait to worry about
that until she *has* some tits,' I said. He swung at me, I
blocked it, and a teacher intervened. I thought it was the end
of the incident."

Jeanette resumed. "Dave repeated about 300 percent of the
conversation to the dinner table. I held back my tears until I
got to my room, and then cried all night. I had recently
graduated from a training bra. My entire cheering section had
just abandoned me. That weekend was hell."

"I come to school wondering if this hood was really her
brother." Bob took up the tale. "She comes to school wondering
how I could have betrayed her. One minute into the conversation,
I see what I had done. I start to grovel. What can I say? 'I
really think that you have nice breasts,' isn't going to win me
any prizes either. We finally patched it up.

"Some months later, Dad gives lecture twelve-A: 'A man never
demeans his women-folk.' I stand there mentally kicking myself."

"I wish he had given it a little earlier," said Jeanette.

"He had. And a lot earlier. And later."

"The jawbone is so arranged," Dad said, "that opening the
mouth closes the ears." He's said that before, too. "I'm glad
that you have forgiven him. He didn't deserve it. If I had
known it then, he'd have had a turn over my knee."

"I was the injured party, sir, and I administered his
punishment." We all waited for details. "Which was private."

We moved to happier stories. My family enjoys talk as much
as food. A family feast sort of eases into a talkfest with
occasional nibbles. As one story was dying out, Jeanette touched
Bob. She nodded upward when he looked at her. They rose
together. I thought that they had some appointment with friends.
Instead they started stacking dishes. Bob moving left and
Jeanette right.

mom tried to protest, but they ignored her. They took the
dishes into the kitchen and we heard a rattle. Then we heard
nothing for about three more minutes. Jeanette looked a little
mussed on her next trip. After two more, she returned to the
table. "Does everybody want to keep their glasses?" At nods,
she sat down. "I cook," she said calmly, "Bob washes." Then she
rejoined the conversation.

It was beautifully done. They were not guests but part of
the family with contributions to make. They were, however, their
own family with their own task assignments. After a minute, I
surprised myself by getting up and going into the kitchen. I
helped Bob with the dishwasher and rescued Great-Grandma's plates
from the general stack. I washed those by hand. They were
Mother's treasures, due to be passed on to me. Bob, certainly,
was no fit recipient.

Then it struck me that Jeanette was. Jeanette, moreover,
was a housewife. Was I ever going to be? I planned on college,
med school, and residency. Then I would be very busy. Would I
give family dinners like Mom's? Would I have a family, husband
and children to gather around my table on holidays to feast off
these plates? Was I fooling myself about Terry? I could picture
myself as Mrs. Randolph. I could picture myself as Dr. Brennan.
I could not picture myself as Dr. Randolph, or even as Dr.
Brennan married to Terry.

I remembered something that mom had once said to Jeanette.
"We haven't a thing against *you*, dear. You are a wonderful
girl whom we wish Bob had met in *college*." High school
sweethearts get married all the time. How many of these couples
send the wife through medical school? And why hadn't this struck
me while I was centering my life around Terry?

Bob and I finished our jobs together. I guessed Jeanette's
plan. "Bob," I said just as he reached the doorway.

"Wha, mph," he said. The second was because Jeanette had
ambushed him while I had him distracted.

"I just wanted to warn you to look out for the mistletoe."
The doorway being occupied, I waited. It took a while.

The only light in the living room was the tree. I shut off
the dining room light on my way through and passed the other two.
Bob retaliated in the next doorway. mom and Dad had appropriated
the couch and its mistletoe. I took a chair and wondered how far
they would have let Terry and me go in this house of lovers.
Really, though, mom and Dad would not have cuddled in front of
Terry. Bob sat in the big recliner, and Jeanette sat on his lap.
I felt left out.

The lights from the tree bewitched us into the past and
"remember when." The first apology to Jeanette brought sincere
requests for more. "Bob never tells me this stuff."

Dad cannot live without the evening news. A little before
eleven he asked if anyone minded his turning on the set. Bob and
I knew that we were not anyone. Jeanette agreed that the
external world deserved some attention. mom excused herself to
head upstairs. I followed her and asked to talk. We went into
her and Dad's room.

"Have you ever considered leaving the good china to
Jeanette?" I started.

"No, dear, what makes you think I had?"

"Maybe you should. I was washing them."

"Thank you, dear, Bob means well but...."

"I was thinking the same thing. You were going to leave
them to me, and that ape wouldn't appreciate them anyhow. Then I
realized that Jeanette *would* appreciate them. And I realized
that she had a household and wondered whether I ever would. Then
I thought of all the years ahead. Then I saw that I had planned
two futures for myself and that I couldn't have both."

"Oh, my poor dear. I wasn't going to mention that yet." I
laughed. She was so sympathetic about it, but clearly had seen
my blind spot long ago. "I'm glad that you can see the funny
side, dear. But really, it's as foolish to choose too early as
too late.

"Do you think that I'm going to outgrow my interest in
psychoanalysis? Is that another of my blind spots?"

"If you continue to want this career, then your whole family
will back you. I sometimes worry that you have cut yourself too
narrow a path or that you have set yourself up for a fall. What
I fear is that something else will attract you, and you will tell
yourself that pursuing that will mean that you were foolish to
pursue this. Your brother thinks that you have committed to one
school of treatment without knowing enough about the others.
Sort of like cheering for the home team."

"I know, that's why he slipped Skinner in with the two
Freudian books." mom smiled at the idea of an anti-Freudian

"But," she continued, "the real crunch comes before your
career plans hit. We still think that we can cover tuition for
two kids out of income and a carpet. We well might have to go
more than three years, though. There is a market for dishes like
my grandmother's. Then we go the second mortgage route."

"Oh Mom!" I started to cry.

"But, dear, you were willing to give them up five minutes
ago. I never knew that they meant so much to you."

"They mean so much to *you*."

"Dear, the day your father and I decided to go for
togetherness instead of the brass ring," she meant stepping off
the corporate fast track, "that day I chose having my husband
with me above anything else that I could have. I swore then that
I would never put anything else ahead of you kids.

"We have each other. You are going out into the world. You
will go out with everything that we can give you. It's still
less than a division head would have given you painlessly.
Infinitely less than would have come to the children of a CEO.
We have our present happiness, you see. We need to give you the
best chance at yours."

"Oh Mom." We hugged for a while rather than say anything.
"A dad does count for something, too."

"Yes, dear, though there have been enough times when you
would have traded either of us for a doughnut. A husband,
however, is in a different category from a father. We picked
what was best for us, you two get anything left over. If he dies
tomorrow, I've had my share." She had forgotten for a moment
that if he were to die tomorrow, the money problem was solved.

We talked some more. Finally I asked, "Do you really want
to make Jeanette happy?"

"She seems happy to me."

"That's for real," I said. "Do you still want to tell me
that sex stays as good as you get older?"

"The physical side does. I had forgotten about the 'Oooo,
it's legal' syndrome." I had to giggle. "But what could I do to
make Jeanette happier?"

"Tomorrow, when it is time to set the table, call her and
tell her."

"You aren't trying to get out of work?"

"I'll come. She doesn't know where to get things, anyway.
But can't you see how she wants to be part of this family?" Dad
came in at that point, said something apologetic, and ducked back
out. I left immediately. "I'm sorry, Dad. It *is* your room."

"No problem."

Either Jeanette and Bob were finished when I got to my room,
or they had never begun. All I got through the wall was chit-

"Well, said Bob, "I would have told you before the next time
that I prefer dark meat. It was a lovely feast."

"Now where did I get the idea that you were a breast man?"

"In preference to thighs? I have a question, too."

"Uh huh?" Jeanette sounded sleepy.

"What was your punishment for my lapse."

"You never unhooked an A-cup bra from me. If you couldn't
notice the breasts that I had then, you could wait for them to
get a lot bigger."

"You mean that you'd be wearing a bra right now if you
hadn't grown?"

"Would you have wanted me if they hadn't grown?"

"Sure. I love your sexy shape, but I loved *you* first."

"For that, I may just forgive you."

"How about for that and a song?"

"Silent Night?"

"Can't be silent if I sing. How about:

"Bob loves Jeanette, Bob loves Jeanette...." I crept away.
Bob's singing has that effect.

Jeanette thought that dying was the best way to lose her
love for Bob. For Bob!! mom felt that having her husband with
her was all she deserved for a successful battle through a tough
life. Dad must have felt the same way about her, they don't make
that sort of decision alone. Bob loved Jeanette more than her
boobs. I had seen those magazines they joke about; Bob cares
about boobs.

I was surrounded by examples of love. Terry was coming over
the next day. I didn't think that we met the standard. In a
way, it would have been better if we had broken up. I still
liked Terry. Jeanette was right, he was a nice guy suffering
from an oversupply of hormones. I could understand that; my
glands were pushing me, too. I liked him, I had been in love
with him, I liked how I felt in his arms. However, when I
thought of life after Terry, I thought of social drawbacks. I
failed the Jeanette test. Heck, I probably failed the *Bob*

I was mourning a relationship that I had thought I had, but
which had never really existed. Mourning an illusion is probably
bad practice for a future psychoanalyst. Sleep, on the other
hand, was a real need.

Part 3

I awoke early to strange sounds from outside. I looked out
the window on a coating of snow. More than an inch had fallen,
and the lawn looked puffy and magical. Traffic, however, had
practically stopped. It was two years since the last snowfall,
which had closed the schools. I got on my robe and slippers and
crept downstairs. mom was up and was mixing pancake batter. Dad
was upstairs showering. I started the coffee and then made the
second batch of pancakes. mom got to sit across from Dad for
breakfast instead of cooking. Dad got two kisses on his way out
the door.

"Why thank you dear," mom said when the van had driven out
of our sight.

"I was awake. I'll just eat and go back to bed," I replied.
I did that after looking again at the white world. I finished
the Patricia Phillips, dozed, went back to the psychology book,
and dozed again. There were stirrings in the next room.

"Coffee!" Bob said a little later, "and look out the

There was a long pause before Jeanette said, "It's snowing!"

"Finished snowing, but the world is covered with the stuff.
We're snowed in and there is nothing to do but go back to bed
until spring."

"We could go out an throw snowballs. When was the last time
you threw a snowball?"

"Back when I had that bed to myself. Staying in bed wasn't
as much fun then."

"You claimed that you had Jeanette Jacobs there with you."
Whoops. I would have noticed. She, having been Jeanette Jacobs,
would have noticed, too.

"Every night." Okay. "But Jeanette Brennan is warmer, and
more imaginative, and stays around in the light, and is more...."

"Fertile," said Jeanette. Doors opened and closed. After a
long pause, they opened and closed again. "What are you doing on
that side?" she asked.

"Merely keeping it warm for my beloved."

"Mmm. Even your hands are warm."

"Cold heart."

"Did you really lie here and dream of me?"

"Real dreams and day dreams. Dreamed of holding you like

"Did you dream of kissing here?"

"Mmm, yes. Mmmm, yes!"

"And holding here?"

"Oh yes love. Every night! Oh you are so sweet."

"And of my holding you like this."

"Not really. Never in my wildest.... Oh Darling, sweet,

"And dream of my saying 'yes' as you climbed over me?"

"Yes, Love."

"Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes to you, and yes to this, and Yesss!"

The bed took up a slow rhythm, and Jeanette's humming-
moaning matched it. My strokes were in time with them. Bob
began to say "Love, love," in the same tempo. I thought that we
would all arrive together.

"Vi, dear," mom called up the stairs. "Are you up?" Not
quite, but I was close. The sounds in the next room stopped. I
didn't want them to know that I was there.

"Phone call for Vi!" My mother practices on a grade-school
playground. One small house can't compete.

"Coming Mom! Give me a minute to find my robe." I hope
that I gave a good imitation of being roused from sleep. I went
down the stairs in my slippers and got the phone. It was Terry.

"The streets are clearing up Vi. Is it all right if I come
over at one?"

"What time is it now?"

"Eleven thirty. Is it a bad time?" Well, yes it was; but I
didn't want to tell him why.

"No. I was just reading and dozing. You know." He didn't
know. Terry reads, it's one of the things we have in common; but
when he reads, he sits down and works at it. I lie down and
wallow in the print.

"Do you want me to make it later?" Was it going to be the
end of us as a couple? Then next month sounded better. No. I
wanted the decision to be over.

"One o'clock is fine. But be careful driving."

"Okay then. I love you, Vi."

I hung up. I didn't want to deal with the last sentence.

I helped mom set up for lunch. We sure had a lot of
leftovers, considering that Bob had been in the house for three

Bob wandered in, fully dressed. I served him his first
helping of pancakes and went up to dress. I didn't see Jeanette
until I came down again. She looked a little guilty. As the
guilty party, I managed to look quite innocent. mom and I had
lunch, Jeanette had breakfast, Bob had both.

I let time get away from me, and was surprised when Terry

By the time I got my coat and Terry's present, Bob was
holding the driver's side door for me. As I got in, he said
something about a railroad car. Then he ran back, coatless in
the chill.

"What are you doing on that side?" I asked Terry.

"He ordered me to. What have you told him?"

"Absolutely nothing, but I haven't exactly been a little ray
of sunshine the last few days. If I'd told him, he'd have
invited you *out* of the car."

"Look, Vi, I didn't mean it."

"You *did* mean it. The only question is, 'Do you mean it?'
Maybe you want to think about that."

"I have thought about it. I want you to be my girl. Is it
wrong to want you in the other way, too?"

"Absolutely not." His head jerked up at that. "Do you want
me in your arms? Do you want to lie naked next to me touching
from head to toe? Do you want to kiss me all over? Do you want
to cradle me with your arms while I cradle you with my legs?" I
sneaked a look at his lap, but the car coat covered everything.
*I* was getting turned on. "Do you want to help me to orgasm at
the same time you have your own? Women have orgasms, too, you
know. Do you want to lie holding me and being held, in a warm
glow of love, afterwards?" Those bodice-rippers were coming in

"Or," I continued, "do you want to check one more box on
your macho list? Driver's license? Check! Screwed first girl?

"Which is it, Terry?"

"God, Vi." He had a point. He'd hurt me deeply, and I was
taking revenge. "Do I want to make love? Yes. And not just for
some macho check-list. People have a drive to do it, Vi. There
wouldn't be any people if it wasn't a drive.

"Do I want to make love to you? More than just doing it?
Very much yes. You're special to me. I thought I was special to
you. I thought that we were headed in that direction. Maybe we
were. Maybe I blew it. I dunno."

Terry had always been honest with me. It shook me that he
still was. I had had one picture of Terry, and he'd shattered
it. I'd built another picture, and he shattered it again. I
think that my answer to "I only want you in the whole world; I'm
willing to wait forever for you to decide," would have been to
break it off right then. Maybe not. But one point needed

"Look, we were headed in two directions. Forget us. Every
couple in school is headed in two directions.

"You're right. We were getting closer to bed. We were also
getting closer to a wedding." He looked surprised, then started
to speak. I pressed my finger on his lips. He kissed it and
shut up. Either of us could do that to finish an idea before the
other speaks. Terry was still in the same relationship, but it
was too late for me to stop. "I *don't* want a stupid promise.
That isn't my point.

"You can take me to every dance from now to the Senior Prom.
We can park and make out every night." Not if my folks had
anything to say about it, but he got the point. "At the end of
that time, I *won't* say to you, 'Where's my engagement ring?'
That's the end of that path, but it's the end.

"By the same token, I can dance every dance with you. I can
park in your car for hours. I can do everything-else-but. That
doesn't mean that I'll take the last step.

"Neither is leading the other on. For that matter, you
might propose, and I refuse. I might proposition and you

"Not very likely!"

"Not very likely, but boys have refused girls before. What
I'm saying is that I'm not making any guarantees. I like what we
were. I like you for that matter. I like you a little less than
I did on Sunday, but not much less. But kissing you for x number
of dates isn't a promise that I'll go to bed with you on the
next, or even go one step further than I have.

"If that isn't good enough, then we aren't going steady. I
still like you, and I like it that you're honest with me. I
won't stop dating if you don't want to. You can also ask other
girls. My mother will demand that I stop going steady if we need
to save face that way." Terry looked up at that. "All I ask is
that you be honest with me."

"I love you, Vi." No he didn't, but neither was he lying.
He hadn't heard Jeanette. "I want to go steady with you. I want
to keep what we had, even if it means that we don't go any
further, even though that means that I don't go any further."
What can you say to a guy like that?

"Terry, you are a very nice person. Let's go steady." He
grinned at that. "Anyway, do you want your present now?" He
handed me mine, and I handed him his. Mine was a very nice
scarf, in excellent taste if not especially me. His was a
cartridge that he had been wanting for his game machine. I
looked at his face. "I have the receipt if you want to exchange

"No. I'll return the other. I haven't opened it yet."
Okay, sometimes he lies to me, but only to be nice.

"The scarf is absolutely lovely." A snowball hit the car at
that moment. Bob and Jeanette were having a snowball fight with
what remained of the melting snow. "Keep your kiss brief. Bob
seems to be in a protective mood."

He hadn't expected the kiss. It was nice, forgiveness
rather than passion. Bob was staring straight at us. Passion
seemed out of place.

I went inside and straight to my room. For some reason, the
doll on my dresser caught my eye. It was the one I had thrown
against the wall half my life ago. She had never been a favorite
doll, partly because she always made me feel guilty. However, I
could never quite bring myself to shut her away in a box or give
her to be repaired and passed on to some poor kid. While the
dolls that I had enjoyed most went those routes, she stayed on
the dresser with her arm almost in its socket.

I looked out the window before collapsing on my bed. What
had been magic frosting on the yard this morning had turned into
tracked-over, patchy, slush.

Ten minutes later there was a knock on my door. "Do you
want to talk, dear?"

"Come in." She sat where I patted the bed. I am too big to
sit in Mom's lap, but my head fits there still. "Don't want to
talk." She sat there with one hand on my forehead. So I finally
said, "This is what Terry gave me."

"Why dear, that's beautiful."

"Terry has no taste."

"I think that this shows excellent taste."

"It does."

"Oh my!"

"Did you ever buy Bob's presents to Jeanette?"

"I don't think so. That was a part of Bob's life that he
kept very private. At first, we drove them to dances and movies;
then I saw Jeanette about twice in two years. Heard about her,
of course. 'I've got to watch the track meet, Jeanette's
running,' and borrowing the car for dates. Anyway, Terry asked
for advice about your present. Is that so awful?"

"It's not Terry. It's Jeanette."

"My dear, I thought you got along so well too."

"We do. But Jeanette's in love."

"Well, stop the presses!" mom uses the funniest expressions
some times.

"If Jeanette's in love, then I'm not." Which was a silly
thing to say. If she's not in love, I'm certainly not.

"I wouldn't put it that way. You're in love with Terry.
Jeanette loves Bob. It's different."

"Once you say that you're in love with him but don't love
him, are you still in love?"

"I see the problem. Have you broken up with him?"

"No. We're going steady for now. There's no one I'd rather
be with. I *like* Terry. He is really a nice guy."

"Well, the kids are out visiting their friends for a few
hours. If you want company, I'll be writing thank-you notes."

I stayed in my room, reading and brooding until I heard mom
call, "Jeanette, dear, do you think that you might set the
table?" That was not what I'd told her to say. I washed my face
before going down. When I got to the kitchen mom and Jeanette
were hugging each other. It was just as well that mom had
changed the script; I wouldn't want dinner to get burned.
Jeanette came out in time to set the last place. Afterwards, she
dragged me into the living room.

"If I'm not intruding," she started. "Heck, I am intruding.
If you want to tell, how did it go with Terry?"

"Fine. We are going steady for now."

"For your now, or for his now?" Jeanette has a way of
cutting to the heart of a situation.

"For our now. I'm dealing with my third Terry. It's okay,
I'm a Brennan, I prefer reality."

"Much as I love being a Brennan, I wouldn't list dealing
with reality among the family's virtues. But I see what you
mean. You know, I wouldn't love Bob if I thought he could sing."

"You love him because he can't sing?" And where did
"unconditional" fit in there?

"No. No. No! Bob can't sing. If I thought he could, it
wouldn't be love."

"Do you remember the first gift he bought you."

"I still have the bottle. It was perfume."

"Nice perfume?"

"No. I think he had only so much money and went for the
prettiest or largest perfume package that it would buy. My
mother poured it down the sink when she saw it among my things.
I had to save the bottle from the wastebasket. I never forgave
Mommy for that. It wasn't as if I had been going to wear it, you
know. I would never have opened that gift and let it evaporate.

"Look, Vi, Terry isn't Bob. Violet isn't Jeanette. You
have your own life to lead. It may be with Terry, it may be with
somebody else. You may decide that you have priorities ahead of

"Was I the last to see that?"

"See what?"

"That studying to be a psychoanalyst and high-school romance
don't... don't...."

"Aren't compatible?"


"I'm not sure that romance is incompatible with study,
except you can't work at both at the same time. The other
question is where the romance is going to lead. That is where
the teeth bite."

"I can either be Dr. Brennan or Mrs. Randolph."

"Maybe. Or you can pull a Bob and decide for another career
four years from now. Or you can become Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Jones.
You have many possible futures. Sometime you'll have to close
the doors on some in order to open the doors on others. Cross
each of those bridges when you come to it."

"Have you been talking to mom about me?"

"No. Why?"

"She said almost the same thing."

"That's the nicest thing that you could possibly say about

At this point we heard Bob coming downstairs. "Is anyone
going to tell me why I played the heavy to that poor kid?" he
asked us.

"No," said Jeanette.

"What did you say about railroad cars?" I asked.

"'Couldn't he find a railroad car?' Bob said. "I thought
you guys were negotiating an armistice. Elephant's Child is
going to dig and dig."

"Once upon a time," Jeanette said, "there was a man who
promised his God to honor me. Since I have promised my sister to
keep her secrets, my honor lies in their staying secret. To dig
after those secrets is to dishonor me."

"Arrghh. You two are sisters?"


"Does that make this incest?" Her reaction to Bob's kiss
passed from a surprise to an enthusiastic embrace. Jeanette was
pressing herself against him. Being ignored, I moved to the side
and glanced down. Squeezed between them was Bob's erection. I
seriously considered finding some privacy. They parted a few

"Nope," said Jeanette, "for incest, you'll have to wait till
tonight." Bob laughed. Dad came through the door. It was time
for dinner.

"What," I asked during dinner, "does an armistice have to do
with railroad cars?"

Dad, rather than Bob, answered me. "The armistice of the
First World War was negotiated in a sleeping car." I looked at

"Esoteric?" he asked.

"Very!" Jeanette said. Then we had to explain how the
question had arisen.

Some time after dinner, Greg called up. He was heading back
to his base and wanted to see Jeanette (and us) again. Dad
invited him immediately. We all went to the entrance hall to
greet him, and I happened to be standing in the doorway to the
living room when he came in. He caught me under the mistletoe
again. This time, his kiss was on the lips and lasted longer.

I offered Greg something to eat. He replied that he had
just eaten but would take a cup of coffee if any were made.
Jeanette giggled with Bob, but that was too common an occurrence
to get anyone's attention. I brought him a cup.

Even in civilian clothes, he was as charming as before.
Kiss or no, he still called me "Ma'am."

The conversation got back to his family.

"Now," Greg said, "Dad had the same conclusion from
different premises. Jeanette was his girl. She was never going
to leave him but stay and be the light of his old age. Also, he
wanted The Pharmacy to stay in the family. They had finally seen
that I was not coming home. If Dave so much as shows up on the
payroll, the DEA will audit the prescriptions on a weekly basis.
So Jeanette should have married someone with training to be a

"Aren't those goals," I ventured, "a little incompatible?"

"Ma'am, 'incompatible goals' are my father's middle names.
When I was young, he caught the political bug and went all out
supporting a man who was going to cut taxes, maintain the safety
net, increase Pentagon spending and balance the budget. Four
years later, with the debt doubled, he was nearly as enthusiastic
for the second campaign which had the slogan, 'And this time I
mean it.' Compatible goals are not one of his strengths."

Would he laugh as much at me for wanting to be two
incompatible things? I hope not. I sat there, ignoring the
conversation around me, playing with my problem.

"The Twerp," Greg was saying when I listened again, "is her
own person. She isn't going to satisfy their dreams. Punishing
her for what she isn't was vicious. And viciousness towards
anyone but a declared enemy is stupid."

I thought again of the doll in my room. She wasn't a real
person, but still I had been vicious towards her. I had reacted
to what she wasn't. Was I treating Terry the same way? A little
bit. If I would never want his penis in my vagina, and I didn't
think I would, I had enjoyed his tongue in my mouth. I was a
different person because of Terry, I had grown. If we didn't go
much further together, I should treat him well for the good
friend he had been. I shouldn't beat him over the head for what
he wasn't. Greg was still talking when I reopened my ears.

"Now, my connection here is so tenuous that I'm less a
visitor than an intruder..." Everyone denied that. "... but I
feel more welcome here than I do in the house where I grew up."

"You do our house honor," said Dad.

"Sir, I'd rather drink coffee here!" At that point, Bob and
Jeanette broke up, and our smooth guest looked flustered indeed.

mother laughed. "I gather that my coffee doesn't achieve
Naval quality."

"I'm not sure that 'Navy coffee' and 'quality' belong in the
same sentence, Ma'am. It's possible that you brew coffee under
Navy strength. I really meant to compliment the warmth of your
welcome, and I stepped in it."

"We'll take the compliment as intended," said Mom.
"Jeanette, why didn't you tell me?"

"People like it different strengths," said Jeanette. "Bob
can't drink my strength coffee without drowning it in milk. Why
should four people change to suit one?" She was being defensive.
Guests don't express opinions as to how food should be prepared.
Family members do.

"You know," I said slowly, "we have those vacuum jugs. You
or Bob could pour what is in the pot into one jug. Then a fresh
pot could go into another just for you." This was brilliant
thinking for right off the top of my head, if I do say so myself.
Of course, I had the day to figure it out; but nobody else knew

"That is thinking, Vi," said Bob.

"I'm glad somebody was," said Dad.

"Yes sir," said Bob.

Greg ended his visit. I happened to be under the mistletoe
in the doorway again. Greg was a good kisser; sincerity is
overrated. His hand flowed smoothly down my back, my arm moved
slowly backward. Just as his hand reached my waist, my arm
pushed it away. Jeanette gave a shrill whistle a second later.
"Motion in backfield," she called. We broke apart, laughing. He
put on his coat and left us.

"We were *both* practicing," I told Jeanette. She looked
unrepentant. You'd think that she, of all people, would have
more sympathy. It was my fifth kiss in four days, including one
each from my father and brother. She'd had more than that before
breakfast on Christmas.

Bob cracked a big yawn soon after. "My bedtime," he said.
He and Jeanette went up the stairs.

I was about to follow when Dad called, "Vi." I looked at
him. "The three of us haven't spent much family time this
Christmas. There is a special on TV. Watch it and the news with
your parents." I looked at him unbelieving. Dad has never
suggested that I watch *more* TV. "Vi, sit here." He patted the
cushion beside him.

"Yessir" I said as I sat.

The special included a lot of stupid cartoon characters. We
weren't interacting, we weren't obviously enjoying the show. We
were all sitting on one sofa looking at the flickering screen.
After a while, another sound intruded on the TV's. It was a
regular squeaking, but I couldn't identify it. "He did ask for
the throw rug," mom said.

"He also said that it was to warm their feet," Dad replied.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw them holding hands and looking
at each other. Great. We were having family time watching a
stupid cartoon, and they weren't even watching.

The comment about the throw rug clued me in. Dad and mom
had an armless rocking chair in their room which sits on a throw
rug. Bob had borrowed both. The regular squeaking must be the
chair rocking back and forth. It seemed louder. mom giggled,
and Dad hugged her. He kissed her forehead.

The rocker was moving faster now. mom giggled again, and
Dad chuckled. It was a particularly evil chuckle. I pictured
Bob in the rocker. Then I pictured both Bob and Jeanette in the

I blushed, but no one was paying me the least attention.
Even so, I gripped the arm of the couch to keep my hand out of my
lap. The rocker speeded again. I thought that I heard Jeanette
cry out. Dad hugged mom tighter. The squeaking became
irregular. Jeanette did cry out. mom sighed. I blushed more

I sat there feeling very lonely.
The End
Uther Pendragon
This is one of a series of stories about the Brennans.

The next story in the series is:
tuit.txt "Fortuitous"

The first story in the series is:
forever.txt "Forever"

The directory to the entire series is:
For a non-Brennan story centered on a teenager, see:
april.txt "April's First"

The directory to all my stories can be found at:


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