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The Garden


The attached work of fiction is intended to be entertainment for adults in
locations in which it is legal. If it is illegal in your location, DO NOT
read. This is a copyrighted work. Reposting or any other use strictly
prohibited without the express, written permission of the copyright holder,
except may by posted as part of a review or posted to free-access,
non-commercial archive sights.

Copyright 1999 by E. Z. Riter.

E-mail address:

Please! Give me your comments!

Dear Reader, This a plain vanilla, male-female romance. Enjoy. E.Z.


Finally. The first warm day of spring. And, it was a Saturday. I was
eager to work the garden Barbara and I had planted and tended together. My
work would be a labor of love, preparing the flower beds for planting. The
smells of the rich earth, the feel of the dirt in my hands, the warmth of
the sun on my back, were healing and reinvigorating.

Barbara was thirty-one and I was twenty-three when we married. My
friends thought I was crazy for marrying an older woman. Barbara's
eleven-year-old daughter, Vicki, was additional evidence of my insanity as
far as my friends could see. But I could see much farther. I saw in
Barbara what I hoped for in a wife.

I lost Barbara to a drunk driver. I retreated to our garden to maintain
my sanity. The beauty, the order, of the plants were stabilizing. The new
growth gave me hope my life could again be filled with beauty.

As I lugged the tools from my storeroom, I thought of Barbara. As I
carried the sacks of mulch from the car, my eyes teared. Barbara would
have been appalled by those tears. She was probably sitting on the white
cloud hovering over me, watching as I leaned on the handle of my spade in
disconsolation. I could see her head gently shaking back and forth in a
silent 'tsk tsk'.

"Jack," she would say, a hand lifting my chin to make me look at her.
"Life goes on. You need to live each day to the fullest, to relish its
beauty and uniqueness. No pity parties. No gloomy Guses. Come on, Jack.
Get on with your living."

Yes, Barbara would say that. She faced more than one loss with grace
and serenity I envied. Barbara would be right. It had been seventeen
months since she died. It was time to stop grieving and get on with

Saying it is a lot easier than doing it. I had told myself a hundred
times to start anew, but my own advice fell on sterile soil. Maybe it was
the passage of time. Or, maybe it was the spring season when life is
renewed. I knew now was the time to start. I shoved the spade into the
heavy soil, driving the blade deep with my foot. I turned the first shovel
full. I began.

By two thirty, the sun was high overhead. The temperature had soared.
My muscles moved easily in the hot sun beating down. Sweat poured from me,
its residue prickling my skin. By evening, those muscles would be sore.
In spite of jogging and gym time, some muscles always ached from the hard
toil of spring.

Dirt streaked my sweat covered body. Dressed only in shorts and
sneakers, I was on my hands and knees. The earth felt good. I was lost in
the reverie of the gardener, communing with nature a handful of soil at a

A shadow passed over me. Ten pink toes sticking from the thongs of
sandals came into view. I fought to still a quiver as I sat back on my
haunches, hands on my thighs. My eyes slowly traveled over the shapely
calves to long, muscular thighs. Perhaps for too long, my eyes hesitated
where thighs widened into hips covered by brown shorts. Continuing past
the narrow waist, I lingered on the swelling under her bright green halter.
I finished my visual journey staring into twinkling, big, brown eyes over a
grin bordered by dimples.

"Hello, Jack."

"Hi, Beth. Join me. Please."

Gracefully, she knelt and leaned forward to be kissed. She always did
that, offering a cheek to me in greeting. The angle was askew: our lips
touched. We each looked away, but not before our eyes had met for an

"It's good to see you," she said, a small catch in her voice.

"I've missed you," escaped from me. I looked away quickly. "Vicki's
not here. She went to the mall."

"I knew she'd be gone. She told me you were starting on your garden. I
came to help."

"All the way from college to spend spring break working like a Turk. It
doesn't sound very appealing."

What did she not say? What was the look she gave me? That look
evaporated like my sweat on this hot day, leaving a residue which prickled
my imagination. She was grinning when she answered.

"Hey! Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. I'm a good worker."

"Well, put on some work gloves and let's get after it," I replied, my
own smile matching hers.

Beth was my step-daughter's best friend and college roommate. She was
fifteen six years ago when she arrived at our house for a party. Even that
first time, I noticed her. Those big, brown, eyes and warm, quick, smile
drew my attention. Beth had an easy way about her, as though being happy
and positive was so embedded in the core of her personality, no other
emotion was possible.

As the girls grew, Beth was a frequent visitor to our home, spending
almost as much time there as Vicki. Barbara welcomed Beth with open arms.
I, too, developed a caring relationship with Beth. I told myself we were
like father and daughter. I resisted the thought of a different
relationship, which sometimes required conscious effort.

As we worked and talked, my mind's eye suffered from double vision.
Beth and the present overlaid memories of the past which flowed like a
disjunctive home movie. A party Barbara and I chaperoned when the girls were sophomores in high school. Trips to the beach. Quiet evenings in
winter by the fire, all of us bundled for warmth.

There were sad memories, too. Memories of life after Barbara. Without
being asked, Beth moved into the house, occupying the guest bedroom. What
needed to be done, she did with a quiet and loving competence. She
listened and consoled. After living with us for four months, she left as
unobtrusively as she came.

When she left, I was surprised how much I missed her. There had been
nothing sexual between us, but our relationship had deepened. Since that
time I talked to her often. I must admit I sometimes called Vicki at
school hoping Beth would answer. With each call, each visit when the girls came home, our relationship ripened.

I had been blinded by grief to the loving woman near me. The sunlight
of that bright spring day pushed away the shadows letting me see clearly,
maybe for the first time.

She was on her knees, legs spread for leverage. Her brown hair was
piled on her head, secured by a blue and white bandana. She was valiantly
pulling on the stump of a dead bush to extricate it from the soil. Holding
it with both hands, she was wisely using her legs and shoulders to pull. I
could see her muscles flexing under sweat-sheened skin. Her muscles
stopped and she was looking at me.

"Are you going to watch me or help me?" she asked.


I was shaken back into the present. Beth had a soft, gentle expression
as she stared at me over her shoulder. Perhaps it would have been easier
for her to turn her body. My view was certainly better with her turning
the way she did.

"Well, Jack?" she said.

A wise gardener would have used a shovel to cut the bush's roots below
the surface, making the task much easier and quicker. A wise man would
have knelt in the soil to be next to Beth. I knelt. Dirt covered her
calves. Her thighs were streaked with the same brown color. There was a
smudge on her cheek where she wiped sweat away with her dirty glove.

A rivulet of sweat slid down her throat, caressing the mound of her
breast before disappearing into the halter. Beth watched me watching her.

Kneeling now, facing her, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the sheer
feminine attractiveness of this woman. As I leaned toward her, she moved
to meet me. I saw her lips part and her eyelids flutter. Our lips touched
in a soft and gentle kiss so electrifying I twitched all over. When my
eyes opened again, she was still leaning forward, her eyes closed, a
sensual expression on her face. Her eyes opened dreamily.

"Maybe I should get the sharpshooter to cut the roots," I said.

"Maybe," she replied in a low, husky tone. "Or, maybe we can dig it out
with our hands."

Working in the dirt around the dead and forlorn shrub, we used our hands
to scoop away the soil, to pull out the roots. No speech was necessary.
Four hands worked as one to slowly free the bush from its death trap. We
sometimes touched, bumping into each other: a thigh against a thigh, a hip
against a side, an arm touching a back.

I could smell her. She smelled of light perfume and natural womanly
odor heightened by her sweat. Her sweat was sweet, unlike my own. It was
fragrance spewed by a flower: alluring, appealing. I could hear her ragged
breath when she struggled: a little grunt, sometimes a "humph," as she
worked the soil. Heat radiated from her. Not just physical heat or
reflection of the day's glorious sun, it was energy, a magnetic field
drawing me to her.

"Okay. It's loose enough. Let's pull it out," I said.

Shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, we each took a handhold on the
dead bush. Moving as one, we pulled, our muscles straining. The roots
gave with a pop. Beth squealed as we fell back together. She landed on
her back. I fell over her. I gazed into her face, seeing a twinkle and
the tip of a pink tongue snake between her lips. I bent to kiss her. Her
arms went around me, holding me to her.

We kissed, slowly, deeply, powerfully. Her breasts were against my
chest. Her hands stroked my back. Again, I brought my lips toward hers.

"Am I interrupting anything?" Vicki's sharp voice rang out.

I jumped, landing a yard away, feeling like a child caught in the candy
jar. Beth quickly sat up, trying to straighten her appearance. She hoped
her blush would disappear before it was seen, but that was not to be.

Vicki laughed. It was not a girlish giggle. She guffawed. Beth
twittered, covering her mouth with her dirty gloves, smearing her face with
a brown hue. I had to laugh, too. We stood and began brushing the dirt
from our bodies. It was a lost cause.

"Here. You need this for more than one reason," Vicki said.

"No, Vicki!" Beth screamed as the stream of water hit her full force.

Using her thumb to create a biting blast, Vicki relentlessly sprayed
Beth who danced and twisted under the stinging water. Beth's halter and
shorts were quickly saturated. Magically, the cotton molded to her shape,
treating me to a delicious sight. I was watching Beth when Vicki decided
it was my turn. The water was icicles hitting my overheated skin. In
spite of the distractions, I saw Beth watching me. She had a sensuous
gleam in her eyes.

With a tackle an All-American would be proud of, Beth drove Vicki into
the mound of dirt piled by the beds. Except the pile was not dirt. It was
mulch mixed with composted sheep droppings. Or, as Vicki shouted, "Beth,
this is shit."

Laughing and teasing, the girls struggled to stand in the loose pile.
Without pretense (can one be dignified when covered in manure?), they hosed
each other off. Arm in arm, they went into the house to shower. They
needed it. They neither looked nor smelled like ladies at that moment.

I cleaned up the mess we made and put away the tools. It had been a
long day of work. But it had been a delightful day. I realized how much I
enjoyed being with Beth. I was thinking of her in a way I had never
allowed myself before this spring day. To say my thoughts were salacious
would be an understatement.

After my shower, I slipped into shorts and a pull over shirt. When I
went downstairs, Vicki and Beth were talking on the couch. They stopped
when I entered, following me with their eyes.

Vicki was wearing a blouse and skirt, I think. Beth was wearing one of
Vicki's cotton sleep shirts, the kind which hangs to the knees. It was the
blue one with the red piping. She was to Vicki's left, legs tucked under
her. Her hair, still damp, lay on her shoulders. Her eyes were soft, like
twinkling stars. Her smile held a secret.

"Well, Jack, you wore out poor Beth. If you don't mind, she wants to
stay here while I hit the hot spots."

"Mind? No. Are you sure, Beth?" I asked, looking at her.

"Yes. I'm sure," she replied.

Her voice was soft was a hint of a promise. Her smile was loving, her
eyes hot. Our eyes met and held. A tingle went down my shoulder, racing
to my fingertips. They were twitching when Vicki cleared her throat.

"Well, I see neither of you'll mind if I leave now," she said

"No. Go ahead," Beth and I replied in unison before laughing
self-consciously at our eager anticipation of Vicki's departure.

"Dad, can I talk to you?" Vicki said with a faux lightness as she headed
toward the door.

I followed her. Calling me "Dad" meant she had something important to
discuss. Normally, she called me by my name. On the front steps, she took
my hands in hers. I felt her nail points dig into my palms.

"She loves you. She loves you very much. And...."

The serious expression gave way to a mischievous twinkle.

"If something happens, you have my blessing. You would have Mom's, too,
I know."

"Nothing will happen," I assured her.

She snickered.

"Oh, Jack, you're going to get laid tonight."

A quick laugh, a peck on the cheek and she was gone, leaving me in the
quiet of a spring evening. The air was crisp and clean. The stars were
particularly brilliant in the calmness. I was euphoric, every nerve
poised, every sense alert.

When I returned to the house, Beth was in the kitchen. The bread was in
the toaster. The smell of ham came from the frying pan. She was humming
to herself as she cracked eggs into a small bowl by the sink.

As I watched her, I realized how I had missed having a loving woman in
my home. More than that, I realized how much I had missed Beth with her
dancing eyes and smiling face and, most importantly, kind and loving heart.
"Do you like watching me?" she asked softly, her back toward me.

She was still, poised for my answer. Balanced on one foot with the toes
of the other pressed into the floor, she turned her head slightly to better
hear me.


It was all I needed to say. I saw the corner of her lips turn up in a
smile. She turned back to dinner, her humming just a little louder.
Dinner was a lively affair. We gorged, replenishing our bodies after a
hard day. We laughed and talked. We shared. We finished with a glass of
wine as I did the dishes.

"What will you plant where we dug out that dead bush?" she asked as she
stood sipping the wine.

"I've always wanted a rose bush, a Queen Elizabeth rose. It's
beautiful, with a large, pink blossom. The scent is mild, but definitely
rose. Besides, I like the name."

"That sounds nice. Can I help you plant her?"

"That sounds very nice," I replied.

Somewhere in the very special time between Vicki's departure and that
moment, apprehensions had left me. Beth sensed it. She set the wine glass
on the table. She offered her hand. When I took it, she winced. Then, I
saw the blisters her hard work had raised.

"Labors of love cause pain sometimes," she said softly. "I don't mind.
Love is worth it."

I kissed her, a soft, loving kiss. An anticipatory grin crossed her
face. Without a word, she led me up the stairs. At the entrance to the
bedroom, she stopped abruptly. I bumped into her.

"Second thoughts?" I asked, my heart in my throat. She turned in my

"Never!" she whispered.

She kissed me then, hot, hard, demanding, her body crushed into mine.
She stepped away, holding my hands.

"Come on, Jack. I've waited long enough."

Brightness and heat. Ferocity and gentleness. Lost in passions, we
began that deepest of all relationships until we lay spent, our bodies
entwined, her head on my chest.

"Jack," she whispered. "When it's time, I want to bloom from your

"That sounds wonderful," I replied before I kissed her again.

We had drifted to sleep when I heard the front door closing. Beth
stirred against me. We listened Tto the footsteps coming up the stairs and
down the hall. They stopped outside my bedroom door.

"Goodnight, Vicki," I said.

"Goodnight, Jack," was the soft reply from the hall.


"Goodnight, Beth," Vicki sang out.

We heard her chortling as she went down the hall to her room.

The End

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