Free Story: Thy Neighbor’s Wife
Thy Neighbor’s Wife
Sicklerville, New Jersey
“You should taste my pussy,” Nicole said. “It’s really good.”
Benjamin took the phone away from his ear and frowned at it as if Nicole could see him over the wireless connection. Then he placed it back against his ear and said, “Oh, is that right?”
Nicole breathed out a sexy, “Mmm-hmm.”
“Is that what you’re doing right now – tasting it? Do you taste yourself?”
“I do all the time, Ben. I love the way I taste. But not right now…in the tub…soapy water…Mmm…”
“But you’re touching yourself?” Just the idea of his beautiful next door neighbor in her tub pleasuring herself got a rise out of him. Benjamin felt pressure down below as his boxer-briefs suddenly became snug.
“I have to touch myself when I think about you, Ben. I’ve been doing it for as long as we’ve been neighbors – what, two years now?”
“You sure it wasn’t Denzel or Idris Elba or somebody you were thinking about?”
“No baby…just you…and okay, Don Cheadle…Mmm…”
“I like soft-spoken men. Like Don. And you.”
“Do you know why, Ben?”
“Tell me why, Nicole.”
“Because soft-spoken men know what they can do. They don’t need to brag – to talk themselves up. You’re silent…and oh…so…deadly…Mmm…”
Benjamin said “I see,” again. He didn’t know what else to say to Nicole’s statement.
“So Ben…what are your plans for tonight?”
“Just watching the game.”
“Chicago and Minnesota?”
“Boring. What if I came over with a bottle of wine and wearing nothing but a football jersey? Do you think I’d be able to distract you from the game?”
“Nicole, Marcus is a friend of mine.”
“Is that right?”
“You know it is.”
“Ben, Marcus and I have been separated for eight months. When did you last see him?”
“Right before that, I guess.”
“And when did you last talk to him?”
“I don’t know; probably a few days before he moved out.”
“And you call that a friend?”
“But I know him.” Benjamin was trying to make an argument when he knew the opposing view was more accurate. Even when Marcus lived next door they hadn’t been that tight. Other than coming over to one another’s cribs to catch a game once in a blue moon, they didn’t hang out. In fact, now that he thought about it, most of their conversations over the two years that they’d been neighbors occurred when they bumped lawn mowers on summer weekends or were out shoveling their driveways in the winter. But still, he knew the dude, and Nicole was his wife.
Okay, gorgeous ex-wife.
Nicole said, “I haven’t had any since three months before he moved out. So it’s been eleven months, Benjamin…almost a year.”
“I’m always so horny and so wet, Ben. I think about doing it all the time…about doing it with you. My pussy is so ripe for you…so sweet. You really should taste it. So don’t be sorry – just let me come over. I promise I’ll return the favor. And I have wine as a bribe.”
That made Benjamin laugh, the idea that a woman as fine as Nicole would ever need to bribe a man. Marcus had been a damn fool to cheat on her.
He hadn’t even known there were a problem in his neighbor’s marriage until after Marcus had moved out. Then he’d learned after the fact and through the neighborhood rumor mill that Marcus had been having an affair with his secretary, and that Nicole found out and kicked him out.
He thought about Marcus, a dude he knew but really didn’t know. A dude he hadn’t seen or spoken to since he and Nicole split up and he moved out. They’d traded phone numbers when they first met, but as best he could recall, they’d never used them. Today was the first time his neighbor’s phone had called his phone, and it wasn’t his neighbor who’d called him. It was his neighbor’s wife.
Okay, gorgeous and horny ex-wife.
“What time are you coming over?” Ben asked.
“Give me an hour,” Nicole said. “Oh, and I’ll be coming to your back door.”
The afternoon was mild, with the temperature around 60. It wasn’t really fireplace weather, but Benjamin thought it would be a nice touch, considering that Nicole was bringing over some wine. He grabbed a couple of logs from the garage and brought them into his family room. Then as he placed them in the hearth, he thought that that would be too “player” cliché. He left the fireplace without lighting it and dashed upstairs to take a quick shower.
He wasn’t sure if Nicole had been serious about wearing only a football jersey, so after his shower he went for kicking-it-around-the-crib casual – black sweatpants and matching wife-beater. He was heading back downstairs when he heard tapping on the sliding doors that opened from the family room onto his backyard deck.
Before opening the doors, he fingered open the vertical blinds to check who was there (In almost too good to be true situations one had to be sure) and saw a glimpse of green with black and silver trim. He fought back a smile as he unlocked and slid the door open.
Nicole stepped in and past him wearing a Michael Vick Philadelphia Eagles jersey and black mules with stiletto heels. She turned to face him, held up a bottle of white wine, gave him a smile hot enough melt steel and said, “Corkscrew?”
Her jersey was a ladies version, cut to highlight her feminine curves, which it did to lovely effect. Nicole was tall and leggy, so the bottom of the shirt landed high on her thighs. Ben thought that if she inhaled too deeply, he wouldn’t have to ask if she’d been true to her word about only wearing the jersey.
As he took the bottle from her and headed for the kitchen she said, “Ooh, are we going to make love by firelight?”
“Benjamin, I love the way you think.”
Score one for the players.
Benjamin poured their glasses and returned to the family room. Nicole was still standing.
“Have a seat,” he said. “Be comfortable.”
Nicole didn’t sit. As she took a glass she said, “I was hoping for a kiss first.”
Her full lips were coated with a gloss that made them look liquid. Benjamin sat his glass down, took her into his arms and tried to kiss her gloss away.
Nicole wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed herself against him and fed him her tongue. Ben heard a low moaning, and wasn’t sure if it was him or her or both of them.
His hands were on her trim waist. As they kissed, he slid them around and down. As if to encourage him, Nicole lifted a long leg and wrapped it around his thigh. The back of her jersey rose up as his hands slipped down. His fingers contacted the rounded curve of her bare bottom.
He wasn’t wearing anything under his sweatpants, and his desire for her throbbed and bucked against black cotton.
Nicole extracted her tongue from his mouth, leaned back and breathed, “Let’s get that fire started.”
The fire was already started. He forced himself to let her go and went to the fireplace to start the other one.
Squatting in front of the fireplace, Benjamin placed an igniter brick under the logs. As he lit it he said, “So you’re an Eagles fan?”
Behind him Nicole said, “Not really. I just like green.”
“Good thing, because the Eagles suck this year.”
“Speaking of sucking Ben, I can’t wait to taste you.”
Benjamin stood up, intending to make some witty comment to the effect that she must have some kind of oral fixation. But when he turned around he saw that Nicole had shed the jersey and was standing in front of his sofa wearing only her sexy shoes. His intended commentary died in his throat.
Nicole said, “I like black, too. But right now you really need to come out of those clothes.”
Benjamin stood in front of his dresser mirror, tying his necktie as he got ready to for work. His reflected self grinned back at him like an idiot. He couldn’t help it. He hadn’t had it as good as he’d had it with Nicole last night and into the wee hours of the morning with anyone, ever. She was that good. Once again he thought that Marcus was a damned fool for cheating on her.
They’d started out on his family room sofa in front of the crackling fireplace. They finished in his bed. Nicole had an insatiable appetite, and seemed not able to get enough. But she had skills too, and even after he’d thought she’d emptied him to the point of no return, she’d brought him back for more.
Dressed, Benjamin went downstairs to head out for work. As was his habit, he checked the lock on the family room’s sliding glass doors before leaving for the day.
He pried open the blinds and looked out, and replayed in his head their last moments together at about 3:oo in the morning. They’d shared a goodbye kiss out on the deck. Then she’d pranced away in the moonlight, across the deck, down the steps and into his yard on her way home.
Ben turned around and looked to the family room carpet, where Nicole’s Philadelphia Eagles jersey still lay where she’d dropped it yesterday evening.
He remembered the last thing Nicole said to him, right after their goodnight kiss and before she’d pranced into the night, naked: “Remember Ben, anytime you want me, I’m yours. Just let me know, okay?”
When Benjamin backed out of his garage into his driveway he saw a small U-Haul truck next door, in Nicole’s driveway. The back of the truck was open and its ramp was down. He watched, stunned and with his heart racing, as Marcus came out of the cargo area and rolled boxes down the ramp on a dolly.
Moving back home.
Marcus spotted him and tipped his chin in a “What’s up” gesture. Benjamin tipped his chin back at him.
What the fuck?
Movement at his neighbor’s front door caught Benjamin’s attention, and he looked that way. He saw Nicole come out onto her front stoop, looking gorgeous as usual and positively radiant in a floor-length belted white satin robe.
She held the door open for her husband as he wheeled the boxes in.
When Marcus was inside and out of sight, Nicole looked his way. She smiled at him, and then raised one hand to the side of her pretty face with her thumb and pinky finger extended in a “call me” gesture.
Nicole stood at her front door, looking at over at Ben sitting in his car as he watched Marcus come out of the back of the U-Haul truck.
Poor Ben. He looked so surprised and almost sick, like he’d just eaten a delicious entrée, and then been told that it was broiled kitten. Well, he sure knew how to eat kitty very well – and stroke her, too.
He was looking and backing up so slowly that he’d almost come to a full stop. Nicole saw Marcus spot him, and watched as they popped chins at each other. She didn’t know if the thrill that shot through her body was excitement or fear.
As Ben watched Marcus go into the house he looked like he had a million questions flying through his head. Nicole thought that she should let him know that everything was okay. She lifted her hand to her face and gave him a “call me” sign. He still looked stunned.
She probably should have told him what was going on. But everything this weekend had been so spur of the moment. She really hadn’t taken time to consider every facet of what she was doing, much less know how to explain things to him.
Marcus was back, but not really.
Nicole looked inside, where Marcus was at the foot of the stairs, sliding the dolly out from under the boxes. Boxes with his clothes in them. Back in her house.
As he wheeled the dolly around to go back out for his next load, Nicole turned her “call me” gesture to Ben into a prolonged wave. Ben was backing his car out into the street. He probably didn’t see her waving, but that wasn’t the point.
Marcus did see her waving, and when he reached the stoop, he saw Ben’s car rolling up the street. He frowned at her, and then asked, “So what’s he been up to lately?”
Nicole knew what his question really meant. How friendly are you and Ben now? Why are you waving at him like that?
She shifted her eyes from the street to Marcus. She gave him a subtle smile designed to mean everything and nothing. She said, “We’re friends now.”
Everything and nothing.
Before Marcus could react and before the broader smile she felt coming gave her away, Nicole spun away and went back into the house.
She knew that Marcus was still standing in the doorway, still watching her as she sauntered back to the kitchen. She knew that his thoughts were a jumble as he watched her – partly wondering what she was wearing under her robe, if anything (she’d worn her new robe for that very reason), and partly wondering what the hell kind of friend she was with Ben now.
Good. Wonder and worry.
As she walked away from Marcus she imagined how a woman who’d been well fucked might walk, how the essence of the man who’d been with her, inside her, might affect her stride – the sway of her hips. She remembered how she’d felt with Ben – how he’d felt – and tried to transfer memory into motion. She hoped that Marcus recognized it, and suffered for his recognition.
Nicole leaned into her open refrigerator, contemplating her options. After the workout she and Ben had given each other the previous evening, night and early that morning, she was ravenous. But she decided that even though she was hungry enough to eat a barnyard full of animals, she’d settle for oatmeal. Preparing a big breakfast – the feast she felt like eating – might give Marcus the mistaken idea that it was some kind of peace offering.
There was no forgiveness in her heart, and therefore no peace. Not after what he’d done to her.
People thought that she’d found out that Marcus was having an affair with his secretary – a year-long affair – and that she’d thrown him out. But the truth was that she hadn’t known about his affair with that wench until he’d sat her down and told her about it. The truth was that she hadn’t thrown him out. The truth was that her husband had told her that he was in love with another woman, and that he was leaving her. So seven years of being together and five years of marriage had gone poof – blown away like a puff of smoke in the wind. The marriage that she’d thought was the foundation of her life had been no more solid than smoke.
Because Marcus committed adultery and admitted to it, she didn’t have to wait to file for divorce. So she didn’t wait. He was no longer her husband.
She’d told Ben that she’d been separated from Marcus for eight months. That was true in the literal sense, because that’s how long it had been since he’d moved out. She’d stated it that way to make her point about him and Marcus not really being friends. She could have told him that her divorce had been final for months, but her feminine ego had wanted to see if Ben would be with her without knowing that she was free not only in her heart, but legally.
Anyway, as far as she was concerned, Marcus had stopped being her husband the moment he told her that he loved someone else. Maybe she could have forgiven him if it had only been sex. Though it was no excuse, men could be so weak and stupid that way. But he’d given another woman his heart. He’d taken it away from her and given it to someone else. You can’t save a marriage from that.
And so Marcus had moved out eight months ago, into the home of the woman he really loved. And then he’d called her on Saturday, sounding nearly in tears. He’d told her that for the past month he’d been living in a hotel and then motels, and for the previous week out of his car, because he had nowhere else to go. She could believe that. Marcus was a burn bridges kind of guy. He didn’t have many people he could turn to in a pinch. So in desperation and at his wits end, he’d called her.
Karma was swinging a big stick and was beating Marcus about the head and shoulders. She didn’t care enough to ask him what had happened with the wench. Anyway, she had a general idea of how things had gone down.
It was easy to be infatuated with someone when you didn’t get to be with them all the time. It might especially be true when your time with that person was limited because you were supposed to be committed to someone else. The grass is brilliantly green when you couldn’t climb over the fence whenever you wanted to. But when you lived under the same roof and you got to see that grass close up and all the time, you got to see the little weeds and bugs that you hadn’t noticed when you were gazing longingly over the fence. Then the grass isn’t always so pretty. That was the challenge of being in a real relationship – learning to deal with the little things that weren’t so pretty; learning to accept that the grass wasn’t as perfect as you’d anticipated. It never is. Apparently Marcus and his home-wrecking tramp had learned that the hard way.
Now that her own view of Marcus wasn’t clouded by the rose-colored tint of love, she could better see his faults, the little things that love had allowed her to tolerate. She would almost bet that the reason his relationship with the wench had ended was his fault. Marcus could be such a self-centered prick when he wanted to be. And he was a master at making snide little comments and criticisms that bordered on being outright cruel. That was his personality. How often had she based her actions in doing a thing on trying to make sure she wouldn’t feel the sting of his mean tongue? How often had she bent over backward to stay in his favor? In retrospect, she wondered why she hadn’t left him first. But she knew why. Love was a hell of a hallucinogen. But loving someone didn’t give them the right to hurt you.
She didn’t love Marcus anymore. But the part of her that remembered loving him felt compassion at his situation. She knew that he’d been choking on a giant lump of swallowed pride when he’s said, “I know I don’t have any right to come to you, Nicole. But I’m out of money and out of options. Otherwise I wouldn’t ask. I just need a minute to get myself together and figure out what I’m going to do. Hell, I’ll sleep in the garage and take a bath in the powder room if…” And then his voice had broken. “I…I just need somewhere to stay…”
The sound of his despair melted the coldness in her heart, just a little bit.
She’d waited a moment while thinking fast and hoping that her compassion wasn’t making her a fool, and then said, “You can stay in the guest room for thirty days. Just thirty days. But you’re not a guest, Marcus. You’re not even a roommate. This is my house, and you’re just a temporary tenant. Are we clear on that?”
“So what – if I want a real meal I have to cook it for myself?” Marcus snapped. He was playing with his bowl of oatmeal with his spoon like a child who didn’t want to eat his vegetables.
He had a lot of nerve, Nicole thought, to have an attitude and be picky when he was begging. She wanted to hurl her bowl across the kitchen table at him. Instead she said, “When you get paid you can buy your own groceries and cook them. Just make sure you clean up. Like I told you, you’re a tenant.”
“So I can’t eat what you cook?”
“Not if you’re going to complain about it. We’re not married anymore, so you don’t get privileges. You can eat what I cook or go do you; it makes me no never mind. If you eat what I cook I won’t charge you for food because you need to save your money. Because thirty days from now I don’t care if you have to sleep in your car or on the sidewalk in a cardboard box – you’re gone.”
Marcus glared across the table at her. She glared back. Once upon a time she would have been disarmed by his aggressive attitude, but not anymore. It felt good to stand up to him with full confidence.
Marcus dropped his eyes first, and then spooned up a mouthful of oatmeal. After that mouthful he asked, “So what’s up with you and Ben?”
There was so much that she could say, and now that he’d pissed her off, so much that she was tempted to say. What stopped her was that she’d be dragging Ben into something he wasn’t aware of, without his consent. “That’s between me and Ben.”
Marcus’s eyebrows rose like they were trying to join his hairline. Oops. Her answer hadn’t come out the way she’d meant it to.
“How long has this been going on?” Marcus asked.
“I didn’t say anything was going on. And regardless, it’s not your business.”
“That depends on when it started…if something is going on.”
“You fucking asshole – did you forget who you are? Did you forget why your ass is homeless? Wait, scratch that. I’m not having this conversation with you. I have to get to work.” Angry at herself for letting Marcus make her angry, she snatched her bowl up and headed upstairs to her home office.
Marcus ordered them delivery pizza from a franchise place for diner. Nicole wondered if it was his attempt at extending an olive branch. If it was, it didn’t work. It pissed her off because he didn’t even remember. Marcus was from Indiana. He wouldn’t know real pizza if it jumped up and slapped him in the face. She was a New Jersey native and therefore knew that no franchise place made real pizza. She detested franchise pizza. Marcus knew that. Maybe he’d ordered it to send the message that if she didn’t want crap for food, she’d better start cooking.
She forced down two slices out of spite and then said, “Thank you for dinner,” though she wasn’t feeling thankful.
Marcus’ mouth was full of the garbage, so he nodded at her.
She pushed away from the dinner table, stood up and said, “Goodnight.”
Eyes suddenly wide with surprise, Marcus swallowed hard and said, “You’re not watching the game?”
“I’m tired. I didn’t get much sleep last night.” She forced herself not to say more, even though saying more would have been so sweet. She would have loved to have seen the look on Marcus’ face if she told him that Ben had done her so good that her legs were trembling as she’d left his place after 3:00 this morning.
Ordinarily Nicole left her bedroom door open when she went to bed. Tonight she closed and locked it. After doing so, she considered the weak doorknob latch. It was more aesthetic than functional, designed to let others know that privacy was desired. It wouldn’t keep a grown man out if he wanted to get in. She was pretty sure that Marcus wouldn’t even try. Then again, once upon a time she’d been pretty sure that he was faithful to her.
By the time she finished her shower the game was nearing halftime. She dried and lotioned herself in the bedroom and muttered curses at Sanchez and the Jets for letting the winless Dolphins make a game of it. She also stole glances at the bedroom door.
Though the door was closed and locked, Nicole felt a little vulnerable in her bedroom without anything on. It felt weird being naked and knowing that Marcus was out there, somewhere in the house.
She turned the bedcovers down and slid between the sheets. Then feeling exposed, she slid out of bed and started to go to the dresser to retrieve a nightshirt. Halfway between the bed and the dresser she decided that this was her house, damn it, and she wasn’t going to let her asshole ex-husband make her cower and change the way she lived. She climbed back into bed.
Nicole watched the halftime show. She watched her closed and locked bedroom door, and strained her ears to try to catch sounds of Marcus moving around beyond it.
She hoped that she wasn’t going to live to regret being compassionate and giving her ex-husband a place to stay.
The Jets were playing Miami on Monday Night Football, but Benjamin couldn’t focus on the game. His mind was on his beautiful next door neighbor.
He was wondering what the hell had happened last night, why it had happened, and what it was going to mean now that Marcus was back. The answer he came up with for each question was the same answer: Bullshit drama. Nicole had set him up for some bullshit drama, and because he’d been thinking with the wrong head – the one without a brain – he’d walked right into it.
He could think of only one reason she’d pull that stunt: The revenge of a woman scorned. Marcus had cheated on her. They’d been separated for a while, but now she was letting him come back home. But before she did, she had to have her pound of flesh. She had to feel like she was paying him back for his infidelity.
Women usually won out over men because men were more basic in their battles. Men fought with crude, heavy blows; they painted their battles with broad strokes of the brush. But women, being the physically weaker sex, had evolved and refined their combat skills. Smart women’s blows were more subtle, but often so much more deadly. They drew their battles with intricate strokes of the pen. Oftentimes a woman’s strokes were so delicate that the man couldn’t see them, and didn’t know he’d been wounded. But she would know, and take satisfaction in the knowing, and in her revenge.
In Nicole’s case, she’d take revenge and satisfaction in knowing that she’d fucked the shit out of a man who lived right next door, a dude right under Marcus’ nose. From now on, every time she saw Marcus speak to him she would feel her revenge. Every time Marcus mentioned him, she would reflect on her little secret, would bask in the warm waters of her vengeance. Marcus had cheated on her. He’d hurt her. She forgave and took him back, but her retribution was everlasting. Marcus might not ever know – women were also skilled at keeping such secrets – but she would know, and that was good enough.
That is, Benjamin thought, unless it wasn’t good enough. Sometimes to achieve full revenge, a woman needed to show the one who’d hurt her the picture she’d painted. Satisfaction could only be attained when the pain suffered was returned. But then things could get really ugly.
Benjamin tried to visualize how a fight between him and Marcus might go down. Marcus had him by a couple of inches and maybe thirty pounds. That wasn’t enough to matter, depending on Marcus’ skills with his fists. Then again, it might not even come to that. These days too many dudes used firearms as a substitute for testicles. Anyway, he had no intention of letting it come do that unless he had no choice. He would fight to protect a woman, but he’d never fight another man for a woman. And no way in hell would he fight another man over that man’s wife.
He looked over at his easy chair. After Nicole left he’d folded and placed her Eagles jersey on its cushion. When he’d done that he’d been hoping that she would come back for it soon, and that she would stay longer than long enough to just retrieve it. He’d hoped that she might come back and leave whatever new thing she was wearing behind, too.
He looked to the fireplace. He had it burning again, partially because this time it was cool enough, and partially because it reminded him of being with her. They’d started here in the family room on the sofa, with him over her, moving in her, digging the way she’d pressed her heels into the small of his back to urge him on. But as her good feelings became too strong for her to maintain control she’d ended up with the heel of one foot on top of the sofa back and the other on the coffee table, allowing him total access and control now that she knew he could take her where she needed to go.
Then they’d moved the sofa cushions to the carpet in front of the fireplace. Nicole took control by pushing him onto his back and straddling him. It was her turn to give then, and he’d watched her riding him, sliding up and down on his desire for her, grinding down on him to let him feel the depths of her sweetness. And all the while she’d watched him with smoldering brown eyes, and with a little smile that told him that she got off on getting him off, that unlike so many beautiful women she wasn’t all about show, about thinking that a man should just be happy with her just because she was beautiful. No, Nicole was one hundred percent truth in advertising.
In the hours that they were together Benjamin had discovered that he and Nicole were alike in that way, that much of their pleasure came from giving pleasure. He thought that they could be good together. But he’d been thinking about a possibility that unknown to him then, was already dead in the water. They couldn’t be anything together because her husband was coming back home.
“Remember Ben, anytime you want me, I’m yours. Just let me know, okay?”
So why the fuck had she said that?
The ringing house phone pulled him away from thoughts about Nicole. But the name on the caller ID brought his thoughts right back.
This morning while getting ready for work and still basking in the afterglow of his time with Nicole, he’d changed the name in his phone’s directory for her home number from Marcus’ name to her name. Her name glowed on the display. But why would she call him now, when Marcus was back? He didn’t think it was Marcus calling. Marcus had never called him before, and definitely had no reason to call on his first night back home. Not unless…
Not knowing what to expect, Benjamin kept his emotions on neutral and pressed the talk button.
Ready for anything, he said, “Hello?”
Nicole’s voice was soft, tentative. It bore none of the breathy sexiness of yesterday’s call.
“Hey.” He didn’t know what was up with this girl, so he wasn’t giving up anything to her by asking questions. For all he knew she had her phone on speaker and Marcus was sitting right beside her.
“Are you watching the game?” she asked.
He didn’t say anything else. Nicole had called him, so this was her play. After a few stretched out moments of silence she asked, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” When a woman said I’m fine, it meant that all kinds of shit was wrong. Now he understood how that worked.
“Ben, it’s not what you think.”
“I don’t have to think anything. Your man is back, so it’s pretty much spelled out for me. Did you leave me the Vick jersey as a souvenir – something to remember you by?”
“See, you’re not fine. You’re mad; I can hear it in your voice.”
“I don’t like being played, Nicole.”
She didn’t respond to that. After another prolonged silence he muted his television. In the background on the line he could hear the faint sounds of the game on over at her place. Had Nicole told him that she liked football, or just green jerseys? He couldn’t remember. Maybe it was Marcus watching the game. Was he in the room with her? What kind of game was she playing?
Nicole said, “I wasn’t playing you.”
“You called me wanting to come over the day before you knew Marcus was coming back. What would you call it?”
“I’d call it paying for my procrastination.”
“Do you know when I first knew that I wanted yesterday to happen for us?”
“I haven’t a clue.”
“When you mowed my lawn. Do you remember that day?”
“Which day?” He’d mowed her lawn plenty of times – every time that he’d mowed his over this past summer.
“The first day, back in May after I came home from shopping. I’d been wondering if I was going to have to pay some kid in the neighborhood to take care of it, but when I got home I saw that it was already cut. I knew it was you because your yard was just mowed, too.”
“I remember.” As he’d mowed his lawn that day he’d noticed that Nicole’s grass was getting tall. It made him think about some things he’d heard at work, some of the Air Force guys talking about how they handled things when one of their neighbors in base housing was deployed. Base housing was free for married military personnel, but they were required to maintain their yards by mowing and edging them. The yards were inspected to ensure compliance to standards. So when a GI was deployed and his wife was home alone, they’d said it was a matter of honor, camaraderie, and gentlemanly courtesy that someone would take care of his yard in his absence. They didn’t even have to know the GI or his wife. It just got done.
Benjamin remembered thinking about that, and thinking that it was something that shouldn’t only apply to the military. So he’d mowed Nicole’s front yard. He hadn’t mown her back yard because it would mean going through the closed gate of her privacy fence. He hadn’t felt comfortable about doing that.
A few hours later Nicole was at his front door.
“Thank you so much, Ben,” she’d said. “How much do I owe you?”
Before that Saturday, the closest he’d been to Nicole was the distance between their front yards. From that distance he’d known that she was a hottie. But when she was standing up close in his doorway, he could see that she was truly beautiful, not only in form, but in depth. Her beauty shone in her warm brown eyes and in the honesty of her smile.
In that moment he’d hated Marcus. He’d hated him for throwing away the kind of beauty that a man who truly appreciated feminine beauty would lay down his heart for.
“Nothing,” he’d said. “We’re neighbors. It’s no big deal.”
“Well I think it is,” she’d said. “It’s so refreshing to meet a real gentleman.”
“It was no problem.” He tried not to stare at her too hard while maintaining eye contact. But she was so pretty. “I didn’t do the back because I didn’t have permission to enter your closed property.”
“Well, I appreciate what you did. I’d hate to be the only one on the block with a scraggly yard.” She‘d turned, stepped off his stoop and started down the walkway back toward her house. She wore a shift-style mini dress. He noticed that her legs were long and well-shaped, and the fall of her dress showed that while she was on the slender side, she had nice rounded hips and a plump bottom. Then she’d stopped and looked back over her shoulder, and he’d snapped his eyes up just in time to avoid getting busted. She flashed him that warm smile again and said, “You have my permission. And thank you again.”
Nicole said, “You came over later that to do the back. I heard your lawn mower out in my back yard. I watched you through my kitchen window. When you were done, you left. You didn’t come to tell me you were done or anything. You just left. I knew you’d done it to be kind, and didn’t expect…anything. Do you know what I mean?”
He knew what she meant. “Yes.”
“So that’s when I knew. And all summer long, whenever you mowed your lawn you mowed mine, without even looking for so much as conversation. But I knew that one day we would talk. I mean, we’re next door neighbors. And then if you were interested, well…you know.”
“So that’s what you mean by procrastination?”
“Yes. And then Marcus called me on Saturday.”
Benjamin listened as Nicole told him about Marcus’ call, about his thing with the other woman ending and him having no place to live. He believed her, but wondered if her feelings for her ex-husband were really as over as she claimed. Considering what Marcus did to her, would she really have enough compassion to allow him to come back, even temporarily, if she didn’t have some residual affection?
And what about Marcus’ intentions? His affair was over. Was he realizing now what he’d thrown away, and hoped or planned to get it back?
“So that’s what’s going on,” Nicole said. “Right now I’m in my bed with the door locked. Marcus is sleeping in the guest room.”
“Do you think that by the time thirty days are up your sleeping arrangements might have changed?”
“There’s not a chance in Hell.”
“That’s easy to say on the first night, Nicole.”
“Can we talk about something else?”
“Like when I can come over again.”
This was a bad situation, and Benjamin knew it. He knew that the intelligent thing for him to do was distance himself from Nicole and Marcus’ business, to stay away and leave them to work out whatever needed to be worked out, if anything. But he also knew that since Adam and Eve, the downfall of many a man had been giving in to the desires of a woman even when he knew that it wasn’t in his best interest. Women could be trouble. Beautiful women especially. He didn’t need trouble. That’s what his common sense screamed at him. But the voice of male desire was equally loud.
He decided to compromise with his conflicted self. He said, “I’m thinking we should wait until the thirty days are up and see how things stand then.”
Nicole said, “I’m thinking that you should stay home from work tomorrow so that we can spend the day together.”
“That’s not a good idea,” Benjamin said.
“No, it’s an excellent idea,” Nicole countered. “I don’t have much on my agenda tomorrow. I can get up early and be done by ten. Then I can come over.”
Benjamin remembered back when he’d met Marcus, him saying that his wife worked from home, some job having to do with the internet. He’d said it derisively, as if working at home wasn’t really a job, or at least a respectable one. Then he’d added, “She pulls in nice bank, though.” So he’d respected her income even if he didn’t respect how she earned it.
“Want to go out for lunch?” Nicole asked, and before he could answer, said, “Never mind. I can think of something nicer to eat – something thick and chocolaty.”
His common sense was taking a beating. Her last blow was a good one. He couldn’t make himself not visualize what she’d suggested. The vision made something thick and chocolaty become something hard and thick and chocolaty. His common sense was hurting, but like a boxer who had more heart than skill, it got up off the mat to fight on. He said, “Let’s see how you feel in thirty days, after Marcus leaves. If he leaves.”
“Oh he’s leaving Ben, but I don’t want to wait that long. I’ll call you in the morning, okay?”
Benjamin had been in the military, a four year enlistment in the Air Force right after high school. It only took him one year to realize that he needed more control over his life than the U.S. Government allowed. But he’d sworn an oath, and the military was picky about fulfilling one’s obligations, so he’d given them three more years.
He’d retained some habits from his time in uniform, like his Basic Training method of saving morning prep time for the next duty day by taking his shower at night. So after the football game he went upstairs, picked out slacks, a dress shirt and a tie, and headed for the bathroom. He stepped into his shower being fairly certain that he was lying to himself about going to work in the morning.
Benjamin stood under the shower with his eyes closed, letting the warm spray jet against his face and chest. He visualized Nicole, remembered her warm brown eyes, her sexy smile. He replayed how she’d looked naked, her body lithe and athletic but completely feminine. He remembered how she felt naked; his hands on her soft skin, her hands on him, the way she felt in his arms and against him, the sensations of her feminine flesh making him swell and throb and ache to be closer to her, to be inside her. And that feeling…
Now she was offering more, another gift.
He leaned back, letting the shower spray hit his stomach, and lower. With his eyes still closed he remembered her mouth: Lips slightly full, with a little natural pout. Her wet-looking gloss made her white teeth seem even whiter. Her tongue had been a wild thing in his mouth. He imagined how her lips and tongue might feel somewhere else.
The water tickled and teased him down there, like a woman’s warm breath when her mouth was so close to where he wanted her to be, throbbed for her to be. He pictured wet-looking gloss and white teeth as she opened her mouth, finally ready. He remembered her wild tongue, and throbbed in anticipation of how it was going to feel. So close…
In a perfect, fairy tale world they could be close whenever they wanted, because it would only be them. Nicole could come to his place when she wanted him and he could go to her place as desire required because they were grown and free and single, and Marcus hadn’t come back.
Benjamin opened his eyes. He turned his back to the teasing, tickling, taunting shower spray.
Maybe she was just teasing, using her feminine power to entice and get him to do what she wanted, to let her come over. She probably knew that he was imagining what it might be like, and that his imaginings would chip away at his common sense and his resolve. Well fuck that. He wasn’t that easy to play.
Benjamin pushed hard, pushed thoughts of his beautiful neighbor out of his head. He focused on taking his bath. He needed to clean up, hit the bed and get some good rest for tomorrow’s workday. He told himself that getting paid was more important than getting pussy.
As he bathed, he considered his sparse bathing gear: Shower gel. Shampoo. A washcloth and a back scrubber. At the last place he’d lived, he’d had to install a pole caddy with four shelves in the tub, because Jeanette had needed it for all her girly bath stuff.
Benjamin stood under the warm spray, remembering what it used to be like to share a bathroom, and an apartment, and a life with a woman. With Jeanette. It had been nice while it lasted.
Jeanette used to work across the hall from him on the base. They were both civil service employees. She was in her late thirties when they got involved – ten years older than him. Even before he knew Jeanette, he’d thought she was one of the prettiest women he’d ever seen. She was taller than average, about his height. Though he never knew exactly, he thought that she outweighed him by about fifty pounds. However, she wore her voluptuous curves well. Naked, she reminded him of the sensual, robust-bodied women painted by Peter Paul Reuben.
He invited her to lunch that first time because she was pretty and always had a friendly smile. He hadn’t expected anything to come of it. They were just two employees grabbing a bite to eat. Six months later they were living together.
Once their relationship began, days would go by in which he wouldn’t see the inside of his apartment. Other days would go by when she wouldn’t see the inside of hers. When his apartment lease was about to expire, it was Jeanette’s suggestion that rather than renew it, he move into her larger place. She said that since they went to sleep in the same bed every night anyway, they might as well save the money. He agreed.
They got along excellently, like old best friends. Maybe it was because she was older and had no time for playing young woman games. Their sex was the best he’d ever had with anyone, because Jeanette was so honest in her sexuality. She’d insisted that they hold nothing back, that they share their most secret fantasies and desires, no matter how off the chain they might be, and then try to experience them. The only restriction was that it couldn’t involve other people.
As Benjamin bathed he imagined that Jeannette was in the shower with him. They’d taken many showers and baths together. He remembered how she looked glistening wet – the water making her butterscotch complexion glow like burnished copper – and the way it contrasted so dramatically with her jet black hair. He never got tired of looking at her naked. He never got tired of their being together.
They got along so well – never any stress or drama. Being together was so comfortable that it was like being alone without being lonely. Their sex was excellent. Anything he wanted, she would give him. Any way he wanted it, she allowed. He did the same for her. Sometimes he’d go after her, wake her up or interrupt whatever she was doing just so that he could hear the way she sounded and see how beautiful she looked when she came. Then he would walk away, expecting nothing in return, but knowing that sooner or later she was going to repay him in full. That’s how it had been with them.
They got along excellently. The sex was the best. He’d figured that two out of three wasn’t bad, so a year after they started living together, he proposed to her. That was the beginning of the end for them.
Jeanette said no. She understood why he’d proposed. They got along excellently. Their sex was the best, bar none.
He was disappointed, but weeks later, when he was over his disappointment, he understood that she was right for declining his proposal. It made him appreciate her all the more.
Two out of three wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough for marriage. They weren’t in love with each other, and they’d both known it. Jeanette was older than him and wiser than him, so she’d said no.
After living together for two years they decided to go their separate ways so that each could have a chance to find someone they could fall in love with, and who would love them back. Slim chances, for sure. But nothing beats a failure but a try.
Benjamin wished that he could talk to Jeanette about this situation. She’d give him honest advice. She’d probably tell him that he was playing with fire – that messing with a woman whose ex-whatever was back in her life was asking for trouble. She’d probably tell him that he was thinking with his dick because Nicole was a pretty girl, and a willing one. She’d probably tell him that he was being a fool, and for what?
Besides the fact that Nicole was willing to sex him, why was he being a fool?
Maybe it was because there was something about Nicole that he liked, and that something had nothing to do with her looks or sex. Maybe it was because back on that first day, when she’d come over to thank him for mowing her lawn and they were up close and personal for the first time, he thought he’d seen something. It was in her eyes. What was it? Hope? Possibility? That sense of rightness that cannot be defined?
Maybe he was being a fool because nothing beats a failure but a try. Maybe he was being a fool because he was still hoping to one day find that third thing.