Aunt Doro greeted Doug and Kelly in the front room. “Welcome back, Kelly,” she said. “I’ve made some fruit salad if the two of you would like some dessert before you disappear upstairs.”
Doug was used to the mischievous gleam in the old woman’s eyes, but Kelly was taken aback. “Oh, Aunt Doro, I wasn’t – sorry, I guess I shouldn’t call you that, but –”
“Nonsense, darling, any friend of Doug’s is welcome to call me Aunt Doro,” she reassured Kelly. “In any event, I certainly didn’t wish to make you uncomfortable. I hope Doug has let you know that you are welcome to stay the night here if you wish. I shouldn’t want him to get lonely here now that all his friends from high school have gone.”
“I hadn’t told her yet, Aunt Doro,” Doug said. “It hadn’t come up.”
“Always the gentleman, that’s my Doug,” Aunt Doro said to Kelly with an approving nod at Doug.
“I’m coming to appreciate that,” Kelly admitted. “Thank you, Aunt Doro. And I’d love some of that fruit cocktail if it’s okay with Doug?”
Doug had no objection, and they were soon seated at the kitchen table while Aunt Doro ladled out the diced fruit. “So how has your week been at the restaurant, Kelly?” she asked as she worked.
“Had today off, thank heavens,” Kelly said. “I got to spend the day on the beach instead of just looking at it, that was great. Yesterday was rough, though. Doug, have you told her?”
“No,” Doug said. “We had a really nasty altercation with Mr. Sanborn,” he told Aunt Doro.
“No surprise there,” Aunt Doro said. “Guess I’ve told you both already, that man never had any respect for anyone. Always very self-important, even when he was screaming about peace and love all the time.” A pause, and then she looked at Kelly. “I always used him as an example when Doug got to pining for the sixties and feeling like he missed out on the age of love. It wasn’t always like what you young kids hear.”
“I get that, Aunt Doro, I promise,” Doug said.
“Do you really?” she asked him.
“I think he’s learning, Aunt Doro,” Kelly piped up. “We’ve been talking about some…things, and I think he’s learned a lot.”
“Good for you, then,” Aunt Doro replied, now sitting down with her share of the dessert.
“And he went to bat for me with Mr. Sanborn yesterday, too,” Kelly continued. “He ordered Doug to write me up for a comment I made that he really deserved, and Doug handled it perfectly.”
“Good for you, Doug!” Aunt Doro exclaimed. “His heart usually is in the right place,” she told Kelly. “Always has been. Living with his grandmother and me, he never did want for strong women in his life, after all. It’s just that he had some very unrealistic ideas of what life was like in the past. Honestly, Kelly, you probably do too. I doubt any girl your age really knows what it was like for women back then.”
“I’m trying to learn too,” Kelly said, flashing a knowing grin at Doug.
“Now, your friend Mr. Sanborn,” Aunt Doro continued. “I don’t suppose I even want to know what he said. But whatever it was, dear, I know exactly why he felt entitled to say it. So many years back in the day he was surrounded by women who put up with him because that’s what they’d been taught to do, and it certainly went to his head. Back when he was a student here, class of sixty-one, you remember, that was before the boys wore their hair long, and he was clean cut and all but he had a big mouth even then. Always taking charge in the classroom like he owned the place, talking about the downtrodden and disenfranchised and about going down South to do his part. The girls loved it of course, and they used to follow him around like puppies even then. His wife, Meg, she was the most enamored of all, naturally. Hung on his every word.”
“And I’m sure by the hippie days he was practically a cult leader,” Kelly said.
“It looked that way sometimes,” Aunt Doro said. “He and Meg were married by then, and they’d had their adventures out in California – Meg still won’t talk much about what happened out there – and they lived in the old Templeton mansion up at the far end of the beach. It’s a bunch of condos now. Back then the place was a wreck and they lived like a bunch of pigs. Doug’s grandmother and I used to see Meg on the street and she just looked dead inside from living in that hovel, but Jimmy was always on about how they were living like the kings of the disenfranchised, finding the one true answer and all that hippie garbage. He even used to harangue people about it on the beach, especially the young ladies.”
“Even though he was married?” Doug said. “I mean, that doesn’t surprise me much, but…”
“Yes, Doug, even though he was married,” Aunt Doro confirmed. “Mary Aston, class of sixty-four, she lived with them for a time, and she told me once how Jimmy would sweet-talk the naïve young college girls here for the summer that they were selling out to the oppressive imperialist government if they didn’t sleep with him.”
“And that worked?!” Kelly said.
“More often than you might think,” Aunt Doro told her. “You can’t know, because you weren’t around back then, just how backwards a lot of men still were. Freedom and equality was all great for men, but the women were still expected to do the cooking and cleaning. And Meg did, at the Templeton place. Mary as well, she told me. The whole lot of them waited on their men hand and foot even as the men talked about the coming revolution and setting people free, if you can imagine that.”
“Geez,” grumbled Doug.
“I told you feminism started later than you think,” Kelly said.
“She’s right, Doug, it did,” Aunt Doro confirmed. “Mary and some of the other women there, they did see the light after a while, and most of the other hippies went off to find other things to do with their lives after a few years. But not Jimmy and Meg. He stuck with his long hair and beard and his larger than life attitude for years, and he never left town and she never worked up the courage to leave him.”
“Didn’t you say she wanted to go off and see the world?” Doug asked.
“I did, and she did want to,” Aunt Doro confirmed. “But Doug, I think she was so used to being under his thumb, she never really tried to make her own way. Jimmy was perfectly content to hang around the beach for most of his life, tossing off his opinions to anyone who would listen, and there’s always an impressionable young woman somewhere who will listen, and I think Meg was afraid to go off on her own because then she would lose him for good, and even sharing him was better than being on her own, that’s what she thought. They’ve been together since she was fifteen, after all.”
“That’s so sad,” Kelly said.
“Well, Kelly,” Aunt Doro said with a twinkle in her eye, “Now you see why I’m more than happy to have you here. You and Doug are good for one another in a world that can really mess up a young person who ends up in the wrong crowd.”
Kelly blushed. “Aunt Doro! I…”
“Oh, Kelly, it’s none of my business, of course,” Aunt Doro reassured her. “You and Doug don’t owe me an explanation. I just want you to understand I approve of whatever might develop, and you’re welcome in our home.”
Kelly blushed but allowed a smile all the same, and Doug took it upon himself to change the subject while she finished her fruit cocktail in silence.
“Has she pulled that one on any of your other girlfriends?” Kelly demanded of Doug once they had made their escape upstairs.
“My other girlfriends?” Doug teased, brushing her hand with his as he closed the door of the red room – Doug’s favorite bedroom for reading novels for English class back in high school, with the softest mattress on the third floor – behind them. He had picked up a bottle of merlot that afternoon in hope that Kelly would turn up, and it was waiting for them on the bedside table.
“Oh, don’t even!” Kelly exclaimed. “I mean, Doug, I’m not saying no, but…I’m torn. You know that.”
“Yes, I do,” Doug admitted as he went about opening the wine. “Heck, I don’t know what to make of us right now either. But to answer your question, yes. I think it has to do with, you know, what I suspect about her and Grandma. After what they must have gone through hiding their secret from the world, she just didn’t want me or anyone I cared about to have to do the same.”
“That’s sweet,” Kelly admitted. “But still, welcoming girls to spend the night?”
“Well, she didn’t make a point of it pre-emptively like she did with you,” Doug said. “But after the senior prom, my date – Sarah was her name – she spent the night here, and Aunt Doro brought us breakfast in bed the next morning, and –”
“What?!” Kelly interjected. “Doug, that’s just creepy!”
“Yeah, a little,” Doug admitted. “But like I said, she just wanted us both to know there was nothing to be ashamed of. I guess she figured it was better than having us sneak around behind her back, which it probably was. Anyway, I had told Sarah it would be no big deal if Aunt Doro knew she was here, so at least it wasn’t a complete shock.”
“Oh, I’ll bet it was,” Kelly said.
“Well, she was definitely embarrassed,” Doug admitted. “But Aunt Doro could see she was uncomfortable, and she told her, look, it’s fine. You’re both eighteen years old and there’s no shame in what you’ve done, and I just want you both to know you’ve got a safe place here.”
“What you’ve done,” Kelly repeated. “Did she know you’d been having sex?”
“We hadn’t, before that night. It was the first time for both of us.”
“Losing your virginity on prom night? Doug, that’s so clichéd!” Kelly said with a laugh.
“Had to happen sometime,” Doug said, handing Kelly a glass. “It wasn’t great, but for a first time it wasn’t bad. Most of the stories I’ve heard from my friends about the first time make me think I was lucky to have it happen here. Creepy or not, at least we didn’t have to sneak around in a car or behind a barn or something.”
“Wow,” Kelly said thoughtfully between sips of wine. “Your Aunt Doro is either really creepy or the coolest mom ever. Or both.” She paused and when Doug said nothing she continued. “You’re right, though, having your first time in a comfortable bed where you don’t have to worry about getting caught, that would’ve been nice.”
“So your first time was worse, was it?” Doug asked.
“Yes, and that’s all I’ve got to say about it for now!” Kelly said. “That and I wish I hadn’t even given the guy my phone number if I could do it over again. Now I want to hear all about your adventure from last night. I’m sorry I missed it, Doug.”
“I’m sorry too, but I have to admit it probably couldn’t have happened with both of us there.” Doug paused for his first sip of the wine. “Then again, you probably would have made a better teacher than I did,” he mused.
“A better teacher?” Kelly asked. “So just what did you teach?”
And so Doug told Kelly all about Mrs. Kittredge, beginning with the horror stories he recalled from high school of the fights with her late husband and the perils of walking on her lawn, continuing through his own altercation with her the afternoon before, and through the dance and their encounter in the parking lot afterward. He wrapped up the tale with their conversation at the restaurant just a few hours before. “So I couldn’t save her from killing herself with cigarettes, but at least she didn’t marry the creep,” Doug concluded.
Kelly set her wine glass down and laughed. “So let me get this straight. You saved Mrs. Kitt…I mean Miss James, Ms. James, you saved her from an abusive marriage by teaching her to masturbate? Really?!”
“I wouldn’t believe it either if I hadn’t been there,” Doug admitted. “But I was there. It sort of makes sense if you think about it, teaching a person to learn to love herself in the most basic way.” Kelly laughed, so Doug continued. “I’m serious. You should have seen the change that came over her. It was beautiful. She was beautiful.”
“So you’re one of…” Kelly paused. “I’m sorry, Doug, I did promise I would try to stop putting you down every time we got close, didn’t I?”
“Yes,” Doug said. “Are you saying we’re getting close?”
“Well, I’m…comfortable,” Kelly said the last word with a relieved smile, almost as if it were a revelation to her. “Your story about Mrs. Kittredge is, well, it has a sweet ending. I guess I’m a bit surprised at your reaction, if you don’t mind my saying so.”
“You expect a man to feel threatened when a woman masturbates, because it means she doesn’t need him.”
“I didn’t say that!” Kelly protested.
“You didn’t say it, or you didn’t mean it?” Doug probed.
“Well, Doug, I read all about it in Human Sexuality, and it made a lot of sense!”
“I’m sure it did,” Doug said. “But think about it, you’re hearing this from me in person, and you’d prefer to believe something you read in a book at a school that doesn’t even have any men.”
Kelly thought for a moment, then announced, “I hate it when you do that. You’re right.”
Doug let out a relieved laugh as he sipped his wine. Kelly looked adorable curled up on the bed, and he longed to do more than just chat. “So tell me, then,” he said. “And please, forget what you read in some textbook and tell me based on what you know about me personally, what makes you think I would feel threatened by watching Irene masturbate?”
Kelly thought for a moment. “I guess I was expecting you to push for more,” she said. “Nothing personal, it just seems kind of funny to stop there.”
“Not if you could smell her breath,” Doug reassured Kelly, and they laughed. “But even more than that, it just didn’t feel right to do it knowing I’d never see her again – at least not until she was old and sick.”
“You and your ethics of sex, Doug, it’s so frustrating!” Kelly laughed harder now, but with a note of frustration in her voice.
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s just that I don’t know what to make of it all,” Kelly said, and in the heat of the moment she stood up and began pacing back and forth before the bed. “I mean, I’m sorry I started off with so many preconceived notions about you – although you realize they weren’t all wrong, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Doug admitted. “I get that I don’t always appreciate male privilege.”
“Thank you.” Kelly got up and began pacing before the bed, her wine glass held firmly and never sloshing a drop. “I guess it’s just now I see you’re more enlightened than I had thought, and getting more so, and that’s great, but as I’m getting to know you better and feel closer to you, I really don’t know how to handle things because I’ve never had to deal with a guy like you. I started off thinking, right, he’s your manager, forget it, but there’s always been this little reminder about how he’s cute, he’s smart, and maybe he knows how to treat a lady –”
“A lady or a woman?” Doug asked. “Or a womyn with a Y?”
“Right, right, I needed that,” Kelly said. “See, that you would even bring that up, it’s just what I mean. I’m conflicted.”
“About how you feel about me,” Doug said – it was a statement rather than a question.
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Kelly said. “There’s still a lot you don’t know about me, and some of your issues with women that I don’t know about either, remember. It was easy enough at first when I really thought it was just friends, period, to just sass you when things were getting too intimate – I’m sorry about that, too, Doug, I’m afraid you hit the nail on the head with that. But since we’ve been talking, and then the big adventure the other night, now I’m not so sure what I want. I guess that’s why I did what I did at the beach, with you and Jennifer.”
“You got naked because you were jealous of Jennifer?” Doug asked.
“I wouldn’t put it that way, but…well, maybe I should,” Kelly admitted. “Yeah. I have to admit, there I was sitting on the rocks and the two of you seemed to be having such a great time splashing around in your underwear, and just for a moment I set all my doubts aside and I really wanted you. And I thought, well, I know how I can top this Jennifer gal, so I went ahead and took all my clothes off without even thinking much about it. And then after we woke up, I thought, whoa, better pull back there, girl, you don’t know him that well yet. Plus, I was embarrassed.” She took a swig of wine. “To be completely honest, Doug, I still am.”
“The first time usually is embarrassing,” Doug agreed. “That night with Sarah that I told you about certainly was. Took us ten minutes to get naked, and then we both had to undress ourselves with our backs turned and then turn around on the count of three, that’s how shy we were.”
“That’s cute!” Kelly said. “I don’t usually find that myself, though, actually. Once I’m ready to go all the way with someone it’s just, go for it. It felt different with you for some reason. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, I mean, you’ve got a lovely body too, Doug…”
“Thanks.” He was mollified, recalling how she had avoided saying it the other night.
“Just that it was unexpected, and I’d been telling myself I didn’t want that with you, and suddenly there we were in the water.”
“I see,” Doug said.
“Do you really?” Kelly probed.
“I think so.”
“So what are we going to do about all this uncertainty?” Kelly set down her wine glass and smiled at Doug. For a wonderful moment he thought she was going to undress again. But she didn’t.
“How about we continue on the adventures and let things develop naturally?” Doug asked.
“You want to travel through the ages teaching women to masturbate, do you?” Kelly teased.
“Or better yet, watch you do it,” Doug shot back.
“Dream on!” Kelly hooted. “But yeah, I’d love to go on some more journeys and see what we can both learn.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Doug said. “I’d love to exact some rough justice on Mr. Sanborn, wouldn’t you?”
“Heavens, yes!” Kelly agreed. “Should’ve quit after what he said the other day, but that would’ve been letting him win.”
“Maybe if we go back to the sixties, we can change his attitude,” Doug mused.
“I doubt that,” Kelly said. “But maybe we can at least save Meg from him and that might change something.”
“I’d love to do that,” Doug agreed, recalling his beloved Mrs. Sanborn and the occasional bruises he saw when shopping at her store when he was younger.
“Great, then it’s a plan,” Kelly said. “Let’s just finish our wine, and go.”
“And if we find ourselves in more intimate situations with people back then?” Doug asked.
“Remember we’re going to wake up together back here,” Kelly said. “Just the two of us. Whatever happens in the past stays there.”
“So we’re only sleeping with others for the good of the future,” Doug said. “Got it, and I like it.”
Kelly looked at Doug like she wanted to smack him, but she gulped down her wine and held out her hand. “On to the sixties, then,” she said. “But first, can we have some more of Aunt Doro’s fruit cocktail?”
“Now that you’ve said that, there’ll be some waiting for us in the jukebox room,” Doug said.
“How do you know?”
“Just trust me.”
Doug was correct: two bowls of fruit were waiting for them when they arrived in the room. “I don’t suppose I should even ask about this,” Kelly said as they sat down to eat.
“I don’t know how she knows,” Doug said, “But she does. She mentioned the root beer last night too.” Doug was surprised to hear himself say ‘last night’, as it felt more like fifty years ago. Then he remembered that in a way, it was.
After they finished off the second helping of fruit, Kelly stepped up to the jukebox and set about searching for the right era. “This is my dad’s era for music, big time,” she said. “He was too young to go to Woodstock, and he’s still bitter about it. Here we go, Canned Heat. Right style, right time.”
“What a strange name for a song,” Doug mused.
“It’s the name of the band, silly, although they were named after a song,” Kelly replied, turning back to join Doug on the couch as “Going Up the Country” kicked in on the jukebox.
“Sounds like Kermit the Frog,” Doug announced.
“Don’t you ever let my father hear you say that!” Kelly warned him as she sat beside him on the couch, put her arms around him and closed her eyes.
“Don’t you want to take your bra off, so you fit in better back then?” Doug teased.
“Dream on, and close your eyes already!” But Doug surmised there were no truly hard feelings, for she only clung harder to him after the reprimand. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the music and the hug, and waited.
“They’re in the way!”
“Leave ‘em alone, man, you’ll get your turn with her.”
“Not that, man, they’re in the way!”
“In the way of what?”
“You know! My aura! I told you last night!”
“Man, I don’t know what you’ve been smoking, but don’t do it again in my house. Had it with this shit already.”
“Your house? Who the fuck are you?”
“You want to put that to a vote? You’d lose and you know it, man.”
Doug opened one eye, just enough to see where they had landed and whose conversation they were crashing. Something told him he and Kelly would be better off if the others didn’t know they were awake. A darting glance revealed two shadows on the other side of a dim room, now firmly engaged in an argument with one another and paying no attention to him. So Doug felt safe in opening his eyes. He did so to find Kelly had done the same. They were lying side by side on a narrow bed in a room strewn with ancient furniture and discarded clothing, and the late afternoon sun struggled to find its way inside the filthy windows above them. The room was cold. Doug concluded that they had not landed in summer this time.
“The old Templeton place,” Doug said, recalling Aunt Doro’s remark earlier that evening.
“That’s where you are, all right,” came one of the voices. “But apparently this fellow’s decided it’s the old Sanborn place. Man, it’s supposed to be all about sharing and love, remember?”
“Don’t hassle our new friends with your bullshit, man,” came the more dominant voice, which Doug now realized, without surprise, belonged to Jimmy Sanborn. “They’ve had a rough week.” In a slightly more conciliatory tone, he addressed Doug and Kelly. “You two want to get up now? Dinner’ll be pretty soon.”
Doug and Kelly sat up, and looked at one another uncertainly. “Thanks, but I’m not really hungry,” Kelly said. Doug could tell it was a struggle to remain polite with her nemesis, even all these years before their paths were to cross.
“Yeah, well, you can still do your share with making dinner, though,” Jimmy said. Their eyes adjusting to the light, Doug and Kelly now saw he looked younger with fuller and even longer hair, but with the same perpetual scowl. He also sported an unruly beard, leading Doug to touch his hand to his face and realize he was also unshaven.
“Excuse me?” Kelly asked.
“All the girls help with dinner,” Jimmy said, as if reminding her of something he had said before. “Told you when we took you in, and we did give you last night off since you were still all shook up by the pigs and all that. But you’re safe here, you’re not gonna get run out of town and threatened, not unless you hassle the squares on the beach too much, and that means you can help your sisters with the work.” He pointed out the bedroom door to the stairway just beyond. “We’ll see you downstairs.”
Kelly looked at Doug, an uncharacteristically defeated look in her eyes, and Doug knew what he needed to do. He took her hand and stood up with her. “Okay, then, let’s go help with dinner,” he said.
“That a joke, man?” Jimmy asked. “I said the girls make dinner. Besides, you and me, we got business to talk about.”
“What if I want to help them?” Doug asked, chancing another look at Kelly. She was delightfully attired in a peasant-dress of a dozen colors or more, which was swirling around her legs as she fidgeted angrily beside him. Her hair was even longer than it had been that night in the bar, straight now and parted down the middle. As if in keeping with his request, she did not appear to be wearing a bra, and Doug rather suspected she blamed him for that.
“Man, you better not argue with him,” said the other man, who was blond and clean-shaven. “The way the two of you looked yesterday, I wouldn’t want to be back out on the road just yet. And he will throw you out if you give him a hard time. I’ve seen it happen.”
“That’s right,” Jimmy said smugly, “And sometimes I wonder why I let Mikey here stick around. It’s not like he hasn’t got anywhere else to go.”
“I ain’t been called Mikey since I was ten, man!”
“You shut up, and you get down and help your sisters with dinner!” Jimmy snapped at Mikey and Kelly in succession.
Kelly reluctantly stomped out of the room, her humiliation subsiding only when she reached the top of the stairs as she realized now she could chat with the other women of the house, unencumbered by Jimmy or the other guys, who she was sure were just as chauvinistic as he was. Maybe that was just what they needed. One thing was sure: they had definitely found the right place. The dilapidated mansion whose main staircase she found herself descending was surely Mr. Sanborn’s old stomping grounds. The huge living room was strewn with beer cans and ashtrays all over the beat up furniture and the floors. An old teacher’s desk sat in one corner, laden with books and scraps of paper and a manual typewriter. Kelly felt like she was stepping into a museum exhibit.
She followed the sound of a few female voices through the empty living room to the kitchen. It proved to be just as dingy and outdated as the living room, but at least the lights cast some badly needed cheer against the gray day outside. There were four women in the kitchen, all of them busy with preparing dinner, and all but one of them turned to greet Kelly when she stepped in. “Hi! Kelly, isn’t it?” asked a redhead who had been chopping vegetables by the sink. She came around the table, and before Kelly knew what was even happening, she found herself wrapped in the stranger’s arms. “I hope Jimmy and the boys let you get some rest before they sent you down here.”
“Uh…yeah,” Kelly said. “Yeah, I’m fine. But I’ve got to say, I didn’t appreciate Jimmy ordering me around like that.”
“My husband orders us all around like that,” said the redhead, who Kelly now realized must be Meg. “It’s just the way of the world, though, isn’t it? Boys will be boys and all that, and it’s really all about love in the end.”
“You’ve got to pick your battles, Kelly,” said one of the other women, who was busying herself with washing dishes. “And speaking of battles, how are you coping?”
“Coping?” Kelly asked.
“She means about the mess with the pigs yesterday,” Meg told her. “I don’t know what your man was thinking, bringing you to Bob’s by the Bay. That place is square territory, and they’d never serve us if they even let us stay in the first place.” Kelly regarded Meg while she listened, and Aunt Doro’s unpleasant recollections of her condition rang out in her memory. Those recollections had been on the mark: Meg looked haggard and older than her years despite her brightly colored clothes and beads. At least Kelly couldn’t detect any bruises.
Kelly could only guess what had come before. “Oh, yeah, well, Doug loves Bob’s by the Bay. He always used to talk about that place. I’d only been there once before but it was a memorable visit.”
“You’ve been in Pascatawa before?” Meg asked. “You guys aren’t townies. I’d have remembered you from prison.”
“Prison?!” Kelly asked – Aunt Doro hadn’t said anything about that!
“She means school,” said the third of the women who had greeted Kelly, who was busy mashing potatoes. “Meg and Jimmy always called it prison, they couldn’t wait to get out of there and run off to California. And they did, only now they’re back here and they’ll never even tell us why.”
“You don’t need to know why!” Meg snapped. Turning back to Kelly, she said, “Sorry. Aurora over there knows everybody else’s business, or thinks she does. Anyways, I don’t know what your man looked like the last time he got into Bob’s, but we’re definitely not welcome there now. Even guys who went over there to fight the war aren’t welcome if they’re in with us now. You can ask Eddie about that.”
“Another townie,” said the woman by the sink, whose name Kelly hadn’t learned yet. “He joined up right out of high school and did his year over there, and he doesn’t want anybody else to have to go through the horrors he saw. And for that, the squares hate him. Even his father kicked him out. So he lives here now.”
“You’ll meet him at dinner,” said Meg. “But I wouldn’t bring up what happened to you last night around him. That stuff can really set him off.”
“He’s not the only one,” grumbled the one woman who had not greeted Kelly when she came in. She was seated at the table, kneading dough from the look of it, and Kelly looked down at her for the first time. While the other four had long hair just like Kelly’s, their taciturn friend’s hair was cropped closer than a crewcut and her scalp showed signs of barely-healed cuts. A bruise was visible on her temple as well. Jimmy’s handiwork, Kelly wondered?
“I’m sorry, Muffin,” Meg said. “You don’t need to hear about all this yet again.” To Kelly, she said, “Let me show you around the downstairs while we have a few minutes.” Before Kelly could say a word, she had taken her hand and guided her back out into the living room.
“Muffin?” Kelly asked as soon as the kitchen door had swung shut behind them.
“That’s the name she gave us when we took her in,” Meg said. “What’s in a name your parents gave you anyway?” She pointed Kelly to the least-dirty couch in the room and both women sat down. “Now, about Muffin, I am sorry but we shouldn’t have talked about what happened to you in front of her.”
“Did Jimmy do that to her?” Kelly demanded.
“No!” Meg snapped – Kelly could see she had touched a raw nerve, but Meg did not elaborate. Instead, once she had calmed down, she explained, “Muffin is what you could have been if you hadn’t been so close by here when you got in trouble with the squares. She and her man were hitchhiking up in the mountains and they got a little out of their patch. They wandered into some town that had nothing but squares, and the sheriff there took one look at his long hair and beard and her hairy legs and he flipped out. He and a couple of his pig buddies dragged them into jail, didn’t even bother with pretending they’d done anything wrong. They tore off her clothes and shaved off all her hair, on her head and her legs, and did God-knows-what else to her – she won’t talk about it much except to say they humiliated her, and then the next morning the sheriff dressed her in a man’s t-shirt and jeans and drove her to the town line and ordered her out of the car. She ended up on the beach here a couple of days later and Jimmy took her in. We don’t know what happened to her man.”
“Wow…I wish Doug were down here to hear that,” Kelly said.
“Why would you want that?”
“He has this thing about idealizing the sixties, all peace and love.”
“Well, it is about peace and love. And freedom and equality too. That’s what we’re all about here,” Meg protested.
“Is that why the guys can order us to make their dinner?” Kelly demanded.
“Don’t hassle me about that!” Meg said angrily. “Jimmy takes good care of us all, and we’ve got to do our part while he’s doing his part to fight against the war and the man. If you don’t like it, you can go back out and take your chances on the man treating you like Muffin!” She got up and stormed back to the kitchen, and held the door open. “If you want to eat tonight, Kelly, I suggest you help us.”
Upstairs, Doug was sitting through a lengthy treatise on freedom and morality from Jimmy. “You want to stay here, man, you’ve got to have some respect,” Jimmy said while his wife could be overheard yelling at Kelly downstairs. “Your lady should know her place and you ought to know yours. Your job is to help us with the war against the war, you got that. You don’t do your part, you’re out of here.”
“And I wouldn’t suggest going to Bob’s again,” Mikey piped up. “Our friend Eddie could tell you about that place.”
“Eddie?” Doug asked. “Not little Eddie from the drive-in?”
Jimmy grabbed Doug by his collar. “Don’t you ever bring up the drive-in when he’s around, you got that?! His old man threw him out in the street because Eddie hated what was wrong. That drive in – we burned it down last year, by the way, but they could never prove it was us – that place is everything that’s wrong with this right-wing Nixon-loving town, and Eddie’s history there is all about his Ozzie-and-Harriet past. We don’t talk about that here. The past is dead, period.”
“You get your hands off me,” Doug said evenly. After standing up to Sarge, nothing much scared him now.
“What if I don’t want to?” Jimmy taunted. “My house, my rules.”
“Maybe that’s your problem,” Doug said. “Now get your hands off me.”
“When I’m good and ready.”
They were still engaged in their standoff when the door opened and a young man in an old Army jacket stepped in. Doug looked up. Older and much more world-weary, but it was unmistakably the same face. Little Eddie.
“Speak of the devil,” grumbled Jimmy, and with a final flair he shoved Doug back onto the bed as he let him go. “Eddie, this is our new brother…what’s your name again?”
Rather than answering Jimmy directly, Doug stood up and shook Eddie’s hand. “Hi, I’m Doug.”
“Welcome, Doug,” said Eddie. After an awkward pause, he added, “Do I know you from somewhere?”
“Yeah,” Doug said. “A long time ago, and you probably don’t want to talk about it.”
“Man, I told you not to bring that up!” Jimmy said.
“And I didn’t bring it up,” Doug teased.
“Sure you did, man. I don’t want no more of that!”
“Jimmy, knock it off!” Eddie said. “If I have a problem with Doug I’ll take care of it myself.”
“What can you take care of without me?” Jimmy said. “If we hadn’t taken you in you’d be just another drunken babykiller vet in the street.”
Eddie had Jimmy pinned to the wall in no time, hand at his throat, while Jimmy gasped for breath. Mikey and Doug both jumped up and tried to pull Eddie off him, but they were no match. “Man, he’s not the trouble you’d get in!” Mikey reminded Eddie when it became clear they couldn’t pull him away.
“You’re right, he ain’t.” Eddie backed off and Jimmy sank to the floor, sucking in his breath at last.
“If it were anybody but you, man, you’d be out in the street right now,” Jimmy whined. “We need vets in the movement, that’s the only reason you’ve got a place to sleep tonight.”
“Dinner!” Meg called from downstairs.
“Fuck you, Jimmy, and let’s go eat,” Eddie said.
The kitchen table was set, and the women were lined up behind it as the men filed in while the food waited on the counter. Jimmy, Mikey and Eddie sat down and looked expectantly at the women. Doug, the last of the men to come in, stood uncertainly in the doorway as he realized what was to happen next. He looked at the women, all of whom looked back as if expecting him to sit down and be served first along with the others – all except Kelly, who was glaring at him.
His friend’s look sealed it for him, and the consequence be damned. “Let me help you serve,” he said, and he joined the women at the counter.
“Doug, sit down!” Meg said with a nervous grin, but none of the other women protested. Instead they looked impressed with him; even Kelly looked begrudgingly appreciative.
“Do you not know your place at all, man?” Jimmy snapped. “Are you even a man at all?”
Doug forced a smile at Jimmy. “Potatoes?” he offered.
“Sit down or we don’t eat!” Jimmy ordered, banging his fist against the table.
Meg, standing between Kelly and Doug, had had enough. “Jimmy,” she said. “Our guest wants to help, and you can show a bit of appreciation for a change or maybe you won’t get to eat!”
“Amen,” said Aurora. “Jimmy, grow up, the man just wants to be a gentleman.”
“Where’s the rest of your gentlemanly manners?” mumbled Muffin, who had stood silently off to the side up to that moment.
“You,” Jimmy said to her, standing up. “Only you can get away with that, ’cause of what the man did to you. You’re damaged goods and you need your time to heal. I get that. But one of these days you’re gonna be over your bad trip and then I ain’t gonna stand for that. You got that?!” He grabbed up a hunk of bread off the counter, and turned to Doug. “I will deal with you later!” The others were all silent as they watched him bang the kitchen door nearly off its hinges and then listened to him stomp off upstairs.
None of the other men volunteered to help serve dinner, but neither did they object as Doug helped transfer the food to the table. Kelly and Muffin sat down without helping, while the other women assisted Doug.
With Jimmy out of the way, dinner was pleasant and lively. Meg regaled them with tales of San Francisco and the road trips from coast to coast, though details of just what had gone wrong remained elusive. All the others knew not to ask, so Doug and Kelly followed their lead. Eddie tried a few times to guess where he and Doug had crossed paths before, but that night a decade before at the drive-in never came to his mind and Doug knew better than to bring it up himself. Luckily, Aurora steered the conversation into safer waters. “So where did the two of you come from?” she asked.
“Iowa,” Doug answered off the top of his head. “Our family farms were just a few miles apart and we grew up together. Real square place.”
“Ain’t it the truth,” Kelly added. “Church every Sunday and honor your father and mother and all that garbage. We both knew we had to get out of there all the way back in high school.”
“Just like me,” Meg said wistfully. “Only you did get out.”
“You did too, didn’t you?” Kelly asked, though she was worried about stepping on toes again.
“For a while, yeah,” Meg said. “God, I loved California so much. And there was talk of going to India, Morocco, so many great places. But it wasn’t to be.”
Doug managed to keep his mouth shut, but for Kelly the temptation was too great. “It’s none of our business what happened, but you know you could always go back,” she said as gently as she could.
“No I can’t,” Meg said with some finality. Kelly took the hint and said no more, and in the awkward silence that followed, no one else could think of anything to say either. Finally, after an uncomfortably long silence, Meg spoke up. “I mean…” she said tentatively. “Oh, hell, we’re all sisters and brothers here and there ought to be no secrets.” She looked at the door and then the ceiling for signs that Jimmy might return. “I don’t want him knowing I told anybody anything,” she said, looking around the table.
“No one wants to cross him, Meg,” Eddie said. “Trust me.”
“Okay,” Meg said, and she took a deep breath. “You’ll all see why I’ve never talked about it before. We were out there, staying in a place like this only even more raw and close to the land, and they were really ahead of the curve with their love and openness, and Jimmy is who he is. He was always hiding his wedding ring when some new girl washed up on our couch, and convincing them that they’d be handing victory to the military industrial complex if they didn’t sleep with him, and –” She paused as Mikey burst out laughing, and a stern look from her silenced him. “Mike, you know Jimmy. You know how he can pull off a line like that with the right kind of girl. Remember Star, from last spring?”
“Yeah, I remember her,” Mikey said in a repentant tone. “She just disappeared that weekend in June, too.”
“And now you know why she disappeared,” Meg said. “Anyway. Jimmy was having his way with any girl he wanted, even though we were already married, and he didn’t even care if I knew. Just the way of the world, you know, and guys are like that and blah blah blah. Well, one day a clean cut guy showed up, fresh out of college and trying to figure out how to stay out of Vietnam. Roger was his name. A real boy-next-door type, and of course Jimmy didn’t trust him. Said nobody got turned away on his watch, but he’d better not turn out to be the square he looked like, or something like that.”
“And was he a square after all?” Aurora asked.
“Depends on what you mean by square,” Meg said. “He was a bit like you, Doug, a real gentleman. All the girls in the place loved him for that, he was the only one who would go get his own beer instead of telling us to do it, that kind of thing. And of course that just made Jimmy hate him – hate him! Well, I’d had about enough of Jimmy’s messing around by then, and one day…one really rainy day, when most of the others were downtown and up to heaven-knew-what, Roger and I ended up alone in the kitchen and we got to talking. We talked all afternoon, and drank a lot and smoked up a little – not enough for Jimmy to notice I’d dipped into his stash, but enough for me to feel it – and the conversation moved from the kitchen to the living room. And then to our bedroom. Jimmy wasn’t in it for once, and…” Meg’s voice trailed away as she began to sound weepy.
“Sorry, Meg,” Eddie said. “Want to change the subject?”
“I’m not done,” Meg said in a gentle but persistent tone. “And I’m not sorry either, not for anything I did with Roger. At least he knew I was married, none of Jimmy’s girls ever did. He also knew what Jimmy was up to behind my back, so there was no hesitating for either of us. And God, he was…Jimmy’s the only other man I’ve ever been with, and what Roger could teach him! Most beautiful afternoon of my life. And we had our clothes on and the bed made long before he got back.”
“But then Roger ratted to his friends, I’ll bet,” Aurora said. “Men always do.”
“No!” Meg said. “He didn’t! He really was the perfect gentleman. No, I’m the one who spilled the beans. That bastard Jimmy figured out for himself that I was late that month, I don’t know how but he did, and he confronted me about it. He knew it wasn’t his fault because he hadn’t bothered with me all summer, if you can believe that! I tried to lie about it, but he’s known me since we were kids, he knows when I’m lying. I didn’t…I wouldn’t tell him who it was at first, but he got so worked up I was sure he was going to hit me, I mean he had me pinned to the bed and everything, and all I could think of was what if I am pregnant, what’s he going to do to the baby? If I were smart, I would’ve named some guy who’d already come and gone, but I didn’t think of that until too late.”
“So you told him about Roger,” Kelly said.
Meg nodded and sniffled. “I’ve been telling myself ever since then, he probably would’ve figured it out anyway. He knew how all us girls loved Roger. But I’ll never know for sure. Then as soon as he’d gotten it out of me, he’s off down the hall to round up a couple of his buddies – his minions – and they coax Roger out of the house. They came back a few hours later without Roger and Jimmy tells me we’ve got to pack up and leave tonight.”
Meg paused for a sip of beer, and waited for someone to ask her just what they had done to Roger. When no one dared ask, she continued. “I demanded to know what had happened, but Jimmy smacked me on the mouth and told me he’d hit me harder if I asked again. So we hit the road, with his two buddies in the backseat, and drove nonstop to Denver, all night and all day the next day, and we dropped his friends off there. Never heard from either of them again. Next day, somewhere in Nebraska, he tells me how they told Roger they wanted to show him a great secluded spot by the bay they’d found where we could all go skinnydipping, and as soon as it was dark they held him underwater and drowned him.” Meg dissolved into tears, but continued talking through them. “He also said now that I knew I could never tell, or I’d be in trouble too for not reporting them when I could have stopped them. ‘You knew I was in a rage over him, and you gave me his name,’ is what he said. That’s why I don’t dare go back there, who knows if they’ve figured out who killed Roger?”
“I’m so sorry,” Doug said, the many fleeting images of his beloved gift shop friend now racing through his mind.
“I’m sorry too,” Kelly added.
“And I wasn’t even pregnant, as it turned out,” Meg added, having now regained some composure. “I was just late. Could have happened anytime.”
“And we’re all sleeping in his house?” Muffin spoke up. “Does anybody feel safe now?”
Aurora turned to Kelly. “You know, you especially might want to find someplace else to crash now. Jimmy has certain rituals with new girls in the house.”
Doug stood up. “I agree. What do you say we all get the heck out of here?” He still longed for a chance to put some things right like he had done with Irene, but it wasn’t worth sleeping under a murderer’s roof or letting Kelly sleep in his bed.
To his shock – and everyone else’s – Kelly did not agree. “Actually,” she said, “I have an idea.” She looked nervous, but defiantly non-frightened.
“Kelly,” Meg said, “I don’t want to get you into any trouble with Jimmy. I’m stuck with him, but you don’t have to be.”
“Neither do you!” Kelly insisted. “That’s part of my idea.”
Doug nodded approvingly at his friend – this, after all, was why they had come back – but the others had looks of disbelief or fright or both. “Are you going to tell us your idea?” Eddie finally asked.
“I will if you men wash the dishes,” Kelly proclaimed. “Meanwhile, I’d like all the women to join me in the living room, provided Jimmy won’t hear us from there.”
“He won’t, as long as you keep your voice down,” Aurora said, standing up.
“You’ve been in his room to learn that, have you?” Meg asked.
“Meg, I’m sorry –”
“Relax, Aurora, I know all about who and what my husband is.” Meg stood up and followed Kelly and Aurora into the living room; the other two women followed silently behind. Without another word, Doug got up and began clearing the dishes. Eddie followed suit a minute or so later, and finally Mikey also got up to do his part.
After a few minutes of cleaning up in silence, Eddie spoke up. “Is your girl always that crazy? I mean it in a good way,” he added hastily.
Doug took a moment to think of the right response. “She comes from a background where women don’t let men push them around like Jimmy does,” he finally explained. “And she cares a lot about injustice.”
“Jimmy will tell you he does too,” Mikey warned.
“Fuck that!” Eddie snapped, throwing the dishrag hard into the sink in frustration. “Sorry,” he added a moment later after composing himself. “Listen, Mike,” he said, staring into the soapy water. “I was standing outside your room before. I heard Jimmy yelling at Doug here and when I realized they were talking about me, I didn’t want to walk in on any bad scene. So I stayed out in the hall.”
“Aw, no,” Mikey said. “You heard what he said about the drive-in. Man, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah,” Eddie said. “Right.”
“You didn’t know what they did?” Doug asked.
“I knew the place burned down, sure,” Eddie said. “But I didn’t know Jimmy did it. I never would have allowed that, and Jimmy knew it. I mean, my dad may be a fascist and an asshole who disowned me, but he’s still my dad. Besides, that drive-in was a local legend, a piece of my childhood. When you’ve been to war, you cling to those innocent memories, and I had tons of them from that place. Used to work there when I was a kid, and all the girls doted on me. You should’ve seen the nice ruffly dresses they used to wear, and when they used to hug me…” Eddie placed both his fists on the rim of the sink and stifled a sob.
“Eddie was a legend at that place,” Mikey explained to Doug. “This one time when he was only about twelve, he started a riot there!”
“I didn’t start a riot!” Eddie protested. “Some scumbag there hit a girl, and all the older boys were afraid of him. I figured he wouldn’t hit a kid, so I lunged at him. Turns out I was wrong, he did hit me, but then the older kids had my back and they knocked him down. But it wasn’t a riot!”
“I heard the cops came,” Mikey insisted.
“They did. But it wasn’t a riot!” Turning to Doug, he asked, “You ever notice how people think they know everything about incidents like that when they weren’t there?”
“Hm? Yeah,” Doug said. “Yeah, I have seen that.” He’d been deathly afraid that Eddie would put two and two together and realize where he’d seen Doug before, but it apparently didn’t register with Eddie. “That drive-in sounds like it must’ve been a wonderful place all right,” Doug added.
“Never was the same after all the crazy stuff that’s happened the past few years,” Eddie admitted. “Nothing was that innocent anymore. But it still didn’t deserve what Jimmy did to it.”
“So I take it you’re in on Kelly’s idea?” Doug asked warily.
“I want to hear what the hell it is first,” Eddie said. “But if it involves taking that bastard down a few notches, sure I’m in.”
“Me too,” Mikey volunteered.
When the men were done cleaning up, they filed into the living room to see the women sitting in a tight circle before Kelly holding court on the couch. “Thanks, guys,” Aurora piped up.
“Do they say that to you when you clean up?” Kelly asked.
“Imagine my surprise. Anyway, ladies, are you game for the plan?”
“I sure am,” Meg said, giving Doug a welcoming grin as he took his seat beside Kelly.
“Thought you might like that part,” Kelly teased.
“What part?” Doug asked.
“I’ll tell you as soon as all the women are on board,” Kelly said. Muffin and the quiet fourth one, whose name had finally emerged was Ruth, both nodded. Aurora was the last holdout. Kelly looked expectantly at her.
“It sounds awfully dangerous,” Aurora said.
“Not with the guys right there,” Kelly said. “Besides, you don’t have to be in his room.”
“With us right where?” Eddie demanded. “Look, I’m up for anything that will get that bastard in his place, but what the hell is the plan?”
“Kelly says –” Aurora began.
Kelly cut her off. “Not another word until you say yes!”
Muffin prodded Aurora. “For us,” she said. “For all of us.”
“For Roger, Aurora,” Meg pleaded.
Aurora thought in silence, all eyes on her. Finally she said, “If I can join Doug and Meg.”
“I don’t know…” Kelly said. “The whole point is to make Jimmy jealous.”
“I think she’s right,” Meg said. “The more of us, the more jealous.”
“Join Meg and me for what?” Doug asked.
“Okay, fine!” Kelly said to Aurora, though she didn’t look happy about it. “Now are you in?”
Aurora’s face broke into a naughty grin. “Yes.”
“You just want a little fun before we disappear, don’t you?” Kelly teased.
“Disappear?” Mikey asked.
“So what if I do?” Aurora asked, smiling shyly with a gaze out the window.
“Well…” Kelly began.
“Kelly, she said yes!” Doug reminded her. “Now you’ve got to tell us the plan!”
Kelly took a deep breath, and finally spilled the beans for the men. She had anticipated some objections from Eddie and Mikey, but they proved to be more than happy with their role. Ruth had the crucial yet simple job of driving the getaway car (which, deliciously, belonged to Jimmy; but Kelly had the keys at the ready). Kelly saved the dirtiest work for herself, while Muffin would be able to watch from an almost-safe distance with the guys out of sight but close by. Doug had the gentlemanly decency to pretend he had reservations about the part Kelly had him set to play; but she could tell from the way he looked at Meg and Aurora that he would be perfectly happy to make the sacrifice she asked.
“So when do we begin?” Eddie asked once the explanation was done. “I’m ready to do my part right this minute!”
“Something else is eating you about him, isn’t it?” Kelly asked.
“Sure is,” Eddie said, remembering that the women hadn’t heard his tirade about the drive-in. He did not elaborate, except to add, “I can’t wait.”
Meg stood up and retrieved her car keys from the folds of an armchair by the kitchen door. “Here you are, Ruth,” she said. “Just make sure you have the car running once everyone else is upstairs.”
“You’re sure Jimmy will be expecting me?” Kelly asked Meg.
“Not exactly expecting you,” Meg said. “But if you don’t volunteer, he’ll be out soon enough to try to coax you in there. So he won’t argue the point if you do show up on your own. Especially if you bring Muffin along.”
“That pig is after Muffin too. Really?” Kelly still couldn’t quite believe it.
“By now you ought to see what kind of a guy he really is,” Eddie said. “Yeah, he’s been tossing out hints that she can’t hide away from him forever. For days now.”
Ruth volunteered to run outside and make sure Jimmy’s car would start, and Eddie and Mikey went upstairs to await their cue in Mikey’s room. Doug and Kelly regarded one another uncomfortably as they stood up – no use in putting off the inevitable.
“You sure you’re okay with this?” Doug asked.
“A few nasty minutes and we get that jerk off everyone’s back forever,” Kelly reminded him. “Yeah, I’m okay with it.”
“Well, that too, but I meant –”
“Doug,” Kelly interrupted. “What did we say back before the jukebox?”
“The jukebox?” Meg asked.
“Inside joke,” Kelly said. “Sorry. Are you three ready?”
Doug looked at Meg and Aurora, who were also looking back and forth between him and one another, and they all burst into embarrassed laughter.
“That’s what I thought,” Kelly said. “Get upstairs! Go!” That left only herself and Muffin. “Are you sure you want to be in the room?” she asked Muffin. “I’m fine with you waiting out in the car if you’d be more comfortable with that.”
“I’ve got to stop being afraid sometime,” Muffin said. “And after what he did to Meg…”
“That’s what’s giving me the stomach for it too,” Kelly said. Holding her hand out to help Muffin stand up, she added, “Let’s get upstairs!”
At the top of the stairs, Muffin pointed Kelly down the hall to Jimmy’s door. “The bastard took the master bedroom for himself, of course,” she explained to Kelly as they tiptoed to the closed door at the end of the hall.
“You haven’t been in there, is that right?” Kelly asked.
“I’ve been in to clean it while he was out organizing,” Muffin said. “It was one more way to keep him out of my pants.”
Kelly was too nervous to be outraged yet again on Muffin’s behalf, as she swallowed hard and knocked on Jimmy’s door.
“Kelly?” came a voice from inside.
“Yes. And Muffin.”
“Muffin?!” A quiet moment, and then Jimmy opened the door. Seeing Muffin was indeed there, he said, “Kelly, you’re a better catch than I thought.”
“How did you know it was me?” Kelly couldn’t help asking.
“I figured the other girls would’ve told you what was what by now. So. Ready to do your part to stick it to the military industrial complex?”
“You’re not serious about that stuff, are you, Jimmy?” Kelly asked as he stepped aside and ushered them both into the room, which was just as shabbily decorated as the rest of the house.
“Free love is what the squares hate the most, Kelly. When we do it, we’re showing them just what we think of them sending all our boys over there to die. When you fuck me, you’re saying ‘fuck you’ to the man. Don’t you want to do that?” He looked at Muffin. “And you too?”
“Just how did you stay out of Vietnam anyway?” Kelly asked as she began undressing – no sense in being demure with the pig, she just wanted to get her part out of the way.
“Went to my physical wearing Meg’s underwear. The soldier took one look at me and told me to get the hell out.”
Kelly was grateful she had her top pulled halfway over her head at that point, so Jimmy couldn’t see the look of disgust on her face. Once she had it off, she forced a smile as he ogled her breasts, and awaited his hateful touch upon them. It didn’t come right away, though, as he tore his gaze away long enough to look at Muffin and demand, “Why aren’t you getting naked as well? Got to happen one of these days, and you are here after all.”
“Let her take her time, Jimmy,” Kelly said. To deflect his attention from Muffin, she gathered up her skirt and gave him an unimpeded look below. “Now, are you going to keep a lady waiting?”
“Take the skirt all the way off, too,” he ordered, and at last he set about undressing as well. Soon he had his shirt unbuttoned. As he took it off, he glared at Muffin, who looked to Kelly for moral support. Seeing Kelly had followed his order and was now naked, Muffin took a deep breath and followed suit. A deal was a deal. As she undressed, Muffin looked beyond Jimmy and out the window, feeling more dead inside than she had felt since the altercation with the police that horrible day.
If Jimmy sensed the hate and resentment both women were feeling as they stood naked before him, he showed no sign of it. Neither did his erection, which stood at full force as he collapsed back on his bed and awaited their favors. “Have at, girls,” he purred. “I trust you know what to do.”
Muffin, grateful that Kelly had volunteered for the worst of it, climbed onto the bed and began rubbing Jimmy’s chest lightly. Kelly noticed the poor thing closed her eyes, perhaps imagining it was her lost boyfriend rather than Jimmy. Not a bad idea given what she now had to do, she admitted, so she tried to imagine Jimmy was another man as well. As she sauntered teasingly to the bed, though, she found herself running into a mental block as to whom to picture instead. Doug? That didn’t feel right. And yet there was no other man who came to mind…but there was no time to lose worrying about that.
Jimmy was enjoying Muffin’s caresses, and he returned the favor by reaching up to tweak her breasts. He pinched her nipple too hard, Kelly could tell from the way Muffin flinched; but she kept to the script and went on rubbing his upper body.
“Going to work your way down a bit there, Muffin?” Jimmy asked finally.
“Why, that’s my job, isn’t it?” Kelly said, finally climbing onto the bed. Muffin looked like she was going to be sick. Kelly strained to listen for Doug and the other women next door, but she heard nothing yet. Bowing to the inevitable, she leaned down over Jimmy and gave his cock a tentative lick.
She hesitated for a moment, waiting for an appreciative groan, but there was none. Instead he raised his head to look down at her, and said, “Why’d you stop? Keep going!” And so she did, taking him further into her mouth this time, rubbing his head against the roof of her mouth, never licking too hard or too fast as she did not want him to come anytime soon.
Aurora’s room, spare but equipped with a king-sized mattress, was next to Jimmy’s. “He’ll hear everything,” Aurora whispered as she shut the door behind herself, Meg and Doug. “I promise.”
“So, as soon as we can hear him fooling around with Kelly, we make all the noise we want,” Meg said.
“If you want, we can just pretend,” Doug offered. “I don’t want to push anything on you, you know.” He stepped over to the window to look out at his beloved beach across the road.
“Very funny!” Meg replied. “Free love is what it’s all about anyway, Doug, and we haven’t had a gentleman like you in the house since…”
“Since Roger?” Doug asked, still not turning around.
“At least,” Meg said. “Really, don’t hold back for my sake, Doug. I want to.”
“Me too!” Aurora said, and to prove it she joined Doug at the window and slipped her arm around his back. “Why shouldn’t we all have some fun like he can have?”
“Well said!” Doug admitted. He turned around to see Meg already in her underwear. “Wow!” he said, barely remembering to keep his voice down – they did not want Jimmy to hear them just yet. “You don’t waste any time.”
“And neither should you,” Aurora told him. Matter-of-factly she set about unbuttoning his shirt. Doug was no longer inclined to complain, all the less so when Meg sauntered over – now fully nude – and followed suit with his jeans. Any lingering reservations Doug had were overcome now as he admired the woman he would know decades later in her young and uninhibited state. Her tragic tale and Jimmy’s abuse notwithstanding, Meg was lovely and open and showing every sign of eagerness for a bit of fun.
Soon the two women had Doug as joyfully nude as Meg, and they each took turns stroking his hard cock. Doug let out one yelp of pleasure before remembering he needed to stay quiet, and the trio all burst into quiet giggles as he barely regained control. “You two going to help me off with my clothes now?” asked Aurora, holding her arms up.
Doug and Meg lost no time in gathering up her dress and pulling it over her head. Aurora wasn’t wearing a bra; Doug eagerly slid her panties down and ran his fingers gently through her pubic hair. “Always loved the way this felt,” he cooed. He was beginning to believe the best thing about time travel was visiting an era when women weren’t always bald down below.
“Feels good from where I stand too,” Aurora said, wiggling with pleasure as Doug worked his way down a bit further and brushed her clit gently.
Doug looked back and forth between Aurora and Meg. “Are you to going to…you know…”
The two women looked at one another with wry smiles. “Men always want to see that, don’t they?” Aurora asked.
“So let’s show him,” Meg replied.
Delighted, Doug, withdrew his finger from Aurora’s vagina and stood back to watch them embrace tenderly, their breasts touching just as supply as their lips did. He lost no time in taking his hard cock in his right hand as the fantasy he had imagined hundreds of times unfolded before him for the first time. It was nearly dark outside now, and the lamp on Aurora’s dresser cast the only light in the room. From behind them, it cast a wonderful glow.
Meg and Aurora kissed for no more than a minute or so, though time seemed to stand still for Doug. Inevitably, one of them – it happened to be Aurora – opened her eyes to see Doug stroking himself. She managed to remember not to laugh loudly, but did gesture to Meg to have a look. Both women laughed silently and then attacked Doug with hands all over his body and kisses all over his face. One of them – Doug couldn’t see which – took his erection firmly in her hand and guided him to the bed. It turned out to be Meg, as Doug realized when he raised his head from the pillow and looked down to see the woman who would one day sell his candy bars and cheap Christmas presents, now taking him in her mouth.
Any inappropriateness he felt was soon overwhelmed by the magic of Meg’s tongue, as she proved to be very good at what she was up to. In no time he was gasping for breath and grabbing at the sheets, fighting a losing battle to avoid making noise – he remained silent, but it was a wonderfully frustrating feat. Remembering Aurora, he reached over to find her sitting alongside him and stroking his belly. He pulled at her hand and guided her closer so he could reach her breasts easily, and was soon working her into a lather with both hands.
“Meg!” he whispered huskily as he felt himself getting close. “If you don’t want it in your mouth…ohhhhhhhhhh.”
Meg didn’t appear to mind, although she did stand up and grab up a towel off the floor as soon as Doug was done coming. While Meg was off in a corner spitting into the towel, Doug was able to turn his attention to Aurora. Now free to sit up, he prodded her gently onto her back, and then followed Meg’s lead. Doug had never gone down on a woman before, but he figured fair was fair. He found the taste was much more pleasant than he had imagined it, and the ecstatic wiggling of Aurora’s legs as he teased her was better still.
From behind came a gentle slap on his shoulders. “Don’t forget about me!” It was Meg, and she took her place expectantly on the mattress alongside Aurora. Coming up for air, Doug got a wonderful idea. He straightened up and positioned himself in between the two women. Slowly and gently, he placed his left hand in Aurora’s bush and his right in Meg’s, and was rewarded with a stifled disbelieving laugh from each of them as he curled both middle fingers and slid them inside.
Meg looked at Aurora beside her on the mattress. “He’s not going to…”
“I think he is!” Aurora replied.
A moment later, she found herself proven right. Doug eased his way into Aurora on the left and Meg on the right, and with the same rhythm he rubbed them both in tandem. He was rewarded with gasps and giggles and plenty of writhing as his caresses worked them both into a tizzy. They each looked adoringly at him and back at each other as the air grew thicker with their eager moans. There was little doubt that Jimmy could hear them by now, but there was no sign of him. Kelly must be playing her part well, Doug thought. He only hoped he could give them both an orgasm in time: it would be cruel to have to stop and grab up their clothes to run when the time came.
Next door, Kelly was still teasing Jimmy while Muffin had moved on to rubbing his shoulders – perched behind him where he couldn’t see her – when at last Kelly heard Aurora and Meg. They both sounded passionate and happy, and Kelly felt more than a bit of jealousy as she wondered what Doug might be doing to them. But there would be time for her turn later. Jimmy had still made barely a whimper, and had said little but to encourage Kelly to suck harder now and then. So a particularly shrill moan from one or the other of the women next door caught his attention. “Is that Meg?!” he asked, propping himself up on his elbows.
“What do you care?” Muffin asked. “You’ve got us, haven’t you?”
“But Meg’s my wife. Who’s she fooling around with? Not that Doug jerk? That namby pamby square?! What the fuck?”
Kelly slipped him out of her mouth. “Never mind Meg, honey,” she cooed. “That’s what I’m here for.”
“But…” Jimmy began. Before he could finish, Kelly went to town on him harder than before and finally got a rise out of him. “Yessss!” he said. “Oh yeah! Keep at that!” Kelly could only hope he’d been loud enough for the other guys to hear him; she listened for the door to open. When it didn’t, she went at him even harder, flicking her tongue about as she sucked. That got what she wanted: a louder yelp from Jimmy. She looked up just long enough to see if his eyes were closed, and they were. Perfect.
Doug had Meg and Aurora both moaning loudly in shameless pleasure, and his own arousal was through the roof as he enjoyed the warm wetness of them both at one delightful time. Given how well they were both playing their part, he knew it couldn’t be much longer before something would happen with Jimmy. If he wanted to give each of them an orgasm, the time was now.
“Ready for the grand finale?” he teased.
“God, yes!” said Aurora.
“Better believe it!” agreed Meg.
Doug sped up his inner rubbing, and also began probing around with his thumbs on the outside. He’d never been any better at finding the magic button than most men were, but now it occurred to him that some practice would be nice before he and Kelly got together. Surely they would, he now thought, trying not to think of what she was up to with Jimmy at that very moment. In any event, Meg’s intensified reaction soon made it clear that he had found her clit, for she let out a joyful roar and thrust her hips up off the mattress. Doug slowed down his rubbing, the way he preferred for himself at that moment, but Meg screeched “Don’t stop!” And so he didn’t.
Aurora was proving more of a challenge, probably because Doug wasn’t nearly as dexterous with his left hand. When Meg had finally come down from her cloud, she rolled over and helped out by kissing and rubbing Aurora’s breasts. “Come on, you can do it too,” she purred.
“Oh, guys…” Aurora moaned. “Faster please!” Doug did as he was told, and also flitted his wet right fingers up and down her belly and sides while Meg was still busy with her breasts. His titillation now tempered by fear that Jimmy could burst in at any time, Doug rubbed harder than ever with his thumb on the outside. At last he hit paydirt, as Aurora let out an uninhibited scream that would surely be heard loud and clear next door.
Indeed, it was heard next door. Jimmy’s eyes flew open and he sat up. “What the fuck is my wife up to without me?!”
“Are you sure that was Meg, honey?” Kelly asked, still stroking his erection.
“It sounded like Aurora to me,” Muffin said from her perch above Jimmy’s shoulders.
“You bitches think I don’t know my own wife, do you?” Jimmy demanded. “Come on, I want to see what’s going on in there.
He started to get up from the bed, but Muffin pulled him back down. “Jimmy, we’re not done pleasuring you yet, are we, Kelly?”
“Sure doesn’t look like it from where I sit,” Kelly teased, tickling Jimmy’s still-rigid cock. “Jimmy, why don’t you at least let me finish you off and then you can deal with Meg?”
“Hurry it up then!” Jimmy whined.
Doug and the ladies had gone silent next door; Kelly figured they’d had the time to get their clothes back on by now. She could only hope Eddie and Mike were at the ready in the hall. A few more gentle sucks and licks, and she once again had Jimmy right where she wanted him. Looking up momentarily, she could see Muffin rubbing his shoulders passionately while he was mumbling appreciatively at both sensations. Perfect.
One last long, deep envelopment that had Jimmy moaning louder and happier than ever, and Kelly slowly released him bit by bit, until the tip was just inside her mouth. Then, gripping at his legs to keep him as immobile as possible, she bit down as hard as she could.
“AAACCCCKKKK! You bitch, what the fuck was that?!” Jimmy lunged at her, but Muffin threw her arms around him from behind and wrestled him back onto the mattress. He managed to land a couple of kicks on Kelly’s back, but she avoided the worst of his blows as she slid off the mattress and retreated to the corner to grab up her clothes. “You fucking cunt, I’m gonna hurt you twice as bad!” Jimmy bellowed, still trying to shake Muffin off his back. Though he managed to hit and scratch her arms, she held on and he was unable to get up off the bed.
Right on cue, Eddie and Mikey burst into the room. Muffin finally let go and slid off to the side of the bed to make way for them. Neither one taking any notice of Kelly and Muffin still being naked, they set about their part of the job.
Jimmy had the wrong idea. “Get them, guys! You see what Kelly just did to me?”
“I see what you did to my dad’s drive-in, asshole,” Eddie growled, grabbing at Jimmy by his armpits and pulling him up to eye-level.
“And what you did to Meg’s friend in California,” Mike added. “Peace and love my ass.” With that he socked Jimmy in the gut while Eddie pinned his arms so he couldn’t hit back.
“Had it with you, man!” Eddie added before taking his turn.
The violence showed no sign of letting up by the time Kelly and Muffin were able to pull their clothes back on. They retreated into the hallway to find Meg, Aurora and Doug looking on at the fight from a safe distance. Meg stood squarely in the center of the doorway; it had been agreed that everyone wanted Jimmy to get one last look at her while the guys were beating him to a pulp. “Feel the love, Jimmy!” she teased.
And then there was no time to lose. Aurora led the rush down the stairs. Ruth had cleverly left the front door ajar to save a few precious seconds, and Doug and the women burst out into the late summer drizzle while the noises from the fight upstairs were still echoing down. Outside, Doug and Kelly saw several pairs of headlights in the dark – most of them probably teenagers cruising the beach road – but seeing Meg, Muffin and Aurora run for one pair, they followed the lead. The headlights belonged to a Ford van like some ancient ones Doug could recall seeing around town as a kid, only now he remembered it wasn’t ancient in this case.
Ruth was waiting in the driver’s seat. Seeing her friends barreling across the lawn, she reached back and opened the sliding door. In no time at all, they were all jumbled into the back seats. “Everybody in?” Ruth asked.
“All but the guys,” Meg said.
“Thanks a lot!” Doug teased as Ruth gunned the van across the lawn toward the house. The sliding door was still open and the drizzle was blowing in their faces, but they were free.
“Doug, you’re not a guy, you’re a man,” Kelly reassured him, and Doug’s heart skipped a beat.
Eddie and Mikey burst out of the house just as Ruth got the van alongside the front door, and triumphantly they jumped into the waiting backseat. Ruth was burning rubber for the street even before Mikey could get the door shut, but shut it he did.
“Is he going to be down anytime soon?” Meg asked from the front seat, which she had purloined for herself in the scuffle.
“Doubt it,” Eddie said. “He was pretty groggy when we got done with him, and Mike tied his legs and arms.”
“He’ll be able to untie himself once he wakes up,” Mikey offered. “But we’ve got plenty of time to get the hell out of here.”
“It’s about time we do, too,” Meg said. “I would’ve never come back here in the first place if it wasn’t for him.”
“Want to head back to California?” asked Ruth, her eyes intent on the wet beach road.
“What do you all think?” Meg asked the others.
“Anywhere but here,” Eddie said.
“Seconded,” added Aurora.
“Kelly? Doug? Are you in?” Meg asked.
They looked at one another and shrugged, knowing they would likely be sent back home as soon as they fell asleep no matter where they went now. “Sure,” Kelly said. “We’ll ride with you now, anyway, and let’s see where things lead.”
Ruth turned west on Route 4 once they were out of town – Doug guessed the expressway he knew probably wasn’t there yet – and they drove deep into the night, outrunning the rain before long. There was talk of what Jimmy might do next. “Head for Canada maybe,” Meg suggested. “At least we know he won’t go back to San Francisco.”
“And what will you do next, Meg?” Kelly asked.
“Always wanted to sail around the world, working my way along,” Meg said. “Teaching English, working on communes or some such…Doug would never hear anything of it, he said we had a war to fight right here. But I’m done fighting!”
“Good for you, Meg,” Doug said.
They drove until nearly midnight, when the rain was long gone and the consensus was they had gone far enough for Jimmy to have no idea where they were, before thoughts turned to stopping for the night. Kelly and Doug were a bit melancholy at that, for they knew it would be time for them to say goodbye to their new friends, but there was no fighting the inevitable. Ruth spotted a sign for a campground, and announced that she was done. “Definitely time to stop,” she said, “and we don’t want to be in the van in case Jimmy called the cops. Okay with you all?”
Among the chorus of “yes’”, Doug and Kelly looked silently at one another and realized they had been holding hands for some time, with neither of them having taken direct notice. Doug loosened his grasp in case Kelly wanted to let go, but she didn’t.
A supply of blankets under the far backseat proved to be enough to go around, and the friends left the car parked just off the road and followed the noise and glow from a campfire into the woods. A dozen or so other campers there bade them welcome, and Meg, Eddie and Mikey opted to join them around the fire while the others preferred to bed down right away.
“You want to stay up a while yet?” Kelly whispered to Doug.
“No point,” Doug said. “Our job is done and I hate long goodbyes.”
“Me too,” Kelly agreed, and they followed Aurora, Ruth and Muffin to an unclaimed corner of the meadow.
As each of the other women had her own blanket and her own space on the ground, Doug set about looking for a plot of his own. But Kelly had other ideas. “Don’t even think you’re going to sleep alone tonight, dear,” she teased him, unfurling her blanket on the ground. “Let’s use yours as a cover, okay?”
Doug’s face broke into a shy grin, and without further ado he kicked his shoes off and lay down in Kelly’s waiting embrace. The din from the distant chatting around the fire was the last thing they were aware of before both drifted off to sleep.
A knock at the door awakened them both to the morning light streaming in the windows of the red room. “Doug? Kelly?”
They looked at one another and sat bolt upright, still dressed in yesterday’s clothes, just in time for Aunt Doro to open the door. She held a tray of coffee and bread in one hand, which she set on the bedside table. “Good morning,” she said cheerfully, a knowing twinkle in her eye. “I have a committee meeting to run off to, and I didn’t want either of you to go hungry.”
“Th…thanks, Aunt Doro,” Kelly said.
“Anytime, dear. Will you be joining us for dinner tonight?”
“We hadn’t talked about it,” Doug said. “We’ll see.”
“Lovely,” Aunt Doro said. “Just let me know if I should expect you both.” And she vanished down the hall.
“See?” Doug asked as soon as the coast was clear. “She’s perfectly fine with you spending the night.”
“She doesn’t think we…does she?” Kelly was still feeling unsettled.
“Why would she?” Doug asked. “We’re fully clothed, aren’t we?”
“Good point.” Kelly got up and poured herself some coffee. “Speaking of which, do we need to talk about what either of us did back there?”
“Only if you want to,” Doug reassured her. “What a filthy job you had to do…but obviously you nailed it. I’m really proud of you.”
“Well, it was my idea,” Kelly mused. “Only fair that I do the worst of it. Sounds like you had a great time next door, though.”
“Well…yeah, I did,” Doug admitted. “In spite of all the nastiness back there, it was a lot of fun.”
“For Meg and Aurora too, it sounded like!” Kelly grinned through her envy.
Doug set his cup down and took Kelly’s hand in both of his. He set about to say something diplomatic or romantic or both, but the words wouldn’t come. “Uh-oh, here’s where I say something tender to you and you push back on me.”
“I won’t do that again!” Kelly snapped, withdrawing her hand. “Didn’t I tell you I would stop that?! And I invited you to snuggle with me last night, didn’t I?”
“Felt beautiful,” Doug admitted. “I’m sorry.”
“Does this mean you don’t want us to get together?”
“I do,” Doug said. “I just don’t know if the time is right yet.”
“Fair enough,” Kelly conceded. “Just promise me, whatever you did to Meg the other night, when the time is right you can do that to me too.”
They shared a laugh, and then it was time to head for the resort.
“I guess it goes without saying Jimmy won’t be our boss anymore,” Doug said.
“Heavens I hope not!” Kelly said. “Imagine how nasty he is now, wherever he is.”
“God, you’re right, he still might have never left Pascatawa,” Doug said.
Their fears were alleviated when they arrived in the dining room for duty, and found a middle-aged woman who looked vaguely familiar addressing the other waitstaff. Though neither recognized her right away, at least Jimmy Sanborn was nowhere to be seen.
“Doug, Kelly, good morning,” she said, turning to greet them with a smile. “You’re just in time.”
Doug’s heart leapt. With his first good look at her face, he now saw it was Aurora. “Good morning, Aurora,” he stammered, tamping down his nerves as best he could.
“You okay, Doug?” she asked. “You know I always tell everyone to stay home if they’re not feeling well. The last thing we want is sick guests, after all.”
“No, I’m fine!” Doug reassured her. “Just tired, I guess. Had some bad dreams last night. But I’m fine.”
“Oh, good,” she said. She had aged quite well, though Doug suspected her dark hair was dyed, and her welcoming smile showed no sign of recognition of the young man who had finger-fucked her decades before. Once Doug realized that, he started feeling better. Aurora, meanwhile, turned to Kelly. “And how are you today?”
“Great, thanks,” Kelly said. “Glad to be back at work.”